RenFest 2011

Yes, that is a stormtrooper, in a kilt, in a rickshaw, at the Renaissance Festival.

I've finally posted my photos from this year's trip to RenFest at Flickr. I tried some HDR this time - all hand-held, since even the longest exposures were still short enough to not need a tripod. It was pretty windy at times so that was a challenge, and once I get better at getting rid of ghosting from motion I'll probably go back and add some more to the set.

Six years!

I know that I don't post nearly often enough but I did want to mark the sixth anniversary of the blog! I'll be heading out to the Texas Renaissance Festival this weekend so I'm sure I'll have a post up about that soon after. The photos may take longer than usual to process this year because I'm going to be trying a few new things, including some further experiments with HDR. Stay tuned!

My first HDR photo

I had been wanting to try HDR photography (read more about HDR here) for a while and finally got serious about learning the camera settings and getting the software needed to actually do it. So while I was waiting for it to get dark before opening the telescope to run the public viewing night, I decided to give it a go. I didn't have time to grab a tripod, so I carefully balanced the camera in a drainage hole in the wall around our roof and took a few bracketed shots (-2, 0, +2). The next day I combined them in Photomatix Pro and played with a few settings to create the image below. I posted it to Facebook and Google+ and got a lot of nice feedback from my friends, which is encouraging! For a first attempt, I'm pretty pleased with the results. I took a few more bracketed shots this past week (with a tripod and from some other parts of the roof) and I'll be posting them here in the next few weeks, as well as on my Flickr account.

Re-scanning all my negatives

I've recently decided to embark on a large project to scan and/or re-scan all of my negatives, particularly those from some of the bigger vacations I've taken (which you'll find the travel journals of here). Now that I've learned a lot more about photo processing, I'm really looking forward to seeing how much better I can make these pictures. A test case is presented below. The top photo was scanned from the print that came from the photolab back when it was developed in 2000. The bottom photo was an experimental "blur overlay" version of the same photo, scanned from negative and with some extra grain reduction applied. HUGE difference!

Conwy Castle from Plas Mawr, Wales. Photo May 2000

Some of these photos have been scanned from the original negatives before, but I didn't do enough grain removal with the scanner software so now I'm doing it again. The photos from the 1998 UK trip in particular have a lot of grain which I think shows up more because of the hazy skies caused by an unusual weather pattern that was present during most of my vacation. Some of the negatives from my 2000 trip are going to require a lot of work because some of the negatives were badly processed and because the camera I was using was dying. I think I had a damaged lens too... pretty much anything that could go wrong with some of those photos did. Thankfully the photos from my 1997 Washington DC trip (some are grainy, but pretty good), 2002 in Italy (some were poorly cut) and 2003 in the UK are generally okay.

TWiT live show and meet-up at SXSW

As I sat down to watch This Week in Tech this Sunday, I realized that I had never written up anything or posted the pictures from the live show last month.

I got down to Momo's early enough to get a decent parking spot, but not early enough to get a table, so I ended up standing for about 6 hours. The whole experience was slightly surreal since I saw a lot of people in person that I'm used to seeing in a 640 x 480 window on my computer! After the Tech Guy radio show, Tech News Today and This Week in Tech live shows, I briefly went and chatted with Brian Brushwood, his wife, and Tom Merritt, all of whom were as nice in person as they come across on the net. :)

Leo Laporte creatively wearing his headphones during a break for the radio show. Full Flickr set here

A Day at the Faire

I've mentioned on the blog in the past that I go to the Texas Renaissance Festival every year, and occasionally make a trip up to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to Scarborough Faire, but this past weekend I visited the Sherwood Forest Faire that opened near Austin just last year. And for a faire only in its second year, I was pretty impressed with what they've accomplished already. And it was really nice to visit a faire that only required about a 30 minute car ride, as opposed to 2 to 3 hours!

I think it is a common staple of faires to have a Royal Mint where they do demonstrations and/or make custom coins and medallions, and this faire was no exception. I was just casually glancing through the available designs to have struck into a medallion when a familiar face caught my eye - Elizabeth I! I then noticed the Tudor rose design and decided I had to have one made. I opted for the bronze with antique patina (they dip it in sulfuric acid and then polish) and you can see the final product below. I'm still sorting through the 250 pictures I took (we had really good seats for the falconry show, so I snapped a lot of pics - I love digital cameras!) and I'll tweet out a link when I get them all uploaded to my Flickr account.

Updated 4-03-11: Flickr set is now up here!