Randy Plett Photographs

Facebook Banner Size in Exact Pixels (Updated)

October 2nd, 2014

Here’s an updated version of my previous post showing the Facebook banner size in exact pixels. Looks like it’s changed but not by much.

Facebook banner size updated 2014
Click on the image to see a larger version

The Facebook banner dimensions are still 851 x 315 pixels. This is based on the website code, but not in the actual pixel layout seen on screen grabs viewed at 800% in Photoshop. Those dimensions are actually 851 x 313 px. (notice how the vertical dimensions add up to 313; 170 + 143?). It can get a little confusing, so I did some tests to ensure accuracy.

Uploading an image that is 851 x 313 px will actually be upsampled and lead to a loss in quality. So don’t do that. Only use those dimensions if you are designing a layout in PS or building a template.

Uploading an image that is 851 x 315 px will be much better, and you will hardly notice compression artifacts except with certain colours that may look dull or downright ugly.

Uploading an image that is 1702 x 630 px appears to slightly degrade image quality and is only necessary if you plan to adjust it later on.

After looking at the results at 500% in PS it looks like there is a subtle loss of detail and increased compression artifacts in the rendition of the larger 1702 x 630 px image, possibly due to a Facebook processing algorithm. It seems that the native size looks slightly more accurate. But again, this is at 500% and there isn’t really a perceivable difference. The benefit of uploading a slightly larger image size means you’ll have a bit more flexibility with scaling and cropping. However, if you are dealing with small text or graphics, you may wish to stick with the native size.

I made an animated gif that shows how the 1702 x 630 px file degrades image quality and makes small text less legible.

Facebook Banner

Most noticeable is the shift that occurs on the larger version, and if you look closely at the really small text, it looks a lot cleaner in the image uploaded in the native resolution. Personally, I’m now much more inclined to upload files at the native resolution.

Now on “pages” it looks like the profile picture is still at 160² px but it is two pixels lower and one pixel to the left when compared to the personal profile page. Not much of a difference, and certainly much less different than the previous pages design.

Lastly, Casey Roo is the name of my cat, in case anyone was wondering.

A Fundraiser for an Orphanage in East Africa

May 23rd, 2013

East African Fundraiser in Vancouver

Here’s a project that I’m incredibly proud to be working on. I originally touched on this a while ago, and I’m happy to say that things are moving forward very quickly. Here’s the story…

We brought 25 disposable film cameras down to an orphanage in East Africa and gave them to the children. We left for a week and came back to pick up the cameras, process the film and give the children their prints… they were incredibly excited and happy to have photos of them and their friends. This was something that they had never done before!

African Orphanage Photos

Back here in Vancouver, we’re creating a fundraising art exhibition to not only share their story, but to raise funding for the orphanage to build property improvements, like dorm rooms and bathrooms, install a solar panel system, and send children to school by providing uniforms, supplies, and tuition. Our long term goals are to establish strategies for continued support that will last for years to come.

The project is called “Inocent, etc.” named after one of the children (yes, Inocent with one ‘n’).

You can see some of the photos on our website here: www.InocentEtc.com or view our facebook page here: www.facebook.com/InocentEtc. Feel free to ‘like’ it!

If you ‘d like to purchase tickets to our event, you can find those here: inocent.eventbrite.ca/

If you can’t make it, but would like to support the children of the orphanage, you can donate here.

We’re planning to raise between $12,000 – $24,000 and we’re working with Rotary Club District 5050 to match our fundraising efforts.

Postcards to Support an Orphanage in East Afirca

One of the more interesting aspects of our project is what we’re calling “reverse postcards”, and they will feature some of the photographs created by the children. Participants at our gallery opening event will be able to purchase the postcards and write a message on the back in support of the children and the orphanage. We will then send the postcards to Tanzania. Of course, all proceeds will be donated back to the orphanage.

Here are the event details:

When? June 7th, 7:00 – 10:00 PM

Where? 2075 Alberta St, Vancouver, Canada

Tickets? $25, $35 at the door.

We look forward to seeing you at our event! Please get in touch with me if you have any questions.

Facebook Profile Banner Size in Exact Pixels

December 14th, 2012

Here is the updated version of the banner size, with additional information.

If you’re too lazy to read my post, or you have a deadline in five minutes, the Facebook banner size is 851 x 314 pixels.

If you do have the time and want to be pleasantly entertained by my… umm… grandiloquence, please carry on.

Facebook Banner Size in Pixels

I had trouble finding accurate pixel dimensions for facebook profile picture and banner sizes, so I thought it would be fun to create my own. And yes, that was a lot of fun! What better thing to do on a Friday night? I miss the days of being a graphic designer.

The standard Facebook profile page and other pages are different, but not by much. The profile picture simply drops by 17 pixels on business and fan pages, which can be a bit confusing if you do a google search for the actual pixel dimensions. I found that in general, the dimensions weren’t very accurate and possibly ‘eye-balled’ to get close enough. But for sticklers like myself, I simply can’t handle inaccurate pixel dimensions (blaarghh!). Anyone on the internets can copy and paste information, but it’s important that that information is accurate, otherwise false information can spread like wildfire. Not that facebook pixel dimensions are all that important, but if I can save someone a couple of minutes of head scratching, I’ll be happy.

The numbers in the diagram above are 100% accurate down to the pixel level. I checked and double checked them at 800% in Photoshop. The JPG file can be opened in Photoshop to see the perfectly aligned guides as well, so feel free to use that as a template. If the current Facebook page design changes, I’ll look into updating the diagram.

Recent Photographs

June 6th, 2012

I realized that I haven’t updated my website in the last three years, so here are a few recent images that I’ve been working on. I have about 50,000 photos to work through, and because of that I haven’t had as much chance to shoot new stuff. I’m also looking for a part time retoucher to work in my studio and help manage files. These will hopefully give potential helpers an idea of the photos we’ll be working on, rather than my ridiculously out of date website.

Portrait of an East African Girl

On my latest East African trip I was playing around with light modifiers for my speedlite strobes. This photo in particular was shot with a Lumodi beauty dish that has not really stood up to the rigors of intense travel. It is bent, warped, cracked and the paint is chipping off, but hey, it still works! And this was the only time I had a reason to shoot with it, but I’ll use it a lot more if it lasts long enough. The beauty dish attaches directly to the flash and can give you nice portable portrait lighting effects (www.lumodi.com). I really enjoyed photographing this confident East African girl. More photos of her will come later…

Young Adults Playing Video Games

This was shot in my home studio in Vancouver. Of course the girl won the race, right? According to some kids on a recent photoshoot, “Girls rule. Boys drool.” So it’s important to keep things authentic. For processing this, I used split toning in Lightroom 4 and had to process it a bit heavily because it’s tough to match strobe lighting with gloomy Vancouver ambient light coming in through the window. I’ve been looking for ways to get a strobe outside of my window and have been thinking of approaching the neighboring business across the street to place a strobe on their rooftop. I’m not sure how the rest of the neighbors would feel about the resulting lightning storm that we would create.

Mother and Child Awaiting a Vaccine in an East African Hospital

I was given the opportunity to create some photographs inside of this East African hospital, and one of the themes we shot was childhood vaccines. In this case we were photographing a young child with her mother, and the instant the syringe came out she panicked. Luckily Char brought a toy syringe that squeaks from a toy medical kit (thanks to Camelot Kids for the donation) and we were able to lighten the mood. I like this photograph very much because it depicts a strong sense of humanity. Notice the concern of the mother, the professional and capable nurse, and the discomfort of the child? We don’t like anyone to be uncomfortable during our photoshoots, and this was a very brief moment, but one worth capturing.

South East Asian Fish Farm

I recently spent some time in Singapore and Malaysia. It was an enjoyable trip, but akin to walking through a sauna all day long, only to step into ice cold restaurants and shopping centers to dodge the heat. This particular photo was taken at a fish farm off the coast of Penang. When we showed up we were greeted by several very large dogs that seemed intimidating at first. The biggest one even jumped in our boat. Woah big guy!! But they were friendly dogs and even wanted to follow us off their little ‘island’. Based on the friendliness of the dogs I could tell that I would get along well with the guys that work at the fish farm and not before long we would be enjoying a nice warm beer together. I was curious because the idea of fish farming or the production of any animal for the purpose of human consumption is very much an embarrassment to humanity, but these guys helped restore a little faith in that. My friend Alan that was with me as a translator is a very passionate vegetarian, so it must have been tough for him to be there. He took me to some really nice vegetarian restaurants. Vegetarian satay: best. food. ever. Penang, Malaysia is known as the food capital of the world, and I’m not going to contest that.

Mature Couple Outdoors in a Canoe

And now I’m back home and the Summer is approaching, so the goal this year is to get outdoors as much as possible, hopefully we’ll get some decent photos during this time. I’ve always felt that British Columbia is the most beautiful place in the world, but most of us take it for granted.

Loliondo and the Medicine of God

December 6th, 2011

We drove for 10 hours but only covered 200 km. The destination was the East African village of Loliondo, where a retired church pastor nicknamed Babu had dreamed up a miracle medicine that would cure all incurable diseases such as AIDS and Diabetes. The treatment had gained incredible popularity, and hordes of East African people (and a few tourists) made the treacherous journey to visit the spiritual healer, often leaving their doctor prescribed medicine behind. Why would they need it?

We were lucky because we managed to get there when it wasn’t so busy. But this was THE thing to do in Tanzania at the time. Babu and Loliondo were all over the media, and rarely shared the front cover of the local newspapers. We heard that there was usually a six day (yes, six days!) wait time, and that wasn’t hard to believe as the vehicles lined up for kilometers.

African Spiritual Healer Babu, Loliondo

Our rickety old Landrover was uncomfortable, but compared to most of the travelers’ conditions, it should have felt like royal treatment (AC would have been nice though). The windows were usually closed to keep the dust out, despite the stifling heat. Every fifteen or twenty minutes you would see a broken down vehicle, and there were many stories of people dying because the journey was too rough. Wealthier individuals, such as political figures, would arrive by helicopter and this seemed like cheating to me. The journey is the destination, right?

African Spiritual Healer Babu, Loliondo

Babu had proven results because two people had claimed to be cured of AIDS as a result of drinking the medicine.  But the medical community seemed unimpressed, especially since unwell people stopped taking their medication. One doctor explained that there is an inexpensive and not all that accurate preliminary AIDS test. If the test results were positive, the patient would be given a more accurate and more costly test. Now, the patient may choose to forgo the secondary test because, well, it costs a lot more for potentially bad news. On the other hand, a cup of miracle medicine and another inexpensive and inaccurate preliminary test, and they may have been cured!

African Spiritual Healer Babu, Loliondo

Babu would dip his cup into the green bucket, fill it, and pour the liquid into the empty cups. The tray of full cups was then carried off to the vehicles where they would be emptied as quickly as they were filled. The used cups were washed in the basins that can be seen in the background. Babu would do this methodically for 12 hours of the day. He filled each cup himself because he was dedicated to his cause.

We drank the herbal tea-like drink, but reluctantly. At first Char and I opted to share a cup. Not that half a cup less of bacteria laden, tepid “miracle medicine” would make the week go by any smoother (read: E. coli bacterial infection), but we were told that it wasn’t possible to share. So we took solace in the fact that it had been heated up to be pretty hot (read: not boiled) a couple of hours earlier. Fortunately, we didn’t get sick and that bodes well for it’s miracle medicine status.

African Spiritual Healer Babu, Loliondo

Our visit was in March of 2011. Since then the popularity of Babu and Loliondo has died down but we were told that he is working on a new medicine. Some are now calling Babu a false prophet and some still believe in the goodness of his medicine. We weren’t there to judge.

On a side note, this was the first time shooting with the Zeiss 21mm Distagon lens. Almost all the photos from the series were shot with this lens in MF, so I had to be really close to the action, and I lost quite a few good shots because they were out of focus, especially images shot in strong sunlight.

Beautiful

December 1st, 2011

Beautiful Marabou Stork

A portrait of a Marabou Stork from East Africa. I’ll let you know when I spot a Blobfish as well.

Kids with Cameras in East Africa

November 30th, 2011

Africa Kids with Cameras

A while ago I mentioned bringing 25 disposable, single use cameras with me on an African trip, and giving them to children that live in an orphanage. Well, now we have a bag full of processed photo prints along with the negatives, and each envelope is labeled with the name of the corresponding child. Of course the kids got a copy of their photos, and they LOVED it. Our goal is to create a gallery exhibition and show off the images that have a distinct “kids-eye-view,” and hopefully raise some cash to donate back to the orphanage. A lot of the images are washed out and really grainy, but that adds to the fun. I’ve borrowed a lightbox and loupe from a fellow photographer and soon some friends and I will be digging through looking for some gems.

African Orphan Kids with Disposable Cameras

I just grabbed two envelopes out of the bag and quickly sorted through the prints, and these two stood out. The photograph above was shot by Rosena (eight years old). I don’t know why the one guy is isolated from the group, why he is darker than the rest, or what he is doing in the bush.

African Orphan Kids with Disposable Cameras

The photograph above was shot by Marietha, who is also eight years old.

I’m really looking forward to working on this project as part of my East African re-contribution efforts.

Zeiss 21mm f2.8 Distagon Review

November 30th, 2011

The Zeiss 21mm 2.8 Distagon is a beautiful lens. It’s the sharpest lens that I use wide open, and by 5.6, the sharpness becomes ludicrous. The build quality is what really sets it apart. Once you handle it, you realize that most other lenses feel like toys, and this one is going to last. But the most impressive thing you’ll notice is when you look through the viewfinder. What you see is a big bright, high contrast image that actually aids manually focusing the lens. That alone made me completely uninterested in the Canon 24mm 1.4, which was on the list of wide angle prime lens candidates. The difference is quite staggering, with the the Canon image feeling much more ‘muddy’.

Zeiss 21mm Distagon on a Dusty Road in Africa

There are two downsides to this lens:

1. Manual focus: This isn’t such a big deal considering the focal length. I wouldn’t want to be using a 50mm or 85mm with MF, but at 21mm there is a large enough DOF and that leaves a bit of room for error. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve lost my fair share of good shots because they are out of focus. But you eventually learn to make it work. I’ve also changed the focusing screen in the 5D mkII and that has helped with accuracy.

2. Smaller aperture: compared to the Canon 24mm 1.4 or even the Sigma 20mm 1.8, this lens is a little slow. But I like the fact that I know exactly what I’m going to get. And with the high ISO capabilities of camera bodies these days, I haven’t ever needed a wider aperture.

Zeiss 21mm Distagon at a Rural African Hospital

The one thing that needs to change on the Zeiss 21mm 2.8 Distagon is the big bright chrome ring around the front of the lens barrel (filter threads). It shows up a lot as a reflection in most situations when shooting through a window, and that is really tough to fix in post, so much that I’m considering painting it black. I searched for a design rationale, but could find anything on the issue. I wonder if it’s a marketing thing, similar to Canon’s red ring on their L glass. I sent an email to Zeiss asking them about it, and will let you know what they say.

Zeiss 21mm Distagon in East Vancouver

Overall, I’m completely satisfied with it, and it seems to compliment the Canon 35mm 1.4 L quite nicely. These two lenses were acquired to replace the Canon 16-35mm 2.8 L zoom that I didn’t like.  I use the 35mm when I absolutely need AF, and 21mm when I need something extremely wide. There has only been one time when I wanted something wider, and in that case, I stitched the shots together. The downside is that when I’m shooting with the 35mm 1.4, I’m wishing it was as good as the Zeiss.

25 Black & White Single Use Cameras

March 7th, 2011

25 single use, or disposable cameras with black and white film just arrived in the mail. Whatever could I do with them? What is …film? Where is the sepia button? I can’t take good pictures without that!

Single Use Cameras

Seriously, though. We’re going to be handing them out to children during our next trip to Tanzania. 25 cameras x 27 exposures is 675 photos, give or take a few. It will be interesting to see if even one of them turns out nicely, although we should always re-evaluate what it means to have a “good photo.” The point is not to get amazing images, but to give a child a chance to have a little fun with a camera and get some photos that they can keep. I’ll then scan the negatives and upload them here, and it should give us a glimpse into the life of a child that this old, fat mzungu wouldn’t be able to show you.

I planned to do this last year, but failed to find the right disposable cameras. Black and white disposable cameras are getting harder and harder to find, but luckily I found enough here. Strangely enough, the cameras advertised on their site look a lot different then the ones I got. The camera inside the box is branded by Kodak, but the box has a “SOLO with flash” logo on the front, with no mention of Kodak at all.

Travel Lighting Techniques in the Middle of Nowhere

March 3rd, 2011

I mentioned in another blog post earlier about getting decent quality lighting in very remote places like in the middle of nowhere, Africa. Actually the area is called Lake Eyasi, and it’s about a four hour drive from Arusha, Tanzania. The following unretouched image was shot with two Canon speedlights with wireless transmitters, set on a lightstand and tripod.

Travel Lighting Techniques

I left it unretouched so you could get a slightly better idea of how we got this shot. There were a total of four light sources: the aforementioned two speedlights, a reflector to the left side of the subject, and natural ambient light coming from the sun. It was shot in the shade because the light was nice and diffused.

One speedlight was placed on a tripod behind the subject to light the background. Pretty obvious stuff, but I didn’t count on such a strong lens flare. I actually like it a lot, but it is definitely there and may not be to some photographers liking. The background is simply a 32″ white reflector that folds up. I bring two of them. On my next trip, I’m bringing a lot more fabric because 32″ diameter backgrounds are only good for closeup portraits.

The second speedlight was used as the key light and was placed above and in front of the subject. I used a Gary Fong Lightsphere diffuser for additional softness. This is a lightweight collapsible diffuser that is attached to the strobe. There are a bunch of different diffuser options out there, but I prefer this one because it takes up very little room in my bag (a lens fits inside of it).

The reflector was placed to the left of the subject and was used to balance out the key light and soften the shadows. I just asked if someone would hold it and they were happy to do so for a couple of bucks.

The results may not be perfect, but given how far I was from my studio in Vancouver, and given how lightweight the entire setup was, and given how quickly we setup and tore down, I’d say the images are more than worthy.

Below is another shot, with similar lighting, except with a stronger background and key light that overpowered the ambient light. I did this to create strong shadows and really emphasize the scarring on the woman’s face. It’s one of my favorite portraits.

African Tribal Woman