Old Meet Older

17.40.51 - Mark

StackedA couple weeks ago, I was bored and was taking another look at an old Kodak Jiffy Six-20, and was, for a while, looking for a way of acquiring some suitable 620 film and a way of getting it recycled. The 620 film is out there, but $10 for a single roll is a more than I'd care to pay for a camera made in the 1930s and certainly hasn't been used in at least 20. However a little side tracking on Google and I stumbled across a a little how to use 35mm film in a Holga 120 page, and posted that link here. Having read that 120 film and 620 film were extremely similar - particularly that 120 film can be re-spun for 620, the idea of cramming a 35mm roll of film into the old Jiffy appealed to me. It would be cheap, I could do it immediately, and, if I could somehow scan the image, could get some neat results.

So I quickly dug around the house and found some old expired, but unused roll that sure enough, could be jammed in. Another hunt for a plastic bound manual, electrical tape and a knife and soon enough I was ready to shoot some photos.

Four ColumnsThe question was where. At first I felt the yard would be sufficient, but soon chose to ride my bike out and revisit some of my preferred photo walking locations. Within an hour I had spent my roll and took it home. Once it was dark I cobbled together a "darkroom" and stumbled my way though opening the Jiffy, unbuilding my clicker, and re-spooling the film. The next day, I took it into a 1 hour photo lab.

Of all my mistakes, the lab was the biggest. I hadn't spent the time to not have them attempt to print it, nor did I request they did not cut the film into lengths. While I've trusted that lab with digital prints, I suppose it was too much to assume they would look at the exposures themselves. Their equipment was obviously geared for the traditional 35mm frame shots, not near panoramic exposures. The mistake was free however, with useless prints I was allowed to skip the prints and keep the negatives for free.

A week later I met up with a friend to see about using a higher quality film scanner he had acquired for digitizing his medium sized camera negatives. A little playing around, and I was able to "save" a few exposures from expired film, mangeled in processing, and all shot in an antique camera in the hands of a photographer who hasn't really shot film in over 5 years. The technique has some potential.

I think I'll be doing it again.

Photo Left: Stacked
Photo Right: Four Columns

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Bluecheese Burgers and 555 ICs

16.55.08 - Mark

Ah, the combination of technology and food.

Well sortof. After dusting off my Canon S3is for it's timelapse feature for Inkinga few weeks ago, and then in the same post complaining about not getting anything faster than 1 shot a minute out of it, I decided to try and make the 555 IC based camera trigger.
Homemade Timelapse Trigger
The version I build was covered in MAKE Magazine Issue 15, as well as a bit more detailed on it's Instructables page. When I described it as "crude" in the Inking rant, I was surprisingly accurate.

While I tried to follow the schematics exactly the first two attempts (the first soldering, the second by breadboarding) I still wasn't getting a working device. Perhaps by my mistakes, but perhaps by design flaws. However after going over it's comments on instructables, I managed to hack together a working solution as well as a couple upgrades to the original design. While it's a bit tempting to document my changes, I'll hold off until I either debug it or create another version.

However, after assembling the components, and shoehorning it into an altoids-esqe case, I wanted to use it. While I've come close to using it a few times over the last week or so, I finally used it last night when I made some Bluecheese Burgers.

The photo rate was about 1 exposure every 9 seconds, Canon XSi camera on tripod, lens set on manual focus but camera shooting in Program mode. I turned off the trigger a couple times (like when the burgers were on the grill) but the whole series works pretty well. And since it's food, written ingredients and instructions are included (both here and in the video)

Bluecheese Burgers

2 lbs Hamburger (85/15 lean or better)
1/8 teaspoon Ground Cayenne Red Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly milled Black Pepper
2-3 oz. Crumbled Bluecheese
Hot Grill
(All measurements approximate - Cook to your taste, not mine)

Mix all spices and hamburger together.
Divide hamburger and form 8 thin paddies.
Put crumbled blue cheese onto 4 paddies, leaving open space on the edges.
Place remaining paddies onto the blue cheese piles and "seal" the edges of the two paddies together.
Cook burgers on the grill to taste. Roughly 7-8 minutes per side for Medium

Bluecheese Burgers are great on their own, but I prefer them with some Red Onion, slice of Tomato, some Lettus, and a bit of Mayo, but enjoy it however you want to.

Bluecheese Burger Timelapse (2MB 320 x 480 H.264 Quicktime)

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License.

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20.34.11 - Mark

A few years ago, one of my brothers bought a screen printing kit, the two of us figured out how to print some t-shirts, and planned on doing more with screen printing. Didn't quite happen. The parts have been reused to projects, but screen printing fell off to the side. The cloth prints since then were either one-off with freezer paper stencils and spray paint (similar to this project), experiments for other techniques, to simply being large enough that a professional lab felt more practical than an attempt at DIY printing on a short time table. However, about two weeks ago a friend asked me about printing some flags.

He'd used professional printers before, but the low number and small size meant it would have been pretty pricy, and while at first I figured stencils and spray paint would work (and it would) the numbers are enough that DIY screen printing would be easier. So I started working on the kit.

Unfortunately parts of it didn't age well. The screen, ink, and tools are in good enough shape, although quite probably not enough, and the photo sensitive emulsion chemicals were either missing, or used. I was also missing the manual. I know, oft ignored, but if you're playing with chemicals its wise to do your research. In this case I turned to Instructables, and landed on the true DIYers screen printing project. While it isn't the most precise article, it's a great guideline, both for people doing it themselves and those who want to save money.

So while I was waiting for the Potassium Dichromate / Elmer's glue photo emulsion to dry onto the screen, I started working on the art. In the past I'd dig up a piece of transparency sheet and use that for the mask, but finding any, and not liking the price I deiced to try vellum paper (in large part due to the DIY screen printer instructable). Which gets me to this video.

Since I'm working off a vector art piece, I wanted to print it on to the vellum. However my printers don't run on cheap ink, so I only printed out the outline, and would fill it in by hand. Right before I started filling it in I pulled out my old point and shoot and set it up for time-lapse.

Nice short and simple video, in many ways very similar to the Pennies video I. [wow, over 4 years ago!] The slight difference is I had the camera set on time lapse, in one shot a minute factory issued mode, so this ends up being choppier than I'd prefer. I'm not sure if I want to blame my lack of (good) camcorder, better knowledge of the CHDK hack for my point and shoots, or the extended lack of a intervalometer controller for my DSLR (be it commercial product, graphing calculator, arduino based project, or a crude but simple 555 electronic circuit)

In any case

Inking (4.4MB 320 x 240 H.264 Quicktime)

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License.

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Night Pilots

00.16.11 - Mark

Night PilotsI've been meaning to try and do some long exposures with traffic for a long time, but Monday night coming back from the Piedmont Photography Club in Winston-Salem Monday night there was a full moon, so on my way home I pulled off onto an overlook of Pilot Mountain and took a few 15 seconds exposures. Some of them I'm going to try and blend, some are alright as standalones. The 15 second maximum exposure of my S3 really isn't enough to do really great long exposure photography, but it's sort of workable. Still it's one of those limits I've been really running into lately. I know that you can take great photos with a homemade pinhole camera and all that, and I'm still really happy with the Canon S3's (Hell, I've bought two of them, and I've sold 3 friends on them, 4 if you count the asshole that stole my first one) but I can think of a lot of cool things I can do with a DSLR I can't do with what in the end is still a point and shoot.

Night Pilots - View Large (2816 x 2112)

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Bad Ratios

16.20.24 - Mark

As much as I love taking good photos, and happily spend time tweaking them in Photoshop, the rewards are cut short if you don't share the images. There are lots of ways to do this from in camera viewing to websites, to getting some decent quality prints made. I love this site, but good prints are far more useful. I've still got boxes and boxes of old 3x4 and 4x5 prints, and have walls decorated with enlargements I had made when I entered photography contests (some of which I really need to digitize)

As I've picked up my cameras again, I've started printing again. From at home printing on consumer level hardware - which despite what printer manufactures claim is wicked expensive and gives at best mediocre quality - to instant print kiosks and onwards and upwards to professional photo labs.

The thing is, the "standard" photo sizes are based off the aspect ratio of 35mm film (3:2) while nearly all digital cameras shoot 4:3, and many are starting to adopt 16:9 as a shooting option, if not the native sensor size. Most printing places recognize these and similar ratios (this isn't scientific, but I think the SOL point is is you want something narrower than 2:1), but these machines will refuse to print them correctly, and make stupid assumptions rather than ask the user how to handle each image. In a smallish sample I've had images condensed, expanded, and cropped, and only when I get it manually forced into zooming out is there a chance it will print correctly, and then I had to manually trim half an inch or more of white space off all four edges.

The real sad part is that everyone seems stuck with bad ratios and terrible metrics. The industry seems happy with it's standards and simply suggests digital photographers "plan to crop digital images". Should you find a printer who doesn't mind a different aspect ratio, they hand out DPI numbers that you'll need to meet, except it's hard to translate pixel counts into useful DPI numbers, since it's not the straight 1 to 1 ratio many people claim. Depending on print method and inks used you might have half a dozen dots working to represent the color value of a single pixel.

No wonder you can still buy polaroid 600 film...

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Trying not to kill electrons

00.25.22 - Mark

So in addition to reacclaimating myself to the real world, I've been dealing with broken electronic devices.

Two weeks ago I somehow managed to kill my camera. While it chose a good day to die on me (last day of camp) it's well established that I'm a lot happier when I have a working digital camera. On the plus side Canon's customer service is amazing. I called last Friday and after not arguing with the [knowledgeable] phone monkey, I had the camera packed up and shipped within 90 minutes of looking up the Canon Support Phone number. I've never had that sort of thing happen when calling tech support. Assuming they don't take forever to fix my camera, I've got another reason to love Canon.

The other dead electronics I've dealt with this week is my 91 Honda Accord's stereo, which has been dead for so long most people who get in it have become accustomed to not even trying to coax it into speaking. Rather than trying to fix the factory head unit I opted to install a new Sony stereo that has an iPod dock connector. I probably had about half a dozen people tell me to get it professionally installed, but in reality all it required was splicing together a dozen wires (I used crimp connectors, but if I was doing it over would solder and heat shrink it) then put it in place of the old stereo. Cosmetically it could look better, but I'd rather have a few cosmetic blemishes than fork over $75 (or more) and have it look a little nicer. Besides, installing it boosted my confidence on working on cars. While I've got no problem ripping into delicate electronics like laptops and iPods, cracking into my car was a little more daunting. Might be the fact that I don't place my life at risk when I use my computer...

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Lizard Love

23.50.02 - Mark

Lizard love

Lizards in Love

I've found (and photographed) at least three lizards creeping around in the yard, but these two are the most fun to watch, plus they're so preoccupied that after a minute or two they simply stop caring about any observers. I've got a short video of these two as well. I'll get around to putting together a video sampler in a few days - the S3 really does have a great video mode.

Right now I'm both looking forward and dreading tomorrow. There's an air show at the local airport and I plan on going over with my camera. The only problem with that is that I know going will flare up my desire to learn how to fly, which of course I can't afford...

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Light Catcher

16.50.10 - Mark

I once again have a working camera, and all is good. Having worked out the features I wanted and needed nearly a month ago, I've had plenty of time to stew over various cameras and read almost literally hundreds of reviews. In the end what it came down to was size. I can get cameras that have all the features I wanted in just about any size I want, but to even get close to having it all I was looking at paying close to $800 for a compact camera. Compact cameras seem to command at least $150 to $200 more than their larger brethren, so with that in mind I opted to get a larger high end shooter. Specifically the Canon S3 IS (DP Review | DCRP) It's a year old, but newegg.com had it for $310 with 2GB SD card. On paper it meets every one of my wants and needs except for its physical size and the lack of RAW shooting modes (tho' there's a firmware hack that may fix that). In reality, I've very happy with the decision.

UPS showed up with the camera about quarter to 2 and I had it unpacked and taking pictures by 2, and it didn't take long to start getting used to the controls and start playing with the advanced features. The interface is quick and logical, the images I've been taking are stunning and the optical range is great from the super macro mode to the fully extended 12x zoom. The one thing that's really stunning is the movie mode. The quality is great, and although I haven't done anything more than a sample video the zoom while recording and stereo sound captured my heart instantly.

There are a lot of features I haven't tried yet, but I honestly can't wait to. I'm even going to read the manual to make sure I'm not missing anything (hint: I almost never read manuals). Now for the hard part of this post - picking sample pictures...

Macro Flower
Piano wires

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Potential Compact Camera

18.43.52 - Mark

I'm looking more and more at the Panasonic DCM-LX2 (aka the Leica D-Lux 3) but Ricoh just announced something that might be a dead on match for what I want. While it isn't out yet, and the only info on it is a press release, the GX100 looks like it hits on every bullet point in Camera Shopping, with the exception of 16:9 shooting. It even goes further than that. It also takes AAA batteries (nice to have in a pinch), has an accessory hot shoe for external flash and electronic viewfinder (not so sure about that) and takes conversion lenses.

I have no idea about the image quality, which is extremely important, and from what I've seen the price is well outside my range. The press release says 400 GBP, which Google translates as just under $800. In a way it is a fair price, the specs look like a DSLR disguised as a compact camera, but at $800 I could just as easily be looking at quality DSLR kits which while not as portable, are far more proven.

If I haven't committed to something by April, its one more camera to look at.

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Camera Shopping (Warning: Long Rambling Post)

04.01.57 - Mark

I've been itching to replace my dead (via my own stupidity) Canon SD300 for a while now. It more than proved its worth but I'm only now starting to get the cash to replace it. What I'm finding however is there isn't a camera out there that matches the feature set I want. The following is a lot of thinking out load. The meat of the post is in the last paragraph or two.


Wants (where things get complicated)

What am I looking at. I'm really partial to Canons, not just because of the SD300, but also because I've never been disappointed in their products. I'm looking at the newer Digital ELPH cameras which are decedents of the SD300. That should be fairly obvious. The SD700 and SD800 are both tempting. They have image stabilization, and all of my accessories will work perfectly with the SD800 AFAICT, but they're currently a bit beyond what I'd like to pay and lack some of my wants. The SD800 also lacks some of the manual controls I need.

Other Canon's I'm looking at are the A710, which is essentially the SD800, plumped up on AA batteries and given the option of conversion lenses. The Canon s80 and S70 are tempting, but they've got several strikes against them for reasons not on the list. The s70 does nearly everything I want, except video - which has a 30 second max, and can be purchased for under $300 is also 2 and a half years old. The S80 which fixes video (but drops RAW) is a year older and pushed my budget.

The Panasonic DMC-LX2 and its predecessor the LX1 have a damned near perfect feature set, only lacking of timelapse photography. The downside is that there are pretty strong arguments against their image quality. Watercolors are frequently mentioned in reviews, but shooting in RAW supposedly helps - some. The big downside is the price, which is well above my price range. The LX1 might be affordable off eBay, but it would be pushing it and I'm not fond of buying a used camera.

I'm likely missing a few potential options. For one thing I want to look at more of the Panasonics. I also find myself drifting away from the ultracompacts (like the Canon SDx00's) and more towards the regular compacts like the Canon A710 and the Panasonics. Fortunately I don't need it tomorrow, I've got a couple months to shop before I'd like to have a good camera in my hands, hopefully some prices will drop, deals will show up, and I'll have time to better refine my need/want list as well as compare image quality on flickr.

What bugs me is that camera shopping today feels a lot like computer shopping a few years ago. There's a big emphasis on meaningless numbers rather than on anything useful. When there's a shortcoming in the camera the response is to throw more pixels at the problem, which is often makes the problem worse. They're also taking away features, not adding them. Few of the compacts and none of the ultra-compacts I've looked at have RAW support, things like manual control and interesting features like time lapse photography are stripped away or avoided when all it would take is a bit of software that clearly exists.

Digital Camera Resource Page
Digital Photography Review
Flickr Camera Finder

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