Sunday, October 31, 2010

Today's sunrise on the hills

If you enlarge this (by clicking inside it) you can scroll across, and see the cable-cars on the mountainside near right, on the Grouse Mountain Skyride. It's a bit early for the skiing, but the scenery from up there is always spectacular.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

A 7-image automatic panorama

This isn't a huge image, because it wouldn't fit on here, and Google wouldn't be able to load it, so I've reduced this to 1680 by 268 from the original 6573 by 1050. This is not great art, Folks, but it shows how seamlessly a modern automatic panorama-maker like Microsoft's 'ICE' performs. This was composed from 7 smaller images, and it takes the guesswork out of it for sure. It's just a matter of drag and drop and see what you got.  You can try it by clicking here.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Here's what Microsoft's 'ICE' (Image Composite Editor) can do with three old images. Not bad!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Hills Are Alive......

This is a portion of the suburb British Properties on the hillsides of West Vancouver, where, if you have to ask 'how much' then you definitely can't afford it. It's built on the hillside to make sure that us unwashed peasants can look up to it and be suitably impressed.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This morning's Snow Report

Yes, Kiddies, it's time to wax the old boards and get them ready - It's First Flake Day!


Trying out Microsoft's 'ICE' - Image Composite Editor

In it's actual size, this image is 1930 pixels wide by 2242 pixels high, made up from four images taken from a Canon G9 on a small tripod sitting on my windowsill, and the curvature is because the camera, being tilted or rotated from bottom to top through images one to four is seeing the scene as if it were projected on a big sphere.

The sides are a little strange but when everything in it is compared to everything else in it, then all the objects are in their true relationships to each other, and in this one, that powerline along the street in the lower portion of it is properly straight-lined, and the edges of nearby roofs are also not bent out of shape as with the previous view in another posting, done with the program Autostitch. The Autostitch version is from an early demo of it, and this 'ICE' version is obviously a much more sophisticated interpretation of that concept, offering much more variable fine tuning, without loss of detail. In the ICE program itself, it's surprising how this large image can be manipulated to show various perspectives of it. That must be seen to be appreciated.

And of course, this blending of four images went very smoothly, and was done almost instantly as I dropped the images into the program's main window. So they really have automated this whole process, and good on them! I can't hardly wait to try it with a larger number of images.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's overcast - how can I see tonight's moon?

With Stellarium, of course.  Your own planetarium, right on the desktop, with real-time images of all that wonderful stuff flying around out there, just as if you could see through the clouds.

Where can you get Stellarium?  That's easy - just click here for the home page.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Brief hint of sunset on a nasty day

I resisted the urge to 'twiddle' with this one. This is just how it came from the camera, but re-sized to make it more manageable for posting. Almost in the exact center, between the    tallest treetops and just under the bottom edge of the bright patch, there's a float-plane going away from us, over Georgia Strait toward Vancouver Island.  I hasten to add that was not my reason for taking this shot - it was just a happy coincidence after I looked at the finished image. There's a lot of these float-planes around here, though, so it isn't unusual. This almost-sunset was the one bright spot in an otherwise gloomy day around here - a day when it went from lightly raining to pouring like a tall cow peeing on a flat rock :)


Sunday, October 24, 2010

A 4-image vertical merging.....

This was done with the demo version of Autostitch, and I think I should have waited for the next one.  Here's why: - ..................................................

It does a nice job of fitting the four images together without obvious mistakes, but it also does some really strange things to the resolution or aspect ratio or whatever we should call this almost 28-percent widening of the nearest portions on the finished composite. It also added a curve or bend in straight lines. What is that? Is this some kind of 'astronomical projection' being applied to the pixels to assign them all individual 'orbits' around some pre-determined central point of the composition? If it is, I have news - it may be working fine, but it looks all cockeyed..... you're bending my space all out of shape. Even cropping it can't fix bent lines. But it really does work nicely on its own to fit together multiple images. Now, if only it could keep the lines looking the same way that eyes see them. Without a 28 or 29% distortion in the foreground, and a heightening of the trees in the background.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Today's 'Question Everything'......

Today's 'Question Everything' is directed at Mister Beep! aka Monsieur Beep, somewhere in Germany or perhaps The Netherlands (how many Nethers are there?) or Gran Canaria ......

My question is: "How can you learn Spanish from a book written by a Dutchman (lady, actually) and without any audio to give you the flavor of it?"  I'm not going to ask you why, because I think I already know the answer to that: - you're hoping to pose as a native there in Bahia Feliz so you
can meet las muchachas solteras. Oh, to be young and horny and desperate!  - and don't forget to let us know how it all turns out.


Those autumn leaves, continued - today's update.

This is just about as good as it ever gets. From now on, it surrenders to the wind and weather.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Tommy asks: "How did you put that image into your blog header?"

After you sign in and see your Dashboard, choose "Design" from the underlined choices to the right of the "New Post" button. That takes you to "Add and Arrange Page Elements", where you will see a frame under the solid blue Navbar for the Title (and description) of your blog, with (Header) after it, and a button marked "Edit".  Click on that "Edit".

That brings up the smaller window (upper left) to "Configure Header", showing what you now are using for your blog title and any related description of it. Just below that part, you should see an invitation to add an image from your files or some other source like the web. For mine (above) it invites me to remove the image, or change how it is placed in relation to the title and description.

The image you choose shouldn't be too big, but it does accept some fairly big ones. Mine being a pano was much too big at first, and the system couldn't resize it down to fit until I reduced it a little on several tries, until I got it to the biggest size the program would accept, and just nicely fit the page to match the width of the main text block. When I got it to fit, it was down to 924 by 325, which fits very nicely. Don't forget to click on the little "Save" button to lock in your changes before you close those windows. That should do it for you - you should now have a nice image behind your title header.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Today's Snow Report.....

Here's a panorama of the local hills, taken at about 10X optical on the Pentax X70.


More leaves, same trees - composite

Those maples and their mirror image, combined into one.

May I whine a moment here? Not at you - at Good Old Google. When they invent a new format for their blogs, and put it out there for all us boobs to try out and use, it might be really nice if they could just first of all make sure that everything in it is working as correctly as possible, and actually doing its job properly. Specifically, the formatting of text on here. When I pick a font, it would be great if the damned thing stayed active long enough for me to actually get using it before it reverts to some unchosen default setting picked out by some backroom genius in the Google home world. If it did stay as the active choice for me, it would then be just marvelous if it could be used for composing lines of text without having to play "guess where I'm jumping to when it comes time for the next line here" - sometimes it just sits there doing nothing, other times it suddenly jumps up several lines into already-typed text, and sometimes the only way to get it going in the right direction is to alternately hit "Enter' and the 'Down' arrow until it actually moves to where it should have gone but didn't, because there's obviously a problem with the double-breaks in the code somewhere. Not being code-literate, I can't fix it, nor should I have to. It should have been ready for Prime Time before Google turned it loose on us.

I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth here - I'm just saying if you're giving me a horse at all, then it should be alive and well and able to pull the wagon, or leave me with the donkey I came in with here! I at least knew how to get it mobile in less than half a day.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Patrolling over the freeway today

This was flying very slowly along near the four lanes of the Trans Canada Highway today, either taking pictures, or watching someone on the road.  It wasn't in a hurry to be somewhere.


Those autumn leaves.... a flashback.

Here's a scan of an old 9" by 12" plexi-mounted photo from about 2000 or 2001, and it hasn't aged well at all, color-wise. Maybe hanging it in the bathroom hasn't exactly helped it.

Here's my humble attempt at restoring some of the colors to the brighter leafed trees, and in particular, those maples among the buildings. Those were a mixture of reds and oranges and yellows, in a blend that suggested a large bonfire. This doesn't do it justice, really. Now that I've taken a closer look at all that, and how much my old photo has changed over time, I'm wondering why I've saved it all this time, because it doesn't look now at all like it did at the time it was taken. "Time marches on, trampling everything underfoot."


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Those autumn leaves

This is the tree I use to check on the turning of the leaves.  Some years, it looks like it was on fire, with many different shades of leaves.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Desktop Backgrounds......(continued)

.........and, of course, you can always grab your camera, and make your own.


A new life for old movie posters.....

Re-size them to fit your monitor screen, and use them for Desktop Backgrounds.....

This is what they will look like when you're done creating a collection for Windows 7.....


Friday, October 15, 2010

Tommy asked about the previous posting.....

That previous six-image panorama and its alterations involved the following:-

The panorama was assembled using the demo version of 'Autostitch' which I got from here:-  For the next part, making a mirror image of it, and flipping that upside-down, I used an older version of Arcsoft's 'PhotoStudio' from:-  Their latest is version 6.0, which I also have, but I'm still using version 5.5 because I like its features better. I use it for most of my photo editing, enhancing, cropping, resizing, etc., and it works very well.

The next part, adding the water reflections and waves, was done with the program 'Paint.NET' from:-  and the Water Reflection is a plug-in which you need to add to its Plug-ins folder. There's a lot of those plug-ins, and you should have a look at those:-  These plug-ins are an extensive list, and this is a very adaptable program, so take some time to look those over. The one I used for the waves effect is called "Water Reflection", and it is adjustable in several ways with its little settings window, to let you adjust how much of the picture is covered by its water effects, how the waves, if used, are spaced (direction, wind, etc.) and so on.

Another photo stitching program that works well but not automatically is Canon's PhotoStitch, which is bundled with their camera software packages, or is available on their website, if you select your camera model and Windows operating system. The Canon program does a better job of vertical stitching than the 'Autostitch', which tends to distort the width of vertical stitches. The Canon PhotoStitch doesn't distort anything, but you do of course have to input the images and then drag them into position yourself to create the end results. Canon's program however will automatically crop the ragged-edged stitching, whereas the 'Autostitch' one doesn't - for it you need to use another editor program, like Arcsoft's 'PhotoStudio' for the cropping.

With the exception of the Arcsoft 'PhotoStudio' program, all these are freebies, and Arcsoft often has special sales or reduced prices for previous customers, so check into that as well. While I'm on the topic of graphics programs, I should mention a couple of others that I like. One I use all the time as my default image-handling program is Irfan Skiljan's 'Irfanview' and you can find that here:-
This program is free, but Irfan appreciates a donation for his excellent work, and this program handles a really wide variety of graphics, and does a lot of things with them, like batch edits, batch resizing, renaming, etc., and it comes with the basic plug-ins. If you want others, there's a separate plug-ins pack for it on the same site. I like it, because among other things, it offers the opportunity to zoom in or out with its displayed images, and there's a massive "Help" section if you need assistance - or Irfan even answers email if he isn't too busy. It's been updated for Windows 7 compatibility, and it works fine.

Finally, here's another freebie that makes icons from images, or modifies existing ones if you want to do that:-  I've used this a lot, to make most of the icons on my desktop and a large collection of others as well. It's a lot of fun, and it works with the latest features of transparency and so on, so that you can remove backgrounds around the object you want before it becomes an icon. Check this one out while you're collecting graphics programs. And enjoy these!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fun with photos....

This began as a series of six frames side by side across a line of treetops in the haze, and then it sort of got out of hand..... The six were merged into a panorama, and then a mirror image of it was made and spliced onto the bottom of it. Then that was moved into another program, where the water reflection and waves were added. The result is a mythical flooded forest..... See what happens when I get bored cross-eyed?


A little computer stuff....

Auslogics has a couple of very useful freebies you should probably have - Disk Defrag and their Duplicate Files Finder.

Their free Disk Defrag works better than the built-in one in Windows 7, and it gives you the option to perform the defrag regardless of whether the system says it needs it or not - in case you wanted to do that for any reason. The Windows one works well but automatically,  and doesn't like to be told when to do it.  I like to do it myself, especially after adding or removing large files.

Speaking of files, Auslogics Duplicate Files Finder works like a charm, and you can choose which kinds of files you want it to look for - such as images, or audio, or video, or archives, or applications - or all of the above. It works quickly, and if it finds duplicates, it reminds you to leave at least one copy of each on your system before you delete anything - and it puts the deleted ones into the Recycle Bin, in case you needed to restore something. When you're happy that everything is working, then dump the Recycle Bin.

Here's another 'essential' freebie, if you want to know what's really on your computer. This will do an inventory of everything on there - all your programs, system information, version numbers, Windows key codes, license numbers, security updates - you name it - it lists them all.
You'll wonder how you managed without it, and if you file a copy of its report in a safe place, you will always have the information, in case you ever really need it.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Practicing night shots -

The trick is to get the camera rock-steady, and then don't jiggle it as the shutter is triggered. This isn't perfect, for sure, but I'm getting better slowly. I think I need a better tripod, or maybe just bolt the camera to a cement block..... and then throw it out the window!


Daylight in the swamp....

Busy hands are happy hands, and even the dog seems to agree with that. For mid-October, this is a nice morning, and promises to be a pleasant day. I hope yours is too.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Just learning, Folks.....

A nearby Alp, up behind a portion of British Properties in West Vancouver.

This was an experiment at night shots, using different settings than I usually have been using, and it seems to have turned out better. Maybe it pays to read the directions.... and speaking of that, I made another discovery: the downloaded version of this Pentax X70 Owners Manual is much easier to navigate than the little 270-page book you get with the camera.  Just find something in the PDF-version's index, then click on the page number, and you're there! Makes it almost easy to learn something. Like how to set it for brighter night shots, and all that.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Up, Up and Away.......

The same Eagle - from two different shots, combined into one.

I was reading the other day about the new cameras, and how they can help with these shots that involve high zoom, by having a feature which can quickly zoom in and out again to let you get the target back into the frame if you lose it (as most of us do from time to time) - so today, I tried that technique, manually running the zoom in and out when this soaring eagle got away on me. I'm pleased to report that it works fine, thanks - and you don't need a new camera to use it - just be quick on the zoom control, and be ready to use it. This is the proof.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

This evening's sunset....

As you may have noticed, I messed around some with this one, trying to 'improve' it. That's because it was taken through a window instead of with the camera outdoors, and as a result it didn't come out exactly as hoped. - It still hasn't. But it's an interesting effect all the same.


Carol Channing does "Jazz Baby".....

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Grumpy Gourmet's latest tip - (Gastronomy Made Easy)

The folks at Healthy Choice Gourmet Steamers do a fairly good job, but if you eat enough of these things, you'll probably get tired of the "same old, same old" and begin to crave a change. Variety being the spice of life, and all that.

So I did a little experiment. I went against their advice and pulled off that plastic film on the top, the one they say 'DO NOT PUNCTURE'. I didn't puncture it. It's very much unpunctured - but it's in the garbage can.  Then, I lifted out the inner tray with the munchies and set that aside for the moment. In the base container, in the very bottom, frozen like a rock, is the sauce that has been chosen by some nameless minion at the food company as being appropriate for the contents of that inner basket. If you read the outer package for what that consists of, it may scare you off, or at least lessen your enthusiasm, not to mention your appetite just a wee bit. However, it's unlikely that plain boiled water can harm you a lot, as long as you don't get into it. So I substituted boiled water for that mysterious sauce, re-assembled the dishes, covered the top with an overturned paper plate, to avoid splashing up the microwave, and cooked it.

After removing from the microwave oven, and removing the paper plate cover, I put the contents of the inner basket, now nicely cooked in plain steam, into a bowl, seasoned it with some margarine, salt and pepper, and enjoyed my sauce-free snack. It was very tasty. For the first time, I could actually enjoy the flavor of the food itself, instead of that chemistry-lesson gravy usually covering everything.


Speaking of jazz - another favorite movie....Thoroughly Modern Millie

Another flashback - how jazz was born....

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My latest kitchen experiment....

"Waste not, want not!" my old Granny used to say. In that theme, here's my latest improvisation in the kitchen.  I started with two part-packages of left-over pastas from those two-servings size boxes of Kraft Dinner. I usually only cook half that pasta, because I like lots of cheese sauce on it, and the whole package dilutes the cheese too much. The other approach is to buy twice as many packages, and use the cheese mix from half of them to double up on the other half of them. But I digress - sorry about that - After cooking and straining the pasta (shells and macaroni) then I added a large can of 'Habitant' Pea Soup with Ham, a generous gob or two of margarine, and a cup or so of frozen baby green peas.  Sprinkle this with a generous sprinkle of roasted garlic powder, stirring steadily, so it doesn't stick to the bottom, and give it a minute or so of rolling boil.

I didn't add the baby green peas until the very end, and they didn't cook long enough to do more than thaw out well and restore their body heat. They add a little something extra to it, and also make it more colorful.  I haven't thought of a name for this yet, except, "Ummm! Good!"


"The Czar of Tar" strikes again!

After all that commotion, here's what it all came down to  ^

And here's just some of the equipment it took. There's more up & down the street, and with all that mechanized equipment, the blacktop from the big red truck was hauled from it to that driveway by one husky guy with a wheelbarrow. Everything else was mostly window-dressing! Reminds me of the day the circus came to town..... Send in the Clowns! What? No Clowns?


This doesn't look like an alarm clock, but....

See that cute little 'Bobcat' front end loader, near the red-leafed tree beside the house ? It doesn't look like the nuisance of the neighborhood, does it? Well, it is! That damned little thing has one of those really noisy back-up alarms on it, and it woke me and half the neighborhood up this morning with its seemingly-constant 'Peep-Peep-Peeping'. You'd think in a spot like this, where there's little chance of any problem, they could shut off that damned alarm and let the others in the neighborhood have some peace-and-quiet, but no - rules are rules. So everybody for half a mile around gets to listen to that annoying little alarm on that cute little machine. All of which brings me, after a great delay, to today's 'Question Everything', which is: "What was wrong with the blacktop that was already on that semi-circular driveway?" - I can't see any obvious problems with it. Maybe those people just have more money than brains, and need to get rid of some. If that's the case, they could always donate it to the neighbors for the purchase of soundproof earmuffs or earplugs, so we could get some peace and quiet around here! There! I feel better.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

And now, for something entirely different....

I still don't know the name of this, but it's just gorgeous!

Here's another one, not as far along, but promising to be equally lovely.

This is another I don't have a name for, but is another eye-grabber. I'll have to catch Ken, our gardening expert, and ask him what these are.  They look too good to be 'Anonymous'...... and I hope you enjoy them. If you click on them to enlarge them, you can even save them on your own computer, maybe for wallpaper, for when you need something new or different.

Rather than wait for me to find out what these all are, which might be a while, you can use a neat reverse image search engine called 'TinEye'  to upload one or more of these, and TinEye will check the web for similar images, which will likely have names. It's worth a try, anyway. Have fun!


Another sundown

Almost looks like a painting, doesn't it? A freighter in Georgia Strait, with the hills of Vancouver Island behind it, shortly after sundown this evening.


Tommy asked about the rug steamer....

Here it is beside a yardstick, to give you an idea of the size of it.

Here it is with the top removed, showing the accessories stored inside the collection tank. That round frame with the black ball inside it is the float which activates a shut-off when the returning waste water needs dumping.  That 'D' shaped handle swings up to carry the bucket. They don't make these faucet-attached machines now, and in a way that's too bad, because these had the advantage of a steady supply of hot water through the hose, and the cleaning mixture was added to that by an eductor fitting which was part of the tap connection on the hose. That's the gadget showing on the left end of the lid, with a brown rubber hose on it, which is the sucker tube for the detergent metering bottle. When this is set up for use, you may wonder how everything packs up so compactly before and after, but it does.


Autumn leaves....

I know that back in the hinterlands of Ontario, the autumn colours are in full display mode, but out here in Lotusland on the Wet Coast, ours aren't even decently started yet. We like to wait until the end of October or the beginning of November for ours.  This was one of the few I can find.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Another lucky shot.....

This came out so well, I made it into a wallpaper for all you lovers of flowers or bees or just nice eyeball-grabbing wallpapers. If you look really closely along the top edge of the right-hand flower just above the fellow center, there's some other little critter there.  There's more of them than there are of us, Kiddies. They obviously don't select mates the same way we do....


Still working fine......

I grabbed this picture off the web, to show you the old carpet steamer that I'm still using. It's now so old, the Bissell people don't even keep a record of it on their website. If you do a search on it for this model 1631C, it comes back as "no results".  They apparently don't want to know that it is still alive and well after more than 20 years, and still doing its thing.

I wasn't taking pictures or adding to the blog yesterday, because I had this rig roaring - and I do mean 'roaring' around the place, cleaning the wall-to-wall. There's now a new cleaning fluid for these home steamers, called "7 in 1 Carpet Care", manufactured by Kent Chemical Corp., Ash Flat, Arkansas 72513, USA - and this stuff isn't nearly as foamy as the old products for these machines. That was always a problem with the original Bissell 4-in-1 fluid - it created a lot of foam, and the float ball inside the recovery tank would shut you down before you'd done a whole lot. Progress is wonderful, and now that doesn't happen as often. The new stuff really works, too. The used water came back absolutely black, so it's removing something.

The big problem, or I should say the big annoyance with these machines like mine is that they connect onto a hot water tap with 50 feet of hose, so while in use you're always wrestling with the hose and the electrical supply cord, and trying to clean a floor that has those on it. But if you can live with that, then it does do a decent job. Mine has lasted for years and years and still works just like it did when new. Would I buy another one? No - they don't make this kind now, and besides, Hoover has an upright model with five little rotating scrubbing brushes in the cleaning head, and it not only 'steams' but scrubs the rug as it goes. I want one of those!


Monday, October 4, 2010

Instant Replay.....

Here it is again, this time layered over the same background with different clouds and sky.

If you have 'Paint.NET' [ ] then you can use the 'Layers' tool to combine images, one over the other, like this. I obviously need more practice, but this is a rough example.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Last evening's sunset - a lucky shot !

This was by far much more luck than good management.  I almost missed it, and would have if I hadn't decided to take a break from the computer and then turned around to look outside.

I've been told that I seem to be using the long zoom a lot, and that's true. Things just look better to me when they're up closer. Maybe it's something to do with old age and deteriorating sight.Or maybe it's just a personal quirk, but using the zoom, even when I'm taking shots of flowers in the gardens seems to make the results look better.

A friend has said that I should have a better camera with a zoom lens on it, and that's a lovely idea, but the truth is that I haven't learned how to use the ones I've already got, so I'd better do that first. I'm from the school of thought which believes that instruction books were made for people who would rather read than play with the goodies. So I fumble around a lot, and make a lot of mistakes, and when I finally get some half-assed decent results, I'm disgustingly proud of myself. Others, who have taken the time to read the instructions, have already mastered the equipment I'm still trying to figure out by the fumble method.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Autumn they say.....

In some parts of the country, the colorful leaves are nearing a peak, but not around here. The neighbors are still out working on their tans, and our colorful leaf season is yet to come, such as it is. Evergreens outnumber other species around here, so it stays mostly green.