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Photography

Things related to photography

The Art of the Brick at OMSI

We recently toured Nathan Sawaya’s The Art of the Brick at OMSI, our local science museum. I had heard about this show, and seen pictures, but they don’t do it justice…so here, look at some of my pictures which also won’t do it justice. [View on Flickr]

Part of the reason photos don’t do the ehxibit justice is the lack of sense of scale—further accentuated in my photos due to the lack of reference points. Most of these things are quite large; the human figures are all life size (or bigger). The Easter Island head is maybe 8′ tall, the Whistler’s Mother figure is six or so feet long, etc. Each piece has a descriptive card that includes the total number of Lego pieces used. As you’d expect, it’s a lot of Lego!

If you’re in the Portland area—or The Art of the Brick is coming to your town—I highly recommend a visit. You don’t even have to like Legos; the art is just amazing…even without considering it’s made of Lego bricks.

Like a kid in a candy store…

Back in January, I spent a morning at the Portland International Auto Show, walking around looking at a huge assortment of new cars and trucks, and even a couple of campers.

As the title says, for me, short of actually buying a new car, that was peak fun. I love everything about cars, and walking around a car show is about as good as it gets: All the new cars, none of the sales pressure of a dealer visit! Here are some of the better shots from the morning’s virtual shopping trip. [View on Flickr]

Of the vehicles we saw, the Acura NSX and the BMW i8 were both very striking looking—much more so in person than in photographs. And I think the Audi RS7, especially in all-black, is one of the meanest-looking cars to come along in a long time. Now I just need to come up with the $7.5 million or so it’d take to buy all the cars on my wish list!

The above album is hosted on Flickr and displayed here via a plug-in; read on if you’re interested in how I did that…

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Review: Canmore G-Porter GP-102+ data logger

I recently bought a new big-size camera, bucking the trend of simply using one’s iPhone for photographs. That’s not to say I don’t use my iPhone; it is my main picture taking device. But I wanted a camera that could capture native retina iMac images (at least 5120×2880), and the iPhone can’t do that.

After much looking and sweating over the costs, I chose a Nikon D5500, mainly because I already had a Nikon and didn’t really want to replace all my lenses. While this is an excellent camera, it was a bit of a budget compromise—it didn’t have all the features I really wanted. In particular, it lacks a built-in GPS to geocode all the pictures I take.

As a workaround, I decided to buy a GPS data logger, which is just a small GPS receiver that records GPS coordinates at some interval. Toss the logger in your pocket (make sure it’s on and receiving the GPS signals first!), then go take pictures as you normally do. When you return, you can use an app like HoudahGeo to sync the recorded GPS track with the timestamps on each photo. (I’ll have more to say about this whole sync process in a future post.) Presto, instant geocoded images!

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Looking for a camera recommendation

I’m looking for some help from the camera experts out there for my next camera. At present, I own an aging Nikon D40x, which I generally love except, well, it’s bulky as heck, only shoots 10MP, and is getting quite old. So I want to replace it with something else, with these constraints:

  • Resolution of at least 5120×2880, the native resolution of the 5K iMac.
  • Smaller and lighter than my Nikon, so I think that means APS-C or Micro 4/3rds sensor size.
  • Weatherproof, so I can shoot outside in Oregon in the winter rains.
  • Total cost for the camera plus a base lens and a zoom lens in the $750 to $1500 range.

In my research, I’ve only really found one camera that actually meets all my criteria, that being the Panasonic DMC-GX8. It’s weatherproof (and shoots 4K video), and I could get the camera and a couple lenses for right around $1500. However, it just barely makes the resolution limit, at 5184×3888, leaving not much extra room for cropping.

Reviews have also noted that it’s quite large for a mirrorless camera, and that’s what I’m trying to get away from.

The Sony a6000 is a near-fit, as its 6000×4000 resolution easily meets my needs, but it’s not waterproof. It is, however, smaller and lighter than the Panasonic, and has a faster burst mode. Compared to the GX8, it only shoots 1080p video. But it would also be somewhat less expensive, I think, with a couple lenses. (The camera body is much cheaper, but Sony’s lenses seem much more expensive.)

Sony is also launching the a6300 in early March. According to this comparison article, it’s got a number of nice improvements, such as 4K video recording, a weather-sealed magnesium-construction body, many more autofocus points for fast autofocus, and a much better viewfinder.

However, this camera is about $500 more than the a6000, which means I’d be close to the budget limit after adding a zoom lens.

I’ve visited Digital Photography Review to read reviews, and to compare the samples for the A6000 and GX8 … but I’m still no closer to a decision.

I welcome any advice from those with experience in these cameras, and/or more information on image quality comparisons and lenses. At present, I’m leaning to the a6300, even though it’s quite a bit more money. It meets all my criteria, has the fastest burst rate, shoots 4K video, and is smaller and lighter than the GX8. But is there something else I should be looking at instead?

Retina lollipops

A candy store at the local mall had the most amazing wall of colorful lollipops, and I thought it’d make a wild desktop image for a retina iMac. As I snapped the pic on my iPhone, it took a bit of upscaling to reach 5120×2880, but I think it still looks fine; here’s a small-scale version:

I also thought a tunnelized version would be interesting; here’s how that came out:

I have these in my normal “rotate random every 15 minutes” cycle, and still get a kick out of the lollipops when they get chosen.

A unique lava lamp time-lapse

We occasionally take our kids to a local place, Big Al’s, which is one of those bowling/arcade places that give out tickets as rewards from the arcade games. Being good parents, we too sometimes play the games (you know, to spend time with the kids…yea, that’s it). Over the years, we amassed quite a bunch of tickets, but weren’t quite sure what to spend them on.

The last time we were there, I was smitten by a lava lamp, similar to this one, but ours has a black base and blue “lava.” I don’t know why (childhood flashback?), but I decided some of our points cache would go to this mesmerizing but otherwise useless device.

When I got it home, I was surprised at just how long it takes to warm up: It can take nearly an hour before any “lava” starts flowing, and about two hours before it really looks like a traditional lava lamp. During the first hour, though, the melting wax in the lamp makes some really cool abstract bits of art, as seen in the photo at right.

I thought this might make a neat time lapse, so I set out to record it with the iPhone. My first attempt failed, due to the iPhone’s auto-adjusting time-lapse feature. Because the lamp takes so long to get going, the gap between frames winds up being quite long. Long enough that when stuff does start happening, the iPhone’s time-lapse gaps are too wide to make for an interesting video.

I needed another solution, so I headed to the iOS App Store to see what was available…

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Cheap fireworks in slow-mo are oddly compelling

I’ll be out of town on the Fourth of July, so the kids and I did our little fireworks celebration last night. This being Oregon, we stuck to what we could legally buy, which basically means nothing that can fly or explode. For grins, I set up my iPhone on a tripod, and shot some of the fireworks in slow-mo mode. The result was much better than I was anticipating…

That’s about a minute’s worth of one of the larger fireworks. You can download that one (1280×720, 96MB), or if you want, download the full seven-minute version. Be aware: If you’re on a metered connection, the big version will set you back 671MB!

Send your Retina iMac’s desktop to deep space

Last week, I used the just-released Hubble Space Telescope images of the Andromeda galaxy to create a couple of desktop images for my Retina iMac. I liked the results so much that I spent some time collecting other suitable images from the Hubble site, and then cropping and/or scaling them to create interesting high-res desktop images. (I used Acorn for all the edits; it had no troubles, even with TIF images as large as 20,323×16,259!)

The end result is a collection of 50+ Retina iMac-sized (5120×2880) desktop wallpapers, courtesy of the Hubble Space Telescope. Here’s the full collection:

[cycloneslider id=”retina_space”]
Tip: If you click on the caption below the image, you’ll be taken to the source page on the Hubble telescope site where I found the image.

There are at least two versions of nearly every image—one or more where I cropped out an interesting area of the photo at 5120×2880, and one where I scaled down and then cropped as needed to get as much of the full image as possible.

There are three ways to get an image (or all the images):

Method One: One at a time

  1. Command-click on the image (anywhere other than on the navigation arrows) you’d like to download. This will create a new background tab (in Safari, Chrome, and Firefox, at least), loaded with that image’s high-resolution page on my Box cloud drive.
  2. At the top right of the page you’ll see a big Download box/link; click it to save the file to your Mac.
  3. Repeat for each image you want, and then organize as you wish, and set them up as rotating desktop images.

Method Two: Another way to get one at a time

Open the full folder on Box, and browse/download directly from there. Click on any image, then click the large Download box/link to download the selected image to your Mac.

Method Three: Gimme the full set!

If you want all 54 images, just download this zip archive from Dropbox (300MB). Expand on your Mac, then look through and keep the ones you want. If the Dropbox link isn’t working, try this one on OneDrive.

Images courtesy of NASA/ESA, and full image credits can be found on the linked image page for each image reproduced above.

It’s snowing…in slow motion!

It’s just started snowing here in central Oregon, so I shot a bit of slow motion snowfall. The end result is very oddly mesmerizing (open the video in a new window to see it at full size):

The snow looks like some fake Hollywood effect when seen in slow motion. But hey, it’s falling, it’s sticking, and the kids may get a white Christmas after all!

I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday…I’m outta here to go play in the snow!

Fake fire … enhanced

To make our winter-air-blocked non-functional fireplace more visually engaging, I printed a huge fireplace image across multiple pages, and taped them to the fireplace blocker. The end result was usable, but definitely not professional:

So I set out to find a shop to print a 36″x48″ poster of the huge image. And because this was clearly an optional project, I wanted to do it as cheaply as possible. After much web searching, I found Poster Print Factory. Their online poster creation tool was easy to use, and the cost ($35 including shipping) was the lowest I found by at least $10.

It took about a week, but the poster arrived and the quality is fine. It’s printed on relatively thick stock, and the image itself looked stunning. So now, our artificial fire has been enhanced by a high quality poster overlay:

So much nicer to look at than the silvery surface of a piece of foam insulation! Anyway, if you’re looking for some inexpensive poster-sized prints, I was happy with what I got from Poster Print Factory.

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