Archive for July, 2008


Blech.  Got back this morning at 1am.  Worked at 9.  I’m tired.


I’ll have a mosaic up sooner or later of a bunch of billboards for a place that I would have to assume can give Disney a run for it’s money.


So here’s a filler image of a dinner I made myself a while back.  Pretty easy stuff, and the anchor between the two dishes is Balsamic Vinegar; which when cooked has this very layered sweetness that permeates the meat and ravioli.  For the ravioli I chose a broccoli and cheese variety – unfortunately prepackaged since I lack the equipment to make my own.  Whenever I am able to make my own I may try this dish with a broccoli and provolone filling, or some kind of asparagus with a creamy cheese.  Definitely not anything with the same kind of bite as parmesan – I don’t want to have the flavors competing.  The only thing I’ll change in regards to the chicken – which was marinated for ten minutes or so in the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and rosemary; would be to add shallots to the marinade, and do a pan saute on both sides to sear it for a few minutes and finish it in the oven.  The outer part had a great texture, then there was a leathery section before you got the really good stuff.  Unfortunately, the flavors didn’t permeate completely through.


Next up is a pork loin with a garlic risotto.  Not sure what I’m going to do with the pork loin, though.  Maybe bread and bake it, or poach it.  If you ever cook pork – any kind of pork – always remember to brine it first.  We’ve bred pigs to be very lean, and that means taking a hit on flavor.  Brining it (salt + water + flavor + time) will give it a desirable blast in the juicy department.


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I don’t know when I’ll be back again….


Actually, that’s not true.  I’ll be back Monday.  My cousin is having a wedding on saturday, and has enlisted me to be the photographer for some very good reasons:

  • I’m available
  • I’m really good
  • Like, really good
  • I’m free
So obviously I’ll be going.  The trick will be to shoot an indoor situation with a lens that only stops down to 3.5.  I could lug around my tripod, but that’s rather tacky.  So Em and I will pack up the car, mosey on down to Jacksonville Florida (where the beer flows like wine), and watch my cousin marry some guy I’ve never seen before.
I’m looking forward to 100 degree heat, 120% humidity, and wearing a full suit.  I hate Florida.  I think the hot air acts like a preservative.
In other news, I bought Emily an iPod.  It’s only fair, she dropped serious coin on my camera, it seems right that I spend a fraction of that and get her something she’ll sparingly use.  Or so she tells me.  Emily rolls her eyes when I tell her about some new thing I want to get because I know the value of it.  She folds her arms and says, “whatever cutie”.  But I don’t falter, I don’t fail.  She’ll use this iPod for 10 minutes and realize it’s the greatest thing she’s ever had.  Hell, she took it out of the box and wouldn’t let me plug it in – she kept looking at it and saying how cool it feels.
So if you remove every feature from the item, I still succeed in getting her a great gift.  I am fucking good.
In case you are wondering, that shot above is one you see in National Geographic all the time.  You take a picture of running water with the aperture as closed as possible on an ISO as low as possible.  This means that you are forcing the camera to have the shutter open for a long time to compensate for the lack of light and sensor sensitivity.  Throw in moving water, and you get that cottony type feel to it.  It looks spectacular with waterfalls and rapids.

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So this technique is pretty stellar.  Using a combination of bracketed exposure, a tripod, and Photoshop, you can achieve an image that’s far closer to what our eye sees than what a camera can capture.  Relatively easy, the real work is done in post – where I have very limited experience.


Essentially, the human eye is a wonder to behold.  Every second, your eye is making thousands of small changes and alterations to itself to better discern the world around you.  Focus, brightness, movement, it’s all captured and ‘exposed’ perfectly in real time.  Unfortunately a camera can’t do this.  It can’t look at each detail and perfectly expose every section to get an image that directly represents the location you saw.  So you have to get essentially an average – a shot that best represents the scene as a whole.  But when you do that, you lose the details.


One way to get around this is to basically take multiple images and merge them in post.  One would be overexposed to capture the detail in the shadows, one would be normal (the ‘base’ image), and one would be underexposed to get more detail in the highlights.  You would combine these images together and tell the computer to take the base image, and average the curves of all 3 so you get a better representation of the scene.  You could go further and take even more images (5, 7, always an odd number to ensure it’s evenly under/over exposed), each a certain level away from the ‘base’ image, and get an even more accurate representation.


This technique has a few drawbacks:


  • It can only be done on a camera with bracketed exposure, that basically leaves ‘prosumer’ SLR’s and up – although I know some of the entry level SLR’s are starting to pick this feature up
  • The subject has to be stationary, if it’s moving, the differing images will throw off the final image
  • It has to be done with a tripod, the human hand is just not steady enough
  • You can’t make adjustments in the field – it’s all brought together in post (unless you’re carting around a laptop)
In certain situations, I really like it.  It has great potential to do some amazing things – just search on flickr for ‘HDRI’.
What I shot above is this great little spot in the Cleveland Metroparks, and unfortunately it doesn’t really do the technique justice.  The saturation is lost in the leaves because they were moving in the slight breeze, and the sky is ‘bleeding through’ when the images were composited together.  The real difference is in the ground, stairs, and the treebark.  You can see in the image on the right, it was shot at an ISO of 250 for half of a second.  During that time, you can see the noise that built up in the darker areas that the sensor was trying to make sense of.
My next step is to try an HDRI image in RAW format and see what happens.  I may have some time later today during my lunch, so I’ll head out to the park or something – something with a good amount of color and detail.
Ideally, the next step forward would be a digital sensor that was capable of multiple exposures for each shot.  Once the camera shutter was opened, you could divide up the sensor in a matrix pattern to grab different exposure levels for each shot.  Since it’s done digitally, you wouldn’t have to worry about the noise that comes from turning up the ‘gain’ on current analog sensors.  This would allow you to take an image of something – anything, and have it be an HDRI image, thus rendering photos we’ve taken now grainy and obsolete.  They would have greater detail and look absolutely fantastic, since they’ll able to more closely recreate what the human eye is capable of.  Then that technology would be transferred to movies, for obvious reasons.

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Saturday Emily and I took Hershey to my Aunt and Uncle’s.  Good times were had, jokes were made, stories shared, but this is not about then.


We played with our cousins, and my nephew; batting around a tennis ball, playing badminton, and even losing a game of ‘baggo’ a trademarked version of cornhole.  But this is not about that either.


The purpose of this tale, this rather odd blog post I never thought I’d be writing, is concerning my dog.  And a slide.


We took my nephew to the park, to run around and use up some of my, and his, child-like energy.  Played on the monkey bars, ran around a jungle gym, and in general had fun.  Emily climbed to the top of a small tower by hopping up a series of platforms to reach the pinnacle of a spiral-slide.  Coaxing Hershey up there, she had plans to take the dog down with her.  Emily does these things all the time; using her power as ‘alpha female’ to coerce the dog into doing things she might not…. well, let’s just say Emily has more fun than the dog.


But not this time.


For some reason, that orange spiral slide was something that Hershey had a strange affinity to.  To be perfectly succinct, she went on that thing 6 times before we finally made her stop.  I’ve never seen her do anything like it before.  Emily went on it once, Ny once, and the dog just kept going.  She got to the bottom, turned around, ran up the platforms and slid down again.  Six times.


I’m perplexed.  I understand the love affair with the rope, her chewy bone, the kong (woobie, for our regular readers), and even ice cubes.  They each reinforce an evolutionary drive that she has been given regarding her status as a member of the canine family.


But a slide?  Where in all of Darwin’s name does that fit in?

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Independence Day


We sat on the grass on a warm July night, the ground still wet from the earlier rain.  The pond before us was calm and still, even as a slight breeze played across the grass.  The cacophony of the crowd surrounding us bathed us and made our voices private even in the middle of all of these ears.  On our blanket we waited, dusk passing over our heads, patient for the triumphant reward that greets us every year.


Off in the distance, beyond the pond and past the reach of the lights one, then two, then three, then four flares were lit.  They separated and walked past the wooden crates that were now illuminated in an unearthly red glow.  Down one went, then back up, then another dipped only to return.  The crowd cheered; it had begun.  With a muffled blast the ball was sent skyward, sparks trailing it toward the cloudless sky before finally exploding in a triumphant blast of color and noise.


It was as this point that Emily and I learned bringing Hershey was a bad idea.


The lights intrigued her, the loud explosions didn’t bother her (after a time), but it was the whistling ones; those shrieking missiles heading skyward, that she couldn’t take.  She hid between us and would only calm down if I managed to say her name into her ear louder than the discordance before us.  Needless to say, we were happy when it was over.


The next day, neighbors set off more fireworks.  Our new neighbors.  Let’s say their diplomatic skillset on being around fresh people is a little wanting.  Basically, it may seem rude to set off a quarter stick of dynamite in the middle of the road at 4 in the afternoon 2 days after you finish moving in.  But hey, maybe I’m just a traditionalist.


Saturday was a cookout, Sunday was a trip to the park.  Both have stories of their own that will have to wait for another day.  For today is Monday, so I must toil in the salt mines.

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That’s right, it’s Thursday, so that means you get to indulge and eat as much candy as you think the American Dental Association will allow.  A storied tradition dating back to the founding of this country, Candy Thursday has been a staple of our citizenry since Abraham Lincoln used to eat taffy while signing documents into law.


Now, onto to more corporeal things:


Emily and I had our first ‘date’ since being married last weekend (the date, not the wedding), and we decided to see Wall-E.  Now, I’m not going to get into too much depth about the movie, suffice to say it’s the greatest movie Pixar has ever made.  We, being in the market for a house, decided not to spend an inordinate amount of money, so we caught the matinee at AMC – 4.25 a ticket and you get out of the movie by 3pm; I’ll probably never see a movie at night again.


Emily got stomach cramps from the ‘butter’ she put on the popcorn.  Even as she hit the button to dispense the stream of butter-flavored whatever (always a good sign, flavor being dispensed much like gasoline), I told her she was going to regret it.  “But it’s soooo good!”  She said.  I replied with, “I am totally going to hold this over your head later.”  Which I did.


But imagine my surprise when people – mainly the conservative and liberal screechers on the web – started to pine or praise the ‘underlying message’ in the movie.  The liberal nutjobs pissed me off by getting upset that the conservative nutjobs would have an opinion – and had their usual sense of self-smugness by ‘predicting their reaction’.  The conservative nutjobs were even worse – they got all up in arms over the underlying message, when ironically they got the message wrong.


They think the story of the movie is a cautionary tale against ‘big box consumerism and corporations’.  They got all indignant and treated the movie like a scavenger hunt of ‘liberal fascism’, all the while being way off base.  Incidentally, to form my basis for the word ‘fascism’ I’m referring to Noah Webster, not the conservative blogosphere.  Regardless, the movie is about humanity losing their passion for living.  It’s about them giving up any and all risk and hard work that comes with a real life to a group of individuals that thought they were helping, but succumbed to the same faults that humanity always does.  They leave the fate of humanity to the hands of programmed machines, all the while to ease the lives of every person. Generation after generation of people with no real need to do work for themselves, of course they’ll grow complacent and sedentary.  They insulated their lives under the guise of ‘making things easier’ and thusly fed the machine that serviced that need.  Repeat the cycle to the point of critical mass, and you have the state of humanity that the movie presents.


Where these overpaid attention whores on the internet lose focus is in this; they scrounge in the ruff-age like pigs looking for truffles, seeking things that they disagree with so they can stand and triumphantly point to it for all the world to see while screeching at the top of their lungs what they found.  Time after time they do this, to the point that it almost seems to consume them; this insatiable hunger to feel superior by pointing out the downfalls of others, even failings that they invent for the sake of inventing.  They lost sight of the beauty of this movie;


A robot – a machine made by man to make their lives easier, and thusly remove the risk and responsibility of their lives – becomes as human as they used to be.  And in his quest to find that which means most to him, he fights, he tries, he falls, but most importantly he never gives up.  In doing so, he shows us what it means to be human.


And that is why the movie is amazing.  I can’t help but feel so sad for those who can’t – or won’t – notice it.

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This is actually a very easy shot to get.  The process behind it is pretty straight-forward, you leave the shutter open long enough for a enough light to get on it from the stars.  Close the aperture, and you increase the exposure time, allowing the stars to move and leave streaks on the final shot.  Increase the ISO or lower the F-Stop and you allow less time for the light to hit the sensor, making the stars look more like pin-pricks.


However, my camera has a strange setting.  Most SLR’s let you open the shutter indefinitely; hit the trigger to open, hit it to close.  Strangely, this camera only allows you to keep it open as long as you hold it down – or you have to use the remote to trigger it open and then trigger it closed.  So to get a great night shot of a ton of stars – that would require an exposure longer than 30 seconds (or until my finger goes numb) I’d have to purchase a remote.  It’s just strange.


If tonight is clear enough, I’d like to head closer to the lake and see what I come up with.  The light pollution is pretty heavy over the eastern sky (from my backyard) so if I shoot over the lake, who knows what I’ll come up with.

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