Chris Gagné

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Headshots for Friends

I took headshots for two students in Chloë’s General Assembly UXDI 30 class and for a friend of my neighbor, Susanna.

First Chloë and I took photos for Stephanie. They spent several hours designing and creating the set, including the items taped to the wall and the contents of the desk (our dining room table).

I used my Canon 5D Mk II, a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM L Mk II, three mains-powered strobes, a Canon Speedlite, and various umbrellas and softboxes. I typically shoot at 50 ISO, 1/160, f/10: the low ISO means low noise, the 1/160 is within the flash’s firing window (if I shoot at 1/250 or higher, part of the image is black due to the shutter closing too soon), and my lens was measured to be sharpest at f/10 using Reikan’s FoCal software. However, we wanted a shallower depth of field for these images. No decrease in ISO or increase in shutter speed was available to compensate, so I added a circular polarizer filter to act as a neutral density filter of sorts. It worked well enough and I was able to shoot at f/4 or so.

These were shot with four lights: two mains-powered strobes with 2’x3′ softboxes lighting the background, a Canon 580EX behind a white 24″ umbrella acting as the optical trigger and hair light, and a big beautiful umbrella/softbox hybrid on a mains-powered strobe for the key light. I love that light because it is big and soft enough to use as the only front-illuminating light on the model. (The only other light on the model is a hair light.)

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I’m told that my Macro 100mm f/2.8 IS USM L is supposedly a sharper piece of glass. I don’t use it for portraits, however, as I find the focusing too slow and prefer focal lengths close to 135mm. Oh, also there’s something oddly satisfying about hefting a piece of glass that big… it is a favorite of paparazzi everywhere for a reason!

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Here’s Charlene, Chloë’s other talented protege.

Charlene was interested in a dramatic, high-fashion, relatively low-key shot. She was also interested in a 3/4 body shot rather than just a headshot, which meant that my usual trick of using my projection screen as a backdrop wasn’t going to work. I brought out the stands and started with black fabric. Charlene returned with a black top which I thought would be challenging, but the lighting worked. We used two hair lights: the Canon Speedlite behind a 24″ umbrella and a mains-powered strobe with a standard reflector dish. The left side of her face was illuminated with the 60″ umbrella, while the right was illuminated with a 2’x3′ softbox. DXO OpticsPro 11 software was used to process the RAW images into 16-bit TIFFs. These were brought into Photoshop to use with Google Nik Collection plugin “Color Efex Pro 4” software, where subtle skin softening and occasionally a Skylight filter for any needed warmth. I save the edits back to the TIFFs, create high-quality JPEGs, and give everything to my model on a DVD or thumb drive. I don’t charge anything.

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Here’s Susana’s friend Vanessa, who was most interested in a headshot. Same lighting and workflow as Charlene. I like how her scarf provides the form of her figure in the second photo as her dress was extremely dark.

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Headshots for Jackie and Catherine

I took photos of my friends Jackie and Catharine. Feedback always welcome!

Equipment:

  • Canon 5D Mk II with Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS Mk II USM @ 140-150mm
  • Strobe with 60″ octobox umbrella as key light
  • Canon 580EX Mk II through white umbrella as hair light
  • 150″ white projector screen as backdrop
  • A pair of strobes with dishes to light the backdrop (when white)

I did a little bit of very light post processing in Photoshop using Google’s Nik Collection.

Jackie

Jackie3 Jackie1 Jackie2

Catharine

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Why and How to Start a Meditation Club at Work

Why should I meditate?

Wikipedia describes mindfulness as “Bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis.” It is primarily acquired by developing skills in meditation. Early benefits can be seen within just a few weeks of daily practice lasting 10-20 minutes per session. Carrying an intention to be equally mindful through all of one’s daily activities—such as walking, eating, listening, exercising—not only makes our mindfulness stronger, but also enhances our lives in a myriad of ways.

Mindfulness has and continues to transform my life. I find more joy in each moment and my lows are shallower. I am more aware of my mental, emotional, and physical state, which gives me more opportunity to improve it. In a work setting, I am less identified with stressors and can act more reasonably and rationally during crises or conflicts. I am a better listener than I used to be, especially in terms of picking up on the subtle verbal and physical cues that enable me to better understand the person I am in dialog with.

Meditation is a thousands-year-old practice. It is as diverse as the term “sport,” with many different styles to choose from. Though it is often associated with eastern philosophies and religion, in most cases there is absolutely no question of conversion and it is compatible with virtually all religious backgrounds, including not having a background at all.

Therefore, given that mindfulness has so many significant benefits and can be taught without treading on grounds traditionally served by religion, I recommend it to anyone who wishes to find greater joy, love, and satisfaction in their life.

So why should we practice at work? How do we start a meditation club? Read on for more.

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On Doing Versus Being Agile

Are you doing Agile, or have you become Agile?

The difference seems pedantic at first…

You are doing Agile when you’ve changed your tools and processes. This is relatively easy to do but doesn’t offer much in the way of benefits. You’ve become Agile when you’ve changed you structure and culture too. This is relatively hard to do, but offers significant benefits.

Agile isn’t just a process. It’s a complete framework that brings together a shift in culturestructure, and processes. This framework is supported by tools such as Rally and other Agile Lifecycle Management (ALM) tools.

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A Sound-Sensitive Disco Suit: The Concept / Part 1

Between 1999 and 2001, I used to “video-jockey” (or “VJ”) at some of Los Angeles hottest night clubs. I carried two Mac laptops, a video mixer, a small LCD screen, and a pair of rudimentary “VR goggles” inside of a modified electric guitar case. Almost every Saturday night, I was paid $150 to geek out and hang out for four hours at a night club.

One of the things unique to the visuals I produced was that they were both interesting and very sound-reactive. Unlike traditional VJs who would simply play various video clips one after another, these graphics were very much alive with the music. Unlike “music visualizers” (like those still available in iTunes), the graphics were more interesting to look at over a longer period of time.

When the price of “smart” RGB LEDs began to drop, I began to think of how I could put together a full-body suit covered in dozens if not hundreds of sound-reactive LEDs. I’ve saw similar ideas on the Playa in 2011 and 2012, but they all suffered from a few flaws:

  • Too loose of a fit: more of a “cape” or “coat” rather than a form-fitting “suit” that permitted dancing
  • The patterns or implementations were boring, such as sewn-on light strips playing the same animation over and over
  • Lack of music sensitivity

Several factors made 2014 a great year for the project:

  • Newer “WS2811” LEDs had finally become cost-effective in the necessary quantities.
  • Micha Scott‘s fadecandy board made controlling those LEDs with a variety of hardware—from Macs to Raspberry Pis—an order of magnitude easier.
  • “USB batteries” had become high-quality and inexpensive.
  • The Raspberry Pi was fast enough to power the art.
  • Beta Brand’s Disco Jumpsuit was available for pre-order.

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SF Agile Potluck #13: Agile in a Mobile World

For our October 28th Agile Potluck, we’ll discuss Agile in a mobile world.  Is Agile/Scrum right for mobile? What’s different from traditional web-based application development?

Come join us for a rousing discussion over great food! The potluck is from 7:00pm to 10:30pm at my home in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. I hope you can make it!

 

A few more headshots

I’m really enjoying learning how to shoot portraits. A number of my friends have been willing subjects who are helping me tune my craft. Any constructive feedback is always appreciated.

These were shot against a white projection screen with a Canon 5D MkII, a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at ~105-150mm, a 60″ Photek Softlighter II Umbrella as the key light, a Speedlite and umbrella as the hair light, and a couple of softboxes lighting the backdrop. I used “Google’s” Nik Collection to do editing and pre- and post-sharpening. In particular, I found Viveza’s “control points” very successful in reducing the “structure” of David’s shirt to help hide some of the wrinkles. The 70-200 is quite sharp at f/8 (made even more so by Reikan’s FoCal software), but I found the sharpening offered by the Nik Collection to be very helpful.

David Fritschdavid

Naureen Nayyar

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Paul Moreno

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ExpressCard stuck in MacBook Pro (Late 2011)

I got an ExpressCard stuck in my MacBook Pro, Late 2011 model. There wasn’t anything accessible from the outside that would give me purchase with a pair of needle nose pliers.

I solved this problem by removing the screws on the bottom of my MacBook, then gently pushing the card out 1/4″ with a bent paperclip as shown in the photo above. Then it was a simple matter of pulling it out with my fingers. Simple!

Your mileage may vary and if you do this, you do so at your own risk. 🙂

Pro-tip: if the card takes more than light finger pressure going in, it’s going to take more than light finger pressure getting it out…

Lexar Professional ExpressCard Compact Flash Reader Driver for MacOS 10.10 and 10.11

I have a Lexar Professional ExpressCard Compact Flash Reader, model number LRWEXPP-7000.

Lexar’s latest drivers do not work for MacOS 10.10 and 10.11 because they way they must be installed has changed.

However, Andrew Jung, a reviewer on Amazon, left a very helpful tip on the product’s page a few days ago. Read on for a possible solution.

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Some headshots

I did a photoshoot with my good friend Genevieve Kayat a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a couple of shots we came up with:

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These were shot with a Canon 5D Mk II, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, two basic strobes with ~2′ x 3′ softboxes, and a third strobe as a hair light. I shot at 50 IS0, 1/125, f/9. I had black muslin cloth in the background, but I almost didn’t need it as the lights from the strobes fell off very quickly (inverse-square law).

I did post-processing using Photoshop and Google’s Nik Collection, starting with the Raw Presharpener (Sharpener Pro 3), noise reduction (Dfine 2), darkening/”destructuring” the dress and right shoulder in the B&W portrait using Viveza 2, B&W conversion (Silver Efex Pro 2), and finally a last pass at output sharpening (Sharpener Pro 3).

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