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

Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

The Bad News About The Gym

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

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!


Getting Back To The Gym

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

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.

Staying Caught Up Is Difficult

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

I’ve been blogging about the new camera and figuring my way around it. Currently, I’m working through a KelbyOne tutorial on focusing techniques. I’ll review their video about the EOS 80D so that I can make more effective use of it.

Although it has been slow, I have not completely neglected working in 3D. Right now, my big experiment is using the DP_Verdue tree creation plugin for LightWave and taking the results into ZBrush for tweaking. So far, this has not borne fruit (pun only slightly intended). The ZBrush Dynamesh and ZRemesher features are not kind to the thin polygons that make up the smallest twigs at the branch tips.

I have one more idea to try out. I hope it works.

Poser work has stagnated though. I’ll have to find time to get back to that. Also, I am behind on the latest versions of Substance Painter and Designer. Finally, I have not played with World Machine and GeoGlyph in a long time either!

Phew. I’m tired just thinking about it all.

Getting Caught Up On Stuff

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

Well, the last couple of weeks didn’t exactly turn out the way I wanted…

No sooner do I have a new camera to learn, when it is my turn to be on-call at work. That’s part and parcel of working in I.T. I accept that. But as my week came to an end, I started getting sick again. I don’t think I’ve ever been as sick as often as I have during 2016.

Today, a few sniffles aside, I’m finally able to head outside with the 80D!

I spent about two hours along the Mimico Creek in Tom Riley Park. This is behind the Moneris building; my colleagues and I sometimes walk there for a short break.

It is a grey and rainy day. But I’m hoping that can make for some compelling black & white shots.

We’ll see!

The New Tripod

Friday, March 10th, 2017

As planned, I bought a new tripod last night to go with the new camera. I mentioned a couple of posts back that my old tripod was purchased at Wal-Mart for about $50. While it had three legs to technically meet the definition; it offered little else.

So I bought a Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB. This product is solidly in the mid-range, so that makes it a big step-up for me. The main selling points for me are the ball-head and that the central shaft can be moved 180 degrees (this will let me photograph ground and such for 3D textures).

This will be the last of my photographic purchases for awhile. At least until Photoshop World is over.

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.