Selfies with the new old lens

I bought an adaptor some time ago for using old Canon FD-series lenses with my Olympus PEN E-PL2 Micro Four Thirds. Then a few days ago, I bought an f/1.4 50mm (prime, from back when that was standard) lens potentially older than I am to put it all together.

It arrived today. Here are the requisite selfies.

I love the analog focus (no autofocus possible anyways). I love seeing the focus distances on the ring, and setting the aperture there, too. I really love how much light this puppy sucks in. All these were with no flash — just mild incandescent lighting in our dark-as-a-cave living room at ISO 800 and 1/40th of a second. Probably f1.4, but who nose knows?

I got a new camera; I think I’m going to like it.

I got a new camera recently, thanks in part to some recommendations from the fine folks at and I had an Olympus E-500 before (still have it, looking to get rid of it, leave a comment if you’re interested in an aging DSLR with moderate use and a fair number of accessories) and really like setting up shots. But, even as one of the smaller DSLRs on the market (at the time in 2007 and even now), the schlep factor was starting to get to me. I wanted DSLR-like control over exposure and aperture and white balance and stuff, but without having to wade through an endless mess of menus and scrolling, and without all that weight on my neck. The Micro Four Thirds format is really a great compromise in that regard. I’ve known for a while that I wanted to upgrade downgrade modernize my camera. But I wasn’t ready to commit to more Olympus gear, and I wasn’t ready to jump into a whole new line of other gear (most likely Canon or Nikon). I definitely wanted some better high-ISO performance than what the E-500 could offer and wasn’t opposed to the dimensions of a full-blown DSLR; but those Micro Four Thirds cameras were another class smaller and though I am loath to admit it, those PEN models sure look slick. And I’ve discovered

  1. my Metz 48 AF-1 flash works with through-the-lens (TTL) metering on this PEN, and
  2. one of the kit lenses for has a threaded diameter of 58mm, the same as the lenses for my E-500, and matching my circular polarizer

both of which mean I get some re-use of previous equipment purchases.

So I pulled the trigger on an E-PL2 after pricewatching at for a few months and pestered Herr J and Frau A at about low-light performance, lack of a viewfinder, and other stuff like that. I am seeing much better (though still not excellent) low-light performance, and playing with the art filters (for example, Dramatic Tone, like in the two larger shots above) is pretty fun. I like that I get that effect in-camera or by applying it to the RAW images in the supplied Olympus software. And the video quality seems great (to me, because I’ve never had an HD-capable video camera before, much less as a secondary feature on a DSLRish camera).

I think this little camera and I are going to have a lot of fun together.

Random Scenes of Regensburg

There’s something happening at the renovated building on the corner of Andreasstraße and Stadtamhof where Netto pulled out about two years ago. Looks to us like they’ve removed the step and are rebuilding the entranceway into a … ramp? Perhaps one intended for shopping carts?

This was a great day for sitting out in the sun watching the river cut its slow swath between the islands, and they picked a perfect spot.

I thought this was a kayaker at first glance; didn’t notice until I got home that he’s paddling a surfboard of some kind upstream.

Just downstream from the Schifffahrtsmuseum (I love that triple-f) there were three river cruise ships parked. That’s fine for a weekend. I just hope they’ve all unmoored and motored off with their cargo of bike-path-sheeple before I head into work on Monday.

I keep seeing this guy all over the place in Regensburg — at festivals (of which there are plenty) and just in the course of running errands, like at the grocery store. My nickname for him is The Admiral. I have also seen him in a glorious purple jumpsuit, but no other outfits.

Our Asian market kicks butt!

Henry & Pete

These are some of Sarah’s cousins. We don’t get to see these guys very much, but on our trip to the U.S. last month, we did a three-car caravan road trip down to Oklahoma City from Kansas City for a wedding in another branch of the family. We have pictures of them as near-babies on our family picture shelf in our apartment and I still think of them as being that size.

I was hoping to get my photographic tech nerd on and do something nice for my wife’s family simultaneously at the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, but the flash sync to the camera wasn’t working correctly. I have an external flash made by the Metz company (and a mounting bracket) for my Olympus E-500 and for whatever reason, the camera’s shutter speeds were way longer than necessary with the flash, which washed (almost) all the images out. The flash also appeared to fire at random intervals, even without pressing the shutter button.

These images were pretty much the only two I managed to salvage (applying a little saturation adjustment and red-eye reduction thanks to UFRaw and the GIMP). I think I resolved the problem of the flash and camera synchronizing improperly only by making sure to do these steps in the following order:

1. With both devices off, connect everything.
2. Turn on the camera.
3. Turn on flash.

Then it seemed to work normally. Unfortunately I figured that out too late. Incidentally, the instructions specify that you shouldn’t connect/disconnect the flash and camera while either one (or both) of them is switched on, but they don’t say the camera should start up first.


If you’ve got about 4 and a half minutes and have seen any pictures of ours since about September 2007, take a look at this. You might catch a fleeting glimpse of yourself or someone you know.

My Pummelvision from Cliff 1976 on Vimeo.

Pummelvision made this video for me at Vimeo based on images from my flickr photostream. I think it’s pretty neat. Just three steps:

1. I created a free account at Vimeo, and gave Pummelvision permission to use it.

2. I told Pummelvision to go check out my flickr photostream and make the Vimeo video.

3. Then I waited about a day for an email to arrive notifying me that the video is complete.

Details on the entire process are at, but there’s really nothing more to it than that. In future versions you might be able to customize the music or select sets or collections for pummeling, but at the moment it’s one-size-fits-all.

Four days in Budapest

Love those four-day weekends!

Jewish Quarter

Day One (Thursday):
We got up really early (partly to finish packing) and took the train out to Nürnberg via the BayernTicket. We transferred at the Hauptbahnhof to the U2 subway line and caught our plane with plenty of time to spare. It would seem that the people behind the BayernTicket always seem to know just what the most convenient train times are — and set those trips up to be EC/IC/ICE. That forces us BayernTicket travelers either to take a train too close to departure for comfort or get moving much earlier than otherwise would be necessary. Oh well.

We took a taxi from the airport. The taxi stand guy said 4800 HUF, but the driver politely insisted upon 5000 HUF upon arrival. Guess who won? At least it was less than one euro. But still, it’s the principle of the thing that annoyed me there.

our hotel

Our hotel on the south side of Pest was a little hard to find on foot (the first time, before we figured out the tram system, coming from the subway station), but easy for our taxi driver. We got checked in, dropped off the stuff we didn’t need to schlep with us and moseyed north along the river a bit. We found a tourist info office, got a free map (not the world’s greatest for small, innercity pedestrian streets and the metro/tram lines are not clearly marked marked at all) and kept going north into the Jewish quarter. We sought out the Hummous Bar for a falafel and hummous lunch — thank you Frommer’s — this place was awesome. Great lunch, which introduced us to skhug. We are so going to make our own. If you have a recipe, please share it with us.

Dohány Synagogue

Peacock Menorah (blue)

Dohány Synagogue

From there we continued to the world’s second biggest synagogue (it is the largest one in Europe). We took the last guided tour of the day in English and visited the attached museum. It was short, and kind of expensive, but our guide was informative and open to questions. The tour included a visit to the museum, which was beautiful and interesting and somber and moving all at the same time in a very simple way.

For dinner: we sought out cheap Indian at Bombay Express (oh how I miss the former Bombay Express restaurant near our old apartment) near Oktogon. Also good, as far as cafeteria-style Indian goes. Cheap and tasty, if a little weird. We’re not used to Indian food in that setting.

Day Two (Friday):
Castle District

After breakfast, we walked north from our bridge to the Chain Bridge and crossed it on foot. Took a funicular from there up to the top of a hill featuring some churches and government buildings in their own little town. The view down to the rest of Buda and across the river to Pest is fantastic. We had lunch at a cafeteria apparently unbeknownst to tourists; it was practically hidden (thanks Frommer’s!) and there was no English anywhere, but the chef spoke German, so that saved us.

We split up that afternoon after (relatively) expensive, fancy coffee at the Gerbaud coffee house. It was overrated, according to Frommer’s, which was an accurate assessment, but it was right there and it felt nice to be a little fancy. I was in search of a network cable since I couldn’t get our laptop working with the WLAN at our hotel; the ladies shopped. I found nothing, took a nap and waited for them to come get me.

For dinner: back to the Oktogon area for a great duck-themed dinner at M. What a great meal at an odd little restaurant. Frommer’s gets the credit once again. I’m glad we heeded their advice for every evening meal to get a reservation — each time, it was absolutely necessary.

Fisherman's Bastion

Inside Fisherman's Bastion

We had:
Elderberry sodas to drink

cold cucumber soup
cabbage soup with duck
salad with duck breast

duck breast with redwine-raspberry sauce and mashed potatoes
lamb-filled cannelloni
gnocchi veneziana (gorgonzola sauce!)

and to finish it off: banana cheesecake. The bananas were great, but sadly, it was a ricotta/Italian style cheesecake. We were hoping for NY style. Could have been worse!

Day Three (Saturday):
Took the subway out to Hero’s Square and walked around the park there. There was some kind of food and drink market there, but it didn’t really ever look like it was in full swing. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of the flea market, but found it had been cancelled (more on that later). Instead we headed back into down and tried to visit a very small museum dedicated to the life and works of Miksa Róth — but after tromping around in intense heat and numerous detours due to construction in the area, we arrived several hours before they opened (Frommer’s kind of left us hanging there a bit). So instead we checked out the outside of the Parliament buildings. We didn’t want to pay for a tour that would have been free to European Union passport holders and didn’t want to feel like chumps asking for them to waive it given our residence permits for Germany. We’d decided that in preparation for the feast awaiting us that night, that none of us really needed a full lunch. So we went back to the Hummous Bar to split a falafel plate.

Sarah got tired and needed a nap, and Monet and I made our way back to the Miksa Róth house. It was worth it just for the peace and quiet. Aside from the caretakers, we were the only ones in the place the whole time. It was eerie, standing in the artist’s home, his bedroom, his living room, admiring the furnishings and mementos and in general the 1880s atmosphere INSIDE the apartment and casting a glance just outside the window to the world of 2009’s construction projects and KFC just down the street towards the train station. Then Monet and I made our way back to the hotel to do a little touristy shopping (your postcards came from that expedition), pick up Sarah and ask the hotel to confirm our reservation at an AYCE restaurant way out at the end of one of the subway lines.

That was kind of an adventure itself; when we got off the subway, we found the restaurant immediately, but were dismayed to see busloads and busloads of people waiting out in front of it. It looked like there was a troupe of Polish tourists and some kind of racing team who had also made their reservations there that night. But you know what? They sat us on time and the food and drinks were of good quality and amazing quantity. Soups, salads, breads, prepared dishes, meats and fishes grilled to order, dancing chefs and waitresses putting on a show, live 3-piece fiddle-bass-guitar music, and desserts galore. Absolutely worth it. Frommer’s for the win!

Buda Castle by Night

Freedom Bridge to Fancy Hotel

Flea Market Booty

Day Four (Sunday):
We went back to the flea market a second time and hit pay dirt. Monet haggled a bit over some ceramics, but Sarah and I just marveled over the spread and selection. We rewarded ourselves for our perseverence with a trip back to the Hummous Bar for one last lunch and were astounded to find that it was on the same street as the M restaurant from Friday night, near the Franz Liszt house. Our gracious hostess there seemed a little disappointed that we wanted the exact same meal as the previous two days, but why mess with perfection? She also gave us the scoop on the skhug.

Our hotel kindly let us check out and store our bags with them (even with claim checks, which was nice) until it was time for our departure. And they even arranged a taxi trip for us to the hotel. This time, the price was exactly as quoted. But this time, it was a grandmotherly-type lady and what appeared to be her private vehicle (no meter, no radio, etc.). But the ride was smooth and easy and though she spoke little or no English, she was a safe, conservative driver who seemed pleasant and smiled a lot and we liked that.

In summary:
Budapest is very easy on the eyes and mouth, even if a little rough on the nose at times in certain areas. Our Frommer’s Budapest & Best of Hungary guide rarely let us down. We marveled at the language even as we were continually bewildered by it. After three full days though, I was ready to return to home to Regensburg. Monet is a travel trooper, never once needing a nap or even a break from eating (how does she do that?!). Sarah did a great job in the prep work. I did my best to look up and snap photos; we read in the book that if you don’t keep your head pointed up, you’ll miss a lot of Budapest, and I certainly found that to be true.

Here’s the slideshow:

make stuff with your photos

I got an email from that they’re having a 20% sale on everything — use the coupon code “stimulus” when placing your order. And the offer expires on January 29th at midnight, so you don’t have a lot of time to think about it. Here‘s the email I got with the offer in it.

I have used to print luggage tags made from travel shots we’ve taken on location in Ireland, Greece, France, and our old apartment. I would have preferred, as they did such a great job on our postcards and minicards and are located in the U.K. (so the shipping doesn’t kill me). But moo doesn’t do luggage tags (AFAIK). There are a lot of other things you can make with your photos on both sites, so take a look. QOOP even lets you sell stuff you’ve made through their site, if you’re into that.

Couple things of note:

  • That Eiffel Tower shot I turned into a luggage tag came out even darker and much more purply than it looks on screen. It’s still cool looking, but not immediately recognizable by passers-by. Still works great as a luggage tag with our name and address on it, but your fellow travelers may have to study the tag a bit in order to discern what the image is.
  • QOOP only ships to Europe via DHL Worldwide Express (or something) and despite Deutsche Post’s ownership of DHL, they won’t deliver to Packstation addresses. I found this out the hard way. Our tags were supposed to be a little post-birthday/pre-trip surprise for Sarah, but they never arrived. I figured it out after we got to Kansas City. However, QOOP customer service via email was great and I was able to get them reprinted and sent to the in-laws’ house for use on the return trip — and beyond, of course. I would have been willing to cough up again for the reprinting and reshipping (since it was my fault for assuming DHL shipments would be compatible with our Packstation), but so far at least, it appears to have been done at no charge!

Panoramic Inauguration shot

This is neat:

I like finding little imperfections in it. For example, find Obama. Then go back and to the left (uh oh) up the aisle until you find Aretha’s big bow. There’s a ghosty-looking dude next to and in front of her, right behind the minister with the pleasant cadence.

Some others: start at Obama. Head up the aisle behind him to his right past the sparkly First Lady towards Al & Tipper Gore. Keep going three rows back and you’ll find an enormous toupée on some lady’s little head. One row behind her to her right is a ghastly two-faced dude!

I also liked zooming all the way in a checking out the faint people lining the rooftop of far-off buildings. What a neat effecting stitching all those images together!