Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Auguste Rodin

This is a sculpture-portrait of Auguste Rodin by Emile-Antoine Bourdelle (1910).

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Crescent Moon

Not the best picture, but can't you just imagine that little boy casting his fishing line?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Is that a squirrel?

Above is one of the pictures I took when we were at the top of Hoover tower (at 180mm; not even full zoom). Later that night I decided to play the "Can I read the license plate like they do on TV" game. Sadly, I could not, but I noticed something very interesting:

Look at the picture above... What is that in front of their passenger side front tire? Futhermore, why is the balding guy looking at it? ... and ... What is the passenger looking at?

My theory? A squirrel ran under the car. Either that, or maybe a dead tree branch. At first I thought it was someone's head, but I think we're safe there...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

What kind of heron is this?

The last few nights there has been a heron convention on the lawn behind our apartment. Specifically, a few nights ago, my wife counted nine spread around the lawn.

I stuck the camera on a tripod and took some photos (this one is through a chain link fence) but not too many came out because the light was so low I couldn't even focus very well manually. So, if anyone knows what kind this is, let me know. I feel like it isn't a great blue heron because they didn't seem very large.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Currently, the only photo exhibit on display at the Cantor Arts Center is:

The Physique Photography of Dave Martin

Without going into much detail, lets just say that it features well-muscled young men and their genitalia. Still, I checked it out, although it was a struggle to see the merit of the portraits beyond, the, you know. I'll be honest, I was a bit uneasy.

I got two really funny things out of the visit though. First, while I was in there, alone, with a camera (yeah, that had to look a little suspicious) I heard a young female voice in the hall say:
Mom! Don't go in there, that's the most disgusting room I've ever seen!
Well, of course, what do I see next but a middle-aged woman sticking her head around the corner and take a long look. I smiled at her, she smiled at me, and then she reluctantly followed her daughter.

Also interesting was the comment book that was left in the room. The idea was to leave comments for the curators of the museum (which probably gave them some real feedback about including an exhibit that had a warning on the door). One particular page jumped out, reproduced below.

The one in the center cracked me up most of all. "Very educational" and then signing it "Jenae/virgin"... why exactly is the /virgin necessary? Is it a badge of honor or a sign that she got a lot out of the visit?

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Thinker

This is one of the most famous Auguste Rodin sculptures (The Thinker), and in real life, it truly is massive.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


This is the detail around the base of an artifact at the Cantor Arts Center from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). I thought it made an interesting composition.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

More Bees...

I went out to the garden and tried to take some more pictures of bees. The pictures are better, but there are still a few things I'd like to improve, like a faster shutter speed so the wings (above) are frozen better. As it is, the suckers move fast and it is hard to catch them in flight.

Also, most of the images overexposed and had washed out highlights (as above) from sunlight on flowers with a dark background.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gay Liberation Part II

You may have noticed that pictures of people are pretty conspicuously absent from these entries. Part of that is for practical reasons: my wife doesn't want pictures of her or the kids posted on the internet (and I don't want to post my friends or their kids either without permission, for similar reasons). The other part of it is that I'm pretty shy about approaching strangers.

That is one advantage of sculptures -- you can experiment with shots that invade personal space without making anyone uncomfortable. I took a number of shots of Gay Liberation and got really close to the sculpture from many angles with my 50 mm lens. I'm hoping to get my nerve up and approach some strangers in the near future for portraits, but for now, sculpture is a good exercise.

Another thing I'd like to point out about the image above: the photo was of the woman on the left (in the overall image, see previous entry). This was her "good side", from almost every other angle I found her decidedly unattractive (I think the casting deformed her face somewhat).

And yes, I'm actually assessing the beauty of a face in a bronze statue.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Gay Liberation

Gay Liberation, 1980
by George Segal, USA, 1924-2000
Painted Bronze

One nice thing about Stanford is the wide range of art put in random places. Such as this sculpture near the west side of the main quad. When I originally saw it a few years ago (riding by on my bike) I assumed it was a student project made out of paper mache.

I revisited it about a week ago around dusk (and took these photos). It turns out it is actually painted bronze.

And only just now, as I posted these pictures, did I realize how the title related to the sculpture.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Stick

This was a stick I found near the cactus garden. I'm not sure why, but I really like the look of it, even though there really isn't anything to the picture.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Stone River

This is Stone River a sculpture outside of the Cantor Arts Center.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Hoover Tower At Dusk

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


It has been cold around here lately. Real cold. But, sadly, we've had no snow.

I found this ice out at the playground at 3 o'clock. It was in a shaded area and hadn't melted yet.

It rained last night though and I expect the overnight lows are going to get back to normal.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Morning Moon

I got this picture of the moon walking my son into school on Jan 8th. It was taken at the maximum 300mm zoom (equivalent to 480mm on a 35mm camera).

This is an enhanced 100% crop (pixel for pixel if you view the image by clicking on it). One of these nights (when it isn't frigid cold and the moon renews itself) I'll get a better picture using a tripod.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Dish (part II)

I interrupt your regularly scheduled flower and insect pictures for another picture of the dish.

This was taken with the 50mm f1.8 prime -- I can't really quantify it, but it really out performs the 17-35mm Tamron. Definitely something in the sharpness and color.

The funny thing about the cows on the other side of the fence: there's a gate (open) and no fence leading up to the dish. So, theoretically, if a cow could cross a metal bridge made of bars, they could walk the dish with us. Or, say, if a cow went nuts, some poor hiker could get mauled.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Friday, January 12, 2007

Sweat Bee

Found this little guy in the garden. I had a lot of shots of bees, but they didn't come out as well so I'm going to try to take some better ones.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

My Equipment

I thought that it might be a good idea to describe the equipment I use. For some reason many photographers get very attached to their equipment (maybe it's the time spent together) and I'm beginning to feel a bit of the same thing.

I spent a lot of time researching the best way to get a flexible system that would let me explore various types of photography while spending $700 or less (which happens to be the exact amount given to us to purchase the camera, thanks Mom and Dad!).

I settled on the Canon series because they seemed to be the most popular and we liked the Rebel XT vs the Nikon models. So, I purchased the following (all prices include taxes and shipping):

  • Refurbished Silver Rebel XT w/o Kit Lens (350D) from B&H Photo, $410
    • For some reason, the XT just appealed to me and I haven't been disappointed. At first it seemed small for my hands but I got used to it (although it does bite into me a bit when I have a large lens on it). The performance is way beyond our old Canon Powershot S110 and it has plenty of options to control exposure. I recommend getting a used version from B&H because it is well under Ebay and Craigslist prices.
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II new from, $75
    • Everyone says this is a necessary lens for the small-frame sensor in the XT and I can't disagree. The lens is startlingly sharp, takes pictures inside without flash, and is great for portraits. Portraits, in particular, is one of the reasons we got the new camera -- we should save a lot of money by not going to Sears anymore. The lens is also very light and small (but cheaply made). See January 3rd for a sample image.
  • Tamron 19-35mm f/3.5-4.5 used from eBay, $105
    • I wouldn't say I regret buying this lens, but if I got the chance to do it again, I might have bought the Canon 18-55mm kit lens instead. I bought this lens because of it's glowing reviews but I have yet to really see what sets this lens apart. Maybe it is just an unfair comparison with the 50mm prime. It has pretty good color and contrast (see this and this for examples) but is a touch soft and can be quirky. For slightly less the kit lens gives you a wider zoom range (even if it isn't quite as sharp). But, this is a full-frame lens (not EF-S) so at least I can use it if I upgrade or buy a film camera. It also feels quite solid and relatively well-made.
  • Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 LD Macro used from eBay, $90
    • This lens is my new baby. There are a lot of competing lenses out there, but the Tamron LD is super versatile yet half the price of the newer models. It has a long zoom range, fills in the focal lengths above the 50mm prime well, and even has a 1:2 macro mode. It is a soft lens, especially at 300mm, but with the equivalent focal range on the XT is 480mm which is a lot of fun to play with. It is also a very slow lens and it is useless to take photos inside or at dawn or dusk. Still though, the price is great for a solid lens that really opens up your options for experimenting with telephoto. The picture of the geranium at the top of this post was taken in macro mode.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Tuesday, January 9, 2007

A Solitary Tree

Monday, January 8, 2007

Sunday, January 7, 2007

View From the Dish

A view of Stanford from the dish area.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Dish

This is "The Dish", a large radio telescope in the Stanford foothills with walking paths around it.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Harry the Heron

This is Harry, a great blue heron which visits Escondido Village every year. Yesterday Harry landed on a roof and started making a lot of noise -- this is his ferocious face.

Actually, I don't know if it is always Harry (because sadly all herons look alike) but every spring herons appear all over EV. Last year it was a great thrill when a heron caught and ate a gopher right in front of many of our courtyard children.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Dohrmann Grove

I took this picture in Dohrmann Grove. I'm pretty happy about the fact that I was able to catch the sun filtering through the trees on camera.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

An Urban Legend

There is an urban legend that some graduate students have turned to bronze after their tenth year of study.

That's my theory at least (I only have two years to go).

Just kidding... This is one of the Rodin sculptures in Memorial Court.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Bicycle Crossing

One of the stranger signs you'll only see around Stanford.

Bicycle accidents are relatively common between classes -- one of these days I'll sit at one of the major intersections with my camera and see what happens.

Personally, I've been lucky so far. One day a squirrel tried to run across Serra Mall in front of me. To his credit he was fast, but not quite fast enough and I ran over his tail. He seemed fine though (as far as I could tell, he didn't stop to talk).

The only other accident I recall was about 100 yards further on Serra Mall where there is a fountain in front of Hoover Tower. It was a rainy day, and for whatever reason I was adjusting my rear mud guard as I was going around the fountain. Apparently I didn't turn enough, because when I looked up I was heading towards a nine-inch granite curb-of-death. I didn't have time to stop, so I kind of jumped off the bike, landing on the curb on my feet but with too much momentum to stop. I "ran" across the sidewalk and did a somersault in the grass, landing back on my feet (wet and laughing). Realistically, that was just about the best possible outcome for the given situation.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Welcome to Stanford Photo-a-Day!

Welcome to the Photo-a-Day blog based in and around Stanford University, CA.

Who am I? My name is Sean and I am an 8th(!) year graduate student at Stanford, married with two children, who has decided to pursue photography as a hobby.

What is Stanford Photo-a-Day (SPAD)? SPAD is something I've decided to put together as an experiment. Really it is just a blogged collection of my better pictures, many which relate to Stanford life. You'll see photos of buildings, people, and life in and around Stanford University with the goal of posting a new photo each day. Some days I might write for pages about one thing or another, some days you'll just get a photo.

Why am I doing it? Photography is my newest hobby in a line of many hobbies (which I pursue intently for a year or two until I get bored). Personally, I love seeing photos in Bloglines every morning, so I thought it would be a fun way to force myself to take, critique, and publish photos if I set this site up and attempted to post a new photo chosen from my favorites each day. It will also keep me consistently shooting pictures even after the initial thrill of our new camera has worn off.

Isn't this just going to be a bunch of pictures of your kids? Probably, if my wife hadn't made me promise to keep pictures of her and the kids off the internet. That's probably a good thing, because I'll need to work harder to find good pictures to post here (and to approach strangers to get portraits).

Are you really going to post a photo each day? Good question... I have no idea if I'll be able to keep it up. Turns out Blogger doesn't allow you to set a time to automatically publish posts, which I was really hoping for so I could queue up a bunch of days at a time and have them published each night at midnight. My goal is to post every day in 2007 -- realistically though, I might not make it that long..

Is it all going to be pictures of Stanford? No. Stanford has a lot to offer a photographer (beautiful gardens, architecture, wide range of people) but I'm not going to restrict myself to Stanford. If I go on a trip, you'll see some pics here.
Also, I generally have an eye for the strange, so I'd prefer to post pictures that the average visitor to Stanford won't see. Rest assured, all pictures will be something that I'm not ashamed to show to my parents or my kids.