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March 16, 2010

Ride to Fawn Lake

Spring is a funny time. There are bright and sunny days like today. There are nasty-ass, windswept rainy days like the last three.

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Fawn Lake, March 2010 (click for bigger)

And then there are the overcast, cool but eminently ride-able days that predominant. The mountain bike tandem is out and I am actively searching for the first signs of spring. The partial ice-out shown above is the best I can do for right now.

February 19, 2010

Friday's Picture

I was just walking down a Boston sidewalk, minding my own business, when my attention was caught by this:

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Really? Who knew?

October 22, 2008

A Few Pictures from the Mansion

On Sunday morning, Sil and I spent an enjoyable hour or so at the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, New York. We've driven by this estate countless times on our way to and from Rhinebeck over these past few years, but never stopped.

Finally, curiosity about how the other half lived drew us in.

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View of the Hudson River from the backyard.

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The Italian Gardens (can you see the butterfly?)

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And, in case you want more leaves....

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There was no photography of any kind inside the house, but it was quite dark in there so it was just as well. What especially caught my attention was the number of rooms devoted to card playing/instrumental recitals/dancing/sitting around and conversing. With no internet/TV/iPod, one imagines the entertainment options were limited, even if you were super-rich at the turn of the 20th century.

Come to think of it, its a pretty sad commentary when my first thought upon viewing a great mansion is to think, "wow, no wireless."

March 26, 2008

Basketball and Socks

Knitted socks and basketball and cameras generally have nothing to do with one another. Today, however, I bring you a hybrid entry, most of which will only interest a tiny portion of you.

First, let's start with the knitted sock part so that if you aren't interested in basketball or photography you can get right back to work or on to the next blog.

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My current sock project came along to the Boston Celtics-Philadelphia 76ers game on Monday night. A game, sadly, that the home team lost. No matter, though, as I had a great time cheering with the masses for the good shots, and groaning through the missed ones, eating hot dogs (I rarely eat those) and people watching. There was no knitting until in the car, in the parking garage, waiting for the eternity that is 18,624 people exiting an NBA game to clear out.

WARNING: END KNITTING CONTENT.

Somehow I'd gotten to the age I am without ever seeing a real live big-league basketball game. And, although I know intellectually that real people are out there playing, they don't seem quite as real on the television screen. So I spent quite a few minutes in the first quarter thinking to myself, "wow, there are REAL PLAYERS out there."

Yes, I am a very simple person at heart.

I also had a ball playing with my new camera. Now, a point and shoot camera is hardly the best choice for an indoor sports event. A small sensored camera will not give you as clean pictures in low light as a bigger-sensored DSLR, and a big-ass fast, long zoom lens is really what you need to get the good action shots. But detachable lens cameras are specifically banned from this arena without a press pass, so the options were a point and shoot or nothing.

Thus I wasn't expecting much out of my new little camera but I was really quite pleasantly surprised.

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Here is where I was sitting without using any zoom (taken before the game started -- every one of those seats was filled by gametime). Pretty high up in the balcony, but smack at midcourt with a good view of the action.

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This picture was taken at full optical zoom and isn't cropped. Eddie House is in midair taking a practice shot before the game. Frankly I'm amazed that I got a fast enough shutter speed to negate most of the motion blur.

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The banners hanging from the rafters of the Boston Garden at full zoom. Non-North American readers, please overlook the fact that the "World Champions" don't actually play teams outside of the U.S. and Canada.

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Full zoom, cropped action shot of two of my favorite players, Paul Pierce catching the in-bounds pass and Kevin Garnett heading down the court.

What I did to take these shots:

1. Turned off the flash: there was no way the tiny, wimpy flash could possibly illuminate the subjects (other than the poor defenseless sock). Leaving the flash on would totally mess up the exposure.

2. Cranked up the ISO to 400 and 800. This makes the sensor more sensitive to light, allowing for faster shutter speeds to stop the action but results in more digital noise. Then I used a bit of Noise Ninja in Photoshop to take some of the noise out.

3. Only took pictures when the action was slowed down or stopped. There is no way to avoid a blurry basketball player picture with this camera setup when he is motoring down the court at full speed.

Bottom line: I enjoyed actually going to a game that I usually only see on TV and taking pictures with a tiny, cheap camera that are worth looking at. A good evening.

ETA: The last couple of days my comments have been wonky, giving people error messages when the comments actually come through fine. Boy, I wish I knew how to fix it. If you get an error message, don't worry: I'm getting and appreciating your comment.

March 14, 2008

The Camera Post

Usually Friday is for "Eye Candy Friday". A photograph that adds some beauty or interest to the long, long, Friday afternoon. Today, however, I want to talk about the cameras behind Eye Candy Friday.

As you know, I killed my old Canon Powershot A75 by dumb-assedly spilling a water bottle in my handbag where the poor unsuspecting camera was reposing. Since then that camera has been dead, and I've been in the market for a new one.

My primary camera is a Pentax K100D, a digital SLR for which I have bought a few different lenses. Most of the pictures you see on this blog are taken with that camera and I love it.

However, I always like to keep a camera in my purse in case any interesting pictures present themselves. And, more importantly, I need a camera that fits into my bicycle jersey pocket for back of bike cam. The K100D is simply too big for these purposes. Thus, I need a point-and-shoot camera.

For a long time I've wanted a cute, sexy little camera. So pretty that everyone who saw it would OOH and AAH over it. Something like this one. Then my problems started.

These little cameras may be pretty, but you are mostly limited to letting the camera decide the important settings for you. Now, the lack of manual controls over aperture (how much light the lens lets in) and shutter speed (how long the camera lets the light fall onto the sensor) might not bother most people. But that wasn't a selling point for me -- go ahead, call me a control freak. Also, the tiny little cameras are a bit of a challenge to hold when doing one-handed shooting, as I must during back-of-bike cam when one hand on the handlebars is the baseline of prudence.

Because I want to devote my limited photography time to learning how to better operate my digital SLR, I did not want a steep learning curve on a new point and shoot. All recent Canon point and shoot cameras operate similarly, so despite interesting offerings from Panasonic and Casio, I just was unwilling to get into a whole new system. Also, I am used to the stellar image quality of Canon point and shoots** and didn't want to fix something that wasn't broke.

Lastly, I consider these little cameras to be gadgets with a short life due to fast-moving technology guaranteeing obsolescence and the high likelihood that dumb-assery will result in premature death. Frankly, I can't see spending upwards of US $300 on such a gadget. I was looking to spend well under US $200.

Given these biases, behold my camera choice:

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This is a Canon Powershot A720 IS posing with a skein of Koigu for scale. You can read more about it here. I purchased it here for a kick-ass price, and the sale goes on through tomorrow.

For my money, I got a zoom range of 35mm to 210mm equivalent which is amazing considering the size of this puppy. Sometimes I find zoom useful because I am taking pictures from off the bike and can't get closer to something interesting before I whoosh by it. I also get a grip to hold onto whilst the bike is speeding along. On the opposite end of the spectrum, this camera can focus in macro mode as close as 1 cm to the subject. Currently, I don't even OWN a macro lens for my DSLR, and were I to buy one with this sort of capability I'm looking at a $500 expenditure.

I get image stabilization, which is a technology that compensates somewhat for "camera shake" -- my lack of a steady hand. I can vouch for the effectiveness of image stabilization on my digital SLR, but I haven't used this new camera enough to tell whether or not it makes a big difference. I'm hoping it does at the "long end" of this zoom because when the lens is fully extended, camera shake is always worse. IS, however, does not help you if the subject of your picture is moving.

Most importantly for me, I get the ability to manually control aperture, shutter speed, ISO, custom white balance, metering, and mode of focusing. This is important because in difficult exposure situations the camera will guess wrong and unless I can manually fix it, I will lose the shot. I get a viewfinder (small and crappy as it may be) which is a lifesaver in the bright sunshine when the LCD screen washes out and you can't see the framing of your shot.

What I don't get is cuteness. sigh. Or a camera I can slip into the pocket of my jeans, although it easily fits into a coat pocket, jersey pocket and into my enormous handbag.

This is not the perfect camera if you use flash alot to take group shots of people indoors. The flash is underpowered and the recycle time (the time you have to wait after taking the first flash shot for the flash to re-power itself for the second shot) is quite long. I wouldn't use this camera for that, so the long flash recycle times don't bother me.

Essentially, I bought the updated version of my original A75 which I purchased when it was my ONLY camera to take the photographs for this blog. Is consistency a virtue?

If you are looking for an inexpensive camera for knitblog photography, I would recommend this one. Learn how to set a custom white balance to give yourself the best chance at accurate color, learn the easily-grasped relationship between aperture and shutter speed. Learn what ISO means. Your pictures will have a fighting chance at awesomeness, I promise.

**Let me be clear: you can take a better quality picture in most situations with a digital SLR than any point and shoot. If you want to take candid pictures of fast-moving kids or pets, pictures of your kid playing basketball in a poorly lit gym, pictures of a band playing a gig in a barely lit club, dude get a DSLR -- no point and shoot will do that well.

March 12, 2008

Its Silvia Day!

Today is March 12th, and that has meant only one thing since I was sixteen months old.

IT'S SILVIA'S BIRTHDAY!

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When she and I were just little kids, fighting like cats and dogs as small children are wont to do, my mother used to tell us that one day we'd be happy and thankful to have each other.

Well, mom certainly was right. I just couldn't ask for a better sister. Sister services provided by Sil include:

1. "That's ugly. Don't buy that." Sil's sage fashion advice has saved me from dorkdom on numerous number of occasions. The corollary -- "you have to buy that, it looks great on you" has pushed me out of the conservative fashion box that is my natural habitat on equally numerous occasions.

2. Brownies, banana bread, cake, chocolate chip cookies. That Sil is a baker, and a fine one.

3. Sil is an excellent travel companion, the perfect blend of adventurous yet relaxed. There is always time for a sit-down, a bit of knit-time and a nice cup of something to take the edge off. She regularly scores amazing deals on our Maryland/Rhinebeck hotels and, as a "sexy stew", she comes with flight benefits. YEAH!

4. She drives me around. Smart move, as she has excellent vision and I...well....don't. Putting aside that memorable incident with her Ford Fiesta and the motor home, this is a great arrangement for moi!

5. My sister is a bad-ass. This is inspirational.

6. Chocolate and cheese. Loves we share. Its the half-Swiss DNA.

7. Fun times. There are always fun times when my sister is around.

There is much more, but that is enough for today.

So, for me today is Silvia Day and it always will be. HAPPY BIRTHDAY SIL!!

January 29, 2008

On Trying Something New

I live not that far away from one of the greatest cities in the U.S. There are plays and shows and music and classes galore in Boston. Yet, it seems that I only go to the city for work or perhaps when friends come to town for some sightseeing. What a huge waste of this resource.

So after working for three weeks straight, I was finishing up a project on Friday. The next one didn't start until Monday. Husband was out of town. I could hang around the house and knit and do my chores, like every other weekend.

Or, I could take up this perfect opportunity for Trying Something New.

I saw there was a weekend black and white film photography course being offered, where I could try out my dad's old Retina film camera plus learn to develop prints in a darkroom. Mmmm. Now, back in the days of film cameras I just wasn't that interested in taking pictures. It was always so disappointing to get the photos back and see that I hadn't at all captured what I'd meant to. But, I was intrigued.

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The Make Way for Ducklings sculpture on Boston Common, shot with the old Retina and black and white film, developed by moi.

People, I had a BLAST. It is not that hard to develop and print B&W; film and it is magical the way the image starts to appear on the photo paper in the developer bath.

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The class, on Boston Common. In a way, this is also a Finished Item in the Wild shot, as I'm wearing the hat that I recently knitted but didn't want to model. The hat, by the way, is much too wide. It slips around my head and falls down over my eyes, and because I'm pretty darn blind to start out with, that is not good.

Sadly, about halfway through the photoshoot, my fifty year old film camera conked out. Likely because it hasn't been serviced, I'm sure, in thirty years. Although I do plan on getting it fixed, I may or may not have fallen down on eBay and bought another film camera. Oops.

I'd link to the class I took, but it turns out that it was the VERY LAST darkroom class that the organization was going to offer because they are tearing down the building and won't rebuild a darkroom in the new one. For Les, our instructor, it was very sad to see his way of doing photography disappear. It would be like, if some new way of knitting were to appear that made two sticks and string obsolete, everybody else switched over to the new way and I couldn't find any sticks and string anymore.

Ouch. That would really hurt.

So, my chores are undone. My knitting projects are stalled right where I left them. I am really tired (and probably have the flu). But I am sure glad I spent my weekend doing something totally new.

August 14, 2007

I Felt Like Seeing a Different Picture

Being a wee bit vacation-sick (like homesick, but different) I felt like seeing a picture of Amsterdam up here today.

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Maybe you hadn't noticed, but I don't take very many pictures of the normal vacation things. Fancy-ass buildings, monuments and such. I take pictures of fabulously orange-painted buildings and tangles of parked bicycles.

Perhaps a reason I like the Netherlands so much is that their national color is orange. Seriously. My kind of place. I wonder what the orange number one painted on the window is for, and think maybe it has something to do with a sports team.

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Sometimes I even take pictures of my delicious Koffie verkeerd. Note the cookie. When you order up a coffee or a tea in Amsterdam, it always comes with a cookie. Cookies for all! Again, my kind of place.

July 20, 2007

Hatched!

Egg Watch has yielded results.

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The eggs have turned into three tiny little chicks. Robinettes!

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"Hey, I want my breakfast!"

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And mom comes through with delicious worms. Mmmmm. Worms.

Most of the time, mom sits on the chicks. When she goes off to find food, I try to sneak it a few shots but I don't want to disturb the robin family too much. The chicks still rarely hold up their little heads and mostly just wriggle around the nest with their siblings, but I suspect that will change soon.

The house felines have taken no notice whatsoever of the birds. I think its better this way, don't you?

July 09, 2007

Robin's Egg Blue

If I ever wondered why that bright blue color was called "robin's egg blue", I now have my answer.

Right outside my window is a blue spruce bush, and the husband told me he thought there was a robin's nest in the bush.

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Mom Robin wishes I would mind my own damn business.

We are now officially on Egg Watch.

Although I didn't knit much over the weekend (work work work) I did eyeball my sock yarn stash. You see, to follow up on my last post, I did sorta wonder how I could have totally missed the explosion of indie sock yarn dyers -- many of whom were kind enough to donate their goodies to the MS Ride prize basket thus alerting me to what I was missing.

Here is the answer.

I don't actually buy sock yarn. Yet, I have plenty of sock yarn. Turns out, the vast majority of my sock yarn was gifted to me. Lucky me! But perhaps its about time that I took a more active role in picking out my sock yarn.

I may have already started.

February 10, 2007

Saturday Sky

This may well be my first Saturday sky ever.

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Taken from Route 93 North (the main highway north of Boston towards the great state of New Hampshire), through the driver's side window while traveling at 65 mph.

No, I wasn't driving.

If you'd like to see what I've been photographing this week, click on over to my Photo-A-Day Project.

December 10, 2005

Playing in the Snow

For all you snow-deprived peoples:


Someone's been playing in the snow.

Who could hate snow this beautiful? (don't answer that)

And playing with the camera.


December 20, 2004

Playing with the Camera

On reflection, I've realized that there is slightly more holiday spirit around here than I let on yesterday.

We affectionately call this The SuperNova.

You can *so* see this tree from way up my street because we've strung every Christmas light we own on this little bugger. Lazy or inspired? You tell me.

Speaking of playing with the camera, here is today's icy cold sunset.

Were there any decent light today, I could have shown my completed black tweedy fingerless mitts and a shot of my much maligned, misunderstood and NOT TOTALLY ORANGE sock basket. Since I appear to be on a picture taking jag, I'd guess tomorrow.