Friday, November 16, 2012

Look up in the Sky - Its a Bird, Its a Plane, Its a Frog

Not bird nor plane, nor even frog, just little old me - Parrot Drone (ok so it doesn't rhyme anymore, still needed to throw out to one of my childhood heros.  So you might have guessed (especially if I am in one of your Google+ circles) I am having some fun with my new Parrot Drone.

So what is a Parrot Drone?  It is basically a quad copter that can be controlled from an Android or Apple phone (or tablet).  The interesting thing about this is that it has a camera on board.  The camera allows pictures to be taken and stored directly on the phone (to be shared).  It also does HD video.  Overall a cool toy (though easy to break, fortunately repairs are almost as easy).  So the camera allows me some interesting perspectives on what is already sort of a hobby.

This is the Drone in action (so you can see what it looks like).  We had it out in the park a week or so ago, and I was able to snap this picture.  Too bad Sandy made it a short Autumn, did not get a lot of chances colorful leaves.

Here we have the little guy flying the Drone.  Yes that is an Ipad he is using (I use my phone).  He is currently a better pilot than I am, but I am getting better (we have both damaged parts on it, but replacement parts are not expensive, and working on it is easy).

Here is a picture of the house from the Drone.  Camera quality is not the best, but not bad considering it is up on a vibrating 4 propeller helicopter.  It is fun to be able to take some of these very interesting pictures.  Note the distortion around the edges.  This is a very wide angle camera (wide angle is much better if you are flying using the camera, and want to see where you are going).

This is a nice aerial shot of the field the little guy played on last year (his home field).  You can go quite high with the drone (up to the limit of the Wifi receiver).  However, have to keep in mind, if you mess up, the higher you are, the further you fall (and though the falling is ok, its the hitting the ground that determines what needs to get repaired).

This picture was taken from the park in Hawley.  Again, a nice perspective.  Too bad I could not get out when there were still colors in the trees (that will be next year I suppose).

I shot this one into the sun (at the Lakeville Park).  Normally I would have moved to avoid the halos from the sun (and I have some pictures taken from the 3rd base side without the halos), but I liked them here.  Sort of gave me the feeling of waiting till next year (which is what the field is doing, letting us use it now as it gets ready for next year).

Below is my first attempt at a movie on this blog.  The movie is also from the drone (I told you it did HD movies).  I picked a shorter one (so loading times should not be that bad).  This video is a simple up and down (no tricks, no flips).  Just so you get the idea.

Another nice thing I have found is that the camera is actually somewhat IR sensitive.  So this summer, I might be able to get some nice IR pictures (if you read this blog, you know I sort of like that).  I have had issues trying to find a filter, but I have a few months (I have found a different lens that actually even makes the camera more IR sensitive, but I will still need some small filter).

Additionally, some people have lifted a Go Pro camera with one of these (better quality pictures).  Something like that might be fun at some point to try.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The MEMEs of Florida

As I had some computer issues (I am on a new computer as brought up before) and did not get photoshop installed too quickly (work was more important), I figure it has already been way to long since the last update, so prepare for pictures edited on the phone (and posted to family for fun).

So as I stated before, I bought this EyeFi card and put it into my camera.  This allowed me to copy all the pictures from the camera to my phone (then from my phone up to Google Docs) so I would not lose them (I had a problem with a memory card on a previous visit to Florida).  One of the other side affects of this is the down time (waiting for food at a restaurant etc) sometimes I pull out my phone and have some fun (in this case with some of the pictures)..

As I said, all edits to these pictures (sharpening, adding text etc) were done on my phone (I brought no tablet or laptop with me, I planned to use the phone exclusively .  The quality came out pretty good for pictures taken with a pocket camera (the SX260) and edited on the phone.

The above picture was taken at South of the Border on the ride down.  If you have been there you understand.  It is a bit of a dive, but fun nonetheless.  However, even the little guy would never confuse it for Disney.  

Next stop was Kennedy Space Center, and here Autumn sees beyond her plans for world domination, and decides to go for the universe.  It was bright (see her struggle to keep her eyes open).  When I took the picture I was thinking playing with the world as a beach ball, but then when looking at it on the phone screen my impression changed just a little.

I thought this next picture just said something.  Our oldest could not make it.  We had always sort of associated him with Goofy.  So a picture of us with Goofy just made it confusing (especially when Goofy was dressed as a ranger, which Andy had done in the past).  

So vacationing is hard work.  Here is the little guy just not making it into bed.  Funny thing is, the table is his bed.  The wall behind him folds down, and that would be his "convertible" bed.  However, he fell asleep watching videos on the iPad.  The picture just spoke to me (along with the words out of gas as he definitely was).

So, I always complain that the little guy ruins my pictures.  Whether it is eyes closed (as is the case here) or something else (so I normally snap multiple pictures so I can delete the bad ones).  However here having his eyes closed sort of worked out (use the force Quinnlan).  

This one shows some of the short comings of editing on the phone (one of the reasons I included it).  Though there maybe a way, I could not figure out how to move the pointers coming out of the speech bubbles (so the wife's is pointing into the water instead of at her).  This is very close to the actual conversation (little guy was not too desirous of sticking his hand in there, and though he did, he would not hold the food properly, so they had problems eating from him.  This was taken at SeaWorld.

There were a few others, but I think this makes the point.  It was good to be able to post this into our huddle (we keep an open huddle with the family) so they could see what we were doing.  I do not want to sound like a advertisement for EyeFi or Android (I used PicShop for all of this in case anyone was wondering).  However, the combination got me the quality pictures I expect when on vacation (because I was able to use a real camera) as well as the ability to instantly share.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Castle's of Disney

First let me start off with apologizing for the delay (again).  I wanted to work through the Disney pictures as other are building up.  However, I had to get a new computer (and I still have not installed Photoshop yet, so all these pictures are directly out of the camera).  For this reason when you click on the image, you will be getting full size images (I have not cut them down at all).

When one thinks of Disney, the castle pops right into head.  The Magic Kingdom is known for there main castle (technically Cinderella's castle).  But a castle by any other name (maybe a giant hat or a golf ball looking thing).  Here are some interesting pictures on what might in some cases be termed loosely as castles.

Since our first Disney day was at the Animal Kingdom, lets show the Tree of Life (technically not a castle, but its my blog and I can be loose with the definitions if I want to).

So we have a hot Quin and Autumn (I have not said this yet, but we were in Florida during the major heat wave).  The tree of life is in the background.  It is one of the more interesting structures of Disney (well thought out) with all the animals together in the bark. Not the best picture of the tree (I think I have one from the past somewhere), but I wanted to include this park (and the weather did not cooperate as when we were closer to the tree later, it was raining quite hard).

The next Disney Park we visited was the Magic Kingdom.  This one is known for its castles (and it is adding more).

The theme of having people stand in front of the castle is prevalent (hey its a vacation and we need some of the "standard" pictures, and the castles are the best places for them).  The castle looks good during the day.

It also looks good at night.  This is just before the fireworks.  It required a very steady hand to hold the camera up over my head, steady enough for a dark shot in a crowd of people moving around. Came out pretty good.  I needed an ISO of 800 (which I try to avoid on the SX260), but I did not get much noise at all, and was able to hold still for 1/13 of a second (and a reasonable zoom).

I did say that they were adding castle's and here is one of them.  This is Beasts castle.  It is quite far back behind a wall (in an area under construction).  I had to use almost all of the 20x zoom to get this picture.  It looks interesting (looks almost like a toy).  I wonder how it will be setup when it is open.

So next we were off to EPCOT.  There are multiple buildings that might be able to be called castles in the different areas of the world, but I will just stick with the globe at the beginning.  My best pictures of this came at night.

So I was being funny in this picture.  The princess (see she is wearing a tiara) wanted a picture with the globe.  I figured I would set it up around her head.  I had to use flash, but with a slower shutter speed (to get the dark areas).  She and I did a good job of holding still.  I can't say that for everyone else as they all look like ghosts of themselves (I like this one).  I did take another after showing this one off (guess my sense of humor was not appreciated).  However, that one is not as interesting.

Our last Disney park was Disney Movie Studios.  If I stick with my theme of the main icon of the park being a castle, we will get a wizards hat.  Note, I obviously did not take this picture (was my turn to join the group in the foreground).  Not much special about this one except to say that it is nice that Disney hands out those little cards (we used the same through all the parks).  Hand the card to the photographer, and when you are done, with your vacation, log into the site, and you can see all your pictures.  It is a bit pricey, but a nice alternative to have everyone in many shots.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Florida Animal Pictures

Well, just got back from doing the Florida tour with the family.  So, I did not get a chance to edit while I was out, but I have lots of pictures from the parks (and other).  So, I am armed with lots of material, lets see if I can get a few updates out there in a more timely manner.

I had to pick some way to group the pictures.  I could have done by day, but decided to go with subject (lets see if that is still a good idea after a few updates).  I will start out with animals. Figured it seemed fair.  On a cautionary note, not one of these pictures has had any photo shopping.  I normally at least touch the sharpness (and to down the resolution a bit so looking at them would be faster), but my computer died (yeah lots of things working against my update) and I have not installed any software on the new one yet.  So these are right off the card.

So what do you think about when you think Florida.  Well one thing is killer whales working to make people in the first few rows wet.  The little guy had never seen one of these shows (so we had to get him here).  I chose an action shot, as they are a bit harder to get (the SX260 does have a little delay, though not much).  They do not have any called Shamu anymore, but its ok the ones they had were fine.

The seals did a spoof on the other shows (yes this is really a walrus).  Didn't any of these kids pay attention during the day, everyone else knew what was coming (and it was not just a photo op with the Walrus).  This was probably the funnest show (the seals really have some fun, in fact as they can not get the crowd as wet as a whale, one seal comes out carrying a hose - this works for him).  That and the Walrus did a really good wiggle wiggle wiggle in the Party Rock Anthem.

Still in Sea World, here is a Seal in its normal habitat (a pool, not a stage).  This one did not look too interested (people were allowed to buy fish and feed them, but this one was just enjoying the sun).

Well enough of SeaWorld, obviously, if you are thinking animals and Florida, Disney's Animal Kingdom comes to mind.  This guy seems quite happy there (give him a head of lettuce, and he will just hang out and let people take pictures of him).  There were quite a few of them together.  It was interesting, almost like they were trained, they all picked up there food, and walked over to a nice area for better pictures.

Well, the little guys favorite animal is the elephant, so good we got to see one on the safari.  There was also a little one following this one around.  I have separate pictures of the two together (but those pictures were screaming out for a little modification).  Animal Kingdom is nice as the animals do appear to be in more natural settings.

Well, good for me I guess.  I always like the Rhinoceros, and lo and behold here one is.  Probably could have cleaned up a little better for the picture, but I'll take it.  They had both White and Black Rhinos, but I really did not see a color difference (probably because they are not named for the color).

Even EPCOT gets in on the animals with there Manatee.  It is also eating lettuce (Disney must go through lots of lettuce).  There were two in the tank that you could watch from above or below.  This was the favorite of my oldest (who did not make the trip).

Though this one looks a little weird, I decided to use this giraffe (the wife's favorite animal and no we will not find the middle ones favorite animal, so she loses).  You do not get a picture of a giraffe looking right at you too often, so it is a little different.  This was taken at Silver Springs (I also got a Giraffe in the Animal Kingdom).  Not sure why it was looking at me.

This was also taken at Silver Springs, and is one of the main attractions there.  They have not one, but two albino alligators.  They claim that they do not do well outside, and that they do have to put sunblock on them (I wonder who gets that job).  These were inside (through glass hence the noise).

Ok, so this is cheating as we are no longer in Florida, but at South of the Border (at there reptile exhibit).  Apparently nobody piles on the gators like South of the Border.  I thought it was cool just to see so many in one little area.

Ok, so maybe not technically an animal, but definitely a creature many a man has hoped to run into while out boating.  This was taken in Weeki Wachee.  The Mermaid is also having a snack here (but she gets an apple, not lettuce).  They have 2 shows, one the little mermaid (ok, so not too original) and the other a history show where they do some interesting feats.  You can see a turtle swimming over her hand (many a turtle out in the spring).

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Finally a Sunset and a little "HDR light"

I finally got the timing right on one of my drives home from Canada.  There are a few nice farm houses on top of a mountain that looks over to a rest area.  I was hoping to get there for a sunset, and finally, the timing worked out for me.  As you can see from before, I tend to like the sunsets anyway, so any chance at one really makes me happy.  However before the sunset, lets look at the farm house (I will get to why).

Remember to click the picture to get a full size.

I have always liked old farm houses, and enjoy taking pictures of them.  Notice here the sky is white (as I exposed for the farmhouse.  Now lets look at the sky on its own.

So, now HDR (High Dynamic Range) is getting really popular in photography.  HDR is basically accomplished by taking multiple exposures and combining them so that all the pixels are exposed properly.  I do not do much with this, but I have often put the sky back into the picture (which I guess is sort of like HDR light).  So, I will now combing the exposures (note the sunset is zoomed out a bit more, but that will not matter).  

Had I not zoomed out for the sky, the dark clouds would not have been there (they were higher in the picture).  I could still have easily removed them by just sliding the picture up.  However, I tend to like the look that they give, so I figured I would leave them like this.  

This is a pretty cool image.  All I had to do was put the farm house on a layer over the sunset, use the magic wand and select the sky and delete it.  Then a nice picture with an exposed farm house and sky (in very simple steps.  Notice, I used this technique with the church photo down further in this blog (but tried multiple skies) as well as others.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Comparison for a new camera (SX-260)

I picked up the SX260 to carry around.  I just seem to find I use smaller cameras much more than the DSLR (it really helps that it just slides into my pocket).  So I am always looking at a way to improve my pictures in the smaller camera (improving the camera I carry most supplies more bang for the buck).  With the SX260s 20X zoom, I can use it to get the kids even when they are far away. I tried the SX240 when it came out, but did not purchase that one as the improvement did not seem worth buying another camera (there is a comparison of that on in my older posts)

The SX260 dropped the resolution to 12.1 MP (from 14 for the SX210).  This is good, I still think 10 would be better (look at the old review to get an understanding of why, but in short it would reduce noise).  Obviously the quality of the pocket camera does not compare to the DSLR, but as it is around me more often, it gets points for that.

So instead of posting lots of pictures showing the comparison (as I did last time) and boring most people, lets just get to the point.  For that, I only need 2 pictures (remember to click them to get full size pictures).  My biggest complaint with the SX210 (and SX240) was noise.  So does the SX260 help that.  Lets use the picture of my book shelf as a guide.

As my office is not the brightest, both pictures were taken at an ISO of 800 with no flash (remember this is a noise test, not so much real world).  The upper picture is from the SX210.

The picture below is from the SX260.

If you compare the images on a pixel by pixel looking for noise you would get this:

The SX210 is on the left, and the SX260 is on the right.  Though neither image is really great (go back to see how the DSLR did with this image in the first comparison), there is less noise in the SX260.  So it is making strides in its weakest area.

However, was that enough to justify buying a new camera.  I am not sure, it is definitely an improvement in what I considered the chief weakness, but fortunately, I did not need to use this as the sole decision maker.  The SX260 also has some nice new features.  One being live mode.  Below are two pictures taken one right after the other outside in real world conditions (sun set over a hill).

The first is from the SX210.  Note, I have taken lots of sunsets with this camera (again see some of the past posts), so I know how to configure the camera to get the best of the situation.  Even with all of that, below is the best I could do.

Note, I could most likely enhance this in photo shop, but that adds another step.  Below is what I was able to get out of the SX260 just using the live view sliders.

The SX260 matched the actual colors much better.  Using the live controls it was easy to get the camera to match what I was seeing.  This is something that the SX210 does not have.

The other feature that made the SX260 nice was the slow motion video.  Both do regular video fairly well, but the SX260 adds a feature to do a reduced resolution slow motion video (again, something the SX210 does not do).  Take a look at the example below.

Note, that this was ball 4, he was not hit, nor is he rushing the pitcher (though I thought it skimmed his helmet at first).

Though the resolution is really low (I would like to see future cameras increase the resolution in slow mode), it is still something I have lots of fun with the kids.  We have taken videos of all kinds of things, and it is always fun to watch them play back in slow motion.

So to conclude this, the quality out of the SX260 is better than the SX210, and that alone is most likely worth the purchase.  Additionally with some nice creative and fun modes, the camera really stands out.  So I kept the camera, and am using it regularly.

Note, my next update will be soon.  I have been using this as an infra red cam already (and the reduced noise again helps here as well).  I have posted one of the pictures on Google+, but will go through it all here a bit more.