Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How a $2 iPhone app restored my love for photography

In 2004 I bought a digital SLR camera for a trip to Hawaii and my journey into photography began. I took photos of mountains, fields, barns, flowers and occasionally people. I read books on exposure, composition and posing. Eventually I took some family portraits, engagement portraits and even a couple small weddings. My collection of lenses, lights, filters and other accessories evolved until I had just about everything to take whatever kind of photo I could imagine myself taking. I honed my technique and looked with a critical eye at every photo I or anyone else took.

In 2006 my wife and I went on safari in Kenya. I took thousands of photos, mostly of animals. I did a pretty good job, too. They're not going to appear in National Geographic, but I was pretty happy with them and I'm pretty picky. When I got home from Africa, I hit a photographic wall. Nothing seemed interesting anymore because I felt I couldn't top what I had done before. I'd peaked two years into my life as an amateur photographer. So I stopped taking photos.

Then about two weeks ago, my wife asked me about buying an iPhone app called Hipstamatic, which she had seen a few of her friends use. She got it and took a few photos. Then I installed it on my phone. I got hooked.

Hipstamatic is cool for a few reasons. It looks and feels kinda like a camera, which is fun. It makes you choose how your photo will look before you take the photo, like with a film camera. Different lenses, flashes and films produce different effects. The alternative -- endlessly tweaking a photo in Photoshop, applying filter after filter -- sucks the joy out of the photo. I love the simplicity that Hipstamatic provides in this regard.

All the photos it produces have imperfections that are modeled after imperfections from real film photographic equipment. The imperfections keep me from focusing on making a technically perfect photo and instead focus on making an emotive photo. To that extent, Hipstamatic is really good at creating photos that evoke emotion, specifically nostalgia. The photos look like the ones in my parents shoe box or on my grandma's end table. The blurred edges and yellow tint of the photo of my daughter makes me remember her smile a little sweeter. I can hear my son's laugh through the blue cast and faux film frame.

This $2 app is also cool because it makes me want to buy the other lenses and flashes, just like I did on my real photography journey. Except this time, the lenses are $.99 instead of $499. Hipstamatic is the fist app that has compelled me, a total cheapskate, to make an in-app purchase.

I do hope I can transfer my renewed enthusiasm for photography from my iPhone to my DSLR. I do have quite a bit of money invested in all that equipment and it's not doing me any good sitting on a shelf when I should be using it to record memories.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I spent some time struggling with a WCF service with a .NET MSMQ binding. The public queue resided on a test Windows Server 2003 machine. Everything worked fine on my machine, but when I installed the WCF service on the test server, I got the following error message:

An error occurred while opening the queue: The queue does not exist or you do not have sufficient permissions to perform the operation. (-1072824317, 0xc00e0003). The message cannot be sent or received from the queue. Ensure that MSMQ is installed and running. Also ensure that the queue is available to open with the required access mode and authorization.

The error code (0xc00e0003) corresponds to MQ_ERROR_QUEUE_NOT_FOUND.

Turns out, I needed to reference the queue with net.msmq://server/queue instead of net.msmq://server/public/queue. It's unfortunate the latter URL works in some cases but not others.