Monday, April 30, 2007

Still playing with my new toy

I'm still pretty enamored with my new camera. I've taken a bunch more pictures since the last post. Below are some of my favorites.

I'll get back to making good food soon. I just haven't felt the urge to make anything new and/or exciting lately. I'm hoping that will change with the new fresh produce that should be popping up on the grocery stores soon. Chicken Empanadas are high on my list for making in the near future when I have a afternoon to myself.

I created a flickr account. If you aren't bored to death with the pictures here, pop over to the my flickr page for a few more (and, as always, comments are always welcome).

A solitary tree in the middle of the Grand River's flood plain. There is a bird up near the top. I wasn't really impressed with the picture until I desaturated it - now i really like it.

This is a wood duck (I think) running across the water trying to take flight. I got to close for it's comfort zone I guess. It really ran across the water - you can see the splashes where it's feet were. Less than a second later it was soaring. (The photo is cropped pretty tightly - I need a longer telephoto).

This is Lego at the end of a lunge line with a surcingle on. Tara is on the other end, but you can't see her. I really like the blurring on this photo - it conveys the movement that a sharp picture wouldn't.

Tara and Lego at dusk after a hard workout by both of them.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Horse auction and Lego

The day had finally come. Tara could hardly sleep the night before; her excitement too great. "How early can you leave work Richard? What if I drive you? Can you leave earlier then?" It was the day of the horse auction.

We headed up to Listowel for Caron's Horse Auction. We got there around 3:30 and right away Tara started checking out horses that she had flagged in the pre-auction listing (and some that she hadn't). She had marked 18 that she was interested in; one by one they each got a once over. A few got a twice over, and a couple got a thorough vet check. Lung sounds, heart sounds, leg flexes, joint palpation, and of course the eye exam. At the end of it all, she had seen most of her 18 and none of them were up to her standards. A little disappointed, we went to the auction ring to watch.

After 45 minutes or so, we went to find some of the horses that we couldn't find earlier and to see if there were any late additions not in the pre-auction listings. We found number 71, the brother of one of the horses Tara was really interested in (but had ruled out). Tara gave him the once over and a quick medical check and then decided to bid on him. We went back to the auction ring and waited for him to arrive.

When he came into the ring, he acted quite nervous, but had nice movement. Tara made up her mind and stuck up her card. She had bid on the horse!

Quickly she was out bid. The auctioneer looked at her again and Tara gave the nod. "Once, twice, sold to the girl with the huge grin on her face." We had bought ourselves a horse! So without further ado, I present the newest member of our family: Lego

Lego and his rider

Tara paid up, the owners got their cheque and we headed for Tara's new barn. Lego loaded and unloaded like a dream. At 11:30pm or so, we arrived home and climbed into bed.

The next day was spent buying tack for this 17h horse (a bit of a step up from 15.2h King who Tara previously rode), buying vaccines and going to the barn to visit Lego.

The auction and subsequent day gave me a lot of practice with my camera. I snapped a fair number of shots and I've posted the ones I really like below. More are posted a Picassa Web Album.

He even has a Marlboro

Monday, April 16, 2007


Small items that can't support a full post but in total add up to something worth posting...

I have the best wife and mother-in-law a guy could ask for. I got an early birthday/anniversary gift: a Kitchen Aid stand mixer (Accolade 400). I have already made bread, pizza dough and pasta dough in it. I was going to make biscotti tonight, but I ran out of time. Perhaps tomorrow.

If you want to know what Tara will do at the end of her schooling, click here (youtube link). It's by a ophthalmologist that Tara knows and who does the occasional lecture at OVC. I watched and understood about 20% of it. It's a well done video. If you are squeamish about eyes, you might want to grab a gravol before watching it (or skip in entirely)

It turns out that Tara's Lumix wasn't all that good at taking pictures of eyes in a clinical setting. I tried, Tara tried, her adviser tried but all the camera wanted to do was focus on the reflection in the eye. Now she has a Canon Powershot A630. I'll let you know how it goes. It's too bad - the Lumix took amazing non-eye pictures.

My wonderful Uncle-and-Aunt-in-laws gave us the best non-fresh-roasted coffee I have ever had: Zambia Terranova Estate (by Starbucks). I'm not normally a fan of Starbucks coffee; I went through the full city roasting phase and I'm into lighter roasts now. This coffee, however, is amazing. Hints of chocolate and berries - I know that sounds crazy to those who don't drink coffee, but it true. If you can find yourself a box and you like good coffee - snatch it up. Thanks Ken and Sue! (Sad sad story - I spilled my two-cup mug full of a fresh brew today as I was rushing out the door. The whole mug - gone).

These items are on my list of food to make. If you get to make one of them before me, let me know how it goes: Choconana bites with dulce de leche, Honey Buttermilk Bread, Vinegar, and Stuffed Mushrooms.

Rats. Now I'm hungry...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Grand photos

Quick post. I was planning on getting up with the sunrise yesterday to take some pictures. I even scoped out my location (on top of Chicopee hill). But when morning came, I wasn't all that awake and I had had a poor nights sleep. So I skipped out on the sunrise.

A few hours later, I biked down to the Grand. It was sunny when I left, but by the time I got there the clouds had rolled in and it was a bit hazy. I stuck around for a couple of hours anyways and took a bunch of pictures. I've distilled the the best and posted them here. As always - comments welcome.

Hopefully this next week will bring better lighting. Who knows - I might even wake up at 6:00 and shoot the sunrise.

Monday, April 09, 2007

First try with home made Light Tent

One of the things I would really like to do with my new camera is learn to take great pictures of the food I make. To that end, I've created my very own macro light tent and I gave it a test drive tonight.

A light tent is basically an enclosure that softens/difuses external light so it is nice and even inside the box. I made mine with the wonderful instructions from Strobist - How To: DIY $10 Macro Photo Studio. It really is super easy; as long as you can handle a utility knife and a roll of tape, you're golden.

The creation of the light tent is quick; 15 minutes tops. It's basically a cardboard box with one side removed and windows on three sides. The windows are covered in tissue paper (the kind you stuff into gift bags). There is picture of my setup at the end.

So with no further ado, here are the four of the photos I took tonight.

These have been cropped and the lightened. Adding the fill light has introduced more noise that I like - especially with the coffee bean shot. I don't think my 60W lamp is bright enough and we are out of 100W bulbs - I'll pick one up and try again soon. My white balance is all over the place too -I'm still learning how to correct that.

For the most part - I'm really happy with how they turned out. These were all taken with the kit lens (18-70mm nikkor AFS). If don't know if they would have turned out nicer with a macro lens or not, but I can't afford one right now so I'm going to have to learn to make do.

This is what the whole setup looked like:

On a sad note, I noticed quiet a few dust marks on the photos. I'm hoping they are on the lens or filter and not the CCD. I'm going to have to be more careful with the camera and dust I think.

[update - April 17th, 2007] - If making this light tent is too difficult for you, you can try this one. But unless you have really big pieces of paper, you'll only be able to take pictures of small things.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter roundup

Easter has come and gone. It was a good one this year - lots of reflection, time with family and good food.

It really is the most under appreciated holiday of the year - both religiously and secularly. On the religious side it celebrates Christ bringing himself back from death, and in the process doing away with death entirely. If that isn't something to get together with friends and family over a big meal then I don't know what is. On the secular side, it is the celebration of spring, new growth and the beginning of the "no jacket" season. Also something to be excited about.

We had a really really good Good Friday at our house this year. Tara's parents, Tara's sister and husband, and Tara's aunt, uncle and cousin came over for a wonderful dinner of home made ravioli, sausage and salad with a great cheesecake for dessert and a fruit fondue for second dessert. I learned how to play Pass the Ace and I went 4-0 against Linda to win the game, but I left the prize in Laura's backpack (hee hee).

I took a bunch of pictures - you can look at the best ones here (warning - they are mostly of family).

We bought a ravioli tray to help speed up the ravioli making process. It worked really well. If you make a lot of ravioli I highly recommend one. Basically you put one layer of pasta on the tray, put filling in each of the indents, put another sheet on top, roll it with a rolling in, then flip it over, and cut the shapes out. Easy-peasy. A couple of tricks we learned though:
  1. Make sure the tray is floured before you put the first sheet in. Otherwise the ravioli don't come out and you have to dig at them. Alternatively you can flour the bottom of the pasta sheet before laying it on.
  2. Brush water on the top sheet before you put in on. This will help seal the seams.

I suspect that I could make a whole batch of ravioli in half an hour now (not including making the dough and filling).

Saturday was spent relaxing and figuring out my new camera. Tim offered much advice and we both learned how to use the exposure bracketing function on the camera. Good times...

Tara, Linda, Dave and myself played a couple of rousing games of Carcassonne on Saturday evening. It was the first time that we had taught someone the rules; I think we did a decent job. It was a blast.

After church today (and brunch at the new Cora's in Cambridge - go if you can) the last of our guests left and it was just Tara and I again. It's nice to have a full house, but it's also nice to have time to ourselves. This weekend was a great combination of the two.

[Post-script] The Good Friday service was amazing. I don't know if they are going to be putting the audio up on their website, but if they do - you need to listen. I learned something new which blew me away (I've been going to church since I was in vivo - shouldn't I know it all by now?). The last cry by Christ "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mark 15:34 is a direct quote from Psalm 22. The learned Jews near him would have recognized it as such. Read the psalm and be amazed.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Say hello to my little friend (and her big brother)

We made, um, a couple of purchases this weekend.

The on the left is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30. It's for Tara at school. She needs to start logging the eyes she sees and taking pictures of them is one aspect of it. We chose the Lumix because of it's size (it's tiny) and because it has a pretty good hand stabilization. The camera is actually made by Leica - pretty cool. We tried it out on our cats and the pictures turned out well. It's a good replacement for our old Canon (which has seen better days). Plus, now when we go on vacation we'll have two compact cameras, which should prevent some of our fistfights.

The one on my right is a gift from the tax man. I went with my gut and found a Nikon D70s. I thought I would have to find one second hand, but I popped into the mall this afternoon (to get fitted for a suit) and I though I'd head over to Black's to see if they have anything worthwhile. Lo-and-behold they had one D70s left and I got it for a decent price (not great, but I was willing to spend a bit more to avoid the ebay scene). I got both the body and the kit lens (18-70mm).

Anyways - it's been a busy last half of the day, so I wasn't able to really test the puppy out, but here are a few from the Nikon (taken by yours truly) and a few from the Panasonic (taken by my lovely wife)