Saturday, August 09, 2014

Mid-Summer Stuff

NEWSFLASH from Topaz

Topaz Adjust, arguably the BEST app in the Topaz suite is going on sale for half price in a few days!
Starting on August 13th, you can buy it for only $25, and you can download a 30 day free trial to check it out.

Adjust was the first Topaz product I tried and as soon as I did, I was hooked. It provides an amazingly broad range of control and adjustment effects to any image. I use it a lot: it's my go-to plugin in Photoshop (also works in Elements and Lightroom)

Here's the link, and put "augadjust" in the coupon box at checkout to get the discount. Remember, you can also put "faczen" in the checkout box for a 15% discount on the whole suite or any of their other products.

New Banner

As (most of you) can see, I've changed the banner on the blog. Whenever I change it, the old one disappears, so I've been posting it here in the body: but some people view this as an RSS feed so they can't see the banner and other formatting anyway. So I'll post the banner, together with the previous one, here in the body. Next time I won't have to post the previous one.

Old Banner. Composite image of bear at the landfill and a 50-image sequence put together with StarStaX. 

New Banner. Taken at the Highland Yard in Minden on August 3. This abstract is basically right out of the camera. I used a slow shutter speed and panned with the runner to give it a sense of motion. I couldn't resist enhancing it a little just to soften the blurred background some.

Tripod Update

The fine folks at 3 Legged Thing did what they said they would, they sent me a replacement leg segment and centre column piece to fix my broken tripod. I paid for shipping, that's all.

"Brian" is in one piece again, except for a couple of plastic bits they forgot to send me (they're in the mail). In their usual creative fashion these plastic pieces are called "chicken lips"! I love dealing with these guys.

Quality product from a company that really cares about their customers. They're not paying me to say this, although in fairness B&H Photo in New York does send a bit of commission my way if you buy anything from them using my link at right. Here's the direct link to "Brian" at B&H.

Backup progress

As I write this, I'm steadily doing a sync of my (now main) 2Tb external drive to a fresh 3Tb unit. I started it at around midnight, it's now 10:00 am and according to the progress bar, I'm about halfway through. It's working on September 2012 right now.

When it's done, I need to do an incremental backup to my other 3Tb, then I'll retire the 2Tb drive or re-task it somehow. I think I'm going to do another "Keepers" catalogue and put that on the 2Tb. There's no room for more on there now, it's 95% full. I'm still looking for a consistent strategy that doesn't involve buying a thousand dollars more backup drives.

I'm also worried about my desktop computer. When I wake it up, the screen is flickering. That could signal imminent monitor failure, or a video card failure or worse. The computer is about 3 or 4 years old, it might be that time... it's flaky anyway, and tests show that the main hard drive isn't happy. Diligent backups of the important data (including Outlook which runs on that machine) are in order.

Why am I writing this? Two reasons: to tell you how serious I am about backing up my archives and data, and to convince my loyal readers to give this some consideration!
Update: it took 16 hours to do the sync. Came up with two errors but that was probably because I brought up Lightroom once while it was working (had to look something up). I haven't done the incremental yet.

My (almost) daily chore

Since I'm not in the greatest physical shape (that's putting it mildly. Hey: Round IS a shape!) and being a lazy person, I don't do much exercise. To my regret: when I read about my friends Mark and Ron in Scotland, hiking the cliffs on the Isle of Skye, I feel deep pangs of regret that I didn't take care of myself better over the years. I'm beginning to admit that my age is catching up to me (I'll be 68 in September) and as my father used to say, "everything hurts. Except the stuff that doesn't work any more".

Update: Mark has been blogging about their trip at, colour me green with envy. Scroll down to the August 7 post for my favourite images from their trip so far, landscapes on the Isle of Skye. I have to live vicariously...

My knees, or more accurately, my quads or the ligaments that attach them to the knees, are the most annoying. I completely lack the confidence to step down, afraid that I'll lose footing or balance and be unable to hold myself up. That's how I broke "Brian" in the story above. I get out of breath very easily doing moderate exercise. I've decided that if I'm going to live longer, I don't want it to be in a wheelchair or with a walker, so I must do something about it. My neighbour and I agreed to walk, some. That was a month ago, and we still haven't gone out even once. So now is the time.

The two paragraphs above are like New Year's Resolutions. Doomed. Maybe this will help: how about you, my loyal readers, following up on me from time to time? If I have someone other than myself to be accountable to, maybe it will help. By the way, I've lost almost 15 lbs in the past month or so, hit a plateau in the past week because I won't give up eating corn and because I gave into temptation when Janie said, "join us for dinner at the Pepper Mill" (the best hamburgers anywhere!).

So I started writing this because I had a couple of pictures for you that might involve a bit of healthy lifestyle habits.

I had a total of 7 face cords (2⅓ bush cords) of wood delivered a month ago. Wood is substantially less expensive than other heating methods. It needs to sit out in the sun for a while to dry out before it gets stacked. I'm half way through it, I do about half an hour of stacking a day. It's helping my wrist and shoulder and a little abs. I'm going to try consciously lifting with my legs, let's see if I can strengthen them a bit.

A healthy breakfast. Too bad it's only available fresh for a couple of weeks! The raspberries come from my own bushes, lovingly hand picked. I hand picked the blueberries too: from the Costco warehouse! I'm eating a lot more fruits and vegetables than in the past, trying to change some lifestyle choices.

Floating Camera Platform

Here's the story. I was chatting with Dorian, a neighbour of mine, about a very cool boat I had seen at a garage sale the previous week. Unfortunately, it was way more than I could spend. He mentioned that he had a little boat and motor he didn't want any more, and we made a deal. I took the motor to a local mechanic who made sure it worked and today I picked up the boat.

Nobody's going to say, "there goes Speedy Gonzales!" But it's perfect for what I want, a floating camera platform. And a way to do a little fishing and relaxing on the lake.

It's just a little boat, with a 4 hp motor. I promise, I won't take it out when it's windy or rough. 

An HDR closeup, finished with Topaz Simplify. I should have given it more space at bottom right, so I'll re-shoot this soon. 

Here's my first HDR from the boat. That's Vic's place down Pleasant Point Road. I was worried about alignment and ghosting since I was shooting handheld from a bobbing boat, but Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 handles it really well.

Update: I went out at sunset last night, took my fishing rod but not my DSLR. Wish I had! Here's the best I could do with the little point-and-shoot.

It took a bunch of Photoshop and Topaz (I used Adjust: see the top comment in this article!) to make this happen. 

Some foreground interest! That's my little 4 hp motor idling away 

I'm posting this one because it's such a great story, but it's a terrible shot. Click to blow it up. 

Can't wait for the fall colours! Oh, wait, yes I can...

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