Another Raw conversion: Pompei

Here is one classic Pompei shot with Vesuvius in the back. Midday sun, crowds all over the place, too bright sky, poor contrast:

Cropping (in Camera Raw) allows focusing on the center temple and eliminates the worst part of the crowd:

Here is the Raw conversion: mainly tone curve for added contrast, graduated filter to pull back the sky and adjustment brush to bring back top of the building and columns that were too dark after the grad filter:

Here are the histograms before (left) and after (right):

One final clone tool in Photoshop removes the unwanted visitors. Voilá:

Posted in POTN here.

Ralph Towner – Improvisation and Performance Techniques for Classical and Acoustic Guitar

Master guitarrist Ralph Towner’s book “Improvisation and Performance Techniques for Classical and Acoustic Guitar” published by Hal Leonard in 1985 has been out of print for at least 20 years. A must read for any classical and jazz guitarrist with an inkling to improvisation, it reveals many of the inner workings of the unique sound developed by Towner over 40 years of guitar playing. Chapters cover several techniques, including damping and chordal plucking, finger combinations, left- and right hand techniques, arpeggio, harmony, scales and voicing. Over 60 exercises and the scores of several of Towner’s most famous compositions, including Distant Hills, Zephyr and Beneeath An Evening Sky, are also included. In the introduction, Towner writes that “the intention of this book is to provide you with musical instruction and material to assist you in learning improvisation, along with fundamental tone production and performance techniques. It is my hope that the content is accessible to a wide range of player skills, including those with minimal experience on the classical or acoustic guitar”. An important element in Towner’s music and playing technique is what he calls polymetrical rhythmic groupings: the implication of two or more time signatures occurring simultaneously. Many of the exercises in the book deal with this concept and its many variations. This is a phenomenal volume, highly recommended to any guitar player and all enthusiasts of Towner’s music. Read more...

Making science (part II): The making of a scientist

Former postdoc fellow Svend Kjaer has today published his first first-author paper after leaving the lab. It has appeared online at the Nature Structure and Molecular Biology website. He’s got the first glimpse of the three-dimensional structure of the extracellular domain of the RET receptor, giving insights into how it binds ligand and how its mutation causes disease. Something we were striving to see for several years while he was at our lab has now been achieved and it’s one of the great success stories of making science. It took a lot of perseverance, a good measure of ingenuity and the crucial guidance and support of Svend’s current mentor and common friend Neil McDonald from the CRUK institute in London. As if by coincidence, from Svend comes also this link to the one-hour film “Naturally Obsessed: The Making of a Scientist” telling the story of three graduate students in a crystallography lab at Columbia University, NYC and their road to success (or failure) through “years of trial and error and unflinching dedication”. It gives good insights into real science making in a lab, the elusive thrill of its ups and downs, and what it takes to get to the finish line. Link from the picture above. Read more...

Capturing RAW

I am often asked why I shoot my photographs in RAW format. RAW capture refers to the direct transfer of the information acquired by the sensor of a digital camera to the memory card without any in-camera processing. In the 18-megapixel Canon EOS 7D, this translates into files of 25MB, compared to the 6MB of a high-resolution JPG-compressed file. Why would one like to shoot RAW files? The RAW format contains all the information captured by the sensor and is therefore most amenable to corrections of exposure, saturation, chromatic aberrations and noise during post-processing. Compressed JPG files contain a reduced amount of information and so are much more limited to adjust during post-processing. Why would someone want to adjust a photograph? Shown below are three examples taken during a recent trip to the Otavalo valley in Northern Ecuador. In all cases, the top image is straight-out-of-camera, while the lower image is after conversion in Adobe CS4 Camera Raw (no Photoshop in any of these examples!). Read more...

Food Photography II: L’Accanto Gourmet Restaurant, Seiano, Italy

Food photography is a challenging photography genre wiht many books and articles written about it. Lighting, framing angle, arrangement, freshness, speed are some of the most important elements to consider. A recent meeting of our Molpark EU research network took us to Seiano, Italy where we enjoyed a few days of great science amid magnificent views of the bay of Naples and stunningly crafted meals.

Here are some dishes from our stay at the Grand Hotel Angiolieri in Seiano, spectacularly located on the northern coast of the Sorrento peninsula. The L’Accanto Gourmet Restaurant is the “hotel’s temple of flavor”. Recently awarded its first Michelin star, the restautrant serves amazingly creative dishes based on local products and firmly rooted in the Mediterranean tradition. Read more...

Making science (part I): Discovery

Making science is about being where none else has been. Seeing what none else has seen. Walking on an unknown planet for the first time, without leaving the walls of the lab.

This is the essence of being a scientist. Of course, day to day life in a research lab can be difficult. We don’t walk on a new planet everyday. Reagents that don’t work, mice that don’t breed, experiments that don’t make sense… Many things can get on our way to the answers we are looking for. Sometimes we get answers to questions we have not asked. It’s a journey into uncharted territory. And like any journey, it is prone to surprises. Discovery is the driving force. But not every question asked leads to a discovery. How to know what questions to ask? That’s another matter altogether… Read more...

Wolfgang Muthspiel with Larry Grenadier

FASCH10_1031Guitarrist Wolfgang Muthspiel performed at Jazzklubb Facshing, Stockholm, on April 22nd, 2010 accompanied by Larry Grenadier on bass. Muthspiel is a very versatile player with superb technique and feel. In the concert, he featured an electric guitar and a body-less nylon with abundance of effects, live dubbings and electronic percussion. Awesome playing by Muthspiel. Grenadier outstanding, as always. Video clip recorded on the Canon EOS 7D and EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L lens. A selection of photographs taken during the concert can be seen HERE.

Vijay Iyer Trio

FASCH10_0828A remarkable concert featuring Vijay Iyer Trio live at Fasching on April 13 2010 in full power. Here is Vijay in full concentration at the piano (pic taken with my EOS 7d and the 100-400 L, which I took by mistake thinking that it was the 70-200L 2.8!). In addition to Iyer on piano, the trio includes Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. Their most recent album is “Historicity” (2009) on the ACT label. Several of the pieces of that album were featured at the Fasching concert. Vijay Iyer uses thick chords sweeping across the keyboard generating an orchestral backdrop onto which melodic lines navigate. Improvisation remains the central theme. From Vijay Iyer’s website: “his powerful, cutting-edge music is firmly grounded in groove and pulse, but also rhythmically intricate and highly interactive; fluidly improvisational, yet uncannily orchestrated; emotionally compelling, as well as innovative in texture, style, and musical form.” Read more...

Journal podcasts: Nature, Science, Cell

After subscribing for over two years to the Nature, Science and Cell podcasts, my preference falls clearly with the former. The Nature podcast is snappy, lively, fun to listen to and has great interviews. The journalists have human voices, sound like real people and manage to confer the excitement of science with a touch of humor.

The Science podcast has several problems, the biggest one is podcaster Robert Frederick. I can not imagine a more unnatural, robotic voice on Earth. Does he speak like that to his friends? Even the text-to-speech voice in my Mac sounds more human that this guy. I also find the usual bit about science policy terribly uninteresting. As in the World Series, this is only concerned with US policy, of course. If listening at night in bed, I am surely asleep by this moment. Both Nature and Science have another feature in common that I think takes unnecessary space, that is the bit on news at the end in which one journalist interviews another. This practice has become very popular in TV talk shows and news programs, and sometimes I can see the point of asking questions to a journalist deeply specialized on a particular topic. But those are not the guys at Nature or Science. I find it totally uninteresting, I much rather have the actual scientists telling the story. Read more...

Science, Jazz, Photography