Archive for the ‘Nerdy Stuff’ Category


Tags in WordPress

October 31, 2007

Finally! I upgraded to WordPress 2.3.1 and now I have a field in the compose window for comma separated metadata tags!


Gary Fong Customer Support: Lightsphere

October 30, 2007

If you do any flash photography you’ve probably heard of Gary Fong and his amazingly popular Lightsphere line of products. For the uninitiated, it’s a big plastic cone you fit onto the business end of your external flash unit and it disperses the light in a pleasing way, making for better photographs. Or so they say. I’ll let you know when mine arrives.

But this isn’t a blog entry about Lightsphere. It’s about customer service. Bad customer service.

You see, the product page on the Lightsphere at the Gary Fong store has some information about which flash units it fits onto. Mine isn’t listed. it does have some advice on how to measure your flash unit to see if it will work, but, not having my flash handy I seized upon a link that said “if you don’t see your flash listed here, email us.”

So I did. I asked if the Lightsphere worked on the Sigma EF-500 flash unit. I got back this:

Scott – check here:

Which is of course the same information I’d already seen. So I replied:

Yeah, I saw that. But it also said “it can be used on hundreds of flashes… if you do not see yours listed, please email me!” My flash isn’t listed.

Which got me:

Yes – since you flash is not listed, you will have to measure it and determine which LS will be the best fit

Finally, I sent this:

You really should take off the “email me” link on the product page. It’s obviously no more help than the page itself.

Incidentally, I didn’t try to measure my flash. I did some creative googling and found that other photographers have used a Lightsphere in their EF-500, but that it was a tight fit. I guess I’ll risk it for $40 and see how it goes. I hope the product is better than the email support.

Update: It gets better! Customer “Service” sent this:

Scott – I gave you directions — including a drawing!

At this point I figure I need to spell it out more clearly:

Yes, I am aware. But I didn’t have my flash or a measuring tape handy when I was perusing the site, thinking of making a purchase. I just assumed that “It works on hundreds of flashes…if you do not see yours listed, please email me!” meant that you might be prepared to answer such a question via email. See where I’m coming from? If you are simply going to refer such questioners to the table on the very page which prompts us to email you, fine; but in that case you should not be inviting us to email with these questions in the first place.

I’m not trying to be a jerk about it. I have in fact ordered myself a Lightsphere, having learned from another web site that it fits – albeit rather tightly – on my flash. But there is a disconnect between what your web site says and what your customer service department is prepared to actually do. One of them should change to avoid people wasting their time in a frustrating circle of pointless emails.

Christ, what is it that these guys do not understand here? If you have a web site that lists compatibility with other products, even if it includes instructions on how to measure unlisted products for compatibility, that’s great. Very helpful. But if that very same page also says “email me!” if you don’t see your other product listed, you should actually be prepared to tell people something other than simply referring them to the same instructions they saw in the first place.


Get Closer

October 15, 2007

If there was only one single piece of advice I could give to people on how to take better photos it would be this: get closer.

People have a natural impulse to frame a shot the same way their eyes see a scene: big, wide and all-inclusive. Unfortunately, this does not usually make for great photography. If you want to take a picture of someone, instead of backing up so you can get them head-to-foot in the frame, try getting just their head and shoulders. But don’t stop there; now try getting just their face, not even their shoulders or the top of their head.

Like all rules, this one is meant to be broken. But it’s my opinion that most people photos can be made better by zooming in on the most interesting part: the face.



October 11, 2007

For the three of you who’ve been following along, you’ll remember that I now have only two lenses in my photography arsenal: the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 and the Sigma 18-50 f/2.8. Since I sold the Nikon 28-80 f/3.5-5.6 that’s all I have: some very fast glass, but nothing over 50mm.

After having ruminated about it for months, today I decided to remedy the situation: behold the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8.

now I’m covered from 18mm all the way out to 150mm with nothing but f/2.8 or faster. And if I ever need 200 or 300mm I’ll just rent it.

Okay! Now that’s it for big photography purchases for a while. Really. At least until I buy a second camera body.

And, hey, check out these flickr photos. All of them were shot with the Sigma 50-150.


BAFABB, NEA and Ray Bradbury

October 2, 2007

Karen reminds me that it’s BAFAB week again. I entered her personal book drawing in exchange for a promise to give a book to someone else. Fun stuff. She also points out that it’s banned books week, too. That being the case, maybe it’s time to BAFABB.

Speaking of books, I got a nice surprise this morning when I stopped for coffee at Caribou. I walked in, Darlene greeted me by name and asked me if I wanted the usual: large dark roast with lots of room for cream. I said yes and tell her, in answer to today’s trivia question, that P. Diddy’s name at birth was Sean Combs. I don’t do it for the dime, I tell her with a wink; I do it for the glory. She laughs and fills me a cup. Then the surprise: “have a free book!” she says.

It’s then that I notice stacks of stuff on the counter: brochures, CDs and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in paperback. I pick up one of each. It feels like stealing. Who would give away something of actual value these days? Turns out it’s the National Endowment for the Arts. My tax dollars at work, promoting literacy and the first amendment. Sweet! Still fighting the sensation that I’m shoplifting, I take the stuff and leave.

In the car I examine the CD. It’s not an audiobook version of Fahrenheit 451 (how ironic would that be?), but rather an “introduction to” the novel produced by the NEA. I pop it in, thinking it will be an interesting departure from my usual public radio-fueled commute.

It is. There’s commentary by the president of the NEA, interviews of Bradbury himself and other writers, and there’s several snippets of an actor reading passages from Fahrenheit. It’s these that catch my attention first: “…the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.” Sci-fi author or not, Bradbury was always much more poet than engineer.

The other thing that delights me on the CD is Ray Bradbury himself. With prose like his, it’s easy to imagine that he’s an elite artsy snob, but in actuality he comes across more like your average midwestern schlub. I guess that shouldn’t come as a big surprise, as he was born in Waukegan, Illinois, less than 90 minutes from where I live.

Anyway, BAFAB or BB, three cheers for the NEA, and here’s to not living in Bradbury’s dystopian future. It’s turned into quite a week for book celebrations.


More Frank Frazetta

October 1, 2007

J. H. dropped me a note to remind me that inexpensive prints are available from the official Frank Frazetta Art Gallery web site. The only question now is which print to choose! I already have a DYI print of The Moon’s Rapture hanging on my wall, but what about The Egyptian Queen, or Cat Girl? (The image quality on the official gallery site where you can order isn’t so good, that’s why I’m linking to an unofficial site.)

For those of you who don’t really know who Frank Frazetta is, you can check out wikipedia in addition to perusing the official gallery site.



September 26, 2007

Dear Scott,

I work for a company which is currently developing some publicly-funded educational materials, that will eventually be available freely to students across the UK.

Our client is very interested in using your image ‘Leaves’ for this project. Unfortunately, our client is adamant that images cannot be acknowleged. However, all rights would remain as is, and our client would not be claiming ownership over the image.

If you have any questions regarding the request or any element of the project, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me. I look forward to hearing from you.

With kind regards,


I got the above message this morning. I get messages like this from time to time, as I’m sure do many avid Flickr users. I specifically put all my photos up with the Creative Commons Attribution license, meaning you can do whatever you want with them – for free – just so long as you credit me by name. You’d be surprised at how many publishers search Flickr for free images. I say more power to them. But this Matt… I had questions.

  1. If I am not to be credited for the photo, how do all my rights remain “as is” when in fact the only right I am actually claiming is the right to be credited for my work?
  2. Publicly-funded and free though they may be, these “educational materials” will no doubt be published with some kind of copyright information. How will this information read?
  3. What company does he work for and who is his client? It’s suspicious that he doesn’t provide a single detail about this.

I thought for a bit about asking Matt these questions, but in the end, I decided simply to send this:


Your request is unusual. Typically people who want to use my photos have no problem crediting me by name. Doing so allows them to utilize the images in any way they wish, at no cost. If in your case you are unable to credit me, your only option is to buy from me the exclusive rights to the image at a price of $100 US dollars. If these terms are agreeable, let me know and I will respond with payment details.

Thanks for your interest.

Scott Feldstein


Well, I didn’t expect to hear from Matt again, frankly. But a reply did come, and quickly.

Hi Scott,

I understand the unusual nature of the request; however, our client is adamant that acknowledment cannot be given. This is mainly due to the scale of the project and the number of photographers participating.

We have no wish to purchase exclusive rights, but would be interested in using the image with the same terms as mentioned before. To compensate for the lack of attribution, we would be willing to offer a fee of £30 sterling.

Would this be acceptable?

I look forward to hearing from you.

With kind regards,


Hmm. £30 is like, what, $60? Whatever it is, I just have to follow this through to the end and see what happens.


I’m just intrigued enough to say yes. These terms are acceptable. How do you propose to do this? I can accept PayPal at if that is convenient.