Sunday, February 11, 2018

The bicycle fleetA40

After last posting, I decided to move to bi-weekly posting, and this is for a couple of reasons, one is to actually allow myself the time to write the postings, keep working on ImageFix and to reduce the number of actual topics I need to come up with.

So this week I will attack the bicycle fleet, I actually have two bicycles, they are quite different beasts, at least they started out that way. First is the 2004 Norco Bushpilot. This is designed as a mountain bike or all terrain bike. 8 speeds in the rear and 3 in the front, although it’s called a 24 speed, it’s really 8 speeds in 3 ranges, Low range is used for going uphill, the middle range on the flats, and high range going down hill. It’s not a particularly fast bicycle, but that may have more to do with the “motor”, more then anything else. It’s a little on the heavy side, and passed the half century mark more then half a decade ago…. The bike needs some work, suspension forks are made for 70kg riders, not 100kg+, so it needs to be replaced or repaired, and they can’t really be repaired. Not only is the motor heavy, so is the bicycle, it’s about 16kg.

The other bicycle, is quite different, built by Raleigh in Canada, at their Waterloo, Quebec plant in 1975, it’s a classic style road bicycle, it’s built for speed, it has six gears in each of two ranges. These are controlled by manual down tube shifters, thinner tires, and 700C aluminum wheels running Presta tubes, the gearing is quite high, it’s a bike for August when you are already in cycling shape, not when your just coming out of Hibernation, and are at “winter” weight. All decked out, this bike is around 12kg.

The Raleigh was being tossed out by a neighbour, so I essentially got it for free. I completely disassembled the entire bicycle, then reassembled it, replacing some parts like brake pads, cables, cable housings, tires and tubes. The image this week, is the Raleigh upon completion of the rebuild, later the same summer I changed out the shifters, then replaced the 27” rusty chrome wheels with some 700C aluminum ones. This weekend when it’s forecast to snow for 4 solid days, thinking about bicycles and getting out to ride, seems a long way away, but it isn’t. Another month I expect the Norco to see the sun the first time since last fall.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

My Custom Software introducing Imagefix

his week is going to be unusual, in that I am heading a different direction, entirely.

As an old computer geek, I realized the other day, I have been working with or playing with computers for 40 years, about the same amount of time, I have been playing with cameras. Since I have spent much of that time, programming computers, when I can’t find the appropriate tool, I write one. This usually starts as a sketch in code, that is quick, dirty and ugly from a code perspective. Then I clean that up and turn it into a proper program.

Such was the issue a few years ago, I wanted a tool that would do a few things, in a manner that would be consistent, in other words if I wanted a certain tone, I wanted to just indicate it, rather then needing to remember how I did it the last time. There were also things like adding a watermark, I want it to be the same each time, tools like Gimp and Photoshop are great, but you need to keep notes, if you want things applied in a consistent manner, especially when other features may not be consistent each time.

So, because of this desire, I wrote a program to do this. I called it Imagefix, eventually I hope to make it publicly available, but alas not yet. I am not quite sure how I want to have the finished product, right now it’s a collection of command line parameters, but I might switch to using a windowed system, where there is a dialog box that you select the options with and it poops out the results in another file.
Realistically I would like it to be both, which could be one program, that if you pass it command line options, it assumes you want text mode, and if you don’t you want graphical mode. This is all stuff I need to decide in the next month or so. Eventually it will also need to be more platform agnostic, either it will need to be rewritten in a language like Python or Java, most likely Python, or will need a generic build process, for the current C++ version, other then the Gnu Make that I use right now. I expect a Linux only Beta by summer, and possibly something that is packaged ready for the public in a year.

This weeks image is from some woods in 2007, don't remember anything about it.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Why I use a Linux Computer

I originally built my computer in 2007, using what then were decent reasonably up to date components. However I didn’t want to pay for Microsoft Windows, a platform that I had been working with off an on since Version 3.0 some 27 years ago. As a computer geek, and not wanting to spend several hundred dollars for an operating environment I didn’t particularly like, since it would have been Windows XP anyway….. That would have required several large hardware upgrades along the way.

I remembered using Linux before, when operating systems came on a whole series of diskettes, I at one time had the 10 or so disks for Windows 3.1 and the 20 or so for OS/2 and I think Slackware which came in at 15 or so. So in building my computer I downloaded a couple of new Linux versions, Ubuntu and Fedora. I later settled on Fedora, most likely Fedora 8 (Werewolf), it’s currently running Fedora 27, which is the latest release, and still runs fine on my decade old hardware. Yes it has had a memory upgrade from 2GB to 4GB, the original on-board video chip was updated to a more modern video card, and it’s originally 150GB hard drive, was upgraded to a 512GB and then a 1TB drive. It had some case fans added, and an upgrade to the CPU cooler.

So why not a Mac? There is nothing a Mac can do, that this machine can’t, except maybe run some Microsoft software, where there are just as good, if not better alternatives. For photography there are some heavyweights, like GIMP. There are also for old computer guys like me amazing visual libraries like ImageMagick and GraphicsMagick, for programmers to be able to build software modules, while these modules are often available for Mac and Windows, the software that ties them together is more complex and harder to use. Where Linux which is a variation on the theme of Unix makes these tools much easier to use.

In the early days, there was a lot of hardware that would not work, and many of the installers were horrible, but this has all changed in the 20 years or so, since I first saw Linux. Most hardware works out of the box, even a Microsoft Webcam that I have worked out of the box. Installers are much nicer now, with much of the installation process being automatic, it’s not uncommon for a machine to boot into the installer, then install everything and reboot into the completed OS at the end. If you have an older computer, and Windows will not run on it anymore, try Linux; you might like it.

This weeks image is a cropped version of one from 2014 of a Red Wing Blackbird, this was actually taken in High Park in Toronto, during the Cherry Blossom time, so June. I often save crops, and assign them a letter after the usual number, such as this one.

To quote the words of the mighty Porky Pig:

That's all folks


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Camera Filters and Accessories.

Once upon a time, photographers had dozens of filters, for black and white, the most common were Red, orange and yellow, for colour we often had filters that allowed daylight film to be used in indoors (80A a blue fliter) and the 85 or 85B (orange), which allowed Tungsten film to be used outside. Then there were filters that could be used with both, such as the 1A, UV, ND filters, graduated ND and there were even FL-D and FL-W which could be used with fluorescent light, to take away it’s greenish tinge.
Many of those filters are not needed anymore, digital cameras can be setup to use white-balance, where the camera can work around colour casts. Cameras can automatically adjust “film speed” to negate the need for ND filters, and HDR (High Dynamic Range) has replaced the graduated ND. Cameras and software can replicate all kinds of effects.

There are a few we still use, the Polarizing filter can remove glare from an water or a window, to allow the camera to see through shiny surfaces. A Skylight (1A) filter can still remove the haze you see in some telephoto images. It can also be handy, as a lens protector, it’s much better to scratch the front of a $30 filter, then a $300 or $3,000 lens. You do need to check them once in a while, to make sure that you haven’t damaged the filter, and they should probably not be tight on the lens at all times.

Filters were one of those accessories we all had, and while you need a lot fewer now, some of the other accessories can still be handy. If you like using big telephoto lenses, then a tripod can be critical, if you like really sharp images, the tripod can work there too. For compact use, nothing beats a monopod, which is basically a 1 legged tripod, you attach the camera, and use your own body as the other two legs.

An accessory that goes well with the tripod, is a remote release, this allows you to trip the shutter without touching the camera, in the old days this was either a cable release that threaded onto the shutter release. There were also pneumatic versions, where you had a similar screw on unit, attached to a cylinder with an air line and a squeeze bulb on the end. Many cameras still have a B shutter speed, where holding the release allows for, the shutter remaining open until you release it. With modern electronic cameras there is often an accessory socket, that takes a electronic release. Some of these have a “hold” option. I recently added one of these for my T5.

The one best accessory for any camera that uses specialized batteries, is a spare battery, name brand batteries can be expensive, third party work-a-likes can be much cheaper and work just as well.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Shooting in snow.

Snow can be both a blessing and a curse. It can be a blessing, because it covers a multitude of dirt, garbage, dog poop and other sins that make your image look messy and complicated. It can be a curse, when your exposure is off and most of your image is a white blob.

The reason you get a white blob, is that you have part of your image that is too bright, typically the snow. This is usually referred to as a blown highlight, by the same token if it’s on the dark parts of the image it’s a blocked shadow. If you want some texture in your snow, you can intentionally under expose the image, which on most newer DSLR cameras can be done by setting the exposure to be 1 stop under. You need to be careful though that by underexposing the highlights, you don’t block up the shadows. If that is the case, you can always bracket your exposure taking one two stops under exposed, one at proper exposure and one over exposed, then use an HDR technique called tone mapping to combine the 3 images, the software that does this, needs a lot of computer horsepower, so you don’t want to do it on every image, with an older computer. Some cameras can be set to automatically bracket the exposure.

Few images need that much alteration, and often just taking the exposure and dropping a stop, will give the snow some detail, without affecting other parts of your image too much. Focus has some to do with it, if your depth of field leaves the snow out of focus, your going to get a white blob anyway, so you might just let it go.

Since most of my stuff is B&W, and there is a decided lack of colour, I sometimes add a little to make things interesting, through the use of toning. This is digitally simulated these days, for a specific look. If you want an image to look warm you apply a brownish tone, like the sepia tone of 19th and early 20th century images. If you want a cold feel, you use a bluish tone. This weeks image has a very light bluish tone, intended to make it’s snow appear colder then it normally would. Different metals can be used, including iron, copper and gold, the colour of the metalic image doesn’t appear to be similar to the colour of the polished metal. This weeks image has a slight blue tone, to make it feel colder then it would as a standard black and white image.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Plans for the New Year

I know I got overly busy at the end of this year, and had to go on hiatus during the Christmas season. I will try to get a few ahead, so that we don't have to take a number of weeks off at the end of the year. We may also start doing some bicycle related stuff, as that was part of the original concept here. There may be a couple of those over the winter, but expect that to get going more once bicycle season returns, which around here is April to May. I need to get all the bicycles tuned up, and get riding again.

The plan is to plan articles 2 months ahead, and then writing them a month ahead, so it only takes a short while on a weekly basis to post, and if I have something like a vacation coming up, or a busy period, I can queue a few weeks up, and let the scheduler sort them out. I might consider an income mechanism, either ads on the site or a Patreon, like mechanism. This would allow me some investment, like a domain, and would allow me to put more time into it, and to write longer articles with more detail.

This past year was kind of a failure, I got going again, and then went on hiatus, because I was not prepared for what was going to happen at the end of the year. Mistakes are not the problem, it’s when you don’t learn from your mistakes, that you have a problem. What I learned was that the weeks leading up to Christmas can be extremely busy, both personally and at work, so you need a lead time, to get stuff done. In order to prevent those same issues in 2018, I have planned articles to the beginning of February at this point, and would like to get planned up to the beginning of March this week, get January 7th in the bag, and January 14th outlined. January 7th will be about shooting when there is snow about. I really would also like articles to be longer, at least 400 words, a few in 2017 fell far short of that.

In case your wondering, I actually write the text using LibreOffice, which has better spell checking, and text tools. I then do the images separately and have them ready, so I can pump the whole thing into Blogger, from a couple of files, then the only issue is to do the layout and it’s done.   

This weeks image is an old favourite from back in 2003, it's a winter shot on film, I think using the TC as it's originally from a colour negative.

Hope you had a merry Christmas, and all the best in 2018!


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Don't put your camera away for the Winter

While most people who ride bicycles will put them away, and people swap from roller skates to ice skates, yeah I know rollerblades replaced roller skates, but roller skates does rhyme better....  Your camera doesn't need to go away with them.

There are a couple of things you do need to consider when it's cold out though.  First of all, batteries don't like cold, so you may want to keep a second camera battery in an inside pocket, even a cold battery when it's brought into a warm place, can regain some power.  If your camera and batteries are older, than you may want to replace the batteries with new ones.  I always put the date on a battery when it enters service, as I can have several batteries that look the same, and not remember which one is the oldest.

Second of all, cameras don't like wet, cold air holds less moisture than warm air, a cold surface will chill the air immediately next to it, so don't open your camera bag until it has had time to warm up.  This will keep moisture from condensing on the camera and lenses, it will condense on the outside of the bag instead.  The best cold weather camera hat I ever had, was the old Konica TC, the mechanical parts didn't seem to mind the cold, and it worked fine using Sunny 16 type exposure, even with colour negative film.  The FC-1 hated the cold, the 300D didn't seem to mind it, except when the batteries were old, they tended to go flat fairly quickly.  LCD screens are okay to about -20℃ or about  -4℉, although, you can keep a chemical hand warmer in your bag, and just take the camera out, make your shots, and back into the bag, or keep the camera inside clothing.

The image this time, is from the great ice storm of December 2013, when most of southern Ontario was covered in ice, which led to wide scale power outages, although the storm occurred on December 20th, it was New Years before the power was on everywhere.  About a week before we moved, the new house had a total outage of maybe 10 minutes, the old one was out for over a week.  This little twig got a coating of ice. 

I hope to get another posting in, this month, will see you then.  Not sure about December yet, December can be brutally busy, I will try to get in two, but may only get in one. 

See you then,  W.