Categories
Photography

How I photographed the Pope in Mexico city

24635047389_837831ff0b_k

I’m not religious, but when a celebrity like the Pope visits your city, it is a historical event. Even more so when it passes a block away from my house every day during his visit. So I took the lifetime opportunity of being nearby the big event for the mostly catholic country of Mexico, and went out to take some shots.

GST_0913.jpg

The key of taking photos in these types of situations is scouting your location beforehand. The Pope’s main routes were being published days before his arrival, so people would know which roads will be closed. Right there I knew he’ll be passing near my house every day. I went for a walk to checkout where would be the best spots to get the shot.

GST_0911.jpg

At events like this, you have to get there with lots of time. You never know how crowded the place will get, specially in Mexico city where everything is crowded all the time. Luckily since I was very close, I didn’t had to stand there for 3-4 hours beforehand. One and a half hours were good enough for me to get a good spot. I also brought a stool so I can stand above the crowd and get as much heads or hands out of the frame.

GST_0914.jpg

Another thing you’ll have to anticipate is the lighting. The Pope was going to pass at night, but the popemobile has lighting, so preparing my camera settings for night will over expose the photos. You only get one or two seconds to get your shot, so everything must be set up before the moment. I used the lights of some cops passing by before the main caravan to set my exposure.

GST_0895.jpg

I took the 70-200mm f2.8 with my Nikon D750. Set the focusing system to continuous focus, single point and set the aperture to 3.2 to get more focus range instead of using the 2.8 where I could miss my focus very easily, specially with a subject in a vehicle. I set the ISO to 6400 because of the lack of any light around. The street had very poor lighting so I would be depending entirely in the popemobile‘s lighting. I’m usually not comfortable shooting at that high ISO setting because my previous camera, the Nikon D7000 performed very bad at that setting, but the D750 handles it much better.

GST_0924.jpg

The next day he would pass very early in the morning and I got confident. I assumed that since it was a weekend and early morning, not many people would be there. I was wrong. I didn’t take my stool and I was late to get a good spot.

GST_0929.jpg

My other mistake was not taking into consideration the Pope’s white clothes. If you see the image, the other guys in black are exposed correctly, but the Pope is over exposed.

GST_0937.jpg

Not everything will be perfect, but I tried to rescue the images in post.

GST_0939.jpg

Categories
Programming & Web Development

Avoid Django’s invalid HTTP_HOST error message

Invalid HTTP_HOST error log

I have several Django projects published, and I constantly get my email inbox and log files inundated with errors of spiders and hack attempts to connect to my applications. Those error messages have the email subject: “[Django] ERROR (EXTERNAL IP): Invalid HTTP_HOST …”.

This is due to a Django’s security setting ALLOWED_HOSTS to prevent attacks. Better explained by Django’s documentation page:

This is a security measure to prevent an attacker from poisoning caches and triggering password reset emails with links to malicious hosts by submitting requests with a fake HTTP Host header, which is possible even under many seemingly-safe web server configurations.

At first, I thought of trying to configure Django’s logging to ignore those errors, but I knew that was not the right way to fix the situation. After several attempts, I found the right solution to the problem: a way to configure the web server to stop those connection attempts before they reach Django.

Here’s a configuration example for Apache web server (taken from StackOverflow):

SetEnvIfNoCase Host example\.com VALID_HOST
Order Deny,Allow
Deny from All
Allow from env=VALID_HOST

Here’s a configuration example for Nginx web server (more details here):

upstream app_server {
    server unix:/tmp/gunicorn_mydomain.com.sock fail_timeout=0;
}

server {

    ...

    ## Deny illegal Host headers
    if ($host !~* ^(mydomain.com|www.mydomain.com)$ ) {
        return 444;
    }

    location  / {
        proxy_pass               http://app_server;
        ...
    }

}
Categories
personal

My ideal morning daily routine

morning tea

I’ve been very interested in how successful people (in different areas) have established morning routines. The most common claim is that it frees you from early decision fatigue and structures your day. Some of the morning routines are inspiring.

It has been a struggle for me to achieve a perfect morning routine because I have early meetings with my team in India. My biggest problem is going to bed early the night before to be able to wake up without much struggle at 6:30am the next morning.

This is how my typical uninspiring and stumbling morning routine looks like:

– 8:20 Wake up.
– 8:25 Make tea.
– 8:30 Start conference calls while sipping the tea.
– 11:00 After conference calls, take a quick shower (if this is skipped, then shower time is at 6pm).
– 11:30 Figure out the rest of the day’s activities as they come.

And here’s what my ideal morning routine should look like:

– 6:30am Wake up
– 6:35 Have a cup of tea (typically Monkey picked Oolong tea) in complete silence while I plan my day.
– 6:50 Meditate for 15-20 minutes.
– 7:15 Exercise for 30-40 minutes (elliptical machine or walking outside).
– 7:55 Shower.
– 8:15 Breakfast
– 8:30 Ready to start conference calls.

Achieving this morning routine is important for me because no matter how chaotic or busy the day can get, I’ve already had some time for myself (meditation), done at least some exercise and had the first meal of the day. This gives me a feeling of accomplishment: The day starts and I already have stuff done, even if that stuff is not exactly work related.

Do you have a morning routine? Does it helps you be more focused or productive during the day?

Here are a few videos of people I look up to with morning or daily routines.

Categories
Photography

Instagram: A use for missed shots and crappy photos

There are many times in a photoshoot that you miss the shot. The image is out of focus, you get under or over exposed images, etc. Well, don’t throw them away, you can still use those shots.

Long leg jeans

I went to one of the Intermoda Trends runway and found out there was a new rule: No DSLR photography allowed. Why do this at a fashion show? I have no idea, but if you didn’t have a press pass, you could not use a DSLR. I was raging because I could see several people using mirrorless cameras with the same sensors as a DSLR shooting away, and just because my camera was “professional-looking” I could not use it and they could use theirs.

So I tried shooting “from the hip”, very discretely just aiming and trying to get a shot of the runway. I didn’t focus manually, since I had no chance to even check the viewfinder once. I relied on the autofocus for the first shots, then locked the focus and continued shooting. When I downloaded all my images for review, I found out, unsurprisingly, that I had 200 shots of unfocused models at the runway. The autofocus got locked focusing the front row, not the runway.

Long black dress

I thought of deleting them all, but for some reason just kept them as JPEGs. Then I remembered how Instagram has a very crappy quality, and immediately thought that it was the perfect place to put missed shots. I tested my theory and I got a lot of likes from those missed shots.

So if you have some out of focus images or crappy quality shots, don’t throw them away, try posting them on Instagram, as quality and sharpness is not one of its attributes.

Categories
personal

6 Tips for Writing as a Habit

Human Writes Performance Installation at UN Geneva

Writing is one of the best habits you can have. It helps telling stories, preserving memories, and organizing thought in general. Here are some gathered tips that I’ll be trying these days to have writing as a habit:

  1. Write daily

    Whatever you are thinking about, go ahead and put it in words. That thought will get lost with time and might be helpful for a future idea.

  2. Find your workflow

    Figure out the best times and ways to write. Reserve a certain hour in the early morning or before going to bed, or during lunch. Find what is the best times of the day and conditions that inspire you to write. Write in small bursts or complete thoughts from start to finish, whatever works for you.

  3. Make it easy

    Find an easy way or tool to quickly draft something in the middle of the day or while doing chores if you need to. That split second the idea comes, might never come again. Emacs Org-mode with Org Capture is my tool of choice when I’m at the computer. Use apps like Evernote, Google Keep, MobileOrg or whatever is easy for you to write things down while not on the computer (or paper notebook) where you store your drafts and writing.

  4. Figure out things later.

    Don’t worry about titles, headlines or main topics, not even file names. Just use the date as a filler and write. You can figure out later what it is about when you are halfway done or finished. For example, blog post is part of a larger writing that I ended up splitting in 3 posts.

  5. Don’t publish everything you write.

    The need to publish can be intimidating and cause self censorship. Publish when you feel like it, publish only what you want, but write about it first.

  6. Social media interactions don’t count as writing.

    They’re too short (140 character tweets) and meaningless most of the time, unless it’s something you thoughtfully and more extensively wrote and want to publish. But those short social media interactions can be a good source of inspiration of what you can write about.

Categories
Photography

Fashion runway photography tips

img_0070

Taking pictures at a fashion runway is challenging: light changes, models swift by very fast in front of you, and if you don’t have a press pass or similar to be lucky enough to be in the photographer’s press area, it is hard to get good shots.

Runway events are a great opportunity to get some experience in fashion photography. If you’re just starting with photography they are a great chance to take pictures of beautiful and professional models without costing you anything or having to reach out for them.

Get in

img_0005

The first thing you need is to get an invitation or know about these events. If you don’t know anyone in the field or close contact within the industry there is still hope. Follow fashion bloggers in your area, clothes stores or mall’s twitter accounts. They will eventually post something about an upcoming event. Many are free, some by invitation, but you can then contact them through their social media accounts and ask for an invite.

If you’re lucky to get a press pass, you’re golden. The press area is strategically placed for photographers to get the best and constant illumination and angle, right at the end of the catwalk where models stop and pose for you. If not, then you’ll be seating at the sides of the catwalk, and you have a few seconds and a weird angle to get your shot right before the model passes you by.

Use a monopod

img_0018

Tripods are bulky and take too much space to set up, monopods are better in this case. What you need here is a place to rest the camera, assuming you’re using a DSLR camera, that thing is heavy to hold after a while.

Set to Auto ISO and Aperture priority

img_0102

Then let’s go over the camera settings. After a few trial and error, what works best for me is to set ISO to Auto. This way you will have the fastest shutter speed available. Use Aperture priority mode and set to the lowest F-stop possible. An F-2.8 or F-4 is a nice setting to get some depth of field and stand out the model in the image.

Auto focus

img_0064

On Nikon cameras, use the 3D Focus setting. With this focus setting you select a point of focus, and once locked, the autofocus will follow whatever is on that focus point as long as you keep your shutter button half-way pressed. This will save you from having blurry images. I don’t know if there’s an equivalent setting on Canon cameras.

Take verticals

img_0110

Sometimes a wide photo on the runway will reveal too much of the area, instead of focusing on the model, who’s our main subject. There are some mounts for the monopod that will allow you to take verticals instead of the standard horizontals. If you don’t have one, then get used to your camera weight because it’s going to be tough. Also, try to keep your elbows as close as possible to your body. There’s people sitting right next to you that also want to see the runway and you can annoy them with your elbows.

Use a fast lens

img_0039

Models are coming and going very fast and there’s little time to frame and focus your shot. A fast lens can be very helpful.

Hope this tips are of help. I had to learn this the hard way having lots of blurry pictures.

Do you have any other tips to share about fashion photography at runways? Please share on the comments below.