Finding a substitute for MyPublisher

Posted in photos at 1:13 am by wingerz

Just putting this out there in case it’s useful for others. I was always a huge fan of MyPublisher; I’ve been making annual photo books (usually their classic size, but a big 14″x11″ layflat for my wife) with their software for about 12 years.

Mixbook works quite well. The web UI for laying out photos is snappy. Unfortunately they only have a layflat option for their smaller books, not their 13″x11″ book. I put together a few smaller books. One thing that’s nice is that once you’ve uploaded all your photos, you can edit your book from anywhere, which is something I haven’t been able to do before (since all my photos are most easily accessible from my desktop computer at home).

I’m using Blurb to make my big photo book. I got my hopes up since I saw there was a Lightroom Blurb plugin (and clunkily laid out a few sample books), but it doesn’t support layflat for 13″x11″. In looking around it seems like exporting to PDF and then converting wasn’t a good option either (I also couldn’t find the right settings on the website). I downloaded Bookwright (their desktop software). I added bunch of templates (from their website) and combed through them looking for good 4-8 photo layouts with no text to add to “My Layouts.” I ended up spending a few hours putting together some custom layouts myself by making some slight changes to their templates.

We’ll see how the books turn out! I’m excited to get them sent off and printed.

Follow-up a few weeks later: I haven’t been super happy with the printing results. Nothing compares to the layflat glossy MyPublisher book. My original Blurb book (Standard Layflat Matte) had a stain on the cover so I was able to order a new copy with the Proline Pearl Photo paper. It was better, but the photos don’t jump off the page in terms of clarity and brightness like the MyPublisher book. It’s possible I got worse at photo editing this year, but hopefully not (I’ve been using the same camera for 4.5 years and the same workflow for even longer than that). I looked at my parents’ Mixbook Layflat as well and I still prefer the old MyPublisher books, maybe I’m just used to them.

Other comments: Blurb customer service is really good; I just had to send a photo of the damage and they immediately sent me a coupon for a reprint. The BookWright software failed to upload my book the first few times, so I panicked because it was 110 pages, but a computer restart fixed the problem. I was a little too aggressive with placing photos into the Blurb book – some of my layouts have photos that are too small.

Will probably need to pick some of my favorite 2017 images and assemble books across a variety of services to really nail this one down. Sounds like the next service to try is Shutterfly.


Photographing little ones

Posted in photos at 1:48 am by wingerz


Based on my Lightroom stats, I took over 23,000 photos last year. Some of them were good. Most of them were of my family; most of those of my two-year-old. I have a lot of terrible photos, but also some good ones. Here are a few tips.

  • Use an external flash. The lighting looks so much better, and this helps with the fact that kids are always on the move. I think that this is more important than getting a really nice lens.
  • Shoot in burst mode. Take a lot of photos. I think on average I end up with 1 ‘good’ photo out of every 7.
  • Know your camera well enough to turn it on and snap a photo within a few seconds.
  • Get a tripod. You can make fun time lapse movies and also get yourself into a few photos.
  • Make sure your partner knows how to use your camera, at least well enough to compose decently and focus correctly.
  • Embrace the craziness. My kid is totally sick of my camera now, but enjoys making funny faces. We now have some good family portraits.
  • Use bribery. Young children seem to be quite susceptible to it.
  • Focus on the eyes, especially if you’re shooting at a wide-aperture.
  • Get down on the ground to get closer to the action.
  • Don’t cut off feet. If you’ve mostly shot adults and photograph children from the same distance you may end up with some awkward photos where your kid’s feet are cut off from the photo; this can look pretty un-natural. Zoom in to get the upper body or out to get the whole body.
  • Optimize your workflow for sharing. Use a tool like Lightroom or Aperture. Dump photos often (I do it once a week), and don’t spend a lot of time on post-processing. I generally just shoot JPGs now.
  • Back up your photos. I use a NAS and back up all of my decent photos using CrashPlan.
  • Make something real with your photos – prints, albums, calendars. There are tons of great products out there for this.

As with all things, the best way to improve is to do it regularly. As for the little photo shown here, it took some luck and persistence to convince this ladybug to hang out with us for the entire 10-minute walk home and wait for me to run into the house to get my camera.


Favorite photos of 2009

Posted in photos at 3:09 am by wingerz


For sentimental and artistic reasons, here are my favorite photos from 2009.


The Hard Sell

Posted in personal, photos at 10:58 pm by wingerz


A few weeks ago Jess and Cy came to visit on their spring break. It was great to hang out with them again, can’t believe it’s already been six months since I moved from Boston.

We decided to spend the weekend outdoors. On Saturday we drove down to Big Sur, stopping in Carmel to pick up a few sandwiches (from Bruno’s) for lunch. Unfortunately, all hiking trails east of Highway 1 were shut down because of a fire that swept through last year. We found a nice trail at Andrew Molera State Park (part of this trail), satisfying our thirst for adventure by crossing a shallow stream. Wrapped up the day with a fantastic dinner at Passionfish.

On Sunday we went sea kayaking in Monterey. We did a guided tour of the harbor, coming pretty close to some seals and sea lions (unfortunately, no sea otters).

A few more photos from the weekend.


Wing Ning and Cameron’s Wedding

Posted in family, personal, photos, wedding at 12:46 pm by wingerz


My sister and I are separated by six years. Growing up I played the older-brother-as-caretaker role. Since our parents both worked, the two of us spent a lot of time together after school. I nudged her towards sharing some of my interests, like playing video games and basketball and taking care of rabbits. From an early age it was clear that she was a lot more talented artistically (musically and visually) than me; fortunately I was able to maintain my size advantage. We got along well throughout the years, only fighting occasionally.

It’s been hard for me to stop thinking of my little sister as little. A few milestones, like high school and college graduation, have helped me to shift my perspective. When I started at Endeca in 2007, I realized that some of my co-workers, fresh out of college, were exactly my sister’s age. That felt like a big deal.

* * *

Big brothers are supposed to look out for their little sisters, especially when it comes to boyfriends. I think it was less important for me to get involved since my sister is 3-4″ taller than Cameron and can almost certainly keep him in line. Too bad he doesn’t have an older brother to help him out. My dad vouches for the fact that Cameron is a math genius, which is a nice bonus. It’s been great getting to know him and his family over the past few years. The Taketas are a sweet, loving, and generous family.

* * *

Unfortunately, a huge storm swept through Honolulu on Friday night and lingered through Saturday morning. The wedding ceremony was moved indoors.

The Yungs, while not really known for their fashion sense (except for maybe Mom), clean up well. Wing Ning looked amazing in her dress and make-up (and without her glasses). It was amusing to tag along with the photographers, who posed the happy couple in all sorts of cheesy ways. The reception was full of personal touches – mini Rubik’s cubes as gifts, modular origami centerpieces, a wedding pie with a Lego wedding scene on top, and pi-decorated programs (all consistent with their wedding website). I was really impressed by the creativity and amount of work that they put into it – I’ve made a few of the origami balls and they take a hell of a long time (especially the one that consists of five intersecting tetrahedrons). Cameron’s hilarious Aunt Gwen mc’ed and repeatedly brought attention to the fact that most of the bridal party was single (and geeky).

My mom painted a picture, my dad picked out a Chinese poem to go along with it (and gave the commentary as part of his toast), and I put together a slideshow (they approved my selection of Weird Al’s White ‘n’ Nerdy for part of it). Each member of the bridal party made a toast with common themes around eating and playing board games.

* * *

After the wedding, we went to the beach and had dinner. Wing Ning was back in her t-shirt and jeans, but wore a green orchid in her hair for the rest of the day. Every time I looked at it I thought to myself, “Oh right, she’s married now.”



Back to Baylands

Posted in photos at 12:07 pm by wingerz


Stopped by Baylands Nature Preserve again yesterday after having lunch with friends at Topix. Took my binoculars along this time too.

As I was leaving, I saw a ring-necked pheasant. It was quite skittish but also didn’t make any effort to get away from me. Quite striking in its coloring.

More photos.


Weekend in Sonoma

Posted in food, personal, photos, sloan piggybacking at 2:54 am by wingerz


We spent the past weekend in Sonoma to celebrate our friend’s completion of the California bar exam. Ten of us (Sloanies, significant others, and Meatball the dog) shared a fantastic house (back of the house, backyard view) in Guerneville.

Spent most of Saturday wine tasting, highlights included the beautiful gardens at Ferrari-Carano (I didn’t sample the wine there) and a few hours lounging around on the back patio of the Harvest Moon Winery. Harvest Moon, a tiny winery, was our favorite of the bunch – we all had a really pleasant time, got along well with our hosts, and bought several bottles of wine. We had brought along our own bread, prosciutto, and cheese, and also sampled their chocolate and olive oils.

On Sunday it was rainy but that didn’t stop a few of us from heading to the beach. We strolled along Goat Rock Beach, catching a break in the rain. We spent a lot of the day lazing around from the comfort of our house.

Of course, the eating was fantastic. We cooked one breakfast, one brunch, and three dinners together. Meal after meal, we all ate far beyond the point of being full. The nine of us fit comfortably around the dining room table. It was warm, cozy, and homey.

Congratulations, Amy!



Baylands Nature Preserve

Posted in photos at 2:30 am by wingerz


Jen and I have been looking for outdoorsy places to visit; a few weeks ago I came across the Baylands Nature Preserve. It’s only a 5.5 mile bike ride from our place in Menlo Park. Today I went in between rainstorms. The marshlands are full of birds; next time I’m definitely bringing a pair of binoculars along with me.

On one of the pond shores, two groups of birds (one brown, one white) would suddenly take to the air every few minutes. Nature fans should have a look at these in high-res: 1, 2 (you can see why they were flying if you look on the right side of the image), 3.

Oh, and there was a rainbow too.

More photos.



Posted in photos at 4:23 am by wingerz


It’s been raining a lot these past few weeks. Spotted these beautiful droplets while I was on today’s afternoon stroll.


The Rainforest Sphere

Posted in personal, photos at 10:50 pm by wingerz


On Saturday Jen and I visited the California Academy of Sciences. It was our second visit since becoming members; the first time it was so crowded that we didn’t get to see the rainforest exhibit, one of the centerpieces of the museum. It’s a glass-surfaced dome 90 feet in diameter. Small, colorful birds dart back and forth, and butterflies flutter about. There are lots of exhibits containing live reptiles, amphibians, and insects. In other words, an awesome place to spend a few hours.

A few photos.

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »