The Huffington Post

I am a liberal and I hate the Huffington Post. I hate the Drudge Report too, but I’ll hold-off on that. I was scrolling down on today’s front page of the Huff Post and I saw a link to an article that said, “Obama Hits Heckler”. Clicking it, I am taken to Arianna’s politics page. Scrolling down once again is another link to this article. This time the link has a picture of Obama speaking in-front of microphones and the caption, “Obama Hits Back at Heckler”. Finally, I reach the article and its headline says, “Obama Responds to Heckler during Energy Speech: ‘You’re Being Rude’”. I was lured into drilling-down by a salacious title, to what turned out to be a ho-hum story. All the while, I was being pelted with ads, which was the purpose of this exercise all along.

New HDR Shot of Monterey

I went from envisioning an attack from Obama, possibly involving a drone, to a tussle with the President that the Secret Service had to break up, to just words, and only half of the dialog at that. We never learn what the man heckling from the crowd said. From what Obama says to him from the podium, it apparently involved this man’s desire to give him a book to read. One only learns even this from watching the CBS News video feed of the event, after watching a commercial I might add. We never learn which book. The extent that the Huff Post exhibited any journalism at all was to echo another new source’s report.

Arianna Huffington learned her craft while working for Matt Drudge. For those of you not familiar with either of these two’s work, The Huffington Post is to the left, what the Drudge Report is to the right. Besides better politics, Arianna’s rag has better visuals than Matt’s, which has virtually none. It also reports on culture, which usually degrades to a laundry list of celebrity’s dirty laundry. Still, it is a guilty pleasure. Both Arianna and Matt perform a service for their various constituencies. Such a service is worthy of a fee, hence the ads, but to bait-and-switch the way she does is worthy only of tabloid journalism. I guess that is what she has sunk to, the National Enquirer of blogs.

Non-HDR Version

This is not what really pains me though. I do find it annoying, but what really hurts is the way she always goes all fangs out for Tina Brown and her Daily Beast/Newsweek organization, when ever she can. I know that they are competitors, but cattiness is never pretty and a girl fight is even worse. Brown has a healthy stable of writers who write real news articles, instead of trolling the internet in high-speed cigarette boats. You are never fast enough, if you are sourcing someone else’s material. Part of my anger is derived from what the Huffington Post once was, at least for me. Once it was my first source for much of its reporting. Maybe it is I that have changed and not Arianna. Maybe I have outgrown the supermarket checkout aisles and now prefer to U-scan my own news? They still put tabloids in the U-scan aisles, but watching and waiting for the previous customers to finish is so much more consuming.

The two photos are from my brother, Chris. He took them last night, while we were talking on the phone. They are the product of his new Canon 5D Mark III. It arrived just in time for his birthday. Over the phone, I could hear the shutter fluttering, as he snapped this HDR photo spread. Please be sure to click and enlarge these photographs. It is worth it. Once again, Happy Birthday Chris!

Marking Time

Marking Time

The above photo is original, but the idea behind it is not. Still, it seemed easy enough to implement. We had eggs for breakfast on Sunday, so I had the opportunity. I practiced on a few of the extras, so I got the means down pat. Finally, it was such a great idea that I had plenty of motive to copy the idea.

The above YouTube video was sent to me by Christian of Depth of Real Photography. It is one of a genre of similar YouTube videos, some claiming to be the only real “People Are Awesome” movie. Essentially, they are compilation videos. The notes on this movie lists all of its contributing videos. Two things impressed me about this video, first, the photography is excellent. The time-lapsed segment of the Milky Way is a great example. Second, some of the action sequences are truly awesome. Dave tells me that it is Kobe Bryant, of LA Lakers fame that jumps the sports car, plus the car belongs to Kobe. I must defer to Dave in this matter, being totally ignorant of this aspect of pop-culture or why a multi-millionaire would ever do something so stupid, but the individual looks a little too short to be an NBA center.

So, I’ve started to play around with the camera a little on my new iPhone 4S. First off, there are actually two cameras. The second one points towards the user and is most useful for video phone calls. I’m sure it works with the generic App, Skype, but it also works with the Apple/AT&T varient, Facetime. So far, I haven’t used it. Dave won’t accept my Facetime calls and the only other person I know who could is KW, and I’m sure that that would just freak her out. 😉

Anne with Jess, Drew and Megs of the Living Dead

Reviews say that the 4S has 60% more megapixels, but they don’t specify whether that is over its most immediate predecessor, the 4, or what I’m use to, the 3GS. Anyway, it is sharper and clearer than my old one. As far as I’m concerned though, the jury is still out on the supposed improvement in tonal quality. I’m not saying that it is not there, but I just haven’t found it yet.

Dave, Joan and Nink - No HDR

The iPhone does have two new camera features, one hardware, one software. The new hardware feature is a flash on the outward facing camera. It is bright enough to create red-eye, but not color correct enough to put the red in the eye. You end up with white eye, which is an interesting novelty effect. The other new feature, the software feature, is HDR photography. While somewhat subdued compared to full up HDR, its effect is noticeable in a side-by-side comparison. Bottom line, I am intrigued with the new iPhone camera and plan on exploring it more in the future.

Dave, Joan and Nink - With HDR

Della Walker Residence

The two photos with this post are courtesy of Chris and his camera. They show the Della Walker residence in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Described as a cabin on the rocks, it was designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright, in 1951, for $125,000. If you haven’t seen it as you’ve driven down the coast, you may have seen it in the 1959 movie, “A Summer Place”. Distinguished by its stone terrace that juts out into Carmel Bay, the large stone chimney/fireplace and the blue metal cantilevered roof, and the bank of windows, the house is the only building on the ocean side of Ocean Ave. in Carmel. Chris shot these two photos, Monday night at sundown. He used his new Canon 5D to shoot the pictures in high-dynamic range. Chris has allowed RegenAxe a limited time exclusive on these photos. Eventually, he’ll post them to his Flickr website, which can be found, linked to in the sidebar. Also, Chris has entered a photo contest in Monterey. He had four of his Monterey area photos printed up and framed for entries. He hopes to hear good news this week.

The North Shall Rise Again

150 years in the making and now coming to a southern state near you, I give you the American Civil War. It has always seemed to me that descendents of the southern cause have never really come to peace with having lost the Civil War. Members of this constituency are always reenacting famous battles, holding long, somewhat one-sided conversations, with Confederate ghosts or simply whooping and hollering whenever any Rebel football team gives their Yankee opponents a good drubbing. The southern enthusiasm for this remembrance is almost never reciprocated by their northern brethren, at least not to the same extent. This is why today, on the sesquicentennial anniversary of the assault on Fort Sumter, the start of the Civil War, most northern communities are just going about their daily business, like they would on any other Tuesday. Meanwhile, southern enthusiasts are gearing up for four years of this business.

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

The down economy has muted some of this celebratory remembrance. Cities and States can’t afford to do things up right. Low key events, augmented with private donations will have to suffice. Easy access to almost all of the major battlefields gives the Confederate cause a substantial edge. It may not have seem so advantageous, 150 years ago, but this home field advantage will make all the difference over the course of this sesquicentennial. There are plenty of Union generals commemorated throughout the north, and Illinois has Abraham Lincoln, but almost all the rest belongs down south, Manassas, Shiloh and Appomattox.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

I have been glib here about this subject, maybe too glib. The Civil War was a terrible time for this country, so terrible that it almost destroyed our nation, splitting it in two. While the next four years will bring many speeches, picnics and barbeques, let not this light fare obscure the heavy-hearted reality of what occurred. More Americans died in that war than in all of our others, combined. I think that the words that Lincoln once spoke and many a school child has memorized, strikes the right tone, and serves as the best remembrance still.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

The rest of today’s post is devoted to the fruits of Chris’s camera. Sunday night, he attended a class taught by Trey Ratcliff on HDR photography.

Photographs by Chris: Trey Ratcliff, above, led a walking tour of Monterey Harbor. Chris took the above picture of Mr. Ratcliff and the following picture of the harbor. Chris has more pictures, they will be featured later this week.

The Vine

For February, Sunday’s weather was gorgeous, 70+ degrees. Sunday’s weather would have been a top ten-day in Saint Louis, any month of the year. Anne and I got out on our bikes, rode around town and saw a couple of things. Anne and I rode 11 miles in 1 hour and 1 minute and felt like lunch.

On the way to South Grand and lunch at The Vine, we stopped off and saw Charles the Great Horned Owl, featured in yesterday’s post. He was still sitting on his favorite branch, in his favorite tree, right where I saw him on Saturday. Next, I showed Anne their nest. No sign of Sarah, but we did see lots of furry owl pellets, yummy looking and just before lunchtime.

The Vine is a Lebanese style, Mediterranean café, market and hookah lounge. I’m not sure how the hookah part works or even if it is still working, what with Saint Louis’ new smoking ban. We ate outside on the café’s sidewalk. The place was crowded, so the service was slow, but the food was excellent. We shared a fattoush salad, adorned with chicken shawarma meat. The salad was mixed greens with a spiced oil and vinegar dressing. The chicken was also pleasantly spiced. Anne had a banana smoothie with dates and I had a small pot of Lebanese coffee, both thick and strong. We also shared pita bread with hummus. The Vine serves pitas that are so light and fluffy; they just melt in your mouth. We had two appetizers and two drinks for less than $20.

The Vine’s name and logo, a bunch of grapes, might suggest a wine list. This is not the case. The Vine’s menu is halal and the only beer and wine on the menu is of the non-alcoholic variety. Plenty of ethnic beverages like the Lebanese coffee are available along with American fare.

After lunch, Anne and I rode another 11 miles in 1 hour and 1 minute and felt like the Three Little Pigs, what with a tailwind huffing and puffing and blowing us wee-wee-wee all the way home. Maybe also, we didn’t need to order that hummus and pitas? Mileages are accurate, times are approximate; as in I don’t have a clue. It is not like we had to be anywhere anyway. 😉

The rains have cleared in Monterey and Chris has been able to supply another photograph for this post. It is a sunset photo, an HDR photo, actually 10 photos combined into one. Anne and I view it as three pictures in one. You have the sky, and then you have the sea with the rocks and then in the foreground you have the pickleweed or ice plants.

Portal to the Sun

The picture with this post is of a sea arch at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, aptly called Portal to the Sun. Brothers Chris and Frank drove down California’s central coast highway on Saturday. They had lunch at Nepenthe, home of the Ambrosia Burger and also particularly bold Stellar Jays that will swoop down and snap a French fry off your plate if you are not vigilant. Chris’s photograph, at the bottom of this post evokes the sense that one is looking through a doorway into another world. The combination of low tide and sunset conspire to perfection, to create this feeling of other worldliness.

Pfeiffer Beach should not to be confused with Pfeiffer State Park, even though they are named after the same woman and are located nearby each other. Pfeiffer Beach is located on the north end of Big Sur and is on National Forest land. The Portal to the Sun is a favorite with photographers and last Saturday was no exception. By sunset, when Chris setup his camera’s tripod, a dozen photographers had gathered to try their hand at capturing the moment. The coincidence of low tide made this opportunity especially precious.

Chris used the technique of high dynamic range or HDR photography to create his image. With this technique, he combined ten separate photos into one. He programmed his camera to automatically slide through a spectrum of different exposure levels and then in post-processing combined them together, to bring out all of the different lighting levels of the scene. This is how the details of the dark side of the rock are visible along with the bright sunlit wispy clouds.

HDR photography is a technique that attempts to mimic what the human eye does naturally. The eye naturally has a much higher dynamic range than even the best of modern camera equipment can aspire to. HDR post-processing techniques go a long way to alleviate this disparity.  

I mentioned that there were a dozen photographers present at this sunset. Chris spoke with a British Columbian who could only heaped scorn on HDR photography. In his defense, it does sometimes lead to photos with an unnatural palette of color tones. Chris’s Portal to the Sun photograph aspires to an other worldliness. The product of the digital process that he employed could not be duplicated with film. HDR is a complicated technique; it requires specialized equipment and is not for everybody. The proof is in the pudding.