Archive for August, 2015

August 29, 2015

Happy Camera Day


Three years ago today my Nikon D5100 arrived in the mail. Not coincidentally, it’s almost the same age as Nicole. I wanted a large canvas print of Nicole the newborn, and my D60 just didn’t have the megapixels to print the size I wanted.

I remember the first time shooting with the D5100, how overwhelmed I was by the different interface and controls. The D5100 had more options and more buttons than my D60. For a girl just learning to go off auto, it was a little intimidating. I was both amazed by the image quality and frustrated I didn’t know how to adjust the focal point. It took some time before I became comfortable with the new camera. Now the D5100 is second nature. So second nature that using the D60 to take the above photo of the D5100 required a learning period again to find the right controls.

In the past three years my camera has had 107,178 shutter actuations, which is just shy of 98 photos a day. In contrast, my D60 has just 28,354 actuations including today’s photo! It was my sole camera for 3 and a half years before the D5100 came into my life, and the camera I took to Europe and Asia! The D60 may have been my first DSLR, but the D5100 was the one I learned on.

I’ve been thinking about my next camera a lot lately. I considered a full frame, but have little desire to repurchase my lenses. I was super excited about the D7200 announcement this past March, but something has been holding me back. I used the move as an excuse to put off purchasing it. I didn’t want it to get lost in the transition, and knew I wouldn’t have the time to learn a whole new set of controls. Now that we’ve moved I still haven’t followed through with the purchase. My current camera is nearing it’s end of life but it’s not there yet. Nikon tests them for 100,000 shutter actuations. After that the physical components can start to go. My shutter may stop working tomorrow, or it may last for a few more years. I kinda want to see how far my D5100 can go. It’s my baby after all.

August 28, 2015

Alexis at Nine Months

Dear Alexis,

Another blink of an eye, and another month has gone by.

ToothWatch2015 has come to it’s first conclusion! Those two front teeth have finally come although way through! They were mostly broken through your gums at the start of the month, and remained that way for quite some time. Then, one morning when you were playing with Nicole she suddenly exclaimed “Baby has teeth!” Sure enough, there is no denying it now. You are amazingly gentle with your new found chompers. You go to town gnawing on your toys, but so far have left fingers alone.

Showing off those pearly whites.

You’re well on your way to being mobile. You’re scooting backwards small distances, and able to turn around when on your tummy to reach your toys. You love to stand and try and pull yourself up every chance you get. Your favorite climbing instruments are mommy & daddy. The tub is another favorite practice spot. So far you mostly just get your butt off the ground. You can get a leg underneath you and but can only pull yourself all the way up with a little help from mommy and daddy. You’re also a champion at getting up on your hands and knees in a crawl position, you’re just not crawling yet. Soon. Very soon.

You’re gaining more confidence standing at your table. You’ll reach across the table and hold on with just one hand to get your favorite toys. You’ll stand with just one hand on mommy, or daddy as well. Last week Mommy helped you walk by holding your hands. You had such a huge smile on your face. You cannot wait to walk. Sometimes you watch Nicole so intently as she runs around the house. We know you want to join her too.


You’re now eating Cheerios and Puffs in addition to your purees. Puffs are your favorite. You start the happy dance as soon as we put you down in the high chair. You pinch your fingers together and tap them on the tray to show your desire for solid foods. For the longest time you would get them in your mouth, turn them over and spit them out. It’s only recently that you started chewing on them.

Tummy time, smile time

Daddy and I think your favorite person is Nicole. You get so excited when she comes with us to greet you in the morning, or takes a bath with you. The past couple of nights you’ve actually cried when it was time to take you out of the bath and away from Nicole. I suspect as soon as you learn to crawl you will be her shadow.

Love Always,
Mommy & Daddy

August 25, 2015

My Life Right Now

Totally Staged. I was practicing with my macro lens, but I turned the rings around to face my iphone rather than the DSLR for the photo

Aside from the whole not-making-money-yet, life is pretty great right now. I’m loving my dual role as stay-at-home mom and entrepreneur.

On the entrepreneur front, I’m splitting my time between web apps, and my primarily start-up idea based on photography. Being my own boss and setting my own schedule is a pretty great perk too. I’ve carved out 30 hours a week dedicated to my start-up, mostly on the days Alexis is in school. Working this way is surprisingly effective. (Well, not that surprising.) A number of ideas have come to me when I wasn’t explicitly searching them out. I’m quite pleased with how much I’ve been able to accomplish so far, especially given all the other things I also have on my plate.

On the stay-at-home part, the house is coming together. I ordered the last piece of furniture we were missing yesterday. I still have a couple storage units to assemble, but we’re down to the last 12 boxes, and I’ve so far been able to avoid having a junk drawer or a junk closet. We’re in the home stretch! Alexis is home with me a couple days a week, and I’m enjoying soaking up as much baby time as I can. I loved having this time to bond with Nicole, and am so grateful to have it with Alexis as well.

Life might be busier these days, but there’s less time sinks. Daycare is the same raw distance from our house than the old one was from our apartment, but it takes half the time. The grocery store, bank, gas station, and discount retail stores are all a quick trip away. I spend 60 to 90 minutes less behind the wheel per day than I did prior to the move. I’m also double dipping. It’s no secret that I spend a bit of time as the momtographer of the family. I use this time to try out some of my theories, turning intuition about photography into numerical understanding.

I love having a built in excuse to practice photography. If nothing else I’ve gained a lot of knowledge about a field I’m passionate about, a chance to hone my craft, and have many many photographic momentous from my journey.

Leaving stable employment was beyond scary, but I’m glad we decided to take a chance. Even if nothing else comes out of it, I’m having the time of my life.

August 22, 2015

Three Year Old Ballerina

Nicki loves ballerinas. She loves them so much she can sit through the nutcracker in it’s entirety. I knew she would love to dress up as a ballerina. Now that she’s three, I was in dire want of some more portraits.



I have to be super quick with the camera these days for these posed photos. She’s happy to get in the pose, but holding it? That’s mommy’s problem. Or more precisely, mommy’s camera’s problem. She was having so much fun twirling and spinning about the room, but my camera couldn’t focus fast enough.



A trick that’s working fairly well these days is to ask her about things. For example “how many feet do you have?” if I want her to look down.

How most of my photos turned out. Happiest. Ballerina. Ever.

Materials Cost:
$30.15 – Leotard (Amazon). A splurg, I admit. Will be used for dress up clothes afterwards
$2.99 – Ribbon (JoAnn’s)
$15.58 – Backdrop (JoAnn’s) Would you believe I didn’t have a simple cream backdrop?! I purchased two yards, but I really need three. Sarah’s rule of thumb 1 yard for each year.
Total Cost – $48.72 fore tax.

August 17, 2015

Earthquake Preparedness

It was a rough night last night, probably the worst once since Domingo and I first became parents three years ago. We were still awake, lying in bed at 6:49 am, having not had the chance to fall asleep yet. There was a familiar crack, and the rolling wave of energy that raced from the left side of the room to the right.

“Was that a …?” I asked
“Earthquake” Domingo answered.

There have been a number of earthquakes I’ve felt since I moved out to California a decade ago. Most have been in the last couple of years. They’ve been minor, light rumblings with no damage. I’ve never seen any indication that the girls have noticed them. During the 2007 Alum Rock earthquake Lily (our kitty) did look in the direction of the street when the shaking started. I think she was expecting a big truck. Funny aside: while there was no damage from the earthquake, I did break my toe a few hours latter by running into a dresser while chasing the cat.

I may not have been prepared for the black widow spiders, but earthquakes I’m ready for. For every major life change, every new family member gained, and old one lost, we’ve revised our game plan. We have a plan for The Big One, whenever it may hit and where ever we may be. We’ve planned out who it is that will pick the girls up from daycare (me) and whose primary job is to secure the house (him). We know to text first, email second and call last since that’s the order a signal is likely to get through. We know in the middle of the night, when awoken from a deep sleep, which one of us is responsible for securing which child. Over prepared, we are.

I’m beginning to wonder if I should involve Nicole in our earthquake “what to do if”s talks. She didn’t seem to know what an earthquake is when I talked to her, but I know her preschool does fire alarm drills. I had just finished dropping off Alexis once when the alarm went off. Presumably prior exposure to the fire alarm helped keep Nicole calm when the alarm in our apartment went off last September, less than two months before my due date. It was just the two of us, alone in the apartment. She waited patiently for me to put shoes on, then let me carry her down two flights of stairs on my seven month baby bump.

On the other hand fires (and false fire alarms as in our apartment’s case) are far more likely, statistically speaking, than earthquakes. Practicing fire drills makes sense. The big one is “imminent”, but imminent in geological terms seems to be the next thirty years or so. I don’t want to worry her unnecessarily.

For now I think I’ll wait until there’s an earthquake she feels before broaching the topic.

After not finding anything to my taste, I’ve decided to 3D print our ‘New Home 2015’ ornament. I found an on demand printing company, so all I need to do is create a CAD file. The design will be a key, with the bow resembling our house. Kind of like this. My intuition is that it will be a fairly easy first 3D project, since it’s mostly a 2D design with beveling.

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of mixing 3d printing with my ornaments. I have a lot of ornaments. Some are pretty durable, others not. I have back up copies of all the important milestone representations: new home, just married, babies first Christmas, etc. But it would be really nice to back them all up in electronic form. Electronic files require less storage space than physical copies, and I could create as many copies as I need. No more purchasing spares because something might break.

I thought surely this must be a violation of some law. After all, I cannot create a digital copy of a DVD to store as backup – and that’s an electronic medium to start with! It doesn’t seem ethical to buy an item and make copies, if I would have otherwise bought two. I did some digging and at least in terms of trademark law, it’s fine as long as my copies or electronic files are never exposed to potential consumers, it seems I’d be safe. Copyright law is another matter. This use case may fall under fair use, but given how new 3D printing is, there isn’t a lot of case law on it.

Some companies are embrace 3D printing. Hasbro did with it’s My Little Pony brand, and they similarly have large fan base of collectors. They benefit from a licencing fee, without much fear that it will damper interest in their original merchandise. After all die hard collectors will still want the original. Lego, too, is considering allowing users to print their own blocks. Maybe Hallmark will fallow suit. Then again, if my experience with their keepsake club website is any indication, Hallmark is less technologically savvy. We’ll just have to wait what happens.


Domingo and I have this notion of turning our home into a smart home. We’ve been thinking about it ever since I started playing with Hue. So before I left Google I wanted to take advantage of my employee discount and purchase a pair of nest thermostats. During the check out process, Nest wanted me to confirm our HVAC system was compatible with their thermostats. Trouble was, our offer had only just been accepted. We were a month away from closing, and days away from leaving Google and my discount. I decided to chance it.

That wasn’t a good gamble on my part.

Two weeks after taking ownership of the home I took the old thermostats off the wall to discover there was no way to power the one for the upstairs zone. I brought someone out who confirmed my fears. Nest was simply not compatible with our dual zone system. I asked if it made sense to update the dual zone system. He said it would cost thousands of dollars, definitely not worth it for a thermostat, even a cool one like the nest. Wait for the old one to die, was his advice.

Waiting for it to die took 2 months and 6 days apparently.

I got the distinct impression he thought the death of our zoning system would take longer.

Unfortunately it wasn’t just our zoning system knocking on death’s door. The AC and heater were being brought down with it. That was not a fun discovery, but if there’s a bright side to this rain cloud, it’s that I got to use my nest after all.

August 4, 2015

Color Coding

For my startup I’ve been spending every free moment reading about all things photography and image related. (as well as kicking myself for never having taken a graphics course in College.) This week I’m learning about combining colors digitally. Colors are surprisingly more complicated than kindergarten lead me to believe.

Computer monitors typically display in RGB, sRGB to be exact. I’ve had some experience working with RGB before, both negative and positive. In the RGB color model each color is represented as a combination of the red, green, and blue additive primaries. The values of each component range from 0 to 255, meaning 3255, or 16.6 million colors can be represented. This color model works well for computers (and hue!) because displaying a color is a simple matter of displaying red, green and blue light in the right amounts. Three little LEDs is all you need.

The draw back of RGB is that color mixing is not intuitive for us humans. Consider blue & yellow. In grade school we learn blue + yellow = green. In RGB, Yellow is (R:255, G:255, B:0), and Blue is (R:0, G:0, B:255). Combining yellow and blue gives us (R:255, G:255, B:255) or white. The difference is that we learned color combining through pigments, which is a subtractive color model. Light is an additive one.


My startup is a technology based product for humans. I am working with an additive color model, and need it to behave like a subtractive one.

The solution I’m taking is to convert to LAB color space. The LAB model has the very nice property of being closer to “perceptually uniform”. Representing each LAB color as a vector, the euclidean distance between two color vectors corresponds to the differences in color. For small distances, at least. It turns out for large differences I need to compute the slightly more complicated DeltaE. At least I now have an algorithmic approach.

Colors can be surprisingly complex.