Posts from June, 2009

Some Find the Virgin Mary, I Found the Devil

Posted Jun 29th, 2009 at 9:54 am in Photography | Comments Off

A burning candle captured my attention the other night. It was a great opportunity to take some pictures with very slow shutter speeds, and I quite enjoyed the results.

Candle

Candle

Near the end of my time taking pictures, I did find a unusual pattern in the candle. Smaller than a dime, this spot of wax on the candle looked like a face when the light passed through it. And naturally because of the fiery background that produced the silhouette, the image looked a little malevolent. I should have blown out the candle and tried hawking it on eBay.

Devil in the Candle

Tagged with: , ,

The Good Life

Posted Jun 26th, 2009 at 8:00 am in Cat Blogging, Photography | 2 Comments

It’s been too long since I posted pictures of Bruce. I’ve got some good ones, especially since he’s the most readily available subject when I want to get the camera out.

Here’s a shot that pretty much sums up his life.

The Bruce

He never misses an opportunity to take advantage of the brief time when the sun comes through a window.

The look on Bruce’s face reminds me of the line from Office Space where the main character is asked what he did when he missed work.

I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything that I thought it could be.

Tagged with: ,

A Drinking Problem

Posted Jun 25th, 2009 at 11:32 pm in Photography | 2 Comments

For the first time in my life, alcohol has caused me personal problems. I never thought it would, but only now do I see the error of my ways.

My wife had made a wonderful meal and suggested I take a couple of pictures of the food. (She likes to include pictures in her cookbook.)

A glass of wine, sitting on the stove, made for an irresistable photographic opportunity. The shadow it cast was interesting enough, but the light coming through the glass created these vivid red lines in the middle of the shadow.

Fifteen minutes later, I had a couple of pictures I was happy with and a wife that was none too happy with me for letting the food get slightly cold. (It was still good!)

wine glass with shadow

wine glass with shadow

As always, both pictures link to larger versions in the gallery, where a couple of additional photos are also posted.

Tagged with: , ,

Oooh, pretty flowers!

Posted Jun 23rd, 2009 at 10:18 am in Photography | 2 Comments

Amy and I went to San Antonio recently and one morning I got out the camera and started focusing on my mother-in-law’s flower beds (full gallery here).

One of the more successful techniques I discovered was taking pictures “through” another flower. I’d get the camera lens very close to say an orange flower and take pictures of the flowers behind it. Due to diffraction, the light waves bend around the closer flower so that you can still see what’s behind it.

The effect looks like an impressionist painting, where everything in the photo is soft as opposed to sharp and hard edges. This picture is probably the best I obtained and it hasn’t been altered beyond basic color correction.

Impressionist Flowers

I was also able get pictures like this. You’re seeing two yellow flowers through an orange flower.

Orange and Yellow Flowers

And the smorgasbord of colors allowed for endless compositions playing with the depth of field.

Flowers

Of course flowers weren’t the only thing in the garden. Amy’s parents have two cats that were interested in what I was doing. Here’s Zio.

Zio

And this would be Chester.

Chester

Tagged with: , , ,

White Paint in the Bathroom

Posted Jun 15th, 2009 at 10:56 pm in Photography | 1 Comment

I figure one way to become a better photographer is to force myself to find pictures even when nothing seems worth photographing. The person who painted our house did a horrible job. I noticed this small imperfection in the bathroom when the afternoon sun came in an casted a shadow.

White Paint

(For this particular picture, a dark background would have done it more justice.)

I also grabbed a shot of the toilet paper, taken laying flat on my back. I like the light vs shadows and the vertical vs horizontal lines.

Roll of Tiolet Paper

Taskbar Overlord Hilarity

Posted Jun 9th, 2009 at 9:30 am in Technology | 3 Comments

Since Taskbar Overlord, the small program I wrote to improve the Windows 7 taskbar has been linked to by LifeHacker, I’ve seen quite a bit of traffic to download the program.

A number of websites and forums on the internets have linked to the Taskbar Overlord post, and while some links are legitimate, many websites use an automated technology like an RSS feed to copy LifeHacker’s post verbatim. This is basically content theft, done in an attempt to increase their pagerank in search engines. People like this are disgusting parasites.

So when I’ve seen a link coming in, I’ve been checking them to see if they were real articles written by someone or stolen content. If the latter, they get deleted.

With this context in mind, another site linked to the Taskbar Overlord post this morning. Seeing that the page was in a different language, I was expecting the worst. It was however legitimate, and though I can’t read it, turned out to be one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a while.

Tagged with: , , , ,

An Old Rusting Refrigerator

Posted Jun 8th, 2009 at 8:45 am in Photography | Comments Off

An old rusting refrigerator in the backyard of a neighbor produced many good photographic opportunities recently. Everywhere I looked, different shapes, colors, and textures appeared.

Old Refrigerator

Rusted Refrigerator

Read the rest of this entry »

The Best Piece of Crap I Ever Bought

Posted Jun 5th, 2009 at 7:36 pm in Photography | 4 Comments

You’ll have to forgive me if you think the title crass. However, it’s appropriate. I’ve recently became the proud owner of Canon’s 50mm Mark II lens. Except for the glass, everything is made of plastic and feels like it might fall apart at any moment.

So why on earth buy such a thing? For one thing, it’s cheap at around $100. It’s also fast (in the parlance of photographers), at a maximum aperature of f1.8. This means you can shoot in much lower light when needed and blur the background to great affect. And because it’s not a zoom lens, it both takes very sharp pictures and makes you work a little harder by moving your feet to get closer or further away from your subject.

I’ve already gotten some fun pictures. (All of these link to larger versions in the photo gallery.)

I really like the sharpness of this garden gnome with the blurred colors of the flowers in the background. I have two more good shots in the photo gallery.

Garden Gnome

The Bruce is hard to take pictures of. He tends to either get come up to the photographer to be petted and held, ending any opportunities for pictures, or get annoyed and refuse to cooperate. He also moves around lot. So I was thrilled to get one of the better pictures I’ve gotten of him, half in shade, half in bright sun.

The Bruce

Our neighbor has a patch of Indian Blanket that yielded this colorful shot taken in somewhat low light.

Indian Blanket

Overall, I’m having a blast with the lens and if it falls apart after a few years, I’ve already got my eye on an upgrade.

Taskbar Overlord

Posted Jun 4th, 2009 at 7:04 pm in Technology | 109 Comments

I’ve been using the Windows 7 release candidate (still available from Microsoft) as my main and only operating system on both a desktop and laptop for the last month. I like it a lot.

One of the biggest differences is the new taskbar, where you can pin the programs you use most for easy access. In effect, the taskbar now handles application switching and launching. It also groups multiple windows of a program together under one icon, as seen in the screenshot below where two explorer windows are open. If you’re not an uber-nerd like myself and are hearing about this for the first time, you can read this brief overview of the taskbar’s new features.

Windows 7 Taskbar

My Two Issues

While the new taskbar is almost perfect, it’s inflexibility in a couple of areas really frustrated me.

First, I hate, and I mean hate the fact that when multiple windows of an application are open, clicking on the program icon pops up the thumbnail previews instead of restoring the last active window. I’m such an OCD multi-tasker that I could not get used to having to decide which window it was that I was working with. I also hate that it now takes two clicks to restore a minimized window instead of one. The inability to change this is all the more insulting since you can just hover over an icon and see the thumbnails when you need them. So why must clicking on the icon also show the thumbnails if I don’t want it to?

The second issue is simple enough. If you middle click on an icon, it opens a new window of that program. But you can already open new instances by holding down shift and left clicking. I wanted to middle click on an icon and close all of its windows, similar to how Firefox closes tabs if you middle click on them.

Taskbar Overlord – an AutoHotkey Solution

So I’ve written a little AutoHotkey script that takes care of this problem. Clicking on an icon restores the last used window and middle clicking an icon closes all windows. I’ve dubbed this program Taskbar Overlord.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tagged with: , , , ,

eBird Express Goes “Live”

Posted Jun 3rd, 2009 at 10:30 pm in Birding, Technology | Comments Off

eBird itself has now published a lengthy writeup on eBird Express, with a number of kind words directed my way.

Over the last few months, I’ve had a number of conversations with the good folks at eBird about eBird Express and how it should work. I want to give a big thank you to them as well, for I certainly couldn’t have made the tool as good as it (hopefully) is without their feedback.

One of the helpful tidbits they’ve provided in their post is another way to quickly download a list of species suitable for making your own template.

One quick and easy way to build a template species list for your area is to download the bar chart. Did you know that any bar chart you generate can be downloaded to a spreadsheet with a single click? Simply look for the “Download Historgram Data” at the bottom right portion of any eBird bar chart. By clicking this link you download the species list from the bar chart with weekly frequency values. If you are a wiz at excel, you can use the frequency values to pare the list down to the more frequent species in your area (try summing the frequencies and then sorting by that value). But regardless, it provides a quick way to generate a species list for your area with species names that correspond perfectly to eBird!

While I had suggested using Avibase in my tutorials as a source for bird checklists, eBird’s method is another great alternative.

New Template Repository

And speaking of templates, I’ve now added a page to download templates from. The nice thing is that I’m using an installer for these templates, so that when you download them, they will get put in the right directory automatically so that Excel can see them.

I also need your help. If you have additional templates which aren’t on this page, I’ve made a form for submitting them. All templates should be for national or state / province level checklists. Please do not send regional templates such as county checklists or park checklists.

I hope everyone enjoys using eBird Express, and if you have any questions or problems, let me know.

Tagged with: , ,