Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


5 Photo Exercises

Filed under: Art,Fun,Photography — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Did you get a new camera at Christmas?

If you did, maybe you’re still learning just how that camera works.  I know, when I got my first digital camera it took weeks of fiddling around to get comfortable with it.  Not only that, but, since I hadn’t really been a photographer in the first place, there was a lot I didn’t know.
I’ve upgraded since then, and even then, I’m sure my camera has features that I haven’t even tried.  And, I have…
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Build-It-Yourself Camera

Filed under: Art,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Sometimes, I think the only way to really understand a technology is to build it from scratch.

I’m not sure if that’s really true, or what the folks who created the Bigshot camera had in mind either, but, I have to admit, their product looks like they agree with me.
I usually try to avoid advertising things here, especially if I’m not getting anything cash out of it myself, but I couldn’t resist talking about this fascinating project.  If you read any…
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Portrait Cropping Guide

Filed under: Art,Fun,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:15 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

More photography links this month.

I started this blog, and this entire website, to highlight things I enjoy, things that give me life.
I meant that to be writing and photography, and maybe a little spirituality lightly sprinkled through all that.  But, I have to admit, lately, there hasn’t been a lot of time or energy in my life for those things.  Oh, spirituality is something I pursue constantly, regardless of my day-to-day circumstances, but the writing and photography have sort of…
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Light Field Camera

Filed under: Art,Fun Work,News and Current Events,Ooo, shiny... — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:31 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Well, this is interesting…

Some time ago, I read about a revolutionary new idea in cameras; focusing after taking the photograph.
Having had autofocus occasionally grab the wrong thing in a photo, this idea intrigued me.  The idea that a camera could simply capture all the available light, store it in a photographic format, and let you choose later where you wanted to focus seemed, frankly, like an impossibility.  It seemed like science-fiction.  Well, apparently, the future is now, because this camera…
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Brief Joe McNally Seminar Update

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is in the late evening or 10:40 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

So, I may have mentioned once or twice that I was going to take a photography seminar this past weekend.

To say that two days with Joe McNally, 25+ year veteran of Life, National Geographic, Time and others, learning about flash and portrature was fantastic is an understatement.  I don’t quite know what I was expecting, but I figured that it was mostly going to be over my head.  Still, at a mere $150 for two days worth of access to a brilliant photographer like Joe McNally, anything I might possibly pick up would be worth the money.  I’m so, so glad I took that attitude and just went in with as open a mind as possible, ready to soak up whatever I could.  I learned so much in those two days that I think my brain is going to melt and ooze out my ears.

First of all, I was completely expecting to roll out of that class with a wish list that was filled with all kinds of expensive “big” studio flash and portable power packs.  I was anticipating a list of equipment that ran into the thousands of dollars.  Instead, I was shown what tiny, hot-shoe flashes can do.  I listened to a pro talk at great length about how much we can get out of shaping the light that comes out of many different light sources, but especially how to use these little “pocket” flashes to get big effects.  It was, to say the least, an eye-opener.  It completely changed how I think about light and flash and portraiture.

Secondly, I’ve learned to use my camera in a totally different way.
I now sight with my left eye and use a different stance, which I now think of as the Joe McNally Hold, or the McNally Stance.  It lets me stabilize the camera better, keeping it tight in against my left shoulder and use what turns out to be my strong eye.  For years I’ve known that my left eye was stronger due to my slightly varied perscription, but I’d always forced myself to use my right eye, which I’d thought of as my dominant eye.
I also had gotten used to shooting in full manual mode, but now I’m changing to Aperture Priority mode as my “default”.  Why?  Beacause, as Joe said, using a camera in full manual mode, is “… like driving a Ferrari to church.”  That digital camera is a very sophisticated bit of electronics and not taking advantage of all that built-in smarts is, well, just a waste.  So, now, I’m trying to take full advantage of those smarts for a change.  My learning curve oof photography just got knocked down a peg or two, but I’m okay with that.  I’m hoping that it will result in some better pictures, eventually.

And, finally, based on what I saw this past weekend, the secret to great photography, somehow, is gaffer’s tape.  Man, they used that stuff for everything!

Incidentally, you can see some of the photos I took at the seminar on my Flickr page; Joe McNally Seminar.

If I get time, I may write some more about what I learned at this fantastic seminar.  It’s a little overwelming at times to consider all the “stuff” he poured into our heads.
Again, it was fantastic!


White Balance Lens Cap

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Review,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:35 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Uh, the title says it all.

Yeah, this is for all you digital SLR photographers out there. You know white balance can be a big thing. Especially when you’re doing a bunch of shots. So, any way to make it easier for your DSLR to auto-correct white balance is a good thing. Thanks to PhotoJoJo, you can get the white balance lens cap which helps you do just that.

Seriously, I first saw this in a DVD tutorial on lighting techniques at my RitzU classes and I thought it was the slickest thing since sliced bread, but I haven’t been able to find one. Now, that’s been solved. Yea!


News Flash: Sky Falling!

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 1:27 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Or, if you prefer, the end of the world is nigh!

So, yeah, there’s a hurricane of respectable size and intensity named Ike headed my general direction.  As per usual, I will not run like a rat deserting a sinking ship, but will, instead, bravely blog my way through what will no doubt prove to be far less than the crazy weather people are predicting.  Oh, I’m sure it won’t be “good” and we will probably lose power for a couple hours, maybe more, but I doubt that it will be as bad as the people who make their living scaring the public with tales of Mother Nature gone wrong are making it sound.

Long time readers will recall that I stayed when Rita was supposed to wipe the greater Houston area off the face of the Earth, too.  And, I blogged then, too.  Not much to report then, and I doubt there will be much to report this time, either.  Oh, one important difference is that I have a good digital camera, so I’ll have pictures this time.  In fact, I may just have a picture for every post this time around.  Or not, as the mood strikes me.

In any case, if you’re in the area, be safe.  Otherwise, I’ll do my best to keep everyone updated!

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction."
   --Antoine de Saint-Exupery


I accept

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is in the late evening or 10:40 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I have learned to accept certain things about my life.

I accept that I will never have children of my own.
I very much wanted them and I know I would have made a good father, but it just doesn’t seem to be in the cards for me. So, I’ll be Uncle Jim to all my friends’ kids. I’ll have toys at my house and be the cool, pseudo-uncle that they all love to come visit. And, until they breed, I’ll be the best uncle I can be to my own niece and nephews.

I accept that I will probably die alone.
In the end, don’t we all? I mean, even if there’s someone there with us, we really still die alone. Thanks to the same cancer treatment that sterilized me, I’ll live more than long enough to get my affairs in order, to get out of debt and pre-pay for my funeral and cremation. Hell, I may even get one of those Star Trek urns to be buried in.
I try to keep hope alive and an open mind and all that, but, really, I just have a hard time seeing myself with anyone. I have a hard time picturing anyone who’s interested in being with me. My last hope of possibly starting something with the cute, red-headed federal parole officer pretty well died last night. I overheard part of something that I shouldn’t have and it sounded an awful lot like someone saying “she” wasn’t interested in “him”. And, yes, while that doesn’t mean much, I took it as significant that the two people stopped talking when I walked up and wouldn’t explain further when I asked. I’ll grant that the world doesn’t revolve around me, but, well, sometimes it’s not my ego talking, you know? I don’t think it was in this case.
So, anyway, my point is, if not her, then who? There just isn’t anyone else even on my radar and I got so tired of the bullshit with Match.com that I canceled that last week. I don’t know. I suppose I can always hope for that miracle to happen.

I accept that I’ll never be a famous author.
Sure, I might be the number one hit on Google for Network Geek, but that’s not really fame, is it? And, is this blog even really writing? I may write fiction and even publish it, but I just don’t see myself ever being famous or winning awards. Maybe it’s just the antibiotics and blood thinners talking, but I definitely see myself living a modest life of obscurity. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Hell, most people don’t get more than that and damn few get that far. At least, at the level of comfort that I enjoy. And, as I sit here typing this on a laptop with my feet propped up next to my digital camera looking at a Japanese sci-fi movie on my HDTV, I am more than aware of just how comfortable I am.

It’s a good life.
It may not be what I imagined or what I dreamed of, but it’s a damn good life and I’ve lived far better than I had any right to expect. I’m lucky, really, to be alive at all.
It really is a good life.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Give others a piece of your heart, not a piece of your mind."


My New Camera

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:37 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

My New Camera
Okay, you’re going to see a lot of pictures.

Look, I apologize in advance, especially to the more experienced photographers who read my blog, but you all are going to see a lot of pictures here. Probably a lot of bad pictures as I figure out how to use this new camera, too. Hopefully, they’ll start getting better, but, well, I make no promises, eh?

In any case, now you all can see my new Canon Digital Rebel XTi.
Notice, I have two lenses. One small, but with image stabilization. One zoom, but without image stabilization. The CF card is in the camera, but I threw the box in the pic anyway. Oh, and notice the handy cable for getting pictures off the camera. And the software that came with the camera to install both drivers and a handy utility program that includes the ability to take pictures remotely via the USB interface. But, I can use the other cable to display pictures on a television, if I wanted. Oh, and the handy reference manual.

My New Camera I have to admit, I’m beside myself with this. When my ex-wife got her digital camera all those years ago, I so wanted to play with it, but I wasn’t allowed. I mean, she paid for it and it was, ostensibly, hers and meant to improve her web mastering skills somehow. But, oh, how I wanted to use it. Especially when she let it just sit there after spending well over $1,000 for it. And, yes, I hoped that she’d “forget” and leave it behind, but she didn’t. And I am so glad because this camera is so good and if she’d left her old one, I never would have gotten this one.

Until I started taking pictures yesterday, I didn’t realize how badly I wanted a camera and to take pictures. I can even think of several little excursions into various parts of Houston that I haven’t explored that I’d like to take, just for the photo opportunities.
Now, of course, I’ll probably need to start saving for a better camera bag and a tripod…


No No NaNo!

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,NaNoWriMo,News and Current Events,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:52 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

I “failed” at NaNoWriMo, again.

I think November is quite possibly the absolute worst month for me to dedicate myself to a writing project. I end up with more social and work obligations in November than any other month of the year. At least, that’s how it’s seemed to me for the past several years. Hell, three years ago, when I planned to do NaNoWriMo for the first time, I was lucky to drag myself through the month at all! Last year, I was coughing blood and converting a phone system. This year I just had so many social obligations that I just got behind and never caught up.

And, I have to admit, I also didn’t plan things nearly enough. Last year, at least I had worked out a bit of research and I’d been writing a bit. This year, not only did I not do enough research, but I don’t think I’d written a word of fiction all year! Seriously, it’s kind of been a long year with a lot of physical demands on me, so I just haven’t been writing creatively, outside this blog, at all. I think it was pretty unrealistic of me to just jump in cold like that and expect to be writing over 1,500 words each day. In any case, I think what it proves to me is that I need to keep writing all the time. Waiting to get inspired is just foolish, as has been proven over and over by professional writers. Rather, if I keep writing, the inspiration will come of its own accord. So, that is my goal for the coming year: to write, every week.

HildaCuriousTo console myself, however, I bought my camera yesterday.
Ritz/Wolf Camera had a sale, which ended yesterday, that got me a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi with an 18-55mm lens and a 75-300mm zoom lens for just under $800 before tax. I added a 2gig memory card and the two-year protection and maintenance plan as well. The maintenance plan seemed a little expensive, at first, until one considers that it will repair or replace the camera and either lens, no matter the damage, for two years. And, it included an annual cleaning, each of which were almost half the price of the plan. Well worth it, I think, considering the investment I made. Oh, and the package deal specified a regular 55mm lens, but they were out of that, so I got a free upgrade to an 18-55mm lens with image stabilization built in. Super cool!
To be honest, I felt a little guilty about buying the camera. Still Life, with socks
I mean, sure, I did “earn” the money via ad revenue and I have wanted a really good digital camera for a while now, but, well… Well, the guilty, co-dependant in me feels like I shouldn’t spend money on myself. Rather, I should be spending that money on some charity or other. Giving it to the church or feeding starving children in Africa or something. Naturally, I called a friend to churn this over in my head and his response did help put things in perspective for me.
“Look, you just survived cancer this year…” And, that was as far as he got before I had already gotten the point. Yes, it has been a rougher than usual year and I have really wanted a good camera with which I can make art for some time. But, I do want to avoid that whole feeling of entitlement. I don’t ever want to get back into a mindset of “I deserve this because things have been rough lately.” In the past, that kind of attitude has not served me well. Not at all.

FeetsSo, I’ll try to avoid that feeling and still make use of and enjoy the camera.
I do deserve good things and I do deserve to have fun, cancer not with standing. I do work hard for most everything I have and I am grateful for the opportunities that God gives me, both to get good things and to give good things. And, I do appreciate every, single person who has ever clicked on an ad on my website that earned me the money to buy this. It has made me think more and pay more attention to advertising on other people’s websites, if nothing else.
And, of course, you all will get to see more photos as time goes by and I get better with my new toy. I know at least one unusual feature of Houston that I want to capture, though it may take some time. Oh, in case you hadn’t figured it out, all the pictures in this post were taken with the new camera.
Tomorrow, I’ll lay out the camera itself and take pictures of it, per a challenge from Peter, the Brit. Until then, though, enjoy these!

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