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.