Brian Shaler

Occasionally Interesting

Gravity is for chumps

Archive for November, 2007

Photography Video Tutorial: Light Speed Escalator

Earlier this year, in February, I took a fun photo at a Refocus Phoenix outing. Within the next 48 hours, that photo attracted more views (140,000+), received more comments (161) and favorites (608), and was talked about on the internet more than all of the rest of my photos combined.

Josh Gomez on the “Light Speed Escalator” — February 2007

With all the excitement around the photo, I wanted to share with everyone how simple and easy the effect is. I also wanted to show some non-believers that the effect was actually achieved without computer enhancements.

Tonight, I finally took the time to drive back to the Brickyard in Tempe and shoot a video tutorial. I took my cheap JVC camcorder ($300-$400), cheap Canon Digital Rebel XT with kit 18-55mm 3.5 lens (currently under $500), and two reeeally cheap tripods and made this cheap video!

The Result: Brian Shaler — November 2007

Let me know what you think in the comments here (general feedback), on Viddler (feedback on the video), or Flickr (feedback on the photo).

Photography Video Tutorial: Head-Spinning Cars

Last year at the LA Auto Show, I tried out a new photography technique. I placed a small tripod on the edge of a car’s rotating platform and took long exposure photos. The result was a static car with a blurred background. To the left is a Ford Edge (crossover SUV) from last year. The auto show’s anti-photo lighting (small, bright sources of light) actually helped add quite a bit of pop to the photo.

I have a photo set on Flickr called “Head-Spinning Autos” that currently contains nine photos using this technique, with a few more to come.

This year at the LA Auto Show, I decided to revisit the effect and show how it was done. To the right is the final photo from the video, a Mazda CX-9 (another crossover SUV). Below is the video showing how the effect was accomplished, including settings, tripod placement, and environment.

Camera: Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D)
Settings: 3.2 seconds, f/29, 28mm, ISO 100.

Collective Creativity

Technology changes the way we do things. The fact that it does is not an astounding revelation. However, it is always fascinating to see how it does.

When we think about “creativity” from a classical perspective, we might picture a person creating a piece of artwork, whether it is a painting, a piece of music, a novel, etc. In the past, creative collaboration occurred on a very small scale, if at all. Today, the creativity landscape is shifting, thanks to the tools we have at our disposal with modern technology. One of the key ways technology has changed the world is communication. This opens the door for a type of collaboration that was not possible before.

How does this impact our view of “creativity”?

Unlike the past, where a creative, highly-skilled individual — or a small group of highly-skilled individuals — would develop a work of art, we can now develop tools that allow millions of people to contribute to a single project.

One example of this is Drawball, which launched in late 2005, allows anyone to pick up a virtual airbrush and paint graffiti on one giant digital wall. While the majority of users contribute little more than a mess of scribbles, there is a “hall of fame” area that showcases some of the best drawings spotted on the wall.

Another example, though on a much smaller scale, is‘s Caption Contest Fridays (with spin-off site Caption Fridays). Every week, there is a new photo that begs the question “What’s going on here?” and visitors are encouraged to make up a caption to explain what is going on in the photo. It is great to go through the comments at the end of the day to see what the blog’s readers had written.

This concept is fascinating and motivated me to start small, for-fun projects like Crappy Graphs (where visitors can draw their own ‘crappy graphs’) and TwitLibs (where visitors choose words or phrases to fill in the blanks in my sentences). I am constantly surprised by how great (or how terrible) the visitor submissions are.

Crappy Graphs started out as a blog where I drew and posted my own graphs. After releasing the user submission tool that allows users to draw graphs in my design/template, the best visitor-submitted graphs found their own way out onto the internet and now draw in more traffic than the main blog itself. That means collectively, Crappy Graphs’ visitors are funny than the original Crappy Grapher, me.

It is clear to me that none of us are as creative as all of us.

Twitter, Let’s Play a Game

Recently, I have been brainstorming ways to spur more interaction from my friends on I have always tried to post questions, conversation-starting statements, and interesting links, all in hopes of getting more and more people to respond.


The problem I am facing is that a very, very low percentage of my “followers” (the term for users who receive your updates) on Twitter actually know who I am. An even smaller percentage interact with me in any way. This is a problem because if my friends on Twitter don’t know who I am, then the following I have built up there is pretty pointless.

As of this writing, I have over 7,400 users receiving my messages. When I pose a question, I can get anywhere from zero to forty replies. With a maximum of about forty people responding, my participation percentage (on a good day) is 0.54%.

That’s not good.


One of my favorite blogs,, holds weekly “Caption Contests” on Fridays. They post an image and users are encouraged to comment with a caption for it, the funnier the better. It is great to see the level of interaction the blog gets because of those contests.

That is something I wanted to replicate in some way on Twitter. It would be great to play some sort of recurring game where I would post a Twitter message up to 140 characters and people could participate by replying with a creative answer.


I have decided to try out a simple weekly game that could be fun and amusing. It’s like Mad Libs, but instead of asking for words then filling in the blanks, I will just provide a sentence with blanks for people to fill in. While the game itself is played entirely on Twitter, will be the main resource for archives, suggestions, and discussion. I will post the TwitLibs starting statement as well as any Twitter replies I receive.

Only time will tell if people will enjoy the game and interact with me more because of it.

The Greatest Ability One Can Have

I work in the service industry. My job requires that I have a specific skill set, writing code in a few different languages. From a job perspective, my ability to write code in those languages is of extreme importance.

However, from a career perspective, the ability to perform a core job function is not the valuable ability to have.

The greatest ability one can have is the ability to acquire new skills quickly.

This is especially true in the service industry, but it can be applied anywhere. You never know when you will have to step beyond your job description to save the day. Without a doubt, this is also a very important ability for business owners.

Doing your job well is one thing. Saving the day is another.


This is from a programming perspective, but you can apply the concept to your own industry. As a programmer, I must stay up to date and at the top of my game when it comes to the platforms in my core skill set. However, researching, adopting, and practicing different technologies is also a must. If you try out new languages regularly, your mind will adapt to learning new syntaxes, new methodologies, and making sense of things that initially seem foreign.

The result is a mind that is versatile and (to your employer and/or clients) valuable.

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