The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Winthrop Cooperative, Monday

The United Winthrop Tower Cooperative started life in the early 1970s as a public housing development. In response to rising crime and costs on the order of $1m a year, the residents bought the building from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1993 and turned it into the affordable-housing co-op it remains today.

We had a really cool sunset Tuesday evening, so I snapped this on my walk with Cassie.

Sure happy it's Thursday

I've spent the last few weeks in my off-hours beavering away at a major software project, which I hope to launch this spring. Meanwhile, I continue to beaver at my paying job, with only one exciting deployment in the last six sprints, so things are good there. I also hope to talk more about that cool software before too long.

Meanwhile, things I need to read keep stacking up:

Finally, check out the World Photography Organisation's 2021 photo contest results.

Back in the office

I'm back in my downtown Chicago office after working at home every day for almost exactly four months. It's weird, as I'm once again the only one on the floor, but that will change pretty soon. And I'll still be working from home three days a week.

I did miss the view.

More winter photos

If the forecast holds, today will be the 15th of 16 straight days of below-freezing temperatures, and the 19th consecutive day with 30+ centimeters of snow on the ground. On Sunday, though the temperature will just barely break the freezing point (1°C predicted), this winter will move from 5th to 4th place in history on that last statistic. Officially O'Hare has 46 cm of snow right now, and until Tuesday's predicted mostly-sunny 6°C, not a lot of that will melt. (The last time we had this much snow on the ground for three weeks was the 25-day period ending 12 January 2001, which sounds impressive until you realize I remember very clearly the 46-day stretch of 30+ centimeters of snow that ended 28 February 1979.)

It has some aesthetic appeal, though:

And then we have this, along the north wall of my apartment building (and thus never to get direct sunlight), the result of 40 centimeters of snow on the roof:

So, if you do a little math, 40 cm of snow * 102 square meters of roof served by that downspout = 41 cubic meters of snow, which at 10:1 water content makes 4.1 cubic meters (yes, that's 4.1 tons, or 4,100 liters). If only one centimeter of snow melts, 410 liters of water will cascade off the roof, and if it's -19°C, it'll re-freeze on its way down. Multiply this times all the roofs in Chicago and you get more than a few collapses. (This is our biennial reminder that the developer who converted our building into condos back in 1996 may have skimped a little on insulation between the top-floor units and the roof.)

Reminder from OneDrive

Microsoft has started sending little reminders of things that happened "on this day," no doubt taking cues from Google Timeline and Facebook Memories. But I did enjoy getting a reminder that I took this photo 14 years ago this morning:


Parker at Bardwell Park, Evanston, Ill., 18 February 2007.

It'll be 3 months tomorrow. I do miss him.

New York, 10 years ago

Shortly after upgrading from my old Canon 20D to a new Canon 7D, I flew to New York for business. My company let me fly in on Saturday instead of Sunday as the lower airfare offset the extra hotel day, enabling me to spend Saturday afternoon and evening getting to know the new camera. You can see some of the results here. This morning, I revised the treatment of one of the photos I posted that evening:


1/30 s, f/3.5, ISO 6400, 18mm

I think the Mark II could do even better. Whenever I'm able to travel to New York again, I'll re-shoot the scene.

I got this 10 years ago already?

Facebook reminded me this morning that 10 years ago today I got the first digital camera I've ever owned whose photo quality approached that of the film cameras I had growing up. My new Canon 7D replaced my 5-year-old Canon 20D, and between the two I took over 32,700 photos in just over nine years. In May 2015 I upgraded to the Canon 7D mark II, the first digital camera I've owned whose capabilities exceeded my 1980s and 1990s film cameras.

I've updated the chart showing all the photo-capable devices I've owned since I got my first SLR in June 1983, along with other data showing, to some extent, how technology marches on:

Here are four example photos. (To see all the details, right-click the photos and open them in separate windows.) First, one of the earliest photos I took with my AE-1 Program, in Raton Pass, N.M., mid-August 1983:

Keep in mind, this is a Kodachrome 64 photo scanned some 38 years later, with a bit of help from Adobe Lightroom. Printing directly from the slide would make a better-looking photo...maybe. In any event, the resolution of the slide exceeds the resolution of the scan by an order of magnitude at least, so there really is no way without specialized equipment to produce a JPEG image that looks as good as the slide itself.

Jump ahead a few decades. Here's an early photo I took with the 20D on 20 May 2006 in Portsmouth, N.H.:

The original photo and this edit have the same resolution (2544 x 1696) and the same format (JPEG). Other than a few minor burns and dodges, this is what the camera recorded. It almost approaches film quality, but had I shot this image with Kodachrome 64, it would have much more vibrant color and a depth of texture that the 20D just couldn't achieve.

Now from the 7D that I got 10 years ago today, near Saganonomiyacho, in Kyoto, Japan, in November 2011:

With the first 7D, I gave it a 32 GB memory card and switched to the lossless CR2 format. The JPEG above has as much depth and range as a JPEG can have, but the CR2 file it came from finally has as much detail and photographic information as consumer-quality negative film from the 1980s or 1990s. Its 5184 x 3456 resolution comes awfully close to the density of, say, 100-speed Kodacolor VR-G from the mid-1980s, but the 7D's CMOS chip has literally 32 times the sensitivity of the fastest consumer film then available (ISO 12,800 vs. ISO 1600). I shot the photo above with a focal length of 250 mm from a bridge 250 meters from the subject, at ISO 1600, 1/500 second at f/5.6. The same shot on Kodacolor VR-G 1600 would have massive grain, and the same shot on Kodachrome 64 would have required an exposure of 1/15 second—guaranteeing camera shake. (I've re-edited this photo slightly from the quick-and-dirty treatment I gave it in my Tokyo hotel room after getting back from Kyoto.)

Finally, take a look at this photo from my current camera, the 7D Mark II, of the Chiesa de San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice:

I mean...wow. Even cropped slightly from the raw photo's 5472 x 3648 resolution, the detail is just as fine as Kodachrome 64 ever gave me. I shot this at 1/1000 sec., f/5.6, at 105 mm using a borrowed EF24-105 f/4L lens. (I posted a similar shot in June 2015 when I got back from the trip. I think this one has better composition and editing.)

One more thing, which I won't illustrate with a comparison photo but which I do think bears mentioning: these days, I only pull out the 7Dii for serious work. For day-to-day photos and snapshots, my smartphone's camera works better than digital SLRs from 15 years ago. We do live in the future.