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Jan 31, 2013

KRISS Vector 45

My interest in firearms is certainly still alive and was sparked when my friend brought up one of his favorite new toys, a KRISS Vector 45. I made my decision some years ago, and in combination with the long gun registry implementation, to sell most of my arms to fund photography equipment. I made the decision to invest in something I can use daily without too much travel or complication, of which firearms do not fit the description for me.

I love photography but I do not deny the excitement and adrenaline even of simply plinking away at a coffee can. Scoring a gopher kill at 75+ yards with my little bolt action .22 is exponentially more satisfying. But weather, getting to a location friendly to a lowered floor minivan and always needing someone to assist with opening and closing gates to fields, setting up targets and the other logistics make it tricky and remind me that I made the right decision.

Holding a tactical-style weapon like this, with plenty of places for my paralyzed hands to get a good grip on, made me wonder if I would be able to load and use a semiautomatic rimfire rifle again. Shopping for them online surprised me at how affordable they can be. Thankfully the itch in my trigger finger is still being scratched by the shutter button on my camera and the difficulty of some of the logistics mentioned previously put that desire out of my mind. We will see what happens this spring when the offers I received this year to go target shooting are repeated. Not that I need a fancy new weapon, but it might be nice. I will always have my first rifle, a gift from my dad for passing grade 6, which I am still very proficient with.

If we would've had more time I would liked to set up a better setting in which to shoot so that I could've had a few more overall photos. But, I made due with some detail shots instead.

Jan 24, 2013

Dragon Fruit

Much has been going on behind the scenes lately. Some things trying and stressful, mainly with people we care about, but not with us immediately, and some things good. I have made regular strides with my personal project which goes to show the benefit routine has on me. The significantly cold weather has slowed me down only a little and when I did feel it best to stay home it hasn't resulted in me feeling cabin feverish in the least.

What has made me laugh, even with a bit of irritation in that laugh, has been the numerous amounts of content of those severely suffering from the brutal cold in places much colder than here like Los Angeles, London, England and New York City. How could we feel sorry for ourselves at a mere -40°C with the windchill while they are suffering at anywhere from 3° to 10°C before the wind, yet. Sorry for the sarcasm but I really think that they need to spend two weeks in Saskatchewan in January.

How I know about the weather in London, beyond the news, has been photos from friends and photos on a Facebook page for disabled photographers that I recently joined. It is based in London and I am still shocked at how three quarters of an inch of snow has turned most Londoners, disabled or not, into turtles. I'm driving with all season tires, not winter tires and getting around just fine. I'm sure they have proper winter clothing there, or enough layers that they could make do, but it still surprises me. I guess we are just tougher here. I am just poking a little bit of fun. It could be more about Saskatchewanian insecurity as much as anything. Angie did point out that there are a much larger percentage of people that do not drive in places like London, New York and Los Angeles and when you have to walk/wheel quite a ways and spend as much time in the cold or on public transportation as they do it would make a big difference.

It had been far too long since I made some photos just for the fun of it and and to share in this space. Dragon fruit were finally on sale the other day, and not just on sale but in stock, so I was happy to buy one and make a photo or three.

Spring is only a few weeks away and I can't wait to get out for a prolonged time outside but until then enjoy these!

UPDATE: These photos caught some attention when I posted them to the Photographers with Disabilities pages on Facebook and it was requested of me that I give a greater explanation of how they were made. The following portions will be very technical so if that is not what you are interested in feel free to skip over and just enjoy the photos.

So, to start, one mostly attractive, washed Dragon fruit. All photos were made with a simple six dollar white IKEA fleece blanket used as a mostly seamless backdrop. Photo number two had a piece of clear acrylic laid flat to produce the reflection you see at the bottom of the photo.

The lens used for these photos was my Nikon 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED AF-S VR Micro Nikkor mounted on my D700. In the hot shoe was a PocketWizard +III used to trigger the two SB-28s.

For the first photo the key light was a Nikon SB-28 with a 1/2 window green gel all inside of a Lumiquest Soft Box III. It was at approximately 1/8 power, zoomed out to 24 mm and only about 25-30 cm away from the fruit at camera right on about a 75° angle. That is to say it was almost perpendicular to the fruit; almost completely at the side of it. That light was gobo'ed with a black laptop case. I had to use something to prevent the spill from contaminating the red background with white (well, 1/2 window green) light. This light was triggered by a PocketWizard +II.

The rim light, as seen by the little blue specular highlight on the top left portion of the dragon fruit was a Lumopro LP 120 at 1/32 power, altered by a combination of a 1/2 window green gel and a 1/2 CTB covered by a 5° grid spot. It was mounted on a gorilla pod, aimed down from about 30° behind the Dragon fruit. I made this decision to maintain a lot of shadow but still give it that tiny kiss of light to add the three dimensionality to the fruit. This light was triggered by optical slave.

The background light was simply an SB-28 on 1/16 power zoomed in to 85 mm, gelled with a Rosco red 60 and red 90. It was on a boom, directly above the fruit, aimed at the background far enough away from the fruit that it would not spill directly onto it. As it is, you can see the background reflecting onto the top of the fruit more than I maybe would have liked. But it was what I able to make with the room I had available to me at the time. I can only occupy the dining room table for so long before I start crowding my wife out of her workspace. :-) This photo was made at f/11, 1/200th of a second at ISO 400.

The second photo used the same light for the background but I swapped out the soft box on the key light for a grid spot so that the beam would be significantly focused on the white flesh of the fruit. The grid spot on the rim light was exchanged for a tight snoot and was aimed at the facedown piece of fruit. This gave it more coverage and created more illumination spread than a gridspot would have. The gel colours remained the same. I added a sheet of clear acrylic to the white fleece blanket to produce a bit of reflection as well as prevent the blanket from getting wet with fruit juice and fruit getting fuzz on it, as I intended to eat it later.

This photo was made at f/5.6, 1/200th of a second, ISO 100. Because I had pulled back further for this shot I gained depth of field and did not require the additional you would have at f/11, but by dropping my ISO two stops and opening my aperture two stops I maintain the same exposure on the background. I believe the powers remain the same for the key and fill light but I may be incorrect. My focus was maintaining the exposure on the most difficult to reach light and that was the flash on the boom overhead.

The final photo was the exact same lighting as the second photo, I just decided to get up close and personal with it on a more interesting angle than I had with the first two. However, as with any macro shot, additional depth of field is appreciated so I increased my ISO to 200 and decreased my aperture to f/8 for that little bit of extra depth.

Where the vibrant colors come from is in the white balance. For postprocessing in Lightroom 4, besides removing two blemishes on the fruit, the only thing I tweaked was a usual touch of saturation (and I mean just a touch) and bringing the green out of the white balance by sliding the tint slider more towards the magenta side. If I remember correctly it was about 33 points of magenta added. I added a slight vignette on each but besides that my processing was minimal.

So, for those interested, I hope this walk-through if you a new tidbit of insight into your lighting and light control.

Jan 12, 2013

For Scott

A young man I once knew passed away this week. Scott Moen. We were acquaintances and, in fact, he hung out in a group of guys that I had little use for. Scott was the exception. When others in the group were bugging me he typically kept his mouth closed. It was just high school immaturity. We've all grown and changed.

My injury fifteen years ago changed many people besides me. Scott and crew wouldn't dare pick on the crippled guy, of course, but beyond that their behaviour became less juvenile, from my perspective.

Awhile after moving from neurology to rehab some of this group came to visit. Many people, lots of them my age with minimal part time income, gave me money. It was not huge amounts but I most definitely appreciated it. Scott felt terrible that he had no money to give so he gave me a pendant he had earned with his hockey team.

Again, the money was appreciated, but it comes and goes. The guys who came to visit, Scott's gift of this chain and the fact that they had the maturity to come visit a guy, once their target of ridicule, not difficult to be around in his vulnerable state, meant the most and will stick with me.

I'm not sure what took Scott, but I do know that he had health issues a few years after my injury and that his announcement stated that donations could be made to the Lupus, Diabetes or Heart & Stroke Foundation.

Just another person that left us too soon, but one I certainly will not forget.

Jan 7, 2013

Angie's Mint Chocolate Birthday Cheesecake

I'm a very fine cook but baking, not so much. Wheelchairs and paralyzed hands don't play nicely with ovens. So Angie had to make her own birthday cake and it was outstanding. Only her second cheesecake, but the best I have ever had and I'm not a fan of mint. It was present and the star flavour, but not overpowering. Perfect, and our guests agreed.

Jan 2, 2013

New Hobby?

I suppose you are wondering if I did or did not get that can of Raid in my stocking because all you have heard around here for a few weeks has been crickets. I attribute that to a few things. I have found that, more than ever, I thrive on routine. Long weekends and holidays that throw my rhythm out of whack always affect me more than I would like. Most of it is good when the time is spent with family and friends but I always hate that feeling of waking up not knowing what day it is because of an interruption in my routine.

We had a good Christmas with lots of good time spent with family and friends but it felt like there were a number of days that I had in my mind to get something done, a photo made, a post written or some other thing that has been sitting on my to do list for far too long. I had hoped to get it done when the additional free time was available during this break from routine. Unfortunately that interruption, numerous social engagements and other deviations from the normal, seemed to prevent a lot of that getting done because the available time slots were too short to really dig in and get those items done.

At any rate, with New Year's Day passed, I feel quite ready to get back into the routine that I am accustomed to and happy with. I finally made another photo for the project I am working on and the light at the end of this tunnel (I hope this project brings me through many more) is nearing and I am getting anxious to reveal it. This evening I decided to just shoot something for the fun of it and see what people thought.

The title of this post, New Hobby, is in relation to one of the gifts I purchased for a friend and myself for Christmas. Zippers present a challenge to people whose hands do not work properly and often key rings are a solution but a conspicuous one. A lot of backpacks and jackets come with zipper pulls made out of paracord with a snap at the end which creates a loop that a person can put a finger through. You can buy these at Mountain Equipment Co-op for far more than they are worth or you can buy them on eBay for three dollars for 50 including shipping. My good friend, Paul, had mentioned earlier in the year that he needed more of those, was unaware you could buy them on eBay and without a MEC in Saskatoon was not about find any anytime soon. The gift idea was stashed in my brain.

I ordered a batch of snaps and a few kinds of paracord for us to make zipper pulls out of but in my search came across some of the very interesting belts, bracelets, lanyards and other things that you can make out of paracord. My few years in Scouts came back to me along with my enjoyment of tying knots. I never thought that the paralyzed hands I spoke of previously would work as well as they do with this material but I have successfully tied a few lanyards now and am thinking about ordering a few more colors to see what I can create. Everything I have learned has been from the internet; nothing surprising about that. Seeing something come together one stitch at a time makes me understand how Angie enjoys knitting the way that she does.

One of the kinds of paracord that I ordered glows in the dark and with it I tied a lanyard for my keys. It turned out quite well and I made two photos of it, one purely of it glowing in the dark and the other with a flash accent.

For those interested both exposures were at f/8, 30 seconds, ISO 200. The second exposure simply had one SB-28 at 1/64 power from about 6 feet away to accent the one side. Before the timer on the camera opened the shutter I popped a full power flash from a strobe in my hand on the paracord where I wanted it to glow so that it was at full brightness while the exposure was being made.

Now I'm just waiting for someone to make a joke about the quadriplegic, with a spinal cord injury, manipulating paracord into some sort of a rib-like design to hold his keys since his hands cannot. My guess is that Stacey will come up with a good one in a day or two.