Garstor's World, My realm of 3D art, LEGO and atheism

New Lenses For The Camera

Posted on Sunday, June 25th, 2017 at 8:11 AM in Personal by Garstor

There was a serious combination of inspiration and envy on my part in The Netherlands. Zakhia and Dax had some amazing lenses for their cameras. As impressed as I am with the EOS 80D kit lens, these pieces of glass were jaw-dropping.

My new Canon lensesZakhia uses a Nikon and had a 70-300 mm telephoto. He was bringing objects at the end of a street into frame-filling glory. Similarly, Dax used a 70-200 mm on his Canon as well as a 50 mm Prime lens.

Once I got back home; I consulted with Dax on what lenses I should add to my camera bag. As you might expect, I essentially copied him. The EF 70-200 mm USM is really nice and I fully expect this to be the lens that stays on the camera body most often.

This lens was less expensive since I opted not to get image stabilization. That would have doubled the price.

At the recommendation of the clerk at Henry’s camera store, I also picked up the EF 50mm STM. This will make a great portrait lens since it has a shallow depth-of-field at f/1.8. Dax uses this to great effect with his street photography.

I’m still exploring the various types of photography to see where I want to focus (hahaha!!). I like the results of street photography but I can’t quite get over the voyeuristic aspects of it. I took a few pictures like that in Vondelpark but did not put them up on the Flickr album.

Hopefully the weather today is co-operative – there are thunderstorms forecast – and I can get outside to try these new toys out.

The Netherlands & End User Event 2017

Posted on Monday, June 19th, 2017 at 6:20 PM in Personal, Ray-Tracing, Travel by Garstor

Two weeks ago – late in the evening – I left Toronto Pearson airport on an Airbus A330-300 for Amsterdam. This would be my first time visiting Europe.

Several months back, Dax Pandhi of Quadspinner had posted on Facebook that he would be giving a talk at End User Event 2017. I had not heard of EUE before and none of the other talks covered technologies that I use. But it was in The Netherlands! In a bar! How cool is that? I decided to make this my major vacation.

Flying overnight, we landed at Schiphol airport around noon on Tuesday. I made my to Utrecht via the excellent train system. EUE didn’t start until Thursday; but there was to be a Wednesday night pre-conference drink-up. It was raining on and off Tuesday afternoon; I walked to the hotel from Utrecht Centraal station. I nearly got lost – a portend of things to come – but managed to arrive damp and tired.

In spite of more drizzle and rain on Wednesday morning, I set out with my camera to explore Utrecht. My passport was stowed into one of the camera bag pouches for safe keeping…

The adventure begins! I got lost. In the rain. It was all in fun though and I eventually found the hotel again. That evening, I had a really nice dinner with Dax and Cynthia at the hotel restaurant. If you visit Utrecht, be sure to stop into Luden Restaurant & Brasserie for a meal and a few bottles of Bastaard. We became instant friends. Very cool.

On Thursday morning I registered for EUE and attended the first talk, followed immediately by Dax’s talk. Awesome stuff. Things were off to a great start!

This is where the sound of a record player needle scratching across your favourite vinyl album should play in your mind. Over lunch I realized something awful. My passport was gone.

not really a pouchThe zippered camera bag pouch was not a pouch. There was a second zipper along the bottom – this was actually meant as a way to secure the camera bag on an extended luggage handle. My passport had fallen out while I was exploring Utrecht.

I had a few things in my favour; I had made copies of the passport bio page and the hotel staff was super helpful. So much for attending the other EUE talks though!

I had to file a police report and got lost again while walking to the station. Me getting lost would become a recurring joke with my new EUE friends. With the police report in hand, I had to take the train to The Hague and deal with the Canadian consulate.

There was a ton of paperwork and they wanted four non-family contacts who had known me for at least three years. I also had to provide my ticket home to prove that this was an emergency. Since I only had my cellphone with me, I had come back on Friday to complete the forms and provide them with new passport photos. That wiped out attending the morning EUE talks.

Your whole life is an application errorWhen I returned to the pub where EUE was being held, it was just after the lunch meal. They had provided chocolate fortune cookies. Being a mite bit peckish, I ate one and looked at the fortune inside.

I wish I were making this up! “Your whole life is an application error.”

Indeed…

EUE wrapped up that evening. Dax and I “stole” the flags that had been flying outside of The Florin pub during the conference.

I spent Saturday in Utrecht, walking around with my new friends and taking a ton of pictures. Roman lives in Russia, Zakhia is in Lebanon, Barry lives in England, Daniel is in Germany – and all of us were immediate friends. United by the common threads of digital art and drinking beer. The perfect way to achieve peace on earth!

Amsterdam 05 - VondelparkOn Sunday I went to Amsterdam for the rest of my vacation. I had to wait several hours for my hotel room to be ready but Vondelpark was only a block away. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, so the park was packed with people. Lots of trees and walking/biking paths and large ponds.

Monday was the hop-on / hop-off city bus tour. I also visited Gassan Diamonds. I don’t really have decent photos from that – but it was interesting and I learned quite a bit about diamond cutting and polishing.

Tuesday was the canal boat tour in the morning. I was supposed to have a day trip to Bruges, Belgium on Wednesday but my temporary passport was ready – so I had to make a third trip to The Hague. The tour company swapped the Bruges trip with the Windmill / Volendam tour on Tuesday afternoon.

Windmill Tour 01If you visit The Netherlands, be sure to take the Windmill and Volendam tour. The windmills are fascinating and you tour a cheese factory and a bakery in Volendam.

It is a quaint and quiet town with a long fishing heritage. A new dyke has all but eliminated fishing as a livelihood; so they have had to re-make themselves for the 21st century.

You won’t want to miss out on the Amsterdam Icebar either. It is a small venue and a steady flow of patrons is kept flowing in and out of the place. It is themed on the Dutch explorer Willem Barents’ search for the Northwest Passage.

My Flickr album for this trip is located here. I will add more photos to it over the next few days.

Here is the official EUE photos on Facebook.

I strongly recommend visiting The Netherlands. They are a very friendly people. They love bicycles more than you can know. There is a vast history here and plenty of things to see and do.

I will have to return – probably for End User Event 2018. With my passport secured nine ways to Sunday this time.

Dearth

Posted on Friday, June 2nd, 2017 at 7:02 AM in Atheism, Personal, Ray-Tracing by Garstor

Weeks have marched past without a post once more.

It has been crazy busy – and annoyingly frustrating – at work lately. The WannaCry emergency patching was brutal; even though it really did not require the DBA team, we were on-hand and gathering overtime pay.

Other work-related items have been equally draining.

But things are looking up! Tonight is the start of Imagine No Religion 7! It will be held near the Toronto airport, so I can take the bus to the event instead of flying to another city and staying at a hotel. The line-up of speakers is going to be awesome.

I have already heard Professors Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne and Lawrence Krauss speak at FFRF Conventions before. But it will be nice to see them again. Seth Andrews will be speaking, I hope to meet him and get another book signed. I am looking forward to hear an update on Gretta Vosper’s story too.

Ali Rizvi and Matt Dillahunty will be there too. There are many other speakers, so I am totally stoked for this weekend.

Monday night, I’m off for my first trip to Europe! I’ll be attending the End User Event in Utrecht. This was triggered by Dax Pandhi from Quadspinner speaking about his latest terrain tools work. So I turned this into a major holiday for me.

I’ll be spending a few days in Amsterdam. I’m really excited about the photographic opportunities.

Phew! Hopefully all this generates a lot more blog posts this month.

New Lego Architecture Sets

Posted on Sunday, May 14th, 2017 at 2:37 PM in Lego by Garstor

It has been awhile since I bought any new Lego sets. In Texas, I had an entire bedroom dedicated to my Lego and my games. I lost that room in Hamilton. Here in Etobicoke, I might get some of it back; but for the time being, I am displaying several Lego Architecture sets on my desk at work.

imageMy little-used Visa card finally built-up enough points for an Amazon gift card. So I added the Berlin skyline, the Venice skyline, and The Louvre Museum to my brick collection.

I still need to acquire the Chicago, London, and Sydney skyline sets. The Burj Khalifa has been redesigned and re-released. Buckingham Palace, a redesigned Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum  and The United States Capitol Building are also new models.

I’d better add these sets soon too! Before Lego decides to discontinue them.

I’ll upload pictures once I have built these models.

Book Reading Update

Posted on Sunday, April 30th, 2017 at 2:13 PM in Atheism, Books by Garstor

imageThis morning I finished reading Aron Ra’s book The Foundational Falsehoods Of Creationism. Much of this was read during bus trips into Dundas to visit my grandmother – otherwise I might have finished it sooner.

A book such as this might have helped me reach my atheism conclusion faster since I had clung on to creationist ideas long after I had stopped attending church or praying. This is a good read and provides a solid primer on the notion of clades – indeed, Ra has sometimes referred to himself as The Ace Of Clades as a nod toward Motörhead.

The writing is very approachable, which is appreciated. It is based on Aron Ra’s YouTube videos and the conversational nature of that shines through.

Although it is not likely that a creationist will read this; since they love to hide behind lies. The book makes very clear the correct definitions and uses of words like “theory” and “evolution.” By providing demonstrations of how these terms are misused in creationism, Ra tears away at the already flimsy shielding they have.

Goodness knows I was guilty of the same such abuse of language back in the day!

imageSpeaking of language; I am now getting embroiled in Steven Pinker’s The Sense Of Style.

I began reading this on my trip to Florida for Photoshop World. So far so good. I cannot add much else to this until I am further into it; so I will certainly post about it again.

Photoshop World 2017 On Flickr

Posted on Thursday, April 27th, 2017 at 4:41 PM in Photoshop by Garstor

Here is the album for Photoshop World 2017 on my Flickr site.

These are the live and still-life models that were available to photograph. I have more of the “princess” (I couldn’t think of a better description for her) and a WWII vet to work on still. I hope to get those uploaded to the album tonight.

Unfortunately, most of the spy photos were very blurry – if I had been more careful, I could have gotten some cool shots of him.

Still Life - wine & flowers 02Some of these have been processed with the Topaz Labs tools that I bought – usually adding a vignette. Some vignettes I made myself; you can tell, they look like crap! Sarcastic smile

This is my favourite still-life shot. The star flares were added in Topaz Star Effects. Normally flares are over-done and cliché; but I think these turned out alright.

So, I’ve added to my ever-growing list of things to learn. But it will be worth it.

Photoshop World 2017

Posted on Wednesday, April 26th, 2017 at 4:54 AM in Photoshop, Travel by Garstor

Alright, today is not Sunday as originally promised. I arrived home at about 1 AM Sunday morning and spent that day in a daze. Then it was back to work.

However, Photoshop World 2017 was absolutely awesome! I cannot wait for the next one! Photoshop World and the FFRF National Conventions are going to be my annual rituals from now on.

I met some wonderful fellow Canadians as well as some of my Photoshop heroes (Corey Barker, Glyn Dewis, Scott Kelby). Most of the talks were spectacular and I learned a lot. I tried to balance between photography talks and Photoshop talks – there was so much though and often it was tough to pick between talks when they were being held at the same time.

KelbyOne opened PSW with a hilarious TV show spoof, “Photoshop Cops.” Be sure to watch the blooper reel afterward. That link also includes the keynote address by Adobe’s Julieanne Kost.

Canon is at every single PSW and offers free camera cleaning and minor repairs. There were professional models posing – for hours! – so that people can walk up and take photos. I still have to edit my photos; however, I will write another post once I have them on Flickr.

Stacy Pearsall’s talk would tear your heart out – this was definitely a show highlight and worth the price of admission. The photos and videos that she shared were just incredible. I had to keep checking myself that this stuff is not Hollywood and that it really happened. Really powerful.

Stacy made jokes throughout her talk but we rarely laughed – not because they were bad jokes; but rather the emotional weight of her story kept us silent. She had to remind the audience that it was okay to laugh!

Stacy is now working on the Veterans Portrait Project – she started taking photos of vets while waiting in the VA hospitals. That turned into emotional/psychological therapy for her own healing.

Bibliophile that I am, I bought a bunch of books. Glyn Dewis signed his new book Photograph Like A Thief for me. I also picked up Scott Kelby’s newest Photoshop CC For Photographers and Corey Barker’s How To Create Bad-Ass Effects In Photoshop.

Since they offered a great deal, I bought all of Topaz Labs’ software.

Phew! My AmEx card is still twitching from all of that. But so very worth it!

Time For Photoshop World!

Posted on Wednesday, April 19th, 2017 at 5:19 AM in Photoshop by Garstor

It is finally here!

At 10 AM, I leave for Orlando, Florida to attend my first Photoshop World conference.

On Sunday, I’ll blog about the experience.

The Bad News About The Gym

Posted on Sunday, April 16th, 2017 at 10:27 AM in Fitness, Personal by Garstor

Last week was brutally stressful. Even with the “Good” Friday Christian-torture-porn day off…

Friday afternoon, I was in the local Good Life Fitness to begin getting myself back into shape. I learned that I have a long row to hoe ahead of me. I am basically right back to my worst condition. I am about the same weight and body fat percentage as when I met my first personal trainer – the very cool Patrick – back in Texas.

I tipped the scales at 262 pounds and about 32% body fat!

Ugh!

Getting Back To The Gym

Posted on Sunday, April 9th, 2017 at 5:49 PM in Fitness, Personal by Garstor

At last!

It has been a long time and all the work that I put into my body with Patrick, Isaac and Josh has been lost. But that does not need to be a permanent situation.

I’m going to get it back.

On Friday, I signed up for Good Life Fitness. The gym takes up the entire second floor of the building where I work.

I’m on-call this week, so I start working out this coming Friday.