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.

Re-upping The Beard Colour

Beard colour?

beard-dye-07-07-2018Yeah, didn’t I mention that earlier? No, I didn’t. My bad.

A week before Photoshop World 2018, I had my beard dyed with the KelbyOne orange and its opposite blue shade. I have never done something like this before, but I rather liked how it turned out.

I have received many compliments about it too. Nice ego boost.

Since it has been more than a month, the colours had faded and my usual salt-and-pepper was growing back in. So yesterday, I had the dye work re-done.

My Poor Little Debug – An Update

It has been a little rough financially since coming back from Photoshop World. I took advantage of a conference special and paid for next year’s PSW at a super-low price. Still, that was an unplanned expense. Normally these things would not bother me since life happens…

d1Debug’s on-going health issues really threw me a curve ball though. Her mouth sore (which is often scabbed over from her scratching at it) and her chest … growth or something, it has the texture of cauliflower … have not alleviated. So another vet check-up cost about $140. There was some pills to give her and the neck shield to stop her scratching. During this regimen, the other growth began to recur.

This growth is just above her lip with the sore. It is like a pinkish pea and about the same size. This had been removed a few months ago and a test declared it to be a benign tumour. Apparently, it has a high-likelihood of returning. Just so…

The initial sores have been declared allergic reactions by the vet. But allergic to what?

d2A $600 blood work test has revealed that Debug is allergic to beef and milk.

I already feed her kangaroo meat; but the kibble-like treats that I give her in the evening have a beef and a milk flavour. So no more snacks! She hates that and complains nightly about it.

Now I have a new medicinal regimen to follow for the next month. Hopefully, this will clear up the reaction and once the irritant is out of her system, she will be back to her old self.

Happy 242nd Birthday USA!

See the source imageYou don’t look a day over two centuries.

Last year, I added something to the effect of, “I hope you get to see 242.”

I tend to keep politics off this blog and I use the stinking, fetid cesspool of Facebook to share political things. But the Presidency of Donald “Cheeto Hitler” Trump really does imperil the United States and the world. The division between the Haves and the Have-Nots is deepening. Racists feel empowered to ooze out of their hiding places and back into society. His actions defy almost all reasoning and logic. The lies stagger the imagination.

I can only hope that the special investigation led by Robert Mueller ends up removing this jackass (and VP Pence and much of his sycophantic, lap-dog cabinet) from power. I really hope that the mid-term elections this November decisively sweep the Republican party from the halls of power.

So enjoy your birthday USA. I hope you get to see 243…

Happy 151st Birthday Canada!

See the source imageHappy 151st birthday to the best country on Earth!

I am very grateful to live in Canada. It’s not perfect, but we are usually moving in the right directions.

My only regret is that I am on-call at work right now; so I won’t be able to get out to photograph a fireworks celebration!

Finished Reading “Nailed”

Yesterday afternoon I finished reading David Fitzgerald’s excellent book, Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All.

imageI have seen a few YouTube clips  of Fitzgerald speaking – his appearance on The Atheist Experience is especially good. Wait for the caller who tries to challenge his thesis… Devil

He often has a humourous way of engaging with his audiences. It makes you want to listen to what he has to say. But he is also extremely knowledgeable on the mythicist side of Jesus’ existence. Don’t think you can throw some basic apologist fluff at him like Flavius Josephus; because Fitzgerald will blow that argument away instantly.

Personally, I am still waffling slightly between mythicism and historicism. While I really like Bart Ehrman’s writing, I was less than impressed with his Did Jesus Exist? I felt that Ehrman fell uncharacteristically short with his argument. But not so much with Fitzgerald. He makes a series of clear cases that easily raise sensible doubt as to whether dude named Jesus was stomping around early first century Palestine raising the dead and coming back to life himself.

Fitzgerald has spent the years since Nailed was published doing additional research. This has produced three more books and with Nailed as the first, the series is now called “Mything In Action.” The three new books cover the idea that there was even a regular human that inspired the Jesus fable.

So when I finish those books, maybe I will no longer remain on the fence regarding the Jesus stories that I grew up with.

Saturn V Model Finished

Earlier this afternoon, I put the last few pieces of the Saturn V LEGO model together.

Saturn VThis is a big, beautiful model from the Ideas series. Ideas are fan submissions that get voted on with the hope that they are turned into a shipping product. The wonderful Women Of NASA set is also in the Ideas series.

I will upload a better image to my Flickr album later – for now, here is a crappy cell phone camera shot. Note the re-designed Burj Khalifa model for scale. The Saturn V is nearly one meter tall – by far my tallest model.

The third stage is sitting in place and thus easily lifted off. A lunar lander model is held inside the cone of the stage. At the base of the rocket is the crew capsule with water floatation balloons deployed.

This means I have to move on to building the Big Ben tower now.

Cleaning The Blog Categories

imageJust like the Flickr albums and images, I really need to clean up my blog categories. Many of these I rarely use or do not use at all.

I suspect that the Entertainment and Music categories can be removed. Although my background is programming, SQL Server and a smattering of SharePoint; I simply do not blog about these topics. So those can be removed.

I’ve never liked the name of Ray-Tracing as a category for my 3D work. I will likely change that to Digital Art to reflect the change on Flickr. Perhaps breaking it out into multiple categories – Modeling, Texturing, Rendering – could work?

Skepticism can be combined with the Atheism category. Perhaps a Photography category that is distinct from Photoshop is in order?

Hopefully, I can get into the mySQL database that powers this blog. I could write a query to show what categories I have used most often. I’m reasonably certain that I have the skill to do that… Sarcastic smile

Cleaning Up My Flickr Albums

I have used Flickr for a very long time now. Much of that has been not knowing anything at all about how to take a good photograph. I was a point-and-shoot guy with no thought to subject or composition or camera settings.

I think it is high time that I cleaned out all the garbage shots from my albums.

The exception will be my various travel albums and photo walks. There may be poor quality pictures in there, but they are my memories and so those will stay.

I’m going to get rid of my Fitness album completely. Sadly, I’ve lost all those gains and cannot seem to get myself wanting to be in shape again.

I am undecided about the Dungeons & Dragons album. I have made a considerable investment in the plastic miniatures of heroes and monsters as well as the cardboard Dungeon Tiles sets. When I first moved to Texas, I tried playing Dungeons & Dragons remotely over instant messaging applications. It was a miserable failure. Some of those photos were meant to represent the player characters in that failed game.

The Ray-Traces album will be renamed to Digital Art and only put in quality renders. The Work-In-Progress or test renders album will be removed. The Photoshop album will get merged into the Digital Art album.

The Atheism album will be deleted. I made one photo as a memorial for Christopher Hitchens. I had intended to share collected irreverent memes but I was unsure of copyright. Also, there could be nasty reactions from the ultra-sensitive snowflake crowd. Those who get their knickers in a twist whenever somebody

Building The Saturn V In LEGO

Back at the end of April, I bought the Saturn V rocket in LEGO. I already had the Big Ben model. Both of these have yet to be built primarily due to my concern about building space.

I usually build on the small table that also serves as where I use my work laptop when I work from home. Flat surfaces typically become storage places for me…books, papers, miscellany…it all builds up rather quickly.

Needing some incentive, I put out a Facebook poll to my friends. After 10 votes in a couple of days, the Saturn V has the lead. So I am calling the decision made and will commence the build this week!