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

Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

The First Photos

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

As soon as I had the battery pack fully-charged, I went out on my balcony and snapped two quick photos of the building where I work.

First Photo 1Yes, I live that close by!

The only editing I did to this first image was a straighten and crop in Photoshop. I dropped the JPEG image quality very slightly to reduce the file size to a “mere” 4 MB.

First Photo 2The second photo really impressed me. The kit lens on the new camera is 18-135 mm; so I was astonished at how close I could get to the Moneris sign.

In both cases, the spectacular clarity of detail keeps my jaw dropped. I can hardly wait to get out on a photo-walk around the area – especially along Mimico Creek.

The Canon EOS 80D can create time-lapse sequences automatically. I’ve been think about creating a time-lapse of the Moneris building from pre-dawn to dusk. Just as soon as I learn the feature and can ensure a stable tripod mount!

New Toy!

Monday, March 6th, 2017

My Pentax K-x has served me faithfully for nearly a decade. I have learned the basics of photography and Photoshop through my friends Dave and Gabriella. EOS-80DI continued learning with a subscription to KelbyOne and next month, I will be going to Photoshop World.

It is time to step-up my game, to learn even more and start taking much better pictures.

Here is the first and biggest investment in that plan, a Canon EOS 80D. I made heavy use of the excellent DP Review website to compare cameras. I started with the Pentax K-1, the Pentax K-3 II, the EOS 80D, the EOS 7D Mark II and the Nikon D7200.

Having USB 3.0 and a GPS was a factor but I abandoned that. GPS would be spiffy but I don’t travel far and wide enough to really make it a necessity. Most often, I am taking photos off the camera by removing the SD card; so that eliminated a big reason for USB 3.0.

KelbyOne featured introduction videos to both the 7D Mark II and the EOS 80D. The 7D has a higher continuous shooting rate – this would be ideal for sports and wildlife photography and I don’t do either of those.

Rock-solid advice from both friends and the KelbyOne forums covered holding each camera body in-store. That was a major factor in eliminating the Nikon D7200 from my options. It has a grip that is just slightly more shallow than the Canon’s. You can’t even see it; but you can  feel it.

The EOS 80D has an articulated LCD screen that you can touch to change settings. The kit lens is an 18-135mm and it blows away my Pentax’s 18-55mm. The zoom / auto-focus on the Canon is smooth as silk and twice as quiet.

I went to my local Henry’s store and plan on using the price difference to add some additional gear in the very near future. First up is a new tripod; something a little more professional-grade than the Wal-Mart special that I currently use. Some filters are a must; I bought a circular polarizer with the camera. However, I definitely want a neutral density filter so that I can take some photos of flowing water and get that creamy look to it. I am debating investing in some flash and portable softbox equipment.

This is definitely plenty for now! New learning ahead.

Pittsburgh & Fallingwater

Monday, January 9th, 2017

The first weekend of October, I was in Pittsburgh for the 39th National Convention of the FFRF. Part of that was a group tour of Fallingwater; I did not get around to posting a Flickr album of the trip for a variety of (bad) reasons.

  • I switched to Adobe Creative Cloud and didn’t get all my apps updated in a timely fashion
  • I had just moved to Etobicoke and still needed to unpack and settle in
  • Most honestly, I was scared my photos would all be ruined – I kept a UV filter on my lens and feared it would make the pictures garbage

There was a lot of noise and I suspect the UV filter there. In many images, I used a slight Gaussian blur and then applied Smart Sharpen. All in all, I’m rather happy with how the pictures turned out.

You can view the Flickr album here.

Pittsburgh Point State Park fountainMost of the pictures are from Fallingwater, but I did take some while walking around Pittsburgh. I loved the fountain at the tip of Point State Park. In this shot, I think I got really lucky.

I thought it would look cool with the sun immediately behind the spray. But there was a huge risk of getting completely blown out. That didn’t happen though and the shot works.

Just the same, I should probably invest in a neutral gradient filter sometime in the near future.

FallingwaterBut Fallingwater is nothing less than breath-taking!

You are not permitted to take photos during the tour itself. That’s why everything I have is exterior shots. I understand the rationale behind that rule; but it is still disappointing that I could not fully chronicle my visit there.

I’ll definitely have to return sometime to get more shots from this magical place.

A shout-out must be given to Adobe Photoshop and the Content-Aware Fill technology. Fallingwater keeps a steady flow of tourists through the house, so there is always going to be people on the cantilevered balconies. But I removed a few strong distractions with the Spot Healing brush and Content-Aware. Amazing results!

I am looking forward to some photowalk opportunities around Etobicoke soon.

A camera and kit upgrade may also be in my future – we’lll see!

Here We Go!

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

Day One of three hundred and sixty-five. Phew! What to say? Can I be optimistic?

I think that in the immediate vicinity of my personal life that I can be very optimistic.

  • I have a job that I enjoy and will soon have my first anniversary for
  • In spite of a cockroach infestation; I live so close to my job that my work/life balance has improved dramatically
  • I am advancing in a hobby that I love
  • In less than two months time, my grandmother will celebrate her 100th birthday

There are challenges ahead for this year. I’ve kept this blog mostly clear of politics this year. But the US election of Donald “Cheeto Hitler” Trump is highly disturbing. If I did not have very dear friends living there, I would be laughing until I burst a vein. But the fact remains, when the US sneezes, Canada catches the cold. So I have both personal and selfish reasons for concern.

Fortunately, I support the FFRF! They are gearing up to fight all attacks against the First Amendment posed by this vile man-child and his cabinet of anti-intellectual billionaires. I remain hopeful that Trump will be brought to heel somehow. Longer term, this debacle may trigger meaningful electoral reform in the USA.

I am not one for New Year’s Resolutions. They are silly. However; I do intend to reinvigorate my lifestyle toward healthier choices. I need to begin a regular workout routine with the equipment in this building. I need to improve my eating habits too.

We’ll see what comes of all this.

Happy New Year 2017!

Friday, December 30th, 2016

Happy New Year - 2017I started working on this last weekend; so I definitely had a looming deadline from the start!

This is one of the few times that I have managed to see an idea in my head come all the way to completion. Well, close enough to completion. As they say in the art world, “You never finish something; you just stop working on it.” Most of my original vision is contained in this render.

The room was done with LWCad. There are windows behind the camera because I planned to have image-based lighting. I may return to that idea in the future. LWCad also created the moulding for the walls – I love the Engraver tool! It makes short work for things like this.

The marble plinth was the first thing that I created. It’s texture comes from Substance Painter. I originally wanted to add some gold flecks to further catch the light. That is another idea that I’ll have to return to in the future.

The numbers started in LightWave easily enough. I imported them into ZBrush to attempt some retopology with ZRemesher. I still have a lot to learn on that front. While I did get tris and quads out of it instead of the horrible n-gons, the meshes are still not as clean as I would like them to be. As such, I didn’t UV map them. Their texture uses procedurals with a LightWave dielectric material.

Last night, I tweaked the placement of two area lights and got the happy accident of the caustics. I love caustics!

Finally, to break up the colours and draw the eye a bit; I did a cloth simulation. One of my 3D friends really hates the addition of the cloth! While it is not 100% of what I wanted with it, I do like how it came out.

There’s plenty more I could tweak and add. But this is the final version for now.

2017 New Year Render

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

2017 New Year - work in progress

This image is still very much a work in progress. There is still a lot of things I need to add and improve here. Most notably, I have yet to model some baseboards. I should also create some ceiling trim while I am at it.

Everything was modeled in LightWave; however, the numbers were imported into ZBrush for retopology (done very badly by me). Texturing for the room and the plinths was done in Substance Painter. I quickly realized that I don’t have substances for wall paint or for the wood parquet flooring that I originally envisioned.

Because the numbers do not have UV maps, I used a procedural flakes noise to drive the bump of a LightWave dielectric material. I was aiming for a cut-glass look; none of the green colour has come through though.

More tweaking to do here. Hopefully, I can complete this on time.

Getting Caught Up On Stuff

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Screaming up again on a month without a post here. Let’s fix that.

I hinted at a sore throat and that sumbitch only just went away in the last couple of days. It was about two weeks of an actual cold and then two weeks of a dry, scratching throat. It kept me coughing and making ahem sounds.

Black Friday and all the days leading up to Christmas Eve are super-busy for work. As a payment processing company, you expect that. The entire team is essentially on-call right now. Officially, I’m on-call next Friday. Fun!

I have finally re-installed all my SevenStyles Photoshop Actions into PS 2017. Brad has been busy creating even more Actions, so I’ll have to buy more in the near future.

In spite of the sore throat, I have recorded more videos about using Headus UV Layout on my YouTube channel. I was asked to do videos about unwrapping a human model; so I undertook the challenge. I used the free MakeHuman tool to get a female model and then set out to create 3 UV Maps rather than the single UV map produced by MakeHuman.

In the very near future, I am also going to take the plunge into the world of ZBrush. There is definitely a lot to learn there.

I am hoping that all of this will take my mind off of the looming disaster of President Trumpycakes.

CN Tower Stair Climb For Charity

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Moneris buildingMy colleagues and I at Moneris began climbing the stairs in our building as an afternoon break and for some extra fitness. One day, seemingly as a joke, someone mentioned climbing the stairs of the CN Tower.

That quickly became a serious idea. We looked at our stair climbs as a form of training.

The CN Tower stair climb for charity has been around nearly as long as the CN Tower itself. Normally, the stairs are reserved for maintenance personnel only (and it shows on the inside). But once per year, people climb the stairs from outside the tower, up to the observation deck. The donations raised benefit the United Way.

There are 1,776 steps and 145 flights in the CN Tower. We have 21 flights at work and managed to get to the point of climbing, coming down the elevator and climbing again 4 or 5 times. By our math, that was about one CN Tower worth of climbing.

The Moneris DBA Stair Climbing TeamI’m probably in the worst shape of the entire team. At the 96th flight, my right knee was hurting enough that I couldn’t put much pressure on it. That definitely slowed me down.

My time was 35 minutes and 14 seconds.

I’m proud of all of us. We raised $500 for the United Way. We’ll likely do it again next year – faster.

Settling In

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

I have been here in Etobicoke for over two weeks now but I am still unpacking. I accomplished a lot on that front today though.

Some highlights:

  • Walking to work is awesome! I love coming home for lunch and have started a healthier sandwich meal instead of eating at the food court at work.
  • The layout of this apartment gives the feeling of being bigger than my last place in Hamilton, even though it is technically smaller.
  • I might be able to put some of my LEGO models back on display!

Work remains however.

This is a much older building with a lot more units, so bug infestation is a problem. I know that sounds gross, but it isn’t that bad and it can be dealt with. I need curtains. The 3D machine isn’t working yet; I can’t wait to get back to LightWave, World Machine, Poser and Photoshop!

Moved!

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

The worst of it is over! I am now living in Etobicoke again. I used to live near Eglinton Avenue and Martingrove Road before I moved to Texas. Now I am near Dundas Street and Islington Avenue. I thought that I would have to lose my last month of pre-paid rent in Hamilton. Happily that was not the case.

I can see the Moneris building from my balcony. I am only a five minute walk to work now. This is going to be a huge boost to my life. I will have much more free time for getting back to the gym and diving deeper into 3D art.

The Rogers cable internet speed is a pretty sweet upgrade too!

speedtest

Much unpacking and organizing remains! I’d better get back to it.