Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Maybe it's Maybelline

Heather, Jeff and Maybelline

While throwing out some recycling I heard my name being called from over the fence. It was the neighbours (soon to be ex-neighbours) calling my name. They had gotten a puppy (Maybelline). I peeked over to see and had to run in the house to get my camera.

It was around -2. I should have taken the time to get my coat. "What? and miss more puppy cuteness? No time... grab the camera and get back out there." seemed to be the message running through my head.

Lucky, the dog next door to the next door neighbours, looks out of his doggie window in the fence.

Taking a few photos of the new family I noticed we had another friend on set. It was Lucky, Theressa's dog from next door. I noticed the doggie head poking out of the doggie window in the fence. It was made specifically for him. How cute is that?

Lucky greets Maybelline

After a bit of photographing and getting cold the cuteness started to wear off. I had to get back inside to finish cleaning and packing.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Pizza the Action

Pizza, uncooked

Once, I was asked if I was going to put the local fish guy out of business. It all started from telling local fish guy that I didn't need my fish scaled. The fish that I had just bought from him was going to be scaled by me with a fish scaler that I bought for camping. I never got around to using it before then. I assured the worried fish guy that I wouldn't go into the fish business much less put him out of work. Oddly enough that would be the first and last time I'd scale a fish and the last time I visited him for fish. Hope he's still in business.

Today, while not a fish, I decided to make a pizza from scratch. I imagined the local pizza guy saying "Are you putting me out of work?". In this case "Yes", but only if my pizza turns out better than your pizza. Also, is making my pizza more convenient then going outside and walking a block to the nearby pizza place on the corner in an Italian neighbourhood? Probably not. Then my answer is "No". However there will always be times that I'll want pizza and it's raining outside and I just happen to have all the ingredients, so "Maybe?". As if I was the only customer.

As for making pizza from scratch, I'm attempting to do so, at least, as much as you can make a pizza from scratch in the city. It's not like I'm grinding out meat to make my own pepperoni, making a wheel of cheese, or even growing wheat to make flour. I'm going to attempt to make a pizza using store bought flour, pepperoni, packaged cheese and even *GASP* jarred tomato sauce.

I suppose the line gets a little blurry when talking about making stuff from scratch. Let's just say it's a step above buying a frozen pizza and baking that. A step above? Well not trying to sound snooty (on purpose) but I am putting more work into this pizza than opening a single cardboard box and throwing the contents into the oven.

It's funny how if you're cooking and putting more effort into it, it sounds better, where as if you're programming some computer software, the less work you put in sounds better. Anyhoo, I digress.

The pizza dough recipe I'm using comes from here (Robert's recipes). After making said dough, I threw on some tomato sauce, cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms and onions, stuck it in the oven for 425 F. Like a frozen pizza waited for the cheese to melt and the crust to brown. Took about X minutes.

You may look at my pizza and say "But it's not round." that's where I reply "Pffttt. Can't you see I'm trailblazing?". This is not a case where looks matter, as I'm the one eating it, only taste matters. That and the pizza doesn't come out burnt (thereby making the taste meter go to "sucks"). Also I'm a lazy person who can't make a nice perfect circle from dough to save his life, but I won't say that out loud. Clearly there are better bakers out there than me... and really if you're looking for recipes shouldn't you be reading better food sites like Epicurious.com? (While you're there check out the Pumkin Cheesecake - amazing)

Pizza, cooked

And yes, the title "a Pizza the Action" is a take from the original Star Trek episode where Kirk and Spock beam down to a planet to find it's being run by mobsters.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Growing Crystals (Crystal Method part two)

Fortress of Solitude?

No it's not the Fortress of Solitude, it's a macro photo of the crystals from the grow your own crystals kit. Shot with the 105mm Nikkor lens.

I went back to the old apartment to continue packing stuff (I'm moving apartments). All my camera gear is still there and I while packing up some DVDs I noticed the blue rock with the crystals. See here and here for the previous write ups on this experiment.

The blue rock with the tiny crystals on it

A closer look...

I let the rock sit in the blue solution for about a week. Not that it had to be in there that long but I forgot about it. Eventually taking it out to dry where I forgot about the rock again. Finally, today, while packing found it once more.

A thin layer of dust had collected on it. It had been sitting there on the shelf next to some DVDs for about ten months... ten months?!?!? Gee, yeah, ten months since the last blog.

Using a can of compressed air I made the attempt to blow the majority of the dust off. It seemed to work for the most part. I didn't shoot air at the rock directly as I didn't want to blow off the crystals. How well stuck on the rock is undetermined. It looked pretty fragile. A few quick squirts of air and it seemed dust free.

... slightly closer

Looking at the photo on the box and then the actual crystals I was a bit disappointed in the actual size. Kind of the same disappointment when you're looking at an ad for a hamburger then seeing the real one after ordering it. Smaller, less filling looking, not as exciting. It was the same with the resulting crystals. The longest crystals in real life being about 1 cm in length while on the box it looks like the size of a steak that you could kill vampires with.

and now with some dramatic lighting

For all the time and effort put into this I would have to say it truly was a lot of work. Mainly finding all the stuff that didn't come in the kit. See previous crystal entry. Then the waiting. Then there's all the potential mess that could have been made with all the blue liquid. In the hands of an adult its one thing but in the hands of a kid? I can see blue stains all over the place.

Maybe that's why there's supposed to be adult supervision. But where's the fun in that (for the kid or the adult)?

Until I find the next funky experiment that looks interesting enough to buy...

Monday, December 21, 2009

I love a parade

A fire eater starts off the parade

It's the day of the winter solstice and usually there's a themed lantern festival down at Kensington Market. It was one of those days where I actually had to drag myself out of the apartment to go. It was across town. It was cold. I was tired. Waah, waah, waah.

When I arrived in the market I noticed a bunch of people gathering around a ladder in the middle of an intersection. Maybe 50 people or so. Not really that many people. Some of those people had lanterns, some had large mascot type puppets floating above their heads held there with sticks. I watched and waited.

Maybe 15 minutes later I heard someone mentioning something about a parade. It was getting dark. You could see the lantern light better now. I turned around to find myself surrounded by people (see photo below). I was in awe. I was also trapped.

Where did all this people come from?

There was no where to go. Eventually the crowd started to move. That's when I found that I was in the parade, literally. Kids and adults waving their lanterns and me pushed by the flow of traffic right in the middle.

To the tunes of some live brass section we marched past on lookers standing on the side walk. I kind of felt weird holding just a camera. Where was my lantern? I took a few photos as we were walking but it proved to difficult to take photos without a flash. Blurry images and all.

Eventually the parade turned down another street. I used gap as a way out. Then I walked around the block to get in the front of the parade and took some more photos. These turned out a bit better.

girl on a horse

The parade ended up at a nearby park south of dundas near bathurst. There were fire eaters, jugglers of both the fire and non fire kind, and a bunch of people standing around a baseball diamond with all the lit lanterns.

I didn't stick around much after that. I suppose I was hoping to bump into friends or people I knew. Never turned out that way. Still it was good that I kicked myself into getting outside.

That Jar of Mustard

An old jar of mustard

It's been two years since the last move. This morning I was rummaging through a box that had started to decompose in my closet. I was transferring contents out of it into a new box. That's when I found this jar of mustard that I lost about 5 years ago just after moving into the place previous to the place previous of the one I'm moving out of. (I'm sure there was an easier way of saying that but oh well).

The problem happened for two reasons. A) I never unpacked all the boxes, B) someone else packed that box. The mustard along with a bunch of jars of chutney sat in my closet and in the unpacked box remaining untouched. Unfortunately the mustard now looks like it's fermented. I wonder if it's still good?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Third Dimension

The Fuji W1 with lenses uncovered (the ON mode)

Picked up the Fuji finepix real 3D w1 today.

The following is a quick run down of features that I thought were neat as a stereoscopic enthusiast...

  1. Shoots photos and takes video in both 2D and 3D.
  2. In 2D photos are saved as JPEG
  3. In 3D photos are saved in MPO format (software comes with the camera that allows you to separate the MPO files into two JPEG files - right eye, left eye photos)
  4. Video is saved as an AVI. Again the stereo AVI file can be converted into two 2D files using the Fuji software.
  5. You can adjust the overlap of the right and left photos (resulting in making the stereo photo narrower)
  6. supports SDHC memory cards
  7. has a manual shooting mode for shutter speed and aperture (very limited and the controls are layered within the interface)
  8. lenticular viewing screen (preview 3D without glasses!! wowee!!)
  9. 100 - 1600 ASA settings including AUTO
  10. museum mode - a really neat, easily accessible feature that turns off the camera's sound and flash.
  11. buttons light up.
  12. 3D photos can also be taken using a single lens (read below for more details)
  1. Battery can be inserted upside down while this doesn't cause any known problems other than the camera not powering up this isn't great design.
  2. FUJI film NP-95 battery made in Japan/China that comes with camera fits fine. Extra FUJI film battery that I bought which was made in Taiwan is a bit fat and needs to be forced into camera battery slot.
  3. Focus in low lighting takes a while and doesn't work very well (mind you I'm used to shooting with an SLR). Photos are blurry. Photos taken in the daytime are fine.
  4. memory card not included.

The back monitor is lenticular (3D without needing glasses!)

Overall as a geek toy I'm quite happy with the W1. It has a nice weight to it. As mentioned above the camera can also take photos using a single lens. There are two modes.

1. Interval 3D shooting

This mode is good if say you're on a train and you want to take photos of the mountains you're passing by. Using the standard shooting mode with the two lenses the distance between the two photos isn't enough for you to get really good depth. By placing the camera next to the window hopefully on something sturdy you can program the camera to take two photos X seconds apart.
Duration between photos can be set to one of these settings - minimum, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 3.0, 5.0, 10.0 seconds

What if I'm going in the opposite direction or am sitting on the wrong side of the train?
use the TURN feature (this is a poor word choice) to shoot the two photos in opposite order.

2. Individual shutter 3D shooting

This mode is good if you're shooting a still object and it's too small or too large for the standard two lens approach. You first shoot the left image, you then move the camera to shoot the right image. To help you along, the first image that you take is superimposed onto the live feed so you can line up the camera for the second image.

Good for photographing using the cha cha method.

The top of the W1 showing the zoom control and shutter button

The camera also shoots 2D photos and has a bunch of features like macro mode, face recognition, and being able to shoot in 2D with both lenses at the same time. One might be zoomed in while the other shoots wide. There are other features but being as I bought the camera for 3D won't go into those modes (unless you really want me to - send an email and I'll make add on to this post).

From top to bottom. Place to attach the camera strap, Audio Video out, port for external power.

Bottom. Battery and memory card hatch. Also standard camera screw hole for tripods.

Taiwan battery versus the Japan/China battery

Close up of the back, left side.

Close up of the back, right side.

The camera goes for about $700.00 CAN. The battery (NP-95) is about $45. I highly recommend looking for the battery that is made in Japan/China. Also, I invested in an external charger so I don't have to use the camera to charge the batteries.

I haven't had a lot of time to play around with this to really figure out the optimum distance for shooting and getting good depth results. My film based Realist gives better results based on my preliminary tests. I'll photograph with the camera under more conditions and do a follow up in a later blog post.

Oh, yeah. There's an "underwater" white balance setting but the camera isn't water proof. I suppose it's good if you're at the zoo looking through that glass wall of a water tank photographing polar bears or fish.