The Best of Sett A Curated Best of Sett en-us Thu, 18 Jul 2019 02:32:12 +0000 Sett RSS Generator Understanding How Cameras Work to Improve Your Shots by Tynan   I've been wanting to write this post for a while, but I've hesitated because I thought that it would only benefit the few of us with high end cameras. But when I finally got my Sanyo VPC-WH1, which is the video version of a point and shoot, I realized how importan]]> EPSN5689 

I've been wanting to write this post for a while, but I've hesitated because I thought that it would only benefit the few of us with high end cameras. But when I finally got my Sanyo VPC-WH1, which is the video version of a point and shoot, I realized how important these concepts are, even on that end of the spectrum.

Like anything, understanding how photography works will make you better at it. This guide is intended for people without photography backgrounds who want to understand how to get the most out of their cameras.

Megapixels Don't Really Matter

The first thing to understand is that megapixels don't really matter. Megapixels are a unit to measure resolution. Multiply the height and width of a picture, and you have the number of total pixels generated. Divide that by a million, and you have the megapixels.

For example, an average computer screen is 1280x768 pixels. Multiply those numbers and you get 972800, or just under one megapixel. That means that to generate a full screen picture, you could use a camera that is less than one megapixel.

The two cases where higher megapixels come into play are cropping and printing. A screen is typically 72-150 dots per inch (dpi). A photo typically prints at 300 dpi, which means that for a 4x6" photo you need at least 2 megapixels (4 x 300 x 6 x 300 = 2160000 or 2.16 MP).

Most people print out so few of their photos that a one megapixel final image is probably good enough. More important is cropping. If you have a four megapixel camera, then you can crop out 75% of your photo and still have enough pixels to fill a screen.

You also get diminishing returns as you move up the megapixel ladder. The bigger the image size, the more pixels it takes to add an extra row on all sides. It's like a puddle: at first when you pour water in it it will get bigger quickly, but once it gets big the edges of it will expand very slowly.

A 6 megapixel image is 3000x2008 pixels. A 12 megapixel image is 4000x3000. Twice the megapixels, but not a huge jump in final image size.

Still, more megapixels is better than fewer, right? Not necessarily. As you'll soon understand, what matters most is how much light is captured by the sensor. In between each pixel is a small frame. The more pixels you have the more total frame area you have, which means that a lower percentage of the light actually gets captured. A 2 megapixel camera may actually capture MORE light than a 12 megapixel camera.

The other downside is that more megapixels means bigger file sizes. A memory card can hold twice as many 6mp images than 12mp images, and 12mp images will take up twice as much hard drive space.

So how many megapixels is really enough? I'd say six to eight. That's enough print out 8x10 images and to crop aggressively for on-screen viewing. Of course, many high end cameras have much higher megapixel counts. That's fine too, but make sure that you're buying a camera for its other merits, not its megapixel count.

It's All About The Light

A camera, in its simplest definition, is a light capturing device. Light comes through the lens, is admitted into the camera by the shutter, and is absorbed by the sensor. These three elements each have one primary adjustment that you can make. The tricky part is that each adjustment you make affects your decisions for the other elements.

There's a certain zen quality to it, though. Each step you move one element will either halve or double the amount of light captured. That's the quantitative effect on the photo. At the same time, each adjustment also has a qualitative effect on the photo. The trick to photography is to balance those effects to produce the image you want.


The aperture is the round hole behind the lens which lets light in. It's made out of adjustable blades, usually arranged in a polygonal pattern (which is why light blurs show up as hexagons or octogons sometimes). On some cameras, like mine, you can easily see the blades opening and closing. When it's very small the aperture is just a tiny dot. When it's all the way open you can't see the edges because it fills the whole lens.


The size of the aperture is expressed in f-stops. You've seen people talk about f/2.8 or f/16 before. They're talking about aperture.

Because it's a fraction, f stops with larger numbers are much smaller. So a wide open aperture might be f/1.2, an aperture that barely lets any light in at all would be f/16. You'll also hear people referring to these as "fast" and "slow" because an f/1.2 lets in light a lot faster than an f/16.

The numbers are standardized to indicate settings that double or halve the amount of light coming in to the camera. For example, f/5.6 lets in twice as much light as f/4 and half as much as f/8.

The amount of ambient light is going to be the primary determinant of your aperture size. If it's a bright sunny day, anything below, say, 5.6, might result in a washed out image even with the most conservative settings on your other controls. At night you'll almost always want your aperture to be as wide open as possible.

Besides being the first line of defense when letting light in, your aperture setting also controls the "depth of field" or "bokeh" of your image. These terms refer to that blurring of the background that makes your subject really stand out.

A shallow depth of field, achieved with a large, wide open, aperture, will make it so that only a small slice of your subject is in focus.

When shooting portraits, you generally want as shallow a depth of field as possible, so that the face is in focus but everything else is blurred and doesn't distract. When shooting a person in front of a landscape, however, you might want to keep everything in focus and thus set the aperture as high as possible.

Because the depth of field affects the resulting image so drastically, your primary concern is usually to get the aperture to a certain point, and then adjusting your other settings to make it work.



Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is expressed in fractions of a second, like 1/125 or 1/2000. This number represents the amount of time that the shutter stays open, allowing light to flood through the lens onto the sensor.

If you want to use a large aperture in the sun, you may set the shutter speed for something tiny, like 1/2000. If you're taking a shot at dusk it might be more like 1/8.

The longer the shutter is open, the more blur you'll get. Depth of field creates a desirable blur, leaving your subject in focus, whereas long shutter times generally create an ugly blur, leaving your whole photo blurry (there are artistic exceptions, which I won't get into).

Without a tripod it's difficult to hold a camera still enough beyond around 1/8 or 1/15 of a second.

If your subjects are moving, you probably want a faster shutter speed. For example, a lot happens on a basketball court in 1/8 of a second. Take a picture of a basketball game at that speed, and everyone will be motion blurred.


(1/2000 shutter speed)

If you're taking a picture of a waterfall, on the other hand, you might WANT that motion blur, because it will make that dreamy flowing effect you've seen before.

You can probably already see the interplay between aperture and shutter speed. If you want to take a picture with a large aperture, you'll need a faster shutter speed. If you want to take a picture with a small aperture, you'll need a longer shutter speed. Each adjustment you make on one setting will affect the range of choices you have for other settings.

Sensor Sensitivity (ISO)

The last thing you can adjust is the sensitivity of the sensor. This is expressed as an ISO number, like 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 or beyond.

Think of this as the gain on an amplifier. The higher you turn it up the louder the music is, but the more distorted it is. On a camera a high sensitivity means that less light is needed for a bright picture, but more noise and grain is introduced. The amount of noise varies by camera. Mine is noise free at 200 and 400, slightly noisy at 800, and distracting at 1600.

During the day you almost always want your camera set for the lowest sensitivity possible. Once it starts to get dark you have to evaluate the tradeoff. You may be able to take a picture at 400 ISO with a 1/8 second shutter speed, or a 800 ISO with a 1/4 second shutter speed. What's worse? Motion blur because it's hard to hold a camera still for 1/4 of a second, or a bit of grain?


(1600 ISO and f/1.4 with only moonlight)

Black and white noise isn't as bad as color noise, so if you plan on converting your photos to black and white, you may be willing to shoot at a higher ISO.

Putting it All Together

Most cameras will adjust all or most of these settings for you. Mine does auto exposure, but the sensitivity and aperture must be set manually. That means that I've become intimately familiar with all combinations. Here are some examples of combinations you might use for different settings:

Setting Aperture Shutter Speed ISO
Tennis match during the day any fast low
Midnight shot of the stars full open very slow med
Daylight portrait full open any low
Landscape with barn in front closed any any


Here's why:

For the tennis match, the most critical aspect is the shutter speed. Tennis players move quickly, so you want the exposure time to be as quick as possible. I'd set the ISO low so that I don't get any noise, maybe 200 or 400, and then would adjust the aperture to get a good exposure. If I really wanted both players in focus I would have to have the aperture closed more, which means I might need to bump up my sensitivity and slow down my shutter speed a bit. Settings I might end up on: f/8 1/2000 and ISO 400.

To capture the stars I want to do the opposite, leaving the shutter open as long as possible. Once you get past a certain point in your focus range, you are "infinity focused", meaning that everything past a certain distance will be in focus. On my camera that's somewhere around 30 feet.  Keeping the shutter open wide allows the most light in possible, and won't blur anything because the stars are the only thing in my field of view. Settings I might end up on: f/1.4, 4 seconds, ISO 800 or even 1600.

For a daylight portrait I want the Aperture open, not to capture the most light, but to provide a blurry background. I want the ISO low to counter the wide aperture and to avoid noise on my subject. Finding the correct shutter speed would just be a matter of letting in the right amount of light for the other two settings. Settings I might end up on: f/1.4 1/125 seconds, ISO 200.

For the barn, my most important decision is to have the aperture as closed as possible. I want the barn and the background to both be in focus. If it's really dark I may not be able to close it all the way to f/16, but in the middle of the day I could. The other settings will be decided based on the available light. Settings I might end up on: f/16, 1/30 seconds, ISO 200.

These settings aren't set in stone, of course. Doubling the ISO and halving the exposure time would work in most of the cases. Slightly different lighting conditions call for different settings.

There's no point in trying to memorize these values. The best thing you can do is understand how these three settings (and their host mechanisms, the lens, shutter, and sensor) work, and the visual effect each one controls along with light flow.

You can probably now understand why manual mode isn't that great. It can adjust for the proper amount of light, but it can't ever know if you want the background in focus, if your subject is moving or not, or how much grain you're willing to accept.

(by the way, all of these examples are assuming you don't use your flash, Unless you have a high quality external flash and know how to use it, your photos will probably be much better without it.)

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Mon, 01 Apr 2013 00:18:03 +0000
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Fri, 30 Jan 2015 13:25:50 +0000
SETT's Reaction to Government Overreach and Your Privacy by Tynan We really care about the idea and the practice of free speech. In the wake of the recent NSA PRISM revelations, we took some time to think about how we could contribute to a pro-free-speech environment. We've made several changes which are live now.


We now support Perfect Forwarding Secrecy over our SSL connection. SSL connections are used to securely communicate details like your login details, but it is possible that your ISP, our ISP, or the government could be recording all of that data.

The data they collect would be encrypted, but it's typically all encrypted with the same key, our SSL key. If this was ever compromised, it would be possible to decrypt all of the communications they had collected.

Perfect Forwarding Secrecy modifies the process to use the master key PLUS an additional one-time use key. In this scenario it would be impossible for them to do anything with the collected data.

You don't have to do anything to enable PFS. All browsers from IE8 up will automatically connect using it for both logins and submitting posts.

IP Address

EDIT: Our efforts to not log IP addresses at all was not efficient at scale, so we now log IP addresses in some cases when people post or create a new blog. We are logging salted hashes of the IP, but these could be pretty easily decrypted by someone determined (who also had access to our database AND source code). In addition, we are limiting IP logs to the bare minimum, including not logging for people who are unlikely to be spammers (history of quality posts), and those who post to their own blog. In addition, IP address logs are deleted whenever possible (when someone seems statistically unlikely to be a spammer). We would much prefer to have no logs of IPs, but a recent flood of spammers creating spam blogs on Sett has made it necessary.

We also logged IP addresses in certain server logs. Those logs are now destroyed and we no longer log any IP addresses or browser headers.

If you have a paid account, Stripe DOES log your IP address when you sign up or change payment details. As detailed below, we will now accept Bitcoin payments.

Encrypted Posting Channel

This explanation will be technical, but the short version is that the text of your posts/replies/messages are never sent in plaintext, making it nearly impossible that they could be intercepted and associated with your IP address.

Posts are public, so they will be associated with your account and email address, but we do not want them to be associated with your IP address (you can give us a fake/temporary email, but not a fake IP). The problem is that posts are sent via POST rather than GET, so we can't send them to via AJAX.

Our solution is for your client to generate a one-time-use encryption password in your web browser, which is then used to encrypt your post using AES. After we get confirmation that the encrypted post was saved, we send a request via GET to over SSL, sending a hash and the id of the saved text as well as the one-time-use encryption key. The server then decrypts the text and posts it.


We accept Bitcoin manually now. Just email and you'll get instructions on how to pay. You must prepay for 12 months, but you'll get a 15% discount.


You may notice that we store your rough location (state/country) in the Online Now dropdown. This information is stored temporarily in memory and is never committed to the database. It remains in memory for roughly 1 minute after you close the window.


This post will be edited with any changes that could reduce the amount of privacy you expect on SETT.

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Sun, 30 Jun 2013 16:57:30 +0000
I am Copying TYNAN Blindly. Is this a Bad Habit? by I just finished reading 'Switching to Linux', new blog post by Tynan. I don't know anything about Linux, but I'm already working on switching my OS to Linux. I always get excited when Tynan writes about new stuffs, and as soon as I read it I jump into it, and gradually I]]>

I just finished reading 'Switching to Linux', new blog post by Tynan. I don't know anything about Linux, but I'm already working on switching my OS to Linux.

I always get excited when Tynan writes about new stuffs, and as soon as I read it I jump into it, and gradually I lose interest over it.

For example: After reading this post by Tynan about why you should learn to program, I started to learn to program. I started learning PHP and after some time I lost interest on it.

However, I did learn some stuffs about programming through PHP, and that's still a win for me. And since, I have all the basic concepts with me, If I need to learn again, I can catch up quick.

But the problem is that I start working on whatever Tynan writes and lose interest overtime. Even if I won't reach to the end of it, I need to try it.

I really liked Tynan's text editor. I asked him what it was on twitter and he said, Sublime Text. And after that I started using Sublime Text.

Some months ago, I saw a post Tynan wrote about Dvorak and why he switched. As soon as I read that post I switched my keyboard layout from QWERTY to Dvorak. Of course, it wasn't easy. It took nearly 2 months for me to get comfortable with it.

I had to regret once during the initial stage of switching, because I was in middle of a project where I had to write a lot. And since I had just changed my keyboard layout to Dvorak, I had hard time completing the project.

The problem isn't that I switched to Dvorak. In fact, I'm so glad that I changed my keyboard layout. It's so fast, I'm free from carpal tunnel syndrome and I find it effortless. I even wrote an article about it and why everyone should switch. Here's the link: Why You Won't Regret Switching Your Keyboard Layout from QWERTY to Dvorak. But the problem was that I jumped on it blindly. Without thinking that it would take time for me get better at it.

After that I jumped into dotsies after reading Tynan's suggestion about dotsies font.

As soon as I read about something from his blog, I need to try it. It's like an addiction.

Thank gosh! I didn't jump into violin. If I did jump into violin, I would be interested in first few days or week and then I'd lose interest over it. I even wished to have an RV, so that I could live life similar to his.

The problem is that I'm blindly copying him. Instead, I should have tried figuring out if I really wanted to do it or not.

I'm sure Windows is way better for me at the moment than Linux. Because I'm completely new to it and I doubt that I'll have all the applications I need in Linux. I'll need to invest time on Linux to start getting better at it.

What I did notice is that none of the stuff Tynan advocate is bad. It's actually productive and efficient in the long run. it's just that I have this urge to try everything he writes, even if I'm not completely interested. I say to myself that I'll like it even if it doesn't interest me at the moment because Tynan is a cool guy and everything he tries will be worth it in the end.

I personally think this is a bad habit. What do you think? Does this happen to you too?

So now, I know I'll switch to Linux, Do you guys have any recommendation on Linux for beginners?


The photo on left is of Tynan's laptop with sublime text. That was the image that urged me to switch to Sublime text. And I did it, eventually.

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Sun, 30 Jun 2013 16:12:52 +0000
What Happens After You Become a Seasoned and Happy Traveler? by Danny Dover If you are anything like me, you read blogs like Tynan's because you want to both experience other people’s adventures and you want to learn how to go on these adventures yourself. You likely want to go on your own series of journeys and at the end, look in the mir]]>

If you are anything like me, you read blogs like Tynan's because you want to both experience other people’s adventures and you want to learn how to go on these adventures yourself. You likely want to go on your own series of journeys and at the end, look in the mirror and see a seasoned and happy traveler. That is certainly my goal. But have you ever wondered what will happen after you become that person?

I don’t consider myself to be the foremost expert on anything related to travel (there are many more experienced people than myself, especially in this community) but I do look back on my adventures with a smile. I have visited all seven continents, finished 80% of my 150+ item bucket list, ran marathons, published a book, lived in foreign countries, filled multiple passports with stamps and most importantly, met an insane amount of intensely amazing people. I am proud to say that I have become the version of me that I only imagined before I started my travel journey years ago.

My goal with the piece below is to show you how I feel when I travel now. Everyone’s journey is different but hopefully this will help you understand some of the highs and lows that you are likely to encounter going forward.


I am sitting in a tiny pub in Galway, Ireland. In front of me is a crackling wood fire and a half full Guinness. After a long journey, I am am finally feeling like myself again.

Rewind 35 hours.

I arrive at the airport three hours early. This is uncharacteristic of me as as I know it takes me two hours to get from my door in Seattle to the aircraft door on the tarmac at SEA. I am feeling uneven today, I am burnt out from something unknown and don’t feel like my legs are touching the ground. I am technically home but feel far from it.

I keep thinking something feels off. Upon check-in, I find I have an upgraded ticket. That is odd, I check my TripIt itinerary. I bought the plane ticket with miles almost a year ago (this is also uncharacteristic of me) and opted for higher class. It cost me $34. I am happy with the decision but the novelty of Business class has worn away. I am now always more excited for the destination than I am for another airplane ride.

“Feel free to use our Lounge Mr. Dover” the airline employee says overly politely to me. I nod.

This is weird. I usually never fly anything but economy, it is not my way.

Contrary to what my bank may think, the airline employee quickly assumes that I am an important businessman.

I board my flight and sit by the window. I still feel odd.

Two minutes later, a beautiful girl sits next to me. We make small talk and faster than normal, move into actual conversation. She is French but lives in Berlin. She is a nurse and just finished studying in the United States. She is now returning home.

She notices my laptop and asks if I am writer. I tease her about the odd conclusion (there are lots of things to do with a computer) but explain that while I don’t know if I am a writer, I do actually write a lot. She beams. It seems, I was actually the one to come to the wrong conclusion. She is merciless with her teasing.

We chat the entire 11 hour flight.

We land in Frankfurt, Germany (our respective layover destination) and head to the nearest airport pub. We both have flights to catch in less than an hour.

Before I know it, we are kissing. She initiated it. That has never happened before. Her phone alarm goes off and we both look at our tickets. It is time to go. We both linger.

I am the last person to board my flight from FRA to DUB. I am smiling but still feeling hazy. It isn’t jet lag, it something else, something I can’t explain. I sit in my normal window seat (10A )and the man sitting next to me asks if my last flight was stalled (he was wondering why I was late). I described my last seat neighbor. He laughed out loud and immediately started talking about his life prior to being married. He used to be a world leading tennis coach and spent all of his time traveling and training athletes. He showed his balance of airline miles on the app on his phone. 2.2 million.

An hour into the flight, he brought up my late entrance again. You must have a hell of a job. I thought to myself that his conclusion was better suited for himself.

On my taxi ride from the DUB to my hotel, the driver asks me where I am from. I say Seattle and he immediately interrupts me with “Frasier”! (an old TV show based in Seattle) I laugh, I have never got that one before.

He immediately tells me, “I knew it, you are one of those smart intellectual types!”. My immediate thought is “smart intellectual” is redundant. My second thought is I am a dork for thinking that. :-) I laugh and say far from it. School was never really my thing. I just like exploring.

On my way out of the cab, the man slips me a handful of unmarked white pills. What are these I say skeptically?

“Melatonin (sleeping pills), you look tired.”

I take them begrudgingly and without the driver noticing, deliver them to the nearest trash can. The risk is far to high to be worth any sleep reward.

The next day I sit alone in a train on my way from Dublin to Galway. I can’t count how many people have told me to add Galway to my Life List. I go way out of my way to visit it.

Right before the train departs, a group of Canadians’s sit around me. I am feeling exhausted from the long day before and don’t feel like talking. Instead, I open up my laptop and start to write. The seat-mates are polite and leave me alone while still being inviting.

20 minutes before the end of the ride, I finally decide to surrender and join their interesting conversation. I am still not feeling right but decide that that shouldn’t be a reason for me to be anti-social. I learn that my seat-mates are all from Toronto and have just starting a month-long journey of their own. They notice my camera.

“You are obviously a photographer” one of them says.

No, just learning actually.

We step off the train and I start exploring the city alone. I find a pub and sit down. On the TV is rugby and in the background is the distinct murmur of people chatting. I start thinking and writing about the conclusions people have had about me in the last 35 hours.

To them, I only briefly existed as part of their personal journeys.

To them, I was an important businessman, a writer, a tardy youth, an intellectual and a photographer.

To each person who made an early conclusion about me, I occupied a completely different role in their model of reality.

Right as a I take a deep drink of my cold Guinness, a thought grabs me.

Maybe it was I who had made the premature conclusions. Maybe the others were offering insight, not judgement. I, like all people, am actually multifaceted. My understanding of myself is growing but perpetually incomplete.

I am just a traveler. A traveler who is on a journey to define my world by the insights of others. I started my life mission striving to see and understand humanity. Instead, I have learned that I need humanity in order to see and understand myself.

I let out a deep breath. I finally feel right again. I pay the barman and leave the pub. All is right in the world, I have another train to catch.


Photo was taken on Easter Island at sunset of one the legendary Moai. This entire piece was from an earlier collection of mine.

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Sun, 30 Jun 2013 16:12:46 +0000
How does Tynan make money? by Tynan Note from Tynan:

I make money from:

- Amazon affiliate links (gear post, etc)

- Amazon kindle books

- Amazon paperback books (almost nothing these days...)

- Poker

- Interest through Lending Club on money I made in the past (gambling + real job in 2006 + selling my house + other one time sorts of things)

Overall I'm making less than $2k per month, but I'm actually able to save a small amount of that most months because my expenses are so low. RV spot is $500 and other regular expenses are maybe $500 altogether.

The travel gear isn't really expensive because I always sell my old gear and often make a profit. For example, when I sold my NEX-5N and all the accessories, I made a profit on it, and then I bought the RX100 which was cheaper.

In the past 12 months, here are the flights I've bought:

Japan - $315rt

Peru - $340rt

Tulum - $278rt

Boston/NY x2 = $600rt total

Without actually doing the math, that's somewhere around $1500, or $125 a month. I've also gone on a bunch of trips to Vegas for $75-$100rt, but I make money on those trips and don't really keep track of the flights.

Anyway... that's a rough sketch. Sometimes I have unpredictable small windfalls, like if I get paid to do a speech or when the Korean rights to my book were bought. Other times I'm net negative for the month because I had to buy a new computer or something. 


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Thu, 07 Mar 2013 18:03:57 +0000