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    The Classroom

    2011 - 09.03

    Duh Duh Dugh!  Definitely the storyline for the week has been unpacking Karin’s classroom and getting it ready for students next week.  Normally you wouldn’t think this would be a big deal, but last year Karin’s school underwent seismic upgrading which means that her classroom needed to be packed up to be moved to a new school/classroom, and this time last year unpacked and setup, then at the end of the year (June) packed up and moved back to her old school (but a new classroom).  That’s probably a little hard to follow, here’s the timeline:

    • June 2010: old class packed up for moving to new school/class
    • August/September 2010: unpacking at new school/class
    • June 2011: packing at formerly new school/class
    • August/September 2011: unpacking at old school in new classroom while construction is still ongoing to finish the seismic upgrades

    So she’s back at the old school, in a new classroom, HER classroom.  She’s organized, and it shows.  Here are some “after” shots of the classroom setup (there’s still a bit of work to be done, but the heavy lifting is finished).  Perhaps Karin will post the “before” pictures in the next couple of days.



    Her desk and area:



    The pop machine last year’s class made for her:



    View out the windows near her desk:



    View out the windows at the other side of the classroom:



    The bulletin board on the cloakroom (I did the papering):



    Another bulletin board, and are those expertly assembled Ikea Ivar shelves?  Why yes they are:



    Another bulletin board, and are those expertly connected computers?  Why yes they are:



    Rolling cubbies with books in front of the radiator:



    Full room shots:





    So it took a lot of work this week, most of it by Karin, with help from her mom, and minor contributions by yours truly.  The results thus far are very impressive and satisfying, should be a great year!

    The downside is that Karin has a very sore back from all the work she’s been doing, so hopefully that will pass quickly, hopefully.

    Photomatix: Review

    2011 - 09.02

    As mentioned earlier we bought Photomatix to do some High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography.  We decided to do that after we tried it out a little bit and posted some pictures to Flickr as mentioned before.

    The trial version of Photomatix is the same as the full version except that it adds watermarks to the final version of the image, which effectively renders it useless, unless you really want to advertise the fact that you used the trial version.

    Anyway, when doing the original HDR photos of the arbutus trees and foliage I planned ahead a little bit.  When you are saving a file in Photomatix you also get the option of saving the settings that you used to manipulate or perhaps more appropriately combine the multiple exposures into a single exposure.  The end result is an XMP file.

    “Ok, good.” I think to myself, now if I buy the software later I’ll be able to remake these same HDR photos without the watermarks, as I have saved the settings I used to make them in the first place!

    1. So you’ve bought the software
    2. You previously saved the settings used to make the HDR photo as an XMP file
    3. You open Photomatix
    4. Now what?

    I spent a lot of time on number 4.  I thought, I’ll just go to “Open” and select the file, and automagically things will just happen.  Well that fantasy didn’t last very long, as the “Open” dialog doesn’t allow you to open .xmp files.  Huh!?!?  That’s helpful.

    Drag and drop the file into Photomatix?  Nope, doesn’t work either.

    I probably tried a few other things too, it turns out what you need to do is go through the same process of loading the original source files (I guess that what they were is not stored int he .xmp file, or Photomatix simply isn’t set up to make use of it) into Photomatix as though you were making a completely different HDR image.

    After it has loaded the bracketed photos into the HDR image for you to manipulate prior to processing it, you’re hoping that somehow you’re going to be able to make use of the .xmp file that your past self thought was pretty smart of it for having the forethought to create.

    Well it turns out that you can use it, but it’s still not anywhere near as simple as it should be.  There are a few different types of HDR image within Photomatix: Tone Mapping and Exposure Fusion and within those there can be a couple of different sub-types as well.  The downside is that you need to select the appropriate mode and sub-type and then go to a drop down box and select “load settings” before you can load the settings you’ve previously saved.

    It works, but it’s cumbersome and clunky.  Realistically I should be able to include the .xmp at the beginning when I’m loading the bracketed photos, so that it would default to that settings file and the type of HDR composition used in the settings file when presenting the intermediary HDR for manipulation.  Of course that’s only assuming that you couldn’t use the ideal method of just loading the .xmp file and having it load the bracketed photos used for the HDR automagically based on the values in the .xmp file.  But really there’s no excuse for having to pre-select the appropriate type and sub-type of settings before it will let you load the settings file (it literally has a pop-up that tells you that the settings file doesn’t contain settings for that type/sub-type).  On some level it’s good for you to know, but even if they really thought that was important, why couldn’t they instead add to that pop-up: “These settings are for type/sub-type and not the currently selected other type/other sub-type, would you like to load these settings which will result in a change to the type/sub-type or would you like to load a different settings file for the currently selected other type/other sub-type?  [Do it anyway] [Load other] [Cancel]”

    Of course if you never save the settings with the intention of using them to recreate the same image, or to use for other images to apply identical settings, well then you’ll never encounter this issue.

    Is it annoying?  Yes.  Is it bad design?  I’d say so.  Is it a show stopper which makes the software not worth using?  No, I don’t think so.  Especially if you know what to expect, which obviously I didn’t, and came in with unrealistic expectations of how easy it would be to recreate those previous HDR images.

    The final result of all this is actually that I’ve redone all those earlier HDR images so that they no longer have the watermarks, which means I can order prints of them now.  You can see the updated images on Flickr.

    Photomatix: Educational Pricing

    2011 - 08.29

    The other week we contacted Photomatix to see if Karin qualified for their educational pricing, and it turns out she did!  So we now have a licensed version of the software for 60% off the regular price.  We sent in a scan of her BC College of Teachers card and that was sufficient evidence.

    Amusingly we have done next to nothing with the software since we bought it, but it does mean that we can now put together HDR photos without the watermarks on them, so maybe we’ll soon have some of those decorating our walls.  It’s also a good reason for us to do more of that type of photography… so you may see more experimentation in the coming months.

    Unexpected Visitor

    2011 - 08.08

    With Karin on vacation I had expected that the house would be a little more empty, but what I really wasn’t prepared for was an unexpected visitor!  What gave it away was it the whole “unexpected” part?

    So I’m in the en-suite taking a cold pill because I’ve got a bit of a sore throat which mostly only bothers me when I’m talking (but I could totally record a smoky jazz album right now, if only I could do jazz), and I hear this chirping.  Not really that strange, the slider to the balcony is open in the bedroom (blinds closed), and there are birds out there reasonably regularly.  Seems as though one of our neighbours (above us) has contraband bird feeders.  That coupled with Karin’s jungle (e.g. garden) means that we see little birds on our balcony reasonably regularly.  Pretty timid little guys, took us quite a while before we were able to get any pictures of them, as they’d take off pretty much as soon as they saw us through the doorway.

    But as I walk into the bedroom, it becomes clear that the sound isn’t coming from the balcony.  Ok, no problem, Karin mentioned that she’d seen them perched on the outside of our windows before, and sure enough it sounds as though it’s coming from near one of our open windows in the livingroom.  Unfortunately, it turns out that this little birdie decided to visit the inside of our apartment.

    2011_08_08_IMG_6320 by dcowley
    I own this place!, a photo by dcowley on Flickr.

    So I watch for a few seconds, and it’s clearly trying to get out, and doesn’t like our guest rewards program (no air miles).  So I fiddle with the blinds for a few minutes trying to get it to either fly high enough to get out the little tilt out window (30cm/1 ft) or to fly in the direction of the open door to the balcony.  Neither met with any real success.

    A phone call to the parents to see if they have any brilliant suggestions, and the best one was trying to herd it with a soft broom, or use a pillow case to catch and bundle it.

    I have one of those grabber things, and I got a tea towel and used the grabber thing to hold the tea towel hanging down to try to herd the bird, this was mildly successful, and at one point I had it inside the towel, but it got out before I could take it away from the window.

    Moving some furniture around so that I could hopefully herd the bird all along the front windows and eventually to the balcony door, this met with some success, I was able to close the blinds behind the bird and keep it moving towards the balcony, but it didn’t want to turn the corner and leave the windows behind.  So after some additional effort and a couple of failed attempts, I managed to get the tea towel over top of it, then carefully trying to tuck the bird into the towel I was able to carry it to the balcony door.  I tossed the towel to the balcony floor so that the bird would have some space.  It landed fine on top of the towel, and then flew up to the railing and then away.  So thankfully the story has a happy ending.  I however have a bunch of cleaning and putting back to do.

    In some of the pictures you can probably see a purpley substance, I’m not sure what it is, but I figure I had best clean it up.  I had not actually planned to work on that area of the house today, but luckily I can be flexible.

    Here’s the pictures from the encounter:


    Unexpected Visitor, a set on Flickr.

    Via Flickr:
    A bird flew into my appartment today…

    No that’s not the beginning of a joke, it actually happened.

    Technical Tip: Picasa 2 Flickr

    2011 - 08.05

    We have been using Picasa for a little while now to try to get a handle on the huge number of digital photographs that we have (using version 3.8), and so far it seems to be working fine.  Not necessarily perfect, but definitely better than nothing.  Given that Picasa is free we didn’t spend huge amounts of time doing research, but rather decided more or less that we’d start there and if it wasn’t adequate that we could start looking for something different.  I don’t think we’re at the point yet where we’ve started to look for something different.

    One of the features that Picasa has now (and hasn’t always had if you haven’t tried it in a while) is the ability to detect “faces” in pictures, and so it will scan through all the photos it finds on your computer and identify what it thinks are faces in the pictures.  This can lead to some amusing errors, as I’ve seen it detect faces on billboards, artwork or advertising as faces, and on some level they are, they just aren’t “people”.  Regardless it does a decent job of this, after it finds the faces it starts to group them based on similarity and then you can start to label who those faces belong to.  It’s a little bit like training dictation software, the more faces you identify the better it becomes at suggesting other pictures which contain that person.

    The end result is that we both have fairly large listings of photographs which are identified with having either myself or Karin in them, which vastly narrows down the number of photographs that I needed to look at in order to find one of us that Karin could use to get a print for Oma.  The other nice thing about it is it virtualizes the folders in which you store your photographs, so it doesn’t matter if physically the photos are actually in the same folder, I can look at all of the ones with me in it regardless of their location, which is definitely a time saver.

    Picasa has this thing called Web Albums and to be honest neither of us has tried it, so maybe it’s awesome, maybe it’s not, but we’re both on Flickr.  But given that Picasa is maintained/owned by Google and Flickr is maintained/owned by Yahoo it’s not surprising that there isn’t native functionality that allows you to upload photos that you find in Picasa to Flickr… which leads to a little frustration, you can find the pictures, but not necessarily put them where you want (in this case a private set on Flickr where Karin can browse full resolution photos which she may then use to order prints from in Edmonton; which is just way more efficient than trying to email a bunch of high resolution images).  That said, we’re obviously not the first people to want to do something like this, and someone else has already solved the problem.

    Enter picasa2flickr which is essentially a “button” which you can install in Picasa (download it while you have Picasa running and it will prompt you to install it there), it will then allow you to select photos and send them to the Flickr Uploadr which you probably already installed if you’re using Flickr.  So once you have everything installed it’s a multi-step process:

    1. Find the pictures you want to upload in Picasa
    2. Send them to the Flickr Uploadr using the picasa2flickr button that you previously installed
    3. The pictures will appear in the Flickr Uploadr, and you use it as normal to create sets, add tags, and upload to Flickr

    Not necessarily super fast, but it works fine.  So despite the fact that the website doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2009 (picasa2flickr) it still works fine (or at least it did for us in both Windows XP and Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit).

    Anyway, if you find yourself dealing with a similar problem, this just might be the solution for you.

    Long Distance Quest

    2011 - 08.04

    Talked to Karin today, which was nice.  Looks like I’ve got a bachelor pad until late next week, which means… hmmm… don’t really know what it means.  I guess it means that for the next week all the mess is my fault…  I don’t like that, so I’ll have to clean.  I think she tricked me somehow.

    Oma has requested a picture of Karin and I, both of us together, so I now get to look through our photos and see what we’ve got.  Since we’re usually behind the lens there won’t be huge amounts.  So if you think you’ve got a good candidate shot send it our way.  I think that Karin’s intending to have it printed in Edmonton while she’s there, so the sooner the better.

    If you accept this quest, you too can spend much time looking at pictures, your reward: many of them will have Karin in them.

    Night Views (Burnaby)

    2011 - 07.31
    Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)
    Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)
    Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)
    Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)

    Night Views (Burnaby), a set on Flickr.

    Via Flickr:
    Various photos taken on an interesting weather night in Burnaby near the full moon. Assorted bracketed exposures which eventually will be used to try some HDR cityscapes.

    These were taken just after we got back from Sooke, it was near the full moon and the clouds were doing some interesting stuff.  I decided that I’d see if I could do some more HDR stuff, but with the cityscapes instead.  I haven’t done anything with the pictures yet, so we’ll see how that turns out, but some of them are sufficiently interesting on their own.  Various exposure levels are used to achieve these effects, but no post processing has taken place.

    All pictures are taken from our balcony, most using our tripod.

    P.S.  Karin took some pictures at the same time, but she hasn’t uploaded any of hers yet, so I’m not sure how they turned out.

    Backyard Flowers

    2011 - 07.30
    Backyard FlowersBackyard FlowersBackyard FlowersBackyard FlowersBackyard FlowersBackyard Flowers
    Backyard FlowersBackyard FlowersBackyard FlowersBackyard FlowersBackyard FlowersBackyard Flowers
    Backyard FlowersBackyard FlowersBackyard FlowersBackyard FlowersBackyard FlowersBackyard Flowers
    Backyard FlowersBackyard FlowersBackyard FlowersBackyard FlowersBackyard FlowersBackyard Flowers

    Backyard Flowers, a set on Flickr.

    Via Flickr:
    Flowers from the Abel backyard and deck.

    So these are some of the photographs I took when I managed to distract Honey enough to allow me to take pictures.  I’m not really a flower guy, so for the most part I couldn’t tell you what kind of flowers they are, actually I suppose that’s not true, they are “pretty flowers”, yup that’s a technical term!

    These are also from the Wednesday photo day.

    Milestone: 13%

    2011 - 07.29

    I’ve spent the last day and a half looking at Karin’s pictures on Flickr, I often see her taking pictures, but I often don’t actually get to see the end result.  I think that’s part of what’s missing with the transition to digital, she doesn’t come home one day with several packages of prints that you then just casually pick up and flip through.  In many cases I find that I’m unaware that she’s taken a picture, especially since it seems as though she’s taken over 2,000 with her iPhone alone, and of course when she first got her Canon Rebel XTi she averaged 100 pictures a day for quite a while, and is probably somewhere in the 30,000 pictures taken range.

    Well I’m currently on page 28 of 211 (although I think she’s about to upload more pictures shortly), which represents all of the 2011 pictures that she has posted and about 13% of the total posted.  Some of them are crazy good, and maybe I’ll convince her to slowly share some of the best ones here, but by all means do go and check them out on Flickr.

    Recalculation: 479/3,794 = 12.625%  Well it’s progress, and eventually I will run into more pictures which I’ve seen before, if not for a while.  Still looking at all the one’s that she’s posted in 2011 feels like an accomplishment and a good excuse to take a break, blog and maybe even have dinner, or some ice cream with raspberry syrup!  But that’s another story.

    P.S.  In theory this is a milestone post for another reason, it’s #100 at Cowbels, Karin didn’t figure we should seek recognition until we got to 1,000… so I didn’t write about that accomplishment ;-)

    Rocky Point – Port Moody

    2011 - 07.29
    Seagull on a lamp 01Seagull on a lamp 02Seagull on a lamp 03Bird at Bird HousesBird at Bird HousesBird at Bird Houses
    Bird at Bird HousesBird at Bird HousesBird at Bird HousesBird at Bird HousesPigeons on the railingPigeons on the railing
    Pigeons on the railingPigeons on the railingPigeons on the railingPigeons on the railingPigeons on the railingPigeons on the railing

    Rocky Point – Port Moody, a set on Flickr.

    Via Flickr:
    Taken the afternoon of 27 July 2011 at Rocky Point Park in Port Moody, B.C.

    So after far too many days of not feeling well Karin seemed to be largely over whatever was causing the increase in Ménière’s symptoms, and in truth was going a little stir crazy at home.  Needing to get out of the house is one thing, but figuring out what to do was entirely another.  Karin seemed to settle on the idea of going to a park and doing a bit of photography.  We considered and eliminated: the seawall, colony farm and Fraser foreshore park.  The first we eliminated because we’d be too far away from our car or what have you if Karin started to not feel well again, or just ran out of energy.  The other two we were unfamiliar with, and it looked as though the getting to far away would likewise be a problem for colony farm.  So although Karin has been to Rocky Point countless times, I had hardly been there at all, and so we decided it was a good fit.

    These are some of the photos that I took while we were walking around, hopefully Karin will post some of her own as well.  I think we also may need to look at acquiring a longer lens than our current longest (75-300mm) as there were some additional opportunities out there which we were unable to take advantage of.  We believe that we saw an eagle on one of the pilings, but even at maximum zoom the bird is too small to definitively identify, and definitely not of high enough quality to be worth posting.

    Incidentally, those birds at the bird houses, I have no idea what they are, so if you know… (ed. the birds have been identified as Purple Martins, this was my dad’s first guess, which was subsequently backed up by a bird book, and then details on the Rocky Point website.  You should be impressed, as the identification was before looking it up anywhere, which just served to confirm it.) 

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