Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Digital Illiteracy

I once wrote a post asking if a Blackberry could save our kids.

Time has answered that question in two ways:

  • The Blackberry is very much yesterday’s product. Email is also yesterday’s communication method as kids flock to text messaging and (shudder) twitter
  • Kids are becoming illiterate at an alarming rate, as you will read in this article, largely because so many don’t care about basic computer skills any more … Microsoft Word and Excel for example

Some quick excerpts from the quoted article, and this should scare the shti out of you ….

Today's teens grew up on SMS and Facebook.

"The kids I have, and that is roughly two dozen of the brightest young digital artists a semester, often have no idea what Microsoft Word is. They can't tell a Mac from a PC. And forget Excel," he says. He struggles to get his students to use basic computing etiquette.

"They will not use e-mail," he says. They can't manage a crowded inbox. "It's a constant struggle to have them simply stop SMSing me."

The investor pain looming with the breaking wave of digital illiteracy is significant. First, this new generation of low-functioning computer users will almost certainly require near full-time handholding from software vendors – which will not be cheap.

"It has gotten to the point now that if it takes something basic like a password, they can't figure it out," Mr. Bae said of his students. How will the average Macbook user deal with a problem? Go down to the Genius Bar and stand in line for two hours?

But finally – and most ominously of all – it will become increasingly difficult for app makers to strike the right balance demanded by today's computer-challenged.

I always thought that kids would get more and more sophisticated as computers became more and more ubiquitous. But the drive to make things easier and appeal to the, frankly, “challenged” has also destroyed the wherewithal that today’s youth would have had for learning anything complex. Facebook and twitter are in your face all the time and you just don’t have to think.

Twitter has always struck me as a joke … I think I know why, now.

But we can all take solace that the rich got richer by driving volumes so high. And they will be punished in the long run because their fortunes will be inherited by this new "idiocracy” :-)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Joe McNally comes to Ottawa!

And I can’t go to see his seminar.


I love off board lighting, and there is simply nothing like watching a legend do his stuff. The price is right at 100 bucks, and Joe is actually coming to my home city, and then two other cities that are in easy driving distance.

But I am on vacation and unavailable for all three dates. OMFG, can one’s luck suck worse than that? (Yes, it can, I know, but this is still deeply annoying.)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Keep BACKUPS!!!!

I was just uploading the images from a nice walk at the marina and breakwater at Dick Bell Park today and thought it would be a good idea to back up my files. I thought there might be almost a thousand new files since the last back up and that would be heart-breaking to lose.

It’s running right now, and I was shocked to see how many images I have shot or processed in the last 3 or 4 weeks. OMG!


So remember to back up your images more regularly. You will regret it if you have a sudden crash and no second copy.

What I do for backups:

I have a 1TB Seagate Free Agent drive on a USB 2 port for backing up my email and all my files. I have everything I have ever written or received (that mattered) going back more than 14 years.

I have a 2TB Lacie Porsche drive on a USB 3 port for image backup. It took a while to get the drivers right on my USB 3 ports, but that’s working now and it was well worth it. Especially for image copy with my new USB reader.

I run a utility called “AllWay Sync” which is very inexpensive for the Pro version. It performs incremental backups and the jobs can be set up with any type of synchronization you desire. I use a one way copy with deletion propagation for images. I am very careful when I delete though, so if you are rather cavalier, I would suggest that you do not propagate deletions.

It is really that simple. I do  not have AllWay Sync running all the time, as it eats a lot of memory. But I could afford it now, so I might let it watch t6he file system and propagate in real time. That way I am protected within a 30 second window.

Who the FUKC are “Air Duct Cleaning Services"?”

These guys are like flies on shti.

They just won’t stop calling me. I’ve yelled at them a half dozen times over the last two weeks and they still call back. I have asked every time to be taken off their list. By law they are supposed to comply with that request. They are repeatedly breaking the law.

It’s an incredibly unprofessional direct marketing scam, as far as I can tell. You get a fellow on the phone who is in a loud room on a speakerphone, the line is so noisy you can barely understand. A sweat shop.

How do I get these guys off my back? Anyone know the right people to call in government or police services?

My humblest apologies for the swearing but I am LIVID!

p.s. They just called me again, although they did not come on the line. They use aggressive outbound call tactics, which is just another scummy behavior.

SDHC Reader … Pretec P240 is inexpensive and incredibly fast …

I have wanted a USB 3 card reader for at least a year now. I had been on Ron Galbraith’s extensive test site at that time (and before that and again recently) looking at card speeds and reader speeds and the difference from a few years ago is really astounding.

Well, Ron shows 4 or even more USB 3 readers now and they are all very fast. The Pretec P240 is one of the better ones and comes in a tiny, portable format that makes it very versatile. But in looking around the web, most of these readers are not available in Canada, or if they are the cost is high. Close to 60 bucks for the Sandisk, for example.

I had always wanted the Lexar dual slot, which matches the USB 2 version I have. It got great speed improvements with USB 3. But the Pretec beats it with several cards, so I decided that Lexar would not win this one.

Anyway, I was pretty frustrated by the limited availability in Canada and then I remembered eBay. And sure enough, there was a seller in Hong Kong that had it for under 20 bucks, shipped. Now, that’s the kind of deal where you just hold your nose and pray that something comes in the mail.

And I was caught by surprise today when that very reader arrived in the mail. That is only 11 days after ordering it!

You can see here how small it is.

My test was simple. I dropped a bunch of files onto two cards – the 200x Duracell and the 45Mbps Sandisk Extreme Pro, which features UHS-1.

The Duracell test had only 11 seconds of reading on the old Lexar USB 2 reader, and 10 seconds on the new Pretec. That seemed to be not very promising. So I copied a lot more files on the Sandisk and repeated the test.

The Lexar reader took 38 seconds. The Pretec only 15. That’s a whisker under 40% of the time. Now that’s more like it!

So, if you are looking to get a new reader, you could do a whole lot worse than this reader, and the price is so good that the small amount of risk you take when ordering from Hong Kong is easily compensated.

The seller’s name I chose is Kjcollection, and he has 23,635 feedbacks at 99.6% … this is an excellent rating and I would trust a seller like that implicitly, which is exactly what I did …

Friday, June 22, 2012

The calm before the (sh-t) storm?

Fifteen banks were downgraded today by Moody’s to reflect the extra risks associated with participation in capital markets, which have become increasingly volatile. One wonders why a bank, a conceptually perfectly stable business, would want to dabble in what is effectively a lottery? And, of course, this is the kind of lottery that – should you fail to win – it could turn around and kill you. So more like Russian Roulette.

Anyway … the answer as to why they would take such horrific risks comes near the end of the article where the banks are categorized into risk levels. The middle group seems to manage risk effectively at times, but take a a look at why they are in this pickle in the first place.

Moody's said some of these firms still managed risk effectively, even though they rely heavily on their markets businesses to satisfy their shareholders.

Ahhhhhh …. a bank is a business, and banks have made the same transition that all businesses have made in our corporatist society … they have replaced happy customers and excellent products with happy shareholders as the only goal that really matters. (The sub goal of “I want more” remains unchanged, but is now even more dangerous as short-term maneuvering takes over from long term planning as the way to a brighter future. For the one person at least.)

And since an unending streak of growth quarters is the fantasy with which the “I wanna be even richer” crowd has been inured, banks gotta do whatever it takes.

No matter what the risk to our collective well-being.

Pass the Gravol …

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Don’t get rid of the D70s just yet …

I went digging in my archives for a D70s image to counter a point made by someone that a Fuji X10 with DR400 set would have much better dynamic range than an old D40. Well, the D40 was state of the art at 6Mp, using a sensor that was better than the one in my old D70s. So if I could find an image that showed off the DR of the D70s then I would have my example.

And did I ever …

For those who have done a little research into shooting RAW, you might have come across the adage “shoot RAW because conversion engines get better over time, which means you can make even better images from your originals later on.”

Well, I was flabbergasted by the quality of the following image from the D70s and a dirt-cheap used Sigma 70-300 4.5-5.6 Macro. A mediocre lens if ever there were one. Except that the lens was plenty sharp at the long end stopped down a bit and so this image is staggeringly sharp. I had to switch off output sharpening because it was already too sharp. And this was real acuity … not digital sharpening that made it that way.

Nikon D70s + Sigma 70-300 4.5-5.6 macro  200iso  f/7.1  1/1250  203mm EFL

Although a well shot image form the X10 will easily match this DR, it will certainly not better it. And the acuity will struggles to keep up.

I scanned the same folder and came across this lovely goose image, shot with the same combination. Of course, the goose image is always a problem because of the white cheek patch that Canada Geese have. This patch is hard to hold in sunlight, but the D70s had no trouble again.

And Lightroom 4 with process 2012 did a magnificent job of rendering this image. Beautiful tones through the dar face and neck and a really gorgeous cheek patch. So if you have the D70s and are considering trading it in for something newer, seriously consider getting Lightroom 4. You might rediscover a whole new camera in the D70s.

nikon d70s + sigma 70-300 4.5-5.6 macro  200iso  f/5.6  1/800  450mm EFL

That last one was shot wide open and the acuity is still very high. When you consider that these bodies regularly go for under 300 bucks and the lens for a song, you can get into this combo for half the price of the X10. Of course, the two cameras serve different target markets, but I’m just saying that creative people can shoot a lot of interesting equipment by shopping used.

Anyway … I was compelled to show these results. I really enjoyed seeing Lightroom teach the old dog some new tricks.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fuji XS-1 Review – Part 7 – Shoot indoors at low ISO for really clean details

This isn’t really a formal review part, but I thought it would be instructive to show how good this camera can look indoors hand held. The stabilization is not what I am used to with the VR lenses from Nikon, but it is certainly serviceable. You just have to keep in mind that stabilization improves your odds of getting a sharp image, it in no way guarantees that any one specific image will be sharp.

So you shoot several and hope for a good one. The more images you capture, the more likely one will be the gem.

So Nick convinced me on Father’s Day to go for his favourite soup, which is also my favourite soup. It edges out both Vietnamese Pho and the Mennonite Chicken Soup that I cook (which is surprisingly similar in recipe and flavour to Pho.)

The soup I am talking about has been blogged here before … it is Malaysian Laksa, a light curry chicken soup that will blow your mind if you can find a good restaurant. The one we frequent is called “The Singapore” and they are packed every lunch hour with people stuffing themselves with Laksa. It is incredible.

fuji x-s1  100iso  f/4.5  1/7

So I will admit right up front that I forgot that I had fixed the ISO at 100. But in this case it was a lucky happenstance, because the second of the two images I shot came out crystal clear. Click on the above image to see the 1000px version and you will see how much detail there is in the surface of the chicken.

I was distracted by the fact that I had to switch to JPEG because I had forgotten an SDHC card as I left the house. I had planned to bring the F550EXR in my pocket but the battery was showing red, so I ran up to grab the X-S1 (much less convenient to carry, obviously) and forgot to check the card slot in the commotion. Duh.

So, had I realized that I was at 100 ISO, I would of course have shot something like 5 or more images to make sure one was sharp. I do check every image, and this one looked just fine so I thought nothing more of it. But I was very pleasantly surprised when I opened this in Lightroom and saw what is all too rare with this camera and my shooting style – a tack sharp image.

Close up photography has certainly emerged as a strength of this camera. The lens, when retracted, is very sharp. The sensor is very good, as is already known from the X10. And JPEGs are very good too. Where the weakness lies seems to be in long distance shots. But even then, I will be posting some evidence that this is not always an issue … when I get time to finish the Petrie Island images and post them.

By the way, had I given the camera its druthers, it would have reached much higher with ISO. A faster shutter would have guaranteed a fast shutter, but at the expense of noise. So I am glad I had this particular brain fart.

Tamron 17-50 2.8 – Finally a proper midrange zoom for my DX body …

In fact, all I have is a DX body now, but I do plan to have a good look at the D600 when it ships. That might be a rather spectacular full frame camera for a moderate price, we shall see.

I picked this gem up for $299 on Henrys Photo’s web site in the used section. It is mint, as they said it was and it is the version without VC and without the built-in motor. Thus, it is the sharpest and fastest focusing of them all. Exactly the lens I was waiting for and exactly the price I wanted (actually, about 50 bucks cheaper than I was hoping to pay.)

Meanwhile, I have always enjoyed shooting the Tamron 28-75 2.8 on the D7000 as it is very sharp and has wonderful bokeh. But the range is very DX unfriendly, being the equivalent of 42-113mm, which is nowhere near wide enough for general purpose shooting.

Instead, I have coveted its equivalent DX lens, the 17-50 2.8, which has always been considered very sharp and competitive with the best of Nikon’s equivalent lenses. It is also quite small, which is a bonus when you intentionally match it to a small body as I did. (D3200 users should seriously consider the version with built-in motor as it would be a wonderful match for their cameras.)

So this evening, I took it out into the back yard for a few minutes just to test drive it. Nick was out there so I was able to shoot a few of him (unlike Jon, he tolerates being photographed.)

You can see here how smooth the bokeh is, and this is shot at f/5 for no particular reason.

nikon d7000 + tamron 17-50 2.8  200iso  f/5  1/1000

Here, I switch to 2.8 and the images remain incredibly sharp …

nikon d7000 + tamron 17-50 2.8  200iso  f/2.8  1/2000

nikon D7000 + tamron 17-50 2.8  200iso  f/2.8  1/640

I then turned my attention to the garden. This lens focuses surprisingly close and could easily carry the macro designation that some others put on any lens that gets within a few inches of a flower.

nikon d7000 + tamron 17-50 2.8  200iso  f/4  1/1600

For those who might not recognize that flower, it is from my False Spirea bush. These wispy flowers are quite beautiful.

The pool remains crystal clear …

nikon d7000 + tamron 17-50 2.8 200iso f/5 1/2500

The blur on the right is not the field curvature for which this lens is known, but rather the consequences of shooting at f/5 when you focus only a few feet away (the edge of the stair case in front of me.)

The bushes on the left are still in the focus field, but the fence on the right is not.

And here is the best shot of the day … the daisies have arrived. Not the ones that I used to shoot on the south end of the pool … the False Spirea appears to have overcome that plant. But rather, the ones on the west end of the pool, which are the weird shaped petals. What I like about this lens is the superb clarity of the main part of the flower while the background remains nicely soft.

nikon d7000 + tamron 17-50 2.8  200iso  f/8  1/125

The Norway Maple tree continues to grow at the south end of my pool. I really have to move it, but I don’t think I can actually get it out of the rocky area it chose to grow. I think I’ll have to cut it down this year, and I’m going to hate that.

nikon d7000 + tamron 17-50 2.8  200iso  f/8  1/200


I’m very satisfied so far. I bought the version without a built-in motor, which means that I can never upgrade to one of the small consumer cameras that Nikon make. The D7000 might be my DX camera of choice for a long time. Of course, the D3200 sensor in a D7100 might tempt me to trade up. We’ll see …

Size-wise, the 17-50 is very nice and compact, It is a hair smaller than the 28-75 2.8, which of course is why I love that lens so much on FX sensors. And DX in fact, just not for general purpose shooting.

Although this shot is shot at 3200ISO by the X-S1 (and blurry), you can get a sense of the size difference here. Or lack thereof. They share a lens hood too.

And how about the size when compared with the much more versatile 18-200VR?

Well, that lens is a whole lot beefier. Of course, the range and stabilization make it a whole lot more useful if you really want to carry only one lens. But I am going to go back to the method I used with the D700 in New York City … walk around mid zoom and 70-300VR for reach. Two excellent lenses instead of one that shoots best at f/8 and above. I look forward to using this combo next trip …

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dogma is the root of all evil … a short discussion on the destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board …

An ear of wheat is seen on the Canadian prairies near Lethbridge, Alberta,
September 7, 2011.  -- REUTERS/Todd Korol

Well, money is generally considered the root of all evil and there is no question that its pursuit has destroyed our economies, made it impossible for kids to find work, made it impossible for normal people to buy houses, and made a very small number of people very, very rich on our backs. But that’s not the point of this story … instead, let’s discuss dogma, the other root of all evil. Just ask any American democrat what they think of republican dogma, and then contemplate the fact that our own federal government has decided to clone that dogma north of the border.

And again I digress Smile

Our Canadian Federal Government seems to like to push its dogma whenever it can, and with little thought as to the consequences. Oh, I’m sure that the politicians have put in plenty of thought, it’s the lack of critical thought that should scare all Canadians.

This dogma includes, of course, the privatization of many government services regardless of risk to the public. It includes deregulation, that has proven to be disastrous to the general public in many cases, as our economies and banking systems will clearly attest. And it includes the stepping up of our war on drugs, which has been unequivocally proven to be futile and to have unnecessarily ruined many lives. This last one really chaps my ass, as there is no reason whatsoever to waste so many good men’s time on busting young people who want to smoke up. Just regulate it and stop wasting everyone’s time and ruining lives. But that’s yet another story.

So, apparently nothing can stop a neocon in heat, as was well documented in many articles on the destruction of the long standing Wheat Board, the latest of which is by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg (the center of the known universe in case you were wondering.) I’ll quote from it unashamedly in this piece, but I encourage you to read it in situ if the topic interests you.

You see, this government has had a huge hard-on for the Canadian Wheat Board ever since taking office, and they crowed to anyone who would listen when they finally destroyed it. And without having a strong plan for its replacement, there is disaster looming. On August 1 of this year, it will cease to exist, being replaced by the private wheat handlers themselves, who do not have the same systems in place for managing of the farmers’ income ebb and flow. And if anyone thinks we can get along without farmers, well, you need your head read.

By the way, guess who these private handlers actually represent?

But for years, big American grain interests have been trying to destroy it and grab control of our grain industry for themselves.

Yes, that’s right. Big grain in the USA. What a shock that they want to seize control of Canadian wheat production. They must have had a collective orgasm when Ontario had a collective brain fart and installed the neocon majority. (Ontario’s inexplicable brain fart is what gave the neocons their majority.)

The neocons, of course, will celebrate the end of an evil monopoly, but how does the rest of the world view it?

Well, the buyers are pretty nervous, because as we all know by now, anything that you put in the hands of the private sector will turn to shit in a hurry if that is what must happen to maximize shareholder value. That’s right … privatizing a long standing service like the wheat board may very well lead to a lower quality product. If that shocks you, then I admire your ability to cling to the great fantasy that is the “American Dream” …

From the “friends of the CWB web site”

The farmers themselves battled pretty hard against the government with a class action suit to fight their policy of killing off the wheat board, but to no avail. There is apparently a law in place that requires that the farmers vote on any proposed changes to the wheat board and it appears that our government used its long standing policy of ignoring such inconveniences to push through anyway. Quite literally, it simply did not hold the vote.

Actually, it goes a tad deeper than that. A federal judge ruled against the government for breaking Wheat Board law. They appealed. And in the end, they just side stepped by leaving a tiny version of the Wheat Board around to compete with the big grain handlers. Easy Peasy. All you gotta do is take the wolf’s fangs and you have a lap dog.

Their shenanigans did succeed in destroying the Wheat Board monopoly, which was what their dogma called for. And that is the real concern, as farmers are now cast loose and customers now have to negotiate with more than one grain handler. One supposes that this is how it is done elsewhere, but then, they don’t have Canadian wheat. And soon we may not either, at least not the wheat that Japan, Mexico and Venezuela have come to rely on.

For all of its flaws (and the Wheat Board’s management has not always been a shining star from what I have read), the Wheat Board provided a consistent grade of grain year on year to consumers like Japan, who are known to have the highest of standards. Mexico as well is a huge customer.

A broad swath of wheat buyers, including Japan, known as the most quality-conscious wheat importer, has raised concerns that the consistent, top-quality wheat they have long bought from Canada may not be the same in the open market system, said Rex Newkirk, director of research and business development at the Canadian International Grains Institute (CIGI).

"We trust Canadian wheat, so if we didn't have the quality we've had, it would be a catastrophe for us," Miguel Montalban, production manager of the Harinera La Espiga mill in Mexico City, told Reuters through an interpreter.

This level of mistrust should concern us all. These customers do have other countries, even though our product is currently tops. But for how long, as the mighty dollar screams and the CEOs of these companies see ways to “enhance their personal holdings?”

Will they do this, when it might cost a bit more?

The Wheat Board aimed to give farmers the highest possible returns, but also sought to keep buyers' loyalty by at times delivering better-quality grain than it was getting paid for, Newkirk of CIGI said.

Not a chance. Instead, we’ll have this …

"The concern (of millers) is that when grain companies are selling now, what they might do is sell everything to the lowest end of the grade," he said.

Might? Have you been paying attention to the degeneration of the middle class at the hands of the wealthy? Do you think the farmers stand any better chance? Let’s let Rick Mercer speak on that issue …

If the new handlers decide that crappy wheat will make more money, you can bet that Canada will suddenly be in the crappy wheat business. The little guy will have to take whatever their handlers choose to offer, or do we think that these little guys will suddenly learn the ropes of international negotiations for their wheat and barley? No … they will let the handlers do that job, only now there are several and each is trying to maximize shareholder value instead of trying to keep farmers and customers happy.

Ask Venezuela what they think …

"We are very tied to Canadian wheat," said mill manager Freddy Rivas. "We're concerned about availability in the future, and quality. We want to know that we can count on that."

Yeah, good luck with that.

But wait … there is hope on the horizon. All we have to do is talk and understand each other Smile

The solution lies in millers and wheat exporters clarifying up front exactly what specifications they need, from protein content to the level of disease presence, as buyers already do to source U.S. wheat, Newkirk said.

"We can still provide a reliable product, we just need to make sure we clearly understand each other."

Right … so when the mighty dollar screams, a little conversation will be all that is necessary to maintain Canada’s high standards.

So … after that rambling whinge, I pretty have to summarize by admitting some worry over the rather huge upheaval that has been set into motion pretty much for the satisfaction of a small few people in government who have forced their chosen dogma onto everyone.

Proponents of deregulation and privatization might want to point out that the computer and telecommunications industries have benefitted from an aggressive cost cutting and profit maximizing strategy … but the application of such concepts to the food industry frankly scares the shit out of me.

When deregulation starts to hit home, we’ll see errors creep into the system as jobs are cut and people are asked to do more with less, just as it is in other industries. But when there is the inevitable failure in the food industry, people die

Example: Listeriosis Outbreak at Maple Leaf foods, and the same agriculture minister who so bravely destroyed the wheat board made jokes about people dying, saying that he hoped it was a Liberal. What a tool.

Example: Walkerton E. Coli breakout that killed numerous people. The government was notified five times that surface water was seeping to the supply, well in advance of the disaster. Curiously, this was a different conservative government in Ontario.

My point is that if it is not being measured, it is not getting better and it is probably getting worse. Privatizing regulation is just asking for trouble, as the dollar generally wins. The “do more with less” mantra just means “do less” and the trite “work smarter not harder” mantra also means “do less” … because this is what smart people do when they are overwhelmed.

Privatization and deregulation and the inevitable cost cutting that follows is going to come home to roost at various points in the future. People will perish unnecessarily and governments will put forth their “action plans” to ensure it never happens again. And then they will retire with their gold plated pensions and their board positions, secured by the very policies that started this ball rolling in the first place …

Oops … I’m rambling again Smile

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fuji X-S1 Review – Part 6 – Acuity is mine!

This camera has two issues so far that are bugging me a bit. First, the AF does in fact freeze a bit when it has to acquire the subject. If it is not almost in focus, there is a noticeable pause while you wait. And the EVF freezes too.

The second issue is I am having as much or more trouble with the X-S1 as I did with the HS25 in getting a really sharp image. I get quite a few that are very close and that might satisfy a lot of people when displayed small, but I like to open an image and see perfect acuity. Dead crisp and sharp.

So after getting back from Petrie island, I shot images of my car, and they have spawned two posts already – the ORBs and Luxe Auto Lounge.

Here is the third … I walked slowly to a squirrel that was wandering about the yards and saw it pause at the base of my neighbour’s Ash tree. I started shooting it as I edged ever closer and eventually got almost under the tree. I think I shot 8 images at full zoom. Of those, exactly one turned out as sharp as I like.

fuji x-s1  100iso  f/5.6  1/50                                                      Click this image for the larger version!

In fact, the stabilization is probably doing pretty well … 1/50 is about 4.5 stops down … that’s Nikon territory. But, of course, Nikon get excellent acuity most of the time at 4 stops … Fuji get it rarely.

But this is a great reason to remember to shoot lots of copies of the same image. One of them will be something you can be very pleased with.

Fuji X-S1 Review – Part 5 – ORBs!

I thought that I would have to go on a formal ORB hunt with this camera. Apparently, unlike the X10, it is not entirely cut and dried with the X-S1. Fuji require formal proof that your X-S1 has ORBs before they will replace it.

Well, I didn’t even have to bother looking, as they came to me.

The images I shot yesterday to show off my gorgeous new window tinting were rife with ORBs. Six classic ORBS – i.e. perfectly round with black outline and much larger than the specular highlights that spawned them – and three oblong ORBs that have the outline in two cases …

This is that image and it would be considered ruined by anyone with any standards at all …

fuji x-s1  100iso  f/4.5  1/850  -2/3EV

This is a perfectly good exposure and I processed it from RAW. The speculars are, as they always are in bright sunlight, blown out completely. But they are small and should not cause this effect, as we all know by now.

So those who have these cameras should be out there looking for ORB evidence. If you have a bad case, then seriously consider asking for the replacement.

Whose line is it anyway?

One of my favourite shows … in it’s British and American versions alike …

I was watching some bloopers on YouTube a moment ago when Drew Carrey told this joke out of the blue …

A couple of flies are on a piece of shit …
One farts …
The other says “Hey! I’m eating here” …


Luxe Auto Lounge – Window tinting extraordinaire … ** updated Sep 2016 **

Update: I still love the tint. However, the eyebrow on the front window has gone blue / purple and thus was obviously done with the cheap film and not the metal stuff that is on the rest of the windows. A friend says it actually looks pretty good and who am I to argue :-) ... but, I would rather it had not done that. Just make sure you get what you pay for ... the workmanship is otherwise first rate.

My trip to the St. Lawrence Rowing Club a week ago (images coming in a post fairly soon) reminded me of why I got window tinting on my 2001 CR-V. When we get bright sunshine and temperatures around 30C, the car heats up to deathly levels. Even driving with the air conditioner on can be uncomfortable when the sun beats down our your face and left arm.

So I decided to treat myself for Father’s Day and tint my windows. I called Shades, the fellow who did my windows very, very well last time … but no answer. So I Googled “best window tinting Ottawa” and found a few forums where such things are discussed.

I found two recurring themes:

  • Derand is pretty good and they are very inexpensive, but several people had to go back to get things “fixed”
  • If you want the best work done right the first time, go to Luxe Auto Lounge

Well, that seemed odd, since Luxe had not come up at all way back when I did the initial search for the CR-V tinting. So I looked into them and they seemed like the real deal. Apparently, they use an independent contractor for the windows who just happens to be brilliant with this stuff.

And although they are a bit more expensive, we’re talking something that will affect your feeling about your car for many years to come. This is not something where it pays to “go cheap” … many owners of sexy Nissan Maximas with embarrassingly purple tint can attest to that. Dye film is cheaper by perhaps 50 bucks, but the end result is a disaster waiting to happen. And it will.

Luxe appears to be run by a couple of young brothers and a couple of other young fellows who clearly love cars. The fellow I spoke with over the phone was very personable, as was the guy at the desk when I arrived.

So I got up incredibly early yesterday (6:30am is early for me :-) and made the trek to the east end, about 30 minutes from my house. We quickly arrived at an appropriate package for me – 22% tint all around with a 5% (or thereabouts) eyebrow / sunstrip on the windshield plus shampooed carpets and mats in the front and wipe down of the dash with a quick cleanup of the outside of the car and dressing of the tires – some of this came with the tinting package, and my total, taxes in, was around $425 … so the value for your money is extremely high in my opinion. Checkout full detailing prices to see what I mean.

Let me now remind you of what my car looked like when new.

Those are D700 shots by the way.

And let me show you what I got back from them …

That’s a D7000 shot, by the way.

Yes, it’s gorgeous and it looks like brand new, only even cooler than before. The difference in internal temperature is dramatic, as I expected.

And the best part of all this is that they gave me a loaner and I was able to drive over to Petrie Island (literally a kilometer away across highway 174) and wander around the islands for 3.5 hours (images coming soon to a blog near you) until they called me that it was ready. Awesome.

So it you are in and around the Ottawa area and are looking to get a little work done on your car, you should give Luxe Auto Lounge a try in my opinion. I am really pleased and impressed, but don’t take my word for it … Google them.

A great article on the greed of the Bourgeoisie

I haven’t railed against the rampant greed of the bourgeoisie for a while now because, frankly, it is so ubiquitous that it is like picking low-hanging fruit or shooting fish in a barrel. CEOs, board members, large shareholders … all cut from the same cloth these days.

And if ever there were a story that perfectly illustrates the plight of the middle class at the hands of the increasingly-rich (if that is even possible any more) ruling class, this is that story …


The Spam Factory’s Dirty Secret is a brilliant exposé that documents what happened when the Hormel (pronounced like normal) family’s business transitioned to the Hormel (pronounced HorMEL) of today in the mid 1970s. They went from being a shining star of employee salaries and benefits, workers’ rights, veterans’ opportunities and all things beneficial to a union-breaking, wage-slashing, benefits-reducing, profit-seeking, worker-hurting machine …

This quote sums it up nicely …

But, unlike Jay Hormel, Knowlton was reaching for increased profits (as well as a hefty bump in his own salary) by wresting away worker benefits.

I underlined the root cause of the problem since the 70s … greed. That’s right … even the “shareholder value” mantra that has been taught by business schools since that time is simply rooted in good old-fashioned rampant greed. Greed of the bourgeoisie – those who control the means of production and who occupy this overpaid upper-crust niche in our society.

Here is a quote from a worker who got sick in their plant while working at the head table, where one task was to use compressed air to blow a pig’s brains into a mush and drain it into a barrel for shipment to Asia where it is used as a thickener in stir-fry. This task created a red mist that coated every worker at the table.

"I feel thrown away," she said, finally. "Like a piece of trash. Before, I worked hard and willingly for QPP (ed: a subsidiary that leases a piece of the same plant as a union-busting move), but after I got sick and needed restrictions and told them I was in pain, they threw me away like trash and were done with me."

The bourgeoisie are nothing is not efficient and cold-hearted. Many have ice in their veins that make them seem extra-planetary to the average person. Have you ever thought why? Well, there is plenty of research that show that the incidence of psychopathic tendencies in the CEO population is at least 4 times the average in the general population – with influence far above that percentage, so it is not exactly a surprise that the dollar usually wins. These are the people that we have making some very important decisions with far-reaching implications – like where the middle class work force should reside – and the seeds of our mutual destruction are being planted right here …

If this all sounds a little too leftist to you, then you are probably just fooling yourself that all is well. Read the article and imagine that happening everywhere in some form or another … because it is.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fuji X-S1 Review – Part 4 – Battery Charger

A quick post to document the travesty that is the X-series chargers. Only the X10 escapes this annoyance because it uses the tried and true NP50. But the X100 and X-S1 use larger batteries and thus required a new charger.

I posted already how much I disliked the X100 charger because it was missing some silly little plastic insert, and thus forced me to stuff cardboard into the cavity to get the battery into contact with the, well, contacts :-)

So here I get to show you what this silly piece looks like in the right place, and outside the charger where it will inevitably end up as there is no friction or clasp to hold it in. In other words, pick it up carelessly and you might be doomed to a lifetime of folding cardboard to make the charger work. Shameful omission on a high end camera.

fuji x-s1  1600iso  f/3.5  1/10

fuji x-s1  1600iso  f/3.5  1/7

That’s low light! And do note that the charger is not charging even though the battery is in the slot. But you can see the massive gap in the second image, so of course the springs will keep the battery away from the contacts.

Obviously not a fatal thing, since you only have to keep the plastic thing around or stuff the slot with paper folded over to substitute, but it is an unnecessary worry for users.

iPhone / iPad application Planets shown on the Application Table at the World Wide Developers Conference 2012 – My friend Dana hits the big time …

I’ve blogged this application before. A terrific astronomy simulator that shows you the visible planets and constellations in 2D or 3D. It also shows visibility times and a real time map of the earth showing the traveling terminator.

Dana has had well over a million downloads as his is one of the best astronomy applications out there for your phone or the iPad. And it works very well on the older 3G that I own, something that cannot be said for other popular astronomy applications. He gives the application away, so rush right out there and pick it up. You won’t be sorry if you are ever trying to find the planets to photograph them with just a camera or telescope without the GOTO feature.

Anyway, here is the film … you can see that the application is always in the process of being downloaded somewhere. I find this very cool …

Father’s Day Comes Early This Year

The boys got me the perfect gift for Father’s Day. Yes, I got it early as they are both out of town on the big day.

fuji x-s1  3200iso  f/6.4  1/55

That’s the magnificent Keurig B70 Platinum. This is a personal coffee maker that is always ready to spit out a hot cup of premium coffee in one minute. It is amazing to be able to get a fresh cuppa within moments of having the thought and to have no cleanup. Just toss out the K-Cup and walk away. And it does it very quietly.

This model, by the way, came from a Canadian COSTCO and it came with four boxes of K-Cups plus a sampler pack. That’s a couple of months’ worth of coffee around here. I also picked up some Green Mountain hot chocolate and a couple of different packs of decaf for evening consumption. I’ve tried some real coffee (mornings only for me) like “Donut House” and “Dark Magic Extra Bold” and I must say that this is a really fun and convenient way of trying all sorts of different flavours. Oh yeah, this model also introduced an extra large tank of 72oz. Awesome.

Thanks so much, boys …

Fuji X-S1 Review – Part 3 – The Mighty Saturn

So long as I can review cameras in summer, I will shoot Saturn as a very difficult test. I was impressed that the F770EXR was able to do a credible Saturn earlier this year, and I was totally shocked at how well the HS25 captured Saturn with its incredible zoom and despite shooting only JPEG.

So it was with great anticipation that I set up this evening on the best evening of them all with the moon nowhere in sight (it rises much later on) … this should have been a slam dunk.

But it wasn’t. There was this mush bursting out of the planet on every image. This bleeding looked a little nebulous and more or less ruined the outline of the planet. Of course, I salvaged the best image -- shot in high resolution by the way as there was no advantage to low resolution – by painting out the blob to create a reasonable facsimile of the planet.

So using the JPL simulator, I was able to determine what Saturn should look like:

Here’s what I got in RAF and then JPEG … (same image, both processed in Lightroom 4 and then CS5.

fuji x-s1  500iso  f/5.6  1/25  634mm efl (RAF)

Same image (JPEG)

And just to remind you what the HS25 did …

The image is more complete and the planet and rings are separated. It tool a lot of processing to get there, but I did not cheat and do local painting like I had to for the X-S1. So this isn’t just a win for the HS25 over the X-S1, it’s a bit of a thrashing.

I’m profoundly disappointed in this result. Hopefully, I can improve on it while I have the camera. I hope it isn’t somehow limited.


  1. Why magnify the image so much? Because it was just not very clear, so I felt that more magnification might allow us to see the rings and the separation from the planet a bit better. It didn’t really work out.
  2. I realized a moment ago that this weird aberration is exactly the sort of thing that might manifest with the drooping lens. What it does is destroy acuity, and that’s what this blog did. So I will attempt next time to use gaff tape to hold the lens in the middle when fully zoomed. Difficult, but it might work.

Here is a 1:1 and an 8:1 representation of Saturn at 1:1 and 8:1 on the sensor … note that they appear approximately the same size on the sensor because the HS25 has more optical magnification but the X-S1 has more digital magnification (12Mp instead of 8Mp as each was shot.)

x-s1_vs_hs25_bloom It is more than a little obvious that there is a spectacular bloom coming out of the left side of the planet. I noted this on every image I shot and it was the reason why I decided to shoot at L size instead of M. I needed more digital magnification to see what was going on.

I must say that this is pretty disappointing, especially since the much cheaper and JPEG-only HS25 does not suffer the same issue. But we already know that the X-S1 lens droops, so perhaps correcting that will mitigate the aberration. We shall see.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fuji X-S1 Review – Part 2 – Going squirrely against the Nikon D7000

I saw a rabbit in the front yard today (a baby … soooo cuuuute) and ran upstairs to grab the cameras, but when I returned the rabbit was gone. But a black squirrel had camped out under the French Lilac bush, so I started moving slowly into a useful shooting position. Of course, he spotted me and dashed across the street to my neighbor’s Maple tree.

I slowly approached and he just sat there eating something that I could not really identify. He sat long enough for me to rattle of some full zoom shots with the X-S1 and the D7000 with 70-300VR, so I thought I would post these for interest’s sake.

So why compare a bridge camera to a high end dSLR? Well, the price of the D5100 has dropped this week to $649 with 18-55VR lens. Couple that with a used 70-300VR ($350) and you have a combo for $1000 with the same sensor as the D7000. This is only $250 more than the X-S1, which is on sale for $749 this week. So I think there is a lot of validity to such a comparison because the price and size of the X-S1 is close enough to the dSLRs to make it a direct competitor for enthusiasts looking to get more reach, higher image quality, or perhaps to get more convenience. Thus, you will see this theme recur now and again in my review parts.

Here’s a shot of him just sitting there after eating.

fuji x-s1  3200iso  f/6.4  1/220  634mm efl

Note the very high ISO. The camera chose that and still only managed 1/220s. This is something I have noticed on recent Fujis … chronically low shutter speeds. There is rather a lot of grain in the image, but there is also a lot of detail. I think the balance is perfectly adequate for the sensor size.

The D7000 fairs a bit better, and I got a similar shutter speed at 1600ISO and a similar aperture (admittedly 1/3 stops more open.) I do need to set things up a bit more accurately, but this was just a spur of the moment experience report, so don’t get two twisted. The Fuji is clearly slower by 2/3 stops at the least.

D7000  70-300VR  1600iso  f/5.6  1/200  450mm efl  (cropped)

There’s a bit more detail and quite a bit less grain. But both images are quite nice and they are comparable at web sizes. Kudos to Fuji for very clean RAWs and kudos to Adobe that Lightroom handles these very well.

I shot one other comparison – a neighbor has a row of White Potentilla on his walkway and I shot these with his next door neighbor’s chairs in the background and their brick wall behind that. The very long focal lengths compressed the scene very well and the subject isolation is satisfying on both‘

fuji x-s1  1250iso  f/6.4  1/500  634mm efl

D7000  70-300VR  1600iso  f/5.6  1/1250  450mm efl

Despite the shorter focal length, the Nikon has better subject isolation at distance. This is not a surprise as we are comparing sensors at crop factor 4 against crop factor 1.5. Big difference.

But both look great.

WHat I liked

  • Surprisingly good files from the X-S1 at 3200 ISO, even shooting a jet black squirrel
  • Shoots a lot like a dSLR, quirks notwithstanding
  • The EVF does not freeze the way the HS25 EVF did

What I disliked

  • AF gets much harder to lock in with subject in shadow, like a black squirrel in a tree
  • There is a lot of hysteresis with the EVF, meaning that it lags, floating to where it should be slowly enough that corrections make it seem to swing from side to side without knowing quite what would be captured when you press the shutter … this can make it very difficult to get a tight framing at max zoom … I had to shoot some subjects three times to get the right framing
    • Note: When I received the cam, the IS was on the shoot only setting. I did not like it at all so switched to the mode I use with all cameras – continuous. That works well for my style and was the mode I was using when I noticed the above.

Remember that I process all images, so you cannot draw direct conclusions about color in comparison to the D7000 from my images. Don’t bother trying.

Fuji X-S1 Review – Part 1 – The Arrival

I was not expecting anything from Fuji this week. Yet today Mr. FedEx arrived with another huge box containing the now-ubiquitous transport case of another new Fuji camera. The X-S1 was next up and that’s what I found in the case.

Interestingly, someone at Fuji (strictly speaking, MSL) has an impressive sense of humour, decorating the case with airline tags and stickers. FUJI AIRWAYS is the name of the airline and the cargoe flew “X-CLASS” from Kenya to Toronto apparently. Hyuk hyuk hyuk …

So once I got over chuckling at the clever décor, I opened the case to find a return waybill (these have been missing the last two times so I’m pleased to have it there) and the X-S1 manual and camera (and case candy of course.)

The camera itself is surprisingly chunky, looking rather similar to the D7000 with a smallish lens on.

It has a very nice feel in the hand (but there are issue, which I will get to shortly) and it has a lovely feel on the lens. Very smooth focus ring and very smooth zoom, although there is a very slight tendency for friction to build a bit.

I took it outside and shot a few garden images, as is my wont. I set it up as I always set up EXR cameras and processed from RAF in Lightroom 4.1. The results are quite lush – I have to say that the image quality is very nice.

Here, my green pool has really cleared up in only two days since I opened it. A bottle of shock and a bottle of clarifier really do the job. Last year I was much less aggressive and it took two weeks to get to this point.

Fuji X-S1  100iso  f/6.4  1/170  A-Prio  24.4mm  EFL                         (CLICK IMAGE to see 1000px version)

The bokeh at full zoom (634mm, just short of the HS25 and HS30) is very smooth when shooting macro. Here, what I think is a dogwood is blooming at the end of the pool.

fuji x-s1  800iso  f/6.4  1/500  634mm efl

This shot of my Canadian Anemone shows the nice white flowers and the excellent foliage. These things grow 1 foot tall and will squeeze out almost any other species until stopped by a sidewalk or a wall. Very nice for this location.

fuji x-s1  800iso  f/6.4  1/250  634mm efl

The Hansa rose continues to bloom. This is a hardy and prolific rose that is native to Canada. What I like about these is that the blooms look a bit like roses with all the ruffles etc. Or maybe Carnations :-)

fuji x-s1  160iso  f/6.4  1/250  634mm efl

There is no lack of detail in these shots, despite the relatively high ISO. So macro mode works very well as it did with the HS25. Focus is much better with this camera, although it is not perfect. It still misfires the odd time when the light is a bit low.

What I like

  • Solid feeling camera with good heft
  • Very clear EVF (infinitely better than that on the HS25)
  • Smooth zoom rings
  • Lots of controls
  • RAF

What I am not so fond of so far

  • The lens really does wiggle at full zoom, a lot
  • The write speed is a little pokey for a high end camera
  • the thumb falls very naturally on the video button (WTF?) instead of the AE-AF Lock button, which requires a cramped hand position to reach – what were they thinking?
  • The control wheel is huge and stiff, which means that the thumb cannot quickly change settings, instead forcing you to use the thumb and forefinger – what were they thinking?
  • The forefinger falls beautifully over the shutter button at the fleshy part between the knuckles, just as it does on my D7000 … but my D7000 has a nice rounded shutter button and the X-S1 has a flat shutter button. This forces you to again relinquish the nice tight grip you have on the camera and lift the forefinger off to shoot. One is supposed to squeeze a shutter button, but they more or less force you to stab it by design. What were they thinking?
  • The “up” position on the control wheel has always been delete image in playback mode … and now it if FN2. But FN2 cannot be assigned “delete image” in playback mode. What were they thinking? (In fact, there is no separate assignment ability for playback mode, so they should have just made it work the old way.)

My first impression overall is that I like this camera. One gets used to these quirks, but they are so blatant that I have to think that Fuji engineers are not photographers. This is tragic, as these cameras could be next to perfect if these details were right. (And where are their product managers. Surely there is a photographer in that group …)

I think this camera will be fun to review. I look forward to shooting with it as I am definitely attuned to long reach cameras. If I am lucky, I’ll get it to a concert or some sort of game where reach really matters.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What Kim Actually Bought

Someone linked over to the New York Times blog of David Pogue, why reviews tech for them and is often sent stuff to try out. He is therefore able to review a lot of stuff, apparently. And in the article I was linked to, there was a link to his “What Pogue Actually Bought”, which is his way of answering the questions “what would you buy?”

I enjoyed that article, as I have always enjoyed such articles (Thom Hogan’s is a must read for any Nikon shooter for example.) And as I was reading Pogue’s list of things he bought, I was mentally commenting on it and this seemed like a good reason to write my own. For shits and giggles, I’ll follow his headings exactly. He does it every couple of years … maybe I’ll do one periodically as well.

Main Computer  A home-built 8 core AMD 8150 on a Gigabyte main board with 16GB or Corsair Veangance PC1600 RAM. A Corsau HX850 professional series power supply and a Corsair M4 120GB SSD main drive. A 2TB image data drive, a 1TB document data drive, and a 1TB catch-all scratch drive – downloads, Photoshop scratch, etc. This machine goes like snot. Period.

Now, you can find better and faster hardware without looking too hard. For general purpose duty, the top Ivy Bridge chip from Intel will give this one a bit of a spanking. But for what I do a lot of, Photoshop and Sony Vegas video rendering, the benchmarks say that I am right up there with the big dogs. And there is something about watching 8 cores run flat out at 4.5Ghz to chew through problems.

I use a Lenovo W500 core 2 duo 2.53Ghz laptop for work, with a Momentus XT hybrid 500GB drive in it. Works great, but is long in the tooth. Had I my druthers, I would get the 13” Z series Sony Vaio with the fastest Intel chip they ship at minimum 4 cores and 8 threads. I would stuff a 512GB SSD in it as main drive and I would get the carbon fiber case and full HD screen. Wicked.

I wouldn’t mind a personal laptop for email on the road, but common sense suggests that an iPad is the answer, and there is no way I can justify that kind of money for occasional use.

Camera   D7000 with many lenses. My sharpest walk around lens is the Tamron 28-75 2.8, an incredibly sharp lens on the APS-C sensor. My most versatile walk around lens is the Nikon 18-200VR. It is also sharp, but only when stopped down. But it has lots of range and it is stabilized.

I carry the Fuji F550EXR in my pocket. I like to process every image in Lightroom or Photoshop, so this cam is right up my alley. A technically strong camera with a superb small sensor and good reach. If shot correctly, the images are very clean for its size. I consider it best in its class for the kind of shooting and processing I do. I would happily upgrade to the F770EXR, but I don’t feel like going through the hassle of sell and buy right now.

Phone   Not a contest, I use the iPhone 3G. Yes, it is old. But it is reliable, it is an excellent phone as well as an excellent application platform, and it is long paid for. I have had to replace the screen twice, the LCD once, and the batter once. It looks and operates like new, so what is not to love?

Phone Case   Cheap vinyl case I bought on eBay. Is small, stays on and work perfectly. Provides a nice soft landing when it falls.

GPS   Garmin Nuvi 50LM. I just went through the whole rigmarole of replacing my GPS unit and I settled on this model as the best combination of price and features for me. It has lifetime maps, too, which I really regretted not getting for my TomTom One 3rd Gen last time. The initial cost is barely one upgrade’s worth, and you should be able to get almost a decade out of your unit. Think on that ..

Software   Productivity is Office 2007 Home and Student. Email is Outlook 2003. Image editing us Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 4. Several excellent additional plugins from Topaz Labs and Pixel Genius complete the package. Video editing is Sony Vegas Platinum 11 Suite hands down. I’ve owned Pinnacle and Nero and I’ve tried Windows Movie Maker and other inexpensive alternatives. Sony is the first I’ve used that has a professional interface and can render fairly fast (which came with more recent free updates that can render on 4 threads.) I also buy Winzip now and again, I’m at 15.5 right now. I buy small utilities to help with PDF creation and such as well. My music is *all* in iTunes. I have several iPods, one of which is my car’s music source.

Online  I am a spotty Facebook user, although I pop in now and again. I think twitter is a joke, but I realize that media people really get off on this form of real-time, if trivial, communication.

My personal web site and photo galleries are on, which I have found to be a very inexpensive yet professionally run web hosting and storage service. I have 11547 images in my gallery as of this moment. That grows almost every day. I use an open source application that comes for free with ipower (as do many applications) called Gallery. I use an older version, but they have more modern versions available. I like Smugmug, which is the one Pogue switched to once he found out that Mobile Me was going to die on 30 June this year. But moving my images there would be ridiculously expensive in time and yearly cost. So for now ipower is the one.

My family’s email is also run through ipower, as I get a lot of email accounts for a small yearly price. Storage is also quite vast. I believe that I am still under 5% used.

Noise-canceling Headphones   I used to order Chinese knock offs of the Sennheiser CX200 ear buds, the kind that plug your ear and seal noise out. These were cheap and they sounded good. But the last time I ordered, they never came. I contacted the seller, and after promising to send them again, nothing happened.

So when I decided to get another pair, I looked around ins stores. The prices are shocking :-) when you buy local. I settled on a pair of Bob Marley headphones for $49. Excellent sound with strong, tight bass. And a fabulous braided cloth cord that does not tangle. Must haves in my opinion.

Laptop Bag   I use a Targus backpack for travelling with the laptop. Plenty of room for the large W500 and lots of sections. I like it a lot. Before that, when I was carrying a smaller laptop for a few years, I used a really good OGIO bag (skate boarding company) and I would still be using it if it took a 15” laptop. Both bags can carry everything I need for overseas trips, and I often just stuff my dSLR and a lens or two into the central section of either.


Well, those are all the sections Pogue had, so that’s all I will have too. Of course, my requirements and experience will be different from yours. But perhaps there will be something in there that some people will not have seen before, which might be useful.

The Song of Ice and Fire


Oh, sorry. I was looking in a mirror. These books from George R. R. Martin are incredible, to say the least. Epic, intriguing, exciting, complex, and of course sexy …. they got it all. And the series Game of Thrones, named after the first book but based on the whole set, is equally amazing. They’ve done a masterful job of adapting the books to the screen.

So far, we have one season per book, but my youngest passed a rumour to me that the third season will encompass only half of the third book, A Storm of Swords. SInce I was thrilled with A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings, I certainly cannot wait for this next installment. Frankly, I found the last two episodes of season 2 so profoundly good that I expect to read the whole series again before season three is ready to air.

But … the actual point of this post was to show this spectacularly funny Facebook vignette from George Takei’s Facebook page. (Sulu from Star Trek if you  were born and raised in a cave.)

I won’t bother explaining the jokes … you’ll just have to read the series yourself Smile

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Garden update – let’s get really close with the D7000, the Sigma 105, and the Canon 500D

I popped outside for a few minutes today at lunch and thought I would grab a few shots while there. The Sigma 105 is a very sharp macro lens that also takes terrific portraits. It is wicked sharp and I bought mine used back around 2006 or so. The Canon 500D is a very high quality achromat, which is a 2 lens corrected close up filter. The two together creates some very close images that are frankly pretty magnificent.

Here is what the junction of stalk and leaf look like on a young Norway Maple.

D7000 + Sigma 105 + Canon 500d  500iso  f/8  1/640

I think that qualifies as a pretty pleasing abstract and I believe that I will clean up a few of the minor spots on the image and print it large for my stair well.

I had set the lens to closest focus and I moved the camera gently back and forth shooting when the image was in perfect focus. A rail on a quality tripod is the best method, but for casual back yard plinking you can perform focus bracketing to get what you want.

The 500D was off for this next one. I stood back a bit and captured a single Hansa Rose in the shade. The deeper shade behind makes for the perfect background. Cropping square to eliminate the flash of color on the right might be even more effective.

D7000 + Sigma 105  500iso  f/8  1/500

This next one with the 500D back on the lens is cropped slightly and very slightly out of focus I think. Had I nailed it, it would have been mind blowing. Anyway, I am displaying it just so you know how close this combo gets. The real problem here, by the way, was the wind. It forced me to grab the flower stem and try to capture the image with a one handed shot.

D7000 + Sigma 105 + Canon 500D  500iso  f/8  1/160

Similarly, this ant was difficult to capture, since he is tiny and was moving violently in order to get around that enormous stamen. At this moment, he was just hanging out in space. Getting the head and antenna in focus was very nice.

D7000 + Sigma 105 + Canon 500D  500iso  5/8  1/640

And finally, the end of the blooming for the Yellow-Twigged Dogwood. These pods are all that is left. Still a very pretty plant.

D7000 + Sigma 105 500iso  f/8  1/250

I still enjoy the odd macro session. One day on a calm day I will bring my tripod and focus rail out for some serious abstracts. That’s always fun …