Monday, June 30, 2008

High Dynamic Range

Drenched from the evenings down pour of rain

My morning started off with me waking up around 4:30am. It's kind of shocking as my alarm clock wasn't on. I just woke up. It was raining a few hours, maybe minutes earlier. The street was still damp. Since I was up I decided to hike over to the park at the end of the street in my slippers with my tripod slung over my shoulder and my camera in my hand.

Catching the sun rise on the petals

I took a few photos of plant life and the sun started coming up. Shot a few more photos and decided to continue my photography back in the back yard of where I live. The condensation of morning dew on the car looked interesting so I set up the tripod to try to shoot a HDR photo. About half way in Pumpkin jumped up onto the hood. I took a few photos of the cat, waited for him to get bored and leave (I didn't have a pork chop dangling around my neck so I figure the cat would get bored quickly). He did and wandered off to sniff some plant life.

Spikey flora

Pumpkin getting in the way of my HDR shoot

I started from the beginning with my reframed shot of the car in the drive way. The results follow...

High Dynamic Range Photos

HDR, or High Dynamic Range is a method of shooting photos that captures just that, a large range of light going from really dark to really light, more so than your eye can detect without adjustment and what your computer display can show

Take a look at the following photos. The first one is exposed for sunlight bouncing the wall. It's really bright compared to the other things in the photo so if it's properly exposed everything else falls to darkness.

The wall properly exposed.

The sky properly exposed

Now let's say we expose from something less bright like the sky. We see more of the car but the wall starts to go to white, it's becoming over exposed.

The car properly exposed

Next we'll try to shoot the car with the proper exposure. Notice now that the sky and the wall are completely washed out.

The resulting HDR file with the light range squished into visible space.

In the converted HDR image you can now see detail in both the wall and the car. I have taken the light values from the HDR file and squished them into a range that the display (in this case computer monitor) can show.

Shooting HDR photos with a normal camera requires that you shoot a number of photos at different exposures from the same angle and that your subject is not moving. Well the subject can be moving but you might have odd results. The photos are then combined (perhaps in photoshop) and viola, a single HDR file is made.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dumpling City

Ding Tai Fung (located at 3235 Hwy. 7 E. near Woodbine in Markham), it's a bit of a haul to get out there but it's easier for Zee, Juley and the kids as it's closer to where they live. While I don't consider it dim sum by traditional standards (they don't have the shrimp dumplings) it's a nice change from the standard dim sum we've had in the last few years, plus the dumplings with soup in them are addictive.

Zee and his girls Madison and Michaela

I'm always amazed at how big the kids are each time we see them and what they're doing. Michaela, Zee's older of the two, has quite the expressive face and is pretty entertaining to watch.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

School Yard Scramble

Reffrey Dollmer does lunges

This week in Hamilton the HCRG put on their first themed roller derby, the School Yard Scramble. Sporting short shorts, knee or thigh high socks, pony tails, short skirts, and handle bar moustaches... wha?

Out of the three teams, The Hamilton Harlots, the Steel Town Tanks girls and the Deathrow Dames, two teams were created using random picking. The two resulting teams being the Hopscotch hooligans (white) and the Teeter Slaughters (black).

The first period seemed like a normal game devoid of big hits. Imants, one of the spectators thought it was because none of the skaters wanted to do any harm to fellow team players. The second and third periods felt more like a harlem globe trotter game missing the Sweet Georgia Brown soundtrack. Despite the fake fights ensuing and the fake hits, Punchy still got a real dislocated shoulder, and Beater Parker a leg injury.

Miss Carriage flies over Tropi-kill Punch

The final score was 84 Hopscotch hooligans to 63 Teeter Slaughters.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Look Up, Look Down

Ants in the nearby park.

There are a lot of people, especially in Toronto1, that go places in automatic mode. That's to say they don't look up, down or around at things. They're in zombie mode from start point A to destination point B. I thought at first that it was a big city thing. Don't make eye contact, you might actually have to talk to someone.

That idea went away when I travelled to London, UK. People there seemed to look around making eye contact. Perhaps it was just me, as a tourist you tend to look around more. Kind of like a child seeing the world for the first time. After a while things start to look the same, maybe even repetitive and maybe even not interesting anymore. Perhaps the reason we don't look around anymore is because we expect to see the same stuff. Our brain thinks "yeah, it's that building again" and get we get lazy, we don't look up. Then the odd day does come and the ice cream store that used to be that building has been torn down and now condos have taken it's place. Then we say "When did that happen?" or "How long has that condo been there?".

Another example of this is watching kids on the moving subway look out the front car onto the tracks zooming toward them. It seems they can look for hours. Meanwhile the adult sitting next to them is sleeping through the trip. The adult doesn't see the extra service holes, exits to the street. It all seems like the same concrete passing by.

As a photographer shooting for a while this can be quite demanding. What do you shoot if you've shot it all before? I've even talked to photographers that don't want to shoot _____ anymore because it's all been done (by someone else even). Kind of sad really. I suppose the trick is to find that angle you haven't shot yet. It might be the same pose but a different person, or the same neighborhood, another sports game, or another similar event.

So today with not much to do I wandered around the neighbourhood to see what interesting photos I could find. Forcing myself to look at the familiar and trying to find a different way of capturing the moment. There were two things I noticed right off the bat. A bunch of ants swarming around on some pavement and a cat in the drive way.

The ants were in a large dense cluster that tapered off in a 30cm radius. I wondered if someone had dropped something sweet (like pop or ice cream). At closer inspection you could see the queen ant nearby. What was going on there?

The cat in the drive way was Felix observing his world from the cellar window. I've taken a photo of him before but this time he had his paws out and not just his head. He had the same stunned look though.

Felix, the cat next door.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Early to bed, early to rise means working the night shift

The cloud formation at sun set

I had woke up at 10:30am this morning. Finally after weeks of having a weird sleep schedule due to working on the "project" I managed to wake up at a decent time getting my sleep schedule back on track (compared to the majority of the human race). The new sleep schedule didn't last long. After waking up I logged into my email account, checked my email, then answering machine. I was offered work on a TV commercial starting at 9:30pm.

Another night shift job. Cool. Who needs sleep anyways? Turns out the main playback guy that normally works the commercials was in the hospital with his wife. She had just given birth to their new baby boy. A son for them, work for me. A win win situation if I ever saw one.

Packing up the truck at the end of the "day".

We finished shooting and packing the "deathstar" (the name of the truck) by 8am. The sun was out and by the time I got home it was 10am. So much for the sleep schedule.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Bitchslap Barbie of the HCRG steamrolls CN Power's Mia Culprit

The Hammer City Roller Girls travel team played their first away game this season and it was in Toronto. How's that for convenient? The odd thing though is that even though the George Bell arena in Toronto is closer to where I live than the Dave Anderchuck arena in Hamilton it actually cost me more to get to George Bell. Why is that? I took a $40 cab ride in order to move my lighting gear.

To get to Hamilton I'd normally take the TTC ($2.25), the GO bus ($9.00) and a cab ($10.00) but even if I took a cab to the GO station ($20.00) it would still end up being less expensive (by $1) than taking a cab across town. Go figure. On a side note, it's even cheaper to get to Montreal as you can get a bus ticket for only $1 plus GST, provided you travel on the off peak hours with Coach Canada.

Pivot (Carla Coma) and blocker (Dicey) keeping tabs on an incoming jammer

The bout between Toronto and Hamilton was one of those highly anticipated games of the season. Ever since the Montreal Beast of the East tournament a few months ago, roller girls from the two leagues have wanted a rematch.

And what a rematch it was. The game was a nail biter for the first two periods. At one point tied at 61 points each. Although I swear I thought the score board didn't get updated with points for Hamilton a few times. In the end the HCRG took the victory with 105 points to Toronto's CN Power's 95.

Vicadoom breaks away from the pack.

Friday, June 20, 2008

No Fly zone

A released house fly

Armed with the bug vac I spent a bit of time following the small swarm of flies (by swarm I really mean three), trying to suck them up in the bug vac and capturing them. Did I ever mention that I wished that the suck power of the vacuum was more powerful? Powerful enough to snatch the fly right out of the air? Unfortunately it's not and to get the flies I had to have the nozzle on right on top of them.

I've noticed that the flies will hang around the east windows in the morning and the west facing windows in the evening. Probably attracted to the light (and maybe heat) of the sun. That made it a bit easier to corner them and eventually capture them.

Once caught, I brought the bug vac outside and let them go. One of them decided to hang around the deck, walking along the planks. It was this one that I took a few macro photos of (see above).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Bug Vac

The Bug Vacuum

Last night I picked up a bug vac. It's a product by edu-science and I suppose aimed at kids that want to learn more about the life sciences. The idea is pretty cool. You point the vacuum part at the bug. The bug gets sucked up into the vacuum and out into a built in habitat. You can then detach the habitat part which has a spring loaded trap door that shuts so the bug can't get back out.

The reality is that the bug vacuum which is only powered by four AA batteries doesn't really have a lot of suction. It's not like you can suck flying bugs out of the air. Boo. It doesn't even have enough suck power to pick up paper, so don't think you can use it as a real vacuum to get the crumbs out of your keyboard.

The habitat with about 20 flies in it

Despite the lack of power, if the vacuum nozzle is placed right over the bug, the bug does get sucked up (if it jumps off the ground). I managed to catch about twenty flies. So I guess it does work.

The only thing I would want improved with the bug vac other than it's suck power is to make the plastic more transparent. Shooting through the existing habitat wall makes for foggy photos (see below).

foggy insect photos

Note: It should be known that with the vacuum in the off position it is possible for the bug to crawl or fly back out. So make sure to detach the habitat before bringing in doors. That is unless you want bugs in the room you're in.

You can pick up your own bug vac at Toys R Us. It sells for $19.99 CAN.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Erratic sleep

Ten Lego croissants

I went to sleep last night at 10pm. I was really tired. Unfortunately I woke up at 1:00am. With nothing else to do I went off and bought breakfast consisting of a Subway cold cut sandwich, returned home and started uploading the photos from last weekends derby bout (The Deathrow Dames VS Tri-City). While the machine was running I watched the movie "Arthur". With the photos eventually uploaded and me being in the middle of "Arthur 2 on the rocks" I was tired again and went back to bed. I was about 5:00am.

Five Lego apples

At 10:30am the doorbell rang. It was DHL with my shipment of Lego croissants, among other things. A few nights ago I was perusing the Lego web site and noticed that you could by Lego pieces by the part. So I bought a bag of various pieces to be used in my next short (should I ever get around to doing it). I assembled a few of the people, took some photos and went back to sleep. It was about 11:50am by this point.

It's now 3pm. I've woken up on my own accord and am now responding to emails and voice mails that I've gotten.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dames versus Tri-city

Tri-city just lost, by over 100 points, so why is that Tri-city player so happy?

One of the things I love about the roller derby sport, maybe it's a local thing, the girls are nuts and will verbally beat you into submission if you're on the opposing team while you're on the track. Off the track is another story, it's party time with all your fellow derby players. Who cares what team you're on. You're on planet Roller Derby and that's all that matters to be drinking buddies.

It's nice to know that a sport exists where it's not important if you win or lose it's how you play the game... and how you party afterwards.

final score

Shooting a comic strip

Darryl Gold and Derek Lang (me) in Lego Form.

I finished work on the paid gig and started work on a fun gig for Darryl. He's having a zine launch next friday and was taking in submissions with today (technically yesterday) being the last day to submit something. I thought I'd dust off the old Lego from the Macho Baby! short and make a comic strip.

Originally I wanted to shoot a photo novel for the magazine but that would have taken more time, money and setting up. With the Lego it was pretty easy to slap together a set and have props in a short period of time. At least I thought that would be the case.

While putting together a mini set to look like rural Ontario (in Lego form) I realized I had misplaced a bunch of my trees. I know I have more of them but what did I do with them? Did I pack them in some other box? Probably. Since I didn't have time to look for them I used the trees I had and moved them around randomly for each different angle.

The process was a bit time consuming but fun. I uploaded the final page early this morning.

For more info on the upcoming friday event go here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

It's been how long?

Charles... alive and well.

It's been over four years since I last saw Charles. Due to events that occurred and that fact that I had the wrong phone number that gave me a "This phone number is not in service", I thought he had died. Then out of the blue, a few days ago, I got a message on facebook.

We met up today and caught up over lunch. Turns out Charles is not only alive and well, he's married.

Today I also met up with Rick, another person I've haven't seen in quite a while. Although I do keep in touch through facebook and have bumped into him on the street recently. We met up for dinner. Rick had helped me out with my latest computer problems and I wanted say thanks by taking him out for food.

My computer was crashing quite a bit. After a lot of experimentation and sleepless nights I had found that the RAM had fried in the computer due to the increase in heat in the apartment. The RAM was faulty (as other machines in the apartment worked fine) and once I replaced the RAM with older 512meg sticks the machine worked fine.

Rick had been emailing me through facebook throwing out suggestions of what it might be. When he suggested the RAM it all fell into place. After all I hadn't upgraded the machine since the last project and the room was a lot cooler back then. I hate it when computers crash and was pretty relieved once the computer was back online.

Rick enjoys some fatty Starbucks drink.


The iced tea in question

I saw Kung Fu Panda today. Just before the movie started there was an ad for a new Iced Tea called Vitao by Nestea. I thought the commercial was pretty creative, cool even. A bunch of people dancing to light coming out of iced tea bottles. The brand stuck with me and after the movie, on the way home, I went into the local Subway sandwich shop where I saw bottles of it available for purchase.

The drink was pretty tasty. It was "Fuji apple" flavoured. On the top corner of the label it reads "Natural Health Product" and "Natural Fuji Apple Flavour". Now normally I'd just drink it and if it didn't taste like aspartame not give much thought and buy more bottles of the stuff to drink, but because of the "natural" labels on the bottle my brain automatically thought "What's the catch here?".

Kind of like those alarms bells that go off when you watch a commercial for a mining company advertising that they plant X number of trees per year... "How many forests are they destroying by strip mining?" my brain automatically asks.

I started to investigate the naturalness by reading the bottle's ingredients. The two lines that popped out were "Do not exceed 3 bottles a day" and "Consult a health practitioner prior to use if you have a liver disorder, develop symptoms of liver trouble, or if pregnant or breast feeding.". What the heck?

A photo of the side of the bottle.

What the heck is in iced tea that will give you liver trouble? How is this a "Natural Health" drink? Are these instructions on the bottle something I should take seriously or is it just the beverage company writing stuff on the bottle to protect themselves from legal action taken by some guy that consumes the stuff on a more than average basis and gets sick? Kind of like the disclaimer on the chainsaw box that reads "do not stop in genital area". Why don't they just add "Do not use for drowning purposes." just in case?

And I thought the sardines in blueberry juice was odd.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Outside World

Baby McDermott laughs at one of my many facial expressions.

Today was the first time in what felt like months, literally, where I felt like I had been able to go outside and just do nothing. Since coming back from London back in Feburary I've been pretty lucky to have consistent work. The only down side is that consistent work also means consistent solitary confinement in front of the computer. While this is not a difficult task in the winter when it's cold, it's a bit more demanding in the warmer months when other events and interesting things are taking place.

I delivered the final project data last night. It opened up a grand day of going out and doing nothing but socializing, seeing people I haven't seen in a long time, and wander around town to see if anything new presented itself.

The day started off by meeting up with Thomas and his daughter for lunch. She is five months old and is also the marker for the approximate amount of time since I last saw Thomas.

An aphid playing possum

From future bakery I walked over to Yonge and Bloor and then down to Monster Records where Roger noticed I was wearing an aphid. After knocking off my jacket onto the counter we looked at it. "Is it dead? Oh wait, it was just faking. See it's moving!". We gently scooped it up onto a piece of paper and let it go outside.

Lounging at Monster Records

Wall o labels

Sorry Laine, I couldn't resist.

After catching up a bit with Roger I walked down to the camera stores on Queen street passing by this walking crackberry and an odd light installation at Dundas Square.

Lights at Dundas Square

Downtown camera had a flash on order but the one I checked out didn't seem to work properly. It was just after 6pm and I had managed to get into the store before they locked the doors. Not wanting to hold them up I told them I'd return tomorrow.

From there I walked toward the Tibetan restaurant a bunch of people were meeting at. Anya from the last photo rampage had organized a group eating session. The restaurant is located at 1439 Queen street west. Just a bit west past lansdowne.

A guy jumping off a garbage can on Queen street

On the way there somewhere near Spadina a guy was just finishing some kind of performance with the grand finale being the act of jumping off a garbage can while doing a somersault.

The tibetan foodies

By the time I arrived home my feet were killing me. I think I need new shoes or maybe I should just not carry so much stuff.

Sometime around 4:30am.

I started backing up the project on my computer and started hearing noises coming from the backyard. When I went to investigate I saw five little raccoons and a big mother. They were in the garbage cans next door.

The mother raccoon confronts me "Whaddya lookin at bub."

The family of raccoons make their escape.

Just out of range of my SB-800, you can just barely make out their silhouettes on the backyard fence.

The ice cream truck

The ice cream truck seen from a small child's POV

One of the perks of living in the "new" neighbourhood is that there's an ice cream truck that stops almost right outside the front door. This whole weekend has been really hot, considering last week night have gotten as cool as 2 degrees (C).

Put yourself in a room that gets baked by the sun, add heat given off by five computers, and tiny windows. You've been sitting in that room for 20 plus hour intervals. Hacking away, baking away. The ice cream truck looks pretty good now doesn't it?

I bought a banana split, three blobs of ice cream, one drenched in chocolate syrup, the next in strawberry syrup and the third in pineapple goo. And just when things couldn't get any better... it started to rain.

We've been getting reports of incoming tornadoes, even hail, none of which Toronto saw (that I know of). What we did get was a bunch of rain. It came down in buckets. Only the rain only lasted for about two minutes. The end result was more humidity ands not not much a cooling down effect.

Around 1am we received lighting and thunder and about 2 hours of rain. During about half this time I attempted to photograph the sky, hoping a bolt of lighting would pass through the lens. As soon as I put my eye to the lens a bolt passed through from one corner of the frame to the other. It was perfect. Unfortunately I had not pressed the shutter button. Boo. I stood in the kitchen looking out at the sky for the next 40 minutes, until the lighting started to die away, taking photos at 30 seconds intervals. Below is the best picture I managed to get within that time frame.

Lightning... oooh... aahhh...

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Bugapede

The Bugapede

It's the early morning. I'm still up trying to get stuff to render. My machine no longer crashes. Turns out it was the RAM. I think it was fried. I'm now running the machine on the old 512K sticks....

Just when it started to look like Pumpkin was the only model in the house I went to move my pelican case and viola, Mr. Bugapede! Okay I don't know what sex it is, I'm not sure how you can tell or what to look for or where to look, it's not like a spider with "boxing gloves" after all. Spiders with "boxing gloves" are male by the way.

It kind of surprised me as it moves pretty fast. Luckily I had a jar near by. After capturing it by anticipating it's move and placing the jar down on it, I slid a piece of paper under the jar and flipped the jar over. It didn't take long for me to realize that the bugapede couldn't crawl straight up glass (see UK field research).

I placed my Nikon SB-800 off to the side of the jar then carefully took the lid off. With my 105mm macro I creeped in. The bugapede started running at me. I jumped back. I then remembered that it was still 10 centimeters away from the lens. Sheesh.

The nice thing about the bugapede being in a jar is that you can rotate it to lit it from underneath, it was trying to climb up the side of the jar, or from the side. The photo above and shows details in the eyes (cool!) while the bottom photo puts more emphasis on the translucency of the little guy.

After the small impromptu photo session I took the jar up to the top of the street and let it out in the nearby park near the Danforth .

Does anyone know what the actual name of this bugapede is? Although I like the term bugapede (bug with legs) I thought I'd ask. Please refrain from using smart alec remarks like "It's name is Fred.".


Thanks to the information provided by Thor Volokwyn, this in fact is a house centipede. More info can be read here.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Hot day, cool basement

Pumpkin relaxes in the coolness of the basement

Today is a type of day I miss living in a basement apartment. Ack, it's hot and it's not even really summer yet. Living on the second floor I'm a bit worried that my computers will overheat (that might explain why one of the computers keeps crashing but didn't during the march project).

Pumpkin, the cat is pretty bright. He had followed me downstairs while I was doing laundry and never came back up. When I went back downstairs to transfer the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer I found the cat lying under a table in the cool shade. I suppose the whole basement is cool shade.

Meanwhile I've opened up the computer and am running it with the motherboard exposed. If it doesn't crash then chances are it's the heat.