Archives

All posts by gil

We all have a number of things we like to carry around wherever we go. For me it’s a folding knife, a small flashlight and a lighter. My items are for safety concerns, but others might carry objects for different uses, like a pen, lipstick or a lucky coin. Most people carry a cell phone. We carry them because they make us feel better or we use them often. One item I am thinking of adding to my EDC kit is a simple wooden wedge.

Wedge

Wedge

Now why would I carry one of those? With the recent active shooter and terrorist events everywhere, you might one day find yourself needing to lock a door for which there is no lock or you don’t have the key. Very unlikely, I know, but a wedge has many uses. It can help crack open a locked door or window, fix an uneven table leg at a nice outside cafe terrace or prevent a wheelchair from rolling down a slope; the list is long… We have all at some point looked ariund for some object to be used as a wedge, so why not carry one to start with?

A recent Facebook post on an accidental death prompts me to set things straight on gun control. Gun related deaths are relatively few compared to other causes like hammers or swimming pools, the list goes on. So why the hype? What is so scary about guns? One can be killed as easily by a car or baseball bat, not to mention smoking and eating fatty foods. Yet, you don’t see many posts about hammer control. The answer is simple: Guns are a threat to the left, so they use fear and brainwashing to push their agenda. Are socialists afraid of being shot? Do they have a special sensitivity to gun deaths? No. They couldn’t care any more if someone died of a gunshot, accidental or not, or got fatally hit by a bus. Why would anyone? Both are preventable and accidents happen, especially around stupid or careless people, that will never change. The left is about taxation, and it is much harder to tax an armed population. What happened to the British in 1775 is a prime example. The only reason for gun control is the support of taxation and population control. It has nothing to do with reducing accidental gun deaths or shootings, nothing! If it was about saving lives, there are numerous more important causes that need support.

Keep Kids Safe

Keep Kids Safe

If you support gun control, ask yourself why. I mean, really, aren’t other things more important and more urgent? Why don’t you make a list of pressing issues with more victims than gun related ones? I suggest you make yourself a sandwich, get some water and go to the bathroom before you start, because it will take you a while before you get to guns. The truth is that by promoting gun control online you are promoting taxation and control, your taxation and the control of your life. While it might not be a noticeable issue yet in the United States, your future might be at stake. Don’t fall for the brainwashing and peer pressure, think for yourself. If you want to save lives, donate money to the NRA, they have wonderful gun safety programs. The solution is education, not control. Don’t be a sheep.
Self Defense is Baaad!

Self Defense is Baaad!

There is nothing you can do about guns. The cat is out of the bag. Guns exist and are not going away. Criminals have them and can always find them. The only people affected by gun laws are honest citizens. Many are your friends, even family members. They have children, love their wives. They go to family picnics with their kids, pay taxes and respect the speed limits. They just like shooting as a hobby, hunting or want to be able to protect their families and communities, you included.
1984

1984

If you have an irrational fear of guns, the best way to cure it is not by preventing others to own one. It won’t reduce your chances of being shot, on the contrary. You should go to a range and take a class. You will meet the nicest people imaginable, friendly and family oriented. They will be glad to help you discover a fun activity that might one day save your life. What more could you ask for?
Manhood

Manhood

The United States is still ahead of all others when it comes to freedom, and the best measure of it is the ability of honest citizens to own weapons. There is no better barometer of freedom, none.
Gun Monopoly.

Gun Monopoly.

I’ve owned quite a few cameras, film and digital. Some were used for newspaper work, most for artistic purposes or personal memories. Lately I have been drawn to candid photography trending between street and documentary. Not all cameras are created equal for the purpose and I will explain my choices here pertaining to digital cameras.

Film cameras are not the focus of this post, but anyone wanting one can check out used Leicas on Ebay. I particularly like the M2. You can find a lot of cheaper older IIIc models, but they might need some work. My M4-P was also a great camera. Leicas are the Rolls Royces of film cameras and have been documenting life in the hands of the greatest photographers since before World War II. So no contest there, they are built like Swiss vaults. Their digital cameras, I wouldn’t bother unless I was rich and would consider them disposable.

A street camera should be discreet, meaning small. When a subject sees you take their photograph they change. It’s like quantum mechanics! The observer changes the state of the subject. You do not want people to see you take their photo. You don’t see actors looking straight at the camera in movies, there are good reasons for this. There are exceptions of course and street portraits can be beautiful, but generally, you want to be a ninja photographer. This practically eliminates DSLRs which today are huge with large lenses. That leaves mirrorless cameras.

Panasonic Lumix GM5

Panasonic Lumix GM5

The first feature I find necessary is a viewfinder. Taking a photo with the back screen is an exercise I don’t want to get used to. I can’t understand why anyone would buy a camera without one. I find it much more natural and easier to frame an image through a viewfinder, and I like it to be in the corner, not in the middle where it forces you to hide your face behind the camera. If your subject sees you, better have a smile on your face, it might avoid you some trouble, looking like some pervert taking snapshots for dubious reasons.

Size matters, as far as sensors are concerned. Though image quality isn’t the primary focus in Street and documentary photography, a minimum of resolution is necessary. I consider three sizes of sensors to be large enough for the task: Full frame, APS-C and Micro-4/3rd. Bigger is better, but larger sensors mean a larger and sometimes more expensive camera. I used a Fuji X100S with an APS-C sensor producing unbelievable images, but it always felt flimsy and indeed died after 5K shots. I now have opted for Micro-4/3rd (Lumix GM5) which are smaller and just good enough with quality prime lenses (fixed focal, not zooms). Forget megapixels, today they are meaningless. Anything with 10mp or above is plenty. Spend money on good glass, not more megapixels.

Depending on where you live and the type of photography you like, you might want to get a weather sealed camera and lenses. You will pay a premium but if you don’t mind working in the rain, more power to you. If you hope to work for a newspaper of press agency, it is a must. Cameras like the Fuji X-Pro2 or Sony a6300 would be prime examples, though Sony has few lenses available and fewer bright ones even. Fuji, I am suspicious about now. Olympus has great OM-D models but with the viewfinder in the wrong place (for me). I wish their new Pen-F model was weather-sealed. I am now in the North of France and ordered a Lumix GM5 which is not weather sealed. That will limit my time outside quite a bit, given that it rains an average of 220 days a year here, which is why I don’t plan on staying too long! My next camera might be an Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII, too bad for the viewfinder position, but it is a pretty rugged camera.

That is pretty much it. Again, the lenses are where you should spend your money. Get a 35mm equivalent: 23mm for APS-C and 17mm for Micro-4/3rd. A 35mm is always a 35mm on Full frame of course, and be done with it. Avoid zooms, there are just too many optical elements in them and quality suffers. Try to get a lens with an aperture of 2.8 or brighter (2.0, 1.8, 1.4…) if you can afford one. Get a spare battery and memory card. I also like to get a UV filter to protect my lenses, and a small metal lens hood.

I will review the Panasonic Lumix GM5 as soon as I get it (Monday) and take a couple hundred shots. They have been discontinued unfortunately, and there are a few remaining in stock, so if you want one, hurry up if you don’t want to have to buy a used one. They are also fairly cheap for a Micro-4/3rd. camera with a kit lens included. The GM5 is small and has all the features I want in a street camera but the weather sealing, including price.

I finally got to finish the book with the Big-Es coffee shop regulars and sunset at Indian Beach in Sarasota Florida. Film photos were taken with Leicas (M2, M4-P, IIIc) and a Pentax 6×7. Digital shots are from a Fuji X100S and Olympus OM-D E-M5. The project lasted two years.

I will miss Sarasota and my friends dearly, until I come back, soon or later. Everyone seems to come back to Sarasota.

When you work in coffee shops you get to make friends with the regulars. Note that I said “in coffee shops,” not “for coffee shops.” I spend most of my afternoons working on my laptop, maybe two or three hours a day. I have no other occupation. Actually, I don’t like work that much. If I accepted a $15/Hr job I would need to work all day, five or six days a week; no thanks. I’d rather charge $50 an hour, thank you. How can I do that?

Computers these days come with a flurry of bundled software. It didn’t used to be that way. You bought a computer, turned it on, and all you got was a blinking cursor. The computer out of the box could do nothing, not even an addition. You had to program it, give it a list of instructions in a language it could use. This hasn’t really fundamentally changed. You just get the “free” software included. Same goes for a web site. Old web pages were simple texts with links, sometimes images. Today they do all kinds of things. You still have to tell the server how to do this, by writing a program.

It isn’t as hard as you might imagine. Think of a program as a recipe. You have a list of ingredients and instructions on how to make a cake. Someone needs to follow those instructions in order to make a good cake. Well, that’s programming. You’re the chef, the computer is the cook who follows your instructions. Great thing is, the cook never makes mistakes! On the downside, he speaks a weird language you haven’t heard before..

Could you do it? Most likely. The main issue people have with programming is patience. Imagine a chef developing a new cake… How many cakes will he botch up before finally getting what he wants? Programming is as much about solving glitches than it is about writing code. It can be very frustrating, but you learn to take a deep breath and keep on going. If you can do this, as well as sit down and concentrate on a task for a while, you are very likely to become a decent programmer.

There is a lot of work in web site development, linking sites to databases and getting servers to talk to each other, like when processing a credit card. I am looking at Android application development right now to see if it could be my cup of tea.. I got my first programming gig after reading a Perl language book and studying for a month… The book cost me $50 and I made $2K the following month using what I had learned. I wouldn’t suggest Perl today but you get the picture.

How much is it going to cost you? Nothing! Only time. These days all you need to know is online. You can go to Udemy and get classes for free or for a reasonable fee. It will take you a while if you never wrote code before, but don’t give up. Sweat it now and make a decent living for the rest of your life. Programmers get paid anywhere from $20 to $200 an hour.

So what language to learn? Apple uses Objective-C and Android uses Java. For the web, learn PHP. If you want to work on servers, Python is very useful and a good starter language. C++ is still a very good option which can lead to pretty complicated (and well paid) work. Learn it along Objective C if you want to get into iOS programming. For Window$ applications I’d suggest Delphi, but finding good support for it has never been easy, though it is a great development platform. There are hundreds of programming languages, if not more, but these are the main ones. I’d suggest not getting into obscure or experimental languages unless you’re already fluent in a marketable one. Don’t forget to learn some database management skills for which I suggest MySQL.

If you like computers and can think analytically, why settle for minimum wage? As a programmer, you can work anywhere in the world if you have an Internet connection. You can choose to work two hours a day or sixteen, it’s up to you. I prefer to work less, charge more and enjoy my free time.