UWA magic (part IV): People and wildlife in their environment

Ultra Wide Angle lenses are not for portraiture. But they can deliver excellent images documenting people and wildlife in their environment. Here a few examples using Canon’s EF-S 10-22mm, EF 24mm L f/1.4 and EF 16-35mm L f/2.8 II UWA lenses.

HDR photo shootout at “Mercado Del Progreso”, Caballito, Buenos Aires

Adjacent to the “Primera Junta” subway station, in the corner of Rivadavia and Barco Centenera, is the “Mercado Del Progreso“, a landmark in the neighbourhood of “Caballito”, one of the most traditional “barrios” of Buenos Aires. The Mercado has been a meeting point for Caballito regulars since its opening in 1889. Today, it retains much of the original charm of its metallic structure and its iconic central ceiling window.

In the morning hours of a regular weekday, Mercado Del Progreso is one of those ideal places for a photo shootout of urban activity in the midst of a historical site.

The selection below was taken with the Canon EOS 5D MarkIII and EF 16-35mm and EF 24-105mm zoom lenses. All six are high dynamic range (HDR) images, merged from 5 different original exposures using HDR Efex Pro 2 from the Nik plugin collection. They were further processed with the Color Efex Pro 4 module to enhance structure, and the  Silver Efex Pro 2 for B&W conversion.

Making science (part XIII): How not to make science

A newly recruited staff in a research group has her first meeting with the principal investigator, a full Professor,  to discuss projects and tasks to carry out in the lab. During the conversation, it becomes apparent that the so-called principal investigator is nothing more than a former clinician turned science administrator that pretends leading a research group. There are no new projects coming from the mind of this principal investigator.

Go to PubMed and find something interesting to work on”, says the Professor.

Astonished, the newly recruited lab member becomes silent and after a few awkward minutes leaves the room, in shock.

“Go to PubMed and find something interesting to work on”. Now, we should point out that PubMed is the public repository of all scientific literature in the life sciences and biomedicine of the entire planet since the beginning of time. There are literary millions of papers in the repository. How does one find “something interesting to work on” there? Is this the best advice, the best guidance that this so-called senior scientist has to offer to his newly recruited lab member?

I could not believe when I first heard this, but it is a true story. It happened at the National University of Singapore, but the characters shall remain anonymous. There are likely people like that in most universities around the world.  Group leaders out there that have no clue whatsoever of what science is about, or what is to be an inspiring mentor. How their reputations survive is a total mystery.

UWA magic (part III): Strong lines

Part III of the UWA series. Here dedicated to the effect of strong lines in the composition. The examples below have all in common the presence of strong lines guiding the eye towards a point of interest. Sometimes they are just crossing through, inviting the viewer to step inside. The images below were taken with Canon’s EF-S 10-22mm and EF 24mm L f/1.4 UWA lenses on EOS 40D,  EOS 7D and EOS 5DMarkIII cameras.

UWA magic (part II): Foreground and background

Part II of the series on Ultra Wide Angle lenses. UWA lenses will allow for lots of things to find room in the composition. The challenge then becomes to fill the frame with interesting things. To attempt the capture a vast expanse of sand, sea and sky in an open beach is one of the most common misuses of UWAs. The result will be huge white and blue surfaces with no detail and nothing for the eye to latch onto,  and with all likelihood make a dull composition. A strong UWA composition of a landscape requires striking objects in the foreground, an interesting middle ground and drama in the background (e.g. interesting skies or clouds). But there are no rules in creative photography, and breaking the accepted rules can sometimes yield an even more striking effect. All images below were taken with Canon’s EF-S10-22mm UWA lens on a EOS 7D camera. These examples illustrate how a UWA composition can be strengthened from an interplay between foreground, middleground and background elements.

Making science (part XII): The problem with impact factors

I have been around long enough to remember the time when there were no impact factors. (Don’t know what an impact factor is? Read HERE). We all knew that, say, Nature, was more prestigious (or sexy, hot, trendy, impactful, whatever you want…) than, say, JBC. And that JBC was better journal than many (actually many!) other (ie lower) journals. We did not need any impact factors to realise that. And of course this “intuitive” information was used to evaluate job candidates and assess tenure. A paper in Nature was very important, we all knew that, and did not need any impact factors. The problem now is that impact factors  put a hard number on what earlier was an intuitive, soft process. So, now we know that not only is Nature “better” than JBC, it is actually 10.12 times “better”. And PNAS is 2.23 times “better”. That is what has generated so many problems and distortions. The temptation to use those numbers is just too high, irresistible. For the journals, for the papers in them, and for individual scientists. And the numbers change every year. When applied to individual papers this gets totally crazy. Imagine. The “value” of a given paper can be higher (or lower) this year than, say,  3 years ago when it was published. The same paper, the same data. And let’s not get started with what the impact factor has done to innovaiton and creativity. (For a good view on this, read Sydney Brenner’s interview HERE).

Here is an idea. Why don’t we all get together and sue collectively Thomson Reuters for having commercialised (or Eugene Garfield, for having invented) this monster and caused so much havoc?

UWA magic (part I): Perspective

Kicking off a new series on Ultra Wide Angle (UWA) photography.  For this series, we will consider as UWA anything from 10mm to 24mm. UWA photography is wonderful but can be challenging. Exaggerated perspective, distorted edges and weird relationships between foreground and background objects are some of the features that can play for or against the composition. UWA lenses will exaggerate the depth of field, making background objects appear further from foreground ones than they actually are. That’s why UWAs don’t make good portrait lenses, as they exaggerate noses and foreheads. On the other hand, they are ideal to picture people in their environment. UWA lenses add drama to the images and can tell stories more forcefully due to their exaggeration of perspective. The images below were taken with Canon’s EF-S 10-22mm UWA lens on EOS 40D and EOS 7D cameras. These examples illustrate the use of UWA to emphasise perspective in a composition. 

Namesake guitar… at last

IbanezPMIbanez guitar company first released the Pat Metheny PM200 model in March 2013. At the top of the Ibanez PM line (which also includes PM120 and PM20), the PM200 is a full-hollow body electric guitar featuring a mahogany set-in neck, maple top/back/sides, ebony fretboard, and a single Silent 58 humbucker neck pickup. It has been widely acclaimed for its rich tone, fantastic playability, and exceptional build quality.  After the acoustic Martin D35 (from 1983) and the cut-away nylon Ovation #1863 (from 1991), it was time for us to update.

Here is a quick sample of the PM200 sound through Roland’s 80W CUBE in Tweed mode with a bit of rev and delay; a beautiful arrangement by John McLaughlin of jazz standard My Foolish Heart (by Victor Young): 

“A boring Noble Prize” (or a lesson in mediocre science journalism)

At the end of September each year, science journalists all over the world make their forecasts for the upcoming announcement of the Nobel Prizes that take place during the first week of October in Stockholm, Sweden. The week begins with the announcement of the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, awarded by the Karolinska Institute. It is followed by the Physics, Chemistry and Literature Prizes. As expected, this activity is all the more significant at Swedish newspapers and TV and radio stations, and this year of 2013 was no exception. Inger Atterstam, from the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, is regarded as one of the most accredited science journalists in Sweden. Her 2013 forecast for the Physiology or Medicine Nobel Prize was vast and broad (to be on the safe side, presumably), and included scientists responsible for discoveries concerning the epidemiology of smoking, cochlea implants, treatments against malaria, rheumatoid arthritis, leukaemia and even Bill and Melinda Gates (!) (The nature of the discoveries made by the Gates couple which according to Ms. Atterstam deserved such a high honour was, however, not revealed).

Outside Nobel Forum, minutes after the announcement, Ms. Atterstam is visibly upset about the choice made by the Nobel Assembly for the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and she makes no effort to hide her discontent in front of the cameras. The Prize went to James Rothman, Randy Schekman and Thomas Sudhof for their discoveries of the molecular mechanisms that control the specificity of trafficking, fusion and release of vesicles within and from cells. A long overdue award to one of the most influential and fundamental concepts in modern cell biology with direct relevance to a great number of human diseases including diabetes and neurological disorders. Incredibly important, but far away from any of the predictions made by Ms. Atterstam during the previous days. And it shows.

Microphone in hand, she confronts the unforgiving camera visibly distressed. Her eyes roll from left to right eluding the lens, her breath is heavy and agitated, her body swings back and forth. She does not pull her punches: “This was a  very traditional Nobel Prize, namely to three white, middle-class men coming from three of USA’s most prestigious and Nobel-awarded universities, Standford, Berkeley and Yale…” Wow! How about that for a bigoted statement? After a brief (and failed) attempt to explain some of the substance behind the discoveries, Ms. Atterstam revels in her own ignorance: “On the other hand, this is a very traditional and boring Nobel Prize because it is about very basic research that none really understands and that does not have any relevance, except in the realm of science.” Interesting words, coming from one of the leading science journalists in Sweden. Ms. Atterstam concluding remarks say it all: “The Nobel Committee has this time —once again— chosen not to give the Prize to applied research that concerns people [she chokes here] and which could thereby have drawn greater attention. We shall keep our hopes for the Higgs particle tomorrow.” Ms. Atterstam clearly considers the Higgs boson to be a discovery in applied science of immediate concern to people. 😉

Well, what else can be said? Here is one of the most prestigious science journalists of Sweden trying to explain basic research to the general public. As they say, with friends like Ms. Atterstam, who needs any enemies?

Science, Jazz, Photography