New airport threat: killer electric carts?

In the video clip above, you’ll see a scene I have always dreaded when I walk through an airport terminal – about 35 seconds into the clip, an electric airport cart slams into passengers. What caused the crash is something that should have been prevented – the driver picked up a passenger, and that passenger placed her suitcase on top of the accelerator pedal.

Before the driver even had a chance to warn others, he had been thrown off the cart and ended up underneath it. It took seven passengers to lift the cart off the driver. Four passengers ended up in the hospital, but none were seriously injured.

According to ABC News, there have been 19 other incidents involving electric carts at Bush Intercontinental alone – and that is in just three years. I understand the need for an airport transportation method that can aid the elderly or disabled – but these carts can pick up quite a bit of speed, and any time you combine a very heavy and fast moving vehicle around crowds, something is bound to go wrong. I’d prefer that the carts only be allowed in the terminal during off-peak hours, and that airlines only use wheelchairs during peak hours. Then again, I’ve sometimes been picked up at the lounge by a cart for a speedy trip to the gate, and I didn’t mind that one bit…

What do you think?


Laptop stealing baggage handler gang caught at Bush Intercontinental

A particularly nasty gang of laptop thieves has been arrested at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental airport. The gang consisted of five baggage handlers working for a third party firm hired by Continental Airlines to re-screen transiting passengers.

“Normal” laptop thieves usually get their loot by stealing from bags in the underground sorting area, but these guys once again prove that most criminals are just plain dumb.

They were caught when they asked a passenger to remove his two laptop computers and place them on a conveyor belt to be screened. They then told him he had to go to a different terminal to pick them up. Of course, the machines were not there, as the criminals kept them inside the screening equipment. Once the passenger made his way to pick up his property from the other terminal, the gang climbed inside the screening equipment, removed the computers, and hid them in an airport bathroom.

It never ceases to amaze me how low some people will sink, or how they thought they could possibly get away with this crime. All five crooks have been fired by their employer, and bond has been set at $50,000. They face up to ten years in prison if convicted. Houston police do not know how long the gang had been operating.

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.

Photo of the day 7.13.09

Today, after a wonderful week in New York City, my family and I return to Houston. I must admit, I’m sort of looking forward to getting back home, crashing on my family room couch, sleeping in my own bed — even despite leaving New York’s wonderfully temperate weather for the hot, humid summer back home. So today, I thought I’d look for a photo that captured the sticky beauty of Houston — and I think Theodore Scott’s image above, shared in the Gadling Flickr pool does just that, don’t you?

If you’ve got some great travel shots you’d love to share, be sure to upload them to the Gadling pool on Flickr. We might just pick one as our Photo of the Day.

Through the Gadling Lens: how I manage my photographs while I’m on vacation

Last week, I received an e-mail from Gadling reader Nick:

Can you spend some time discussing what happens after you get home from vacation – photographic workflows, etc? That’s one thing that seems to be missing.

As it happens, I’m currently on vacation: last week, we had friends staying with us in Houston, and this week my family and I are in New York City, so this topic is pretty timely. That said, I’m not entirely sure I’m the right person to be giving advice on this since:

1) I’m a photoblogger. I update my blog, Chookooloonks, often, and readers tend to expect almost daily photographs from me.

2) I take an obscene number of photographs. Really. Like hundreds, sometimes almost one thousand shots a day. Especially on vacation.

3) I’m generally not an expert on archiving photographs
. Okay, honestly? I’m really pretty bad at it. But when I get back home, it’s at the top of my to-do list to sort out. So look for a post on that later.

So, anyway, unless your a pro photographer, you likely won’t feel the pressure to take as many photographs as I do each day, or feel the need to publish your images daily; still, my method of managing my shots when I travel for pleasure might be helpful to you, and provide you some tips and tricks to managing your own vacation shots. In addition, I’d love for you to share your own methods and workflows in the comments below (especially if you’re a professional photographer). And again, what I’m discussing here is not about photograph archival, just managing my current workflow. We’ll deal with archiving in a later post.

And so, on with the show:
1. I pack with photo management in mind. I’ve written before about how i pack for a trip, and those words from 8 months ago generally still stand: in addition to my camera and lenses, I take a very large memory card (a minimum of 2GB), and my laptop computer. In the last 5 years, at the very least, I don’t think I’ve ever taken a holiday of more than 2 days when my laptop hasn’t accompanied me. My sister laughs at me that I never leave my laptop at home, but the reason becomes more apparent, below.

2. Each day, I take tons of photographs. I can’t stress enough: i take a lot of photographs. A lot. Like, for every composed shot, I often shoot at least 5, sometimes 10 images. If my subject is in surrounded by constantly varying circumstances (like the water fountains, above), sometimes I take even more. It’s all about the law of averages: if I take 10 photographs of one subject, at least one of them is bound to be one I like. The same is true for any photographer, particularly if the photographer shoots digitally. That’s the beauty of digital cameras — you can see your work immediately.

Two notes about this, however:

(a) First, even though I’m taking multiple shots, don’t misunderstand: I’m not asking my subject to pose-and-readjust for each shot. These are shots taken in rapid succession, quickly squeezing the shutter. This sort of rapid-shooting technique is often easier to do with a digital SLR than a point-and-shoot, because point-and-shoots often have a delay in the shutter release. No matter. Still take more than one shot. Also:

(b) I rarely delete shots just by looking at the small display on the back of the camera — I actually only delete them if they’re OBVIOUSLY out-of-focus (and sometimes, not even then), or the camera misfired. You often never know what images you think are great (but actually aren’t) or which images you think are lousy (but actually aren’t) until you see them on a computer screen. Resist the temptation to delete. This, my friend, is the reason you packed that large memory card.

3. Each day, I download all of the photographs I take onto my laptop. Yup, that’s right: I download every day. Usually in the evening, usually with a glass of wine at my side. (Of course, I’m the mom of a young child, which means my clubbing-in-foreign-cities days are over, since our evenings out usually end at our daughter’s bedtime; however, if your night doesn’t end until the sun comes up, morning might be a better option for downloading your images). The upshot is that basically, I like to start each day with an empty memory card.

When I download the images, here’s how I do it:

a) I create a folder just for that day. The name of each folder that I create starts with the date of the day I shot the images, in yearmonthday format (e.g., today’s date would be captured as 090709). I do it in this way so that over the years, the days’ folders will naturally be in chronological order. Occasionally, I’ll add a little additional information — so the folder that contains the image of the Statue of Liberty, above, might be labeled “090707ladyliberty,” if most of the images shot that day were in and around the statue.

b) The day’s folder is stored in a general folder called “photography.” I could, I suppose, put each day’s folder on this trip in a folder entitled “New York City trip,” but I don’t. Generally, all my days’ folders are just stored in my photography folder, but I generally find them pretty easily, because of the steps that follow.

4. I scan the photographs I’ve just downloaded, picking some of my favourites, and doing some preliminary Photoshopping. I will admit that I might be somewhat singular in including this step — most people I know wait until they get home before they begin processing their shots. However, In the past I’ve mentioned how I use Photoshop as a tool of expression, rather than a tool of deception, so this generally means that I can edit my photographs pretty quickly. Besides, since I shoot hundreds of photographs a day, the thought of sitting down to finally go through my images at the end of a holiday is pretty intimidating — I’d rather just look through them daily, remembering particular moments at were funny and special, as well as critique the day’s work, so that I can remember not to make any similar mistakes on the following day.

5. If I have an internet connection, I upload some of my favourites. Again, because I’m a photoblogger, this often means uploading a favourite image or two onto my blog; however, even more importantly, this means uploading my images to my Flickr account. For those who might not be familiar with Flickr, this online service allows you to upload and store images onto your own private account (for free; or, if you’d prefer, in a paid pro account which allows you to upload unlimited images per day). You can set your account to be public (so you c
an show all the folks back home what you’ve been up to), or private, so only you (or your family or friends) have access to the images. Some notes about Flickr:

a) Flickr allows you to tag your photos with various keywords, as well as group them into various “albums” — so you can place all of your vacation photos in a group called, “My Excellent New York Adventure, July 2009,” for example. The beauty of this is that when, 4 years from now, I’m looking for an image of the Statue of Liberty that I took, I can simply do a search on my Flickr photos of “Statue of Liberty,” and it will pull up the images I took in July 2009, complete with the date that I took the shot (which Flickr automatically stores from the information embedded in the photo by my camera). I can then go back into my “photography” folder on my hard drive, and go to exactly the specific date I took the shots.

b) On Flickr (and in general, anytime I upload an image onto the web), I only share low-resolution images. There are ways on Flickr to protect your images from being taken, but frankly, it’s not that hard to bypass them. So while I save my post precious photos offline (or make certain images private on Flickr), I also limit the amount of use a person can make of one of my images by keeping them relatively low-resolution.

And that, my friends, is about it. Once I get home, I really cull through the photographs, finding ones that perhaps I didn’t notice before, adding Photoshop finishing touches, and deciding which ones I want to print — and this is relatively easy to do, because I’ve already organized the shots by day, and pretty much know where everything is. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have yet to really nail how I archive my photos once I return home and put on these finishing touches — but over the next few weeks, I hope to hone my process, and share it with you in a later post. In the meantime, I’d love to hear any tips you might have as to how your organize your photographs while you’re traveling. 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.