Saturday, August 22, 2015

National Zoo



We didn't go to the beach this year, at least not yet anyway.  But we did get sneak down to the National Zoo.  It was the first time I have been there since my kids were around that it was not over 100 degrees.

These aren't generally photo trips for me, but I do take some snapshots.

The two most important birds in the country are represented.






The picture of the cheetah could have been better, but I got burned by the terrible battery level indicators. So, the picture I really wanted to make din't happen because the battery died before it materialized.



At the end of the night on the way home we had a short conversation with the Maryland Batman.  Unfortunately he was killed  in an accident only a few days later.




Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My new little friend


I go through cycles of creative "stuff" that I involve myself in.  The one constant is photography, which is why this blog even exists.

Other creative stuff I find myself doing are video making, guitar playing, painting, drawing, building "useful" stuff,  programming, writing, miniature and model building.  But these other things come and go in seasons.

Right now it I've spent some time doing models.  I also learned a new word, "gunpla", and literally made a new "friend".

A friend of mine picked up a RG grade 1/144 scale MS-06F Zaku II model for me.  When I opened the box and looked at it, I had a moment of panic.  Looking at all the nifty parts in the kit I was given made me realize I really needed to use an airbrush.  They are flat, wide, and much larger than the miniatures I was bristle painting.

I have never used an airbrush on a scale model.  I have an airbrush, and I used it to paint R/C car bodies.  But the skill involved to do a basic R/C car body is minuscule in comparison to what it take to paint a model.  You don't have to worry about the "finish" on the R/C car body because you are painting the inside of a clear material.

To learn I ordered an "SD" kit of a similar 'mech.  I felt they'd be fun to show next to one another, providing my learning experience went well.  And if it didn't, the kit was cheap enough to try stripping it down to redo.

It went okay.  No disasters.  I need to be more aggressive cleaning mold and seam lines.  I also need to learn a little bit more control paint thinning.  But, I didn't end up with an orange peel finish, or other major problem.  I just had small problems!

My process was pretty basic.  Built sections up as large as I could (head, arms, two body sections, feet, weapons, shield, and shoulder pad), remove seams, prime, dark shade coat, lighter shade coat, hand paint, gloss coat, line with ink, add some weathering, and dull coat.  Because of the size and part count it only took me 10-12 hours over the course of a week. This included learning how to airbrush.  Of course, like a drawing or a painting, it could never truly be finished.

Materials and tools used (Listing because I've seen a few people make lists like this and I found it helpful):

  • Bandai's SD kit #231
  • Xacto knives, side nippers, sand paper files, and various and sundry modelling tools
  • Tamiya paint: Pink X-17, Red X-7, Dark Grey XF-24 (airbrushed bits)
  • Vallejo Game Color paint: Black, Cold Grey (hand brushed bits)
  • Citadel paint: Boltgun, Chainmail (hand brushed details, mostly weapons)
  • Winsor and Newton ink: Scarlet, Nut Brown, and Blue (lining and washes)
  • Pastruct Plastic Weld
  • Squadron putty
  • Dupli-color white automotive primer (spray-can) [I love this stuff, even though I usually use black]
  • Testors gloss cote and dull cote (spray-can)
  • The stuff I mix up my various hand painting thinners with... Liquitext Flow Aid and Slow-Dri w/ distilled water
  • Paasche VL airbrush #5 needle/nozzle set driven by a industrial compressor and tank
  • Winsor and Newton Series 7 #2 and #3 water color brushes
It was fun.  Although, I'm slightly suspicious, I think Bandai tricked me into building an action figure on my own.  

If you have never done a scale model and this makes you curious to try, I recommend these little SD Zaku kits as a first stab.  You can do a very basic build with the included stickers and the color of the plastic and some marker lining.  The only tool you'd really need is a pair of nippers.  You could also take it to a really cool extreme.

Or you can hit somewhere in between like I did.




Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Trying, and failing, again


So, I tried this idea out a while ago.

It is still not where I want it.  Tobias is a bit too squirmy, I need to try this with someone who can sti completely still for about 30 seconds (Just like the olden days of photography!). 

But, I improved over the last attempt.  I did not try to hand hold this. I made sure the camera stayed the same distance away by laying down some boards as runners. I didn't use the polarizing filter because that introduced splotchiness last time.

I also tried a vertical framing from the camera, which I think worked a bit better.

Photoshop still will not automerge these, so its a lot of building and masking completely by hand. 

I do think it is neat how his eye and the top of his head is on the same focal plane.

But, I will need to give this another try, or three.  To make this work with Tobias, or similarly stillness-challenged individual I will probably need to build a rig that allows the six shots to be done very very quickly.

Monday, August 10, 2015

More thoughts on smaller gear (or yet another excuse to bundle together unrelated photos)


Roughly a year ago I put together a retrospective from a year of using my x100s. (I had fun looking through those pictures just now ... )  This isn't quite like that, but it is similar.


I ended that post speculating about an interchangeable lens X-camera.

Well, a friend of mine was selling a complete, lightly used Fuji XE2 kit.  He made an offer I couldn't refuse.  I wanted to refuse.  I tried.  I did.  In fact most of the time I sit a "want" in front myself I say no and move on. But, this time, I realized I would have seriously regretted that decision.

At some point I will need to add the Fuji's 56/1.2 to the mix, but for the time being I'm good.  More than good.

It felt strange to me to get complete kit ranging from a fisheye all the way out to 200mm in one fell swoop.  I'm the type of person who builds up a kit slowly.  It was slightly overwhelming.  I tried each lens out for a small period of time, and have turned my attention to one.  I have been primarily using the 35mm/1.4.



It hasn't changed life much over carrying the x100s with me.  The ability to change lenses does bring me back to my comfort zone though.  The x100s is slightly wider than I see the world, but that has advantages too.  The new camera has created options.  My tiny daily bag (Domke F5xb) can now carry a camera and a second lens, or TWO cameras alongside all the other crap I carry on a daily basis.  It still seems impossible, and I've had a check a few times that the bag isn't a bag of holding.

If I had to rely on my SLRs to make the pictures in the post, then I would have only have one out of the four.  Anyone want to guess which one? [Note: Its not that this camera is more capable than my SLRs, its just I wouldn't have had SLRs with me, or I wouldn't have pulled them out of the bag]

Still probably won't dump my SLR kit, although anything I have that is aimed at "walk-about" situations may get shown the door.  I also may get rid of lenses that act mostly as backup, and just fill that role with a Fuji counterpart.

Despite how genuinely excited I am by this, I really don't feel like writing about it.  Which means, I doubt you feel like reading this.


But, I do want the excuse to just add a few pictures to my dusty corner of the web (all from the XE2 + 35 of course).

Sunday, August 2, 2015

EIGHTEEN YEARS!


"To play 18 years in Yankee Stadium is the best thing that could happen to a ballplayer."
--Mickey Mantle*

I really understand what Mickey is saying here.  Today marks eighteen years' of marriage for Carly and I.  Although, this is beyond the best thing that could happen to me.  Its the only thing that could have happened.  I can't imagine life any differently.

Well, I lied, I can imagine life differently, but in my imaginings other potential lives suck.

Since I stuck a few facts about the number in previous posts I'll do the same here.  18 years old is when you are adult with all the responsibilities that implies.  18 is the perfect score for a character attribute in 1st edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game.  It is the "tin" anniversary.  The Hebrew word for life ("chai") has a numerical value of 18.

If you want to know more, Google is your friend, but those are the ones I know or found the most interesting.

Now I'm looking forward to the next 18 years!

*Standard disclaimer about quotes and the internet applies



Monday, July 6, 2015

Senior Pictures: Faith

B & W Portait
Faith


Senior pictures are my favorite portraits to make.  Why?  I know I have written about it before.  My reasons are pretty much the same, but maybe a little bit more refined.  I like them because they allow a good look at who someone is right now. But they also can give small glimpses at the child they used to be not too long ago and as the adult they will be not too far from now.

Morning Coffee

I also tend to get pictures I really like.  Exhibit A is the black and white picture at the top of this post.  I think its good, I like it. I'd like it even if I didn't make it.  Heck, I might like it more if I didn't make it, I'm a bit self-critical when it comes to these things.

Color Portrait  

I haven't done that many senior portraits recently.  In fact, the closest I got recently was with my nephew.  I mean, it almost counts, but its not the same thing.  For one, it isn't the same amount of photographing.  And, for another, it is still a little too far away from adult-hood to get that sneak peek!

This year decided to specifically seek out a few people.

Ballerina 

I was happy that Faith and her family gave me the chance work with her.  She was great in front of the camera, is fun to be around, didn't give me trouble for attempting bad puns, and brought some of her own ideas into the session.  In other words, she was simply a delight to work with!

Lake 

I want the opportunity to make more this year.  If you are are a senior, or parent of a senior, and are interested send me an email (ken@lunchisoptional.com) and I will provide you information.  Sooner is better than later, I will limit this to a handful of sessions.

Sneak and Pointe

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Kathryn(is)

Kathryn(is) w/ Bow

For Kathryn's birthday this year we got her a bow. She wanted one for a few reasons. I shoot one, but I doubt I'm the reason she was interested. Teenagers will things in spite of their parents doing it, not because their parents do it.  I expect the real reason has more to do with a so-called Katniss Everdeen and a set of books and movies called the Hunger Games.

I don't care what the reason was, I'm glad she has some interest.  Archery is by far my favorite shooting sport.  Guns never held my interest, not the way bows, arrows, and broad-heads did.

The smoke machine added some depth this one lacks.... 

She's still getting used to shooting, the learning curve seems steeper than I remember, but she is getting there.

I'm going to make part of this a mini-review for the bow.  I haven't seen too many user reviews of this one.  I have seen a few video reviews done by kids.  They aren't great reviews, but I'm pretty excited that there are kids out there creating things that like.  This won't be a great review either, but some of the subjective thoughts from an adult may be useful if you are looking for a bow for a smaller person.

I did see a few write ups and reviews from women who were using one of these as their bows.  The adjustability makes it a viable option for small adults too.

The bow is a Bear Apprentice 3.  It is built extremely well.  It is far better than the bow I owned in college in terms of fit, feel,  and finish.  The riser is aluminum, and feels solid, and is LIGHT.  Its a dual-cam bow and is capable of throwing arrows pretty darn fast.  The full specs can be found at Bear's website, but if you aren't familiar with this bow, you may be surprised.  It retails for around $300 with whisker biscuit rest, a 3-pin site, and a quiver.  All you need to add is a release, and a set of arrows.  We also opted for a stabilizer and wrist sling.  It doesn't make this an inexpensive option, but this is one of a few smaller bows that doesn't have some toy-like failings.

Kathryn was pretty excited that purple was available as a color.  There are a few more, and all but the black finish look sharp in my eyes.  In fact, I'd have a hard time choosing between the blue, or the orange, or even the purple myself!

So far, I've been pretty happy with this.  Like I said, its head shoulders better than my first real bow, and in terms of actual dollars it is cheaper.  In fact, in terms of nominal dollars it is cheaper.  This is yet another area in which I am jealous I didn't have the same stuff available to me as a kid!  I would have loved one of these!  We've only had about 4 dozen arrows through this, Kathryn is still learning, and still building strength.  That isn't enough time to shake out any potential problems.  But there were kids at the shop that had quite a bit of mileage on theirs with no issues.

If you are in my general area, I recommend Marchio's Sport Hut as a place to go check them out.  If you choose to buy one there, they will set the draw length and weight of the bow, tie in an upgraded peep, and get your you headed the right direction in terms of shooting technique.

I'm pretty excited about this, and look forward to shooting with her.  That shouldn't be too much further in the future, she just needs to internalize the "coaching" she still needs from me to get aligned correctly, not tilt the bow, and gently pull through the trigger.

Our only problem, currently, with this decision is now Tobias wants one too.