In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog January 9th, 2010

Hot Air Balloon Festival / Why Windows 7

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Tokyu Inn Hotel Ueda
Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel
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Thank you for your generous contributions. We're slowly collecting enough images to make the mosaics. I realize I'm posting the same paragraph each week, but I assure you we're on top of this project and doing our best to collect enough of the proper type of images to make the best possible set of mosaics. This is proving difficult so please help if you can.

We are still accepting (and pleading for) images of children from SEA. No matter how terrible you think they are, please send them in anyway. These images will be used to complete a set of 3 high quality mosaics which will be sold to benefit the Karen and Burmese orphans living in the orphanages and refugee camps. The more images the better, I can use all you have. Please take the time to go through your images for anything you think might help. If you missed the "No Place to Call Home" special, you can click on the link and read more about this. Thank you! [email protected]


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Feature Photograph Thailand International Hot Air Balloon Festival Why Windows 7 & Steve's Comments Photography News of Interest

Readers Submissions Readers Questions A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review Infocus Blog _________________________________________________________

Feature Photograph *Home

Every once in a while I'll see an image that really speaks to me. This is the case with an image I saw in Stick's weekly late last month. As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to run it as a Feature Photograph and talk about it a bit. It's a really good image for a number of reasons.

Sometimes we plan images, other times they just turn out that way. I have no idea if Stick planned this image to turn out the way it did, but I'm going to assume he did and talk about it as if I myself planned this shot. Heck, he even stripped the exfil data from the image like I showed him to a while back so I'll have to guess about the camera settings, lens used, and other such things. Lets get started.

It's not necessary, and often not desirable, to have your subject fully framed or even in focus. Sometimes it enhances the image if they're not. Having a subject in the foreground (now where have we heard this before.. hmm..) can really enhance a wide angle shot, but a subject which enhances the subject and even supports it is even better. In this case not all tuk-tuks say THAILAND across the tailgate, but how appropriate it is in this case when the subject is Nana Plaza? Both a Thailand icon, and the word Thailand. And it was pure genius (or an accident.. :) to have the supporting foreground in focus, and the subject slightly out of focus.

The exposure is spot on as well. I'm guessing he was using his 35mm F1.4L prime lens on his 5d Mark II body, with an ISO 3200.. possibly 1600. At 35mm he was probably less than 4-5 feet from the back of the tuk-tuk, maybe closer depending on the amount of crop. Aperture of F4 and shutter speed of 1/100th give or take? Not sure.. but aperture priority for sure. I doubt he even needed Ev. Technically it's perfect. I wouldn't change a thing.

Compositionally it's very well thought out and ideally suited to the venue. This is the sort of shot someone well versed in both photography and this specific venue would routinely capture. This composition shows Stick was thinking on his feet. Damn, I wish I would have taken this shot..

Thailand International Hot Air Balloon Festival *Home

Michael has been a friend for several years and I've followed him from his plans to retire in Thailand, until now where he's retired and living the good life. I remember telling him once "Michael, with your job in the defense industries and with all the major travel, it seems a shame not to properly photograph every step of your journey." (or something like that) He's been using small point and shoots for ages and just recently has moved up to a entry level DSLR. What's interesting is that he's self-teaching and doing a great job of it. He hasn't asked me a single question which is a bit unusual. As a result I actually look forward to his submissions and seeing his current photographs. I can only predict great things coming from his venture into photography.

6 December 2009

Trip Report: Thailand International Hot Air Balloon Festival in Ayutthaya, Khlong Sa Bua Floating Market in Ayutthaya, and Sun Flower Festival in Phatthana Nikom District

Steve,

Greetings! Our previous discussion kind of set the stage for my submission of this narrative and photographic trip report. This report is intended to be as much of an entertainment piece for those photographers and those interested in Thai travel experiences as it is for presenting a status of my personal photographic level.

I’ll qualify here in this opening statement that I’m still learning the finer details of the use of my new Canon DSLR camera, that my photography skills are still in the developmental stage, that some of the photos were taken by my charming spouse with either my DSLR or her Sony point and click, and that my narrative descriptions are a result of my observations and insight rather than any profound technological knowledge of hot air balloons, Thai geography, travel or history, or any subject matter discussed.

We left Ban Chang, Rayong Province on Friday morning and headed up the BKK-Chun Buri Motorway for the quick 1 hour and 45 min drive to Bangkok’s north end. Had lunch with the father-in-law at the SCB plaza Sizzler Steak House. My treat since Saturday was Father’s Day. Sizzler Steak House has a real nice salad bar these days with a nice variety of fresh veggies and there is fish, pork and steak on the menu so everyone can have what they want.

With lunch finished, we were on the road to Ayutthaya. Through my internet research we learned that this is the 3rd Thailand International Hot Air Balloon Festival and knew that the Festival was in the historic area of Wat Maheyong (GPS coordinates: N14°21.817’ E100°35.652’) and that the preparation of the balloons for the evening launch was scheduled for 1600 hrs with the actual launch time of flight time 1630-1700. Plenty of time to get there. Upon arrival, there was as usual, local police directing traffic to designated parking areas. Parking was full at the immediate park grounds so we parked at a field converted to a parking lot for 40 baht and took a 5 baht motorcycle taxi about 700 meters to the entrance of the festival. Entrance to the festival was 50 baht per person.

Entrance ticket to the 3rd Thailand International Hot Air Balloon

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f10 1/200 shutter speed, ISO 400

Air Balloon Festival activities were located at the Wat Maheyong Historic Park (GPS coordinates: N14°21.817’ E100°35.652’).

Sony Cyber-shot @f/10 1/200 shutter speed, ISO 100

Hot Air Balloon Components. Basic “Hot Air Balloon” components are the Basket or Gondola (usually made of rattan and willow woven together) where passengers and/or equipment can be carried; the Envelope or Gas Bag, usually spherical is shape and made of a woven non-porous non-expandable material, usually a combination of nylon and Dacron (polyester); and Burners which are positioned above the basket and below the Envelope which heat the air. Balloon lift is controlled by adjusting the burning rate of the gas that heats the air. A valve at the top of the balloon has a rope attached so that passengers can control descent. A rip cord and rip panel allow the rapid release of gas on landing to prevent the dragging of the load on impact.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f11 1/250 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloon being transported to and from launch site by truck.. In the case at this Hot Air Balloon Festival, the balloons were brought to the launch site by pickup trucks. After unloading the balloon and basket with components, the truck was in standby mode until after the balloons were in flight and then the trucks scurried after the balloons tracking their flight paths and potential landing sites where the balloons would be picked up and loaded back into the trucks then brought back to the original launch site.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f5.6 1/100 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloon Basket on its side. Usually a crew of 4 or 5 is sufficient for the balloon to be inflated and prepared for flight. To inflate the balloon the basket is laid out on its side. The envelope is connected to the basket and spread out over the ground. A few crew members hold open the mouth of the balloon open while a fan partially inflates a balloon with cold air.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @ 10 1/200 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloon on its side with envelope being secured to basket with appropriate tie downs. Support tie town belts are used to connect the basket to the envelope.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f13 1/250 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloon Envelope being spread open by Balloon Crew. With the envelope being spread out over the ground to prepare for inflation, it can be inspect3d for tears in the fabric. One can see from this picture that the colors of this balloon are very colorful.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @ 14 1/320 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloon Envelope being inflated by fan. At this point, the baskets of the balloon are still on their sides while the fans blow air into the envelope to begin the inflation process. This was an up close and personal festival and the spectators were able to get as close to the balloons and assembly/inflation process as they choose.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @ 14 1/400 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons inflated and beginning flight. Here the balloons in the picture are fully inflated, the baskets are now upright and the burners are light to begin heating the air in the envelope. Almost ready for flight. It was really a sight to see the balloons and historic ruins of Ayutthaya side by side.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f14 1/400 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons inflated and beginning flight with historic ruins in the foreground. More balloons almost finalized for the flight.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f14 1/400 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons inflated and in full flight. Liftoff! The beginning of the mass liftoff of the balloons was initiated and occurred between 1630 and 1700 hours.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f14 1/320 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons inflated and in full flight with historic ruins in the foreground.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f14 1/320 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons inflated and in full flight with historic ruins in the foreground.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f14 1/400 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons inflated and in full flight with historic ruins in the foreground.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f14 1/400 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons inflated and in full flight with historic ruins in the foreground.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f14 1/400 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons inflated and in full flight with historic ruins in the foreground.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f14 1/400 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons inflated and in full flight with historic ruins in the foreground.

anon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f14 1/320 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons inflated and in full flight with historic ruins in the foreground.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f13 1/320 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons inflated and in full flight with historic ruins in the foreground.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f10 1/200 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons inflated and in full flight with historic ruins in the foreground.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f20 1/200 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons inflated and in full flight with historic ruins in the foreground.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f11 1/200 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons inflated and in full flight with historic ruins in the foreground.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f13 1/420 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons inflated and in full flight with historic ruins in the foreground.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f13 1/320 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons inflated and in full flight with historic ruins in the foreground. The balloons could be seen drifting across the lake for an estimated time of ½ hour and of a distance (as the crow flies) of approximately 7-10 kilos.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f4 1/30 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons being fired up for the “Night Glow.” Between 1830 and 1900 hours, the balloons were again at the festival site and set up for an inflation and burn of the burners to heat and fill the envelope. With music playing in the background, the balloons were fired up for the “night glow.” The colors were spectacular. This display lasted for 1.2 hour. The heat from the use of the burners could be felt from 15 meters away. Wow, what a sight.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f4 1/60 shutter speed, ISO 400

Hot Air Balloons being fired up for the “Night Glow.” With the flights and night glow of the balloons over for the day, we proceeded to a local hotel. The hotel was totally no frills but had all the necessary accoutrements. Safe area not far from the historic areas of Ayutthaya, auto parking, clean bed, hot shower with towels and TV. I’d recommend it if these basic accoutrements are all that are necessary for an overnight rest stopover. 450 baht. Jitwilai Place @ GPS coordinates N14°21.679’ E100°34.769’. Since there was a morning balloon launch and mass lift scheduled for the following morning at between 0600 and 0630 hours, felt it necessary to stay somewhere close and arrive at the site to watch the balloon set up preparations and get some nice morning shots of the balloons in flight.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f4 1/13 shutter speed, ISO 400

Early morning set assembly and preparation of balloon for flight. The next series of pictures (#’s 28, 29, 30 and 31) clearly demonstrate some of the potential dangers of flying hot air balloons.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f4 1/8 shutter speed, ISO 400

Balloon lifting off and immediately drifting toward a nearby tree.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f4 1/6 shutter speed, ISO 400

Balloon drifting into and getting caught in tree at lift off.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f4 1/30 shutter speed, ISO 400

Balloon pilot activating the burners to full open burn to provide lift needed for balloon to release itself from the grasps of the tree.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f4 1/25 shutter speed, ISO 400

Balloon lifting out and away from the tree that it was stuck in. The next series of 3 pictures (picture #’s 31, 32 and 33) show the early morning flight of some of the balloons with historic ruins of Ayutthaya. The flight path which is totally dependent on the direction that the wind is blowing at the altitude of the balloon was different than the flight of the previous evening. Consequently, different historic ruins in the pictures.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f4 1/8 shutter speed, ISO 400

Burners lit and liftoff of the first balloon of the morning flight.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f4 1/40 shutter speed, ISO 400

Balloons across the skis of Ayutthaya.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f5 1/60 shutter speed, ISO 400

Balloons across the skis of Ayutthaya with historic ruins in the foreground. With the early morning flight of the balloons no longer visible, I turned my attention to capturing some sun rise shots with included the historic ruins. I’ll limit my post to 2 of my favorites of all that I took as pictures of the internet are full of such pictures.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f9 1/125 shutter speed, ISO 400

Sun rise in Ayutthaya.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f4.5 1/8 shutter speed, ISO 400

My favorite picture of the road trip… if for no particular reason, the light and shadows of the historic ruins make it interesting. With the balloon festival sights completed and a schedule to maintain, we then headed off down the road about 6 kilo to the Khlong Sa Bua Floating Market @ GPS coordinates N14°51.522’ E101°01.316’. Follow the signs in the following picture to the parking areas for the floating market.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f10 1/160 shutter speed, ISO 400

Directional signs to the parking areas of Floating Market. The market has plenty of free parking and the grounds are well maintained. The walkway to entrance and around the floating market is actually an elevated bamboo and concrete walkway that is slightly above and over the manmade lake. Vendors are all around on the outside perimeter of the walkway and there are some vendors floating in boats in the lake. There is plenty of seating capacity between where the vendors are and the lake so when the show is going on it can be viewed easily. The shows begin at 1100 and are at various times during the day. While we were there, we saw 2 of the shows and they were distinctly different. The shows actually take place on a slightly submerged stage and series of bamboo walkways within the lake. There is plenty of food at very reasonable prices, there are shaded areas to eat and rest, boat rentals that can be paddled in the klong near the lake, and the shows was free. A very enjoyable outing. Highly recommended if you are in the Ayutthaya area.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f11 1/250 shutter speed, ISO 400

Walkway entrance from the parking lot to the Floating Market. . The curved lines of the walkway and the shadows and reflections in the water are what attracted my attention to taking this shot.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f10 1/200 shutter speed, ISO 400

Klong boats used by the floating market vendors. These particular boats can be rented for 20 baht.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f14 1/320 shutter speed, ISO 400

One of the more noted Thai fictional stories being played out in this show. Note the submerged walkways that the show actors/actresses are utilizing. It has a nice affect of walking on water.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f14 1/320 shutter speed, ISO 400

The show.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f13 1/400 shutter speed, ISO 400

One of the supporting female dancer in the show.

Sony Cyber-shot @ 10 1/200 shutter speed, ISO 100

The lead female dancer of the show.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f13 1/250 shutter speed, ISO 400

Actor spitting fire out of his mouth as part of the show. Not only was one of the male actors spitting fire but 5 or 6 of them were. It was a good part of the show and very entertaining. All the actors and actresses tried to make the audience enjoy the shows by adding typical Thai comic humor to them.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f10 1/160 shutter speed, ISO 400

Show actress after the show.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f7.1 1/200 shutter speed, ISO 400

Boat vendor at floating market. This particular vendor took extra special care when serving her customers. She took 2 pieces of banana leaves and placed them in the woven wicker basket prior to placing 4 or 5 pork balls with cabbage into the basket and on top of the leaves. She then added some sauce on top of the pork balls and then some sliced cucumbers. All very colorful. It was easy to see that the vendor took pride in what she was doing.

Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f14 1/125 shutter speed, ISO 1600

Actors quarters. Canon. I am always attracted to Thai style houses on the klong and this one with the walkway to the house and the colorful flowers with the reflections in the water caught my attention enough to take this picture.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f13 1/400 shutter speed, ISO 400

Historic Ruins along the lank and klong just outside the floating market.

Sony Cyber-shot @f5.6 1/320 shutter speed, ISO 100

Historic Ruins along the lank and klong just outside the floating market.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f14 1/200 shutter speed, ISO 400

Sunflower Festival. . The “Sunflower Festival” is an annual event from December through February. Along the highway 21 and nearby roads of Phatthana Nikom and vicinity there are numerous sunflower fields and vendors selling sunflower seeds, sunflower pins and other paraphernalia, wine, honey, Thai food, and drinks. We stopped at several of the fields to take in the sights. N14°51.522’ E101°01.316’ was a location that we stopped at that had a nice field of sunflowers. Many of the sunflower fields have an elevated viewing stand and elephant rides. All in all, having the opportunity to view and walk in the huge and endless sunflower fields was a wonderful sight and event.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f14 1/320 shutter speed, ISO 400

Sunflowers with mountains in the background.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f11 1/400 shutter speed, ISO 400

Sunflowers with mountains in the background.

Canon Rebel XTi DSLR, 17-85 mm lens f/4-5.6 @f4 1/20 shutter speed, ISO 400

Sunflowers at dusk. At dusk with the sun setting and the sunflowers all lined up evenly in a row made what I thought an interesting photo shot. With the sun going down and a few hours to travel to get home we moved out in the direction of Ban Chang, Rayong Province. The trip was enjoyable but is always a good feeling to return home and be sleeping in your own bed.

Sony Cyber-shot @f5.6 1/160 shutter speed, ISO 100

Home. Now for the planning of the next road trip begins. In the time being take those pictures and improve those photography skills. Ciao!

Thank you Michael! This is a great first effort and really takes the reader on a real journey of the area. Impressive! Steve

Why Windows 7 *Home

I would like to introduce Craig Lamson. Craig has been a professional product photographer for over 3 decades. Craig has done it all and I encourage you to check out his website for the best product photography you’ll ever have the privilege of viewing. Often times I can spend a great amount of time viewing just one of his images and learning while observing how he uses light. Craig is a master of light, and I’m afraid that is an understatement. If you've ever wondered who I go to when I have a question you now have your answer.

By now the net is full of stories about Windows 7, some good and some bad. I had to ask myself before writing this, do people really need someone else telling them about Windows 7? I guess not, but I'll write it anyway.

What I’m not going to do is explain the program and the differences between it and XP or Vista. What I want to do is describe my experience with the installation and early use. I’ll leave the nuts and bolts to others.

Which Path?

Should you decide to do Win7 you will have two choices on how to get there…well almost…since if you are upgrading from XP you only have one choice. Let me explain.

Computers that are running Vista can run an in-place upgrade, providing it is version to version. If you are using Vista Home Premium 32 bit, you can do an upgrade to W7 Home Premium 32 bit. Same with Vista Home 64 bit to W7 Home 64 bit, and on down the line with the various Windows versions.

If you are moving to a different version of windows like Vista Home 32 to Win7 Home 64 bit you will need a clean install.

The In-Place Upgrade

This is a very good way to move to W7 as it leaves all your programs and documents untouched. You just upgrade and go.

If you choose this method, be sure to run the Windows Upgrade Advisor, availablefrom Microsoft.

This is important. The Advisor will check your computer from top to bottom and see what, if any, problems you might have with hardware, drivers and programs. Trust it. If you find faults, be prepared to do the research to find the solutions. The most common fault will be drivers. Windows7 will do a pretty good job of finding the drivers needed at install but you might need to update a few yourself.

As a general rule, most newer computers (two years old or so) will do well with an upgrade to W7. If you are upgrading a laptop make sure to visit the manufacturer's website and see if they have created a drivers package for the W7 upgrade. Laptops are a bit different than most desktops in that they often have special software and drivers to support specific functions. Please, look and read before you leap.

The Clean Install

A clean install is just what it says. It wipes your hard drive clean of all documents, programs and the OS and start fresh, by installing only the new W7 OS.

This is a massive and final move. Once you do it, there is no going backwards. You must back up your documents if you want to keep them.

Again Microsoft has provided great documentation for doing a clean install from XP to W7;

They even have a tool to help you move your data files called Windows easy transfer.

You will need the original install disks for every program you plan on installing on your new W7 computer. You cannot transfer programs from XP to W7.

All of this also applies to a mismatched Vista to W7 upgrade.

So, What Did I Do?

I have four computers that could handle W7 and I did two in place upgrades and two clean installs. All four went pretty well.

The first machine I did was a Vista Home Premium 32 bit laptop in place upgrade to W7 Home premium 32 bit. The laptop was two years old and I was able to find all the drivers needed before I did the upgrade.

The upgrade went smoothly but at a few points I got very worried because it just seemed to stop and I was afraid it would not continue the upgrade. A quick trip to Google from a different computer told me not to worry and just wait it out. I did and the upgrade finished in about two hours. The computer is working great, and I don’t see any problems thus far and I use it often. Emboldened after a few weeks of working with it I moved onward.

Next I did a clean install on my secondary workstation from XP pro 32 to W7 Home Premium 64. This one was a bit harder.

My plan was to remove the XP hard drive and install W7 on a brand new drive so I could have the option of dual boot. For whatever reason I had major problems with the dual boot part and my W7 boot segment got corrupted. I went back to just a W7 drive and a clean install and it all worked fine. Quite frankly I don’t want to ever boot XP again. W7 beats XP hands down!

Next I did another laptop upgrade, this time using a free W7 upgrade disk provided by the manufacturer. The laptop was the Toshiba A505 I detailed in an earlier review. This was really smooth and flawless upgrade as all the driver files needed were included as well as some special routines to get the laptop ready. The disk as supplied by Toshiba had it all. This will be a pretty common procedure for laptops purchased just prior to the release of W7.

Finally, I did the last machine, my main workstation. It too was a clean install since I went from Vista 64 Ultimate to W7 Home Premium. I had zero problems other than the fact I had to reinstall all my programs.

As a windows user from the very beginning and having upgraded from all previous versions, I must say that this is Microsoft’s best effort yet.

Do I Like It?

Yes, I do. I’m finding W7 to be fast and stable. For me the new Taskbar is worth the price of admission alone. While I’ve done no real benchmark testing, W7 seems to boot quicker than both XP and Vista and overall programs seem to start quicker.

I found XP to be a very stable platform over the years but user interface was way long in the tooth. I never did really warm to Vista and had many problems until SP1 was released. But so far I really like W7 and time will tell as to stability.

There are a few things I don’t like. First if you are a fan of using classic view, you will need to learn W7. Classic view is a thing if the past. I’m finally used to it but boy, it took awhile. The other thing I really dislike is Internet Explorer 8. It’s bad, just plain bad!

So What Should You Do?

Only you can decide. If you have a current Core 2 Duo machine, W7 should work quite well. I also have it on a Duo Core and it runs fine. Like Vista, a decent graphics card is required for full use of the visual delights of W7. The upgrade advisor will tell you if your card has the stuff.

Your best bet would be an in place upgrade, which is mostly painless. A clean install is always a good option as it cleans away all the junk that a computer accumulates over the years, but it is painful and you will need all the programs disks as well as the activation codes for each program. I do hope you kept them all!

If nothing else W7 brings the user experience of windows into the 21 century. Even old guys like me who find change difficult (after all if it’s not broke why fix it?) are finding the experience very pleasant indeed!

Two Last Notes

First a disclaimer. This is a report on my personal experiences. I make no warrants or claims implied or otherwise about what your personal experience might be with your upgrade or clean install. You undertake your personal upgrade or clean install at your own risk.

Lastly a tip. If you have more than one computer to upgrade, take a look at the W7 home premium Three Pack. This gives you three upgrade licenses from Microsoft for the price of one and a half! A super deal!

Steve's Windows 7 Musings *Home

Introduction

I'm mostly in agreement with everything Craig wrote above. Like him I had to give ample consideration to what I could offer concerning Windows 7 that you haven't already read from someone else. A comprehensive Windows 7 review is beyond the scope of this weekly and is not what I think readers of this weekly want. What they want to know is if Windows 7 is worth upgrading to, what version to upgrade to, and what Windows 7 offers a digital photography workstation. I'll try not to repeat what Craig has already covered, though some overlap can't be avoided.

Yes, without a doubt Windows 7 is worth upgrading to for almost everyone. The footprint is small enough so you can install it on your netbook and get performance marginally better than XP, and powerful enough to manage the most modern and complex hardware.

x32 or x64

Windows 7 comes in several versions, and each version comes in x32 bit and x64 bit. Craig already covered what can be upgraded to what in the text above. I chose Windows 7 Ultimate x64 for all my applications. Ultimate provides features I personally find worth the cost. The 'Bitlocker' hard disk encryption is worth its weight in gold when traveling as much as I do, the XP Emulator ensures I can run any device or software a client might bring into my office, and Ultimate permits 'on the fly' switching of the main language so if a Thai or Korean or Japanese client is having trouble grasping a function of technique I can switch to their native language on the fly, and then back again as required. Ultimate provides other features as well, but you'll need to sit down and evaluate your own needs and choose a version.

Today there is little reason to not run the x64 version of Windows 7. x32 manages up to 3gigs of RAM, x64 will manage as much as your machine can hold. With current RAM prices it makes sense to install 6-12gb of RAM and x64 will manage it well. You might have an older machine with 3gb or less now, but the x64 version can transfer to and fully support a newer machine providing you build your own machines, or live in a country where computers often don't come with operating systems. This makes sense since Windows 7 just came out and will likely be around much longer than your current computer. x64 drivers are largely supported, and as Craig recommends I'd run the Upgrade Advisor so you can evaluate what's available for your current hardware and then if necessary make the decision if the benefits of x64 outweigh the cost of replacing an older piece of hardware. All newer hardware will be supported.

In-Place or Clean Install?

In the past with ALL previous versions of Windows, professionals in the know would always perform a clean install from scratch. It was often possible depending on your configuration to do an "in-place" install, but we knew we were asking for trouble down the line if we did so. So.. we'd suck it up and do a clean install from scratch despite the extra work involved. In my mind, and from reading the blogosphere, in the minds of most professionals, Windows has finally evolved where an "in-place" install has more advantages to the professional than a clean install.

As a test I performed a Windows Vista x64 Ultimate to Windows 7 x64 Ultimate upgrade on my main workstation. In-place. I have tons of imaging and other software on my main workstation and I was certain the upgrade wouldn't translate without issues. I popped some popcorn and popped in the Windows 7 x64 Ultimate DVD and sat back to watch the show. Less than 2 hours later my main workstation had been fully upgraded, without a single issue, and every piece of software worked perfectly! Software the manufacturers advised was not Windows 7 compatible was transferred over and worked perfectly. How? Since Vista there have been "compatibility modes" and "run as administrator" modes. The install process enabled what was necessary and everything worked great. I've been using my main workstation (sometimes 10+ hours daily) for several months and I've not had a single issue. I would never have believed it.

Since, I've installed Windows 7 x64 Ultimate on two laptops, one is over 3 years old, the other over 2 years old, and I didn't have a single issue. I have an old Pentium P4 unit sitting here gathering dust and Windows 7 Ultimate actually improved its performance. Unlike Craig I was never a fan of XP. I found its memory manager lacking along with other issues, and I could hardly wait to upgrade to Vista. I was a Vista user since day one and while there were issues with Vista I was able to solve them and I immediately found Vista far preferable to XP. No way I was going back. If I was satisfied with Vista, I'm in love with Windows 7. It's that good.

Windows 7 Interface

As Craig already mentioned the "Classic" mode is no longer an option. You must learn the Windows 7 UI (user interface), and it does take some adjusting, but once you use it a few weeks you'll start to love it. It feels right, and works even better. It offers enhancements not possible in the old Classic mode. My theme is pretty basic, I like a black desktop with my program icons that I use the most, and the programs I use all the time are now "pinned" to my taskbar. These pinned program icons now work like enhanced Quick launch icons. You can pin them to the task bar, put them in any order, launch them with a single click, and then you can right click for access to enhanced features.

Improved Aero

The Aero theme is carried over and greatly improved. If your computer has a supported graphics card Aero will be enabled and work smoothly. It's good to note that any video card that supports Aero, will also support Photoshop CS4's Open GL enhanced functions as well, and vise versa. If you don't like a black desktop there are now more cool wallpapers than ever, and instead of a single Aero theme at least 8 are now offered and you can mix and match these 8 to create many more. The Aero possibilities are endless and easy to access. I've heard it before, "Aero doesn't offer anything and it eats system resources." This might have been somewhat true with Vista, but with Windows 7 you'll soon find yourself enjoying and even being more productive with it's 'peek through' borders and view plates. And a reasonably modern machine won't notice any performance hits because Aero is enabled.

Color Management

Color management is important in an image workstation. Actually it's vital. There is no longer any of the startup or other issues many had with Vista. Color management just works. Profile your monitors with your calibration software ensuring the profiles are saved in the appropriate Windows folder. Disable any 'startup' loaders your software installs, and instead just add the new profiles into the Windows 7 Color Management setup area. Upon boot your new profiles will load and be applied to the appropriate monitors. I have three monitors and three profiles. Windows 7 works properly with all of them.

Windows Settings

Windows 7 also provides better access to the device manager, system protection, performance features, and advanced user settings. Right clicking on "My Computer" brings up the Windows 7 properties and clicking on that takes you into a easy to navigate menu. This is nearly identical to Vista, but the device manager especially works much better and allows you to manage your devices or manage your physical disks with ease.

Improved Memory Manager

When you're working in one imaging program, importing into another, viewing in a third, managing your memory properly is vital. I run several imaging programs in addition to my email client, browser, bittorrent client, video players and more. Managing my systems RAM properly is vital. When you open one program memory must be assigned, and when closing another the memory released. It sounds simple, but memory leaks and other issues have plagued previous versions of Windows like a demon ghost on steroids. Vista was a big improvement, but Windows 7 is even better. I open and close and use programs perhaps thousands of times a month.. without ever needing to reboot! Proper memory management also results in increased performance. If you work several programs across multiple monitors this is even more important.

Multiple Monitors and Productivity

If you use more than two monitors it's vital. Having enough memory, and having it managed properly, as you move or play imagery and video across multiple monitors enhances productivity in a big way.

Features We Really Want

Maximizing system performance is key. It's why we buy faster video cards and faster processors. We want absolute reliability and as much speed as we can get and still be reliable. We want to connect any device we need and not have issues. We want to use whatever number of monitors we need. We want system security at the same time. We want our data safeguarded, possibly encrypted, total connectivity whether this be a hotel internet connection or feeding off a clients mainframe. We want color management, long battery life, low power consumption, and file compatibility. We want it all, no matter what level of user we might be. And we want it with minimum hassle.

Windows 7 provides all this better than any previous version. Installing Windows 7 was like putting the final piece of the system in place. Is it right for you? As Craig already said, if you have a modern PC built and sold within the last 3-4 years it will probably benefit from Windows 7. Older machines might also work, but without the processing power to take advantage of the increased functionality I see no reason to install Windows 7 unless increased system security is high on your list of priorities.

The Cost

Of course cost is always a consideration. If your system is currently working fine, then upgrading might not be worth the increased benefits. Especially when you consider a retail version can be pricey. And when you finally upgrade your machine it will come with Windows 7 at no charge.

There is another option other than the retail versions of Windows 7. Most computer supply stories carry the "OEM packaged" versions. These are for those who build their own systems. These are the least expensive versions by a significant margin. The main caveat is that there is no support for the OEM versions. You're on your own. For me this is fine. I've never called Microsoft anyway. You can Google any error message and most failures and get an answer much quicker than navigating typical phone maze. I always purchase the OEM versions.

Summary

I hope you've found this rather long section useful. We tend to mostly talk about and address the features and functions we personally use the most, and address those issues we've faced the most. However, if you're processing images on your machine you're probably very close to where we come from and will find this information use.

Windows 7. We're finally there.

Photography News of Interest *Home

In the event you were thinking of taking pictures of cute children talking to Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, or maybe even Ronald McDonald.. think twice. Photographers are finding themselves in hot water over these legal activities! A free-lance photographer was recently arrested in West Virginia for taking photos of children on Santa's lap. Read about it here.

I don't necessarily agree with this guys opinions, but he does make some good points about the wisdom of spending your money on digital photography. Read the bloghere.

Are you one of the proud new owners of a 4/3's camera? Many photographers love this format for its small size and low weight coupled with good image quality. Lenses for these cameras run the range from expensive manufacturers lenses to uber priced Leica or Zeiss lenses. Now you have an alternative. Samyang announces their 8mm fisheye and 85mm F1.4 portrait lens for the Four Thirdss format. These should be reasonably priced. Samyang also makes these lenses for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and others. Read more about them here.

Backlit sensor technology is both promising, and starting to appear in more devices. Omnivision has made available it's 1/2.33" 14.6mp backlit sensor. This small format offers 1080p video and should be idea for phone cameras and other like devices. Read about it here.

Five New Years Resolutions for Digital Photographers? Sounds fun.. Get organized, get backed up, upgrade to a better photo editor, learn something new, enter some contests. Sounds reasonable. Read more about these resolutions over at PC Worldhere.

'Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag' comes to IMAX theatre. Red flag is the final training phase before fighter pilots are sent into actual combat. This limited engagement follows a student through this phase of his military flight training. Read more about it here.

Readers' Submissions *Home

BKKSteve;

Some of you actually want to see the bikes.. :)

Bart

Bart –

I love bikes and I love looking at the pictures of these bikes! Nice work!

Steve

I suspect the readers' submissions will be a highly anticipated section of this column and I encourage anyone with photographs and travel accounts they'd like to share to please send them to me at: [email protected]

Readers' Questions *Home

Steve:

I am still 110% happy with the S90 you recommended. Great pictures 90% of the time. As an underwater photographer I am lucky to 5 out 10 that are of the best quality.

I do have a question concerning the emailing of the video files I take with the S90. They have a .MOV file extension and the folks I send them to are unable to open the video.

I do have to be concerned with the file size also when using AOL. So I am working on trimming them as needed.

Any info you have would be great.

Great looking new vehicle, stereo better than I have at home. LOL

Rick

Hi Rick –

I'm glad to hear you're happy with the Canon S90. It's a neat little camera for sure.

You're getting 50% keepers? I wish I could do that. I average about 1 keeper for every 50-100 captures.. sometimes 1/1000+ for instance when doing a cover photo.

Your question: .mov files are QuickTime files. If the people you're sending them to don't have the QuickTime plug-in installed in their browser they won't be able to open the video.. or the QuickTime standalone. Personally I use Adobe Flash for things like this.. everyone has it installed and the files are smaller and easier to compress. Both are good.. it's a matter of preference.

Thanks for the comments on the truck. It's 99% complete at this point. The bed cap, window visors, and some other things have been installed.. and yes the stereo is nice.. I can actually watch movies and other videos on it's 7 inch LCD! I opted out of the tuner though.. I'm not a fan of Thai TV and if my wife ever knew she could watch Thai TV on it then I'd never get to play my music.. :)

Take care

Steve

Steve,

Well Cuba was good but they really messed with me with I was at the airport. Guess they thought I was some kind of spy reporter or something and on top of being American they were just messing with me. Other then that Cuba was great and the photography opportunities there are endless. I thought it would have been great to shoot some pictures of Guantanamo from the other side of the fence but that was never going to happen as I was on a guided tour the whole time.

Been great, I started writing for another website as well (www.gobackpacking.com) and have written about 16 post for them so far. Got my new gear and have been playing around with it more. Love the PocketWizards and having two 580 flashes now. This last week was nothing but fiesta's and got to go to a bull fight. Got some good pictures with the 300mm on that one.

———————–

Question: The sensor on my Canon 5D is really spotty. I'm in South America and there isn't a Canon Service Center closer then 2k miles. I tried blowing the dust out with a blower and even did the sensor cleaning on the menu while blowing it out and holding the camera upside down. None of this worked and I'm getting sick and tired of having to edit out spots.

Any advise on how to clean my sensor without ruining my camera?

T-roy

T-roy

Ya know, I think I'd get some kind of perverse pleasure in taking pics from the other side of the fence..

I'm glad you enjoyed the trip.

Ok.. to your question:

Yes, it's very important you do this right.. because screwing this up can scrap your camera. Here is what Canon does:

Canon only uses a bulb blower. That's it. I've talked to their service staff at length and that's all Canon recommends and authorizes. For the most part this will work out well if you get a good bulb blower (a hefty ear syringe type will work, or a Jet Blower from a camera shop).

To test how well you cleaned the sensor put your camera in Av mode, set the aperture to about F16-F22.. and take a pic of the sky making sure to expose properly.. maybe a stop less than the meter indicates. Put that on the screen and watch the dust specks against the sky stand out..

Didn't get them all? Repeat the process until you get as much off as possible. For most people this will be good enough. And it's all Canon will do.. which is a sore point of contention between Canon, me, and every other manufacturer out there.

What do other manufacturers do? They use the air bulb blower first.. and then if necessary they "wet clean" the sensor. They use Sensor Swabs and Eclipse 2 fluid for the most part. The problem is, you need to follow the proper procedure exactly or you'll end up causing damage.. and I mean exactly.

http://www.2filter.com/prices/products/Sensor_Swabs.html

This is not recommended for those who aren't used to technical tasks. However, if you can read, follow directions, and are used to completing technical tasks then you should be able to do this without issues. It's what I do when my sensors get really dirty and I've never had an issue.

There are other products out there.. from vacuum devices to anti-stat devices to special brushes (actually, the right brushes kept clean (the hard part) works pretty well, I have a set and they ran over $200!).

In the field I carry the pre-moistened swabs.. but I also carry a jet blower and try hard to make sure this is all I use. Using swabs in the field is risky and should be avoided except for emergencies.

In my home I have a complete array of swabs, fluids, brushes, anti-stat devices, wipes, blowers, speck removers, and devices to help me see the dust on the sensor directly. Over the years I've tried most everything out there. With experience you'll learn what tools work best with what types of cleaning jobs..

I would describe my method for using the swabs and fluids.. but because the possibility of doing damage is very real I'm not going to. I will teach this in my workshops where I can do an hands-on demonstration and then watch my client do the same, but not in this column. I would suggest Googling "Sensor swabs and Esclipse" to find some really excellent articles and even videos showing how to use these tools. Read about this in depth and take as many different opinions into account before deciding to do this yourself. Also, keep in mind most of the "easy and cheap" methods touted with home made tools and hardware store fluids.. aren't the way to go.

An experienced tech can wet clean a sensor in just 2-3 minutes. The first time you do this you'll probably go through a ton of swabs (so order a lot of them) and make several mistakes requiring you to redo the procedure.. so plan on having the time and not being rushed.

Even if you can clean your sensor with a single swab, it's cheaper to take your camera into the Canon service center here in Bangkok and get it done.

I hope this helps.

Steve

Please submit your questions to [email protected] All questions will be answered and most will show up in the weekly column.

A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review *Home

2010 is here! Lots of plans for Bangkok Images. Late last year we added a new vehicle and several cameras. Capital expenditures right before tax time is normally a sign a business is doing well and prospering. I'd like to think this is the case for Bangkok Images and to some extent it is, but mostly we just needed new equipment.

We have lots planned for you in the coming year. Our new website is in the final states of design and will be making a transformation soon, more than a few equipment and software reviews are in the works, guest writers with great experiences from all over the world, and I've been putting time in on Adobe's Captivate learning how to make video tutorials. Hopefully soon we'll start posting video tutorials that walk you through each step of a post processing technique.

Until the economy significantly improves individual workshops continue to be the norm with group workshops by request only.

And of course one of our priority goals is to continue producing a quality weekly, week after week.

2010 should be a great year!

This month we added a linked list of this weeklies sections. Click on the link to go directly to that section. We'll be refining this feature in the near future both for appearance and function.

Infocus Blog *Home

2010, A New Folder

January 2, 2010. I went to the car wash and took my camera along to give me something to do while waiting. Plus, I find the car wash workers for some reason do a much better job detailing my car with a big white lens following them. I spent the next 30 minutes photographing the workers and anything else of interest. Not exactly street photography, but kinda sorta..

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @F5.6 1/125th 70mm ISO 125

So, later that evening I'm sitting in front of the computer and pop in my flash card and go to the Adobe Lightroom import dialogue box. It asks me where to save the images to. I pause. It's been my habit since I put images on a computer to save them in a directory tree that goes like this:

E:pics2009thailandbangkokchinatowndate

Using this structure, keywording, and metadata searches I can usually find what I'm looking for fairly quick. Usually.

I realized it's a new year! 2010 is ringing my bell now! So I perform my once per year (annual) ritual. I open the closet and rummaging around in the very back I find it where I left it hidden under an old suitcase and next to a bag of old clothes. Pulling the old ancient wooden chest from the closet I carefully place it on the table, open the top, and reach into the darkness fingers searching for one of the most rare objects known to mankind. A broken flash memory card. Placing it in an approved fireproof burning device (ashtray) I carefully pour some sacred fire oil (lighter fluid) over it and then using an antique fire starter (my dad's old Zippo lighter) I burn/melt the memory card while giving thanks to the digital gods and pleading for better light and more sharpness in the new year. Once done I create my new folder and import my photos.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @F5.6 1/200th 200mm ISO 200

Seriously, a new year is significant. What goals did you set? As I look in the folder "2009" I'm reminded of all e the countries and towns I visited, the people I traveled with, customers whose portraits and weddings I shot, product shoots, and soon the entire previous year is flashing through my mind week by week and month by month. A smile comes to my face as I remember someone or someplace specific and I move to the "2008" folder to refresh my memory. This is what photograph is all about, Kodak moments. Recording a certain place, event, scene, or whatever it was our eyes saw.. to view later. Recording memories.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @F5.6 1/160th 195mm ISO 1250

Looking through 2009 I mentally note the places I wanted to go but didn't, so I add them to the top of my 2010 list of "places to go." I mentally note how many exposures I took for the weddings and portrait sessions and compare them to how many images I 'finish process'. Using a script program I retrieve the total number of actuations from my cameras and subtract them from the sub-totals of last year. I can't help but to have a look at the books, the total amount brought in and divide this number by the number of actuations for 2009. My goal is that each year I'll see this number increase. I've only scratched the surface, I'll spend the rest of the night analyzing 2009 and making plans and setting goals for 2010.

I'm surprised the car wash is open on this Saturday. I was advised it probably wouldn't be, but then I thought this would be a very busy day for them so I decided to give it a try. As it turns out it was very busy. Cars lined up waiting in line 2-3 times further than normal. Everyone is working hard and they look more tired than usual. I manage to catch a few as they pause in their work for a few moments.

Over in the corner a small water shrine catches my eye. As a customer you're expected to sit in the provided seating and not wander, so I work the zoom and choose my shots carefully.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @F5.6 1/500th 200mm ISO 100

A customer sits close to me. I can't help but sneak a few shots of her hoping she won't think I'm rude. She doesn't, she gives me a big smile and goes back to reading her magazine.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @F5.6 1/100th 110mm ISO 3200

It's opportunities like this when you can experiment a bit. I'm still impressed by the increase in dynamic range of my new Canon 5d Mark II so I try some heavily backlit shots, and a few more with strong side light. Many of these shots are at ISO 3200 and I'm curious how much detail I'll lose this high up in the range.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @F4 1/200th 200mm ISO 640

As I finish processing the images from the car wash I'm back to thinking about 2010. What new cameras will be announced and in our hands in the next year? The Canon 1d Mark IV just hit the streets 3 days ago. Will the new Canon 1ds Mark IV be available this year? This will be my next professional grade DSLR and I'm eager. Looking at White-Lighting's website I see some new gear they're coming out with, new studio lights and a new remote system to go with them. I'm also hoping for some new lenses. Not much talk in the Nikon camp about new gear other than a possible D700(x) model, the same DSLR as the current D700 but with a 24mp sensor to compete with the Canon 5d Mark II. With it's more professional level body and advanced systems it's sure to surpass it's Canon competition in most areas.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @F4 1/160th 195mm ISO 1600

Thoughts of a trip to Mae Hong Son this month occupy my thoughts for a few moments before moving on to Cambodia. I'm eager to take a road trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap this February but have yet to solidify my plans. Some unknowns prevent locking in. The first few weeks of March will be the last of the reasonable weather so I'm thinking of heading south to some islands, not sure about this yet. April-May are very hot months so I'll be looking for destinations that require less physical activity. June through August are special months for me because my son will spend them with me as he always does, so I'll need to talk to him and make plans together. August through October are wet months, but also a beautiful time to visit mountainous areas. November and December usually has delightful weather.. so much to consider.

What does your 2010 look like? Where will you go? Will you be getting new gear? Travels to Thailand or other parts in South East Asia? Is a cool photography workshop in your plans?

I hope you all had a great holiday season and I wish you all a great New Year. If you're in Thailand and out taking pictures keep an eye out for me and if you see me come over and say hello. I'll be the guy standing back watching where other photographers shoot.. and then looking the other way for the unusual shot. I'll be the guy with a black truck and white lenses. A cute assistant will be holding my camera bag while I compose a shot. I'll be the guy living everyone's dream of retiring to Thailand and spending the year traveling around the country taking pictures and having a great time. I love being that guy.

Until next time.. *Home