Too Wicked?

Oh My Gosh..

Is it possible to get too much Wicked?

The entertaining musical Wicked is currently playing in Perth, after seasons in Melbourne and other Australian cities.  Our whole family just could not resist going.  After all, we were hooked after seeing it on Broadway and then later in Melbourne.  Unfortunately, we just missed out on seeing it in Japan which I’m sure would’ve been a blast!

Last Saturday, we made our way through an extremely happening and crowded Burswood to join the packed Burswood Theatre to watch Wicked again.

It’s such a well done, well produced show – I still am taken aback by how smoothly everything runs, how fantastic the set and costumes are, how memorable the songs are that take you on a rollercoaster ride, the clever story and how the story weaves around The Wizard of Oz.  It’s awesome. 

But for some reason, I was not blown away this time. 

Maybe the initial euphora of the first time viewing the show and ensuing excitement has dissipated. 

Or maybe I’ve listened to the Official Broadway Cast recording so many times that anything different makes me think it’s not right.

Or maybe the tempos were just a tad fast on Saturday night, giving the feeling that they were rushing through parts of the first act.

Or maybe it was me being annoyed that Bert Newton got more applause as the Wiz than the other musical theater performers.

Or maybe it was the guy sitting next to me who didn’t clap after any song until the very end of the show, obviously having being dragged there by his partner.

In any case, if you HAVEN’T seen Wicked before, definitely go – it’s worth seeing at least once!  And by going, you’re “voting” with your feet and money that productions like this should continue coming to Perth.

And if it’s too expensive, you might want to try the Wicked lottery tickets each day, or keep a lookout for some cheap last minute discounted tickets that are going around now.

Only with the Nikon AF-D 50mm f/1.8

Wow, what a few weeks it’s been.

I’ve sold my Nikon D80, crop mid range zoom and wide angle zoom to fund an upgrade to a D700.

I absolutely LOVE the low light performance and robustness of the new camera body.

BUT…

I’ve lost a lot lens and focal length range!

So, on a recent family getaway, all I had was my 50mm.  At first I thought it was going to be very restrictive and I would not be able to get the shots I wanted, but in the end I think it’s been a very liberating experience!

No more having to play with 2 variables of distance to subject as well as zoom for viewing angle.  No big heavy zoom to lug around.  And I found having no zoom has FORCED me to be more creative in my shooting and composition.  I was very happy with the results and don’t think I missed out on too many shots where I needed a different focal length.   It forced me to think more about the shot and pre-visualise it instead of just standing on the spot and twisting the zoom ring.   And now it’s really made me think twice about whether I should get the 24-70 f/2.8 at all.

The only complaint about the Nikon AF-D 50mm 1.8 is that the bokeh can sometimes produce circles with quite a hard circumference line in conditions with spots of light coming through (like light through the leaves of a tree).  Besides that, it’s extremely good value and every Nikon shooter should have a 50mm!

Here are a few of my favourites from our trip away…

Getting rid of the duplicate JPEGs of raw files

I don’t know why I chose this option, but a few years ago when I moved from JPEG to shooting RAW, I decided to choose the RAW+JPEG option on my Nikon camera.   I guess I thought it would be handy having a lower resolution JPEG just in case I wanted to email it off or view it straight away on some device or software program that didn’t support Nikon raw files.

Well, it turns out, I never have used the JPEG.   I always do some post processing on my photos and if I wanted to blog or email or upload a photo, I’d always process the raw file (NEF) and then convert it to JPEG.  Plus I think most photo library or processing programs support raw files nowadays.

Unfortunately the workflow I used was to import both the JPEG and NEF files from my camera to my photo storage folder – resulting in 2 files for every photo.   No real problem right?

Well, for applications like Lightroom that are intelligent – no real problem, Lightroom knows that cameras can do this and if you have the right option turned on, it will treat the JPEG and NEF together as one – practically “hiding” the JPEG.

But for iPhoto, it’s not so clever so I ended up with two of every image.  And since the JPEG is slightly processed by the camera, they look different (different temperature, etc).   (Why do I use iPhoto too?  Because it’s the easiest way for my wifey and kids to see ALL our family photos, select them into albums, email them, etc).

Also it bugged me that I had all these JPEGs lying around on my hard disk, taking up space, slowing down my Lightroom and iPhoto libraries.  On my camera, I now use just RAW with no JPEG option.

So I started a project last week to get rid of these JPEGs.  But how?

After some messing around, I found these steps to work:

1) In Lightroom, turn on the option to treat the JPEG and RAW as separate photos.   This effectively turns Lightroom into the dumb iPhoto and you’ll end up seeing two photos now – one for the JPEG and one for the RAW.

2) In Finder (I use a Mac), I actually manually deleted all the JPEG’s that were duplicates of the RAW file.   I know – TEDIOUS!  I could have written a script to see if filenames were the same, if the raw file (NEF for my Nikon camera) existed, then delete the JPG.  But I was so paranoid that a script may just delete some required files that I decided to do this by hand instead.  In reality, with proper sorting of files, it didn’t take too long.

3) Now – I’m in a state where I’ve pulled the rug out from under the feet of iPhoto and Lightroom.  It’s time to get their databases back in a valid state.

4) For Lightroom, just go to the Library module, then right click on a folder and choose “Synchronize Folder…”.  This will prompt Lightroom to look at the folder and match them up – import any photos that are on disk but not in Lightroom, and remove any photos from Lightroom that are not on the disk anymore.

5) For iPhoto, unfortunately there is no synchronize option.   However, I did find a post on a blog called Phil at Warrimoo who posted an Applescript that walks through photos in iPhoto and deletes them from the iPhoto library if they don’t exist on disk.  It does work, although a little slowly and I had to tweak it to work for iPhoto libraries where the photos aren’t copied into the iPhoto library.

Hope this helps someone out there!

Miss 10′s first pop concert!

Wow!  This weekend marks a special occasion for our Little Miss 10.  She’s going to her very first pop concert – Wifey is taking her to see Justin Bieber at the Burswood Dome!  

I’m trying to rack my brain to remember what was my first concert – I think it was either INXS or John Farnham at the Perth Entertainment Centre, many eons ago. 

The cool thing for Miss 10 is that we got her a special ticket that came with some goodies – a Justin Bieber fan pack, that arrived in the mail yesterday.  Let the Bieber-Fever begin…

I wonder if I should get wifey some ear plugs…  I heard that the crowd screams have been reaching 110db in the last few concerts in the rest of Australia (http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/entertainment/music/justin-bieber-20110502-1e5bx.html).

Perth Lindy Exchange and the D700

Last weekend, the Perth Swing Dance Society held its annual Lindyhop Exchange – called Hullabaloo!  It’s a fantastic long weekend of swing dancing, classes and social get togethers.  People from all over Australia come to Perth to socialise and dance!

Unfortunately, wifey and I don’t do many of the events or classes anymore – in the last few years we’ve just turned up for one social dance night only.   I guess we’re getting “over” it a bit.  Plus it’s hard to find babysitting.  Yes – I thought it would get easier when the kids got older, but they just end up with more extra-curricular activities!

We did get out to the Saturday night dance – it was the Hullabaloo Hop in the wonderfully character North Perth Town Hall.   The Hullabaloo Hop is the traditional night when they hold the Jack and Jill competition – basically a social dancing fun competition where entrants get paired up with some other random entrant, and you are judged on how much fun and connection you have with each other.   Entrants wear a number on their back to identify them.   We also had an extra special treat – the local Oz Big Band swung the house with many Basie and other swinging charts!

I took the opportunity to take my new Nikon D700 out for a spin.  Armed with my 50mm f/1.8 and 85mm f/1.8 lenses, and looking forward to using 3200 to 6400 ISOs, I had a ball!  The D700 performed better than I expected – photos even at 6400 ISO were usable with not as much noise as an 1600 ISO image from my old D80.   And there’s something about the D700 sensor – the colours just seem so much nicer.

Here’s a selection of some of the photos from the night!

Pekka in Perth

This one slipped under the radar.

Back in 2009, I blogged about an ACO concert I saw in Perth featuring the talented and fine violinist Pekka Kuusisto.

This year, I noticed that he’s back in Australia!  But I was disappointed that he seemed to performing only in Sydney for the Musica Viva Festival 2011 (http://www.musicaviva.com.au/whatson/musica-viva-festival).

But I did this – if you want to see Pekka play in Perth, then you can catch him playing jazz violin at the Perth Jazz Society on 2 May.   It should be a great gig!  More details here:  http://www.perthjazzsociety.com/programme/#1892  

If you’re in Albany, it looks like he’s playing there too.  Tickets available here:  http://www.bocsticketing.com.au/whats-on/414/pekka-kuusisto-and-iiro-rantala/

The Sassy Cookie

At work I’m always on the lookout for new places to get cake.

Yes, cake.

I think this needs to be added to all management training – people underestimate the power of cake – people love it, it brings people together, it motivates them to come to meetings :)

I recently found out that there’s a new cake place near my work – The Sassy Cookie.   It’s a quaint little corner shop that’s been fitted out in a vintagey/crafty/Perth Upmarket style.  

Yes, I’m sure it’d be a hit for mums for morning tea after dropping off their littlies to school.  But would a box of various cupcakes (some even gluten free) stand the litmus test for a bunch of computer nerdy engineers?

The answer is yes – it seems so!  Although each cupcake is a little pricey and they didn’t have discounts for multiple, they did taste nice :)

Website here: http://www.thesassycookie.com.au/

D700 Unboxing

Finally!

I finally ordered a D700 from T-Dimension a week ago.

And then, as a nerdy nerd, I tracked its progress every hour across the globe..  well, from Hong Kong, to China, to Singapore then to Perth.

And then I waited as it got held up in customs.

And then I rang Fedex, bugging them about why it’s been sitting in Perth for a day without me hearing anything.

And then I decided to drive TO the Fedex depot in Perth, and just demand that I want to pick up my camera.

And after paying the import duty, I had to wait nearly 30 minutes whilst they tried to locate my parcel.

And then it was IN MY HANDS!

Even though I missed out on getting it cheaper, I’m glad I did, because I’ve since found out that many Hong Kong (and probably other) stores have a very small supply of Nikon gear in their inventory, and that’s it – they don’t know when they will get more from Nikon because there’s a worldwide shortage due to the earthquake and tsunami.

After unboxing, the things I immediately noticed:

It was REALLY HEAVY!  I thought, “How am I going to lug this thing around?”  I can’t even hold it with one hand easily!!  I think I nearly strained my wrist holding it with one hand.   Heavy is good for one thing though – it’ll help you steady the camera when hand holding a shot.   Besides that, the only other positive I can think of is it’ll help me burn more calories when I take photos due all the lifting I have to do!

It was BIG!  Well, bigger than the D80 I was using before.  Definitely not inconspicuous at all.  With a small 50mm or 85mm on there, it’s OK.  But I dread to think how big it will be with a 24-70 zoom.  Luckily it still fits into my camera bag.

It felt PRO!  The rubbery texture, the metal housing, the number of buttons and dials.   The lack of “scene” modes like Portrait, Landscape, Sports – that’s right – no more hand-holding.  You need to be comfortable with Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program and Manual modes.   And then going through the menus – the sheer number of configurable items – do we need ALL these things to be configurable?

One of the first things I did was put on my 50mm f/1.2 manual non-CPU lens.  Amazingly, the D700 can automatically set exposure for the lens, and although there is no autofocus, the in-focus indicator in the viewfinder works which helps report if the camera thinks the image at the focus point is in focus.  Sweeet!

A more detailed review with some shots to follow…

My daughter has guts!

So Little Miss 11 is now in High School in Year 7. 

And I think like many other kids who enter High School, or perhaps its the transition from a single stream to a large high school with many new opportunities, she wants to try nearly EVERYTHING!  Yep, she’s actually volunteering and trying out for soooo many things it’s as if the world is going to end tomorrow!

I think it’s fantastic – of course we’re making sure she doesn’t get burnt out and I’m sure the enthusiasm will drop after a while, but it’s so amazing to see your child take that step growth in confidence.

I’m currently reading a book about staying connected to your teenager, and it mentions the “two” people in your teenager – the “child” that you probably see at home, and the emerging “adult” that as a parent you don’t see much, but it’s the one that’s developing at school, etc.

And last night, we had yet another glimpse at the “adult”.

Little Miss 11′s high school was organising a talent night, something like X-Factor, or Australia’s Got Talent.  And Little Miss 11, in her year of trying everything, signed up! 

The first we heard about it was two nights ago, when she told us to come watch her perform her duet the next night (last night).

Immediately my helicopter parent questions started nagging at me – What the?!  Duet?  Who is she singing with?  Does she know the other girl?  What are they singing?  Why is she singing? Have they practised?  I haven’t heard her practise at home?  Will she be OK on stage? Does she have a backing track?

But Wifey reminded me to back off – I need to learn to let go.  Little Miss 11 can handle herself, or at least, needs to learn to handle herself.

So last night we turned up at the school, I’m a little anxious.  We walk in and the whole auditorium of ~400 seats was full!  OMG!!!!!!   And not just of random parents, but mostly students, her friends, her peers!

Little Miss 11 did go on stage, and sang really well with confidence!  It was so cute, she was soo small, compared to the older high school kids. 

When she and her friend finished, the auditorium of school girls all erupted with huge applause, and that was the immense confidence boost that she needed.

Her act didn’t win – but that didn’t matter at all.   I’m most proud of her actually just signing up and having the guts to follow through!  I think I would have pulled out once I saw the crowd there.

All the way home and whilst downing some supper at home last night, she couldn’t stop talking about it.  All this from someone who is usually now subdued or answering in monosyllabic grunts.

The ups and downs of kids growing up…

Screwed by jump in Nikon D700 prices

Aarghh!

My move to a full frame Nikon is complicated!

I’ve finally sold my Nikon 17-55 f/2.8, and Tokina 12-24 f/4 through eBay.  No problems with the Nikon lens, but hit a snag with the Tokina when the first winning buyer decided to change their mind after winning the auction.   Even more frustrating is the delay from waiting to be able to raise a non-paying buyer case and then closing it, coupled with the fact that with eBay now, you can’t leave negative feedback for a non-paying buyer!

Anyway, that’s all done and it’s all sold.

Then I moved onto buying the Nikon D700 body.

I did my normal thing of comparing the prices on B&H, and on eBay sellers like DigitalRev.  Then I decided to look local, and found that PRA Imaging had the Nikon D700 body for only $2295!  What a steal – that’s even cheaper than eBay or B&H! 

Unfortunately they didn’t have any in stock last week and I was told that there should be some coming in on Friday.  I thought, cool, I’ll go in and pay by cash.

So I called on Friday, and they said that the shipment will be coming in on Monday instead - today.

So I called today at lunch, and they said that they’ll be coming in this afternoon but I should put a deposit on one if I really want one.

I was scared that they will all be sold out, so I gave them my credit card details and was ready to go ahead with the deposit when I asked to double checked the price.

$2295 right?  NO!!  Apparently that was last week’s sale price!!  It’s now gone up to $2785, practically $500 more – or a ~20% price increase!   It seemed that they would not budge on the price even if I paid by cash, citing the worldwide Nikon price increases due to stock shortages and the impact of the tsunami on the Sendai plant where they manufacture the D700′s.

I was sooo frustrated and angry with myself.  Why didn’t I just pay for it by credit last week at the fantastically low price?

Too bad for PRA, it was straight to eBay for me – I just need to now pay GST/duty when it comes in *sigh* but it will still be significantly cheaper.

The next problem?  Getting back the wide range on my lenses.  I’ve literally just got a 50 f/1.8, 85 f/1.8 and my 70-200 f/2.8 now! 

I can’t afford the 24-70 f/2.8 yet, so it’s looking like either a third party zoom, or maybe just a prime like the Nikon 35mm f/2.  I can’t stomach buying a 24mm f/2.8 if I will buy a 2.8 mid range zoom one day.

And the next thing?  Selling my good old D80 body as the final part of funding my change to full frame.

Can’t wait until this is all over…