Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Gary Fong Light Dome

William with Fong

William without Fong

Today there was a demonstration at a local camera store on the Nikon D80. William, a friend, co-worker, and art director from the Earth Final Conflict days dragged me along to check it out. I use the term drag very loosely, kind of like twisting the arm made of rubber. I own a D200 but wanted to see the new D80 just to see what new features Nikon was introducing.

After the demo the only thing I really didn't like was the switch over to the secure digital memory card standard. Compact Flash has it's controller built into the card where as SD cards do not. Already they are introducing an SDHC (High Capacity) standard to replace the older one. This means that older SD devices cannot read the newer cards. There is an upper limit on the SDHC standard as well (4 terrabytes). Granted it seems like a lot but then 1 Gig seemed like a lot of memory back in 1997 when I picked up my Psion. The Psion is a handheld device now defunct but I can plug in a 16 gig CF card and it'll work.

The explanation for the memory card format switch was that a lot of users that use the lower end high end camera gear would try putting the compact flash card in upside down squishing the pins. Who are these people?!? Probably the same people that destroy DVDs by getting finger prints and schmuck all over them. This is why the life span of a DVD is shorter than that of a VHS tape in most video stores.

After the little seminar, William and I ended up looking at stuff around the store. I'm sure this is why the camera store put on this free seminar in the first place. I ended up taking a look at the Gary Fong photographer light sphere. It's a tupperware like attachment that fits on your flash to evenly disperse light. Kind of like a lamp shade.

The test as seen above looks pretty good. Evenly distributed light compared to the ice cube tray, that's how I refer to the white plastic cube that comes with the SB-800 for light diffusion, seemed to make the shadows on William's face softer. I would think that the Fong device would work better with the Canon line of cameras as they tend to blow out whites more than the Nikon line. Either way the dome was under $70. Pretty cheap for most camera add ons.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The MatchMaker and Energy Girl

A gathering of right brainers.

Somewhere west of Bathurst on Dundas there's small art gallery showing art (art in an art gallery??? why, that's odd). So okay I really wasn't sure what to make of it. I'm not exactly the wine and cheese type who goes to these things to brush up on my art history. As a left brained person or at least someone that went through the whole computer science thing through school going to a right brained artsie fartsie event always seemed a bit challenging to me for some reason.

I still have bad memories of John (aka Uncaringbear) telling me a bench was part of an art exhibit after I sat down on it. I jumped up like I sat on something of high voltage. Laughter all around. Later on I'd visit another gallery, sit down, someone told me it was art, I said "sure.. ha ha... very funny", only to find out it was art. I suppose the rule to gallerys is to never sit down or if you have to bring your own seat. Note: They have these canes that turn into a three legged stool.

This particular event was different in that I didn't know anyone there. Anna-lea, the person that invited me, hadn't shown up yet. As there wasn't a lot of people in the gallery yet, it was around 7:00pm, I wandered around looking at the macabre paintings. At first they looked like any everyday scene. Some people waiting in a room. Upon closer inspection some of the people in the painting looked crazy, dead, or in some weird drugged out state. yeeeah... that's cheerful.

"Hey, Derek.". I turned around it was Lynn, a person I met at another networking function. We talked a bit. She was exhausted from previous outings and as a result had almost no energy to continue meeting people. I suggested that since I didn't know anyone in the room we could meet people together.

We scanned the room looking for our target. As far as interrupting a conversation or introducing oneself or selves the etiquette is that you find a group of three or more people or a single person, never two people by themselves engaged in conversation. We singled out a woman by herself. She was standing up against the wall next to a painting and looking around.

Deirdre stands alone.

Her name was Deirdre. That was all the information we got out of her before Lynn excused herself to go home to get some sleep. Turns out this Deirdre was waiting for a "Kate" to show up and was contemplating leaving as she'd been waiting for over half an hour. I asked her to describe this "Kate". Since I was a bit taller I could look over the crowd and see if anyone matched the description. "Kate" was described having a height slightly shorter than me, dark eyes, was very animated, and tended to wear brown. A quick scan of the room revealed no matching results.

Deirdre eventually left and about five minutes later I noticed Anna-lea outside biking up to the gallery. There were a few people hanging outside chatting. By this time the gallery was crowded and getting a bit warm for my liking. Getting outside I met some people started talking and we all eventually made our way back inside once the crowd started to thin.

"Hi, I'm Julia the Matchmaker.". I looked at the card shoved into my hand. It checked out. Indeed the card read the same thing. "Hi, I'm Kate". Another card. Then it clicked. "Kate!". I asked if they were looking for a Deirdre. She said she was really late and seemed apologetic. I was going to give her the one, two, punch speech about tardiness while showing the picture of Deirdre by herself in the crowd. Julia told me to go easy on her as Kate felt bad enough already. Yes, she had that guilt ridden look to her. Geez, I felt terrible.

Julia, Anna-lea, and Kate

"Gay or straight?". What? Where did that question come from? I looked at Julia where the words seemed to come from, then to Kate who seemed to think this was a normal thing, then back to Julia. "Are you gay or straight?". Oh, she was asking me my sexual orientation. "Straight." I answered back "Chinese or Caucasian?". Eh? what? "What's your preference? Were you born here?" The barrage of questioning took me a little off guard. I looked over to Kate with the "Is this normal" look.

After what seemed like a few minutes of interrogation the answer was "Kelly". Julia had made a match. "Kelly" was a photographer's assistant that she thought I should meet. She seemed to be beaming at the idea. Her face was practically glowing. After her job with me was done she went across the room to hook Cheryl up with some guy in Arizona.

Kate figures out what 24 frame playback is.

That left me talking with Kate. At one point Anna-Lea and I were trying to describe to Kate what 24 frame playback was as a job. It was a concept that we had some difficulty getting across. Not that Kate is dim witted, far from it. She seemed pretty quick and alert, you could almost see that hamster wheel spinning in her head, eyes darting back and forth, absorbing the poorly described information like a dried out sponge that had just been dropped in water. She was sifting through all the data trying to make sense of what we were saying.

It was the way words just fumbled out of our mouths. I kept thinking "This really isn't getting us anywhere. My descriptive powers are really sucking today.". After back pedaling a bit and switching descriptive tactics we started getting through. Watching Kate, as the light bulb came on was incredible, like a Shakespearian stage actor she used her whole body to help articulate the ideas floating through her head. Arms moving. Body flailing. Legs wide apart. Big gestures. I found it incredibly amusing and in the back of my mind wondered if she did Kirk monologues.

The night seemed to end pretty quickly after that. I was glad that I forced myself to go out. Meeting all the people tonight got me out of my birthday (or lack of one) slump.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Happy Birthday To Me

A typical rainy day in Toronto

It's my birthday today. Originally I planned to be in Toronto for my birthday so I could go out with friends to celebrate. Instead I woke up at 4am and stayed at home working all day on transferring files, photos, from the dual layer DVDs to the computer hard drive. The goal was to sift through them, find the better ones and have them ready for Max, A fashion editor who contacted me via email while I was in London.

The copying from the DVDs alone took about eight hours during which I stuck my head outside to go to the corner store to get some food. That's the problem with going on extended trips. When you get back the food in the fridge is bad or non-existant. Turns out it was raining (see picture above). I suppose it was a good thing to do something indoors afterall.

In the end I received one phone call and one email. At first I thought getting any phone calls was surprising as no one knew I was back officially. It was Leanna. It made sense. I wrote my birth date down in her day timer just before I gave it to her for a present earlier on in the year. The mail I got was from Bosco, a friend in Hong Kong. I'm probably in some automated birthday calendar on his computer.

I ended up staying awake another six hours sorting through the photos.

Happy birthday to me.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Last Day in London

A last look out my hotel window

I woke up today a bit late and stuck my head out the window. My air seemed a bit poorer in quality today. I found myself having problems breathing. Some kind of crud in the air. After packing my luggage and giving my extra bathroom tissue to the family in the next apartment I checked out of the hotel. The returning of the apartment key got me back my 10 pound deposit that I completely forgot about.

As it turns out my flight back was the same plane that Josie was taking back to Toronto. This was convenient. We would share a cab to the airport. While waiting in front of their hotel I noticed this buggy used for postal delivery.

A postal mail buggy

For some reason this red buggy fascinated me enough to whipp out the camera and take pictures. After a few shots the post man came out of nowhere and started to pose with the buggy.

The cheery mail man

When I asked him about his over abundance of cheer he mentioned that this building was the second last stop on his mail route before he got to go home. I thanked him for the picture and he went on his merry way.

The cab ride dropped us off at Andrew new hotel and then on to the airport. I had my 85mm lens and was shooting anything I could as we drove by. Perhaps as a last effort in capturing the London experience.

Some well dressed girl on the street

This fit, well dressed young woman was standing on the corner waiting for a light as we zoomed by.

"We are one"

I was wondering why this ad had london with the different colors. It wasn't until visiting Cupcake that the whole "We are one" theme poped out. Like d'uh. A momentary brain lapse I suppose.

Waiting inside the Heathrow airport

Once inside the Heathrow airport we relaxed in the waiting area while eating and waiting for our plane to arrive. If you're there I highly recommend the Caffe Italia located in the middle of the food area.

A web terminal

This web terminal is kind of a rip off as it's a pound for a few mintues. It seems like a lot of time but because of the difficulty with the keys and navigation it actually takes a lot longer to do everyday surfing. Plus the connection is slow and the terminal doesn't let you go to certain sites (like this bagelhot blog on blogspot for example).

A book dispensing machine

This was the last coin operated machine I saw before boarding the plane. I thought it was pretty cool even though there weren't any books in it that I would have been interested in. Not only that but I picked up a crossword puzzle book and the Nick Hornby novel "A Long Way Down" at the "Books etc." store near the food court.

The various airplane food given to us on our seven hour flight

The air canada flight left london at three pm and we arrived in Toronto at around four thirty pm Toronto time. Looking forward to the clean air I took a long breath outside the airport as soon as we got outside to get a cab. Unfortunately the air wasn't any better. All that airport pollution. It wasn't until I got home that the air seemed better.

Landed in Toronto

It felt good to be home again.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The London Eye and Camden Town

View of Westminster from the London Eye

Today I managed to wake up early to travel down to the Eye as the sun was coming up. The highlight of my day was getting the people in my pod to pose (see below). In doing so I managed to meet a bunch of people from around the world. It's great getting a bunch of strangers together even if it's for a few minutes. The stories alone are worth it.

After London Eye ride I realized I forgot my phone back at the hotel. I had to travel back to get it as I was expecting a call from either Josie or Andrew to meet up to go to Camden Town. We spent a few hours in Camden town with some of the time spent at a store called Cyber Dog, a techno-punk store. It looked like it had a bunch of props from the doctor who series and maybe even some of the Star Wars movies.

Later on back in the business district we got stuck between the third and forth floor in a tiny elevator. I wasn't sure what was funnier the angry superintendent shouting "Can't you read?" referring to a three person limit sign or the woman we were visiting complaining "that we Canadians are too lazy to walk up stairs."

People from Australia, New Zealand, Germany and other parts of the UK all in one pod.

Tourist shot, the double decker bus and Westminster in the BG.

Sainsbury's - my 24 hour sandwich source.

Sign on the road telling you which way traffic is coming from

I liked this bus ad.

It seems they really don't like president Bush in this country.

Camden town market. Endless rows of clothing

Store sign for "4 feet".

The Camden bridge

Some food stalls under the bridge

John Lennon historic plaque

A place to eat

A woman selling sheep and reusable heat pads

Some stores under the bridge

An imported can of coke

A marmite ad

Monday, September 25, 2006

Rainy Day in London

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The nearby internet lounge

Originally I had it in mind to wake up early to venture off to the London Eye and get pictures while the sun was coming up over the horizon. Instead I woke up to rain. I peaked outside and eventually got out to grab a sandwich and drink and hit the nearby internet lounge. Only one pound for unlimited access. For those that are in the area the internet lounge is located a half block away from Earl's Court station, just across the street.

An M+S sandwich with a vanilla bean maple syrup smoothie

After getting all my emailing out of the way I went back to the hotel and stayed there until around 4:30. I used the time to catch up on my sleep and burn a few DVDs of fashion photos. The process took about an hour a disc. While burning and inbetween napping I ate the sandwich and had the smoothie. I must say that even though I love maple syrup, mainly on pancakes, in a smoothie I'm not so sure I'm found of.

I eventually decided to get up and go outside figuring I'd take in a museum or something.

The London Fashion Week main tent

The natural history museum is located right next to the main fashion tent so I went there first. Museums close at five o'clock. I never did make it into one. Eventually I gave up and went back to the internet lounge and back to the hotel to burn discs.

A newspaper vendor

Tree bark

London above ground transportation

The best roasted dusk in all of London

Later on that night I met up with Dunham, Josie, and Andrew. We ended up at the Four Seasons restaurant and ordered some chinese food. This included the roast duck. It was the best roast duck I've had, as least that I remember I've had, anywhere.

Having chinese food

Later on, it was Trader Vic's, a make shift tikki room located in the basement of a Hilton hotel. I ordered a fancy shmancy drink with coconut and pineapple from a young waitress who came to work in London from France. She had a long elegant neck and the smooth, supple skin you might see in an oil of Olay commercial.

The room next to us had a live band playing covers "I got you Babe", "Tears of a clown", "Billy don't be a hero", "Take a chance on me", and some other 60s tunes. All in all it was an interesting place. The band was great.

A visit to Trader Vic's for some fancy drinks

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Walk Like A Tourist

Seen just outside Victoria Station

Today I took the time out to wander around the city. Specifically to find a camera store and later on a sporting goods or outdoor store to buy a folding stool that I saw a bunch of UK photographers use during fashion week.

My trip started early in the morning. I went to the nearby Earl's Court tube station and took the train to Victoria. From there I walked to the Thames river passing the Westminster and Big Ben. From there Picadilly Circus, Oxford Circus, to Tottenham Court Road, up to Warren Street station (passing by a lot of computer and electronic stores), back down to Tottenham Court across to Hyde park and finally back down to Earl's Court. It was a lot of walking. About six and a half hours (calculated from the first picture shot to the last).

Later on I'd meet up with Andrew and Josie. We'd go to visit a friend that lives in London. After that it was back home and the neighborhood where I picked up a donair. Donairs are different in London in that they don't have that special sweet sauce that they have in Halifax. In Toronto they're known as gyros on a pita. In Edmonton the donars are served with burger condiments (ie. Ketchup, mustard, that sort of thing). Kind of makes me crave the halifasx version.

Below are some of the pictures I took along the way...

"It's the London Eye in the background."

A couple getting married near Westminster

The London Eye peeks out over some older type building

Lemon Ice Cream... yummy

The feet of the Winston Churchill statue facing Big Ben

A street shot with Big Ben

Next to the entrance of the Westminster tube station

The Thames river

The London Eye pods

London collectables anyone?

Guy dressed up as the invisible man

An old London bus

A statue of Nelson at Trafalgar Square

Squirting mermaid fountain at Trafalgar Sqaure

A motorcycle dude... I didn't see many people on motorcycles.

Some car

An interesting statue

An actual bus stop sign

A bus lane

A statue of cupid at Piccadilly Circus

A close up of cupid

Piccadilly Circus

Mr. Wu, an all you can eat buffet

Jessops the local camera store chain

A statue of Freddie Mercury

An interesting ad at Fopp.

Guy holding a sign for a nearby restaurant.

Sushi individually wrapped ready for purchase.

T-shirt for sale

Some brit punkers?

A truck that looks like it should be on the Thunderbirds.

Peddle transport

The "Crest of London" bear.

Subway in London means underground walkway.

Some public park chairs

The sky over Hyde park

Hyde Park trail

A road light

A bunny in Hyde Park.

Uncertain States of America exhibit

The Albert memorial

The Royal Albert Music Hall

Andrew and Josie sit on the couch while being entertained by Dunham

The local curry place open until the wee hours of the morning