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  • Archive for August, 2011

    Primo Vino Art: Happy Camper Merlot


    2011 - 08.13

    I really like this label.  It’s quite simple, but the big starry sky and the airstream trailer–well it’s hard not to like it.  Both those things conjure up thoughts of fun times.  I’d like to drink this wine in an airstream trailer on some cool autumn evening.  mmmm

    Cloudy Sky Timelapse: A Taste of What’s Ahead


    2011 - 08.12

    As mentioned before, a goal of mine is to start getting into timelapse photography. In the words of Carl, “Recently, we’ve waded a little way out, maybe ankle-deep, and the water seems inviting.”

    I’ve done four different night-sky timelapses, each getting progressively better. I may yet post one of them, but I haven’t so far. I’ll lead off the timelapse posts with this short clip I compiled from around 300 photos of the clouds a couple weeks back. For those so interested, the exposure was 1/500th at f/8 with ISO100. This was actually done with the T2i that was briefly in my possession.

    More imporantly, the exposures were about 15-20 seconds apart (I don’t recall precisely, but it was inside that range). You can see how fast the clouds move! I had no idea they shifted so quickly. For my next attempt, I did the exposures 6 seconds apart, and that showed the cloud movement much more fluidly. I’ll post that one later when I figure out why the rendering always seems to come out choppy. I’ve had some rendering issues with these…

    Anyhow, here is my first, tentative step into the world of timelapse! It’s The Moment Of Genesis baby!… the instant when a once far-off dream makes its first step into being REAL. Gotta love the energy that comes off of a thing like that. Bodacious!

    (Yes, I did just say bodacious)

    600 shots and counting!


    2011 - 08.11

    Tuesday was the first day since I’ve gotten my new T3i that I didn’t take a picture on it.  This is probably because I fell asleep early by accident!

    Something that occurred to me is that using this new timelapse remote is going to completely blow up the count of shutter actuations on the camera.  The outgoing champ, my Canon XTi, has about 6,400 pictures on the counter.  So far with the T3i I’m already up over 600… in less than a week!  Whoa.

    In a way it’s kinda scary how quick these will add up, but really it’s a good thing–I’m gonna USE this puppy.  And I should.  It’s got the great ISO range I’ve been wishing for, and pretty much all the movie-making goodness a camera-nerd could wish for.  Ahhhhh

    I have been doing some trial runs of timelapse, some of which I’ll begin posting on here soon.  I thought some of you might like to see my setup for doing these, so below is a picture.  We’ve got the Canon T3i with Meike Powergrip (intended for 550D/T2i, but it still works 100%), a simple Studiohut intervalometer, and the Tamron 10-24mm superwide zoom for some large sky coverage:

    It took me a while to figure out how to set up the tripod for a full view of the sky with no trees or house in the frame.  At first I tried putting the quick release on backward, which let me tilt in a more favorable direction (as shown above), but that still wasn’t quite what I needed.  The real trick is to put the quick release on sideways (90 degrees off, instead of 180), so that instead of left/right tilt, the mount itself moves up and down.  THAT’s how it’s done!  I’ll post a picture of that method sometime later…

    You’re not CARL!


    2011 - 08.10

    Okay, so I’ve got a story and a news item worthy of mention on here, and I think they’ll work best in that order.

    Sometime last year I discovered Carl Sagan’s glorious COSMOS series. I had maybe seen snippets of it when I was quite young, but never sat down and tackled the whole series, at an age when I could really appreciate what was being said and the context. As said elsewhere on here, it blew me away, seeing it effectively for the first time at this stage in life.

    When I finished all the episodes and was still craving some more Sagan in my life, I decided to check out his books. Of course one of the appeals of COSMOS is Carl’s talent as an orator, so I sought out an audiobook copy of Pale Blue Dot. This I downloaded, and found out that it apparently (at least the copy I had) was narrated partially by someone else. There I was, sitting on the couch with the Kindle, reading along on the ebook version while the audiobook files played narration when some other dude’s voice took over. Like a seven year old I shouted in outrage “You’re not CARL!!” My girlfriend burst out laughing.

    Since then, the refrain “You’re not CARL!” has served as a vehicle to express dissatisfation when presented with anything that isn’t the geniune article. Example: Standing in the grocery store and all the raspberries are from Driscolli’s instead of Richter’s? “You’re not CARL!”

    Hehehehe, I like this method of mocking lesser imitators.

    ~ On to The News Portion ~

    So.  I read in the interwebs today that there is a television program called “Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey” being produced by Seth MacFarlane (mister Family Guy, American Dad, etc), Ann Druyan (Carl Sagan’s wife and co-writer of the Cosmos series), and Steven Soter (who is the other main writer on Cosmos and an astrophysicist).   Starring Neil deGrasse Tyson, the famous popularizer of science/astronomy and Director at the The Hayden Planetarium in NYC.  Wait, WHAT?!

    They’re calling it a docu-series and it’ll be 13 parts long and air on primetime on Fox… of all places.

    Read the whole deal here, it really merits looking over.

    So yeah.  …What?

    I’m somewhere between elation and skepticism.  Seth MacFarlane??  Not sure how he fits into all this, but well, this whole deal could really be superb.  While Neil may not be Carl, as I was foreshadowing in the preamble, he IS a true astronomy warrior and decorated champion on his own right. Label me as cautiously quite optimistic.  We’ll all get to see in 2013 if that’s the right outlook.  I need more details…

    The original COSMOS leaves a whole lot to live up to.  The eloquence, the wide scope, the beautiful photography, a sweeping musical score, and just… the uplifting overall vibe of it; I think all that will be hard to recapture.  At least all the right people are clearly on the case here.  And prime time on Fox?  That’s exactly where it belongs, really.  Not on the discovery channel or PBS, preachin to the choir.  I think a dose of Sagan’s company is just what they need.  Awesome.

    I can just picture it now:

    Canon T3i is HERE. File this under “Yesss”!


    2011 - 08.05

    Oh yeah!  OhyeahohyeahohYEAH!  Canon T3i is here!  More technical thoughts and details to come, but for now let’s just gawk at some really pretty images with thin focal planes thanks to the almighty Canon 50mm f/1.8, now in the glorious format of motion-photography.  Here’s a bunch of loose test shots cobbled together quick in under an hour.

    For anyone so interested, the track playing is a snippet of “Green Bird” by Magic Places.  Apparently it’s a remix of something from Cowboy Bebop, although I don’t recognize where.

    Bwahnt, bwahnt, bwaaaaaa (that’s a sad trombone sound, for a screwed up camera)


    2011 - 08.02

    So it turns out that the camera I got off eBay had a little issue.  Kind of crazy, but an issue that I only noticed when I tried doing time lapse astrophotography.  In the resultant movie, there were dots hanging in the sky which didn’t move as the rest of the stars did.  I tried cleaning the sensor both automatically and (carefully!) manually.  One or two spots went away, most did not.  I found this hidden function buried in the canon menu called “dust delete data” which I thought might help.  Nope.  Finally I got clever and took a 20 second exposure with the lens cap on.  I thought Ah-ha!  I can use this as a reference of the noise, and use a difference layer in photoshop to remove it.  Hmm, that almost worked, but some of the dots aren’t quite lined up for some reason… Okay, how about if I repeat this process five times with an action file.  Okay, now the spots are gone but the ISO noise is out of control.  Alright… know what, forget this.  Time for a BRAND NEW camera.

    Pffft.

    I’m a big believer in buying pre-owned stuff.  I like to get a good deal, I like to see things get used to the maximum and fully worn out before they get discarded, I like the idea that the things around me have some other secret story of their own before they arrived here that I’ll never really know.  But man, a DSLR camera body is a large, long term investment.  This thing has got to be ready for all the kinds of action I want to use it for.  And in this case, astrophotography would be tedious to fix, over and over and over in the years I’ll be using it.

    So yeah.  eBay camera got sent back to New Jersey and there’s a brand new T3i in the mail set to arrive on Thursday from B&H in NYC.

    A few wacky things worth mentioning:

    • the spots were red, blue, and white, meaning potentially sensor flaws and not just dust which should be dark spots
    • these spots only showed up in multi-second long exposures.  At any normal shutter speeds, they didn’t appear at all.  I took a series of test shots and knew exactly where to look.  They were definitely not there.  They didn’t show up in video either (makes sense, short shutter speeds).  Only long exposures.  Hmph.
    • it’s weird–there’s no way I would have caught this unless I was doing astrophotography.  And if I took single shots only, I probably still would not have noticed it.  But since I did time lapse astrophotography, where the stars moved, only then did I catch this.  Since this is an activity I want to get into, I can’t be havin’ those spots.  My night sky time lapse ought to be crystal clear, for the cash that these camera cost.
    • before I bought the T2i I sort of scoffed at the articulating screen, thinking it was not really necessary and just added to the price.  Having played with the T2i and made a few videos, I figured out how the articulating screen does have value.  It’d be useful for filming yourself.  And for low shots where the camera is almost on the ground.  And, ironically, for astrophotography, where the camera is pointed straight up at the sky.  The only way to see the T2i screen was to awkwardly get underneath the tripod.  So, having almost a week with the T2i, I was sold on the utility of an articulating screen.  T3i to the rescue.
    And the waiting game is well underway, AGAIN!

    Primo Vino Art: Petite Petit


    2011 - 08.01

    From the Michael David winery, check out the label for Petite Petit

    Three Ring Tastic!  There’s a lot to look at here.  As for the wine, as you might guess it’s a Petite Sirah, and it’s a pretty decent one.  Doubt I’ll be getting it again, but still, enjoyable.