other -> I am back
2015-07-29
It may sound surprising but maternity leave with a newborn may be somewhat boring at times. And I don't complain at all because only when I'm bored and for a change, my mind is not scattered over 10 different things, I start to feel the desire to learn something new. When Stanko was born, I wanted to record the moments with him, to have something to look back when he'll be all grown up. Having started two blogs before that quickly perished of no activity, I did not want to have to maintain yet another web in addition to flickr, youtube, and my old college website. Perhaps the natural next step would be to get a domain but I doubted if I need it. Since my college account has limited space, and I'm not an admin of it, I did not want to get into deploying an oversized blogging engine like wordpress or drupal.

That was the time when I wrote a generator in python that creates static blog pages from text files. Sure, the editing was cumbersome but it did not need any fancy software or database.

Soon after I returned to work I was laid off and once again jobless. As juggling a demanding child and a demanding job is exhausting, I'd almost appreciate my lay-off if it didn't make me deal with the work visa issues. Shortly before this I bought a 'new' old film camera (Nikon N60) as I was missing the superb colors and contrast of film (film photography started to become fashion in my flickr circles, and it reminded me of that), and had troubles to focus and frame photos with my FED rangefinder (great for landscapes, tough for close ups due to manual focus and the parallax shift). Having a lot of time and a cute object to photograph, I decided to start a photo blog.

This time, I wanted something less awkward than a static page generator but was unsure of using the mainstream blog engines (one reason was that I did not want to deal with php). Michal mentioned Django framework, and having at least slight experience with python, it seemed a like feasible way to go. I could also easily run it on his domain, hosted by a friend.

Thanks for being unemployed for months, this blog did not die quite as fast as the two previous ones. With the new addition to our family (lovely Karin pictured below, with another consequence of my boredom on her head), I once again enjoy the stay-at-home mom status and time to be creative. Hence I decided to revive this blog, not strictly for posting photos. See you soon.

A photo posted by Miroslava Sotakova (@gwhitehawk) on

other -> portraits of a child - year two
2014-03-25
Stanko turned 3 a week ago. A retrospective of our joyful life with him.


one year, Lake Powell, Utah


one year, Canyonlands, Utah


dandelions, 13 months


with a ball, 14 months


chocolate ice cream, 15 months


give me more sangria, 15 months


colorful balls, 15 months


power in unity, 16 months


on a walk, 16 months, Rudňany


the flower child, 16 months, Poráčska dolina


Prague historic, 17 months


the hiker, 17 months, Cathedral Lake, Yosemite NP


the camper, 17 months, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite NP


the climber, 17 months, Mt Hoffmann, Yosemite NP


the smiley, 17 months, Mariposa Grove, Yosemite NP


in the drawer, 18 months


playing at MIT, 19 months


Nantucket coast, 19 months


nature boy, 20 months


Christmas chocolate, 21 months, Prague


upset, 21 months, Rudňany


you, 22 months


chasing geese, 23 months, Port Washington


almost two, Vermont
other -> portraits of a child - year three
2014-03-25
Stanko turned 3 a week ago. A retrospective of our joyful life with him.


the beginnings of a great obsession, 2 years


two hikers, 25 months, Taghkanic lake


fearless rider, 25 months


on the roof, 25 months


breakfast, 26 months


my first music festival, 26 months


in West Virginia, 26 months


in the fern, 26 months, West Virginia


at ease, 27 months


roller coaster, 27 months


the wedding guest, 27 months, Pec pod Sněžkou


sharing, 27 months, Hýskov


busy at the sandbox, 28 months, Rudňany


learning to swim, 28 months, Oravská priehrada


in the cold brook, 28 months, mill Oblazy


in the storm, 28 months, Orava


apple picking, 29 months


the real perspective, 29 months


Adirondacks swimming, 29 months


after rain, before rain, 29 months, Adirondacks


we've got drenched to the bone, 29 months, Adirondacks


the very real hiker, 29 months, Adirondacks


with the view, 29 months, Adirondacks


the thirsty boy, 29 months, Adirondacks


newt hunting, 29 months, Adirondacks


canoeing, 29 months, Adirondacks


playing a fisher, 30 months


tired at Makers Faire, 30 months


with my friend Svatava, 31 months, Bar Harbor


eating a lobster, 31 months


the artist, 31 months


baking, 31 months


the fall, 31 months


playing with leaves, 32 months


at Ashokan reservoir, 32 months


little baker, 33 months


where's the train, 33 months, Prague


jetlagged, 33 months, Prague


with grandma, 33 months, Rudňany


the pianist, Prague


playing with the Christmas presents, 34 months


no shortage of snow, 35 months


three
other -> portraits of a child - year one
2014-03-24
Stanko turned 3 a week ago. A retrospective of our joyful life with him.


with daddy at 3 weeks


with mommy at 7 weeks


a milestone, nearly 3 months


first time visit of grandparents at 3 months, Prague


with daddy, 4 1/2 months


first time in the swing, 6 months


apple picker, 6 months


in the cold, after bath, 9 months


in the snow, 10 months, Rudňany


sledding, 10 months, Rudňany


it's snowing, 11 months, Vermont


with mommy, one year


flying, one year


upside down

3832 comments
other -> 2013
2014-01-16

winter



Port Washington, New York


Killington, Vermont

spring



Easter table


Taghkanic lake, New York


Canaan Valley, West Virginia

summer



Trutnov, Czech Republic


Krkonoše, Czech Republic


Letná, Prague


Helsinki, Finland


Slide Mountain, Catskills, New York


Catskills, New York


Ditmas Park, Brooklyn


Rudňany, Slovakia


Oravská priehrada, Slovakia


Kvačianska dolina, Chočské vrchy, Slovakia


Ráztoka, Chočské vrchy, Slovakia


Roháčska dolina, Roháče, Slovakia


Orava, Slovakia


Good Luck lake, Adirondacks, New York


The Brothers, Adirondacks, New York


Lapland lake, Adirondacks

fall



Corona Park, Queens


Maker Faire, Queens


garden store, Maine


Bar Harbor, Maine


Bar Harbor, Maine


Acadia NP, Maine


Acadia NP, Maine


Acadia NP, Maine


Acadia NP, Maine


lobster shack, Maine


fruits of the fall


Prospect Park, Brooklyn


Ashokan Reservoir, Catskills, New York


Ashokan Reservoir, Catskills, New York


Christmas punch, Pyšely-Brtnice, Czech Republic
other -> something funny
2013-07-23
Michal doesn't like to dance. Or so he says. On Shell Beach, Shelter Island, NY.

other -> Digital post-processing
2012-08-02
I'm far from being a photoshop/gimp guru however, this is not intended to be a tutorial for experts and pros. Just a few simple notes for beginners.

1. Proper exposure is important. No matter the powers of photo-editing software, underexposed areas are grainy, which is not at all aesthetically pleasing in digital photos. Furthermore, both over- and underexposed areas lose a great amount of detail. This seems to be much more severe in digital than in analog photos. The acceptable-exposure range of a film is larger than of a digital chip.

2. That said, it's probably better to shoot in raw than in jpeg, to mitigate the effects mentioned above. Besides other things. For post-processing, I use gimp exclusively. Raw (Nikon .NEF) photos are handled with UFRaw plugin.

3. The general rule of a thumb I use, with a few exceptions, is that less is more. What I like about photos, besides a fresh perspective, interesting composition, and proper focus where it is desired, are clean and popping colors, and the right amount of contrast, with good definition of details in black&white pictures. What I don't like are overdone HDR, skin-smoothing, and color-obscuring techniques (I speak to you, Instagram).

4. Now to UFRaw and gimp: Let's start with UFRaw. The native gamma (luminance) compression/expansion parameter 45 seems too large for my taste (too dark shadows) in most lighting conditions. I usually lower it to 40, and would go even lower but that also results in more grain. Unless the photo or some of its areas are overexposed (which is sometimes unavoidable without a proper optical filter), I mostly adjust the curve setting in the shadow range. Often the shadows seem way too dark but again, be careful because the more you deviate from the native settings, the lower is the resulting photo quality.

What I don't like about digital photos is that they look differently on each screen. Often, especially when shooting on a cloudy day, I enhance the color saturation by about 10%. For black&white pictures, the value/color curves and contrast settings can be manipulated more freely. With colors, unless the editing is selective, such approach could make colors look awkward and unnatural, like bright pink skin. I usually set grayscale mode to "channel mixer", to mimic the effect of using optical color filters (I actually bought some but am lazy to use them).

When shooting in the middle of the day, the pictures tend to have a bluish tint. Increasing color temperature comes handy. If you don't have this option directly, open "curve settings", suppress the blue curve, push up the red one. This can be applied directly to a jpeg using gimp. Most of the other edits maybe as well, but I use UFRaw. One more trick: Open Colors -> Levels, and adjust input-levels sliders to mark the leftmost and the rightmost ends of the histogram. This stretches the tone-scale to cover the entire light spectrum, so the darkest shadows become black and the lightest highlights become white. Generally, it improves the "flat" impression of the picture. There are notable exceptions, like that the mood of a heavily overcast day is better expressed using darker shades, while an image of a sunlit forest with beams of light looks better in bright tones (reference: Bruce Barnbaum).

5. "Artistic" processing: This I usually avoid since I don't think it fits many photos. Anyway, here are a few techniques:
a) Textures: I sometimes use paper textures to give a slight "paint"-feeling to the images of towns. The paper texture and the original image are edited in two separate layers, where I play with blending modes (normal, screen, overlay), and layer opacities. I also adjust color levels to get the effect of "bold" colors of a painting.
Devín

b) Cross-process: The effect of developing a color negative in the chemicals for slides, and the other way around. I never tried it since being afraid to destroy the film. Somewhere I found the following way to mimic the effect digitally, albeit the result looks quite different from the real-thing examples I've seen: Open "Curves". For the green and the red ones, decrease shadows, increase highlights (increasing contrast), like sin x function in (-Pi, Pi). For the blue one, increase the curve in shadows, decrease in highlights (decreasing contrast), like sin x in (0, 2Pi).
am Donau/na Dunaji

c) Vintage-look: Apply the following color levels: Blue and magenta in screen mode, yellow in multiply mode. Set opacities of the first two between cca 5-15%, and of the latter one to 30-60%. This results in a faded-color, yellowish image. To increase the image definition, duplicate the original image layer, and set to overlay mode. Adjust the opacity to get the right level of definition.
patriots

Side-note: IMO, nature looks best without any "artistic" edits.

3 comments
other -> Learning to fly
2012-06-11
Over a week ago, we adopted a baby sparrow. This is him today. Credit for the audio track: gillicuddy.