Geeks at Play: Google Suggestions

Google Suggestions

Google has changed the world in which we live.  They have brought about a lot of great technological changes in the web space, and continue to give away their servies (mostly) for free.  Google suggestions isn't anything new; basically they take what you've typed into their search so far, and help out with the most common searches they service.  The results move between gut splittingly funny and downright scary.

When I started off with "Where do I find..." apparently a lot of people are looking for real vampires and Chuck Norris.  Some real fun can be had with proper nouns and the word "is".  "Apple is ", "Microsoft is ", "Firefox is", "Ford is " or the pluralized "Cows are", "People are" or "Politicians are " can each give up a short laugh, and keep one entertained for some time.  If I punch in "Wes is " (include the space) I find that the two most common searches are "Wes is a douchebag" and "Wes is legend".  Thankfully the legend returns more results.

Unfortunately, the crowd sourced suggestions show us how dumb a lot of people really are.  Punching in "Monkeys are" will give you the top two suggestions of: "Monkeys are made of chocolate" and "Monkeys aren't donkeys".  Still not convinced?  Place "What do I do when " and "What do I do if " in the search bar and have a look at what you get told.

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Photo Friday: Damaged

Fractured Martini

Photo Friday threw out the challenge of Damaged this week.  The first ideas that came to mind were some photos I had of broken down farm equipment, and some old vehicles.  Once I was in my photo library, however, I remembered that I have photography that involves high speed captures of things getting destroyed.  This photograph was taken around the time we started moving past the technical hurdles of high speed capture into the more artistic considerations of background, lighting and composition.

The idea for this shot was to hit the top of the glass, which was filled with water.  We were successful in finding our target with the other shots of the night, but this show we fired a bit low.  If memory serves, we were launching spent batteries as they were the perfect diameter and weight to fire out of the pneumatic cannon.  The projectile was edited out of the final shot, giving an impression that the glass just descided to break.

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Dorothy Alberta

Cool Sky

Some friends with more photographic interests recently banded together for a road trip to Dorothy Alberta.  The internet claims that Dorothy is a ghost town, but rest assured, there is still some stranglers still living in the coulée.  Still, the knit of photographers drove the two hours out of Calgary, timing their arrival to the sunset.

The town itself barely stretches a kilometer, and wraps the highway leading to Drumheller.  A bridge older than most of the photographers stood watch over the alternate entrance, and provided an interesting subject to warm up the cameras.  The carfuls of shutterbugs moved past the bridge towards the church as the sun was setting.

Reflections and sweeping sunsets filled the lenses of all cameras in attendance.  The photographers moving between the two buildings on the church site, looking for unique angles and interesting shadows to capture.  As the sky continued to darken, and warmth of the day slipped away, the group moved towards an old abandoned elevator on the edge of the highway.

Worries of crazy farmers and shotguns kept the clique from wandering over the barbed wire fence.  Still, many images were captured all around the structure.  The cold kept creeping in, and the light continued to fall to where the photographers crossed over the edge of interested hobbyists, into the realm of batty nerds.

From the back of one of the vehicles, a generator was produced.  Set up on the side of the highway, drowning out quite conversation, the electric workhorse powered two large 1600Ws strobes.  Traffic was not impeded, although not a vehicle passed that did not slow to a crawl to see what in the world the group of 5 was doing on the side of the road.

They were taking pictures of the grain elevator at dusk of course!  Many blinding flashes ripped up the night sky to illuminate the structure.  Happiness overwhelmed some of the participants; the power they controlled was simply too much to believe.  It is too bad it took them until this point to realize that they wanted to take their best lighting assets outdoors.  After exhausting the elevator's modelling abilities, just under half of the group succumbed to the cold, while the remainder stayed steadfast to continuing with the light-the-darkness experiment.

Shivering from the cold, those that were determined to endure through the cold moved back to the bridge, and once again established a studio in the open air.  This time, however, they were not happy enough to be on the side of the road; they established their nomadic lights up on the highway itself.  At this point not only the cold was their enemy, but lack of light as well.  The darkness consumed the group; which in their haste had forgotten to pack a single flashlight or headlamp.

Under an amazingly starry night, the three photographers managed to capture some interesting photos.  The cold pushing then to haste; it didn't take long for the ideal shot to land on the sensor.  Jubilant, they vowed to 'do it more often', and 'again real soon' before they started their voyage back to home.

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Photo Friday: Slowly

Long Exposure Water

Today Photo Friday tossed an interesting challenge out to the public.  If you examine back over the archive, you can see that most often they push out Adjectives or Nouns.  This week they gave us 'Slowly' which is one of the first adverbs I've seen them use as a competition theme.

The difficulty with such a topic, is that you need to show something about an action, in a still photograph.  This topic is even more challenging, in that not only do you need to capture a description of motion, as well as opposed to 'quickly' or 'hastily' blur can't be used to emphasize the action.  Differentiating slowly from 'still life' is the challenge.  You need to show off movement of something that is moving very slowly.

I had also considered a sheep herder in Peru, as well as a lackadaisical stroll along the beach.  Both of which didn't quite have the same adherence to the theme as the picture above.  Somehow the foggy water shows off that it is moving, and the penetration of the rocks, particularly in the front of the frame, show that this is not some raging river with roaring rapids.

If you are interested, I have a slightly larger version I'm willing to share on the internet.

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Focus Stacking Pioneer SE-L 40

SE-L 40

My brother produced this pair of Pioneer headphones, while he was looking for a soldering iron.  Our current 'get the GPS working again' state of mind was not congruent with my desire to photograph the set, so I asked if I could borrow them for a couple of days.  After we finished getting the GPS running, Christmas happened, and the SE-L 40's sat atop the refrigerator, thankful to be out of the shop.

On the last day of 2009, I managed to return to the headphones.  Using black fabric as a backdrop, I maneuvered my tripod and camera to a composition that I was happy with.  I put an extension ring between my camera and the telephoto lens, ensuring that I would be able to focus on something that close to the camera.  Then came the boring part.

On manual exposure and white balance, I painstakingly moved the focus ring through ten different positions, sat and waited until the camera wasn't shaking and then triggered the camera using my cable release.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

Patience is only needed when trying to steady the camera.  A lens that long will magnify any shake in the camera.  Furthermore having an abusively large camera on the end of a stick doesn't help all that much either.

The reasoning for my madness is to defeat depth of field and produce the image I wanted.  At 200mm focusing 30-40cm in front of the camera means that your focal plane is thin.  In practice, when I was focusing on the tip of the plug, where it morphs into fabric wrapped wire started to show some comfortable bokeh.  Sharpness at the front of the image resulted in a unrecognizable, out of focus, blob at the back.

With my sequence of focus planes, I used a focus stacking software to sandwich all the images into a final image.  Focus stacking software detects the sharp portions of each image to use in the final output.  I used a program called Helicon, although if you are looking for some other Focus Stacking software there are more to choose from.  Technically the image is 'rendered', and not really a 'photograph'.  Although I don't see much difference between using one algorithm to sandwich focal planes together versus using another to sharpen all the edges within a photograph.  Is one photography while the other isn't?

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