Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Odds 'n Ends

Did you always want a dash-cam?

Fred, from the Haliburton Highlands Camera Club, put me on to this one. If you have an iPhone, you can have a dash-cam for the princely sum of $1.99. He pointed out that you can also buy a dedicated one at Costco for a couple of hundred dollars, but it doesn't do anything your iPhone can't!

The iPhone app is called "iSYMdvr" car recorder. You can find it in the apple App store.

Oh yeah, it also cost me an extra $15 for a suction cup mount for the iPhone. Good to have anyway, to turn it into a legal hands-free.

You can go through the options yourself. I have it set up to record 5-minute clips. Once it fills the space you've allocated (I can hold about 30 minutes worth) it writes over the oldest one. You can click the camera icon onscreen to take a still at any time (that's how I did the shot below). You can easily transfer any video to the camera roll in the iPhone and it even has a utility to turn the phone into a server if you're wi-fi connected and upload directly.

So if something happens enroute you have a video recording of it. It's a very neat application. By the way, it has built-in GPS capability so it can automatically record your speed, and you can set an alarm to go off when you exceed the speed limit. How cool is that! I don't really want it recording my speed (don't ask me why and I won't tell you) so I turned that off.

I uploaded a video for your viewing pleasure to YouTube. Just after taking the snapshot below, I drove through the standing water, but was driving really slowly to look at the water levels, then into my driveway.

For my photographer readers

Want to know your shutter count? I've addressed this topic before by suggesting you download and use PhotoME but in a recent thread on FaceBook, I learned that there is an incredibly detailed source of data within Photoshop itself (why am I not surprised?!).

  • Open a RAW file in Photoshop (disclaimer: I'm using CC, I don't know if this exists in earlier versions but I'll bet it does)
  • On the File menu, click on "File Info" (or use the shortcut ctrl-alt-shift-I if you have that many fingers!)
  • Along the top of the resulting popup window there are a bunch of tabs. Select the "Advanced" tab. If it's not there, click the downward facing arrow on the right side of the tab navigator to find it.
  • You'll see this window: select "Schema"

Here it is! In this example, my shutter count is 3102. 

I'm curious whether Canon and other cameras have all of this info. Last time it appeared as if this line is not in the EXIF information. Leave a comment at the bottom of this blog if you tried it. Ditto with other brands of cameras.

While you're in the File Info, look through the other tabs. You'll be amazed at the amount of information collected in the EXIF data with each image.

A few personal notes about life in the Highlands:

Will it never end? It's April 16th as I write this and I'm looking out at a blinding white vista, the ground covered with a fresh blanket of snow about 10cm deep. It's cold, too, around -5°C. It was the same temperature yesterday but it was windy and damp and the cold just seemed to bite right through you. Maybe in July we can finally look back and laugh.

Yesterday I drove into Haliburton to teach a workshop at Fleming College (OK, more ostentatious than it sounds: I was hired to teach a session to a Real Estate company and they rented a classroom at the college). Nice facility, by the way. When I got on the road, I was glad to have my all-wheel-drive Subaru, it was greasy and slushy as Hell. People were driving 40 and 50 kph on the highway if they didn't have 4WD.

Water levels in the lake are not high, but the melt a couple of days ago has had a huge effect on the low-lying ground just south of me. Helped along by runoff from the Inn parking lot, no doubt. Here's a snapshot taken with my dash-cam. This is right opposite my dock

That water is about 6" deep. It's running out of the woods on the right into the lake on the left. There's a seasonal cottage just to my right where I'm parked: every year I'm amazed it hasn't floated away or rotted out, it's under several feet of water. The plot of land to the South is for sale, any takers? 

The other thing is, the ground is really soft underneath due to the melt. So my car leaves deep ruts (as do my feet!) in my driveway. The Inn has wisely taped off their parking lot to prevent people from making an ugly mess by driving in. For the same reason, I'm not taking my ATV out to plow this snow, it'll make a real mess of the ground. Hopefully it'll melt soon.

Here's a fantastic product

I don't know why I waited so long to get these. It took falling on the ice and breaking my wrist to make me finally do it. My neighbour, Dorian, is the power-that-be behind Kador, the importer of this and other interesting products (Kate, if Dorian wants to think he's the MAN, let him!). Actually Dorian came over and gave me a set of these. I've permanently mounted them on an old pair of hiking boots that I can slip on whenever I go out.

These YAKTRAX™ give you absolutely PHENOMENAL traction on ice. They've saved my bacon a number of times! I know it's not the right time of year to think about these, but get some now before you forget. (they're no longer on the Kador website but you can email Dorian directly at this address). 

How's your wrist?

Thanks for asking! Not great. If you've not been keeping up, I broke it on January 16th, so 3 months ago today. I still can't close my hand completely and there's still some pain. I'd estimate the strength in that hand at about 30% of what it was before. I'm doing some physio (not as much as I should, I'll admit). But the big problem isn't the wrist, I hurt my shoulder at the same time but didn't realize it. Xrays and an ultrasound have determined that I did NOT tear my rotator cuff as I suspected, it's only bruised, but it's really painful especially at night and I can't raise my arm above my shoulder. Doc says "physio" but here's a Highlands problem: there's only ONE physiotherapist up here OHIP-registered (affiliated with the hospital) and there's a 140-patient backlog which means 2 months before I can get an appointment. If you know a physiotherapist who would like to live up in God's Country, it's a Hell of an opportunity!

The birds think it's spring

That's one of the joys of living up here. I managed to refill my bird feeders and it didn't take them long to figure it out. Yesterday, I added one to the species count when a mating pair of yellow-bellied sapsuckers visited the Scotch Pine in front of my house:

I didn't get great shots of these guys. I haven't micro-calibrated the 120-400 mm lens to the D800 body yet, and I think I'm front-focusing a bit at this close distance. Male and Female yellow-bellied sapsuckers.

I really don't like Grackles. They're loud and raucous, they arrive in huge flocks and hog the feeders, scaring off all the other birds, and empty them in a day. But their iridescent head feathers are interesting.  This image was enhanced using Topaz Detail which is on sale at half price for the month of April. It does a fabulous job of enhancing images without injecting artifacts and noise. Use this link and enter 'aprdetail' at checkout to take advantage of the discount.

The ubiquitous Blue Jay. There are lots of these guys around. Although they're loud and aggressive too, I like them a lot more than Grackles because they don't arrive in huge flocks. Again, I used Topaz Detail on this shot. 

Here's a dark-eyed Junco. For some reason, I find it hard to get a sharp picture of these little guys, maybe it's the front-focusing thing again (actually, look how sharp the branch at the bottom under the bird is).  The only reason I put the picture here is so that I could say "Dark-eyed Junco". So there.

I'm no expert, but this seems to be a hoary redpoll. My book doesn't show that bright yellow spot on the lower part of the bill, though. NOTE: I've just been corrected! This is a American Tree Sparrow. Thanks, Jack! I guess I have to eat crow!

I also saw a pair of downy woodpeckers, some red-winged blackbirds, white-breasted nuthatches, black-capped chickadees, and I can hear robins chirruping in the trees. There are some mallards in that high water south of me. All in the space of an hour or so!

The Haliburton School of the Arts

This campus of Sir Sandford Fleming College is a rustic building surrounded by acres of forest, populated by dozens of outstanding sculptures. Worth a visit, and I'll go back in better weather for more pictures. I've been in the forest before but never in the building.

"Rustic" is the operative word. You can't see the open hemlock-beamed ceiling, but this is a typical classroom. This is part of the group of Realtors with whom I was doing a workshop on shooting better listing pictures. I brought my flash with me and this shot illustrated trying to compensate for excessive outside light using an off-camera flash (it's in the picture on purpose). There's motion blur because I dragged the shutter to illustrate blending the light sources. 

This metal sculpture is just outside the front of the school. Great detail when you get up close. I actually got an angle that I liked better that shows it in dynamic full gallop but I wasn't happy with the composition. 

This is the front door of the building. It's hard to see at this resolution, but there is a circular design inlaid in the wood (no, that's not a watermark!) and until I got it back to the computer, I never realized there were words carved into it as well. Look closely at the top. It says, "Within These Walls the Walls Within Disappear". Great motto!

PS: you know that "Thou Shalt Not..." image I put up last week? It took FIRST PLACE at the Richmond Hill Camera Club. Yahoo! Or maybe Google...
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