American Kestrel 2009

Friday, February 27th, 2009

perched male American Kestrel
San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, 2009-02-26

My photography is definitely improving. Just compare to this shot from a little over a year ago. Of course that was a cloudy winter day in Brooklyn, and this was a bright sunny day in southern California, but still the difference is remarkable. I still have a long way to go before Arthur Morris has anything to worry about.

One thing I still have to figure out is proper gamma adjustment. This picture looks great on my Mac but is much too dark on my Ubuntu/Gnome desktop. Haven’t checked Windows yet. Is it possible to make a photo like this actually work across all platforms? I know the Mac gamma is about 1.8 and the PC gamma is about 2.2. Not sure about Linux.

#460 Glaucous Gull

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

I had the car this morning while Beth was at church so I decided to see if I could chase down a few potential lifers that have been popping up at various spots in the county. First stop was Huntington Central Park to try for the Tropical Kingbird. (I missed that species just across the creek at San Joaquin last year, and twice at El Toro Memorial Park this year.) No joy though. I spent about two hours from 9:20 to 11:20 wandering around Lake Huntington, the frisbee golf course, and the horse stables. I ran into a couple of other birders and we found the Red-throated Loon, a Cooper’s Hawk, and many Black Phoebes. We even had one Kingbird flyover. However that one was most likely a Cassin’s and we were never able to relocate it.

After giving up on the flycatcher, I decided to drive down Warner to Bolsa Chica. However when I was abiout halfway there, Beth called me looking for a ride home from church–hers had bailed on here–so I headed back to Irvine. We grabbed lunch at the California Fish Grill, checked out the Circuit City “sale” prices (still 25% more expensive than everyday prices at, and briefly popped in Barnes & Noble. Then she agreed to go to Doheny State Beach with me if I bribed her with Golden Spoon frozen yogurt first. So after a quick stop for a Heath Bar/Latte combo, we headed south on I-5 to Dana Point.

I’ve been down to Dana Point a lot lately, which meant I was overconfident, missed the exit, and had to get off in San Clemente. We wound back to the harbor through some local streets and saw some interesting parts of Dana Point I’ve not seen before. We arrived at the beach about 2:45 and parked in the far part of the lot near the creek.

I set up my scope and began scanning the gulls. There weren’t as many as there’d been when we’d visited last month. These were mostly Heerman’s, Western, and immature Glaucous-winged Gulls. I think there was one California Gull mixed in with them, as well as a Snowy Egret.

And then suddenly there it was on the far shore. I’m not sure if it had flown in or we just missed it on first scan. However it was everything you want in a life bird: big, obvious, completely distinct from all other birds anywhere around it, and standing still so you could get great looks in the scope:

Almost completely white gull

Anna’s Hummingbird

Friday, February 20th, 2009

female Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
Irvine, CA, 2009-02-20

Moth Monday Returns: Indian Meal Moth

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Spring comes early in Southern California. Still this lepidopteran is a year-round visitor. I found it in the cabinet where I keep my bird seed, pet food, and other dry goods. Fortunately it seems to be a singleton since the caterpillars of this species can do real damage to such products (hence the name).

Brown/tan moth in cabinet
Indian Meal Moth, Hodges#6019 Plodia interpunctella
Irvine, California, 2009-02-09

Thanks to Charley Eiseman for the ID.

Auto Smart Fix for Lightroom

Monday, February 9th, 2009

It sounds like most folks think Lightroom 2.1 is the way to go. However it’s still missing the autofix controls from Elements:

Auto Smart Fix Corrects overall color balance and improves shadow and highlight detail, if necessary.

Auto Levels Adjusts the overall contrast of an image and may affect its color. If your image needs more contrast, and it has a color cast, try this command. Auto Levels works by individually mapping the lightest and darkest pixels in each color channel to black and white.

Auto Contrast Adjusts the overall contrast of an image without affecting its color. Use when your image needs more contrast, but the colors look right. Auto Contrast maps the lightest and darkest pixels in the image to white and black, which makes highlights appear lighter and shadows appear darker.

Auto Color Correction Adjusts the contrast and color by identifying shadows, midtones, and highlights in the image, rather than in individual color channels. It neutralizes the midtones and sets the white and black points using a default set of values.

Auto Sharpen Adjusts the sharpness of the image by clarifying the edges and adding detail that tonal adjustments may reduce.

Auto Red Eye Fix Automatically detects and repairs red eyes in an image.

Are there any plugins to add these capabilities? Could someone write one? Has anyone documented what these actually do at a technical level?

Looking for a Photo Organizer/Editor

Friday, February 6th, 2009

I’m looking for a program to organize and edit my photos on the Mac. The editing duties are light. Photoshop Elements fully meets my needs there, and I really don’t want something more complex. In particular I live by Auto Smart Fix and Auto Sharpen. However I’d like to not come out of one program just to edit a photo.

I like iPhoto’s organization, but it’s too buggy and has atrocious editing and previewing tools. Lightroom 1.4 doesn’t organize quite as nicely as iPhoto, but is a little more stable. Maybe 2.0 is better? What’s my best choice? Here are my desiderata: