Sunday, March 28, 2010

A New Member Joins The Family

Townhouse Waterfall
We went driving around yesterday for a bit, looking for a place to live that is smaller, requires less overhead, and costs less to maintain. Ruth paused at this Townhouse entry and I had to grab a shot of the waterfall.

This was taken with my new machine.  While the Nikon D70 sat at home alone, the D300s come out with us for the day. It's true, my D70 was an extension of my brain, I didn't have to think much to use it.  I've been shooting with it now since 2005. It's easy to flick the buttons on the back and I'm quick on the draw for a shot. I'm as fast on the controls as my previous manual Nikon FM2n.

But this new machine is another matter. It's built like a G-Shock watch and has got more tools hidden inside than a swiss army knife. I don't know what half of the controls are for or what they do. However, I do use the the auto-bracketing. This thing flies through 7 frames a second. Yikes! If I hold the trigger down it will blow through 100 frames in less then 15 seconds. It sounds like a jet.  But I didn't get it for speed.

In the old days (back in '77) my camera was just a light box. I could mount a great lens on a cardboard box loaded with Kodachrome 64 and take great pictures. (For example take a quick scan at this fuchsia flower. It was shot with an empty toilet roll stuck between the 50mm lens and the body of a Fujica.) Photographers spent their money on glass and bought the best they could afford. It was all in the glass.

The cameras today are much more than a box. They are really computers with the processing power of my MacBook. The computer in the camera studies the scene and compares it to thousands of images in it's memory bank. It adjusts for white balance, ISO, 51 focusing points, and more. What all that really means is that it can do the thinking for me.

With manual cameras the photographer had to think about what they were doing. Those were the days when cameras were metal, not plastic.  The lenses were made of brass and stainless steel.  They were fast (could see in low light) and razor sharp. There were few zooms then. The ones that existed were heavy and unclear.  Today's zooms are better but often are slow (need a lot of light or flash) and are mostly made of plastic.

two men in a boat crop
Yep, them were the days. Those bodies could take a beating.  If your camera looked like it came off the store's display shelf you weren't really a shooter. You were just a poser. But if the camera was dinged and dimpled and the brass was showing through the black top and bottom plates, you were for real. My  F3/MD4 looked like this one when I sold it five years ago on eBay.

Yeah, back then cameras were cameras, men were men, and women were men.

Where was I...oh yeah.

This is the first digital I've had that is manufactured of metal like the old days.  I often treat it like a my F3 and put everything on manual and shoot like it was a film camera. It's just a lot easier than overriding everything. I'm not normal. I'm a control freak.

For the shot of the waterfall I leaned against the tree, let out half my breath, and squeezed the shutter softly. The machine inhaled five images in a blink. That was it. It was painless.  Afterward I merged the frames using Photomatix Pro. No overrides.

I also used a Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 lens.  This thing can see in the dark.  Compared to my Tokina 12-24 f4 it's sharper. What's more important is that it's sharp wide open. It is sharper then Nikon's 12-24 in all apertures. In fact, it is the sharpest wide angle zoom lens on the market today.

The camera itself, the D300s, can capture scenes lit by a single candle. It can be set to 64,000 ASA. That's 40 times more sensitive than an average camera. Whoa! I try to avoid flash whenever I can and this in combination with the lens will do it.

Of course, it's going to take me a while to figure out all the doodads this crazy machine has, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

I'm going out shooting now.  But first, I need to hammer a few dings in the body, maybe even drag it behind the car for a block or two.  I don't want anyone thinking I'm just a poser.

You don't take a photograph. You ask, quietly, to borrow it. ~ Author Unknown
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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Kohinoor Nexus Light Sepia Pen

Whoa, I mean like wow. What a pen.

I know I've been touting the Uniball Vision Micro (0.5) for quite sometime. I love the fact that I can use it for everyday writing, sketching, and use in my work journal. It's waterproof, smearproof, and archival, that is, it doesn't fade. (If you think none of this stuff is important, think again.  Take a look at the disaster sketch I did back when I didn't understand this stuff.  See related link below "I bought a pen today.)

One of the reasons I like the Uniball so much is that I can buy several different pen widths all of which use the same great waterproof ink. The Uniballs come in 1.0, 0.8, 0.7, 0.5 needle and regular tipped. The waterproof ink enables me to watercolor right over my sketchy lines and make a decent illustrated page.  They are also non-porous tipped. In other words instead of a felt-like tip they are a rollerball. That means that I can leave them uncapped at my desk all day without fear of drying out. (I know of one woman that runs a art workshop who spends most of her time running around capping porous point pens the  students leave uncapped.) Fugetaboutit, life it too short. Get a non-porous tipped pen.

They also come in red, blue, pink, green, and my favorite black. But alas there is no brown or sepia color.

So I went hunting. My needs are simple:

1) non-porous tip
2) waterproof, smearproof and archival
3) lasts a while (lots of ink)
4) not too ugly
5) sepia (or brown)

I walked into a Dick Blick store today and found this Kohinoor Nexus pen. It made my #4 criteria above . . . it's not too ugly. It's cool and retro in a mother-could-only-love sort of way. When I popped the cap off I was pleased to discover a rollerball tip. I scribbled in my Moleskine Sketchbook pocket journal. (I always carry one, especially to the art store, so I can try out all kinds of pens and paints in it.)

Of course, it's waterproof and smearproof and archival.  I wouldn't have even picked it up if it were not all of those.  But here is the  unexpected feature:  It will write way past all the other pens.  It claims to write for 1.2 miles!  Whoa, I don't even think I could run that far.  That's quite a distance.

Two months ago I used up one of my Uniball Vision Micro in a month.  I'm not sure how many feet or yards or miles it wrote but it seemed too short to me.  I was actually surprised I was reaching into my bag for another pen so soon.

So, from this point forward, I'll be using my new pen.  I love the feel, it's smooth. I love the sepia color, it's way cool. I like the tech-look, it's mostly me.

I'll check in with my results in a future post.

The pen is the tongue of the mind. - Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

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[You might have noticed that the links take you to Amazon.  And yes, I make a few pennies if you buy from the link.  But you wouldn't deny me a little cash for this wonderful review, right? No? Rats.]

Saturday, March 06, 2010

750 Words A Day

I've been writing over at a new site I discovered called It's a word journaling site that is very cool. What makes the site interesting is the statistics that are automatically gathered from my typing.

Now it's true, I can journal offline in my wordprocessor somewhere, or in a private blog instead. But what makes this site so interesting to me is that "Buster" (the guy that designed the site) sends the text I type into various text assessment engines that show me graphically what kind of writing I've done. The analytics will even determine my mood based on the words I use and the frequency of them.

The example above shows one of the graphs that came out of today's writing. Note that AS I type he captures WPM (words per minute). I can actually see where I paused to think (or sip coffee) and where my stream of consciousness was at it's peak.

Here's another graph of the mood assessment. Very cool.
To encourage me to journal every day, he gives points. They really don't make a whole lot of sense. The points are given based on how many words I type each day. I get an extra point for making the daily goal of 750, and another point for visiting every day. The points are given sort of like bowling frames. If I make 750 yesterday, that's a strike and I get more points in the next two days. Again, none of the points mean anything except to keep me motivated to write.

And here's a very revealing assessment:
But why 750 words? He explains on his website but in a nutshell 750 words gives the writer a chance to get into "the grove." After about 250 words I find that I actually lose track of time. In the last five days I've written about 4,000 words. I can't believe it's so easy.

You can also export entries so as to keep them on your machine locally or print them out and glue them into a hardback journal.

Very cool.

When my journal appears, many statues must come down. - Arthur Wellesley
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