Biding My Time

The week of New Year’s I spent with my family near Cancun. It was relaxing, refreshing, and beautiful.
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Here are some pictures, mostly of my family, Mayan ruins, and the resort at which we were staying. The Mega bar was a major obsession; my sister and I probably had about 10 each while down there. My favorite picture is the beach shot after the crocodiles; it actually took me some time to set that one up. I’m still pretty woeful at taking good pictures, though. Hopefully I’ll continue to improve with time.

In addition to lounging around, playing beach soccer and volleyball, and swimming, I did a lot of reading: America: The Book (good but not outstanding), Word Freak (about professional scrabble players; fun), Cyrano de Bergerac (awesome), a collection of short stories by the Russian author Gogol, and now I’m halfway through A Confederacy of Dunces, which I’m enjoying but doesn’t seem quite as good as all the insane reviews make it out to be. The Gogol stories were sometimes frustrating and sometimes hilarious. My favorite story was “How Ivan Ivanovich Quarrelled with Ivan Nikiforovich”. Anyway, the stories struck me as ones that my high school friend Peter Yacavone would love (although he’s actually probably already read them). I wanted to email him about them, but we’ve been out of touch for a couple of years (so his college email address is dead), and he’s not on any of the social networks. I can’t believe that I can’t find him in this day and age! Any ideas?


I’m still wrestling with the earthquake and subsequent tsunamis. I’m not sure what to write about it, so perhaps I won’t — certainly some experiences are best kept private, especially by an unskilled writer like myself. If you haven’t donated yet, you might want to consider it. In fact, Maya sent me an astoundingly well-timed music video that illustrates this point: go here, and click on “World on Fire”. It’s definitely one of the best videos I’ve ever seen, and I promise it’s worth your time to watch it. (Of course, it was made well before the earthquake.)

Kind of puts things in perspective, huh?

[Edit: Or watch the video in QuickTime here:]

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10 Responses to Biding My Time

  1. ccho says:

    The photos are decent for a p&s, though the incredible landscape/sky helps quite a bit. I wouldn’t be wasting money by printing 8x10s of some of them.

    Though I don’t claim to be a great photographer myself, here are some of my photo tips:

    -Try not to shoot towards the sun so much because you’ll get a lot of lens flare, which reduces the contrast and can screw up the exposure.

    -Try using some flash fill when the subjects are close but the background is much brighter than them.

    -Don’t shoot everything so straight, or be afraid of cutting something out of the frame.

    -Use the rule of thirds (think of the golden ratio) for foreground-background.

    -Take more photos and post-process them. Play with levels/curves, saturation, masks, burn/dodge, highlight/shadow (if you have Photoshop CS), etc.

    -When taking photos of multiple people at various distances from the camera, try using maximum optical zoom and moving back physically to fit them in the frame. I think you’ll figure out why this is often a good technique to use.

    Initially, I was pretty shocked that the Korean government was only offering $600,000 in aid. They increased the amount to $1.4 million the next day. I was going to write about it in my blog last year, but then I came across this editorial:

    I guess S. Korea saves all its money to give to N. Korea.

    • aj says:

      Hey, thanks for the tips.

      Yeah, I definitely don’t have much control over my camera’s settings (it has a ton of manual settings), or even a good idea of how to control the flash. (When to use it, etc.) Also I really need a tripod!

      What do you mean about the rule of thirds?

      I really should take more pictures…

      • ccho says:

        rule of thirds

        Applied to photography, it is a general rule to make the photo more pleasing to the eye. In landscapes, usually you put the foreground in two-thirds of the image and a clearly separated background (such as the sky) in the last third of the frame. Some people do it in reverse, only to accentuate the features of the sky. I did a quick search and found this article:

        You don’t need that much control over a p&s camera in my opinion, but you should at least figure out exposure.

        Figure out what type of metering system your camera uses under the automatic mode so that you don’t under or over-expose any of the important segments of your shots. I don’t know what camera you are using so I’m not sure what metering modes it offers, but in general there are three types: spot/partial, center-weighted, and matrix/multi-zone. Doing a search on these terms, I came up with another resource that might help you understand the differences between the modes:

        From this, you can work on using Manual mode when required to figure out the correct exposure.

        Fill flash is basically using your flash to highlight the subject when there isn’t enough direct light available. It often gives the “fake background” look you see in some movies but is far better than underexposing your subject. Some p&s cameras have a fill flash mode, which is essentially setting the flash to underexpose (fire weaker than it would normally).

  2. awu says:

    helados = oishii

  3. is that the peter yacavone who went to brown?

    if it is, i can look him up for you in the alumni directory, though the website seems to be disfunctional at the moment.

    • aj says:

      Re: is that the peter yacavone who went to brown?

      Amazingly, yes. Did you know him? I didn’t even think about that…

  4. Anonymous says:

    people, watch the sarah mchlachlan video- it’s worth it!!

    -maya (aj’s little sister)

  5. rwclark says:

    World on Fire

    “We’re sorry, but you must use Netscape 4.7x to use this application on a Macintosh. Download NOW.

    Please use the following error code when writing to Yahoo! Help. (Error Code: 4)”

    Netscape 4.7x? That program isn’t compatible with Mac OS X. And spoofing the User Agent doesn’t seem to work either. Maybe I’ll try watching it with Virtual PC sometime. Isn’t the point of the world wide web to be cross-platform? Sheesh.