Roving Thoughts archives


How long an exposure can my camera meter?

A friend and I were talking about long exposure photography today, which brought up the issue of determining how long an exposure you needed. Like most DSLRs, my Nikon D90 will only automatically expose out to 30 seconds; if you need a longer exposure than that, you have to time it by hand in Bulb mode.

(In my opinion this is a pointless limitation, probably reflexively carried forward from the days when there was only so much space on a physical shutter speed dial. Since cameras are computers these days, you could even limit automatic exposures to no more than 30 seconds while still letting the camera count the time for longer manual exposures.)

But that's just how long an automatic exposure the camera will do, not the limit of what it will meter for you. If the exposure is at the 30 second limit and the viewfinder is still reading 1 EV of underexposure, you can fix that with an exposure that has 1 EV more time, ie a 60 second bulb exposure. So how long an exposure can I actually meter with my camera?

  • in my normal settings, the viewfinder will show up to 2 EV of underexposure. If I change the camera to use 1/2 EV steps for exposure compensation instead of 1/3 EV steps, this increases to 3 EV of underexposure.

  • I can extend the range of the viewfinder meter by adding negative exposure compensation (a 1 EV underexposure with -1 EV of exposure compensation will read as a correct 0 EV exposure). My camera allows up to +/-5 EV of exposure compensation, pushing metering to an effective 8 EV of underexposure.

    (The allowed range of exposure compensation doesn't changed based on the step size used.)

Since every EV is a doubling of the exposure time, 8 EV of exposure past 30 seconds is 128 minutes; call it a two hour exposure. If this isn't enough, I can start pulling the viewfinder meter back by metering with a high ISO but actually photographing with a low ISO. My camera has a base ISO of 200 and is easily raised to ISO 3200, giving me another 4 EV of metering range (a total of 12 EV); that takes me to an exposure duration of over 30 hours.

So the real answer here is that my camera battery is going to die long before I get to an exposure that I can't meter. (Probably the sensor would overheat from continuous use, too.)

(In theory the D90's meter is only specified to work down to -1 LV. In practice this isn't even moonlight and I've metered without problems in much darker conditions.)

PS: since I'm unlikely to sit still for a one hour exposure, much less a two hour one, I don't even need to change the exposure compensation step size. My normal settings still give me 7 EV of exposure past 30 seconds, which is already just over an hour. Mind you, using 1/2 EV steps makes the eventual time calculations somewhat easier.

photography/HowLongMetering written at 21:23:03; Add Comment


Swallowing a whopper: Giant Robo and the Tragedy of Bashtarle

I tweeted:

The only way I can swallow Giant Robo's Tragedy of Bashtarle is to believe that Daisaku had the most sheltered childhood ever.

This is the kind of thing that only fits in 140 characters if you already know what I'm talking about. So, a blog entry. There are spoilers for the second episode of Giant Robo.

In the first one and a half episodes of Giant Robo, the Tragedy of Bashtarle is presented as a big mystery. Daisaku, our 12 year old protagonist, has never heard of it and has no idea what it is, while both Big Fire and the adult Experts of Justice seem all too familiar with it; mention the Tragedy and everyone shuts up and looks sad. We learn various bits about it over the first episode, such as that it happened ten years ago, that it's allegedly been scrubbed from the history books, and finally that it was some epic Shizuma Drive related disaster involving one of the scientists who invented it going too far. So far, so good; this is all believable and builds tension.

Then partway through the second episode we find out the details. To wit, that the Tragedy of Bashtarle not only destroyed an entire country (the eponymous Bashtarle) and killed one of the five scientists who shared a Nobel prize for inventing the Shizuma Drive, but its seven days of aftereffects also killed 2/3rds of humanity. All of this happened only ten years ago.

Daisaku was two years old then, and he grew up in the Tragedy's immediate aftermath (and he's interested in and knowledgeable about the Shizuma Drive). Yet somehow he has never heard of the Tragedy, not just by name but at all. The massive death toll (and disruption of life) had so little effect on his childhood that he could be completely oblivious to it. Hence why I say that Daisaku has to have had the most sheltered childhood ever in order to make his (and the audience's) lack of knowledge even vaguely plausible.

(Yeah, yeah, Giant Robo isn't the kind of anime where you're supposed to think like that.)

(This has come up now because I'm (re)watching Giant Robo as the first show in my vague 'watch some classic anime' plans for this year.)

PS: the Tragedy of Bashtarle demonstrates that Giant Robo's setting is a lot nicer than the real world (or was, before the tragedy's effects hit). In this world, I'm pretty sure that losing all electricity, machinery, and vehicles for seven days wouldn't come anywhere near that sort of death figures because a significant portion of humanity isn't well enough off to depend on those things in the first place.

anime/GiantRoboBashtarle written at 00:19:27; Add Comment


The best N anime that I saw in 2011

This is much like last year's best N: what I consider to be the best or most enjoyable N anime that I saw in calendar 2011 (regardless of when they were released). It is in order for at least the first few entries, but after that things start getting fuzzy.

  • Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars: This is as good as people say it is. Despite strong competition, it's the best thing that I saw this year and I'm very happy to have gotten around to it.

    (Of course, this now makes me think about other excellent classic shows that I may have unjustly skipped over. This year may be the year for watching a bunch of them.)

  • Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica: I accept that Madoka is not without flaws and I've read a number of criticisms of it that I agree with. Despite all of that I think it's undeniably a very strong show; it had a powerful story and it told it very well. It was both ambitious and successful. (And other people have already written lots on it with far higher coherence than I'll manage.)

    Some people will not find the story attractive, and I sympathize with them; it's an unpleasant, brutal story. Why do I find it good anyways? Because it's also a powerful story, an affecting one. It never left me unmoved; it engaged me. And it also contained beauty and hope.

  • UN-GO: I've already written a bunch of words about the show, so here I'll just say that I find it an excellent grown-up show that is not afraid to be subtle and smart. It is very much a sea change from pretty much everything else I saw this year. This is anime for adults; most everything else was either anime for teens (at best) or anime for otaku.

    In some ways I think this is a better show than Madoka, although it's hard to compare them directly. Madoka is a more powerful show, but it is powerful in a direct and straightforward way; UN-GO is subtle and quiet. Madoka ends with an answer, UN-GO ends with a question.

    (I feel that Madoka is anime for otaku, but justifying that would take an entire entry of its own. Note that I don't consider 'anime for otaku' to be an intrinsically bad thing.)

Shows that I consider 'below the fold', good but probably not memorable over the long term:

  • Ao no Exorcist: This is not as good a shounen fighting series as Soul Eater, but that's a very high bar. Soul Eater is about perfect; Ao no Exorcist is merely quite good. Provided, of course, that you like well done shonen fighting anime. I understand that it outran the manga and made up its own ending, which may bother manga purists but doesn't bother me because I found the ending perfectly satisfactory.

    (Well done shonen fighting shows eschew various cliches that make not so well done shows drag out, like endless training sequences or long-running fights.)

  • Ben-To: To supplement my note about it, I think that this is in many ways the platonic version of the modern goofy shonen fighting show (as opposed to a serious one, which is what Ao no Exorcist is).

    (For another take on Ben-To, see Akirascuro.)

  • REDLINE: This is the most stylish piece of anime that I watched all year; the creators went all out on that aspect of it, deliberately taking a lot of cues from Western comics and cartoons. Unfortunately they neglected everything else, with the result that both the characters and the plot were alternately pedestrian or over the top and the entire assemblage is ultimately a bit absurd, incoherent, and simplistic.

    But man, the style. REDLINE exudes style right from the start.

    (As kind of a photography geek, it cracked me up that in the future a tourist is wandering around with what looks like a twin lens reflex film camera that's long since obsolete even today. Be careful, that thing's a valuable antique. Of course this is part of the deliberate style of REDLINE; a modern digital camera wouldn't be right.)

  • Star Driver: In the end I would have to call this an impressionistic show; it was never fully concerned with things except at an emotional level. So we got emotional explanations and emotional conclusions, but not so much straightforward plot-based ones. In hindsight I think that this lack of solidity cost it some impact, which is part of why it's wound up below the fold.

    (Although it started in fall 2010, it concluded this calendar year.)

  • Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko: At this distance, I don't think that this was as powerful as I thought it was at the time (and in hindsight the early episodes were more interesting than later ones), but it's still a pretty good show with some great characters and dialog.

  • Dantalion no Shoka: The individual stories and story arcs were nice, but in the end there was nothing more substantial present. Anthologies are pleasant but generally not memorable.

Neither Shana III nor Fate/Zero make this listing for various reasons. Possibly I am feeling grumpy about flaws in both of them right now.

At this point I can't fairly evaluate the Kyousogiga OVA because I've only seen it in a bad, low-resolution version. What I saw suggests that a watchable version of it may be quite good, if very kinetic and fast paced.

Honorable mentions for things that I found enjoyable fun (since this year was somewhat short on it and long on blood and grim):

  • Dog Days: This is mostly old fashioned light-hearted fun, assuming that you can stand goofy fantasy settings with anime's usual occasional interjection of seriousness. For me the nicest bit of it was a hero who doesn't mind getting pulled into another world by surprise. It doesn't have any real villains, but that's not the sort of show that it is.

    I think that it has two drawbacks; a certain amount of fanservice and a truly excessive amount of coincidences in the last episode in order to engineer a happy ending.

    I would happily watch a second season.

    PS: I agree with Author and Beta-Waffle; Eclair is clearly the best character.

  • Kore wa Zombie desu ka: To enjoy this you need to like a certain degree of over the top absurdism, but if you do this keeps topping itself. It also has a reasonably good story and a bunch of interesting characters (even if they're simultaneously over the top). Note that it has a certain amount of gore.

    (Really, I'm serious about the over the top characters. It has an entire clan of vampire ninjas, or maybe they're ninja vampires.)

  • Infinite Stratos: To summarize what I wrote, IS is a more or less average old fashioned harem action/comedy show with relatively minimal fanservice. This means that it's an old style (no grimness really allowed) joyful and light action series (to borrow Author's phrasing).

    (I pretty much agree with SDB's criticisms of IS, but I liked the battles enough to watch it when it was airing.)

  • Sacred Seven gets a reluctant honorable mention; reluctant not because it's not fun (it is, and it features a couple of great minor characters), but because it's kind of stupid. There's a line between fun and overly lightweight and I think that SS is over it. You mostly have to watch it for the silly crazy things happening.

    (It also features the apparently near-obligatory presence of some dark, bloody stuff in the backstory, eventually helpfully shown to us in flashback.)

    But its first OP was great (both the music and the goofy animation), and as Beta-Waffle says, Arma riding his tiny scooter was never not hilarious. No one can come across as a dangerous tough guy on such a thing.

In total I completed 30 series, OVAs, and movies this year (and watched some amount of a number of other things).

anime/BestNIn2011 written at 22:29:22; Add Comment

In praise of UN-GO

Describing what makes UN-GO special is hard, but I'm going to take a shot at it anyways to add to my two brief earlier attempts.

On the surface, UN-GO is a show about a detective solving mysteries with the help of his magical assistant. There are many ways that this could go wrong, but UN-GO avoids them all; it does essentially everything right. In the process the show is not so much about the mysteries as about everything that is going on around them, about the characters and the overall situation and the background. The recurring characters and the ongoing situation are both interesting enough to support this. Everything is interesting and multifaceted, and the show is not afraid to use a light, indirect touch to illuminate things. Above all, I felt that the show was plain smart; it was intelligently written and presented intelligent, multifaceted situations.

(One disclaimer: this is not a puzzle show. The mysteries are not necessarily intricately constructed and while the show does often foreshadow the solution, it doesn't always give the audience enough clues for us to come up with all of the answers ahead of time.)

Part of the pleasure of UN-GO is that it is not direct in the same way that many other shows are. For example, there are some unpleasant and creepy people in UN-GO but the show is by and large devoid of the stereotypical ways of showing this; instead it lets these people talk (and has some of their actions come to light) and then leaves us to draw our own conclusions about them. I've read a description that calls it a mature show, and I agree with the label; it's a low key, grown up show for adults that's appealing in a more subtle way than the usual anime fare.

To repeat myself: note that UN-GO is not necessarily a show to watch if you want to see actual justice happen. The setting has a quietly totalitarian government that is a strong believer in 'realpolitik' and quite often the government covers up the actual crimes with politically expedient false explanations and thus lets the real perpetrators go. This isn't presented as a good thing but at the same time the whole system doesn't wind up going down in flames; any successes that the protagonist scores against the system are limited.

(Also, as mentioned the show contains some supernatural elements.)

After seeing the ending of the show, I'm now not certain that I want a second season. The show ends at a very good point but it is a pivot point; a good second season to have to be very different than the first season.

(Explaining this requires both semi-spoilers and a separate entry.)

On a side note I feel that UN-GO exactly the sort of unusual but very good show that justifies noitaminA. It's not commercial in the conventional sense and I suspect that it wouldn't have been made but for the existence of the noitaminA block.

Liked: very much. I feel that this is an excellent show.
Rewatch: possibly (I'm not strong on rewatches, but this is a good candidate to get more from on a second viewing).

Other reviews or commentary: chaostangent, The Cart Driver, GAR GAR Stegosaurus, metanorn. Reviews may contain spoilers.

anime/UNGOPraise written at 21:58:53; Add Comment


The importance of watching your exposure

One of the things I've learned over the time that I've been doing photography is the importance of watching my exposure. Not in the usual sense of noticing when the camera is putting you at a too low or absurdly high shutter speed (or ISO, or aperture), although that's important too. What I mean is watching your exposure from shot to shot.

Modern cameras in matrix or evaluative metering can and do change how they decide to expose a scene depending on just how it looks to them, regardless of whether or not the actual light has changed. Or in other words, if you change your composition the camera can change to a bad exposure. If your first photograph of a mixed scene with the clear sky visible has the sky correctly exposed at 1/200th at f/11 at ISO 200, you then recompose to show more of the shadowed ground, and the camera suddenly wants to be at 1/100th at f/8 at ISO 200, you are probably going to completely blow out the sky if you just automatically click the shutter.

(As they say, I've been there and done that.)

The same thing is true in more extended circumstances. If you're strolling along a path in a park taking pictures of different things, your exposure often should be fairly constant regardless of how much of the sky or sunlit ground is visible in each photograph. And if the camera's metering seems very off, you probably have a choice you need to make; you can let the camera more or less expose for the darker areas you're looking at (and accept that the bright areas may well blow out), expose for the sky or other bright area and live with the darker areas (possibly doing tricks in postprocessing), or add fill flash or the like. Or decide that there's too much contrast in the picture and you can't get a decent version of what your eyes are seeing.

This is why I say you want to watch your shot to shot exposure; you want to realize that the 1/100th at f/8 at ISO 200 exposure has to be wrong before you click the shutter. Even if you routinely check your histograms after taking a photograph, getting a good exposure to start with will save you the aggravation of immediately re-taking a shot (and trying to narrow in on the right exposure).

(Some people will say that the answer is clearly to use manual mode and maybe center-weighted or spot metering. Both are too much work for me and tend to blow up in my face in their own ways; in practice it's easier for me to watch shot to shot exposure and correct the metering with exposure compensation when necessary.)

photography/WatchYourExposure written at 13:11:18; Add Comment


Brief impressions of the shows of the Winter 2012 season

As before, here are my early impressions of another season's worth of shows. These are in the order I watched the shows (which is not necessarily the order they aired in).

Shows I've seen:

  • Senki Zesshou Symphogear: Without the opening segment, this would be your typical modern action show with the typical modern amount of 'seriousness' (by which we mean people dying). It doesn't have the best production values (to the extent that I, generally oblivious to such things, noticed) and it's not particularly novel, but I could watch it for the mindless entertainment value.

    With the opening segment, it appears that this is the story of how our lead protagonist winds up heroically dead. I'm not sure this is something I'm going to find at all attractive.

  • Moretsu Uchuu Kaizoku (aka Bodacious Space Pirates): This has great promise of being a straightforward fun action show. As I put it on Twitter, the only flaw of the first episode was that it wasn't longer, and that's not a bad flaw to have. I like how the show doesn't feel like it needs to spell things out for us (at least so far) but will just give us hints and let us work the rest out for ourselves.

    I admit that the series wins bonus points for featuring a bunch of competent female characters, including the lead protagonist (who is apparently a good pilot).

  • Nisemonogatari: I can't possibly be unbiased about this because I really liked Bakemonogatari, but I found the first episode far less fascinating than the first episode of Bakemonogatari. And a fair bit of it wasn't an animated show; it was a bunch of talking with some backgrounds to add flavour.

    (Possibly I am not a fan of what Araragi was doing with Mayoi. Also, I didn't find the Araragi & Mayoi dialog as fascinating and well done as a number of other commentators seem to.)

  • Brave 10: This isn't anything that we haven't seen before but it looks like a decently well done version of what it is and thus something that will be easy to watch for entertainment (at least for me, since I generally like action shows).

    I do have to say that the lead female character has truly absurd sleeves in that outfit of hers.

  • Rinne no Lagrange: So far, this is a competently done and basically cheerful action show about girls and giant robots. While I am not exactly a fan of giant robots, it's inoffensive and interesting enough that I plan on continuing to watch it.

    Or to put it another way, this is sort of what Guilty Crown should have been. It's a little less prettily animated and a little less smart in some ways, but it's a whole lot more intelligent in other ways; the first episode has basically no one doing bizarre and stupid things, whereas Guilty Crown (for all that it was prettier) had a bunch.

    However there is one cautionary note I'll sound: so far, all of the opponents are (or look like) pretty boys. With a bunch of pretty boys on one side and a teenaged girl on the other side, the creators could decide to take this in the obvious romance direction. I'm pretty sure that if they try this they will fail utterly to be interesting, at least to me.

    (An action show that turns into a reverse harem would be unusual but not necessarily unprecedented.)

  • Another: I mostly watched this to see if there was anything there besides horror. After one episode the answer seems to be 'no', so I doubt I'll be watching more than an episode or two more (if that). Horror is not my genre and I basically have no opinions on its quality level as a result.

  • Aquarion EVOL: As someone who saw the original Aquarion, EVOL leaves me feeling not so much manipulated as beaten over the head. I would have appreciated somewhat more subtlety.

    (But then, EVOL doesn't seem to believe in subtlety in general.)

    Apart from that, so far this is a reasonably well animated and not particularly bad giant robot show. I'm not sure that it has anything particularly interesting or intriguing to lift it above the average; if I was coming to it cold, I probably wouldn't consider it worth a second glance for anything apart from the odd background.

  • Kill Me Baby: Intellectually, this is funny and has decent jokes. But emotionally and practically I failed to even crack a smile. I could appreciate that all sorts of bits were funny and admire their construction, but none of them actually moved me. Watching one episode of this did not feel like a waste of my time; watching any more would be.

    (I liked the opening sequence and Sonya's voice.)

  • High Scholl DxD: Oh god, the fanservice. Rather than being pervasive, it's stunningly excessive; it's less fanservice and more an NC-17 rating. Maybe R. This is one of the shows that I'd much rather watch in a censored version (even if the censoring is blinding beams of light instead of, say, clothes).

    (Either I failed to pay attention to commentaries about the level of fanservice in this or I discounted them. You shouldn't.)

    I wish this didn't have the fanservice that it does, because otherwise it might be the start of the kind of supernatural action show that I often like. It could also be the start of a boring and annoying harem show, of course, since I have no idea how much action is coming up in future episodes. Cynicism also suggests that so much fanservice means that the rest of the show won't be very good. So far it just looks relatively generic, but there's only so much you can tell from a first episode in a show like this.

    (The non-fanservice parts of the first episode were at least not horrible, unlike say Freezing (cf).)

  • Ano Natsu de Matteru: This may surprise some people, but I've actually seen and enjoyed the first two Onegai series. This show seems like a reasonably worthwhile successor in the same genre and is interesting enough that I'll probably continue watching out of some combination of attraction and nostalgia. I don't generally like slice of life romance shows, but spritzing some science fiction on top is apparently enough to change that.

    (I saw the first two Onegai series back in the days of anime clubs here; those days exposed me to a lot of things that I might not have watched on my own.)

  • Inu x Boku SS: Surprisingly, I like this for the moment (although it could bore me rapidly). The characters are kind of excessive in an interesting way and the setting has enough supernatural stuff to defeat my lack of interest in ordinary life settings.

    My continued interest in this will probably be strongly dependent on how much the supernatural continues to matter in the show (the more the better).

I expect to watch Moretsu Pirates and Nisemonogatari without hesitation, Rinne no Lagrange as long as it avoids bad romance or falling into being stupid, Brave 10 unless it becomes too boring, Aquarion EVOL for old time's sake until it becomes too annoying, and maybe Symphogear depending on how much they bang on the 'doomed protagonist' drum in future episodes (the more they ignore it the better). AnoNatsu I will probably watch all the way through for a change of pace.

Not watched for various reasons:

  • Natsume Yuujinchou Shi: Since I haven't finished the previous season of Natsume Yuujinchou yet I think it's time for me to reluctantly concede that this is not as attractive as I once found it and bow out, at least for now. I may watch it later, but it's not going to really count as part of a season then.

  • Daily Lives of High School Boys (aka Danshiko): I am just about absolutely confident that no matter how funny this is, it is not the kind of humour that I will enjoy or appreciate in the slightest and in fact I'll have violent adverse reactions to. In short, you could not get me to watch this with a team of wild horses.

  • Milky Holmes: I only watched one episode of the first season. Mind you, I'm not certain that that's any obstacle to picking this up, but it does give me an excuse. (As you can see, humour is very hit or miss for me and mostly it misses.)

By the way, I'm with Aroduc about how odd it feels to have the season start in just a week. This is the first time I've done season impressions where I've only watched a single episode of everything; usually by the time the last show trickles in and I get around to it, I've already watched the second or third episodes of some of the early ones.

anime/Winter2012Brief written at 13:04:20; Add Comment


The one bad moment in Sora no Woto

About a year ago I wrote that Sora no Woto had one moment that made me unable to unreservedly recommend it. I've kind of owed my readers (or at least Author) an explanation of that moment ever since then, so here it is. This is a spoiler in that knowing this may detract from your enjoyment of the series, which is a pity because it's (otherwise) an excellent series, full of the kind of things that I like.

The one bad moment comes at the end of episode 8 (here is a brief full summary of the episode). In the episode, the garrison is expecting an important call that has to be answered and Kanata (the main protagonist) volunteers to watch the phone. After drinking refreshments with visitors, she's stuck alone and her sense of duty glues her to the phone even as her need to use the toilet grows increasingly urgent. Finally someone else shows up and Kanata bolts for a bathroom in desperation.

So far this is only moderately crass and it actually is important for the plot that Kanata has a reason to dump the phone duties on the first person to show up. But it leads to the bad moment: the ending of the episode strongly implies (but does not state outright) that Kanata does not make it to the bathroom in time and ends up peeing herself.

This implied ending is noxious, crass, unnecessary, pointless pandering. There is no need for it, it doesn't even vaguely serve some plot (or character) point, and it's never mentioned in future episodes. The episode would have been just as well served (better served, really) if it had ended with, say, Kanata diving into a bathroom and slamming the door. And it's not as if Sora no Woto had any other moments like this; as far as I can remember, it doesn't even have any fanservice.

I still like Sora no Woto a lot. But I like it despite this bad moment and the existence of this bad moment makes me think very grumpy things about the people behind the show.

(To be clear about something: I dislike the moment but I'm not utterly horrified by it. What really annoys me is that it exists at all.)

anime/SoraNoWotoProblem written at 21:39:28; Add Comment

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