Smartphone Room Key Just The Begining


Smartphone technology has become an integral part of travel, bringing GEO tagging applications, instant photo uploading to share with the world, and more. Now, smartphones are set to allow hotel guests to bypass check-in and unlock their guest room door simply by touching the handle.

“We’re able to have the hotel guest download our app, put their username and password in, and then it links the reservation to their mobile devices,” said Ben Robertson, CEO of y!kes in a Hotel Management interview.

The process is simple. On the day of the reservation, connected guests will get a notification saying their room is ready. Step into the hotel’s lobby and the system checks them in. Upon arriving at their assigned hotel room, users simply touch the door handle, which recognizes them automatically and allows entrance.The mobile app works with most smartphones, but for guests with out one, the lock system can also work with a traditional key card. In the future, the Y!kes plans to add capabilities to control the temperature, room lighting and TV preferences.

“We’re making it so that the mobile device really makes things easy for that guest throughout their stay … We can service their needs according to their proximity throughout the hotel,” Robertson said.

Trick or Treat: Tech and Security

[Photo Credit: Flickr user bimurch]

Through the Gadling Lens: photographing skies

Oh, how I’d love to regale you with my brilliant photographic skills in capturing the sky’s majesty!

I’d love to, but I can’t.

For some reason, I’m really, really horrid when it comes to shooting skies. Oh, I can manage to get a good sunset photo here and there, and occasionally my blue skies appear shockingly blue, but the truth is that for the most part, I get by with a little help from Photoshop — bump up the contrast here, deepen a hue there, you know how it goes. My husband, on the other hand, is masterful at shooting sky shots — the image you see to the left was taken by him this past weekend. And that image, by the way, is completely unretouched, straight out of the camera.

He kills me with his sky-capturing ways.

Anyway, I thought this week we could drool over the sky photo porn that currently graces our Gadling Flickr pool, for some inspiration as to how to shoot. This time, however, I’m sitting where you are — looking for any clues as to how to make my sky photographs that much better.

So, on with the show.
1. God rays

My husband calls these “God rays” — the rays of light that appear from clouds when the sun is behind them.

When I asked him how he managed to capture this image (because while he was taking this, I was trying to take the same image with my camera, and failing miserably), and he said, “I set my aperture to a pinhole — about f22 — my ISO was set to about 100, and then I played with the shutter speed to get the shot. It ended up working at 1/500th of a second.”

Okay, so that’s pretty technical. Suffice to say, however, that Marcus — I mean, Alien Hamster — took several shots to experiment with the various settings, to see what worked for him. And really, that’s sort of what photography is all about: experimenting and learning along the way.

Another great God ray shot:

This great shot was shot and shared by othernel, of sunset over the East Village in New York City. Notice how the sun is more golden — therefore, I’m guessing, taken at a later time in the day than my husband’s shot — giving the image an entirely different mood. Notice also in both that the objects beneath the sun’s rays are almost in silhouette: remember that when you’re trying to shoot these God rays, you’re shooting for the rays, not the actual objects in the frame. Well done.

2. Clouds

Clouds obviously also make great subjects for photographs, and the following are pretty stellar:

Now, this amazing shot shared by Patrick Powers has quite obviously been processed; however, it’s been done to great effect. Those clouds — those crazy-white, featherlike clouds — look positively three-dimensional, almost like they could float right out of the screen. The entire scene almost looks artificial, rendering the shot more a work of art, then a documentary image. Really beautiful work.

And how impressive is this shot shared by Bonnie Bowne, taken in the Grand Tetons? Notice all the shades that are in the thunderheads, going from snowy white to dark, foreboding grey. I love how the trees in the foreground are in total silhouette, so that their details don’t compete with the colours of the clouds. If I were to guess (and Bonnie, if you read this, feel free to correct me), she exposed the shot for the white of the clouds, “tricking” the camera into thinking it was shooting in bright sunshine — thus resulting in a faster shutter speed, and making the trees look dark. Amazing.

3. Sunshine.

Of course, the most beautiful subject you can shoot in the sky is sunshine, and obviously, sunrises and sunsets are pretty intoxicating. Here are a couple of really stunning ones.

This sunset, shot and shared by Andy Bokanev Photography is stunning — not just because of the colours of the sky, but notice he also managed to get the light in the lighthouse building, as well as the colours of the flowers in the foreground. That’s some pretty stellar exposure right there. The glow of the light in the windows does so much to set the mood of this image — very well done. I’m guessing that this shot was taken using a very long exposure (that is, a slow shutter speed) and a tripod, with the ISO set to a very low number, to reduce graininess. Absolutely stunning.

In addition, take a look at this sunrise:

PDPhotography, who shot and shared this shot, has revealed one of my favourite ways of photographing the sky: from 37,000 feet. I love shots out of airplane windows, and this one is pretty great. I think we often think that we should only pull out our cameras when we’ve finally arrived at our destination — this shot is a great reminder that there’s some beautiful scenery en route, as well.

4. Silhouettes

Finally, I love the use of silhouette to accentuate the sky. A beautiful example:

This is another shot shared by Bonnie Bowne, taken — get his — in the parking lot of a Walmart store. What makes this shot so effective is that instead of just taking the shot of the sky — which might have been the more knee-jerk approache — she took the shot with the stark, dark tree in the foreground. The black silhouette of the tree has the effect of actually making the colours and light of the sky far more prominent, more impressive. It was an inspired way to shoot the sky.

And finally, this amazing night shot by fiznatty:

Seriously, does this shot not take your breath away? Fiznatty says, “the moon rises above the snowy slopes overlooking the Swedish town of Bjorkliden.” Unbelievable.

Okay, again, taking a guess as to how fiznatty managed this: obviously, no flash was involved, and he likely used a tripod and left his shutter open for quite some time, in order to pick up the light of the stars in the sky. If I’m right, then fiznatty stood still for quite some time — maybe a minute or two? — while the shutter was open, taking the shot. Amazing.

So that’s it. Again, if any of the photographers who took these shots would like to share their expertise here, I’d love to learn from you. And if you have any questions or additional comments, as always, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.

Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: seeing the light

When you’re first starting out in photography, you’re likely to read, or hear, or have told to you:

“See the light. When you can see the light, you’ll be a great photographer. You just have to see the light.”

Many times, I’ve had new photographers retort with exasperation: “God, I hate that. ‘See the light.’ What light? There’s just light! I see it! What are they talking about? How do you ‘see the light’?”

In many ways, the exhortation to see the light is one of those things that, annoyingly, you’ll understand it when you finally see it. But basically, what you’re trying to do is not just acknowledge that the light exists, but really notice the quality of the light — is it golden? blue? white light? Is it coming in at an angle? Is it merely ambient light, or tightly focused? Are there shadows, or reflections? Once you’ve assessed the light, you can adjust your camera ISO, white balance, aperture and shutter speed accordingly, to capture the light and image as authentically as possible.

For tips and a refresher on how to adjust your camera’s settings, click here. However, for an illustration of the various types of light, and how to maximize what it does to your images, read on.
1. Light

First, let’s just take a look at light:

Sunsets are obviously very popular subjects, and for good reason — the light is very easy to identify, and it’s easy to see what the light is doing. What makes the shot shared by RuthannOC, above, such a great shot is not just that it captures the colour of the sunset — certainly the most striking aspect of most sunsets — but you can also see the rays of sunlight coming out from behind the cloud. The light here is very easy to see, and therefore make the resulting image a great capture.

This photograph, shared by Jon Rawlinson, is another great example of how being aware of the quality of the light and capturing it accordingly can result in a great shot. You’ll notice that this image was in the waning hours of the day, and judging from the cloud cover, I’m betting that there wasn’t much sunlight during the day. However, as the light got lower in the sky, the light was able to brilliantly illuminate the buildings, making them seemingly glow. In addition, the light is somewhat golden, which helps to establish the time of day.

The lesson to learn here is that even though you’re outside, the quality of the light can change throughout the day. Be very cognizant of what the light is doing, to maximize how you take your scenery shots.

This photograph shared by insEyedout is particularly spectacular, because he was mindful of how the quality of light changes and enhances the colours of the picture. Obviously, this photograph was shot at dusk — at just the time that lights are starting to illuminate the buildings. Incandescent lights tend to have a very yellowish hue (which is why, when shooting indoors, you might want to check your white balance to make the less yellow) — but in this case, the yellow light adds to the element of coziness in the feel of the image. Beautiful capture.

2. Shadow.

Obviously, different types of light can result in different types of shadows and silhouettes, which can also enhance your photos. The following are great examples illustrating how.

In this photograph shared by PDPhotography, the photograph is framed so that the window isn’t the only subject — the shadow it casts on the wall is included, too. This image was taken inside Alcatraz prison in San Francisco, and by framing the photograph this way, you can just imagine what it might have been like to be incarcerated inside, with the blue skies and freedom on the outside. The effect would not have been the same if PDPhotography had just shot the image through the bars — the shadow on the wall conveys the loneliness and the feeling of being convicted far more effectively.

One of the greatest things that shadows are able to do are convey the time of day. In this black and white photo, shared by Michael Joseph Goldst…etc, even though you can’t see the colour of the sunset, you can tell by the wonderful length of the shadows that this was taken late in the day. The photograph was clearly mindful of the light in this shot, since he made certain to capture the low sunlight in the top left hand portion of the image, as well as the length of the shadows to the lower right. Well done.

This spectacular image shared by t3mujin debunks one of the most common “rules” of photography: the one which says that you should always make sure that the light source is behind you, and you never shoot into the light. If t3mujin followed that rule, he would’ve never captured the wonderfully moody image you see above. Remember that when you have a person in your shot, you don’t always have to be able to make out their face or features — sometimes just having them in the shot in full silhouette conveys the ambiance of the shot in a way that shooting their faces full on might not be able to. This shot is one for printing and framing.

3. Reflections.

In addition to light and shadow, light can be captured by virtue of reflections, which can often result in a really compelling shot. The following three images are good examples. Just remember: turn off your flash.

The image shared by Buck Forester is sort of the classic reflection image — the wonderful mountain vista reflected in the water below. This image is actually a bit more difficult to capture than you might think: after all, when you’re in a beautiful setting, you’re often so captivated by the mountains and the treeline, you’ll likely forget to look into the water for the reflection.

The trick to these images is to be sure to look through the viewfinder carefully, and really see what you’re taking the shot of, so you can be sure to frame it to include the entire reflection. Also, this obviously works best when the water is exceedingly still.

This fantastic shot, < a href="">captured by Moody75 is such a great reminder that you don’t need to have a body of water to capture a great reflection — he was able to get a wonderful landscape of the entire city of Barcelona in his companion’s sunglasses. Talk about capturing the beauty of a city and the feel of a vacation all in one.

It’s nighttime, it’s raining — the temptation would likely be overwhelming to put your camera away. But this shot shared by mingthein shows why you might want to hang on to your camera a little longer. While you could never get the sharpness of the reflection that you can in Buck Forester’s daytime shot, above, wet streets at nighttime can make for a beautiful reflection of the lights on the street above. Again, remember to turn off your flash and steady your camera before taking a shot like this one.

So remember: see the light. If you have any examples of how you managed to see and capture the light, please share your links to your images, below. And as always, if you have any questions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.