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

Posts Tagged ‘Garstor’

The Netherlands & End User Event 2017

Monday, June 19th, 2017

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

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

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.

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!

Ugh!

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!