On The Quiet Side

I don’t want October to fade out without making a single post. However, things have been a bit quiet in my world. Work is still dragging me down; but that is nothing new.

The newest Lego Architecture sets still await building. I should really get into those this week.

My thoughts are focused on November. I will be spending most of the month on vacation and I cannot wait for that to start.

The trip begins in San Francisco for the 41st FFRF National Convention. There are some amazing speakers lined up this year. Adam Savage, Salman Rushdie, Sarah Haider, Cecile Richards, John de Lancie,  Ensaf Haidar and many more. It is going to be awesome.

I have blocked off two days after the convention to take some photos around this iconic city. Members of the Kelbyone Community have come through for me in style with a great many suggestions and tips. I hope to make the most of them.

From San Francisco, I head back to Perth, Australia to see my dad and his wife again. It’s been about nine years since I was last Down Under. And…I need the break…

Revisiting The Photoshop World 2018 Images

Many months ago, one of the highly-respected denizens of the KelbyOne Community had commented that my photos appeared too dark to him. He uses a calibrated monitor and definitely knows his stuff. Although I have a Datacolor Spyder Elite calibrator, I found that getting my monitors set properly was a real challenge.

With my new monitor calibrated, I could finally see his point. What a massive difference!

Live Model - Viking 02With that in mind, I wanted to re-edit some of the photos that I took at Photoshop World 2018 this year. The fabulous Wyrd Brothers Productions had an excellent live model Viking set. I could finally do some justice to those images.

I really like the intense stare in this newer version of the photo. Filter Forge helped me create a suitable background replacement.

Live Model - Viking 04This image is a new upload to my Flickr Photoshop World 2018 album.

I kept the same background replacement texture and made good use of the Topaz Labs toolset to tweak the colours and sharpening. The three original images of the Vikings were cleaned-up and improved and two new images were added.

My hope is that Wyrd Brothers return to Photoshop World 2019. I’ll be sure to take more photos this time and pay more attention to the camera settings. I don’t want to waste creative opportunities like these in the future.

World Machine – Mount Daniel Release

After a very long development hiatus, Stephen Schmitt is back to seriously developing World Machine. He has opted to stop using version numbers in favour of naming the releases. I think this is a silly and confusing idea but the newest release is called Mount Daniel.

My preferences to using version numbers aside, I am impressed with the new World Machine. There are a lot of performance enhancements and improved multi-threading. This Mount Daniel release offers a re-built snow device, support for OpenEXR and numerous bug fixes.

The major disappointment with all this work is that the Programmer’s Development Kit keeps getting breaking changes. This doesn’t impact most users directly; however, third-party developers like Quadspinner keep getting punched in the face. Quadspinner’s GeoGlyph is an absolutely essential plug-in for World Machine.

This weekend, I hope to sit down and build a new digital terrain. It has been so long since I have created one.

Photowalk – Return To Mimico Creek

Yesterday, after clicking my personal odometer up a notch, I went on a photowalk. It was a short one but I wanted to try out a few things.

Yours Truly – Sir Dumb-Ass here – forgot to bring along the cable to connect the Pluto Trigger to my camera. So that cut my try out list down a bit.

Kipling Station 01I started out with a quick hop over to Kipling Subway station. I figured that the Sigma 10-20mm lens and the Platypod could still create some interesting images.

The lighting in the subway station sucks. I find that the fluorescents always blow out. But I walked as far on the of the platform as I could and set the Platypod near the edge. The 10mm focal length nicely captured the flooring in front of me along with the waiting train. The colours were all over the place; so I made it a B&W image.

I also experimented with shutter priority to get blurred trains. The aforementioned fluorescent blow out made that extra tricky. I don’t have a neutral density filter that will fit on the Sigma lens.

My other plan was to get a self-portrait in front a blurred train. But not having the Pluto Trigger hooked up keeps that idea on the To-Do list.

Mimico Creek 03After the subway, I wandered back to Tom Riley Park and Mimico Creek. This was where I took my first photowalk when my Canon 80D was brand-new.

This time, the Platypod let me get down low to the water’s surface. That change in perspective can make a big difference.

Mimico Creek is only a few centimeters deep through the park – I’m sure it gets deeper elsewhere and I should more of the creek in the future. Some shutter priority work when the water is flowing faster would be cool too.

I think my mojo is nearly back. This week, I have to make the return to 3D work. I feel like I’ve forgotten everything about modeling and rendering…

Forty-Six

16,801 days ago, Garstor was sent to this world.

He still has no idea why…if you have any ideas, let him know…he could use them.

Sarcastic smile

Canadian International Air Show 2018

The Labour Day weekend traditionally marks the end of the Canadian National Exhibition – known locally as The Ex. It also means the Canadian International Air Show plays out over Lake Ontario.

I haven’t been to an air show in over 30 years. With a passion for photography, I ended that too-long dry spell on Saturday.

USAF Thunderbirds - flyby 2It was a hot, humid day and the haze was heavy all morning. Only the noon sun was able to burn that away for the aerial displays overhead.

The show opened with the jaw-dropping performance of the USAF Thunderbirds in their F-16 Fighting Falcons. This weekend is their only performance outside of the United States. All I can say is, “Wow!”

CF-18 about to climbThe Canadian Forces showed off their own prowess with the CF-18 Hornet demonstrator. She was painted in the colours of NORAD to mark the 60th anniversary of that partnership.

I’m always proud of our forces and their global reputation.

The amazing F-35 Lightning II followed the Canadian Forces and it darn near made the Hornet seem quiet. What a beast that plane is; with a roar to match!

I couldn’t stay for the entire three hours of the show unfortunately. I followed the Thunderbirds’ formation into the sun with my camera. My eyes still hurt from that – I hope I haven’t damaged them any more than they already are. Sadly, this means that I missed the Canadian Forces Snowbirds performance.

Next year!

My Flickr album for the air show is available here.

Hello September!

Here is hoping that with the new month I can get out of this funk. I accomplished very little during August – the one exception being the Lego Big Ben model.

Big Ben - progress 3That build was my one Zen-like escape from the rest of the three-ring shit-show.

I am glad that a model called “Big Ben” actually included the Big Ben bell. I still cannot explain why the misnaming bothers me so much. Ah well!

One neat feature of this build is the ability to rotate the clock hands with a small knob on the back of the building. The gearing for this is basic, but I always love how Lego implements things like this. I ended up skipping this feature though – I found it too tricky to get the main shaft through the tower connected. I kept breaking parts of the model while fighting this, so I decided to stop trying and finish the build.

Big Ben - complete 1Speaking of finishing…

I put the model on the edge of my table and used my new wide-angle Sigma lens to get this shot. One neat idea for this would be compositing in a London sky instead of my living room ceiling.

All in all, this is a great model to build. Well worth the time investment.

Remembering Code

Twelve years ago this morning, my cat Code did not jump on my shoulder to wake me.

It turned out that she had fallen from the balcony – in spite of the anti-pigeon netting. It was a particularly sucky day for me. I guess August, cats and I are not a good mix.

I’m still missing Debug a lot.

My life is getting to be as normal as a cat-less life can be.

August In Idle…

I’ve been on a blah kind of cruise control this month.

Of course, it all started with losing Debug. The first couple of weeks were really hard; especially at night. I missed how she would always climb onto my chest and sit there purring for awhile before settling in beside my leg. Now the palpable loss is more like a dull throbbing headache. I think of her often and wish she was still here.

I stopped working on 3D stuff. I haven’t really gone out for a proper photowalk even though I keep thinking about it. Work has been grating my patience. It feels like everything sucks.

LEGO Big Ben progress - 1The only progressive work I’ve managed is working on my Lego models. The mis-named Big Ben model is taking some shape.

I took this handheld shot with my 50mm prime lens so that I could ensure the depth of field blurring.

My best guess is that I am about 33% complete. The roofing on the Houses Of Parliament façade should come next. Then the rest of the model will be focused on the Elizabeth Tower.

The newest Lego Architecture sets are ready to be built after this one.

First Light – The New Sigma 10-20mm Lens

I mentioned last week that I had bought a highly recommended Sigma wide-angle lens. Here are the first photos taken with that new glass.

First Light - Sigma 10-20mmNext door, three new condominium towers are being built.

This photo consisted of me mounting the lens on my EOS-80D, stepping out on to my balcony and taking this photo at 10mm. I am impressed that that focal length captures the construction in the foreground (which will become a smaller tower) and the crane on the top of the main tower.

I tried to keep post-processing to a minimum here. I kept to the basics with some straightening and sharpening. My goal was to preserve what the lens “saw” as much as possible.

A few hours after that first shot was taken, a storm came rumbling over Etobicoke. There wasn’t a lot of rain – but it was a welcome relief from the day’s heat. I grabbed the camera again.

First Light - A Coming StormThis time, I was aiming across Mabelle Avenue. The sun was not quite ready to set, but some orange colour was on the horizon.

As before, I primarily straighten and sharpened in Photoshop. I did tweak a little bit to emphasize the clouds.

I am going to enjoy shooting with this focal range. I can’t wait to find more interesting subjects for it.

Keeping My Mind Busy

In an effort to keep my thinking away from the event of Friday afternoon, I am going to delve into building the long-procrastinated, big LEGO project I have here. Big Ben.

I am one of those pedantic types that rankles at this structure being called Big Ben. The bell is called “Big Ben,” while the tower is “The Elizabeth Tower.” I’m not sure why that annoys me so much…

Another major London landmark that is available in LEGO is the Tower Bridge. I will very likely acquire that one next.

Yesterday, I also went over to Henry’s Camera Store and bought the wide-angle Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 lens. This lens was highly recommended to me at Photoshop World. Even with the cropped sensor factor of my EOS 80D, this lens is wider than any of my other lenses.

I’m looking forward to finding some magnificent ceilings to photograph. Wide-angle lenses give the sense of epic grandeur to cathedrals and museums when the camera is angled upward. So that could be fun.

Over in the digital art world, I am very close to finishing up the unwrapping of my bell tower model.

I will probably make a video introducing RizomUV in the near future. I am not sure if I will aim for creating a tutorial series though.

R.I.P. Debug (2006–2018)

Thank-you Debug for twelve wonderful years. Years of love, purring, cuddles and wake-ups better than any alarm clock.

We’ve been through a lot together. Four apartments, a house, two continental moves.

You were just a kitten at my first apartment in Etobicoke. Code had fallen from the balcony and left a void that you quickly filled.

Debug and boxesWe were not there very long; Microsoft had hired me and we moved to the apartment in Irving, Texas. I bought an inflatable mattress to sleep on and you immediately punctured it. I slept at a weird angle for weeks until the rest of my stuff arrived from Canada.

A couple of years later, I was able to buy the house on Raton Pass. What a great place that was! You loved the extra room. There were so many places where you could sleep in a beam of sunlight. We spent nearly 8 years down there until my visa expired.

After returning to Canada, we spent a year in Hamilton while I endured the commute from hell. I often came home grumpy and tired. But you always made me feel better. We’d chill on the couch watching Game Of Thrones.

Debug - July 31 2018Then we came full-circle and moved back to Etobicoke. Several blocks south of where we started.

Today I have to let you go. I’m going to miss you so damn much.

Peace Sweetie. You deserve it.

Saying Good-bye To Debug

I am devastated.

It’s the decision that no pet owner wants to make about their furry family member. But it is out of love and consideration that it must be made.

The vet has been treating Debug’s sores as an allergic reaction. A test showed that she was allergic to beef and milk. But nothing seemed to help; so last week, we did a biopsy. The lab reported “squamous cell carcinoma.”

Although the large growth on Debug’s neck would be fairly easy to remove, the vet also wants to remove the sore spot by her lip. The skin is so thin there that that would entail removing the lip and surrounding cheek completely. I cannot bear that.

This week, I am spoiling her as much as I possibly can. The treats that she was previously denied due to the allergy are back. I’m doling them out frequently. We cuddle as much as she wants to cuddle.

On Friday afternoon, I will have to say my final good-bye to my baby.

Broken heart Cat face

UV Unwrap Of My Bell Tower

The slow and sometimes-not-steady progress on my Turin duomo inspired tower has continued. The end (of the UV mapping) is finally in sight!

rizomUV_progressI have steadily become accustomed to the RizomUV workflow. I am now working on mapping the spiral stairs to the belfry. Unfortunately, the automatic edge selection tools in RizomUV are having problems with these parts. So I am stuck with doing each piece manually.

It is slow and tedious work, but fairly straight forward. I have managed to get the stair support cut into four pieces that unwrap quite well. The tiresome bit is that there are about 60 stairs to work on…

I experimented with the mosaic automatic edge selection for the roof shingles. That was a disaster! I ended up going back and re-doing those by hand. I partly blame the way LWCAD creates shingles; there a lot of n-gons that needed cleaning up during modeling.

Currently, many of the UV islands are oriented at 90 or 180 degrees to how I want them. I’ll fix that up just before I call all of this work done.

After that, I’ll use Allegorithmic’s Substance Painter to do the texturing. I’ve owned the Substance products for a couple of years now but have never been able to use them thoroughly. I hope the model turns out as nicely as the vision in my head.

So my 3D knowledge will continue to expand!

Finished A Clash Of Kings

imageIt was raining most of today, so I spent the day working on my UV mapping (more on that later). I also wandered over to The Fox & Fiddle for some wings and a Belgian Moon beer. I brought along A Clash Of Kings – the second book in A Song Of Ice & Fire series.

I’ll dive into book three tonight before bed.

This time around, more of the plot details seem to be sticking in my memory. Of course, G. R. R. Martin is known for his deep and winding plots. Although you miss a lot with the HBO series, it is easier to follow than the books.

Buying RizomUV

Friday marked the final day of my evaluation period for RizomUV. The application developer graciously doubled my time because most of the first period was spent looking at an older version of the program. I appreciated his generosity.

A full license will cost about $230. But given how much better RizomUV is over UV Layout, it is worth it.

That said, RizomUV is not without its quirks that one must get used to. But if you are aware of these idiosyncrasies and work carefully, you can avoid them. Truly, the biggest knock against the product is the lack of proper documentation.

Some users have started creating YouTube tutorials – I’m not yet sure if I’ll do the same. For now, the best learning resource is a Discord chat channel. You can text with other users and the developer directly.

What makes RizomUV superior to UV Layout? The selection ability. It is far easier to select edges for cutting in RizomUV. It has an edge loop selection. You can select individual polygons and RizomUV will cut them around their perimeter. The application also has several automatic selection features, such as box model and sharp edges.

I mentioned some quirks and the biggest one for me was that RizomUV includes the entire still-folded 3D mesh in the UV space. UV Layout used the metaphor of “rooms” to separate where you perform cutting from where you perform unwrapping. This means that in RizomUV, if you are not careful, you unwrap a part of your model but if there are other visible parts, those will become highly deformed. Basically, RizomUV is trying to unwrap a 3D mesh that does not have any edge cuts yet. The results can be bizarre and jolting.

But all in all, it is a great product. I’m glad to have bought it. Hopefully I will get my bell tower model unwrapped in the near future.