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

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 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!

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

Slipping Gears On Blog Posting Again

Here we are, half-way through the month of June and this is my second post. Before that, my last post was the middle of May. Let’s get caught-up on the stuff in my world.

I was going to evaluate BlogJet as replacement for Windows Live Writer. I abandoned that idea when I saw that BlogJet is nearly as old as WLW and has been just as long without any update to its software. Why would I pay for that when WLW is free?

Another piece of software that I began evaluating is RizomUV. It turned out that most of my evaluation period was being done on an older version. So the author graciously extended my evaluation period so that I could use the latest version. As previously mentioned, this tool has many features that make it superior to UV Layout; I am almost certainly going to switch. I did hit a few technical oddities but that might be caused by issues with my bell tower mesh.

NPS_TorontoBefore Photoshop World, Canada celebrated Victoria Day. I took the opportunity for a long overdue photowalk at Nathan Phillips Square, Roundhouse Park and Ripley’s Aquarium. I must confess, Nathan Phillips Square was much smaller than I had envisioned.

I arrived very early in the morning, so the square was empty of people. Occasionally, buses would arrive and about 30 Asian tourists would tumble out and take cellphone pictures for a few minutes before moving on to the next site. Since I had my tripod and other gear with me, I was deemed to be an expert (how little they knew! Sarcastic smile). Several people asked me to take pictures for them. I happily obliged – it was fun.

Islington_Subway_BWOne of my favourite photos was the first one of the day. I thought to take a photo of the train arriving at Islington station. This one screamed at me to be done in black & white.

I also took a photo of the connecting tunnel at Spadina station that links the east-west and north-south subway lines. The early morning holiday hours saw this normally crowded area devoid of people. So I liked how that came out.

This has inspired me to make a major (for me) photography project based on the subway lines. I’m still considering what my precise approach will be.

Photoshop World 2018

Last Wednesday, I flew to Orlando, Florida for my second Photoshop World. Just like the FFRF National Conventions, I am going to aim to make this an annual event for myself.

The flight into Orlando experience some short but fierce turbulence. It didn’t bother me; I was more intrigued by my fellow passengers’ reactions. For the first time in my life, I saw real fear on someone’s face. This poor woman across the aisle was terrified and it showed in way that I had never seen before. Behind my seat, a young girl kept asking, “Are we okay?” The plane was already on approach, so we had no choice but to go through it. Quite the experience.

PSW 2018 Welcome SignOf course, PSW was an even better experience!

Scott Kelby, the entire KelbyOne staff and all the amazing instructors really do their utmost to make this a great conference for creative people. Everybody is friendly and helpful.

Several people from the KelbyOne message forums attended. We met up often in the Community Lounge area to relax and chat and to help other attendees.

Here is the link to my Photoshop World 2018 Flickr album.

Natural Light Still Life - LilyOddly, I did not take that many photos this time. But there are a few shots that I am proud of.

KelbyOne member, Melanie Kern-Favilla attended to show off her floral photography technique. She delivered a KelbyOne class on her style too. With Melanie’s suggestions, I photographed this still life lily with natural light. It is hard to believe that there are massive floor to ceiling windows behind me with the Florida afternoon sun glaring in. But that’s Melanie’s magic at work!

May was a sparse month for blog posts. I’m aiming to change that this month.

Considering Some New Tools

Blogging

I have been writing this blog with Windows Live Writer for many years now. I’m used to the tool and it fits (mostly) the way that I work. At the same time, it is getting long in the tooth and clearly Microsoft is not going to update it – WLW shows a 2012 copyright. So I started to seek out other blog writing applications.

About the only one that seemed really capable to me is BlogJet. The latest version was released in 2013 – so not much better than WLW. But everything else seems pale beside it. So I am going to give it a try.

This post is done with WLW, but next post will be done in BlogJet.

UV Mapping

I have been using Headus UV Layout for a few years now. I’m not at the newest version because I have let my maintenance expire. It is a far better UV tool than what either LightWave or Carrara offers.

The UI is the biggest obstacle. It is not pretty and it looks like a Windows 3 application – apologies to the young kids out there who will never know that pain. While it has some powerful unwrapping tools, they are locked behind that awful UI. My recent experience with fixing discontinuous edges that UV Layout then refused to open really left a bad taste in my mouth.

So I decided to search for a new UV tool and I found Rizom Lab. They make Unfold3D.

This tool will open FBX files as well as OBJ. It has colourized distortion maps for the flattened shells. It natively supports UDIM (I believe UV Layout does too but it is less clear). And it has a sexy, modern UI. I’m still digging into learning more about this tool before I evaluate it.

In semi-related news, I have made some good progress on cleaning-up the bell tower model. I rebuilt the base to use fewer polygons so it will unwrap more cleaning. I’ve rebuilt all of the front door pieces using subdivision surfaces. I did the same with the four big column structures around the belfry. I have much better topology now and few polygons.

So I will be returning to UV mapping the bell tower soon.

In A Blue Funk

Work has gotten me down lately. That has spilled out into my personal life; so I have not posted recently or worked on any 3D or photography.

I hate these situations. They are tough to climb out of sometimes. But climb I must!

One foot forward…

New Toy!

Last year, my Facebook feed began showing me the Pluto Trigger. Unlike most web-based advertising, this one actually caught my interest. This could be a helluva lot of fun.

imageI asked about the device on the KelbyOne forums and someone there did have one. He gave a positive endorsement for the device’s features. I also searched for other independent reviews and managed to find two.

So today, my own Pluto Trigger arrived!

It is a compact little unit, but a lot of cool stuff is packed into it. Hopefully I will finally get out for a photowalk – it has been months now – to put this new toy through its paces.

Pluto Trigger has a YouTube channel here if you want to learn more about it.

Happy 101st Birthday Grandma!

grandma-Aug-2017My grandma Garstin was born today over a century ago in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England. She attended Carter Lane Public School. I often wonder about visiting Mansfield to see it today.

She was nine years old when the family immigrated to Canada. My great-grandfather worked in the new gold mine up in Timmins, Ontario. Had he told the immigration people that he was a coal miner, the family would likely have lived in Nova Scotia and I wouldn’t be here today.

I try to visit my grandmother every weekend that I am not on-call at work. I often read to her from her memoirs that she wrote nearly 20 years ago. That always brings back memories and opens up talking points. Sometimes my dad or my aunt can call my cell phone from Australia and talk to their mom.

My long-term goals are to preserve grandma’s extensive journals and memoirs. She detailed her world travels thoroughly and they can be fascinating reads.

Happy birthday grandma! I wish I could visit you today!

A Week In Hell…

Recently my blog posts have had a somber tone. Bad news for my family and personal interests. This past week at work has been brutal; it drained nearly all my reserves for getting through each day.

We hit a new variation on a known bug in SQL Server 2016 that nearly caused an outage. So much of the week was consumed with tracking that down and monitoring for new occurrences. If the problem happens again, we should get a filtered minidump to Microsoft for analysis. One of my systems had other headaches to deal with. On top of all that, I was the on-call DBA.

Fun times…

I finished the Shanghai Skyline Lego model but did not get a photo taken yet. That will happen later today.

This is a long weekend – Monday being “Family Day” in Ontario. So tomorrow I will visit my grandmother (which I try to do every weekend that I am not on-call). On Wednesday, she turns 101 years old! So we’ll have a few glasses of sherry to celebrate.

I need to get out for a photo-walk somewhere on Monday. It has been ages since I’ve taken new photos. The shot of creative adrenaline will hopefully be what I need to recover from the last seven days.

R.I.P. Uncle Michael

Just received word from my mother that my uncle Michael passed away last night.

This was not entirely unexpected. He had appeared to be suffering from dementia – he was 84 years old – but it was moving fast. So about a month ago, a doctor ordered a brain scan. They found an very aggressive tumour.

Farewell uncle. You’ve earned your rest.