Archive for May, 2008

Lightroom Performance

Friday, May 30th, 2008

While waiting for another set of photos being exported, I thought I check the performance of Lightroom again, just out of curiosity. The PC is the same as in the previous test, yet this test uses Lightroom 1.3 – which is not the latest version, I know, but a version that works OK for me.

From the photo shooting I selected 609 images, all available as Canon RAW files. 443 of these came from the 1ds mark II, 166 came from the 1d mark II N, i.e.:

a) 443 x 4992 x 3328 = 7,359,725,568 pixels to be processed
b) 166 x 3504 x 2336 = 1,358,767,104 pixels to be processed

This took 113 minutes, for a total of 8,718,492,672 pixels. In other words: Lightroom 1.3 exports about 1.29 megapixels per second, which is slightly slower than the 1.51 megapixel/second I got from Lightroom 1.1. From this I can calculate the average processing time for my cameras as:

Canon 1ds mark II = 12.9 seconds
Canon 1d mark II N = 6.4 seconds

These times turn out to be surprisingly accurate, as I manually stopped a few exports and got 13-something for the 1ds mark II files, and 7 seconds for the 1d mark II N.

Obviously, the time depends on the actions performed on the images, but as I tend to do very little heavy editing this should not change the overall result too much. Also, I am aware of this being a one-time examination and not a full-blown scientific study.

Now, where do I get a faster laptop? ;-)

P.S.: Tests were done using a Windows XP SP2 laptop with Intel Core Duo T2300E and 1 GB of memory.

Ten things I hate about hotel rooms

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Typical Photographers Hotel Room
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

You know the drill – the photo shooting is not in your hometown, and it is scheduled to be too long to drive home that night. So you take a hotel room. Don’t you just love it?

As markets are getting tighter, this frequently happens to me these days, and often the agency does not book one of the big hotel chains (where quality is usually OK), but one of those “small charming hotels” close to the location of the photo shooting. These “small charming hotels” can quickly turn into a living nightmare.

Last week it happened to me again, and while I was lying in the hotel room in the evening, I started to wonder what it really is that I do not like about hotel rooms.

So, here are my top ten reasons to not like hotel rooms:

10. Mini bar

A chocolate bar for 4 Euros? A can of Coke for 3 Euros? Guys, this is too much. Just because you can charge what you want, you do not have to! Why do you need a profit margin of 400% on all the items in the mini bar? Shouldn’t you be glad that I stay with you in your lovely hotel? So why are you trying to rip me off, then?

Then again, sometimes I work late, editing the photos in the hotel room (it makes sense to use that time), and all of a sudden I feel hungry. I would be willing to pay even the aforementioned 400% profit margin for just a simple chocolate bar, but heck – there simply is no fridge. Nothing. All the shops have closed long ago, and so I stay hungry.

9. Breakfast coffee

Breakfast time. The hotel thinks they are showing real customer service by trying to serve you. They take your orders for drinks, politely asking you whether you would like tea or coffee? And then they return after (felt) hours and happily serve you a single cup of luke-warm coffee. Hey, did I mention that I need to wake up? This works best with a can of hot, delicious coffee! :-)

8. Bathroom

Yikes. Sometimes I wonder whether the guys running the hotel have slept even one single night in one of their rooms, and whether they actually know how their rooms look like? Otherwise I can not explain why some of the bathrooms are in such a bad condition that you (even as a male) start to think, like, “well, I’ll skip the shower today. That dirty hole that they call a ‘shower’ is just not inviting enough, and it’ll be a hard day anyway, so on to the breakfast”. Don’t get me wrong, it does not have to be a wellness shower. But it should be technically OK and clean. Nothing more and nothing less.

7. TV Program

There is almost always a problem with TV. Either the hotel offers too few channels, or just local channels, or in a bad technical quality on a really small screen. Sometimes all of these problems come together. Add to that a missing or defunct remote control, and any positive mood that is left over after a long shooting is down the drain. But what holds hotel owners back? How much is a TV set these days? 100 Dollars? 70 Dollars? Can’t be that much.

6. (Lack of) Parking lot

“Oh, you can not park over there. That’s not our parking lot.” – “So, where is your parking lot, then?” – “Ah, I’m sorry, Sir, but I am afraid we don’t have one. But you can park for free until 6 a.m. on that public place three blocks down the road.”

Er, sure. So how, exactly, do you think people come to your hotel? By foot? By tram? By bike? Unless you are in a big city, or in a very touristic location, I think that most hotel guests come by car, anywhere on the world. That’s why I positively do not like hotels without a parking lot. (It’s really annoying to walk three blocks with most your expensive equipment on your back after a long shooting, and even more annoying to get up early to get a parking voucher for that very same parking lot.)

5. No credit cards, please

I understand that credit card companies are milking the businesses for each and every transaction they process. Which makes them less attractive for most small businesses. And that includes small hotels. But sorry, this is not my fault. I can not carry tons of cash with me just to pay for a few nights in a hotel.

It’s even more annoying to learn that the “credit card machine has broken down” and be faced with the hotel owner’s request to pay cash. This means to me: get into the car, find an ATM, get the money, drive back to the hotel and hand over the cash. Which is sort of uncool, especially when the car is parked three blocks down the road on a public parking lot (see # 6).

4. Staff

The smaller the hotel, the bigger the risk of meeting an unfriendly and uncaring person at the reception (well, if there is a reception). Why do these persons, who are unwilling to help, who do not know their immediate surroundings (e.g. where is a parking lot?), who do not speak the local language properly, why on Earth do these people seek a career in the hotel business? They make me think I am disturbing them and generally provide me a feeling of being unwanted. Can’t hotel owners simply check who they hire? (Hotel owners: please put on your sunglasses, a wig, and a false beard, and check in at your own hotel to see what I mean.)

3. Invoice Printing

Honestly, I don’t know what’s so difficult about presenting a proper invoice upon check-out? I left all my personal details upon check-in, so it can’t be that hard to enter that stuff correctly (name, company name and -address) into the PC and print an invoice. But it is, almost always. But I agree: if they are unfriendly and uncaring (see # 4), I should not expect them to be able to enter an address correctly.

2. The bed

OK, I admit it. I stay in hotel rooms because I need a place to sleep. I am not paying thousands of Dollars every year just because I like hotels so much. Or because their wellness area is so nice. Or because their staff is so friendly (that is, if they are friendly). No. I need a place for me to sleep.

But many places make it amazingly difficult to fulfil even this basic requirement. I’ve seen beds that were too short (I’m a tall guy), often also with a wooden foot board (looks great, but is horribly uncomfortable), and sometimes with bedsheets designed for midgets, covering my body from knees to neck. Or from feet to belly. Maybe I missed something when studying the brochure (e.g. big red sticker “Warning – only for midgets!”), but it definitely does not help me getting my well-earned sleep after a long photo shooting.

Which brings me to the most annoying reason to not like hotels:

1. Nice brochures

Being a photographer, I know that you can not trust photos in brochures (or virtually any photo anywhere). But I am really annoyed when I see hotel brochures or web sites with photos of beautifully decorated rooms that look spacious, with nice furniture and fresh flowers on the table, flatscreens, big windows flooded by bright sunlight. And when you enter your assigned room, it does not even faintly resemble that image. It’s cramped, dark, old furniture, plastic flowers on the table (if at all). And the young smiling ladies at the reception turn into an old, mumbling guy who does not even speak the local language correctly (let alone English) and who knows nothing about the hotel and its surroundings?

I can live with all the shortcomings of a hotel room, but when the advertised product is disconnected from reality, I get really annoyed.

Oktoberfest 2008 Beer Price +5%

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Who said that Oktoberfest in Munich is cheap entertainment? It isn’t.

Today the tent owners announced their official beer prices for Oktoberfest 2008. Prices for “a Mass” (i.e. one liter of beer) will range this year from 7.80 to 8.30 Euro! In 2007, this range was still between 7.30 and 7.90 Euro, so the fans of the fest are facing a price increase of roughly 5%! Add to this the increased tip for the waitresses (which is not included in the beer price), and you end up with more than 5% increase.

A Mass of Hofbräu Beer
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

The cheapest beer will be available at the Wienerwald Festzelt, where a mass of Hofbräu beer will indeed cost just 7.80 Euros. All the big tents are above the 8 Euro mark, many of them even charging the maximum of 8.30 Euro.

Well, I won’t complain. To me, it’s all a matter of supply and demand, and there seems to be tremendous demand for having a beer in the big tents, which justifies the high price. Also, one should remember that beer is in general quite expensive in Munich. The tourism office has done some research: outside the Oktoberfest grounds you pay between 6.20 and 7.80 Euros for a liter of beer – not cheap either.

Cheers!

For further information on the fest, please read our Oktoberfest FAQ (at oktoberfest-insider.com).

Sea of Yellow

Monday, May 5th, 2008

Some of you know that we moved to a new house in the southern suburbs of Munich. In front of our house is (still) a large field of canola that has greeted us every morning for the last couple of weeks. The change became apparent a few days ago, and when I noticed the blossoming of the canola, I knew I just had to take a couple of pictures. Today was the day.

Unterhaching, Germany
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Canola field
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

The late afternoon light was right, the sky was blue with just a few white clouds. And so I walked the few steps from the house to the field and thought, “and now for something completely different”.

I think I found at least a few unusual angles, especially after putting myself into the position of the insects. The simple canola plants looked suddenly amazingly tall, more like trees…

Blooming Canola Field
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Blossoming canola field
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

…and sometimes they even resembled giant trees!

Canola field
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Usually, I am not a big fan of flower shots. I find them boring. But this was different, and I actually like the results. But most important: it was great to stand and move in the yellow sea of canola and inhale that sweet, heavy scent, sent out to attract the bees. I also noticed some fine yellow dust on my trousers. And going down on my knees provided me with new views and made me feel alive (well, more alive than photographing talking heads at a press conference).

Canola
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Canola field
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Dandelion
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

So, I can only encourage anyone, pro or not, to take the time and go out into the field. Da some basic shots. Drop on your knees, feel the soil, and try to see things differently. Even a simple location like a blooming canola field in front of your house might bring some unexpected results.