Friday, October 29, 2010

Superior Stability Has Arrived...and 50% Off

My generous grandfather has given us two camera tripods, so now I will be able to take better, more stable photos than when I used my dad's little spotting scope tripod.  Expect results soon.

Here are two discount codes I got and didn't use for they are for 50% off of an order of up to three items.   
1) cbjdd4ds0
2) cnffjfpb0
If your code doesn't work, obviously someone else already has; there's nothing I can do about that except to tell you to enter's sweepstakes, since when you enter your e-mail address, you'll be sent an e-mail with a discount code for up to 50% off an order.  I think the lowest I've seen is 10% off, but now I don't even pay attention to it unless it's for 50% off.  
The codes expire on October 31, but I'm not sure if it's at midnight of the 31st or when.

You're probably wondering, "What's"  ZAGG sells a variety of electronics-related products, but their best well-known item is called the InvisibleShield, which is a screen scratch protector for iPhones and iPods, cameras, etc., etc.  Although it isn't cheap, it includes a free lifetime replacement warranty for the life of your device, so if your InvisibleShield does get scratched, you can get a free replacement.
The company also makes skins for portable devices and earbuds.

I'm going to finish my ice cream and go outside to test out one of the new tripods.  I'm going to try some long exposure shots and maybe some other stuff; I'll have to see how that turns out.

-Max out      

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Humor for the Day

This was on my friend's blog (
You should find it pretty funny like I did, although my sense of humor might be different than that of a lot of people.

-Max out

Some Things Are Too Good To Be True

Hello readers, sorry I haven't written anything new in a while; for now I'm just trying to finish my incomplete posts (did you notice the addition of a few photos?).

Since I want better camera equipment (what photographer doesn't?) but don't have the money to simply go out and buy whatever I want, I've been looking for deals on Craigslist.  
There were three incredible-sounding deals I was interested in since seeing them several days ago:
1) A dubious-sounding listing for a new Canon 7D with an EF 25-135mm lens and extras for $550
2) A slightly less-dubious-sounding Canon EOS Rebel XSi for $200
3) A Canon 650 film camera and a Canon EF 50mm Mk I lens

The first is probably a hoax; I'm not sure how I'd have paid for the camera if it had turned out to be the real deal, since it was a South Carolina listing, but $550 for a kit that should cost more than $1500 ($1800 on Amazon, minus some of the stuff that the listing included) is a bit far-fetched, there was no photo, and the "seller" didn't get back to me.  Here's what the listing said: 
NEW Canon EOS 7D DSLR Body+18-135mm Kit +16GB CF+Gifts 
I suppose the "+ gifts" part is one of the strangest and most suspicious parts about it besides the price.
Some say, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," and they're often right.  However, there's always the possibility of the once-in-a-lifetime steal...yep, this one would have been awesome...the 7D is an excellent camera (that I probably won't have the money to afford for a long time), takes HD video, and if I had the 18-135mm EF-S lens, I could sell my kit lens with my XS body.

The second one was also strange, although a used XSi camera body for $200 isn't quite as strange as the first one - I've seen a few listings for various items on Craigslist that were quite a bit cheaper than the others.  There also was no photo included with the listing, so I don't know much about that one either.
The description didn't sound as odd as the first one:
Canon EOS Rebel Xsi Body in excellent condition. Comes with case and neck strap-$200 obo response from the seller.

The third listing seemed quite plausible; here's what the seller wrote:
We have an old (20+ years) cannon [sic] EOS 650 camera with a cannon [sic] EF 50mm 1:1.8f lens.  Honestly I'm not certain if the camera works, but I assume the lens alone is worth at least what we're offering. $35 or best offer. 
Naturally, I wouldn't care about the 650 - I don't use film; the lens is what I was interested in.
When I first saw the listing, I thought the lens was the common 50mm 1.8 Mk II lens, and I thought that it was an excellent price, for a lens that sells for about $100 new.
Photo of 50mm 1.8 Mk I lens from Craigslist listing
However, I later looked over the photos again and realized that the lens is the 50 1.8 Mk II lens, an older, rarer, and better built lens than the Mk II version (newer is not always better), and one I'd recently found out about and wanted to get because it might feel like less of a toy than the Mk II lens and the 50mm 1.4 USM is too pricey for me to get for quite some time.  Plus, it's kind of rare, and having a rare item is kind of cool, I think.  Anyway, I looked at the photos, saw the focus distance "window" and metal mount ring and realized that this was the Mk I lens.  
Later that day, after seeing if we might be able to take a trip out to the Cary and Raleigh areas, where the sellers of the 50mm lens and XSi were located and getting an affirmative answer, I e-mailed the seller who had the Craigslist anonymous e-mail address.  
Make a guess what happened next.  You guessed it; absolutely nothing. 

Now if I had at least gotten a response from any of the sellers, telling me the item was sold, no longer for sale, etc., etc., I'd be disappointed (well, probably still really bummed) but not unhappy with the sellers.
As it is, I am displeased with what I consider to be a lack of common courtesy on their part to respond to my multiple e-mails expressing interest, as well as quite disappointed with the fact that I don't have the items (not only could I have used them, but I could have made money by selling my camera for, say, $350) and I probably won't find deals like that in the near future.  

Id there's one thing to learn from this, it's this:
If you have posted an item/items for sale and it is longer for sale due to it being sold (or whatever reason), mark it as sold if possible and reply to people who e-mail you expressing interest.   
-Max out

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lovely Photo Wednesday

It looks familiar?  Of course.  But the flower is so pretty, it doesn't hurt to post it again.  

Lavender Beauty

Lavender Beauty, Revisited

More photos of flowers I took on the 20th can be seen here:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Photo Challenge - Color

Yes, here is yet another photo challenge I'm entering in.
Not that it's necessarily a bad thing, per se, but from what I've seen, it seems to me that there is a serious paucity of photo blogs and challenges from guys...but perhaps I just haven't heard of them.  Photography certainly isn't a "girls only" thing.

Anyway, this photo challenge is from Carlotta at Pastor's Girl's Ponderings, and the theme is simply, "color".
Here is my entry:
Losing Focus

-Max out

Monday, October 25, 2010

Three Bee Macro Monday

You'll see why it's called that if you visit the current Macro Monday post at Lisa's Chaos.
In Raleigh on my dad's birthday the other day, we went to an Ace Hardware, and in front of the hardware store I got some photos of the lovely flowers with water droplets on them, due to the light rain some time earlier.  It's a somewhat difficult choice between a few of my better photos from there, but here's my entry:
Lavender beauty

-Max out 

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Dad's Birthday

Two days ago (the 20th) was my dad's birthday, and we went to Raleigh to do a few things...
First, we dropped him off so he could get a massage, and then we went to look for a restaurant called the Courtyard Café, since my mom had a coupon for it (the reason we eat at a lot of the restaurants we do is because she has those coupons - without them, feeding a family of nine can be very expensive).

After a while, we found it; as it turns out, the Courtyard Café is so named because it's in the Courtyard Marriott hotel.  When we got there and went inside, we found out that the restaurant wasn't serving meals at that time or something, so we had to go back to the van.  While my mom looked through her coupons for another restaurant to go to, I used the hotel's Wi-Fi to write the update in my other post.  Meanwhile, my brother got some free 
Starbucks coffees and hot mochas from a Starbucks machine inside the hotel.  :)  By this time, it had started to sprinkle, but since the rain wasn't coming down in torrents, it was ok.  
A short while later, we headed off to a tiny BBQ restaurant called Ole Time Barbecue. 
On the way, we passed by (what I thought was) a sports car dealership called European Performance, where I wanted to stop by and take some photos, but unfortunately for me, there wasn't time.
Ole Time Barbecue didn't stand out very well, and I nearly missed it, but we got inside without any difficulty.  It did start raining slightly as we got there or slightly after, which will affect something I'll tell about later in this post. 

It was very small and certainly not classy-looking, and I wasn't expecting the food to be anything special.
However, I was pleasantly surprised; the food was pretty good.  Hush Puppies were served before we had even ordered anything, and they were pretty tasty.  I chose a hamburger steak, which I was pretty satisfied with.  So don't judge a book by its cover or a restaurant by its size and appearance.
There seemed to be somewhat of a fascination or obsession with pigs (or it was just a design theme) inside the restaurant: a pig with wings, suspended from the ceiling; a piggy bank; and many other pigs were in there...
An amusing sign was above our table:

After eating, I wanted to stop by European Performance, but we didn't want to make my dad wait for us.
My mom wondered if the European Performance owner/s might kick me out of their lot since I wasn't planning on buying anything, but I found out that they won't, because it's not a dealership; it's a service/tuning center for Porsches, BMWs, etc.  So I don't see why they wouldn't want me to photograph the cars they're working on.  That reminds me of another care place I wanted to visit: Underground Racing, in Charlotte.
They tune cars such as Lamborghini Gallardos and give them things like twin turbo kits.
I believe we met with State Fair traffic both on the way there and back (but at least one way) and we had some difficulty getting back, so it took a while; my dad said he'd been waiting for around 45 minutes.  Oops.

We then headed to Ace Hardware.  Helpfully for me, there were flower boxes in front of the store with some very pretty flowers, which had water droplets on them from the shower earlier.
More photos here:
There was free hot chocolate inside, and one of my siblings brought me a cup. :)
Our next and final destination was a portrait studio at a mall called The Picture People.
We were early, so we walked around the mall for a bit and stopped at Radioshack and Gamestop.
My parents say I ruined a lot of the photos the photographer took of our family because I didn't smile well...
They could only choose one because that's how many the certificate/coupon was for.
After seeing the other photos, I agree that some of them look weird since I had a crooked grin, but I think they weren't all bad.  After getting our photos taken, we get ice cream cones at Dairy Queen next-door since the portrait studio gave us free coupons (thanks!).  A sunglasses salesperson let me try on some Oakleys at a stand there, but none of the shades seemed to feel perfect on me (not to mention the price tags that are a little out of my price range).  And after that I think we just drove home.  The end.

Finally, another boring post is ended.  As "Click and Clack, the Tappit Brothers" (also known as Tom and Ray Magliozzi from the NPR radio show, Cartalk) say at the end of each episode, "You've just wasted another perfectly good hour listening to Cartalk."  
I'd have to alter that to be "You've just wasted another perfectly good several minutes reading my blog."  And I don't snort like they do.   

- Max out (it's about time)

Aspire photo challenge: Falling In Love With Autumn

Now is the time of year where Autumn/Fall photos and photo challenges abound, so here's the first one; more will probably follow.  I think I'm going with this photo...I'm afraid it's not my best, but I think it's not bad.
A Walk Through the Park


-Max out
Aspire Photo Challenge

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Quick updates

[From 10/19/10]

Quick check-in:
Everyone, thanks for all the comments on my photos; I'd

have published them earlier if I'd had the chance.

My internet connection has been down since yesterday

afternoon (it feels like much longer), so I've been stuck

offline.  A neighbor's unsecured "linksys" network - what

I'm on right now - has a different service provider, so I

am connected to the internet at the moment.
I only just took my netbook up here where I'm at now a few

minutes ago...I tried it in my room, but the signal

strength was just too weak (it's slow enough up here).  So

hopefully my connection will be back up shortly and you can

expect several things:
1) My "to be continued" posts to at least be partly

2) More photos; the "bigger picture" ones I mentioned in

the Macro Monday post, in particular
3) Whatever else I think of that I should probably write...

-Max out, for now

[From 10/20/10]
The internet connection is still not up at my house, but I'm here in Raleigh in the van outside of a Courtyard Marriott hotel using the free Wi-Fi (woohoo).  More updates later.

[From 10/22/10]
This morning, a technician came and fixed our internet connection...after the connection first got dropped, I called Charter Communications (our service provider) to see what the matter was, and I was told by the recording that there was an outage in our area that was affecting our connection. The next two times I called I talked to actual people but got the same response.  However, after however many days it had been, my mom was sure that there must be some mistake, since an outage shouldn't take more than a day to get fixed.
So it turns out that the outage didn't actually affect us, but for some reason a server thought we were part of the affected outage area, or something like that.  Stupid me.  Common sense comes in handy sometimes.
Now I can get back to finishing my other posts without having to worry about a slow or dropped connection on an unsecured network (or anyone stealing my passwords and such).

-Max out

Monday, October 18, 2010

Macro Monday

If you're reading this, I apologize for the plain and perhaps somewhat depressing header and overall look to my blog right now.  You may have noticed the cloud photo in the header is gone; I tried to change it, but the replacement photo was too large, and I haven't resized it or put any other photo in instead.  I might change the look when I get the time.

The entire lizard isn't in focus, as you can tell - the macro filter/diopter I use creates an extremely shallow depth-of-field.  I may get around to editing this photo and a whole bunch of others (as well as finishing the recent "to be continued" posts), but I have to clean the house right now; we're going to be showing it in a couple of weeks.  Do you have a suggestion for a good caption for this photo?  I can't seem to think of one. 


As I promised, here are the "big picture" photos:

-Max out

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Annual JSO 10k

This is the 10k I do every year, and I've been training for it by running three miles nearly every single day ( excluding Sundays and a few other days such as today), since it's on November 10th. 
If you live around the Ft. Bragg area in NC and are interested in participating, here's the website with the downloadable registration form and other info (early registration ends on October 29th):

Note: If you don't have a military ID and decals, you can still get on Ft. Bragg; your car will just have to be searched.  

- Max out


It's a sadly unoriginal as well as unimaginative title, I'm afraid, which is even worse than you might think since I've been trying to think of creative titles for both posts and photos (as well as write poems or simply accompanying words to photos).  I might change it later if I get a flash of inspiration, but I can't think of anything better right now.

So yes, this post is about...what I did today (surprise!).
This morning, I got up at 6:00 since we were going to be going to Chapel Hill (for the first time) for something my mom was going to be doing at 8.  

After we arrived at the art museum at the UNC/Chapel Hill college campus, we dropped my mom off and went off to do a few things until she was done at around 4 pm, I think.
Although I don't remember the order, we went to REI (the outdoors/camping store), a park, and an Asian market before picking my mom up.  At the park, my siblings played on the playground and in the sand, while I mostly shot a whole bunch of photos.  Interestingly, at least three kids' birthday parties were happening at the same time there.  Here are a few photos; I might put some more on Picasa.


On the way to REI, my dad spotted what appeared to be a classic Shelby Cobra.
We later saw a green Cobra kit car, but this one appeared to be an original, which means it is probably very expensive, especially when you consider the excellent condition it's in.
As we turned into the area where the store was, the black roadster turned in behind us.  After a short distance, the Cobra turned into a plaza with a Starbucks.  Since the REI was just around the corner, we followed the car into the parking lot, where my dad went inside Starbucks to get a coffee (he likes coffee a lot), where the owner of the Shelby had gone.       

A lot of the photos I took of the car aren't really worth looking at (many are basically ruined due to the sun flare), but anyway, here's where you can see them:
After a while, the owner came out and lifted the hood so I could see the engine...and after a little while longer, I decided to not keep everyone waiting and went back to the van.  Incidentally, I'd taken 65 photos, the model year of the car.  Next, we drove done the street to REI, where my dad wanted to try on the Vibram Five-Finger shoes.  We also just looked around the store, and I tested out a walking stick/monopod with my camera. Out next stop was an Asian market, where we got a little bit to eat.
We then went to pick my mom up and afterwards I think we went to Whole Foods and Earthfare.
But that's about it.  

- Max out (finally)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Window to the Soul photo contest - "Eyes" - photo entry

Awesome!  Why did I just start out this post like that?  Well, for other photo challenges I've had to look through the archives and try to make up my mind on which photo to choose.  However, for this one, I was trying to get a  close-up photo of Noah or Noble's eye, but they weren't the most cooperative (of course - little children staying still for more than three seconds, yeah right), and it's hard enough to get a good focus on a still subject using manual focusing.  Anyway, it just occurred to me that I can use my old photos of Pepper's eye, one of which I used as my profile pic everywhere (and still do on one site), is my Zune's background picture, and which I think is actually pretty cool-looking, although it would probably have been even better had I had a camera with more megapixels - it's pretty zoomed in.
OK, three photos...

The last photo was taken early last year with a 6-something megapixel Sony camcorder.
Editing: I didn't do any major editing in terms of layers or anything like that, just basic fixes such as adjusting contrast, brightness, highlights, shadows, and color temperature, using Microsoft Vista's built-in photo fixer tools for the first two and Picasa for the third.

Edit: In case you were wondering what the first photo is, here's the original photo and two edited versions (adjusted contrast and brightness; I forget which of the two I used for the eye).  The final version at the top of this post is simply the edited one that I cropped.

The Window To The Soul Photo Challenge

-Max out

Random thoughts

Perhaps I'll think of something else to write about soon, but I decided to at least sporadically write something and not just post photos since I have no desire to be a one-hit wonder.

Right now I'm trying to think about something to write about, but I'm drawing a blank...
Pretty sad, considering I considered myself an amateur writer, but then I haven't worked on my book recently either, since I couldn't think of what should happen next.  I think there are novels that, when you read them, provide you with somewhat of a distant perspective, but the very absorbing ones make you feel as if you're actually in the story...

I wish I had an attractive, cooperative photo model (a sister would do) and lived in a place where lots of nice cars like Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, etc. passed by with some degree of regularity, so I could practice taking photos of them.  Plus, they're cool to see, regardless.
As I have neither, I'll have to just wait and see what happens...

I'm going to see if I can find some good photo subjects, and see if I can think of something to write about.
By the way, yesterday at a prayer meeting, there were these really good homemade cookies there.
They taste even better than they look. (I haven't tried editing this photo yet)

-Max out 

On Cloud Nine photo entry

The "On Cloud Nine" title is supposed to refer to something that makes you happy, I think...
As usual, I'm having a hard time making a decision, particularly with the theme being what it was (well, maybe if I had a good photo of a Ferrari or something like that... :-)  ).  In fact, I'm just going to choose one now before I run out of time.  Here it is:

-Max out

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lovely Photo Wednesday

Hopefully I haven't posted this one before...
A splash of gray

Lovely Photo - Wordless or Not-So-Wordless Wednesday at Aspire

-Max out

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Simplicity photography challenge - "Light"

OK, I know I've got to have a decent photo for this challenge.
After searching through the archives, I narrowed the possibilities down to just a few, but chose the following, perhaps in part because it's unlikely anyone else will enter this kind of photo:

I believe this photo is unedited.

OK, here are some more photos similar to this one taken at around the same time, both edited and unedited versions. (for the edited ones, I simply turned up the contrast, I believe, although that removed some of the light streaks)

-Max out

Happy Monday photo challenge - blur

Sadly, I couldn't find a good photo that fit the theme of "blur, so I'm just going with the following, slightly dizzying one.  Perhaps my next photo challenge entry will be better.

photo challenge

-Max out

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Moments in Between photo challenge - black & white

This portrait probably isn't as good as it could be (I may be wrong, but I believe I haven't edited it yet), but I think it looks all right. 

-Max out

My first Macro Monday entry

I don't know if this is against the rules, but I'm going to use an old close-up photo since I don't have any good ones from today.  Manual focusing with the macro filter and the camera up closeup close is difficult for me; I'm often getting out-of-focus shots .
I'll have to check, but I believe the following shot is completely unedited.


-Max out

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Not My Car

You never know what kinds of cool cars will show up in the Harris Teeter parking lot.
I've seen a Ferrari F430 Spider, Mercedes SLK 55 AMG, Mercedes E 63 AMG, BMW M3 and more at various times when I've been there.

Poor guy; can you see the scratch next to the vent hole thing?

-Max out