2010.09.16

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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2010.05.25

Intervalometer Version 1.3

16.44.40 - Mark

I've been working on my home made intervalometer on and off for well over a month now. I bought the parts for it in early April, bounced between building the original version based on it's schematic and reading up and learning how to actually use 555 ICs in mid April. Finally got the first working version packed into an Altoids sized tin in a frantic morning on April 20th (written inside the tin since I was pulling it off between going to a class then driving 6 hours to go camping for a weekend) About a week after finishing it I got around to putting together a semi-decent time lapse video.

Homemade Timelapse TriggerPart of the reason I had held off on the time lapse is because I wanted this to work as a wired remote for my camera, rather than having to carry around a couple candy tins with switches and cables attached. This however has been my big problem.

The original schematic calls for a NPN transistor to work as the switch for the shutter release. When it's base is getting power, the emitter and collector are bridged and the circuit for the shutter is closed. Since the manual switches are wired in parallel, they can't override a closed circuit and are blocked until the base looses power - be it the few moments the 555 drops power or when the battery is disconnected. If I had gone this way I probably wouldn't have had a problem using it as a wired remote, but it is mentioned as a glitch in the original write up.

In my build however I used a PNP transistor, originally for no reason other than I had a bunch more of them than NPNs and they worked in the breadboard prototype. It's emitter and collector are still the connections for the shutter release loop, but those points are only bridged when the base is grounded. Unfortunately this was a somewhat massive problem for me. It not only blocked me from using it as a wired remote when powered off, the second it was plugged into the camera was the second it would take the first exposure. I could jerry rig it into working in my favor, but I wanted full control all the time.

At that point I started thinking about how to get that control. I first thought of using multiple transistors, looking into Darlington transistors or Sziklai pair, even started thinking of Logic Gates and building them with transistors. All it needed to do would be isolate the transistor from the circuit when the power was off. As I got frustrated with the complex schemes of using transistors to control transistors, I started to rethink the simplest approach of isolating the key PNP transistor.

A quick test on the breadboarded version, and just unplugging the PNP's base made it work with the parallel switches when the power was off. While I could have wired in and mounted another switch, I preferred simplicity, and a DPST switch was purchased to replace the SPST power switch. One side still for power, the other between the 555 and the PNP base. It's a good fix, and I finally feel good documenting my version.

In addition to my use of a DPST switch and a PNP, there are a few other changes I made. The first is the different selection of resistors. While the potentiometer and paired 100k ohm resistors remain the same as the original, I changed the LED resistors to 10 ohm (I wanted some more light coming off the LEDs).

Since I wanted a time lapse mode faster than once every 30 seconds or so, the fastest given by the 220uF capacitor (up to about 4 and a half minutes as its slowest), so I used a SPDT switch and 22uF capacitor to add in a second mode that can shoot as fast as one exposure every 9 seconds (which goes up to ~30 seconds).

I also changed the .1uF with 33k Ohm resistor to a 10uF capacitor and 470k resistor. The original design didn't allow my Canon XSi enough time to run the shutter. This my change is a particularly long break for the shutter trigger, about a full second. While I originally only changed the resistor for a sufficient delay, I realized that the SPDT switch with the key capacitors, really had three positions.
Intravolimeter Schematic
This switch happens to have ON - OFF - ON positions. While I only cared about being able to switch the 2 key capacitors, when testing it I accidentally had it on the off position. When I powered it on it started running the shutter faster than once a second. While I may not be getting this right, when the one of the 2 larger capacitors are connected the circuit is monostable, a quick burst for the transistor, then starts over. When neither large capacitor is connected however, it starts running as a bistable, or flip-flow, circuit, opening the shutter loop for a second, then closing it for a second, with it's pace set by the small capacitor and resistor. While I have yet to find a real reason for this feature, I decided to take advantage of it and added the 10uF capacitor. So, if you follow this design, this gives the camera shutter a full second or so to run when it's in Monostable mode, and get an exposure every 2 seconds or so when in Bistable mode.

While I'm sure there are other changes that could be made, I think I'm done with this one (with the possible exception of designing a real circuit board for it). Between arduinos boards and the parts for building a Camera Axe, I think this will suit me well for a carry around wired remote and intervalometer.

If you want to build one for yourself, feel free to work off my schematic (image above, enlarged, or EAGLE Schematic) put it's still a good idea to refer to the article I worked from in Make Volume 15 or the extremely useful discusion thread on it's Instructables page.

The components are all from Mouser, but I got the perf board from Radio Shack. You can get all the parts there as well (in theory) but they charge a lot for the things they do stock, and sadly my local Radio Shack's component area is a sad disorganized mess. Of course Digikey is on par with Mouser (just a bit harder to navigate) and in this case everything you need (including perfboards) can be purchased at All Electronics (which just takes a good bit of hunting) It's worth nothing however that you can scrounge together a lot of these parts from old electronics.

555 Timer IC Based Intervalometer Part List
Parts
Needed
Part DescriptionPrice Per Part
11M Ohm Potentiometer$.80
1DPST Toggle Switch$1.24
1SPDT Slide Switch$.75
2Tactile Switches$.31
2Tactile Square Caps$.15
2LEDs$.08
1220uf Capacitor$.14
122uf Capacitor$.10
110uf Capacitor$.06
1555 IC$.31
1PNP Transistor$.11
210ohm Resistor$.10
2100k ohm Resistors$.10
1470k Ohm Resistor$.10
12.5mm Stereo Plug$1.55
19v Battery Snap$.38
1Multipurpose PC Board$1.99
Hookup wire
Solder (you should have it)
Enclosure (I used an altoids sized tin)
Total:  $9.01 + taxes and shipping

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2010.04.27

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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2010.03.18

Inking

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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2008.04.28

Truancy

16.43.10 - Mark

Put simply, this month has simply been weird and a little confusing, and decently busy. I've been online less, and between photos on flickr and messages on twitter posting stuff here has just fallen off on the side. It's not lack of content, it's a simple lack of time. Other things have fallen off to the side as well, like watching movies (I've had the same Netflix rentals for a month), random web surfing and reading books all of which provides occasional add ons to the site. Why? Several reasons.

Part of it has been traveling. In the last two weeks I've been out and about far more than I've been in. Three days for Savannah GA, a day or two futzing around Surry County with camera in tow, a weekend in and around Brevard, NC, three days in Morganton, NC, and another day going to and from Lexington and Winston Salem, NC. Travel adds up quickly

Another thing has been photography related, well above and beyond the traveling with camera. I've taken tons of photos and didn't exactly stay on top of the processing, so that's added up. I've also been working on a photo printing comparison (20 some sets of the same 15 photos) which ordering and organizing alone ate up a working week faster than I expected. I'm also working on entering a couple prints into a judged photography competition and those prints needed ordered, and framed (which looks like it eats up time tomorrow.) Then there's some small attempts at shooting non "art" photos for profit.

Some of it's just life. Why bother with the website where there's stuff to hear/see/do/experiance. I like having this site, I like posting content, I even feel a little "bad" when I don't post in a while, so the sites not going away. Hopefully I'll get back in the habbit and post some more stuff as I start clearing out the backlog of content, or start finishing projects worth writing about. Until then...

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2008.04.12

I Fear Change - Appease Me!

02.48.46 - Mark

Earlier this week Flickr added the ability to post short (90 seconds or less) videos to the site for it's pro users (people that fork over $25 a year for the service) and now a while bunch of people are up in arms saying that by adding video the site is going to turn into youtube, which is complete crock, and are boycotting groups that allow video, block people that post video, and some claim they'll be defecting from the site or otherwise demanding the new feature be taken offline and thrown into a deep dark dungeon and never be allowed to see the light of day again.

They may as well be chanting "I fear change - appease me!", which would be preferable since it would 1) do just as much for their "cause" 2) would tell you more about how far along they are in terms of mental and emotional development and 3) would simply be more entertaining.

For one thing Flickr is a business. Sure it's a business that makes you feel like it's all warm and soft and friendly and that it's totally hip to it's friends customers interests, and to be fair it does to a lot to be customer friendly (it is a community site after all) but it's still a business, and this is a business move.

Videos uploads are only open to those with pro accounts, so to upload video you have to pay. New pro membership benefit == more members == more money. Then there's the fact that yahoo (which owns flickr) doesn't exactly have a strong video presence, and flickr is a closer fit than a lot of things it could have tried.

Second, comparing Flickr to YouTube is pretty silly when you look at it. YouTube is free to all, and after a few family friendly parental type controls the site is pretty much a free for all. YouTube also isn't exactly interested in quality. Flickr seems to be sort of the opposite. The video clip I uploaded to flickr looks almost as good there as it does when I play it locally, and the player interface isn't bloated or bland. So you don't have the total dreck we've all come to expect from youtube clips.

The third thing is since you have to pay to use the service, you're setting a good barrier to entry. Everyone has seen a myspace page that made you want to suck your own eyes out with a drinking straw, and look at all the number of craptacular free blogs and websites out there. Now how many sites have you seen with a registered domain name (and I'm not talking a .tk or some other free domain) and real paid hosting? Nowhere near as many. Pay walls keep a certain level of junk out, so again, none of the youtube free for all.

Should flickr added a "Don't show me video" option? Probably, and it would surprise me if they don't (or if someone fails to come up with a no video hack) but I'm finding it a useful feature. I've got a bunch of short clips that are neat, and worth sharing, but nothing I really care to piece together into a video. So while things like youtube and blip (another video service) fail, flickr video works, and gives me more of a reason to keep up my pro account.

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2008.03.17

Frankenphoto

22.44.26 - Mark

Screenshot of the monster photo I was shooting photos out at Hanging Rock State Park last week, taking a few panoramic series, a handful of HDR sets, long exposures of waterfalls and similar stuff. I also started experimenting with Vertical Panoramas and sets that involved a little more than just the x-axis. One of the sets I took was coming up to the main rock face of Hanging Rock Mountain itself, and for lack of a wide angle lens (or a DSLR that can take a wide angle lens) I took about 40 photos trying to get the whole mountain. Now not wanting to try and stitch it together myself, last night I opened up the files, told photoshop to stitch them together itself (something I don't do on my regular panoramas) and let it do it's thing.

Now I've already discovered that Photoshop CS3's photomerge function doesn't do vertical merges well on it's own, so I finished up the last few chapters of The Anansi Boys checking to make sure it could handle the set before going to bed. It didn't spit up any errors so I let it work into the night, and when I woke up I found it showing off a pretty distorted, and absolutely massive stitched pano, in addition to a few system error messages that were effectively screaming for more RAM.

The 14172 pixel wide by 30634 pixel high image is so big, Photoshop is incapable of saving it as a photoshop file, let alone a jpeg. The only way I could feasible save it was a 3.91GB tiff file, that takes 30 minutes to open on my 1ghz ibook.

I'm in the process of downsizing the file to a more manageable 10000px high, but at the rate photoshop is going it may be a couple hours. Until then, here's a screen shot of the monster photo.

Frankenphoto Screenshot - View Large (441 x 957)

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2008.03.11

Submitted Photos

19.48.42 - Mark

Two days, two different papers, 3 or 4 published photos (the forth was one I may have taken, but with someone else's camera) all with a "submitted photo" credit which I hate, especially since some of them are published online, but it's better than wrong credit (which one of the paper's did). The reproduction isn't as good as it could be either. Still it's publication which is nice in a way.

All the photos are scouting related but they're good photos for a paper. e.g. They're not line-'em-up-against-a-wall-mugshot type pictures which most people submit to newspapers, well one is but I wasn't in charge of that set up and I at least got something other than a face forward angle. My only real gripe with trying to take photos with the goal of newspaper publication is getting names. As soon as you start taking names people start posing or running away, or think you're with the paper, or think that because you're taking names they'll automatically be in the paper. When I do that it starts becoming work (usually unpaid and unjustified work) and stops being "just fun"

Anyways, here's two of the published photos:
Submitted and published photos

Left: Cub scout Pinewood Derby Winners in Tuesday March 11th's Surry Messenger (page 2).
Right: Boy scouts lashing poles together in Monday, March 10th's Mount Airy News (front page) Large version

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2008.02.28

Photo Chaser

23.41.09 - Mark

After yesterday's long essay you just want something simple to look at, and since I haven't been posting many photos here recently (hint: I've been posting to my flickr account) I figured I'd throw up this one from last week's lunar eclipse. I had been hoping to take this series with the moon traveling to totality over pilot mountain, but being cold, windy, and insanely cloudy that didn't happen. There was about an hour reprieve in the cloud cover however, which let me shoot a couple dozen photos of the moon, from which I picked the 7 best and blended them in photoshop to create

Seven Moons - View Large (2724 x 1918)

Seven Moons

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2008.02.05

Free Flowing

23.56.18 - Mark

For a while I was doing a good job of posting something daily, a link, a movie review, a post - something. Then the weekend came and I dropped off the interwebs while I went to Raven Knob and spent the weekend in good company wandering around taking photos and having fun.

I didn't ever realize it but I was in need of a recharge. Even if things seem slow it's amazing how crazy life can get, between hobbies, projects, and the information overload that is the modern era. A weekend unplugged and a couple more days mostly off-line does wonders for the body and soul.

I think the early morning hike Sunday morning was the key. There's nothing like an cool morning (or late night) hike though woods almost entirely untouched by civilization. Particularly when the trip includes climbing around a beautiful waterfall taking long exposure photos.

Smooth Water

Smooth Water - View Large (2816 x 2112)

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2008.01.31

Icy Mountain

00.42.39 - Mark

I saw a comment online today (and I forget where) wondering if High Dynamic Range Photography was cheating or cheesy. I don't think either is a fair statement. Yes if you browse flickr for HDR photos then yes there's a lot of dreak - ugly over processed uninteresting photos, which, yes, probably fall into the cheesy category quite well. On the other hand, there's also plenty of well composed, planned out, carefully executed HDR stuff that is excellent. Yes, you can achieve some of the same results with simpler methods, but sometimes you can't. I've spent 20 or 30 minutes playing with HDR files trying to get great results, only to give up and turn to a single exposure that captured the shot just as well (and with out the signs of post processing)

The nice thing about HDR, and maybe one of the reasons that it's caught on, is that its a software problem and not a hardware one. What I can do in camera with my S3, and do well enough for printable results is limited compared to what a high end DSLR with premium optics and a full frame sensor can do in camera. HDR by merging and blending images lets you extend past what you can do with the camera hardware. Layer stacking is a similar example. Is it "cheating"? Only if you want to be a stuck up prick and call it that

A photographer who knows what they're doing can produce great images with any camera they arm themselves with - it doesn't matter if they made it out of a shoebox, electrical tape, and a pinprick, or if it's an example of precision European engineering. The tool is only as good as the user, and I suspect that there are a lot of people that skipped Photography 101 before buying a DSLR. These same people, who tend to argue that the cameras they buy are smarter then they are, are out there seeking out ways to take cool looking photos and the wide ranges allowed by HDR makes an easy target (as a guess these people also lean towards the overuse of photoshop to correct their photos)

It's kind of like "Grunge" graphic design. Some people did it well and created some amazing work, and then a slew of imitators popped up and were imitating without any foundation knowledge of what they were doing and drove the style into the ground. It's not the technique or style's fault that it's misused/overused/horribly distorted, it's the "artist's" fault.

Or we could just incite the long tail and agree that these things will find their own markets. Some people obviously like extreme HDR work with little scraps of reality clinging onto the image, while some people will use it to good effect, and others still will hold true to conventional photography or other random techniques.

Personally, I'll still shoot what I think is fun, and what I think will work, and when things turn out well I'll continue to post them here or on my flickr account and be satisfied. Speaking of HDRs:

Ice at Pilot Mountain HDR

Icy Mountain - View Large (2815 x 2106)



Pilot Mountain back in December. It's only been in the last few weeks that I've sat down and processed a large chunk of photographic back log, and part of that was getting a copy of photomatix to use instead of photoshop's HDR tools (which aren't that nice) or layer masking and blending (which is what I had been doing to decent effect) This one is a photo that wouldn't have worked nearly as well as a single exposure.

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2008.01.25

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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2008.01.20

Bird House Abduction

23.45.22 - Mark

Two for one special on photos today, but same subject in the same photoshot, but two very cool photos. One of my favorite things to do with a camera is light painting and manipulation. I don't do it that often since my Canon S3IS doesn't do the best with long night time exposures (a side effect of not being a DSLR), but I try. Anyways the photos:

Radioactive Bird FeederBird Feeder Abduction

Left : Radioactive Bird Feeder - View Large (2112 x 2816)

Right : Bird Feeder Abduction View Large (2112 x 2816)

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2008.01.19

Stuck in the middle

18.35.04 - Mark

One of the only things I don't like about photography is how bipolar it makes me feel. One day I'll be feeling great about my ability with a camera. I'll have a photo that gets great compliments, and it even if it doesn't it's something moving and powerful and that looks amazing. It may even print well and I can sell a print or 30.

Then some days I feel pretty low end and hackish. I start seeing what other photographers are doing - taking photos I want to take - but doing it far better than I can. People with the time and patience and ability to get exactly the right photos and then processes them into a refined gem to my injection molded transparent plastic toy. And some of that's before you get into details like better equipment.

Then I start thinking about it rationally and dissect the photos I'm admiring. I realize that those photographers probably take as many photos as I do, and then sort out the good from the bad, and play around in photoshop just like I do, and then post the best of the best online.

And then I try new techniques, and experiment, and start creating some cool images that someone notices and comments on, and...

The whole cycle repeats itself. Combined with some equipment envy (a good DSLR kit would be very nice) it's a pretty infuriating cycle.

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2008.01.10

More Natural

23.25.39 - Mark

I've been posting a lot of edited photos recently - panoramic photos, HDRs, things that needed correction in Photoshop. Here's a reminder that I can still take good photos that can be pulled right from the camera. I don't shoot a lot of wildlife photos, but I don't turn down a chance when it presents itself. Once of my favorite things to do it run out to Pilot Mountain, hike out to the eastern side of the mountain, lay down in the sun, and try to shoot the hawks that nest on top of the big pinnacle. This Heron was a fun, unexpected subject. He usually flys away whenever I have my camera, and I think he migrates south for the winter, but he hung around for a few minutes letting me take a few videos of him in addition to allowing me to shoot a bunch of stills before flying away (I posted an edited video of him a few weeks ago)

Blue Heron in Mount Airy

Blue Heron - View Large (2816 x 1584)

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2007.12.28

If you bend your neck just right...

22.44.00 - Mark

This screenshot is an example of why you should use a tripod when making panoramic photos, but I'm not that good at taking my own advice. With a couple of exceptions most of my panoramic photos have been done by hand, but that's because I don't have a tripod I like that works well when the camera is in portrait mode. The tripod stabilized sets are pretty good about being level or close to it (angles under 2 degrees). My hand held shots tend to drift around 5 degrees, but this one is angled at 11 degrees partially because I'm shooting from above. I'm pretty sure I can save it tho' photoshop is a wonderful tool.

Screenshot of a crooked stitched panoramic being worked on in Photoshop

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2007.12.25

Holiday Bird

09.57.14 - Mark

I can get lazy sometimes. When I was out and about taking photos two weeks ago (when it was 70 degrees and sunny) I ran across this bird who has a habit of showing up around the Greenway Trail in Mount Airy, I'm pretty sure it's a Great Blue Heron, but I'm not a bird expert. The herons (there are a few that like the creek) tend to show up when I'm either without a camera or they fly away before I can make a photo. For whatever reason this one wasn't disturbed, and allowed me to watch and record for about 10 minutes before moving on.

It took me a week to get around to editing to find some music I liked for the bird and edit together the video clips and photos I took, and then it's taken me an additional week to getting around to fighting with compression settings and file formats, so after all that time I'm finally getting around to posting the video as a sort of holiday gift. Maybe later I'll get around to adding some sort of flash player so you don't have to download my, anymore large, video files.

The music under my video is "Clouds Fly as I Smile" by SaReGaMa the Artist who released it under a Creative Commons Noncommercial Sampling Plus 1.0 License. My video (like most of my content) is CC Attribution Non-commercial 3.0.

The Bird (158MB 320 x 240 H.264 Quicktime)

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

Oh yeah, Happy Holidays.

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2007.12.23

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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2007.12.20

White Water

02.19.43 - Mark

A little bit of Whitewater under a Bridge

A bit of Whitewater - View Large (2787 x 1878)



I've been taking a bunch of photos recently, I think over 1000 in 10 days, and enough to start tripping up my install of iPhoto. All of those photos will need sorted and a lot will need some significant post processing of some flavor (there are a number of HDR and panorama sets in that thousand) but I wanted to get this one up. It almost took more time to get photoshop up and running than it did to edit the photo so I don't feel too bad about throwing it up real quick. I'm half lucky the image turned out so well, it's a longish exposure and I was too lazy to use a tripod.

5 extra special bonus points if you can tell me where I took this photo (within ~1km)

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2007.12.17

Life at 2x

23.38.48 - Mark

I feel like I'm trying to cram two weeks into one right now, and it's not because of the holidays.

We've got a family friend visiting for the week and the plan has been going around the area doing quasi-touristy things, and I'm the main host for a few days. Today the guest and I went out shooting photos in the Mountains more or less until the sun went down (and then some) and then the family unit plus friend went to the Tanglewood Festival of Lights in the Winston Salem area, which while amazing, but it has taken up a large chunk of the day (~5 hours) and I'm typing this while waiting for some pasta to cook. The photography has the added side effect of adding more images and movies to my need to process and want to process queues (expect some new HDRs and Panos)

At the same time as all of this I've got a list of people I need to call for various reasons from tech support to photographs to web work. I though people were supposed to slow down and enjoy the holidays?

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