Sunday, December 09, 2012

Picture Post, Sunday December 9, 2012

I haven't done a Picture Post in a while.  And though it's over in the evening on Sunday, I'll post one anyway.  Not that anyone sees these any more, but I want to keep the blog alive, even if on machine life support...

I've actually taken some photos here and there recently.

These first two are the Christmas themed photos that I set up and shot for Lovely Wife's and my Facebook "cover" photos.  I hate trying to adapt regular photos for the slender slot available there, so I set out to create some purpose-made photos to fit the Facebook cover area.

I've been learning to use off camera flash in such a way as to look natural, as if I had some good sunlight available to use whenever and in whatever direction I want.  This first one was some of the first decorations that came out of our first box of ornaments we opened.  They were just set up for testing my studio (also known as the kitchen) and backgrounds and flash settings. But I thought this was a really pretty photo and it's now Lovely Wife's Facebook cover photo.

This one with Santa and the snowman, I had taken and cropped to be put on Facebook on December1, but I woke up November 30th with the idea in my head to add the cross shadow in the background.  I was pleased with the way it turned out. 

In mid November, Number One Daughter and I drove up to Titusville, Florida to go to Canaveral National Seashore.  We had never been, and the main road into the park runs along the northern border of Kennedy Space Center.  I had her pull off the road to let me take this photo of Launch Complex 39B.  Some of America's great space endeavours began right out there, just to the left of the water tower in the left half of the frame.  I think it is now being deconstructed.  It is the pad where the unfortunate Shuttle Challenger lifted from in 1986.

This is Canaveral Seashore itself.  We thought the cloud shapes and the light on them made them look like the dramatic entrance of the space ships of the alien invaders from the 1990s "Independence Day" movie.  Lovely nonetheless.

On the way back to Titusville and then on to home, we had to go back over the Max Brewer Causeway.  I asked Number One Daughter to pull off and let me take some night shots of the bridge since it was then lighted so nicely.  The crescent moon up there adds a nice spot of interest.  I absolutely LOVE the deep blue of a dusk-time sky.  I have a big, heavy tripod (as tripods go) but the wind was blowing so hard I had to adjust the shutter times and block the wind with my body just to get a couple of sharp photos.

God bless you all, and hope you're having a good Christmas season!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tascam DR-07mkii Case (Great Fit)

Public Service Announcement:
Ape Case for the Sony PSP game fits the Tascam DR-07mkii very well.

After years of struggling on my own, I started taking guitar lessons a few weeks ago.

I had learned chords and am a decent strummer and  can play many songs, but I never seemed to be able to get better than that; to figure out how to improvise and begin to play leads or anything with flair.

My instructor  asked me to buy a cheap digital voice recorder for him to sometimes play some chords for me to later practice improvising over.

I tried a voice recorder like used for meetings and recording lectures, but the thing is so tiny I could hardly read the screen and the tiny speaker sounded...tinny.

This is where my eBay addiction comes in handy.

Got a great deal on a Tascam DR-07mkii stereo digital recorder; it's big enough to see the writing on the screen easily and it can be connected to my computer to download and manipulate the recordings.


But, Tascam doesn't make a small padded case for the DR-07mkii.

Being the engineer, I carefully measured the Tascam recorder and went a-searchin' on them thar interwebs for a suitable case for my new electronic friend.

Ape Case makes a small padded case to fit the Sony PSP (Play Station Portable) 2000, 3000, etc., hand-held game device.

Based on several web site's measurements of this case, I ordered one.

The case is perfect for the Tascam DR-07mkii and the two elastic straps inside that are designed to hold the Sony PSP in place also work fine to hold the Tascam recorder in there..  The case also has room to put a USB cable and a couple of other flat-ish items like maybe a USB drive or something.

So, if you are searching the internet for a case for the DR-07mkii, the Ape Case for Sony PSP is a great case to fit the Tascam DR-07mkii along with a few accessories.

Amazon sells the Ape Case for Sony PSP cheaper new than what I could find on eBay.

Friday, August 03, 2012

A New Experience

Click on enclosed photos to enlarge

We live on the Atlantic coast of Florida, pert-near exactly half way between Jacksonville and Miami.

Big Sis on beach.
It's a sixteen hour drive to visit my family in Louisiana.  I don't see my family much.

In the two years since I had seen my Big Sis, she had gone from someone interested enough in photography to buy a nice Sony super-zoom point and shoot camera to take concert pictures of her many Keith Urban concert attendances, to someone who bought a nice Sony dSLR and had taken photography courses and become truly hooked on landscape photography.

Big Sis came and visited us in Palm Bay in mid-July. 

We had a lot of fun just cramming everyone in the car and going and seeing local stuff that she could not see in Louisiana.

Great Blue Heron.
Lots of bayous in Louisiana, hence lots of opportunity to photography many of the same birds we have down here.  But to her surprise, the same birds down here will let you get as close as ten feet or so before walking away to keep a distance from you and your camera.

Our birds are used to lots of people around, and in fact, they'll stand around near any fishermen, which are pretty much at every park and pier around here, and hope for some fish guts if the the fishermen catch anything.

Needless to say, we took hundreds of photos of birds, boats, sunsets, etc.

But it was just great to have her here, see her and talk with her.  The photography was just icing on the cake.

Amazing Sunset Ends Rainy Day
The first full day she was here will give you an idea of the kind of nice happenings that we encountered while she was here.

She got to our home late on a Tuesday night, so we all slept late the next day, lazed about the house and ate lunch.

By noon it had become overcast and rained a good portion of the afternoon.

Around 6pm, looking east from our home, we could see some blue sky out over the Atlantic.

Stand-up Paddle Boarder / Sunset
We piled in the car and headed toward the beach hoping that the rain would stop enough to get out and take some photos.

We went to the beach, and took some photos, and the clouds above us on the beach began to break up. (see first photo of Big Sis at top of page)

We moved to a park along the Indian River Lagoon (Intercoastal Waterway) where we hoped to see at least a mediocre sunset over the Lagoon.

What ended up happening was one of the best sunsets we have ever seen down here, and we've seen some doozies.

We had several different experiences like this, just getting out regardless of weather, and the weather would clear and create amazing vistas to photograph.

Her week here went by in a flash and it's hard to believe it's already been several weeks since she left.

But we all had a great time with her, and it was a new experience for me to have a close family member to talk photography with.  Lots of fun!

Gorgeous Colors Bring Unforgettable End to an Otherwise Rainy Day

Monday, July 09, 2012

Picture Post, Monday July 9, 2012

You would expect it to be hot in July in Florida, and you would be right.  But that's normal; no one here is blaming the heat on global warming.  It's summer, people!

Sunday June 8, over in the afternoon, after the worst of the heat, I really had the bug to go out and "photograph things."

It's like an itch that MUST be scratched.

One problem.  My back.  Bad day.

What to do?

Go out into the back yard where Lovely Wife was sitting in the shade and Number One Daughter was taking advantage of our swimming pool, and try to find some scenes to photograph in the beautiful slanting evening sunlight.

I was able to get some interesting enough photos to scratch my dire photography itch.

Metal Bird Feeder Holder Thingy with Butterfly Decoration.
 I had looked on them thar internets Sunday afternoon and went through some "slide" shows of mostly street photography.   As a person not from a big city, I have always been fascinated with the slice-of-life views of city street life, especially in black and white.  (Though today's politically correct term for "black and white" photos is now "monochrome."  The term "black and white photography" is deemed by some to be too close to racist.)

After viewing all of that street photography inspiration, I was going to photograph something, even if it was just medicine bottles on my dresser top.  Thankfully, the back yard and the lovely evening sun held enough interesting things to try to photograph in interesting ways to avoid photographing medicine bottles.

I hope you, my occasional visitors, enjoy a few of them.
Lilly Stops at My Feet and Smiles While I Take a Wide Angle Shot of Our Yard.
Hibiscus (I think) Bloom, Framed by the Screened Enclosure Beams.

New Pretty Purple Flowers, Potted by Lovely Wife.
Hummingbird Banner Decoration, White Fence, and Blue Sky.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fill 'er Up! Living With A Pain Pump.

Went to the back doctor's office yesterday. (Monday)

Got my pain pump refilled.

So my surgically implanted tank is topped off with a very, very, very, very controlled substance.

At the present rate the pump bathes my spinal fluid in this extra liquid, I'm good until the second week of October.

But just to be safe they scheduled me for a refill at the end of September.

They don't want me to come too close to running completely out.

Running out would most likely put me in the hospital, so I'm good with their strict scheduling to ensure that I DON'T run out.

As usual, they had to stick the needle in and then hunt around for the small rubber fill port on the pain pump, but it hurts no more than a wasp sting, which, in turn, hurts infinitely less than my normal back pain.  So, no worries there.

They usually have to stick my arm two or three times to get a vein when giving blood as well, so I guess I'm one of "those people" to the phlebotomists of the world.

Anyhoo, it's good to know the pump is full.  When you get down to the last few days before it is empty, and we cut it close this time, you can't help but worry that something will happen to prevent the refill and it completely run dry.

But it's way better than the time-released oral medicines I used to take.  Easier on my liver and kidneys too since the pain pump dose is tiny compared to the oral dose I once took, and the pain pump medicine goes directly into my spinal fluid anyway so that's a lot of medicine my organs no longer have to process and yet I get better pain relief this way.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Picture Post, Sunday June 12, 2012

Personal Note: Been a long time since I've felt like doing a Sunday Picture Post, people.  I'm excited to have the correct frame of mind for enjoying blogging again.  The pace of blogging is much more my style than is the snake pit that is Facebook.  (The people on Facebook are great, but the program itself is the least intuitive piece of software I've ever had the misfortune to try to work with.  I invariably get irritated and leave Facebook after only a little while.)

This first photo was taken at Space View Park in Titusville, Florida.  Notice NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building across the water.  As a child I loved the whole "space" thing in America.  I still get a kick out of seeing stuff like this. At this park there are monuments to the different space programs, Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, with a Space Shuttle Program monument under construction  They also have hand prints and signatures of all the astronauts who were still living when the park was dedicated several years ago.

This black and white photo was taken outside the fence of a beautiful, historic old home in Titusville, Florida.  The yard of the home was expertly manicured, while a few inches away on the outside of the fence was runaway weeds.  Total lawn care failure there, folks.

Colorful set of old buildings with hip, modern businesses in them.  Titusville, Florida.

 Lovely Wife watches the sunrise with me a couple of weekends ago.  Taken along the Crane Creek Promenade and Manatee Viewing Area in Melbourne, Florida.  We saw no manatees though.  The sunrise had to suffice.  (P.S.  Now that we have hot weather, the manatees have moved out of these creeks and such and into the Indian River Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean.)

I thought the "desaturated" look, applied to this photo looked better than my original color and later black and white tries.  The hand-made direction sign and the desaturated look make me think of old family 35mm slides.  Taken at the Melbourne Harbor Marina in Melbourne, Florida.

Y'all have a blessed Sunday!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Angel, My Own Cute Overload

This is Angel, my seven pound buddy.

She follows me around as if I'm the most interesting thing of all.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Leaning Over Backwards (including color photos!)

Photographic truth:  if you take a photo of a building with a wide-angle lens and point that lens up a bit to "get all of it in" then your final photo will have the building look as if it's falling over backwards.

Not only that, but I, personally, have a problem wherein I tend to take photos with the left side of the camera down, i.e., my photos many times lean to the right.

I have wondered why a third of my photos lean to the right because I have the left side of the camera too low when I press the shutter.  All I can come up with is that I'm left-eyed.  Cameras are obviously made for right-handed people, and most right-handed people are right-eyed, BUT, I AM right-handed and LEFT-EYED.  My massive cranium is in a different position than a right-eyed person looking through the viewfinder.  I think this allows me to perceive that my horizons are level when they aren't.

All I can do about that is to continue to remind myself to watch my leveling when I take pictures.  (I've read that many real photographers hate the phrase "taking pictures" and prefer to say "making photographs," but that's how most people say it, and they know what you mean by "taking pictures"  and I feel pretentious when I make myself say "making photographs."  I blame my Louisiana public school upbringing. Rant over.)

 Anyway, back to the subject of wide angle photos of buildings resulting in the leaning-backwards look.

Here's a photo of mine from last week that exhibits both of the problems I've mentioned; the wide-angle leaning-back look, and also my personal issue of dropping the left side of the camera.

Historic Pritchard House, Titusville, Florida.
See?  The house leans back because of the wide angle lens pointed a bit upward, and leans to the right because I have trouble keeping my camera straight.  This how the photo looks just off of the camera, except for the border and copyright notice I added.

But most modern digital photo manipulation programs, I currently use Photoshop Elements 9 (thanks Big Sis!!), have a "perspective correction" set of tools to correct the leaning back issue, and I used these perspective correction tools to repair the back lean in this photograph.   I also used these tools in this case to level the photo from my leaning of the camera.  (There's an easier leveling tool to us in Elements, but since I was already using the perspective control tools, I chose to rotate and level the photo there instead of the other leveling tool. I use as few tools and steps as I can to fix any problems.)

Here is a screen capture of my work on this photograph within Photoshop Elements 9:

Adjusting the perspective (and leveling) to correct this image.
You'll notice that the photo itself is now all kinds of bent and twisted, no longer a neat rectangle.  But the grid lines, along with the various sliders there on the right allowed me to level and rotate the house and "tip the house toward me" so that the vertical lines on the edges of the home are straight up and down, correcting the leaning-back look.  Notice that the image now looks as if I had a print of it in front of me and leaned it toward me until the house no longer leaned back.

Then I just had to crop the photo back into a rectangle, losing a bit of the photo all the way around, put my border and copyright on it, and save it in it's new and improved (to me) form, here:

New and improved photo of the Pritchard House.

So along with getting into the habit of making sure all my photos are level, I need to learn to leave more room around my main subject to allow for a little cropping after using the perspective correction tool.

Making those two corrections in my photo taking, and getting better with my computer "darkroom" skills, will make life easier when wanting to corrects an age old problem in photography, the leaning-backwards building.

In all the years I shot photos on slide and print film, the leaning-backward building was just a part of life.

Yet another reason I love modern digital cameras and our digital darkrooms on our computers!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Nuts! Guitar Nuts, That Is

Warning!  Boring guitar information ahead.
Samick strat, nut making trial subject.

When you are on a budget, and want expensive things, you can save and save and buy that expensive, quality guitar, or you can also look to find less expensive guitars.

I have chosen the latter course over the years.

I have several cheap guitars that were made of quality woods.  The manufacturers cut costs by using cheap hardware such as the tuning keys, bridges, and electronics.

Over time, I have slowly bought a quality set of pickups here, a quality set of tuning keys there, etc., and upgraded these inexpensive guitars to where they are pretty close to first-rate in quality at every point.

One problem though.

One of THE most important parts of a guitar is the nut.  That's the little sliver of plastic (on cheap guitars) where the strings come from the headstock and the tuning keys and lay in slots cut into the nut.

New nut, after initial shaping, slotting.
Other than wanting your guitar to have great tone, you want it to "play" good.  To feel good in your hands and for the strings to be easy to press down to the frets, yet not be so close that they buzz on adjacent frets, a sign that the nut slots were cut too deep.

A guitar string is suspended from the nut, and doesn't touch anything until it is suspended at the other end at the bridge.  Between these two points, a guitar string can vibrate.

I have upgraded my several inexpensive guitars over the years with new pickups and wiring and other hardware, to the point where they all sound GREAT.

But that nagging problem of a cheap nut with hastily cut slots of improper depth kept my guitars from also FEELING great when I played them.

So, also over time, I bought a small set of files, a few pieces of cow bone that where pre-cut to just bigger than a guitar nut needs to be, and I also read how-to's on shaping and slotting guitar nuts over and over and over.

A few weeks ago I finally started with my cheapest guitar, a $50 purchase from a friend at work, a Samick super-strat style guitar.  Shaped and looks much like a Fender Stratocaster with higher output pickups, but is a cheap copy by someone else.

I loosened and moved the strings out of the way and took off the old nut.  (How isn't important)
Finished slotted, shaped nut, installed.

I roughly shaped the piece of bone I had to where it was as close to the same dimensions as the original nut, and also began the slots in the new nut.

I then installed the new nut onto the guitar, and using the techniques from all my repeated reading of nut making articles, carefully cut each slot to the correct width and correct depth for each string.

After resetting the strings and playing a bit to make sure all was well, I moved the strings again and sanded down the top of the nut to where the strings were actually partially out the the slots.

The slots and the pressure of the tight strings keep the strings in the slots, but having the strings about half way buried in the slot when in place helps keep the string from being snagged or caught in the slot, which creates tuning problems.

After the success of my first, cheapest guitar nut replacement, I was able to confidently make new nuts for my other guitars over the course of a week or so.  (I can only sit there doing this for short periods, and had to take frequent back relieving breaks.)

This was the final step in upgrading my cheap guitars, but every one of them now sounds and plays much like guitars costing many times what I paid for them, including new parts.

Good times, good times.
Ready for years of easy play!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Eugene Polley Died this Week! (May 23, 2012)

(Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune / January 8, 2006)

Couch potatoes the world over engage in a moment of reverent silence to remember the inventor of the TV remote control, Eugene Polley.

He died at the age of 96 in Chicago a couple of days ago.

In 1935 Eugene Polley started work with Zenith as a stock clerk, and eventually his natural engineering genius led him to receive 18 (eighteen!!!!!) patents and rose to the level of assistant chief of their mechanical engineering group.

Awesome for a college drop-out.

R.I.P. Mr. Polley, ya done good.

(Here's an L.A. Times article about Mr. Polley if you want to know more...)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My World Has Gotten Small

Mr. Spike, miniature poodle, hoodie up.

(sprinkled throughout this post are some of the photos I took today, click to enlarge them)

I really haven't blogged in a while.

I keep trying to start again, but life keeps intervening and I slack off and then stop.

I loved blogging and keeping up with other's blogs, It's all done at the perfect pace for me.  Or at least the me of a few years ago.

Now even the blogger's pace is too fast for me to keep up.

Most of my life I have had a very high pain tolerance.  I could shake off mashing a finger, flat-out ignore stubbing a toe, calmly clean and bandage a cut, and put salve on a burn and go back to cooking or whatever.

So lately I've been really trying to fight harder to deal with my back pain like I do with a smashed finger, but it's much harder to just ignore and keep moving with the back pain.

There are levels of pain that can absolutely shut a person down, period.  Trying to ignore massive pain is like trying to tell a person in deep depression to "just snap out of it."  Those words are less than useless to a depressed person, likewise, even the most concentrated effort of will is not enough to override certain pain levels.

Arm out window paparazzi style shot.
I hope you never, ever, ever feel this kind of physical pain.

The past few years, my back pain had gotten to the point that it pretty much ruined my life in many ways.

A life-long love of photography and the simple joy of going to places and taking long, meandering walks with my camera came to a screeching halt.

Daily I count my blessing, and make no mistake, I am blessed with a great wife, kids, house, pets, family, etc., but daily chronic pain makes the entire experience of living like trying to do intricate, tedious work with a police siren in the room.

I can't sit at the computer to work in Photoshop Elements very long, and that's just as fun to me as taking the photos in the first place.  I was BORN to be a digital photographer, and the pain just "crimps my style" in almost every aspect of life.  All those years with print and slide film and darkroom work were fun, but I love the digital photography of today so much more.

I have a Facebook account, but don't find that very fun.  It's a blessing to keep up with long-lost friends from high school, or old work-mates that I hadn't seen in many years, but something about it doesn't get me excited.  Working on Facebook seems more like a chore than fun.  Mainly because the interface is so unintuitive to me that just adding photos to a particular photo album takes me long enough to want to just give up.

Mercury 7 Astronaut Memorial, Titusville, Florida
 Today, I had to get ready and Number Two Daughter took me to an appointment in Titusville, about a 40 minute drive from home.

Since I was up and out and heading to a place I don't go often, I took my camera.

After taking care of business, we went to Space View Park in Titusville, on the Indian River Lagoon, on the mainland directly across from Kennedy Space Center.

You can see the huge Vehicle Assembly Building across the waterway on the beachside island.
Gemini Astronaut Memorial. See NASA Vehicle Assembly. Building in distance (right side)?
At this park, which is in several sections, are monuments to the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs and the astronauts and workers that were involved.  The monument to the Space Shuttle program is presently under construction.

Apollo Astronaut Memorial. Earth and Moon represented on the A's cross.

The park is so spread out that, for me, it was a very hard but incredibly enjoyable time of taking photo and walking with my daughter.  By the end though, I kept noticing that I was walking stooped over like an elderly man.

It was fun, but it hurt.

That pretty much sums up my life right now.  I'm blessed and thank God for all my blessings daily, but to do a simple thing like get out and slowly walk around for an hour or so leaves me pleased but hurting.

I guess all I can do is get up tomorrow, and if the pain is just low enough, try my best to do something else that I want to do.

My world and my thoughts are much smaller than they used to be.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Vicks Melts Boogers Best

This Is A Public Service Announcement.

I have sleep apnea and sleep with a CPAP machine to aid breathing while sleeping. (CPAP=Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)

If one's nose is even the slightest bit stopped-up, the CPAP makes you feel as if someone is suffocating you.

So, gotta clear those nasal passages!

After trying Afrin, Flonase, and every major brand and every store brand nose spray, I can say with confidence that Vicks Sinex Ultra Fine Mist melts boogers best.  It's not even close.

If by some miracle some employee of Vicks sees this, feel free to use this statement in your advertisements.

It's flat-out better to sleep without the dang CPAP if you can't clear your nose.

Only one problem.  Vicks Sinex Ultra Fine Mist is the most expensive nose spray.  It works great but costs way too much for such a small bottle.

I know, dumb subject for a blog post, but if you EVER use a nose spray, Vicks Sinex Ultra Fine Mist is THE best.  Period.

If your nose starts stopping-up when you lay down, like mine does, just go buy the Vicks.  It lasts all night.