Monday, September 27, 2010

Rain, rain, go the rain has gone away.

It's been raining since last night, and only now it seems that it may have stopped.
The result (obviously) is that it is pretty wet outside.  Not a whole lot worth mentioning has been going on, except for the fact that the whole fire brigade stopped by our next-door neighbor's house earlier today (at least it must have been most of it - there were around six fire trucks).  They didn't stay for long, so maybe it was a false alarm.  

On another note, I got a $12 "super wide angle" lens with a detachable macro filter last Saturday, and since then I've been experimenting with creative shots.  First, some observations about the "lens":
It's not really a lens - it's a two-piece filter that screws onto the filter threads on the front of a 58mm lens.
The front part is the "wide angle" lens, and the macro attachment screws onto the back of it.  The macro attachment can be used by itself on the front of a lens for very close-up shots, but the wide angle thing has to have the macro part attached to use, since the threads are on the inside of it instead of on the outside.

As for wide angle, the lens doesn't really do that at all.  However, I'll explain why I'm not disappointed about that.  Zoomed out at 18mm (on the 18-55mm kit lens), photos have black corners (a semi-fisheye effect, if you will) and can look as if the photo was taken while looking through a rectangular porthole, albeit with some distortion.

With the two mounted on my 55-250mm telephoto lens, there was no "porthole" effect, but a fairly interesting effect was produced instead.  Well, two or three, actually.
First, I could have the edges of the photo blurred, which you may or may not find attractive, like in these:  

Also, by adjusting the focus and zoom, the whole photo could have a blurred, sort of dreamy look:

Weirdly, it could also look as if there were some sort of vortex in the center, like this:

I also tried macro shots (with the kit lens), but it was fairly difficult for a couple of reasons:
1) Being so close means less light is able to reach the subject, which results in a slower shutter speed, which means blurring from shakiness will be pronounced.  Unfortunately, I don't have steady hands, which is probably the main reason I have trouble being a good shot with either a camera or a rifle.  However, sometimes I managed to do OK if there was a fair amount of light, or when I used a tripod, although the latter method isn't very easy when you're trying to get the camera very close to the subject and hold it still.

2) The depth of field is drastically reduced, so when taking a close-up shot, a small portion of the photo will be in focus, and the rest will be blurred.  This can make for interesting effects, but it can also be an annoyance.

Here are some of the macro shots I took:

Here are some various other photos taken with the new attachment:

Distorted desk

-Max out

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Down, but not out

Earlier today, we were planning on eating lunch at CafĂ© Bordeaux, the (somewhat) nearby Holiday Inn Bordeaux's restaurant.  However, our plans were upset, to say the least, by a certain even that happened at around the time we wanted to leave.  Noble, my youngest brother (age 2), apparently took a spill of the back of the recliner, which caused his head to come down with considerable force - into something, which I believe was the corner of the fireplace area.  Blood now covered most of his face, so my mom ran off to clean him up.
We were going to take him to the hospital in the van, but the key was nowhere to be found, even after furious searching through purses and bags, drawers, counters, and other places.  We decided to try to go in my Nissan 240SX, which had a flat tire, so we pumped up the tire and hoped it would start, since I hadn't driven or even started it it in quite a while.  It did, and we went to Ft. Bragg's Womack Army Medical Center.
Once we arrived, I dropped the mother and injured party off at the front door and went parking space-hunting.  It took me a bit, but I eventually found one.  You would not believe how much easier it is to park with a small coupe than with a 12-passenger van.  Once inside the hospital, I set about the task of locating my traveling companions, but this took longer than expected.  My mom had told me as she went in that she would be at the family clinic and not the ER, since when another of my brothers had gone there previously, due to a knife wound in the hand, he was there for something like six hours.  However, when I got to the family clinic (or whatever it was called), I found that the subject of my search was not a registered patient there.  I think I got a suggestion that I should check the ER, but like I said earlier, I didn't think she'd be there.
I finally decided to ask one of the people by the front desk to see if there were any other places I should look and I was referred to the patient section (whatever it was called).  After availing myself of the "please take a number" machine's service, I sat down with my mom's iPhone, waited and played a game called Chop Cop Ninja.  Eventually I found that neither my mom nor the Gnome (our nickname for him) was checked into the hospital.  So, some time later I found myself in the emergency room, where I found my mom.  It turns out that you can't go to the family clinic unless you have an appointment.  So we waited around for a few hours...
I was disgusted that once again I'd forgotten to bring my netbook (or even my Zune), so I had nothing to do except for sit.  Actually, that's not quite true.  I had my mom's iPhone for most of the time and played the Chop Chop Ninja game and Doodle Bomb and played the piano in the hospital.  The hospital people were not too bad in one way, it seems - there was a sign that read, "PIANO PLAYERS WELCOME" on top of the piano.  I'm not a good pianist by any means, but I am a piano player, so I tried part of a song or two I know or am working on, and just played around on it...most of that got repetitive and old, but I think some sounded OK.  Anyway, an older man with an orange (was it a reflector?) vest who might have been a maintenance worker said something like, "Don't go" as I got up from the piano; apparently he liked it.
And that's basically the entire story.  My mom adamantly declares that she will not be going to the hospital and wasting hours waiting there anymore.  Instead of stitches, the doctor just used a surgical-grade version of superglue called Dermabond or something or Noble's head, so if we get some of it we should be able to work on cuts and things like that and not spend lots of time or money.

All better

-Max out

Friday, September 17, 2010

I'm back from a week in Virginia, Part 2

Day 3:
On our third day in Virginia, we ate breakfast and lunch at the restaurant (called The Verdana, I think), checked out of the hotel, since the marriage retreat/seminar was over, and then stopped by Colonial Williamsburg to visit the candy shop and get candied apples.

In the parking lot, I saw this vehicle, which I think looks pretty cool:

Afterwards, we went to a "cottage" in Cheatham Annex, on the Naval Weapons Station.
There didn't seem to be very many people working on the base...a far cry from Ft. Bragg.
The cottage was basically a small, furnished house with things such as a gas fireplace, refrigerator, stove, TV, beds, etc.  There was no internet access, however, unless you had it on your phone, like my dad did with his iPhone.  Here are some photos of the cottage, my apple, and some other things.

This photo is completely unedited

The cottage
The York River was within walking distance:

Clouds on the horizon

Day 4
The big event of the day was our trip to Jamestown.  We weren't exactly sure where it was, and we first ended up at Yorktown because the thought was, "Yorktown, Jamestown - they'll be nearby each other since they're often mentioned together."  Unfortunately, they weren't, and were had to backtrack, but we eventually got to our destination.  Here are some photos I took on the tour.

Day 5
On the final day, we toured the Yorktown Victory Center and accompanying area - on purpose, this time.

Crime and punishment

And then we drove home and arrived safely.  The end.

-Max out

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I'm back from a week in Virginia, Part 1

Well, not quite a week, since we left last Friday and got back a few hours ago...only about four days or so, but I doubt using "week" like that is of any particular importance.
First of all, sorry for not posting any updates while I was away...I wasn't able to get on the internet in Virginia.
Also, just like some of the other trips I've gone on in which I wasn't able to post a daily account of events, this could take a while to finish.  But I'll get going on it when I have a chance.
I'll post some photos after I get a chance to look through the ones I took some more; I took quite a few during the week.

Tomorrow I'm going to have my left wisdom teeth removed, and I'm not particularly looking forward to the appointment.  Oh well; there are more painful things that I have experienced, and it doesn't last forever.
Still, it's annoying, especially considering there's not only the painful procedure (I'm going with shots again), there's the discomfort afterwards since I didn't use any pain medication (or if I did, it was very mild) and the bleeding that lasted for quite a while.
Speaking of my last appointment, I did make a friend from church happy that she had the IV sedation and didn't go with the method I did.

I got back a while ago from getting my two left wisdom wasn't fun, but at least it's over - the operation, anyway.  Once again, I didn't get any pain medication, so I'm just dealing with the could be worse.
Anyway, about the trip:

Day 1 
We left for Williamsburg on Friday morning or afternoon - I forget exactly what our time of departure was, but once on the road, we traveled for around 4-5 hours and eventually got to our hotel.  
I might not write too much else right now (my mouth is not feeling the greatest at the moment, to say the least), but I'll post a photo or two in the meantime.

In the hotel room with my 10-22mm ultra-wide-angle lens

Update: My mouth is feeling better, but I'm out of time for tonight.  Tomorrow I'll try to finish the process of sorting through and weeding out, editing and watermarking my photos.
In the meantime, you can look at what I've been doing with photo editing (using Windows Vista's built-in photo fixing tools) to a variety of photos, including the ones of the hotel chandelier light, or whatever you call it.

OK, continuing with day 1:
The hotel was not particularly impressive: it didn't have free Wi-Fi internet access in the rooms (it had cables and modems, I think, but I didn't test them out), old "cube" TVs, and other not-too-recent features, but it was OK.  I slept on the floor as usual, since the little ones sleep in the beds, and there is no way I am going to share a bed with someone else.
At the hotel, I stayed with my younger siblings while my parents were in the sessions downstairs.
Once I took them down to the pool, but it was too cold for some of them, so we went back upstairs and either watched movies or played the Wii or PS2.  Unfortunately, Super Smash Bros. Brawl wasn't working (it still isn't), so we mostly played Mario Kart Wii and Star Wars Battlefront II on the PS2.

I believe we may have eaten at the in-house restaurant that first evening.  The food was ridiculously priced, but some of it was very tasty.  Anyway, we had a total of $300 from our voucher to spend on food, so we didn't have to worry about that.  

Day 2:

On Saturday morning we did basically the same thing: eat at the restaurant, play games, etc.
However, in the afternoon, we went to Busch Gardens, since we had free passes.
Here are a couple of photos (naturally, I can't post all the photos from each day on here, but there will be more on my Picasa or flickr pages) from the amusement park:

While we were trying to get in, I needed to get my ID for verification, so I had to run across multiple parking lots to get my wallet, which was kind of tiring even though I wasn't going very fast.  Man, I need to get back into shape.  

No, I didn't go on any of the scary rides; doing so just makes me feel queasy for a long time afterwards.
Having my stomach jump into my throat is not my idea of fun - even though I don't like heights, I'd probably be able to deal with it if I didn't drop.  And I'll admit it, I do have a fear of heights, but it's a fairly rational apprehension - it's partly a fear of falling from a high distance, I think.
For instance, at the top of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, I stayed as far away from the rail as possible, partly because I got a sense of vertigo, and partly because there was a possibility I could fall over the not-particularly-high rail.
To sum it up:
If I could fly, I don't think I'd have a fear of heights anymore.

I'll continue the account of our stay in Virginia in a later post.

-Max out