Category Archives: Technology

Olloclip Macro Lens and Quick Clip Case for iPhone Review

Macro, close-up photography via smartphone opens a whole new world of detail and interesting possibilities for mobile photographers.

Olloclip macro lens and Quick Flip case

Olloclip macro lens and Quick Flip case.

And for the more committed practitioners, I definitely recommend stepping up to the Olloclip macro lens.

I happened upon Olloclip’s booth at the SXSW trade show recently, and after a hands-on look at the lens and accompanying Quick Flip case (impressive engineering in its own right), I bought one on the spot thanks to the show special of getting a free case with a lens purchase. Gotta’ love trade shows.

The whole outfit is deliberately and intelligently engineered. The system is everything an accessory lens should be: easy, convenient, strong, affordable; and the case is really what sold me, since it solves for my major gripe of having to otherwise remove a case or deal with a less desirable alternative (such as an adhesive magnet, or just manually holding the lens to the iPhone). I also dig the futuristic, sleek design of the case — it has almost a cyborg-esque feel and even allows for tripod attachment.

Here’s a video review of the case itself:

And here’s a look at my first project with the Olloclip Macro lens:

Macro Budding Cactus Flower

“Budding Time”
This is a close look at a budding cactus from my kitchen with a little extra lens flare. What’s extra cool to me is that some of the flare spots happened organically, and so that inspired me to add a little more via the LensFlare app. I did some post-processing with Dynamic Light, and voila: surrealism macro magic.

Feather at Regular and Macro View:

feather macro

Here’s a feather from a pillow on my kitchen table at regular view, then at 21x via the Olloclip lens, with no post-processing. You can actually count the individual barbules. Also, I’m excited to use the word “barbules” in a blog post.

These results speak for themselves. While there are a number of macro lenses available for smartphones, Olloclip has gotten it right at every level.

I’ve long been a fan of my previous macro lens made by Olloclip’s competitor, Photojojo, and at $20, it’s still one heckuva deal — a great way to get familiar with the possibilities of macro photography via smartphone. But for a bit more up front ($70 for the Olloclip macro lens), you get much more overall. Pair it with the Quick Flip case, and you’ll be set for some serious macro fun for a long time to come.

What do you think? Ever used an accessory lens for smartphone photography? Or for traditional camera photography? What’s a discovery you’ve treated yourself to lately? Let us hear from you in the comments.

My Art Website: RSMITHINGS.com

So I have this new website for my photomontage artwork: RSMITHINGS.com (Richard + Smith + things = rsmithings). I assign it full blame for the lack of regular postings around here lately. But that’s OK, since I’m my own boss as far as this blog goes. I called a departmental meeting, and we worked it all out.

RSMITHINGS.com - Ephemeral Surrealism PhotomontageBut seriously, check out my art project. If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen fit to subscribe to this blog for some weird reason, and I truly value your perspective. I produce these artworks in my spare time using images from my everyday surroundings, travels, and specially-commissioned photos.

My Super-official Artist Statement:

My process is like carving a sculpture, with the edges of my fingers forming lines to define shapes and reveal serendipitous relationships — not unlike physically placing individual elements as in a paper collage — except I do this through masking, blending and mimicking established photographic techniques like solarization or vignetting. Each piece is meticulously crafted with these and other ingredients, using direct touch to form a hierarchy of narrative. A final composition is the culmination of fusing disparate elements into a kind of empyrean abstract union.

Wow! Fancy, huh?

The hardest thing to do for the site was to write a decent statement like that. The rest of the content I was able to assemble in my spare time in just a few weeks, populating it with pieces I’ve created over the last couple of years, and I’m still adding to the portfolio.

Some Recent Creations:

RSMITHINGS - Portfolio

It’s been a thrill for me to get all this in one place,
and I do hope you enjoy it.

What do you think? Ever created or been featured on an art website? Are you interested In surrealism? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Bass Solo at Gibson Tent, CES

Here I am doing a quick jam on a fine Gibson bass guitar.

I happened to be at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and along the way I came upon the Gibson tent with several guitars and basses ready for visitors to enjoy. Amid all the technological fanfare, this is definitely my favorite experience of the entire event: a chance to rock out, even if just for a moment during lunch.

Thanks, Gibson for doing this. Very cool.

Here are some Hipstamatic images of the beautiful Epiphone Jack Casady Signature Bass I played:

jcbass1

jcbass02

jcbass03

I also got in some licks on this Les Paul:

December

It’s been one long month. So far.

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I did this post with the WordPress app via my iPhone. I created this image with the app, Decim8. Hence, this making the technology category. I did this mainly because it’s been too long since the last post, and because this December has been one very busy month. Phew.

Guest Post: Protecting the House

Anti-conmen technologies used by modern casinos

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James Bond, that connoisseur of lovely women, shaken vodka martinis, and classy casino games, doesn’t play unfairly, but he certainly has the “Q gadgets” capable of doing so. Imagine wearing x-ray specs that allow you to see the cards behind your opponents’ covered hands; winning games would be a cinch.

Of course, this scenario is as Hollywood as it gets. Apart from loaded dice – which you’d be hard-pressed to slip into casinos anyway – all you can take with you in rounds of poker or roulette are your wits and the strength of your prayers to whichever deity you worship for luck.

Gaming establishments, however, don’t believe in not having control over the games they host. A Betfair Casino forum post talks about players needing to learn the essential knowledge of “understanding the overall action… before beginning to actually perform,” but this goes both ways. The house always wins, as the saying goes, and casinos make use of the following high tech tools to make sure that patrons are all playing fair and square:

1. CCTV
Right off the bat, casinos take note of all the customers who drive in using license plate readers. Using the many CCTV cameras, this program simply snaps a picture of each car’s plate and matches it to a database of known casino offenders. If a match is made, the player is denied entry right at the front gate.

2. Biometrics
If it’s a new hustler that’s come to play, the cameras switch over to another program: biometric facial recognition. Like the tech above, this program automatically detects faces and takes pictures, matching them up to the database. It isn’t always foolproof, though, since some gamers could possibly trick the system with the right wig, fake beard, and contact lenses; in which case, the next technology comes into play.

3. Software
TableEye21 is a complex eye-in-the-sky program that keeps track of virtually everything that goes into every game at every table, including player win percentages, frequency of player and dealer switches, and other trend reports. Simply stated, even if a player has the science of card-dealing down pat to grant him entry into the infamous MIT Blackjack Team, this program will still be able to sense if something’s up before it even begins.

4. Behavior Monitoring
In conjunction with technology like TableEye21 is a program called Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness, or NORA. Taking the complexity of the previous program up to 11, NORA holds a multitude of massive databases and cross-references each one to gather as many information angles as possible about a casino’s players. Say that a group of people decides to pull off an Ocean’s Eleven. All it takes is for one of them to get recognized, and almost immediately NORA would check which of the other patrons present have associations with the tagged player. The program would then delve into their histories, not just in other casinos but also in seemingly tangential info like which schools they went to, and seeing if those data match up.

A memorable scene in the movie Casino has De Niro’s character talking about the chain of command in a gaming establishment; who watches whom, from the floor men to the shift bosses to the pit bosses and so on, right up to the big boss De Niro himself. With the technologies above, this old way of doing things might eventually just become obsolete.

What do you think? Ever tried card counting? Do you have a formula or system for 21, roulette or other games? Ever had any amazing gambling runs or Vegas-style experiences? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor Video Chats Onstage With Fan Dying of Cancer

The best use of technology I’ve seen in a while:

Above, Reznor Facetimes with Andrew Youssef, a photojournalist who has been battling terminal cancer for nearly two years. Youssef would have been at this very gig, but for health reasons could not make it, so Reznor got him there in another, very unique and personal way. Youssef has chronicled his story in his ongoing column at OCWeekly, titled, “Last Shot.”


Update: Nine Inch Nails Superfan Andrew Youssef Dead at 38 - Rolling Stone, Dec. 2. 2013


Reznor_Youssef

Trent Reznor Facetimes onstage w/Andrew Youssef, diagnosed w/stage IV cancer. Photo via Consequence of Sound.

I first heard about Youssef in a writeup at Consequence of Sound, who summarize the event and Youssef’s story perfectly:

Whether you’ve followed Youssef’s story from day one or are just hearing about it now, it’s the kind of beautiful, gut-wrenching moment that not only proves the power of music but of a little human kindness.

Youssef replied, “I’m speechless” via Twitter after the performance:

I’ve been into Nine Inch Nails since before I saw them at the first Lollapalooza about a million years ago. I’ve followed Reznor closely ever since, respecting his music and commitment to his craft. Here’s another reason for respect, to both Reznor and Youssef.

What do you think? Have you heard of similar stories? What would you do in this situation? Let us hear from you in the comments.

5 Excellent Image Sharing and Discovery Tools

Over the past few years of exploring art and developing my own creations through Instagram and smartphone apps like Hipstamatic and Dynamic Light, I’ve come to appreciate the merits of different websites for purposes of expression and curation. Here’s a look at my top 5.

On each of these sites I house some variation of images I make, and I also explore them daily for inspiration. Following is my take on what makes each special and how I get the most from them with their unique characteristics:

500px: The Premiere Gallery

Check me out on 500pxI use 500px.com exclusively to house all my photomontage art. It has the fastest, cleanest, and overall best display, where the focus is on the art with the community and everything else coming after that. There’s a simple mechanism for favoriting, liking and commenting if that’s what you’re into, but primarily the site is about experiencing the art, and there’s generally more refined content than other image-sharing websites. http://500px.com/rsmithing

Pinterest: Mass Consumption Imagery

Check me out on PinterestPinterest is where I tap into a huge image-appreciating community, sharing my montages and other creations that happen along the way on a board called “My Creations.” Not everything there is totally fleshed out, but it’s decent enough to be on display, and interesting enough to repin and share across other boards. lt’s more transient and fleeting than other venues, but feedback in the form of repins and likes helps keep me interested. Plus, I follow a ton of cool boards there along the likes of what I produce, so it’s great visual candy for when the mood to browse strikes, or if I just want to curate some dreamy images or other photomontageshttp://pinterest.com/rsmithing/my-creations

Instagram: Keeping Things Fun

Check me out on InstagramIt’s funny; Instagram is what got me started on this journey of creation and exploration, yet it’s not the ultimate destination for me that it once was. Don’t get me wrong; I find and enjoy many great creations there, but I don’t share my most refined stuff there. The site has so quickly become so saturated, complete with spam and terms of service issues, leading me to keep a certain kind of profile there, and that’s fine. I’ll occasionally post a fully completed photomontage, but I tend to keep it light and more experimental on Instagram. http://instagram.com/rsmithing

Flickr: The Mother Lode

Check me out on FlickrFor me, Flickr has truly evolved into a fantastic tool and a force to be reckoned with. My photostream there is a hodgepodge of montages, original source material, experiments, and a running log of stuff that may or may not fall into any of these categories or even see the light of day. I’ve had a Flickr account for many years, but have only recently delved into the full experience it offers – chiefly because it’s such an excellent tool to share Instagram images on Pinterest and other sites like Tumblr. Plus, you can’t beat its sets/galleries/collections organization, curated groups, favorites browsing and full-size resolution viewing options. http://flickr.com/rsmithing

Tumblr: A Curated Garden

Check me out on TumblrAnd finally, there’s Tumblr, the place where I highlight everything I like, pin and favorite on all these sites, mainly through automation and RSS feeds via ifttt.com, but also through the occasional upload and reblogging of something cool I come across there. It’s taken me a while to get into Tumblr, but I’ve found a ton of great stuff there and have managed to be featured at some cool Tumblr-based blogs like Lensblr and Minus Manhattan, which is always a great feeling, reaching folks with an interest in the kind of art I like to make. http://rsmithing.tumblr.com

What do you think? Do you employ different websites along the same reasons but for different executions? Are you on any image sharing websites? Have you heard of these already, and what’s your experience been like on them? Let us hear from you in the comments.