High-Rise Night: Trying out “Night Sight” on the Pixel 2 Camera

Google has a new camera mode on its Pixel phones called Night Sight, for handling low-light conditions. The short version is that instead of taking a long exposure, it takes a series of short exposures and stacks them to avoid motion blur from hand movements (plus a lot of additional processing). The long version is fascinating.

My Pixel 2 already takes better low-light photos than I would have expected, but I couldnt wait to try out the new feature when I learned about it. When the updated Camera app finally hit the Play Store, I had to give it a try.

Two high-rise office buildings at night.

This is adjusted slightly to keep the colors from being too light. And it actually isn’t the best example, as it turns out the nighttime city scene already has enough light for the existing HDR+ mode. I’m going to have to try it on some darker scenes somewhere, but it’s still pretty cool. After the cut I’m posting a version with the phone’s regular mode, and the unaltered Night Sight photo. You can see they’re pretty close, but the Night Sight version picks up a bit more of the color, and it’s a little brighter.

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Bringing Back the Old Camera

A couple of weeks ago, the almost-8YO found my old manual SLR camera – the 1967 model my grandfather gave me. I bought some film, and picked up a light meter app while waiting for the battery to arrive (the light meter is the only powered part of the camera), and I showed him how to load the camera, focus, choose the shutter speed and aperture, etc., and the two of us shot a roll of film, trading off between us.

As I showed him how to unload the camera, I managed to knock it off the table, where the open camera crashed to the floor.

I couldn’t believe it! This camera is older than I am, and I was fairly certain it still worked…until we shot one roll of film!

Amazingly the lens didn’t break, and nothing seems to have damaged the shutter mechanism either. The only thing that I’ve noticed is that the door in the back of the case is bent slightly. I can still close it, but I have to shift it about 1/8″ to do it. I hope it’s still light-proof…

We shot another roll of film, again taking turns, and tomorrow I’m taking it into a photography store to get them developed. I really thought the slow turnaround would be frustrating to him, but he’s finding it fascinating.

Possibly Out-There Federation Idea

Now that Pixelfed federation and Pterotype are taking shape, I can hook up my photos and blogging directly into Mastodon and the Fediverse, but you know what would be even cooler?

Connecting them to each other.

A lot of my blog ideas grow out of photos or statuses that I’ve posted previously, as I find more to say or a better way to say it. And while it’s always possible to just post a comment or reply with a link, imagine posting them into the same federated thread.

Here’s a scenario we can do today:

  1. Photo of something interesting on Pixelfed, boosted to Mastodon. I believe we’re one update away from Mastodon replies and Pixelfed comments appearing together.
  2. Blog post on Plume or WordPress with Pterotype going into more detail about the photo. Comments and Mastodon/Pleroma replies can interleave right now. (Try it, if you want!)
  3. Another photo on Pixelfed as a follow-up. Again, comments and replies can interleave.

This is already pretty cool, but it still creates three separate discussions. The best I can do is add a “Hey, I wrote more on my blog over here: <link>” to the first discussion.

What if there were a way to publish the blog entry as a reply to the PixelFed photo? Or to publish the second photo as a reply to the blog?

And that opens up other possibilities where people can reply to other people’s photos and blog entries with their own. (Webmentions sort of do this, but they’re not going to create a single federated discussion.)

I’m not sure what form this interleaved discussion would take, or what the pitfalls might be. (Visibility might suffer, for instance.) Blogging and photo posting tend to be platforms for an original post that can have comments, rather than platforms where a top-level post can be an OP or a reply, and this would change that model.

The Old Camera

The 7YO was looking through the closet the other day and found my old camera bag. Inside it: the old film SLR camera that my grandfather gave me when I was around 12. It’s older than I am, a Sears camera that appears to be a rebranded Ricoh Singlex TLS from 1967. It’s completely manual except for the light meter.

And I expect it will work perfectly once I put some film in it.

As a teen I used it take photos of family, landscapes, spaceship models, stars, photo essays, monuments, even a space shuttle landing. He showed me how to develop film and slides, and make prints in his home darkroom.

It was my main camera for several years, until I got tired of carrying it around and went back to using a point-and-shoot camera. But I still miss having such effortless control over the focus, exposure and aperture. I keep telling myself I’ll eventually get a DSLR and recapture that.

Exam

Anyway, I showed him how to handle it, how to focus and set the F-stop and shutter speed, how to open it, load (imaginary) film, remove the lens, and see the iris as he opened and closed the aperture. We set it for a long exposure so he could watch the shutter open and close. He also found the tripod I’d given up looking for a while back, and once he was done inspecting this one, he hooked it up to a newer camera.

The problem is, he really wanted to try out the camera, but we don’t have any film. I don’t think I’ve bought film in almost 15 years, since I bought my first digital camera. You could buy film in any grocery store when I was younger, but it’s been relegated to specialty shops and online stores over the past decade. I figured I could find it online easily enough. But whose film is worth getting these days? And where to get it developed?

Tracking Down Supplies

Some of the more serious photographers on Photog.Social (a Mastodon instance focused on photography) shoot film, so I asked for suggestions there. I’m going to have to explore Film Photography Project,, which looks fascinating!

Film was easy to find, but then there was the battery for the light meter. You can’t get the same kind of battery anymore. It turns out that old cameras like this one used mercury batteries because they produce a very consistent voltage instead of starting high and trending downward over their lifetime. But, you know, mercury. Not something you want seeping into groundwater from trash. They haven’t sold them in the US since 1996.

I could use the camera without a light meter. I’d just have to figure out the exposure on my own!

As it turns out, Zinc-air batteries have a similar discharge curve (but a much shorter life), and there’s a size that’s designed as a replacement for this one. OK, there’s that problem solved.

So, film and battery have been ordered, and are in the mail!

This should be interesting…

Busier Midterm Voting than Expected

The polling place was full this morning. I had to drive all the way around the block to find parking (notice the line of cars), which I can’t recall ever having to do at this location. (The 2016 election used a different polling place for this area.) I wondered if I should have walked there and back instead of stopping by on my way to work.

But they had just enough voting booths to handle everyone. There was literally one person ahead of me in line to sign in. While we waited for other voters to finish with their booths, someone came in to drop off his family’s mail-in ballots and then cast his own in person.

Then a booth opened up, I marked my ballot (on paper, fill-in-the-bubble style), and went over to feed it into the box.

I was in and out in about 10 minutes.