Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cloudy, with a chance of great deals

Although it hasn't been what you'd call freezing, it's been a little chilly recently (in the '50s and below) here in southern NC.  Yes, I know, that's nothing.  However, it was certainly cold enough to make it harder to get out of bed in the morning and make my hands stiff and uncomfortable.  
Well, that was yesterday - it's surprising how much difference the weather can have from one day to the next.
Yesterday, until the late afternoon when the sun came out, the sky looked like this (I did some HDR editing, so it might not look exactly like what I saw):

Today it was also gray and cloudy, but much warmer than yesterday - I'm wearing a T-shirt.  It was really windy, though.

Remember, always check your local and nearby Craigslist listing for good deals.  In my case, I look for camera equipment.  Recently, multiple items including a professional lens, another lens, an old camera body and more sold for $650.  The first lens, a Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L, sells for around $1300 new, and the buyer now has it listed for $1000.  If he manages to sell everything, he's going to make a killing.
The saying goes, "If it's too good to be true, it usually isn't" is valid, but note the "usually" - things like this do come up from time to time.     

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Monday

It sometimes makes me happy to see other people who are happy.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Multiple Photo Challenges

I may have said this before, but where are all the photo challenges and photo blogs from guys?  
Have I just not seen them or is it mostly the girls that do that? 
Not that that's necessarily a bad thing if it's true, but I was just wondering.

Anyway, here are the photo challenges:

1. Food, by Carlotta:

Moon Cake!
Even if the photo itself isn't terrific (as you might be able to tell, I did a little tonemapping to see if it would deliver better results...I'm not sure if it does or not.  
Anyway, my Chinese grandmother brought it and some other snacks/food back from Taiwan when she visited recently - it's pretty good; the filling is pineapple or something.
Here are some more dessert photos, including the original of the one above:
Moon Cake SOOC



2. Day 2: Let There Be the Heavens (Photo Challenge #2 of 7), by nzkiwigirl:

Archive photo (Nov.5):

More recent photo (Nov. 24):

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving Day and thought of lots of things to be thankful for.
Enjoy the rest of the day. :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010


200, as in this is my 200th post.  I'm not sure that has any real importance, especially since the number of followers I have can be counted on one hand... :~\
Anyway, I've been mostly posting photos to my Flickr photostream rather than on here, but in case you like my photos and read my blog, but don't visit my Flickr, I'll try to put upload some good photos...kind of hard, since I'm not finding any photos that are any good right now.
This afternoon, I took some macro shots involving marbles and marble-like glass things.
This isn't a macro, but I took it during the same time...it's unedited, so keep that in mind.
I suppose I might upload some more photos from this afternoon later.

Some just for you, Daniel:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Photo Giveaway

Quick post; I've got to finish the others.

Since Ashley's being generous enough to have this giveaway, I think it's polite to tell my readers about it...
OK, here's the info:
Ashley Sisk is having a giveaway on her blog, Ramblings and Photos, for an 11x14 print of one of her photos (to see the photo in question, click the button below).  If you're like me (with very little money), this might be a good Christmas gift for your mom or sister, depending on her style...actually, even if you have money, someone still might like it as a present.  

Monday, November 15, 2010

You Get What You Pay For

Don't get scammed, and don't hire an unskilled photographer: ;-)
See if you think this video is funny at all:

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Best Photo?!

This is sort of a photography challenge, but in this one, the winner is going to be randomly chosen, rather than picked by judges.  That is probably a good thing, since there are pros out there whose photos would almost certainly any of my best photos.
Regardless, having to decide which of my photos is "the best" is a pretty difficult task, as you might imagine.
I have lots of photos that I think are eligible for that title, and even some that are pretty decent SOOC images. 
However, just so I could enter a photo before the week was over, I decided to go with this one:
I think she is kind of a pretty kitty.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Happenings in the Present

This morning I ran in the 10k race I wrote about some time ago, with my dad and two of my younger brothers.
My dad had said he would get me something like an iPhone (my phone is a cracked Motorola KRZR) if I finished in 52:30 or better.  And I...didn't.  The route is nearly all dirt (or mud, since it was wet), making it very hard to run through.  It also didn't help that a good portion of the way, including near the beginning, is uphill.
I was hoping some friends were going to be able to do the run as well, but such was not to be.
At least I won a $25 gift card for a restaurant.  No, I didn't run with my camera.
I accidentally deleted all the photos I took today, so I'm trying to see if I can recover them...

Yes, it's working; I now have my photos back!  
There are plenty of file recovery programs out there where you can view your deleted files, but you need to register to recover them, however, Recuva is absolutely free to download and to recover your files.  It's available for installation  
There are other free file recovery programs you can try out, but this one was #1 on the list.   
16 Free File Recovery Programs
Why didn't I know about this before?
While you're looking at that program, here are a few more free PC utilities you should know about, if you don't already:

1) 7-Zip 
Have you ever been annoyed by the fact that Windows takes a long time to extract .zip (and other) files?
Well, use 7-Zip and there will be no more waiting - at least, not as much; for small files, such as a song, extracting will be almost instantaneous, but when extracting multiple and/or large files, expect to wait a little bit longer. 

2) Format Factory
This program converts media files from one format to another...although there quite probably are programs that convert a certain type of media (photo, video, or audio) to another format of the same type (for instance, GIF to JPEG or .flv to .mp3) better than this one, Format Factory is kind of a "one size fits all" sort of thing, if you don't like having lots of programs.  Or, to use a photography metaphor, it's like a good walkaround lens.
FF can also rip DVDs, although I think I've used dedicated DVD ripping programs that are much better and offer more control for that use.  I've also used the program to convert a video I've downloaded from YouTube using another program, from a video format such as .mp4 to mp3.  That way I can keep the video and listen to the song by itself.
3) A disc image maker/mounting program such as DAEMON Tools.
Using a virtual drive program can be useful, because if you have disc images of your optical discs, you can keep them conveniently stored on your hard drive.
It's also easier to store and take disc images with you than physical discs, and finally, if you're like me and have a netbook with no optical drive, if you don't have a disc image and virtual drive software, you won't be able to use some stuff you have...

And a photo:
Breaking Through
I am now tired because I got up at 5:30 this morning, so I'm going to get ready for bed...if I stay up much longer, it's going to get harder to think about what I'm writing.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Maintain Equilibrium

This is the movie post I said I was going to write about.  It's going to be more of an analysis of the themes and messages in the film (Equilibrium) rather than a synopsis, but I'll include some other things about the movie later. 

I seem to have come to a similar conclusion about something in the film that another viewer did, on the Christiananswers.net/spotlight movie review website:

Warning: includes spoilers.
Imagine a world without wars, without hate or greed...
Where there are no feelings, no emotion, and where those who dare to feel are hunted down without mercy and eradicated because they are a threat to the status quo...

This is John Preston's world.  Preston is one of the Grammaton Clerics, the elite group assigned to find and destroy "sense offenders" (those who don't take the feeling-inhibitive drug, Prozium) and illegal items that show or try to evoke emotion, such as the Mona Lisa.    

After a chain of events that begins with the death of his fellow cleric and friend at his hand and includes encounters with multiple other people, he stops taking Prozium and begins to feel for the first time.
Eventually, he brings down the evil government leader (and lots of unfortunate, rather foolish guards) so the people can free themselves from the tyranny they've been under.

Now for some of the themes/messages I gathered from the movie or can apply. 
The good:
1) Peace can be just as bad as war...is "peace" and stability so important that freedom must be sacrificed for it?
2) The government's job is only to restrain evil, and it should not do more than that.
3) I think another review mentioned this, but could Prozium be an off-hand reference to the drugs used for kids with ADD/ADHD? (i.e. have everyone take drugs so they will behave and not disturb the peace?)  

The bad:
The use of words such as "cleric", "Father", and "faith"...these words are Christian language, and I'll show the message I believe how their use seems to delivering.

In the film, Clerics (another name for "churchmen") like Preston are bad, "Father", the leader of the totalitarian government is evil and shown to have been dead for many years when Preston tries to meet him.
Also, Preston says he will demonstrate his faith by doing something evil (destroying The Underground or something like that; I forget what exactly he was referring to). 
These things seem to be making the statement that Christianity is evil and responsible for authoritarian governments and the suppression of freedoms (although the opposite is true), "Father" (God) is dead and is just a continued myth to keep people in line, somewhat similar to Karl Marx's statement, "Religion is the opiate of the people."   

However, if, as a Christian, you know that if a country followed the Bible, its government would be limited and only be used to restrain evil and know that totalitarian governments stem from the lack of a moral standard, you can think about the other, positive themes.  

On another topic:
Although this movie, like most action flicks, has completely unrealistic action scenes, special effects, etc., at least it looks pretty awesome - being unrealistic and cheesy would be horrible, but some of the things in the movie, such as Preston fighting with his sword held in the reverse grip, shooting accurately with a fully-automatic pistol in each hand (even behind his head at times, if I remember correctly!), being able to take out around 20-50 guards (I'm not sure how many there were) without getting shot, and having his pistols and magazines pop out of his sleeves and pockets, like they were pushed by springs (did I mention that his rather large pistols were in his sleeves?), and more requires a little bit of suspension of belief, as do most action movies, but it's highly enjoyable to watch all the same.  Just don't go fighting with your sword held in the reverse grip and do other silly stuff like that if you want to stay alive. 
A bunch of guns in Equilibrium were also pretty cool, as you might have noticed. 

I could probably go on for a while longer about the movie, but it's about time I've finished this post, so it is now complete.

-The end

To Buy or Not to Buy, That is the Question

And the answer, obviously, is "it depends."
When looking for anything, (cars, cameras, and so forth) it's clearly a good idea to search around for the best price.  As the saying goes, "If it's too good to be true, it usually is." (emphasis added)
This is not always the case, as some who have gotten the steal of a lifetime can testify due to the seller of an item not knowing its true value or some other reason.  For instance, did you read about the $5 bike someone bought at a yard sale? (a good deal for a regular bike in decent condition, wouldn't you say?)

In case there are some of you who read my blog but aren't keeping up with my Flickr photostream, I'll put a photo on here today - as a matter of fact, I think there's a good possibility I might not put it on Flickr.
Anyway, I've been doing some experimenting with a photo editing program that's easy to use for HDRs, called Oloneo Photoengine.  Unfortunately, the beta version of the program is only free until December 1, after which it will expire...  :-(   
Some of my "HDR" (high dynamic range, for the non-photographers) photos technically aren't HDRs, because you are supposed to make an HDR by combining multiple photos - usually three, with each photo taken at a different exposure, one higher, one lower, and one normal - to create a more realistic or often more than realistic photo, and I have sometimes just taken one photo and used tone mapping and other editing tools on it.  If you want a better definition of HDR, look it up; I'm often not very good at giving clear, concise answers.  Although HDRs and majorly Photoshopped (ha, come get me, Adobe) photos are often pretty cool, I think that it can be better to use minimal editing in some situations, since I think it takes more technical skill - not to mention work and patience - to get an awe-inspiring straight-out-of-the-camera shot. 
This doesn't mean that I think photo editing means you're less of a photographer, as some apparently do.
After all, Ansel Adams and others used photo editing.  Whatever works for you is good, but some of the best photographers I've seen on Flickr, such as Patrick Smith, don't heavily edit their photos, and they're the ones who go to much greater lengths to get great photos.  

Monday, November 8, 2010

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Mighty Macro!

Once again, Monday has arrived, which means there's the weekly Macro Monday at Lisa's Chaos
Even if you don't plan on entering a macro, go take a look at all the entries anyway; there are lots of impressive close-up photos of all sorts of things.  The world certainly wouldn't be as nice and interesting if God hadn't given it beauty in all its forms.

In a departure from the flower theme, here's my photo:
Look into the Orb
And here's another one:

Fire in the Stone
You may have noticed that I switched the second photo with an edited version that I just finished tweaking with Photoshop CS5; today was my first day using and editing RAW format photos.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Reformation Day

As it says, so it is; last Saturday (Oct. 30) was Reformation Day, an event put on by my church.
Its primary purpose was to remember the Reformers and the profound influence they've had on the world.
Our pastor, Steve Breagy, gave several talks, including one on John Calvin..

-To be continued

Bad Day

I'm both disappointed and disgusted with several things that happened today.
I'll provide more details later.
OK, here are some of the things that happened yesterday:
1) It was my half-birthday.  Yes, I know, that's a bit of inconsequential, absolutely useless information.  Still, it was something that only happens once a year...as if that means anything 

2) I tried to meet someone who was selling a Canon EOS Rebel XSi on Craigslist, but wasn't able to contact him when I was in the Triangle area, so nothing came from the latest of my Craigslist camera stuff deals/steals.

Possibly more later.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Birthday Party

No, it wasn't my birthday, although my half-birthday is coming up on the sixth of this month (ha).
Yesterday afternoon, after church, I went to my friend, Matthew's birthday party.  Since he goes to our church and invited some other guys, I rode with one of them, James, who took another invitee, Cooper.
The ride was somewhat bumpy - James' Dodge Ram 3500 dually truck isn't known for the smoothest ride.
It used to have around 900 lb-ft. of torque (!) - diesels are known for being able to have lots of torque - but he detuned it since a head gasket blew.
It would have been great fun to ride in then, although the truck still has some power.

This was Matthew's 23rd birthday, and he's been married to a lovely young lady for more than a year now.
Fairly recently, his wife gave birth to their first child, thankfully named Matthew II ("the second") instead of "Jr."

While we were there, we tried some target practice with .22 pistols (Matthew has a Ruger Mk III and James has another target pistol), shooting cans, empty shotgun shells, small pieces of PVC pipe, and other stuff off fenceposts (and yes, Matthew lives in the country, where gunshots won't alarm anyone).

We talked for a while and just "hung out", and some time after another friend, Daniel, finally arrived, we went to pick up a couple of pizzas in Matthew's car - or rather, somebody went to pick up some pizzas and I sort of tagged along.
Something to remember: five guys in a Honda Civic does not lot leave lots of wiggle room in 
James sat in the front passenger seat, so he had more room than the three of us in the back seat, although if James had been in the back, I really wouldn't have been able to move - he's a pretty big guy (not fat; just large).

[Have you noticed that my narration has been - and still is - rather dry and uninteresting?  I'll try to make it more absorbing or something.] 

Back at Matthew's house, we watched a movie - Equilibrium, starring Christian Bale.
I'm in the process of writing a separate post about the movie - a movie review of sorts; it's the more interesting post I said was coming up.  Matthew's wife, Brianna, watched the movie for a little bit as well, although after a while she got up to do some other things including taking care of the baby (I think).   
After the movie, we talked for a little while longer, but it was around 10 pm, so we decided to let Matthew and Brianna go to sleep.  ;-)

I rode back home with James in his truck, and that's about it.
Oh yes, one last thing:
Photos from the day.

Matthew and Brianna
I think Cooper took this photo of them with my camera.

Me not hitting the little PVC pipe piece

Is that the bullet in front of the barrel?

Afternoon sun

Macro Monday Marches Methodically & Makes Mention of Me?

Yes, I know; ridiculously name.  However, I thought I should come up with a title that wasn't just "Macro Monday" like previously.
I think I'm just going to use a photo taken when I took some of the other flower macros; I'm going through my photos right now, which could take a while.

Dropped In Another World

I don't think this photo is all that great, but it feels kind of mysterious in a way, like it's in a fantasy world or something.  But maybe that's just me.  What do you think?
I think it's pretty neat that this photo and some of the other photo close-up shots came out like this without any editing whatsoever...the lighting and water droplets helped tremendously.

Random Assortment of Thoughts

Hello again, faithful readers.  Welcome back once again to my little world.
In case you were wondering, I'm working on writing considerably more interesting posts (well, at least one) in the near future, so stay tuned.

1) Be genuine.  Don't try to act like someone else just to fit in and be liked; if you're just yourself and people don't like your personality or some other aspect of you (not a fault, mind you; if it's something negative you can change, by all means, do so), too bad.  If they do, so much the better. 

2) Since I am aspiring to be a professional photographer and because I want to improve my photography skills so I can be the best I can be even when I'm only doing it as a hobby.
Because of this, I am not going to post any of my photos that I think are just "OK".  There might be exceptions, such as the photos of the Shelby Cobra I took; they're not very impressive, to say the least, but the car was the important thing in that case, not my photos...

Years ago, I had wanted to be "the best" at something.  I've since found that that mindset is foolish, to put it mildly.  For one thing, somewhere there will nearly always be someone better at what you do.  Also, is it really necessary to be the best at what you do?  Regardless, I think if you're going to seriously do something, simply be the best you can be.

3) I don't know how I'm going to be able to get started in professional photography, especially since I don't have the money to buy better lenses and a better camera...which I need to be able to take better photos...

-Max out