Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pardon Our Dust

We're in the midst of moving this blog to a new hosting service. Things may be messy around here for a few days! We hope to be back to normal soon enough! If you want to checkout the new blog, you'll find it here.

November 28, 2010 in Blogs/Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Disrupting the Credit Bureaus

Yesterday, literally while shaving, I was thinking about credit bureaus - how they gather all of this information about us from third party sources (with varying degrees of accuracy) and then sell it back to credit grantors seeking to find some assurance of our credit worthiness.

What if, I wondered, we had our own place to provide that information - our own "credit profile" as it were. For honest folks, it would be much more accurate than what the bureaus provide.

This morning, I came across this blog post by Jeremy Liew, a partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners. Turns out he's been thinking along similar lines - "idea of using publicly available data to make better underwriting decisions". His post is titled "Data exhaust moves beyond targeted marketing and into financial services decision making". Love that term - data exhaust! Fascinating stuff - and worthy of more work.

November 28, 2010 in Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Dropbox Phenomenon

DropboxLike many others, a while back I setup a free Dropbox account - what's not to like about a free 2 GB of storage "in the cloud"?

On my Mac, Dropbox shows up as a folder in my Finder list of Places - it's always right there. The Dropbox app starts automatically when I reboot - enabling all of this magic. The Dropbox apps on my iPhone and iPad enable me to easily access the Dropbox folder's content - while I'm out and about.

On recent trips to both India and Ireland, I took full advantage of this mobile integration enabled by Dropbox. Before my flights, I dropped the key files of interest for my trips into folders in my Dropbox - and then accessed them ahead of time on my mobile devices, marking them as favorites (enabling local copies to be saved on the mobile device) and then read them while I was enroute. My laptop stayed stowed in the overhead compartment. A great use case! There are many others!

Somewhere along the way, I upgraded to the 50 GB option ($99/year) - as I quickly bumped up (amazingly) against the free 2 GB limit. Like many others, I've become a real advocate for Dropbox - it's perfect at what it does. Elegant, simple, just works. Doesn't get much better than that.

If you're not yet using Dropbox, sign up here (and both of us will get even more storage in the cloud!). If you are using Dropbox, aren't you also impressed?

November 27, 2010 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (5) | Tweet This

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Birthday - Celebrating Nine Years of Blogging!

Turns out yesterday was the 9th birthday of this blog - with the earliest posts being made back on November 25, 2001. Next year, we'll celebrate 10 years of personal blogging!

There actually were earlier posts - a quick look at the Wayback Machine shows an early page on October 19, 1998 - just a placeholder with no content! So the November 2001 date is really just a placeholder for the content I was able to bring across on to whatever platform I was using back then.

A page from August 1999 shows the actual beginnings of the blog - created back in those days using Microsoft FrontPage! So the true birthday was more likely back sometime in 1999 - but the cruft gets in the way of actually seeing it! So, we'll settle for our official birthday being November 25, 2001 - and consider everything earlier just the "prelude"!

November 26, 2010 in Blogs/Weblogs, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thoughts on Thanksgiving 2010

One of the great joys of blogging is looking back at what you wrote. Seems sort of silly to say it quite that directly - but, as with a handwritten journal, a blog captures your current thinking - and, at least at my age (!), you may not quite remember all of those details a year or three later. Having a blog helps you remember - it's that simple. Sometimes those rememberings bring back floods of unexpected memories...

This evening, after a wonderful family Thanksgiving celebration at my Mom's earlier today, I took a brief look back at earlier Thanksgivings - as I recorded them here on my blog. Frankly, I didn't get very far - just to last year - before I was brought up short by the image below - which I had used for my Thanksgiving post from 2009.


As I said in last year's post, this photo was taken following my regular Tuesday morning walk with Chris Gulker early in Thanksgiving week 2009. Chris and Linda have always had beautiful flowers on their kitchen table - and, when Chris and I came back from our twice-weekly walk and shared coffee, I usually took a photograph of those flowers. Last year's lilies were especially beautiful - and I used that image for my Thanksgiving 2009 post.

Since I wrote that post a year ago, we lost my Dad, his niece and my cousin Ruth Ann, and Chris. Losing them was hard - yet I have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving - especially for my memories of the times I shared together with all of them. Good memories. Such good memories. Missing them as I do, life has to go on without them - while they're always in my thoughts.

Today at Thanksgiving, we celebrated our shared life together across four generations, providing us with renewed sources of joy and thanksgiving for our lives ahead.

Thanksgiving really is the best of all the holidays. The very best indeed. Hope yours was as special as ours!

November 25, 2010 in Living | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Another Day in the the Village Pub

Earlier this year, Chris Gulker and I spent a Saturday with Dmitry Elperin in the kitchen of Woodside's Village Pub - one of our local 1-star Michelin-rated restaurants. That escapade was for us to learn how to roast chicken - see Chris's post.

Today, my daughter Tracy and I returned to the Pub to learn all about cooking for Thanksgiving - and what a wonderful time we had - eight of us students crowded around the kitchen at Village Pub. We had such a wonderful time!

Here's the full review I posted tonight on Yelp:

Like Sandi H., we also participated in the Thanksgiving Cooking School at the Village Pub today. This was my second class with Dmitry Elperin - both have been superb.

There's nothing quite like being in the kitchen with a great chef as he's describing how he cooks - and tries variations to the recipes. Today's menu was classic Thanksgiving - wonderful brined turkey (super moist!), stuffing, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts with chestnuts (my first time for those - yum!). A cranberry/apple chutney added wonderful contrast.

Sommelier Michael educated our nose and palate with four great wines to accompany this meal. He walked us through a blind tasting - sharing what we found as we first swirled and breathed in the aromas and then tasted the wines. A French white burgundy (Michel Gros) and an Oregon Pinot Noir (Willakenzie) were the main course wines. The madeira he poured to accompany pecan pie for dessert was an amazing food pairing!

All in all, another great Saturday event at the Village Pub! Congratulations to Dmitry and the VP team for a wonderful time!

Here's a photo I snapped of Dmitry in action:

Dmitry Elperin - Village Pub - Woodside, CA - Photo by Scott Loftesness

November 13, 2010 in Cooking | Permalink | Comments (2) | Tweet This

Friday, November 12, 2010

Remembering Chris Gulker...

Family and friends gathered for a Celebration of Chris Gulker’s life today – and a very special celebration it was indeed!

We all miss Chris terribly - yet we all have such good memories of our times together with him and so enjoyed sharing our memories of our times with Chris with each other today. We’ll treasure those good memories with us always.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. May Chris’s spirit be free in all of us.”

Amen. Chris taught me so much in the short time we shared together. He was a very good man, indeed - and we celebrate his life and his spirit in our lives!

November 12, 2010 in Living | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Monday, November 08, 2010

Loving the iPhone 4 Camera with TiltShiftGen and PhotoShop Express!

I've become a big fan of the old adage - the best camera is the one that's with you - and mine of late has been my iPhone 4 along with two great apps that just make my iPhone-based photography more fun!

Last Friday I was in San Francisco attending a conference that was held on the 32nd floor of the Westin St. Francis Hotel - with big windows all around. I had fun taking some San Francisco skyline shots - and then using PhotoShop Express' Stylize feature to play with them. Here's an example:

San Francisco - Stylized - by Scott Loftesness

Yesterday, I snapped this photo of Lily which she was sitting on the couch watching the drizzle outside. This was adjusted using TiltShiftGen to add the blur and the vignette around the edges and then uploaded using the Flickr app (TiltShiftGen doesn't currently support uploading directly to Flickr):

Lily - Cavalier King Charles Spaniel - by Scott Loftesness

The photography that's now possible with this combination of the iPhone 4's great image sensor and these photo apps is just great fun! What are your favorite iPhone photography apps?

November 8, 2010 in Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, iPhone 4, Lily, Photography, San Francisco/California | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Friday, October 29, 2010

Go Giants!

From Cafe Borrone at lunch today...

Go Giants - Cafe Borrone


October 29, 2010 in San Francisco/California, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Goodbye Chris...

Chris GulkerWe lost my very good friend Chris Gulker earlier this evening - some four years after his initial seizure and subsequent diagnosis of brain cancer.

He was such a good man, a wonderful teacher, and a very special friend. Over the last two years that I knew him, we had many great walks together and shared so many things - as best friends do.

Hard to believe he's already gone - but we know he's in a better place and, I'm sure, making many more new friends and catching up with old ones. The tributes on his blog speak for the love so many had for Chris. Our love goes out to his dear wife Linda and the family.

[Update: I just came across this post from Chris - our first meeting was breakfast at Ann's Cafe on September 21, 2007 - just a bit over three years ago.]

October 27, 2010 in Living | Permalink | Comments (2) | Tweet This

Playing with iPhoto '11

I recently attended a photography workshop with Derrick Story and seven other photographers that included a late afternoon visit to Safari West, an African wild animal preserve northeast of Santa Rosa. I just fired up the new version of iPhoto '11 (part of the new Apple iLife '11 suite) to see how it would work with the post-processed photos that I had already worked on in Lightroom 3.

I was really surprised by the results - especially using the Enhance Photo edit option - which really caused many of these photos to have some very nice additional "pop". Another treat was quickly throwing them all into a slideshow - using Ken Burns effects and some music that iPhoto selected - and then quickly exporting it to a QuickTime movie - see below - click the play triangle to start:

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It is a bit convoluted getting the exported slideshow movie up to MobileMe - to do that you have to open the exported movie file in QuickTime Player and then use the Share menu to upload it to MobileMe. Heavens knows why iPhoto doesn't have this capability built-in? And, also why can't I easily embed the movie in my web page here?

October 27, 2010 in Apple, iPhoto, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Monday, October 25, 2010

Yosemite with Michael Frye - Canon PowerShot S95

I posted earlier about the wonderful Saturday that my son David and I spent with Michael Frye in Yosemite in early October.

Today, Adobe released the RC version of Lightroom 3.3 that includes support for RAW files from the Canon PowerShot S95 that David was shooting with that day.

Here's a photo that David snapped of Michael and me - taken with the S95:

Michael Frye and Scott Loftesness - Yosemite Valley

And another of me focusing in on the details:

Scott Loftesness in Yosemite Valley

David and I had such a great time with Michael that day - read my blog post about the day!

October 25, 2010 in Photography, Photography - Canon 5D Mark II, Photography - Canon PowerShot S95, Yosemite | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Beautiful Day

Chris Gulker, one of my very special friends, is dying.

Late this afternoon, I joined with several of his good friends in a service of the Eucharist with our best friend Chris. We prayed together, confessed our sins together, and shared in a very special communion with Chris. We all shared a very special moment together.

As they say, life isn't fair - but that's not ours to resolve. Rather, we simply try to welcome all of life's glories - those special times that we'll always remember and share as our best times.

Today was one of those beautiful days - one that I'll always treasure. And, I know that I'm not alone.

October 18, 2010 in Living, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Just Back from the TDS Fall Photography Workshop

White Rhinos

I'm just home after spending yesterday and today at Derrick Story's Fall Photography Workshop up in Santa Rosa. Derrick - who has a delightful photography blog at The Digital Story and a great weekly podcast available in iTunes - spent these two days taking a group of eight students through a wide variety of photography topics.

This was my third or fourth photography workshop in the last year - and it was far and away the best. Derrick's hit on a near perfect combination - setting, topics, involvement with other students, unique photographic opportunities - along with some great instruction. Yesterday, for example, we spent about 4 hours in class and then left for a 3 hour photo shoot at Safari West - here's my Flickr set from that adventure - and see the pair of white rhinos above kicking up some dust! Click here to see our group after our safari (that's me on the left)!

Today, after a few hours of workshop instruction on portrait photography and the use of flash, reflectors, diffusers, etc., we set out to work with two models who helped us learn much more about outdoor portrait shooting. This was a really unique and valuable experience for us - as we put our new skills to use out in the field.

Somewhat amazingly, all of us in the class were Canon shooters - and we were all roughly at the same level - which made for a near ideal instruction environment. We were also all Mac users - and although we split between Aperture (most) and Lightroom (a few), again we were roughly at the same level.

If you're interested in a photography workshop that's among the best, you might want to sign up to be on Derrick's reserve list for future workshops. He's planning several for 2011 - and I can't recommend them highly enough! To be added to the notification list, contact him via email:

October 17, 2010 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tweet This

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Our New Book: Payments Systems in the U.S.

I'm delighted to announce the availability of my new book Payments Systems in the U.S. - co-authored with my Glenbrook partner Carol Coye Benson.

Payments Systems in the US - Benson and Loftesness
My "day job" is being a payments strategy consultant for Glenbrook Partners, a payments consulting firm that Carol, our partner Allen Weinberg and I established almost ten years ago. We've since grown to nine partners who cover the full range of electronic payments.

Five years ago, Carol and I collaborated to launch the first of the Glenbrook Payments Boot Camps - an educational program for payments professionals. Our Payments Boot Camp program has become very successful - with over 4,000 people having attended one of our Payments Boot Camps to date.

About a year ago, Carol took the lead on developing the idea for a book that would distill the essence of payments systems in the U.S. We collaborated on writing it - and are now very proud that it's been published!

If you're looking to learn more about how the payments systems in the U.S. are put together, this book is for you. It's written in an easy to read style - giving you just the right level of information to be "smart" about payments!

Click here to order from!

October 10, 2010 in Books, Payments, Work | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Exploring Yosemite with Michael Frye

Yesterday, my son David and I spent the day yesterday exploring Yosemite and landscape photography with Michael Frye. We had a great time - learning about the more out of the way places in Yosemite - away from the big monuments. And about Michael's techniques - both in the field and in processing his images.

Michael and his wife lived in Yosemite for over twenty years. He clearly exceeds Gladwell's 10,000 hours test in terms of intimate knowledge of this most special place!

One of the best spots provided us with an incredible view upriver toward Three Brothers - a formation that's usually very hard to capture. This time of year, the river was flowing slowly and provided a mirror-like surface reflection that was just stunning:

Three Brothers and the Merced River - Yosemite

If you're interested in Yosemite and photography, be sure to follow Michael's blogs - 25 Years in Yosemite: A Photographer's Journal and In the Moment: A Landscape Photography Blog.

His latest book, Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Masters, is a tremendous resource on applying the techniques of the landscape photography masters to today's digital photography - and includes a wide range of Michael's personal portfolio to illustrate the key points. Michael's The Photographer's Guide to Yosemite is the essential handbook for photographers in Yosemite National Park.

October 3, 2010 in Photography, Photography - Canon 5D Mark II, Yosemite | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tweet This

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Enjoying Nancy Duarte's New Book: resonate

I'm a big fan of Nancy Duarte and the amazing work that she and her team at Duarte Design perform to help make presentations into something we can really enjoy. Being just up the road in Silicon Valley, I was fortunate to be able to attend one of her workshops (taught with Garr Reynolds) about 15 months ago - and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

resonate by Nancy Duarte

Nancy's first book, published about two years ago, was slide:ology. In the preface to her new book, resonate, she notes that the new book is actually a prequel to the first - having realized that first you need to figure out the story you're telling - and THEN you can create the most effective slides to tell that story.

I ordered the book on Friday and received it yesterday. Just finished a first pass skim to get a sense for what's inside - and, I must say, it's quite the "tour de force" about visual storytelling. I enjoyed her conclusion to the opening introduction:

"The future isn't just a place you'll go; it's a place you will invent. Your ability to shape your future depends on how well you communicate where you want to be when you get there."

Some of the case studies are particularly compelling - including the Steve Jobs' 2007 keynote introducing the iPhone and Pastor John Ortberg's storytelling from the pulpit. Lots more too!

If you enjoyed slide:ology or Garr Reynolds' Presentation Zen, you'll enjoy resonate as well. Highly recommended!

(Note: affiliate links included above)

September 26, 2010 in Books, Design, Work | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tweet This

Friday, September 24, 2010

Handheld Canon S95 HDR - Pulgas Water Temple

View Larger Map
Earlier this week, I visited both Filoli and the Pulgas Water Temple with my favorite new little camera, the Canon PowerShot S95, in hand. The water temple sits above the southeastern shore of Crystal Springs reservoir - at the end of the long pipeline that brings fresh water to San Francisco from the Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite National Park up in the Sierras.

At lunch earlier in the week, another friend was telling me his experience using Photomatix Pro to align the multiple exposures associated with an HDR shot. He had taken a skyline view of San Francisco in a sailboat with his Canon 5D Mark II - and was surprised at how well Photomatix did using the "align features" option.

That discussion popped into my head as I was walking around the water temple - so I quickly put the S95 into HDR mode (I have the Custom setting on the Mode dial preconfigured for HDR) and fired off a few shots. Here's one of the best - looking up inside the Pulgas Water Temple:

Pulgas Water Temple (HDR)

You can only visit the Pulgas Water Temple between 9 AM and 4 PM weekdays. It's not open at all on weekends. Also, note that the water temple site is going to be closed during 2011 due to construction at the site. See this article in today's San Francisco Chronicle about the big construction project just getting underway to build the Bay Division Pipeline 5.

According to Wikipedia: "Pulgas" is the Spanish (and Portuguese) word for "fleas", which were encountered by early Spanish explorers of the area.

September 24, 2010 in HDR Photography, Photography, Photography - Canon PowerShot S95, Photomatix Pro, San Francisco/California | Permalink | Comments (3) | Tweet This

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Over Ten Years Young!

If you look in the right sidebar of this blog, you'll see a link to November 25, 2001 - as the "founded date". Turns out that's not quite right.

I took a walk back in time this afternoon - exploring what the Internet Archive had to say about my presence on the web. Here's an example of an early page from my initial web presence - with the oldest entry on the page dated Sunday, June 20, 1999.

So, we've been around these parts for over 10 years.

Those early pages were "written" in Microsoft FrontPage - what an arcane experience that was. Later on, we used Radio Userland for some stuff - before eventually migrating to TypePad when it launched circa 2003.

What a strange trip it has been!

September 19, 2010 in Living, TypePad, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tweet This

Friday, September 17, 2010


Many have commented privately to me about the header graphic here on my blog. Here's the story...


Sometimes I come across a scene that’s just right. But, that’s a rare event. Most other times, there’s just noise in my eyes - and I’m frustrated about shooting.

You know that feeling. You look and look - but don’t see anything. Nothing. Nothing interesting. Nothing compelling. Just noise. More noise.

Why do we do this to ourselves? In spite of it, we pack our camera and head out - looking for that decisive moment, even as it continues to elude us. Camera at the ready, we continue scanning for the right opportunity.

Our eyes are amazing sensors. We humans are so gifted. As we scan, back and forth, we begin to get inside the frame. If we’re lucky, we start to have “camera eyes” - seeing in that special new way. When the light is just right, we see whole new scenes. And, if we slow down - so important - we begin to see so much more.

Last April, I came across one of those frames - tucked away in the heart of the Brooklyn Bridge subway station in New York City. After a long day of walking and exploring, we walked down the stairway into the underground canyon of the station. We were dog tired - looking forward to an express train ride up the backbone of New York to get home.

As we sat down to wait for our train, I looked across to the other platform and saw an amazing scene. Quickly grasping my camera, I struggled to fire off one quick shot - as that one guy was looking right at me.

Turns out he looked away - up and away just as the shutter snapped. Perfect.

When I finally got a good look at the image, a title immediately came to mind: Bookends. Like an overstuff bookshelf, the two folks on each end of the image each flared out away from the rest. Bookends. A wonderful memory of a springtime street scene underground in New York City.

September 17, 2010 in Living, Photography, Photography - Canon PowerShot S90 | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tweet This

Adding Some White Space Back into Your LIfe!

See this post on zenhabits about adding a bit of white space in your life. Slow food comes to mind. Just chilling on a weekend with a great book in a big overstuff chair. A quiet walk along the ocean. Just driving with the radio - and cell phone - off. That kind of thing.

Way back when I was a busy executive with a seemingly endless stream of meetings being dropped on my calendar by others, I finally made a change that worked well for me in adding back in a bit of white space during a busy work day.

I asked my assistant to only schedule meetings on my calendar that lasted at least 90 minutes. Of course the default meeting is an hour - but often it's not quite long enough. If you are booked back to back, you'll be in a catchup frenzy all day.

By switching to the 90 minute meeting minimum, I often had some white space remaining at the end of my meetings - to just do some thinking or, heaven forbid, return phone calls!

Which reminds me, this blog's design could sure use some white space! It's on my list - one of these days a redesign will pop!

September 17, 2010 in Frustrations, Living, Work | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My Report from Working Class

I'm writing from Airtran flight 44 heading to Atlanta. At least it's not August although it still looks wicked hot there. We'll find out tomorrow.

I'm in so-called Economy class - trying to work but, alas, that's just not working. Airtran's cabin designers must all be Randy Newman kind of short people - not average humans. The thinnest possible seat backs crammed together in very tight pitch. At least it's only four hours of compression before we can all breathe again. Airlines - what an industry to behold.

The GoGo wifi seems fast - even if it does cost $5 to be able to play.

September 14, 2010 in Living | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tweet This

Canon Introduces the PowerShot G12!

You've heard me rave about my Canon PowerShot S90 and, more recently, its successor - the new PowerShot S95.

Today, Canon has announced the PowerShot G12 - the upgrade to the G11 that was the S90's "big brother". Like the S95, the G12 also includes HDR built-in to the camera.

Take a look at the details here - the Canon G12 is also now available for pre-order on Amazon.

September 14, 2010 in Compact HDR, HDR Photography, Photography, Photography - Canon PowerShot S90, Photography - Canon PowerShot S95 | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tweet This

Monday, September 13, 2010

Should You Move Your Home Page to Facebook?

This afternoon Palo Alto's Bling Nation began redirecting its home page on the web to its Facebook page instead.

I asked Co-CEO Meyer Malka "what's up with that?" He replied:

"Our Facebook page has real users experiences and content and not some corporate vision or messages. Facebook allow us to show the real Bling, all good and bad things are there for anybody to read. We are fortunate to have customers. Who better than them to say what Bling is all about?"

Is there anyone else you know using their Facebook page as their home page?

September 13, 2010 in Facebook, Payments, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Moving Everything from Skype to Google Voice?

Last November, I wrote about the configuration for voice calls that I've been using at my office. That setup involved using a headset on my MacBook Pro along with Skype - with a Skype-In number being used to receive calls I've forwarded from my iPhone.

This way, if somebody calls me on my iPhone number (different from my "public" number which is Google Voice-based), it rings through to Skype and I take the call in my headset.

I also have been much preferring doing conference calls etc. using my headset and Skype. In fact, I don't even have a traditional landline phone in my office - just my iPhone and Skype on my MacBook Pro.

Skype has been setup to show my iPhone number on caller ID - so folks know that it's me calling - even when using Skype.

Recently Google announced the addition of voice call in Gmail - including an integration with Google Voice for receiving calls to your Google Voice number in your browser. Instead of call forwarding my iPhone to a Skype-In number (that I have to pay an annual fee for), I can now just forward the iPhone to my Google Voice number and have it passed through to Gmail where I can answer it on the same headset I've been using. If I don't answer, Google Voice takes the voice mail, emails me a transcript and sends an SMS to my iPhone.

What's missing from this setup is an ability to selectively set outbound callerID on Google Voice to my iPhone number. Skype provides that capability - but near as I can tell Google Voice doesn't. I can understand why they might not want to allow that - and I'm not sure it actually matters. Folks that know me by my "private" iPhone number won't see it when I call via Google Voice - instead, they'll see my Google Voice caller ID - which is exactly 1 digit different. If I care about it, I can call them using Skype where I can set my caller ID - assuming I renew my outbound calling subscription. On the other hand, maybe I'd just prefer that everyone (beyond family) just call my Google Voice number anyway - so if they store that one away I'll be just fine.

Bottom line: seems like I no longer need the Skype In online number. Skype's fees for that number are something like 50 Euros for 12 months. With Google Voice, I also now don't need Skype's unlimited minutes subscription to the US and Canada - which costs about 20 Euros for 12 months but is free (at least until year end) with Google. So, for now, it looks like roughly a 70 Euro savings moving my voice configuration from Skype to Google Voice.

Is there any reason I should be paying Skype anything at this point? The only reason this is interesting is that my Skype annual subscriptions are up in about 10 days!

September 12, 2010 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tweet This

Snared by the Priority Inbox!

For many years, I've been a desktop mail client kind of guy - on the Mac to be clear. It just worked for me, brought me a consolidated inbox (I've got about a dozen different email accounts around the globe), and a bunch of filters ( calls them "Rules").

Since I migrated both work and personal email to Google Apps for Domains a couple of years ago I've been increasingly drawn to doing some email work in the browser. In fact, as Chrome has matured, I've basically got it configured with Tabs for my various email accounts. But I never committed to mail in the browser - if you know what I mean. was my mail client.

Then, two weeks ago, Google announced the launch of priority inbox - a clever way to cleave the noise in your inboxes to separate the wheat from the chaff. Using some nifty smart algorithms that flip span filtering upside down, Gmail now does a more than decent job of identifying what's important from what isn't in my endless email stream. And, if it guesses wrong, I can quickly tell it to adjust - and it remembers. (There's a weird sense of power clicking on an email from someone it thought was important and lowering them to just regular - and vice versa!). Of course, none of this matters (or works!) unless you're doing email in the browser.

So, after giving it a trial workout, I've now migrated most of my email work into the browser - with just running alongside for old time's sake. I've learned most of the shortcut keys in Gmail - and it's become quite productive - feeling faster and easier than

That's the latest in my endless email story - how about you?

By the way, here are the settings I'm using for Priority Inbox:


September 12, 2010 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tweet This

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fun at Hiller Aviation Museum!

This morning I went to the Hiller Aviation Museum at San Carlos Airport to hear Richard Luehring talk about his experiences as an RSO (Reconnaissance Systems Officer) on the SR-71. He accumulated over 2,100 flying in the SR-71.

I enjoyed hearing him talk about his incredible confidence in the team at Lockheed responsible for designing and building this amazing aircraft - including Kelly Johnson of Lockheed's Skunk Works. The Pratt & Whitney J-58 engines were equally amazing ("In Thrust We Trust" was P&W's motto!).

While waiting for the lecture to begin, I shot the photo below just using my iPhone 4. The model was hanging in the ceiling above the audience. I loved the peaceful nature of the image and the lighting.


September 11, 2010 in Aviation, iPhone 4, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Friday Night Jazz at Cafe Borrone

We joined Chris and Linda Gulker last night for a wonderful Friday evening adventure - first some early evening munchies at Cafe Borrone, then the William Gibson event at Keplers (he was reading from his new book Zero History), and, finally, back to Borrone's listening to Clint Baker’s Cafe Borrone AllStars perform some great jazz. Truly a wonderful evening!

Chris was able to meet Gibson - one of his favorite authors. Here's a shot of the two of them chatting just before the book signing - and another one taken by Linda!

The photo below I took with my iPhone 4 while just sitting at our outside table at Cafe Borrone - I used the TiltShift Gen application on the iPhone to generate the particular look/blur. It looks a bit "other worldly" - perhaps a scene out of a William Gibson novel?

Friday night at Cafe Borrone by Scott Loftesness

September 11, 2010 in Books, Food and Drink, iPhone 4, Living, Menlo Park, Norway, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Wave of HDR Ahead?

Paul Miller writes on Engadget about HDR video shot with dual Canon 5D Mark II's - and asks "Are you ready for a wave of HDR to crash over the consumer electronics industry?" He views Apples inclusion of HDR in iOS 4.1 as an important signal about what's ahead.

September 10, 2010 in Apple, HDR Photography | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Putting a Green Filter on Business Decisions

See this post by Mike VanDeVen of Southwest Airlines. I love the terminology "put a Green filter on business decisions"! A great metaphor!

September 10, 2010 in Living | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Thursday, September 09, 2010

TIP: Using Your iPad for a Photo Portfolio

I'd like to highly recommend this TidBITS article by photographer Jeff Lynch about how to use Lightroom to effectively manage a great looking photo portfolio on your iPad. He's got all of the tricks and techniques clearly outlined. A great reference! [Note: Jeff's article is also available directly from his blog. I highly recommend Jeff's blog by the way - he does a great job!]

September 9, 2010 in iPad, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

First Photo: iPhone 4 HDR using iOS 4.1

The iOS 4.1 software update for the iPhone 4 became available today and I installed it on mine. Here's the first photo I took in HDR - looking right outside my office window. The "surprise" new feature announced last week at the Apple event was HDR for the iPhone 4 - so I wanted to try it out right away!

The first image below is without HDR on - the second is with HDR on. You can see how the stuff in the shadows (cars under the trees, bushes in the foreground, even the wall on the right side) is made more visible in the HDR version. Cool stuff - and no noticeable impact on shutter speed meaning that you can take HDR photos without the wait of traditional autobracketing, etc.



With HDR:


When we get some more interesting iPhone HDR shots over the next few days, I'll share them here!

September 8, 2010 in Apple, Compact HDR, HDR Photography, iPhone 4, Photography | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tweet This

International Orange

Golden Gate Bridge (Canon PowerShot S90 HDR)

I just finished reading Kevin Starr's new book Golden Gate: The Life and Times of America's Greatest Bridge. As one who has shot the Golden Gate Bridge many times, I found the book to be a fascinating read - lots of history about the politics behind getting it built, the design, the construction, etc.

Were you aware that the color the bridge is painted is called "international orange". What a great name for a color! Wikipedia says it's "a color used to set things apart from their surroundings" - and, indeed, it plays that role with the bridge!

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, on the other hand, is a boring grey color - maybe it's known as "Local Drab"?

[Note about the photo above: taken January 23, 2010, from the top level of Fort Point in San Francisco just below the Golden Gate Bridge - shot using the Canon PowerShot S90 using traditional HDR techniques. This is unique picture of the bridge is one of my most popular images on Flickr! For more fun, view the large image on a black background!]

September 8, 2010 in Books, Living, Photography, San Francisco/California | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Power of Black and White - Canon S95 HDR

Maybe it's the visit to the Ansel Adams show with Chris on Saturday that has sent me over the edge, but I'm continually intrigued by how one can take a color photo and turn it into a much more powerful black and white image.

See the photo below - it's #3 from my initial Canon S95 HDR post earlier this morning.

Rodin's Gates of Hell @ Stanford

Frankly, I didn't spend much time on this photo - the point was to provide it (a traditional HDR post-processed shot) as a point of comparison with the new in-camera HDR feature built-in to the S95.

As I was looking at it, I wondered how a conversion to black and white might look - now that I've become acquainted and familiar with Lightroom 3's excellent Black and White Mix controls.

So, I gave it a shot - here's the result - after about 10 minutes of tweaking in Lightroom:

Rodin's Gates of Hell - Canon PowerShot S95 - HDR

Obviously, it's the same subject as the original photo - Rodin's Gates of Hell - but it's been transformed into a more powerful photograph through the conversion to black and white.

I also experimented for the first time using the new Lens Correction features in Lightroom 3 - to remove the distortion in terms of angle, etc. that I had in the original image. It now looks very close to a direct, head-on shot at the scuplture.

Finally, I tweaked it in Flickr - using Picnik to add a museum frame around it - dressing it up a bit.

I like the result. What do you think?

You may also want to view my Flickr set of Canon S95 HDRs taken this morning at Stanford.

September 6, 2010 in Compact HDR, HDR Photography, Photography, Photography - Canon PowerShot S95, Photomatix Pro, Stanford | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Some Initial HDR Explorations with the Canon S95

One of the new Scene mode options in the new Canon PowerShot S95 is HDR - High Dynamic Range. If you know me, you'll know that I enjoy HDR photography - having done a bunch of it on my earlier S90. I've used the traditional approach - taking three auto-bracket images at different exposures and then using Photomatix Pro to merge them together and do something magical called tone mapping.

When the S95 was announced, I was curious how well the HDR Scene mode in the S95 would do - compared to both basic auto shots plus also versus the traditional approach I've been using for a while.

So, this morning - tripod in hand - I headed over to Stanford University to give the S95 a while. I've just completed post-processing the first photos - below you'll see the result. These photos were taken at the Rodin Sculpture Garden at the Cantor Center - of Rodin's Gates of Hell.

1. Here's the first photo - this is the middle exposure of my HDR autobracket sequence on the S95.

2. Here's the second photo - this is shot using the in-camera HDR setting in Scene mode. In my opinion, it's a definite improvement!

3. And, here's the final photo - processed the traditional way using three autobracket shots, Photomatix Pro, etc.

What do you think? I certainly prefer #3 - the traditional HDR shot - but the in-camera one isn't bad. With a bit of additional tweaking to warm it up a bit, bring up the saturation, etc. it'd be a very good image.

For some more of my traditional HDR from this morning's Stanford shoot, see this set on Flickr.

September 6, 2010 in Compact HDR, HDR Photography, Photography, Photography - Canon PowerShot S95, Photomatix Pro, Stanford | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tweet This

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Take 3: The Barn at Pierce Point Ranch

In a followup comment, Don Neff pointed out that the strip at the bottom of the photo could use some detail added back in as well.

Here's take 3:


I darkened the sky just a skotch more - this version seems nicely in balance to me - although my good friend and pro photography Chris Gulker votes with Ansel Adams for the first version (with the almost black sky)! Seems like dark skies are an "acquired taste"!

September 5, 2010 in Lightroom, Photography | Permalink | Comments (5) | Tweet This

Canon PowerShot S95 - Some More Shots

I went out walking with Lily early this morning at Sharon Park - and took my new Canon PowerShot S95 along to see what I could capture using the various Scene modes (SCN on the mode dial) built into the camera.

On my S90, I almost never shot using these modes - thinking that I wanted to have better control over the camera. On the S90, most of my shooting has been in Aperture priority (both for HDR shots and for those great bokeh shots at f/2.0) or in Program AE (P on the mode dial).

I've posted my initial Canon S95 photos in this set on Flickr. In the description, I've noted the particular Scene mode that the photo was shot in. Note that these Sharon Park photos have NOT have any additional processing. They were imported into Lightroom 3.2 and uploaded directly to Flickr.

After Sharon Park, we went to the Menlo Park Farmers Market for veggies and stuff - that's where the two flower photos were taken - including the one below.

Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to get out and try some HDR on this new jewel of a camera. Perhaps head over to Stanford mid-morning and see what we can get. Anyone want to join me for a Stanford Labor Day Photowalk? Let me know.

Beautiful Flowers

September 5, 2010 in Menlo Park, Photography, Photography - Canon PowerShot S95 | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tweet This

Take 2: The Barn at Pierce Point Ranch

In a comment to my earlier post, Doug Kaye said he wanted to like the black and white version - but was having trouble because of the lack of detail in the sky - which went almost completely black as I cranked down the blue grey saturation.

So, here's take 2 - with the blue bought back from -100 to just -18. I think I agree with Doug - the first version was too dark in the sky. Take 2 has more eye appeal - particularly the low glow in the sky on the right side.


September 5, 2010 in Lightroom, Photography | Permalink | Comments (2) | Tweet This

The Barn at Pierce Point Ranch - Point Reyes

Take a look at these two images - derived from the same photo taken at the Point Reyes Workshop last weekend:



Which one do you prefer?

After taking in the Ansel Adams exhibit with Chris yesterday, we got to talking about the use of color filters in black and white photography - something I had never really experimented with. So, when I got home, I fired up Lightroom 3 and took the color version of the barn photo and transformed it into the black and white version - using Black and White Mix panel in Lightroom's Develop module.

I first converted the image to Black and White, then adjusted the levels for Green, Orange and Yellow grays to -100. I dropped Blue to -92 and Red to -22. Finally, I tweaked up the contrast a tad to +9 and the clarity up to +70. A final bit of sharpening and I was done.

Back in Ansel's day, all of this was done using color filters at the time of picture creation!

[Update: 9/5/2010 - Be sure to check out two other versions of this black and white photo: take 2 and take 3.]

September 5, 2010 in Lightroom, Photography | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tweet This

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Must See: Ansel Adams at the Monterey Museum of Art!

As I mentioned earlier in the week, Chris Gulker and I headed south this morning to the Monterey Museum of Art's La Mirada facility - a beautiful old home with wonderful three level gallery adjacent. The venue is popular for weddings - and I can see why!

Our objective: to be able to do a leisurely tour of the Ansel Adams: Portrait of America exhibition currently showing (through October 3). We did just that - taking our time, exploring all of the details, highlights and shadows of each image - and marveling at Adams' creative and technical proficiency. No crowds, mostly just the two of us - enjoying the heck out of this exploration of light.

What's particularly special about this exhibition is that it's one of the rare showings of a complete "Museum Set" - something Adams focused on during the last years of his life. This set of images is from the collection of Ansel Adam's daughter, Anne Adams Helms - who Chris and I actually met during our walk through!

I've been to several other Ansel Adams "shows" over the last few years - but none of them had the impact and beauty of this exhibition. It's just perfect! Be sure to get there if you can.

On the way home, we stopped for a great seafood lunch at Phil's Fish Market in Moss Landing - another spot not to be missed when you're in the area!

September 4, 2010 in Art and Artists, Living, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Friday, September 03, 2010

Our Girl Lily!

Lily (officially Tigerlily - our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) turned seven years old today. She's a cutie! In dog years, she's still younger than me - and she doesn't let me forget it!

Last year, Chris Gulker captured Lily's sixth birthday portrait after one of our twice-weekly morning walks. She's really missing those walks lately - and lets Chris know when she sees him!

Here's her seventh birthday morning pose - as she ponders the day ahead! (Shot using my iPhone 4, post-processed in the iPhone app TiltShift Lens).

Lily Loftesness - Cavalier King Charles Spaniel - September 3, 2010

September 3, 2010 in Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Lily, Living | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

First Shots - Canon PowerShot S95

Here's a new Flickr set with some quick shots taken after lunch today with my good friend Doug Kaye out near the Warming Hut in the Presidio of San Francisco.

These are the first pictures taken with my new Canon PowerShot S95 - I was shooting in Scene mode with "super vivid" selected. Using Lightroom, I tweaked back the saturation just a tad (super vivid is, indeed, vivid!) before uploading to Flickr.

Here's Doug with his Nikon D90 angling for a great shot:

Doug Kaye on the Warming Hut Pier - San Francisco

September 3, 2010 in Photography, Photography - Canon PowerShot S95, San Francisco/California | Permalink | Comments (2) | Tweet This

Thursday, September 02, 2010

This Saturday: Monterey Museum of Art and Ansel Adams

My good friend Chris Gulker and I will be heading south this coming Saturday morning to the Monterey Museum of Arts (La Mirada) to see the Ansel Adams: Portrait of America exhibit. We're planning to arrive shortly after opening at 11 AM. If you're interested in a meet up in Monterey this Saturday, let me know!

September 2, 2010 in Art and Artists, Living, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Some Useful and Easy Photo-editing Tips for Lightroom

Just came across this article "Ten Photo-Editing Tips From a Pro" by Rik Fairlie from the Gadgetwise blog in last week's New York Times. It's a very nice, brief collection of easy editing tips for use in Lightroom.

September 2, 2010 in Lightroom, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Wow - HDR is now Built-In to Apple's iOS 4.1!

Yaaaay! Apple this morning announced that high dynamic range photography is going to be built into iOS 4.1! Details to follow!

September 1, 2010 in Apple, Compact HDR, HDR Photography, iPhone 3G, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Monday, August 30, 2010

Gmail's Priority Inbox

Sometimes things come into our lives that end up having a profound impact - yet we don't realize it at the time. Google's announcement today of a new priority inbox feature for Gmail feels like it might just have that characteristic. If this feature works as well as Google's anti-spam technology works, I suspect I'll be spending much more time doing email in the browser instead of in on my Mac.

August 30, 2010 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Canon PowerShot S95 Unboxing!

[Update: Sep 3, 2010 - see the first shots taken with my new Canon PowerShot S95!]

My new Canon PowerShot S95 arrived this afternoon from As mentioned yesterday, my Canon S90 has been my favorite camera for the last year - and I've been looking forward to getting the new Canon S95 after ordering it on the day it was officially announced just over 10 days ago.


Continue reading "Canon PowerShot S95 Unboxing!"

August 30, 2010 in Photography, Photography - Canon PowerShot S90, Photography - Canon PowerShot S95 | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tweet This

Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Canon PowerShot S95 On Its Way!

While I was away for the last couple of days, emailed me that the Canon PowerShot S95 that I ordered the first day it was announced (August 19) has actually shipped and should arrive tomorrow.

Canon PowerShot S95

The S95 is the successor to the outstanding S90 - my favorite camera for the last year (see my S90-related posts here on the blog). Improvements over the S90 include: a new case coating to make the S95 less slippery, new hybrid image stabilization system and 720p HD video with stereo sound. In addition, the S95 is the first Canon camera to feature an in-camera, HDR scene mode - enabling HDR processing in-camera. I suspect the HDR feature will be very 1.0 - we'll know shortly! The actual image sensor, on-board processor, and lens are the same as on the S90 - and they're great! I've also read that the S95 stiffens up the read control wheel a bit so that it isn't easily bumped - a complaint for some but one that has never been an issuer in my shooting.

Although I also own the Canon EOS 5D Mark II - another excellent camera - the size and resulting portability of the S90 make it the perfect camera to have with me all the time every day. My S90 is usually in my backpack - which goes with me almost everywhere.

The 5D Mark II, on the other hand, is superb for serious photography - including some great HDR work that I've done with it. For me, the two cameras are complementary. The only other camera - that's literally with me all the time - is my iPhone 4 - another excellent camera but not quite a real "photographer's camera." That said, it's easy to miss a shot when camera stuff is getting in the way - and the quick capture of the iPhone helps avoid missing anything (see some of my iPhone photos here)!

While in New York City earlier this year, I had great fun with the S90 in my hand shooting street scenes. With such a tiny camera, you just don't look like a photographer!

I'll have a more in-depth review of the S95 coming up after I've had a chance to get better acquainted with it!

(Note: Amazon affiliate links included above.)

August 29, 2010 in Photography, Photography - Canon 5D Mark II, Photography - Canon PowerShot S90, Photography - Canon PowerShot S95 | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tweet This

Italian Street Painting in Palo Alto

This morning I headed out to University Avenue and Cowper Streets in downtown Palo Alto for a look at this year's Italian Street Paintings. The annual street paintings (done in chalk by artists from around the country) are part of the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts 2010. Here's one example - click on it to see the full Flickr set.

Italian Street Painting in Palo Alto - Photo by Scott Loftesness

August 29, 2010 in Photography, Photography - Canon 5D Mark II, Photography - Canon PowerShot S90 | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tweet This

Point Reyes and Tomales Bay Photo Workshop

[Update - 9/4/10: Most of my Point Reyes workshop photos are in this set on Flickr.]

I'm just back from a weekend photo workshop at Point Reyes.

Perhaps the most unusual shot of the weekend is this one - shot looking into a window of the West Bunkhouse at Pierce Point Ranch on Point Reyes. The window on the right is on the other side of the bunkhouse - by holding my camera carefully, I was able to shoot both that window as well as capture the reflected image of the creamery building. The unusual black shape around the window is the sunshade from my camera's lens! Shot using my Canon 5D Mark II using a Canon 24-105mm f/4.0 IS lens.


The photo workshop was led by Dave Wyman and Ken Rockwell. About a dozen of us spent two intense days photographing Tomales Bay, Point Reyes and environs - some great fun and challenging photography!

For a great tour description of the Point Reyes area, be sure to read the Point Reyes series of posts by Margaret Husband (with photos by Tom) on their excellent California Travels blog.

August 29, 2010 in Photography, Photography - Canon 5D Mark II | Permalink | Comments (4) | Tweet This