Apr 28, 2010

photos: fun with photoshop

I went birding this past Saturday and finally got some use out of my new digital SLR. I didn't find myself terribly inspired, but I managed to take over 200 photos anyway. I've since been toying with a few of them in Photoshop and I've reminded myself how much I love playing with photos.
Here are a couple of comparisons. The first three are just my typical colour-correcting, make-this-photo-a-wee-bit-more-dramatic suite of changes.

casual birders
cedar path

Then I had a beer with dinner tonight and got a little overly creative with the next three. The first is a photo from Arizona, supplied by my friend/labmate Christian. The second and third were from Saturday's birding trip, with a few techniques from 70's/vintage tutorials.
Photo 015
Saguaro - corr crop

I think my favourite is actually Christian's shot, and I kind of wish it was my photo to begin with :)

I'm hoping to start trying out new tutorials each week so I can learn new techniques. Would you - yea you! - be interested in some sort of tutorial-following photo-editing-a-long? We could take turns picking tutorials and then we share the results... somewhere. Could be fun.

Apr 22, 2010

photos: how to use flickr

piqûre, by me

Last fall, prompted by something I read about "How to get Noticed" (as a photographer), I made the decision to start using Flickr as a place to showcase my best (and favourite) photos (I separate best from favourite since I sometimes like photos that are not objectively very good). Previously, I had been using Flickr for general photosharing as well as showcasing my "best work". Although I never did delete my older "check out the photos of me and my friends hanging out at 70s disco party", because I wasn't sure if this only post your best kick would stick).

hyrule, by me

I've since talked myself into thinking that it's silly to only post my "best" because really... my "best" isn't very good... so why limit myself to only a few images? It's convenient to put photos on flickr for use on my blog and/or Ravelry. So I started putting my yarn photos on Flickr. However, in the past two days, I have been questioning this decision. I've been spending a lot of time looking at my own flickr photos lately, and every once in a while I'll come across a picture and think "hey that one is pretty good", so I wonder if maybe I should only put up the ones I'm proud of.

I don't have an answer. I haven't made a decision. I really enjoy taking the time to pick out my favourite photos and tweaking them in Photoshop to highlight certain aspects. I also like writing a bit of a story for each individual photo. Both actions are near impossible (and pointless?) for mass uploads.

Do you use flickr? For what? Any input for me?
Feel like nosing around my photos before making a comment? Check out my sets.
untitled, by me

Apr 10, 2010

crafts: centre-pull yarn ball

centre-pull red
centrepull, by me
I stumbled across a thread on Ravelry the other day about How to make a Centre-pull Ball. I was like "wtf?" But I checked it out, followed the links, and decided to give 'er a try. Turns out I love making centre pull balls, and I want to center-pull ballerize my entire stash. I took some photos of the process, because I think it's not entirely easy to follow when you just read it in words. I've seen hand-winding mentioned a few times on Ravelry, most notably here: Hand-winding (that thread has a video too!)
I like centre pull balls because they don't roll around the floor for kitties to go nuts about. Plus there's something exciting about turning a chaotic mess of yarn into a neatly wound, self-contained, regularly shaped "ball".
I basically found 3 hand-winding techniques:
  1. Pill bottle
  2. Toilet paper roll
  3. Thumb
All are described here.
Here's my version of the thumb method:
tutorial, by me
  1. grab about 6" of yarn to be the 'tail'. This will be the beginning of your ball when you're all done.
  2. hold the 6" tail in your pinky/ring finger while you wind a few loops around your thumb (loosely!)
  3. when you've got a few loops, start winding diagonally so you are sort of winding from the bottom of your thumb to your knuckle
  4. this photo shows the diagonal wind
  5. after winding 4-5 times on the diagonal, grab the entire ball and rotate it slightly on your thumb. Continue winding.
  6. shows after some twists. Note that the tail will have to rotate around your thumb. Just watch for it and give it a tug every once in a while to prevent it getting wrapped up in your ball.
  7. Extra note: be very careful not to wind too tight. Apparently winding too tight can overstretch your yarn, which will then relax to it's original shape once knit/crocheted, which can be dangerous for certain projects.
Photos 7-9 simply show the progression as I kept twisting and winding.

Apr 5, 2010

crafts: strange behaviour

tiny, by me

As you already know, I started actively using Ravelry a few weeks ago, and it's shifted my behaviour in several substantial ways.
  1. I now have a forum I visit multiple times a day, and check obsessively to see if anyone has replied (appreciate me, please!). This of course means that I can no longer nag Kyle about spending so much time on NeoGAF...
  2. I crochet, obsessively. I spend all my spare time (and even some non spare time) crocheting, and I've started writing patterns too. Before Ravelry, I crocheted because I had promised people that I'd make them afghans. Now I crochet because I want to CREATE.
  3. I have turned my photography towards more... practical matters. I spend a lot of time photographing my crafts, and I spent an obscene amount of time photographing my stash (i.e. yarn collection). Who takes photos of their yarn? I do I do!
rainbow swirl
rainbow swirl, by me

Apr 2, 2010

green: vermicomposting

I learned about Vermicomposting when I stumbled upon Sustainable Dave's 365 Days of Trash. I watched a video or two, read up a bit, and eventually convinced Kyle (the eternal skeptic) to give it a chance. We bought a Worm Factory online (can't remember the store we bought it from, but I quickly Googled it and it's available at All Things Organic). We got a 4 tray system, but I think we could have done with a 3 tray system since wormies don't like most of the produce we throw out (citrus peels, fresh herbs, onions, garlic). There was one point when we had 2 or 3 trays full, but never 4.

It's definitely been a trial-and-error adventure. I was uber-excited when we first got it, and despite warnings of "don't overfeed!" I fed them too much and the wormies just huddled up and hid in a corner. Then I added fresh herbs (none of the books tell me I can't!) and onions (even though the books told me I can't...) and the population crashed. My theory for this is that the worms don't actually eat the veggies; they eat the bacteria (& other microbes, etc) that feed on the veggies, and onions & fresh herbs are antimicrobial... We decided to leave the composter alone and we just started throwing our veg scraps in the normal garbage for a few weeks. Eventually, the wormies worked through the food I'd given them and the population exploded (that's a good thing).

I had a few brief moments of panic when I noticed that there were loads of other types of bugs in the worm factory. I didn't know what I was breeding, and I didn't want them hurting my wormies! Fortunately, I was working in an invertebrate lab at the time so I brought a few specimens in and took a look under the microscope with Michelle. Turns out they were collembola and mites and they're good for worm factories!

My next obstacle was that I didn't realize how quickly worm tea filled up (worm tea = the liquid that accumulates in the bottom of the worm bin ... essentially worm pee/mucus?). It turns out that a combination of lots of organic-rich standing water + a lingering population of drainflies (Psychodidae) hanging out in the apartment means that you end up with your very own breeding colony. It got really bad in Windsor and I had to borrow a "pooter" (i.e. aspirator) from work to collect them off my kitchen wall and release them outside.

The next obstacle was moving them, but this one didn't turn out to be that difficult. We stopped feeding them for a while so that they would eat the food that they had and reduce the weight of the worm factory a bit. Then we added some bread/rice a day before we moved because digesting carbs increases heat and they'd be living in the truck the whole time. And lastly, it was above freezing when we moved so no problemo.

Our most recent obstacle has been a major one with some serious consequences. At some point we ended up breeding fruit flies but I think they mostly went away over the course of winter. However, we ended up with a species of fly that looks a lot like bigger fruit flies, but they like really stinky things like kitty litter and rotting onions. These guys have proven impossible to get rid of, thus far. They're not sooo bad, once we figured out a few techniques for managing them (i.e. set up fly traps, avoid feeding the wormies too frequently b/c it lets the flies out, add one plastic layer filled just with paper which makes it hard for the flies to get out). Unfortunately, because of the flies, I haven't been able harvest/sort through the compost very often (because the flies escape in waves when I start rooting around in the compost). My solution for this was to wait until the outside was reasonable (0 Celsius) and root around in the compost then, because the flies would die, hopefully, but the wormies should stay OK. Turns out NO wormies do not like that temperature and I killed nearly all of my full-grown wormies. I still have some babies and I hope they will grow up big and strong, but right now my population is seriously crashed. I think we've almost got the drain fly problem under control (yes, they moved with us to Quebec), and I think the other fly problem will be reduced when I can leave the compost outside for a few days at a time.

Despite all the trouble it's given me, I really like having the worm composter. It's kind of fun to have the challenge and keep a little community living (although I seem to have exterminated my collembola somehow too). And it's nice to get rid of a lot of our veggie scraps without throwing them in the garbage. And the unexpected benefit is that I have a nice collection of vegetables growing (mostly tomatoes and peppers, with the occasional ?? plant).

green: way basics recycled, recyclable, modular furniture

Found this on FOKaL. Awesome eco furniture from Way Basics. I definitely want this.

Apr 1, 2010

green: green thumb; brown thumb

day 1
I kill plants. I have a talent for it. I've bought mini basil plants and killed them. I've planted basil plants from seed and killed them. I've killed endive. My sunflowers and wildflowers simply failed to bloom. I kind of suck at gardening. Which is kind of annoying, actually, since I have fond memories of productive gardening with my dad when I was a kid. Guess it was all my dad's doing and not mine. (OK sidebar because I just remembered: I had a dream last night that I heard white-throated sparrows in my backyard at my OLD house in Unionville. When the bird(s) landed on the fence posts, I could see they were leg-banded, but when I looked closer it was apparent that one of them had 3 coloured film canisters on its legs as colour bands - and of course it didn't occur to me until after the dream that this WTSP must have been the size of a large goose or something. Yeesh, creepy).

Well, I think my brown thumb has (temporarlly, at least) been turned into a green thumb. I have a vermicomposter (more on that later), and every time I try to add fresh compost to my plants, I end up growing tomatoes. Tried to grow daisies last year for my wedding... ended up with stunted daisy sprouts and a giant tomato plant. I also get peppers, and the occasional mystery plant. Thus far, I have not grown anything to proper fruition. The tomato plant got close but it got cold and we moved so I never saw red tomatoes. I planted the peppers too close together so they were stunted.

The truck ride to Québec killed/damaged a bunch of my (insert name of that ubiquitous viney plant here) plants, so I had to do some trimming, resprouting, and repotting. Some of this repotting involved compost. Which means I got tomatoes. Lots of them. Instead of treating them as weeds, I've been replanting them. So far I've got one massive tomato plant (>3'), one smaller one (>1'). I've got other stuff growing too but I'll leave that for another post. These tomato plants grow FAST. Several inches in a week fast.

So, the purpose of today's post is to start a series of photos of my most recently transplanted tomato plant (I'm working on the assumption that it is indeed a tomato).

Here it is, week one, day one (March 31, 2010):