Late November snow

The sun came out yesterday. This is the scene outside my back door shortly before 11am yesterday. I woke up late because I was working late the night before. As you can see, the bushes along the back of the building have been removed. That's too bad because Alex & Sasha used to love to hide behind them.

Crossing Åbergssons väg on the way to the subway station.

Long shadows in the morning sunlight.

A view of the building where I used to live, Odlingsvä:gen 5.

Bergshamra allé — my home is the building behind the trees on the left.

And lastly, a snapshot of Adolf Fredriks Kyrka taken from the South.

Nikon D200

For many years, I have wanted to buy a single-lens reflex (SLR) camera — called a system camera in some countries, including Sweden. Until recently, I have been unable to justify the expense. When one purchases an SLR, one must also purchase at least a couple of lenses to go with it. The better lenses can cost hundreds or more; when a flash and accessories are added, the total can come to several thousand dollars. Also, when one buys a camera and some lenses for it, one locks oneself into that particular manufacturer's lens mounting system. In other words, lenses from one manufacturer typically cannot be used with cameras from another manufacturer. So the purchase of an SLR is not a decision I take lightly.

Having said that...

About a month ago, Nikon announced the new D200 digital SLR camera, and I think I'm going to get one. The D200 offers a lot of capability for the money, and after using a Nikon CoolPix 4500 for a few years I would definitely consider buying another Nikon.

Ideally, I would like the Canon EOS 5D because it has full frame 35mm sensor. Like most DSLRs, the Nikon D200 has a smaller 28mm-wide sensor and my initial feeling was that a smaller sensor was inferior to a full-sized 35mm sensor. However, the Canon EOS 5D costs at least $3000, putitng it well beyond my means. Other SLRs with full frame sensors are even more expensive, so if I'm going to get an SLR now, I'll have to settle for one without a full-frame sensor.

I did some reading online to familiarize myself with the debate. Digital Photograhy Review has a good discussion of the pros and cons of full-frame versus cropped sensors. DPReview also has a good preview of the D200.

At first I thought it would be a good idea to purchase normal 35mm lenses so that I can use them with any Nikon 35mm SLR camera, including any future Nikon DSLR that incorporates a full frame 35mm sensor. My plan was to get the following lenses to go with my D200:

Kit 1
Notably absent from this list are a good zoom lens and a high power telephoto. I could of course add these later as funds become available. If I purchase these lenses online when I'm in the U.S., I can get all four for under $1000. This would be a very respectable starting kit. and would be suitable for many kinds of photography. However, lacking a zoom lens, the setup would not be well suited to impromptu shots or tourist photography.

Photographer and confessed Nikon afficionado Ken Rockwell doesn't believe Nikon will produce a camera with a full-frame 35mm sensor. For reasons primarily related to cost, he argues that smaller sensors have advantages. Rockwell praises the D200, and is convinced that the fleixbility and portability of the smaller DX lenses are worth the drawbacks. Rockwell is especially fond of the new 18-200 VR.

If I buy regular 35mm lenses but only use them with DX cameras, it could be considered overkill. With this in mind, I reevaluated my selection of lenses above, and came up with an alternative set:

Kit 2

The 18-200 zoom offers a wider range of focal lengths than the four lenses above, but it's not as fast (bright). The speed drops off quite a bit at longer focal lengths, and it's for this reason that I decided to include the 105mm macro lens in this set instead of the 60mm one. This way the macro lens could double as a telephoto in low light situations. Still, it wouldn't be as fast as the 80mm one from the first list. Nikon claims that the vibration reduction (VR) feature of the zoom lens makes the lens act like its two f-stops faster. The weight savings are not really significant: with these two lenses, I'd save just 200g over the four lenses above. Together, these two lenses would cost a couple hundred dollars more than the four lenses above. The DX zoom lens will only work with the current crop of Nikon SLRs; so if Nikon does release at some point in the futre an SLR based on a full-frame 35mm sensor, this lens (like all DX lenses), would not work with that camera. Even so, I imagine that if the market does eventually move toward full-frame 35mm sensors, the prices of these cameras will come down to the point at which one would be affordable to me. At that point, I could sell my D200 and any DX lenses I have.

So as I see it, it's a trade-off:

Kit 1:

Pros: high quality (fast) lenses; versatile; flexible; well suited to many kinds of photography.
Cons: less convenient; no zoom lens; no high power telephoto; slightly heavier.

Kit 2:

Pros: good lenses; very convenient; good for general purpose photography and macro work; a bit lighter.
Cons: the 18-200 is not well suited to low light photographyand cannot be used with non-DX cameras.

I'd love to get input from other folks out there who have more photographic experience.


This morning I awoke to find that snow had come to our fair city at last. We had a light dusting on the 19th, but it didn't stay on the ground. This time we're expecting up to 15 centimeters, and the temperature is low enought that it should remain for a while.

I turned on the lights on the balcony railing, still in place from last winter.

I'm also playing around with the f/stop setting in my Nikon. The macro mode is the way I would usually take a photo like this. But this time I took the same photo using manual mode. Actually, it's not entirely manual; it's a mode where one can adjust the f/stop (aperture), and the camera will select an appropriate shutter speed (exposure time) for the chosen f/stop, given the existing lighting conditions. I think this was taken at f/10.5.

I just realized that the f/stop is stored in the image file. This one was taken at f/8.0. As you can tell from these images, a larger f/stop (tighter aperture) leads to a narrower depth of field. I had to do some reading online to refresh my understanding of f/stops.

Ahah. This is neat. The exposure mode is listed in the photo too. The mode I used in these photos is called Aperture Priority mode, again because it's the aperture (f/stop) that one selects, letting the camera do the rest. Neat.

I'm taking the time to reaquaint myself with f/stops because I'm planning to purchase a new digital SLR this winter.

I've been looking at the Nikon D200, released just this month. Digital Photography Review has a thorough review of the D200. I just wish there were a reasonably priced digital SLR with a full frame 35mm sensor. Like most DSLR cameras in the $500-$2500 price range, the D200's sensor is only 23mm wide, meaning that it does not capture all of the light coming through a standard lens. Image from dpreview.com.

Getting up was ticky; getting down even more of a challenge.

Tonight I'm enjoying one of my favorite meals: chicken curry prepared with Patak's Jalfrezie sauce, crushed tomatoes, red capsicum, onions, green chilis, and fresh ginger, served on basmati rice and washed down with a Czech lager. What more could a man want?

The fresh ginger is a bit more expense, but it makes a big difference. And of course one cannot go wrong with Patak's curry pastes. They're second-to-none.


The weather this week has been wet and cool. I hope that we get snow soon. The city streets become much brighter and the days seem longer when there is a layer of the white stuff on the ground.


My 33rd birthday party

Here are some snapshots from my 33rd birthday party last Saturday.

Here I am in the kitchen fixing hamburgers for the crowd.

Lotta puts the icing on the cake. Heck, Lotta is the icing. She's so sweet. ;)

This photo is a testament to the raw talent the photographer has for catching everyone at his or her best. My colleagues gave me a USB Skype phone. I tested it, and it works great.

Maud gave me a nice care package for working late nights: some homemade ANZAC biscuits, a porcelain mug decorated with the artwork of Austrialian artist Jan Austin, and a USB-powered cup warmer. Great stuff!

Lisa and Lotta are great help in the kitchen!

The cake.

Dinner time at last.


Go-kart racing with colleagues

Last night I joined a bunch of colleagues from IBM for a bit o go-kart racing. It's been a long time since I drove a go-kart. It was very fun!

Here we are lining up at the starting line.

I came in second place in the third heat, but only fourth in the final. It was fun!


Hi Dad!

I'm teaching the TWS 8.2 Administration course at Pulsen Education today and tomorrow. The building is near Globen, in the Southern part of Stockholm.

And here is my new toy, a black 60 GB fifth generation iPod. This was in the birthday package I recieved from my family in the U.S. Thanks Mom, Dad, Ethan and Kelly! This is a terrific gift!


The office where I spend most of my days (and unfortunately, some of my nights) is on the seventh floor of Wallingatan 2, a building that was built in 1799. We're in what must have been the attic before.

My desk, complete with Coca-Cola cans of course. It's highly addictive!

Last night it was time for rueda practice. Here Kalle and Inger show off a bit.

Meanwhile, Erlend practices his "cool" pose.

And yours truly acts silly as usual.


Early to rise.

On the past two mornings, I have had to wake up at 5:45 to make sure that some jobs are running as they're supposed to on the computers at the office. I'm not usually a morning person, but I do enjoy watching the sunrise.

We have had an unseasonably warm autumn this year. A few years ago we had snow and ice already in late October. Here it is November and the temperature is still well above freezing. It's a nice change from the cold dark weather we Stockholmers expect at this time of year. I took this photo of the path that leads up the hill from my apartment building to the subway station.


All Hallows Eve, 2005

Tomorrow is Alla Helgons Dag (All Saints Day) here in Sweden (in this country, the holiday is always observed on a Sunday).

Tonight after climbing at Klättercentret, I began walking toward the bus stop where I catch the 509 back to Bergshamra. The day had been a rainy and foggy day, without so much as a single ray of sunlight visible all day. The evening was more of the same: cool, wet, and misty. The long black asphalt trail leading Northward toward Solna Station was half covered with yellow and brown maple leaves, and reflected light from streetlamps in its myriad rainwater puddles. A few meters down the trail, I noticed flickering candle lights far in the distance, through the trees to the East. As soon as I could, I took a right turn and followed the lights. I soon found myself in the midst of the most eerie and solemn scene I have witnessed in a long time. I had walked into Stockholm's Norra Begravningsplats (North Cemetary) on Halloween night.

About half of the graves had candles on them. In a graveyard this large (one of Stockholm's largest), this amounted to many thousands of candles. Glowing through the wet fog of the night, and accompanied by sound of rain falling on the trees and the earth, the gravelights illuminated the paving stones between the graves as I walked. Light from the flames cast faint and diffuse beams through the shrubs and bushes on the edges of the graves.

This was not a typical Halloween experience for me. The Halloweens of my youth were centered around costumes, candy, haunted houses, and general revelry. Walking among the candlelit tombstones tonight, I was reminded of the true meaning of the holiday. It's about remembering your loved ones after they are gone. There were several other people there, some lighting candles; others walking quietly through the churchyard and enjoying the night air. The nighttime is the best time to appreciate such a scene. Each candle represents someone who has not been forgotten. The sheer number of flames flickering in the fog tonight is testament to the respect Stockholmers have for their departed friends.

I continued along a small path as it spiralled up a hill to the minneslund — an area reserved for thoughtful remembrance. On this occasion, I found myself far from the graves of my forebears; so I paused for a moment in the clearing to think on those who came before me, both living and dead. Respect for ones living elders goes hand in hand with respect for the dearly departed. You may find it odd that an atheist would put stake in such an observance; it just felt right.

I do miss the costumes and the parties common at this time of year in the U.S. Even so, I think it's even nicer in a way to observe Halloween as it was meant to be observed.