kv0925: (photo lens)


So I finally got that Yongnuo 35mm f/2 lens I mentioned a while back--it took the slow boat from China, literally! I made a point of trying it out over the weekend, so I thought I'd share some of those photos with a little review and some notes on the lens' performance.

So the short version first: if you can score it for somewhere near the $65 I paid, it's a great value. Even the MSRP of $120ish is reasonable, really.

As I'd read, it does *feel* like a cheap lens--it's mostly plastic (with a metal mounting ring, which helps), and there's simply a cheapness to it. If you've ever played with Canon's (or presumably Nikon's) low-end 50mm f/1.8 lens, it's a lot like that in design and build. When I shake it, there's a very slight rattle from the focusing ring, that sort of cheap. Even so, I'm not concerned the thing will fall apart or anything like that, at least under normal circumstances.

But the optics are what matters most, and really I have no complaints there. Reviews I read noted softness away from the center, but since I'm still using crop-sensor bodies I'm not really seeing that. Center sharpness, and even overall sharpness, look fine to me. I can count eyelashes when I zoom in on a well-focused portrait like the one above, and that's good enough. I'd say the autofocus is also plenty quick and snappy, though there's no full-time manual, and the focusing ring itself is small and not-ergonomic. Those things aren't a surprise at this price.

Some more images and notes under the cut!

Clicky! )
So yeah, for $75 or so, assuming you're not in a hurry to get it, I would definitely recommend one of these. It's a nice walkaround focal length (more or less equivalent to a 50mm on a crop-sensor camera, and a bit wider full-frame), and the f/2 makes it more useful indoors as well. Worth checking out!
kv0925: (Default)
(And also a test of crossposting from DW!)

-I've been in a real photographic slump for a while. I stopped advertising so my side-business really fell off, apart from my few annual repeat clients and friends. And I stopped traveling for business, which was a big source of photographic adventure. And our family trips have been a little fewer and farther between as well. I still take the camera when we go to interesting places, but I don't shoot as much as I used to, and (probably as a result) I'm not as happy with the shots I produce, which probably reinforces the whole downward spiral, because why bother if I suck? But I feel like that might be coming to an end. I've felt a little more excited about getting back into shooting more, and I even have a couple of paid shoots coming up (which I hope won't suck, but even out of practice I tend to do okay with those). With my current employment coming to an end, I'm hoping these sessions will boost that spark and inspire me to put some effort into the business again. Not that I expect to go full-time with it or anything--I'd never make enough to support us and pay for health insurance and all that. But as a side-gig and a source of extra money, it was always nice to have.

-I even bought a new lens! Well, really it was a deal I couldn't resist, a Yongnuo 35mm f/2 prime lens for like $65. It ships directly from China, so I haven't actually gotten it yet. But it seems to compare pretty favorably to the Canon 35mm f/2 it clones, at a fifth of the price, so.. why not? I was hoping to get it before the shoot I'm doing Saturday, but it'll probably still be on a boat somewhere. Whenever it finally arrives, I'll have to play with it and do a review post. Maybe I can fire Shutterbuggery back up as inspiration.

-Speaking of the employment situation, no real change there. The wife and I talked about the Tampa thing some more, but she wouldn't budge. And that's okay, I know she's thinking of the kids, who aren't all that social, so she doesn't want to remove them from the friends they've spent so long making. Besides, the severance deal I should get here is pretty sweet, and doesn't even preclude me from being re-hired if something else opens up here (or they realize what a mistake it was to let me go). So I may as well take the money and run, but not run far. :) I've been looking around and seeing a few positions that might be good fits for me--the question will be whether they pay as well, and aren't crap jobs. I actually applied for a management job out at Disney yesterday. I don't have high hopes for it--my skillset overlaps the requirements of the position quite a bit, but it isn't quite the same, and I know Disney management most often comes from within--but who knows, maybe it's an esoteric gig that they won't get many applicants for. I'm hoping to at least score an interview. The commute would be a lot longer than I'd like, but if the pay and benefits are good, might be worth it.

I'm sure I can come up with more, but let me stop here and post more later. I need to boost the post count anyway, after seeing my LJ-iversary stats!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
For those of you who expressed interest in my experience with Canon Price Watch, here's your quick follow-up: Big Thumbs Up. The 7D2 arrived yesterday, a day ahead of when I was expecting it (and, I hasten to add, a day sooner than even Amazon said they could get it to me--and this from Canada!), and is indeed the real McCoy. New in box with all included accessories, Canon warranty cards, and though I only had time to configure a few settings and fire off a few indoor test shots, it seems to work just fine. I didn't actually try the battery grip yet, but it's impressive too: I bought relatively cheap aftermarket grips for my other dSLRs, and there's a definite look-and-feel quality difference in the genuine Canon grip (which makes sense given the price difference).

ETA: Just to be sure, I found a little application which grabs the shutter count from Canon dSLRs to verify the 7D2 was truly brand new, and it checked out. Around 99,500 actuations on my trusty old 7D, which sounds about right. It's rated for 150k (the Mk II is rated for 200k), so it should be good as a backup for some time.

So anyway, definitely give CPW a try if you're in the market for Canon gear (looks like they offer deals on some third-party lenses as well). I'm a believer!

Now back to hunkering down for this oncoming storm. But more about that in a bit.

Hiya LJ!

Oct. 3rd, 2016 04:29 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)


I dunno, I don't really want to bore you with my photos from NYC, mainly because I'm not especially happy with them. I can't even really say why, but they feel more like snapshots than usual. Out of practice, perhaps. But it was a nice day in the city. The above is from the Empire State Building's observation deck, which I visited a little before sunset, which was nice. It was packed up there, though. Like whoa. Central Park was pretty similar, which isn't surprising since it was such a gorgeous day. I think the high temperature was right around 70F, which was a very refreshing change after a summer in the mid-90s down here.

Anyway, the quick recap: Flew into LaGuardia on a smooth red-eye flight, and caught a Lyft (my first!) to Penn Station in Manhattan. Stowed my luggage there and set off on foot. Visited Herald Square, Bryant Park, the library (closed, unfortunately), Times Square, popped in for a quick peek at St. Patrick's (it was Sunday so a service was underway). Then to Central Park (did I mention it was packed?), where I walked for a bit. Caught a cab over to the west side for the Intrepid Museum, which was pretty decent. Then another Lyft to the ESB before walking back over to Penn Station to catch my train to Connecticut.

Actually, one more photo:



Exciting, right? It's a hunk of iron stuck in a rock! But I was thrilled to find it. You see, in the early days of New York City, the now well-known notion of the (mostly) orthogonal and evenly-spaced grid of streets and avenues in Manhattan was a new idea. And urban parks were rare, so Central Park had no place in the original plan. Starting in 1811, a man named John Randel (the same man who designed the grid layout in the first place) began the process of marking where each intersection would be, by means of iron rods or marble monuments. Most of those markers were of course removed as the streets were built, and others disappeared to the ravages of time and humanity. But a few remain, especially in places where streets were planned but never built. And this one is there in Central Park, marking the never-built intersection of 6th Avenue and 65th Street. It's actually pretty much right out in the open, surely passed within feet by many thousands of people every year. But I'd wager hardly any of them ever notice it, let alone have any idea what it is. So I thought that was pretty special, to seek out and find this little piece of history, a simple iron rod set in its place two centuries ago and left to watch as one of the world's greatest cities sprang up all around it.

The visit to Stamford was pretty okay. It was nice to actually meet the people I've been working with by phone and e-mail for the past couple months. And we covered a lot of stuff, but not the most top-of-mind thing, which is how our organization will actually look when all is said and done. I think my Presumptive New Boss (PNB) really thought it would be settled by the time we got together, but no such luck. Maybe within the next few weeks. It's certainly 99.9% obvious that I'm destined for his team, but exactly what form that will take seems a little less clear. And some of it may depend on whether I'm willing to relocate to CT, which frankly I'm not. Even if finances didn't constrain us to our house here, it's not an area we'd really choose to move to, and it's not like this is my dream job that I'd chase anywhere. So I'm planning to stick around here, and if that means the job and I eventually part ways, I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

In other news, we got the information on the pension payout, and... underwhelming is putting it mildly. I don't know what math they used to calculate it, but it was a lot less than I was minimally expecting, and FAR less than I was hoping. So refinancing the house is basically a non-starter. We can at least pay off the cars and some other small things, which will put some money back in the budget each month. And there will be some left over, which can go to trips and whatnot. Bottom line, it still beats a kick in the nuts, that's for sure. But I can't help but be disappointed that it wasn't the game-changer I was hoping for.

Speaking of whatnot, I did get permission to use some to get myself a new camera. My venerable 7D has exhibited a couple of concerning symptoms recently, which made me realize the thing is very nearly 5 years old. And as much as I use it, that's gotta put the shutter at or over its expected lifespan. So I found a great deal* on a 7D Mark II--I figure I may as well stick with the crop sensor since for most of the work I do it's a benefit, and the shooting speed is crucial for my HDR predilections. Hopefully the high-ISO performance is improved, and I think it adds some other nice upgrades as well. That should arrive in a couple days, something to look forward to. And good timing, as I have a photoshoot this weekend with a family I work with every year. I'll bring the old camera as backup, just in case. :)

There's probably more, but that's plenty for now. I hope your week is off to a fine start!

* Photographer friends, let me throw out a tentative plug here for Canon Price Watch. I was planning to just snag a 7D2 body at Best Buy since I have their credit card and they do no-interest financing, plus it was on Canon instant rebate for $1499 ($300 off the usual price). But none of the stores nearest to me had it in stock, so I Googled and came across CPW, which mentioned a deal on the body PLUS the genuine Canon battery grip for $1349 total. The battery grip alone retails for $200, so yeah, that's a great deal. CPW seemed a bit shady, somehow, at first--on the CPW site you submit your name and e-mail address, then they e-mail you with a few potential deals on the product you're after. You reply with which deal you want, along with your name and address, and only then do they actually e-mail you the info on which store you're dealing with, and a link to the deal you selected. In my case, it turned out to be a camera dealer out of Ontario. But hey, no sales tax, free shipping, and I figured if it was a scam I'd just reverse the charge, right? So I bit, and got the shipping notice from Canada Post within just a few hours. That was Friday afternoon, and the camera should arrive Wednesday, which was actually the best Amazon Prime said they could do anyway. If it's truly new-in-box product with a valid Canon warranty and all that, I will be a CPW customer from now on, no question. I still want a Canon 100-400mm, after all. :)

CoughCough

Feb. 22nd, 2016 02:37 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Almost 3 weeks and I am STILL fighting the Great Phlegm Wars. Constantly trying (and failing) to clear my throat, and coughing even though the coughing does nothing. It is annoying. But it shall pass. Someday.

This morning.. should I even post about this? We live in an area with city water but not city sewer, so we have a septic system. And we'd never had the thing pumped out, so we decided we should do that before we have actual problems. So that happened. All was fine, and I learned a bit. The odd thing is that there's a pump in the system somewhere, the purpose of which is to pump water to the drainfield in the back yard. And the pump has been unplugged for who knows how long. But even so, everything looked okay with the tank and all. The septic guy was a bit flabbergasted, called it a miracle. Though in my experience miracles don't tend to involve anything septic-system-related. But whatever.

Weekend was pretty okay. Saturday we went over to the coast to visit my Mom, because Amy said she wanted to do that for her upcoming birthday. She'll be 5 tomorrow, hard to believe! Anyway, that was a pretty good visit. We had lunch at a yummy Mexican place we like (and my sister met us there--she is still a moron). Afterwards we went to check out the house my sister is planning to buy, since it was just around the corner from the restaurant. It's a HUD home with some issues, but for the price it's pretty impressive. Nice big separate garage that includes a bonus room and a little bathroom. And the house itself, apparently when they built the separate garage they converted the attached garage into additional living space, so the kitchen and living room were both huge. Sis has huge dreams for the place, though how she plans to accomplish them when she and her husband both live on disability insurance is beyond me. Should I also note that she's a big Trump supporter? Like I said, she's a moron.

Sunday it was decided that I'd take the girls to EPCOT and get us new WDW passes. We'd been tossing the idea around for a bit and decided to go ahead. I'm shooting a colleague's wedding this summer, and she asked if we could do the engagement session at EPCOT. I told her that wasn't an option since we were between passes, but then I got to thinking about it, and thought why not? I like to have a pass for myself and photo sessions when they come up, and I generally make enough from photography to cover the cost. So then the question was, who else gets a pass? The wife just wasn't interested--she's not a big fan these days because she says the place is always busy, and she's not too wrong (though I think she doth protest too much). But the girls and I still like to go, and it's particularly unfair to Amy since she's at a perfect age for the place, and would be missing out since we've almost always had passes when her sisters were her age. So at first I suggested just me and Amy, but we decided that wasn't fair to the other two either, so everyone but the wife got one. It's a win for her because it gives me a place to take the girls for a good chunk of the day now and then, which will give her a nice break to sew or clean or just relax in a quiet house with no rugrats. Nice, right? So anyway, we headed out there and had a nice time for a few hours. Didn't do much to speak of, just got our passes, had lunch at The Land, and made the grand circle tour of the world. And I scouted some nice nooks and crannies for that upcoming engagement shoot.

Speaking of photography, I need to get back on the ball with that. I've been feeling like my skills have gone downhill, and that was reinforced this morning while I was waiting for the septic guy to finish. Amy wanted to see photos of herself as a baby, after Heather was telling her we moved in to the house when Hallie was a baby. So they were looking at my Flickr photos from back then, and I realized I just don't take photos that good these days, for whatever reason. I need to figure out why that is, and what to do about it. I should really fire up Shutterbuggery again, if for no other reason than to pose some exercises for myself and whomever else cares.

That said, my Creative Commons photos seem to get picked up pretty regularly. I was paging through a recent Orlando Weekly, which is the free alternative newspaper thing around these parts, and there was a photo of the old mill at DeLeon Springs State Park that looked awfully familiar. I was like, "Is that mine?" And sure enough, there was a credit to my Flickr username. And on FB, someone posted a link to an article with some photos of the Bulow Creek sugar mill ruins, and the majority of photos were mine. Always kinda fun to see that. :) I need to get those chops back up as well.

After EPCOT I took Amy to the home improvement store to get lumber for the additional LEGO cabinet shelves, and tackled that yesterday before dinner. Didn't take long at all! And I think the LEGO cabinet is pretty awesome. I'll have to get some photos to share, because while it's silly to have a huge cabinet full of LEGO, and even more silly to be proud of such a thing.. we do have it, and I am kinda proud. :)

Have a great afternoon!

Ho Ho Ho.

Dec. 23rd, 2015 09:35 am
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Wow, hard to believe it's already almost Christmas, already almost a new year! Let me say upfront, from this agnostic to you and yours, a very Merry Christmas or whatever you celebrate. And if you celebrate nothing, then Happy Wednesday. :)

I've been a poor LJ citizen lately, I fear. I've kept up to date with my flist, but I haven't been commenting much, and posting hardly at all myself. I intend to get better. But I'm contemplating going into the new year by paring my flist down to just those of you with whom I feel I've made a real connection. It's not that I dislike reading anyone on my list, not at all. But if I find myself refraining from commenting because I feel too much like a stranger, maybe it's better to go, you know? Just thinking out loud.

So Christmas.. Like I said, I consider myself agnostic, actually leaning fairly heavily towards atheist, at least in terms of any sort of sentient, anthropomorphic deity watching us all masturbate. But I still dig Christmas. I like the trappings and sights and sounds of the season, I like the warm-hearted spirit it still occasionally brings (in between churlish bouts of the manufactured War On Christmas, anyway), and I've always liked the notion of celebrating the winter solstice--the darkest day of the year, and the beginning of our collective trek back into the light. Plus these days it's fun to play Santa for the kids, of course.

But it feels like a very low-key holiday this year, almost an afterthought. I suspect the weather has much to do with that. It's been unseasonably warm all fall, with the exception of one cool day and two cool nights last week. For Christmas Day we're expecting highs around 85F, feeling more like 91F. It's hard to feel Christmas-y whilst sweating, as I'm sure my my Aussie friends can attest! We seem to be right there with you this year.

Gift-wise this year feels a bit light, too, nothing huge to report. The girls typically ask for just one or two main things, and leave the rest up to us as surprises. Hermione asked for a rock tumbler and a particular LEGO set, Hallie really didn't come up with anything special to request, and Amy makes up for that with a veritable laundry list, though she's never satisfied anyway. :) I got Heather a few smallish things I know she wants or will like, and she bought herself something as her main present. Pretty much the same for me too--she's gotten me a couple things, but my main gift I bought for myself. Not as much fun, but at least we know we're getting things we'll like. :)

I've realized this year that grammatically speaking, my favorite Christmas carol is "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen." Most people leave the comma out, but I think it's important. The gentlemen aren't necessarily merry themselves, but the narrator is wishing them to be rested merry, if that makes sense. And the lyrics have a nice wordsmithy lilt as well. "From God our Heavenly Father a blessed angel came, and unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same." I just like that wording, for some reason. Yes, I know I'm a bad atheist. :)

Family-wise, we're going over to see my Mom on Boxing Day (not that that's a thing here), and planning to meet up with my Dad for lunch and a walk somewhere the following day. And then I took next Monday off from work, mainly to relax and do nothing before coming back. Though that's usually a very quiet and stress-free week at the office anyway, which I always enjoy.

Speaking of work, I'm waiting to hear about my raise for the new year. I know my boss has the info in hand, he just hangs on to it until we can get together to discuss. Oh well. I don't expect it to be a big bump, it usually isn't. And with the merger hanging over all our heads, I wonder if they're being especially conservative this year anyway. Still a lot of uncertainty about all that, though it's looking like the merger is likely to be approved. Next year should be interesting on the work front, though whether 'interesting' will mean good changes or bad is very much up in the air.

The Steam Winter Sale is underway! That's bad. I should take a lesson from the fact that I need to look up most games on the various bundle sites to see whether I already own them or not. If I have no idea what's in my collection, that might be a clue that it's big enough. :)

Got a few photoshoots coming up, family things. And today I'm meeting a co-worker for lunch to discuss shooting her wedding next summer. I'm not especially excited about it, I must say--the guy she's marrying is also an employee here, and not someone I've ever been very fond of. But the lady is nice enough, and we can certainly use the money, so..

Okay, enough for now, I guess. I do hope everyone has a great holiday, and makes some lasting and fond memories. That's what it's all about, anyway. Thanks for being a part of my LJ experience. :)

And here, have my favorite version of the aforementioned carol. Not sure why it repeats a bit at the end, ignore that. :)

kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Well, I should probably say Pool $250 or so.. But anyway, I got the replacement pump housing to finally fix that leak. I was a bit apprehensive because I feared some re-plumbing might be involved. But I was very pleased to find it was an easy job. The outlet pipe on top was secured with a screw-on collar, so that was a cinch. And once that was off and rotated out of the way a bit, I had juuuuust enough room to rotate the whole housing around to unscrew it from the (also threaded) horizontal inlet pipe. Reverse process to install the new housing, and voila! There was a teensy leak from the outlet pipe connection, so I unscrewed that again, dabbed on some teflon sealant and put it back on nice and tight, and that took care of that.

Now I'm just concerned about the filter housing. It has a long metal rod that screws into the base, and which the top part then screws onto. It's supposed to stay screwed into the base, but the past few times I've needed to get in there to clean or replace the filter (which happens fairly often), it's come unscrewed from the base, which makes it difficult to remove--and then it's an ordeal to get it back in, and getting a little tougher every time. Not sure what I can do about that, some threadlock compound, maybe? I hope so, that's an important part of the system, and rather pricey to replace!

So that was the productive part of the weekend. Didn't do a whole lot otherwise, we went out shopping a time or two, spent plenty of time in the pool because it was HOT this weekend, played some video games, the usual.

I should mention Friday--I made a trip out to Celebration to meet up with my wedding photography clients for next month. They're having a very small ceremony at a hotel down there, and then we'll roam around for photos before they head to dinner. So we met at the hotel and took a walk around the area to chat. I was a bit miffed, since it's a long drive down there and I really don't charge enough to justify client meetings and all that rigamarole. But it turned out to be fun, they're nice folks and it was a fun to walk around and talk. And thankfully the weather wasn't uncomfortably hot. I hope the same can be said next month, but we'll see. Outdoor weddings in Florida in July? Craziness! Hopefully it will be a fun day, though.

Ooh, nice! I'm still planning the NYC trip with the girls in October, of course, so now and then I look to see if the hotel prices have come down any. And today they did! I know which hotel we're staying at, but the price was a bit more than I liked. But it dropped by around $30 a night, which is not nothing, so I cancelled and rebooked. Hopefully it will come down even more between now and then!

Okay, better get back to work. Hope everyone is having a good Monday so far!

Updatery.

May. 28th, 2015 02:41 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I feel like an update is overdue, but I dunno what about, really. So let's break out the bullets.

• The Wii U has been a big hit so far! Mario Kart 8 is awesome, of course, but we've also really enjoyed Super Mario 3D World and NintendoLand, both of which were in the console bundle I got. At first the girls didn't care too much for Super Mario, but it grew on them. Amy especially loves it, for some reason--she calls it the Mario Cat Game, because one of the power-ups for the characters is a cat suit. In fact, she loves it a bit TOO much. As soon as she wakes up and as soon as I get home from work, she's asking if we can play Wii. Don't get me wrong, I dig that she likes it so much, but sheesh! I can't even play anything solo--if I try, she pops in and grabs the controller like she owns the joint. Silly kid. I also got it playing old GameCube games--that was actually even more viable on the old first-gen Wii, but for some reason I didn't do much of it. But since the ghost game in NintendoLand was such a hit, I figured they'd appreciate Luigi's Mansion too since it's more or less based on that. So far so good!

Then this week Humble Bundle did the first console-based bundle I've seen, and it happened to be Nintendo (Wii U and 3DS) so I jumped on that pretty quickly. Mostly platform-style indie games, but there looked to be some pretty neat titles, with more being added next week so I can look forward to that as well. I've only tried one (Guacamelee) so far, but it looked really good. Amy kept stealing the controller, though!

• Been having a little trouble with the pool lately. The pump has had a trickle leak for a while, which recently turned into more of a mini-geyser. Not a lot, but enough to be annoying. And it's salt water, so I really don't want it spraying all over the pump motor and other stuff over there. So I figured out one problem was a loose bolt insert, and I fixed that--but the leak persists. So I'm thinking the plastic plate that attaches and seals the motor and impeller assembly to the rest of the pump got warped at some point and isn't sealing completely. So I have a new one on the way, hopefully that will finally do the trick. With my luck, though, probably not!

• Photo session tomorrow, not entirely looking forward to it. Some clients I feel great about, some are more iffy. This one is just a tad on the iffy side. But hopefully it will all be good. I only took a half-day from work, so I'll have to come in to the office afterwards. Probably after I go home for a shower, that is--gonna be a toasty one, as usual.

Hm, I can't think of much else, so.. have a good afternoon/evening, wherever you are!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Yeah, this guy. Feeling rather doltish the past couple days, because I royally screwed the pooch.

See, for months I've had a wedding booked. Just a small outdoor affair, maybe 4-5 hours, but we need the money, not least for the New York trip I've been blathering about for weeks. The date for this wedding was fixed in my brain as May 2. I had zero doubt that was the date, and planned everything else around it, from the NYC trip to my various business trips. And since May 2 is next Saturday, this past weekend I figured I'd write the bride to make sure everything is still a go and firm up the specifics. Before doing so, I read back through her e-mails and the contract. And what do I find? It should probably be obvious by now, but of course the date I've had fixed in my brain for months was wrong, and the wedding is actually a week later, May 9. And when's the NYC trip scheduled? May 7-11, of course. These things do not fit together.

So my first reaction, as the bottom dropped out of my stomach, was to freak out a bit. What do I do? Try to back out of the wedding to save the trip? But we were counting on the wedding money to defray the expense of the trip, plus dumping the bride on such short notice would make me a completely horrible and unprofessional person and I would feel awful. Maybe I could move the trip up a few days so we'd come back on Friday the 8th? No, the hotel rates have gone up and we'd be scrambling to get ready sooner anyway.

So really the only option was to scrub the trip, at least for now. The girls were naturally disappointed, as they'd been counting down the days to our departure. But they actually took it pretty well, especially when we started talking about taking a family trip in early June instead. As long as they have something to look forward to, they're good. And Heather was relieved, since the NYC trip was pricier than she expected and she was concerned about the money. I'm looking at rebooking NYC to early October--fall should be just as pleasant (and maybe even more colorful!), and that gives us some time to save up for it. And really, since I can change the flights for free, the only thing I'd already purchased were the Statue of Liberty tickets--I've e-mailed those folks to ask if we can just change the date of the tickets, but if not, c'est la vie.

Still, it's always a bummer to disappoint the girls, and even worse in this case since it was all my fault for not double-checking the wedding date somewhere along the way. I was getting pretty excited for that trip too! More time to save and plan, I suppose, and hopefully book some more photo gigs too.

Okay, hopefully later I'll post a recap of my California trip last week, which was pretty decent. In the meantime, I hope everyone's week is off to a good start!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
20150414-IMG_7013_HDR

May as well make a quick(ish) photo post for last week's excursion to Indianapolis and Birmingham! Since this one wasn't a solo trip, I didn't build in a lot of time for sightseeing this time, especially in Birmingham. But I did get around a little. Take a look?

Clicky! )
Thanks for looking, as always--and stay tuned for more when I get back from California!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Not me (well, not really). I refer to my poor, pitiful, long-suffering photography community, [livejournal.com profile] shutterbuggery. I really neglected it last year, and would like to resuscitate it here in 2015. The idea of the place is for folks to share photos with a bit more background and detail than the other LJ photo comms--why and how did you make that image? And also to discuss photographic tools and techniques. If nothing else, I may just regard it as my own personal photo journal where I can toss up a photo and talk photographic geekery now and then (not that I am shy about doing that here). But ideally it would be an interactive place where others post too. So anyway, if you're into photography, go check it out and join up if you like what you see! I made a couple posts today, would love to get some participation.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Hey look, bullet points!

• Still convalescing. Christmas Day I felt worse, ended up taking a couple-hour nap with Amy. Luckily we were just planning to stay home all day, open presents, etc., so it worked out anyway. Since then it's been on-and-off, headache, runny nose, gook in the throat, endless throat-clearing and coughing, gravelly voice.. blech. I think I'm past being contagious and into the clearing-out phase, but I still only feel about 80%.

• It is too damn hot here. It cooled off for Christmas, down into the 60Fs, which was nice. But really just for that one day--since then it's been mid-70Fs and low 80Fs, and a bit muggy. Feels more like April. This coming weekend projected highs are 85F both days. NO THANKS. If the pool was warm enough, the girls would be in there every day. The extended forecast shows a nice dip in a week or two, can't come soon enough. I'd settle for some seasonal average temperatures, even!

• Christmas was pretty decent. There were no really big presents this year, nothing that was really a dream-come-true for any of us. The girls asked for some particular toys, which we were happy to provide. Heather and I stayed pretty low-key with our gifts to each other. I got her some books (sheet music, gardening, and the new novel by one of her favorite authors), a little vacuum chamber for her homeschool science lessons, and (very exciting!) a laminating machine since I read that those come in very handy for homeschoolers. She got me a couple geeky t-shirts, some Doctor Who-related stuff, and a LEGO set. Oh, and this weekend she let me go out and get myself a new toy.

• Specifically, this: Canon's new 24mm pancake lens. I've had the 40mm pancake lens since it was released, and really like it--it's a great lens to throw on when I want to travel light; even my big dSLR with that lens mounted feels small and light. But 40mm is a little long as a walkaround lens on an APS-C camera, so when I heard about the 24mm coming out I was interested. When reviews and MTF charts indicated it's even sharper than the 40mm (and, at some apertures, even Canon's 24mm f/1.4L) I was VERY interested. And then when I saw that it can focus as close as 6 inches, giving it a better than 1:4 ratio for macro, I was sold. So now my conundrum is just whether to sell the 40mm, since the 24mm is superior optically and, I think, better for my purposes.

• Speaking of selling stuff, I'm going to try to sell off our antique piano. Long-time readers (are there any left?) might remember when I got it, way back in 2008. I worked on it for a while, got it into a more presentable and playable condition, and then (as is my wont) have neglected it ever since. Since we picked up a nice digital piano, it's really just a huge waste of space. So while I suspect the market for antique fixer-upper baby grand pianos is not a large one, I'm gonna post it and see if I get any bites. It would free up some room, and maybe I can even turn a profit on it. Though frankly I'd give the thing away to whomever is willing to haul it off!

• Day after Christmas I felt a bit better, so we headed over to my Mom's for a visit, as was our plan. We had lunch with her, and my sister and her husband tagged along. I hadn't seen my sister for some time--she looked good, but reminded me so much of our grandmother, both in her appearance and speech. It was a little uncanny, actually. Anyway, she seems to be doing well.

• Back to work today--wow, almost quitting time already! And then I'm off for the next 3 days, burning my last 2 vacation days plus the New Year's holiday. I debated taking Friday off to give myself a 6-day weekend, but with the weather looking too hot to enjoy, I figured I might as well save the day and use it for nicer weather and/or when we have something fun on the agenda. Hoping for lots of travel this year!

Okay, enough for now, gonna shut down and head home shortly. I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, and something festive on deck to welcome 2015. May it treat us all kindly.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving if applicable, and a fine Thursday if not. :)

So Black Friday is upon us here in the US, which.. doesn't mean much anymore since it's now become an all-week thing (including, for many stores, the holiday itself, which I personally find atrocious) and Cyber Monday and who-gives-a-rat's-ass anyway. It's just not worth it to me, dealing with crowds of humans to save a few bucks. Last post I mentioned that we got a new video camera? It's on sale today for $30 less than I paid, with a free memory card tossed in as well. STILL totally not worth dealing with BF insanity.

Anyway, Thanksgiving was very nice for us. My Dad came over, and while we were still outside meeting and greeting and chatting, my niece Amanda pulled up too. Dad had no idea she was even in town, let alone that she was coming by, so that was a nice surprise to spring on him. :) We all sat around and talked until Amanda needed to head back to her Dad's, and then we finished cooking and sat down to our own feast. Nothing fancy, but a very nice spread nonetheless and I am looking forward to heading home to have some leftovers for lunch today. :)

After eating we all took a walk down to the neighborhood lake to burn a few calories, stretch our legs and enjoy the gorgeous weather. Then Dad hit the road for home since it's a long drive, and we just relaxed around the house for the rest of the day. I got most of the Christmas decorations down from the attic, so the girls plan to put some of that up today since it's chilly outside and they don't plan to go anywhere. I'm at the office, but not about to call it work since there won't be much of THAT accomplished today. After a post or two here, I think I'll fire up some more Breaking Bad. I'm into the final season, and it's getting good. Again. :)

Oh, my Thanksgiving actually started with a photoshoot--the one I rescheduled from Tuesday because we had some nasty weather coming through. It was.. not great. I think I got enough good shots, but the kids were not cooperative at all. The little boy has Down Syndrome, so for him it was quite understandable. The girl was just difficult, though. And the parents are apparently separated and moving towards divorce, but still going through the motions of family vacations with their kids, so.. a little awkward now and then. Not too bad, but it could have been a better gig. At least the weather was nice. :)

Okay, I got my Birmingham photos done so I think I'll do a post with those, and then back to "work". Ha!

Update!

Oct. 28th, 2014 10:32 am
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Okay, randomness.

-The weather looks AMAZING for the upcoming weekend. We have a front coming through (unfortunately not in time to make Halloween night very cool) and the weekend highs are in the low 70Fs, nice and sunny. Can't wait! Speaking of weather, for my California trip it looks nice too, though just a touch warm, low to mid-80Fs. Not too bad!

-Speaking of California, I'm still a little up in the air (so to speak) on what to do with myself. I had planned a driving tour along the coast and up through Los Padres and to another park or two. But then I mapped it on Google and discovered the driving time was like 6 hours altogether, and that's no bueno. So instead I think I might explore LA itself a little more--head up to Beverly Hills and Hollywood, see some sights in those parts. And still work in a couple parks and detours on my way to Bakersfield. I sorta wish Disneyland were an option again--timewise it is, money-wise notsomuch. It's silly to me that WDW passholders get no discount on admission at DL and vice-versa.

-Speaking of Disney, last Friday we went to get our new passes, yay! I had some photography gigs coming up out there, so I had a need for my pass and the money from the gigs helps to pay for them. We took a pretty long break between passes, so the girls were ready and excited to go back. We just went to the Magic Kingdom and didn't do a whole lot, but it was fun and I'm glad Amy will have the chance to see Mickey and Minnie since she loves them.

-Speaking of photo gigs, yesterday morning I had a shoot at the Magic Kingdom (so my pass got put to use right away!). It was fun, a very nice couple from Brazil here on vacation, and they wanted a maternity/vacation shoot. I think it went pretty well, though I probably won't get to edit anything until I get back from CA.

-Speaking of nothing in particular, on my way back from Disney yesterday I saw a commercial van for a crane company. The company's logo, displayed proudly on the back and doors of the van: "We Make Shit Happen." And I was like, uh, even beyond the questionale language for a commercial vehicle, the generally understood meaning of "shit happens" would seem to make that a poor motto as well. But then again, it certainly caught my eye, so if I ever find myself in need of a crane to make shit happen, I guess I'll know where to go.

-Weekend was pretty good.. Saturday Heather had a concert at a local art festival type deal, so I took the kids and roamed while she was playing. They had fun in the bounce houses and looking at the art displays from the local schools, and they made some edible art in the form of pixie dust type candy layered in a clear plastic bottle. Not too bad. Sunday I thought Heather could use a break so I took the girls over to Brevard to visit my Mom, and also to meet our friend Holly and her family so I could take some pics of them. On the drive over, Amy started fussing and then threw up. I pulled over to get her cleaned up, and she seemed okay and wanted to keep going. But a few minutes later she threw up again. But by then we were a lot closer to our destination than home, so we soldiered on and aside from some clinginess, she seemed perfectly fine the rest of the day. So I dunno, maybe it was motion sickness, or just a hair in her throat or something. She had two full-sized pieces of pizza at lunch and said she was hungry again not long after, and that all stayed down, so.. yeah. Kinda weird, she hardly ever tosses her cookies. Otherwise it was a good day!

-I still haven't updated about my Indianapolis trip, have I? Ah well, probably not today either. We'll see. I'm sure you're very disappointed,

-In a meeting again, so I guess I should pay attention, eh? Have a great day!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
20140927-IMG_6899_HDR

Seems about time to catch up, and I think photos shall be required. So I'll just jump into it, shall I?

I've not yet posted about Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando! I've been twice now, and I'm thinking I'll go once more before my pass expires at the end of next weekend. The short version: Awesome but crowded like whoa.

I went on opening night and met my friends there, the couple who included the pass as part of my payment for shooting their wedding. And it rained. all. night. long. Luckily it wasn't a hard rain, just a steady sprinkle that still had us pretty well soaked after an hour or two. We did a couple houses on our own, and then met up with a large group from some web forum they're on. It was okay, but I felt like I could have done a lot more solo--though I guess that wasn't really the point. Anyway, we did the Roanoke Cannibals, Dollhouse of the Damned, and Aliens vs. Predator houses, all of which were pretty awesome. AvP was probably my favorite of the night, because it was pretty spiffy to be thrust into that world for a few minutes! But Dollhouse definitely got high points for creativity and overall wow-factor. After the houses we rode Men In Black (first time I'd ever ridden with others good enough to get us rated as Galaxy Defenders!) and then got back with the big group for the last Bill & Ted show of the evening.

And I feel like that a bit of explanation is required here since most of you have no idea what HHN is all about. So the basic idea of the event is that they turn the theme park into a big haunted house. A handful of rides are open in their normal states, but the scary stuff is the main attraction: there are scare zones with different themes set up around the park, with decor and set pieces and fog machines and lighting and scareactors (rhymes with characters, get it?) in costumes and makeup and carrying knives and chainsaws and stuff, wandering around lunging at unsuspecting passersby. And there are also a bunch of scare houses, each with its own theme, that you tour through. Sometimes a house theme is a generic concept, but more regularly these days it will be some licensed popular property from horror film or tv (The Walking Dead, Child's Play, Dracula, Halloween, the aforementioned AvP, etc.). The houses are sorta like mazes, though (usually) with a single well-defined path, and along the way are scareactors hiding around corners or behind curtains or as part of the decor who will jump out at you (though they aren't allowed to touch you, of course). To me it seems like a terrible job because I have to imagine they get slugged out of pure reflex on occasion. Anyway, it's all a lot of fun, and being Universal the theming and set construction and costumes/makeup are all top-notch. There are also some shows, the main one being the Bill & Ted show, wherein B&T from the classic '80s movies participate in a far-fetched and ridiculous storyline that lampoons the past year's pop culture headlines and luminaries at every turn. It's always a treat, and great fun to yell "Catch you later, Bill & Ted!" in response to their "Catch you later, Audience Dudes!" at the end of the show.

Anyhoo, visit #2 was this past Saturday night, and this time I stayed solo. I headed straight for the Halloween house, which I'd heard was the best of the year and knew would get longer lines later. Even going straight there, it was almost an hour wait. Did I mention the event is crowded? Always. And this is even early in the season--lots more people go as October wears on! Anyway, the Halloween house was pretty damn good, as I expected, with lots of creepy Michael Myerses lurking around the corners. After that I went to Giggles & Gore, a generic-themed house based on the idea of killer clowns meeting their demise in a factory by way of various industrial equipment. That one was mainly memorable because of the group in front of me: about 4 teenage girls, one of whom would literally fall down on the floor every time a scareactor appeared. And that happens a lot, so she fell down a LOT, and would often take one or more of her friends down with her. Fun is fun, but that kind of fun has gotta get painful after a while! After that I checked the wait times, and Dollhouse of the Damned was pretty short so I went through that one again and was again quite pleased with it. And then I rode some rides (they generally have pretty short waits during HHN since that's not why most people are there), including my first go on Transformers: The Ride 3D. That was pretty good, though essentially just a re-themed version of the Spider-Man ride at Islands of Adventure. And then I got a Ben and Jerry's milkshake and called it a night, since my legs were jelly from the wedding and theme-parking.

So let's see, the houses I haven't hit yet are Dracula, From Dusk Til Dawn, and The Walking Dead. Not really being a vampire fan, I don't care too much about Dracula or Dusk, though I'd hit them if the lines are short enough. I definitely want to do Walking Dead, so I think that will be my priority next visit. I wouldn't mind doing AvP again too, though it's one of the always-a-long-wait houses this year for sure. And I'd like to see Bill & Ted again. Oh, and ride Minion Mayhem, another ride I've not yet done.

So here, have some pics!

Clicky! )
Okay, that's plenty for now. I hope your week is off to a good start!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Updatery, bullet-style!

• Great deal on Woot today--a Nabi video/still camera, essentially a GoPro for kids. Comes with lots of goodies, mounts for bike/helmet/whatever, SD card, remote control, waterproof case, all for $50! The downside is that it's a fixed-focus camera, and near-fisheye focal length, but for the price I had to jump because I've been wanting a waterproof camera to play with in the pool, and this one seems awesome for that as well as for the girls to mess around with on their bikes and whatnot. I foresee a lot of fun with this, and hopefully it will come just in time for our upcoming trip!

• Speaking of the trip, have I even mentioned it much here? It's only about a week away and we still haven't really made many plans! We're driving up to Myrtle Beach to meet Heather's parents at her grandfather's timeshare there. Should be fun, and really we aren't making much in the way of plans because we expect to just get there and relax and explore for a few days at our leisure. But still, we should at least have a list of options. To split up the drive, we're going to stop probably both ways in Savannah, which is the halfway point. I booked a hotel there for the ride up, and we figure we'll sorta wing it on the way home since we don't know how long we'll want to stay in Myrtle Beach. Kinda nice to be a little open-ended, since we're driving our own vehicle and the accommodations are free. :) Almost accidentally, the hotel I booked in Savannah is right next door to the Mighty 8th Air Force museum, which I am definitely planning to check out.

• And speaking of the video camera, last weekend I hooked the girls up with webcams and software to make stop-motion animation. They've taken to it pretty well, especially Hermione! Some of you probably saw this on Facebook, but I think it's pretty cool:



She did another one where a boy and girl brush their horses, take a short ride, dismount.. and then the horses stampede and stomp them to pieces. She likes the violent twist ending, apparently!

• I drove to Tampa for a work meeting yesterday. The drive over was fine, but the drive back was a bit on the white-knuckle side! A front moved through with driving rain, so half the drive was in that with standing water on the road and very low visibility, always fun. And the other half was working through a backup due to a crash on I-4. Blah. By the time I made it back to the office, I was ready to be done with the day. But now my boss is on vacation for 2 weeks, and I'll be on vacation myself after next week, so it should be a pretty quiet and easy time. I'll take it!

• Photoshoot tomorrow morning.. a family at a resort near Disney again. It's a much smaller group than the last one, so it should be pretty easy.

Um, that's all I can think of for now, so have a few random photos from the past week or two:

Clicky! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
20140505-IMG_2610
Mmm, static.

I know, the massive photo updates have been coming fast and furious in these parts lately. But I'm done traveling for a while, so this should be the last of its sort for a while, aside from the usual weekend travels around central Florida. We're planning a summer trip at the end of July, though, so all bets are off then!

Clicky! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
A) Selfish bit first: it's not often that I find myself in the LJ-Photophile weekly poll, and even less often that I think my photo is actually the strongest of the lot. This is one of those times, and it feels nice. :)

B) Today's Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. FEC saddens me so, so much. How is it that these people fail to realize that the entire root of the problem with our country--in our government, our political discourse, and whatever policy matter you care to name--is the undue and corrupting influence of money on our politics and politicians. SCOTUS made it worse in 2010 with Citizens United, and now this. Why not just allocate votes based on how much money someone has? Because that's essentially what they're doing here, by saying an individual with financial means can essentially purchase their candidates of choice in any particular race. It's an absolute smack in the face to democracy, such as it is in this country. Something I read the other day said that America is going to be destroyed by the apathy of the left and the ignorance of the right. That struck me as true when I read it, and even moreso after this decision. I am concerned about the 2014 midterms, because traditionally Democrats tend to sit them out, while Republicans show up in droves. If the Dems fail to retake the House that's bad enough, but if they also lose the Senate then the next few years will be simply horrible, and if anything at all gets accomplished it will all be steps in the wrong direction. So, a lot like now. But worse.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
20140316-IMG_7872

Not too many photos from this past weekend, really. Unfortunately I've been fighting one or more illnesses.

Saturday I woke up feeling mostly okay, just a little bit sour in the stomach--I attributed it to my allergies, swallowing too much of the goop my sinuses just love to produce (eww, I know). The plan for the day was to head over to the coast to my Mom's and then to meet up with my grandmother, but I thought I'd better call Mom first to see if everything was still a go. Good thing I did, turned out g'ma wasn't feeling well and wasn't much up to socializing anyway. She recently turned 89, so these things happen. So we cancelled that plan and went to Plan B, which was the plant sale at Leu Gardens. Alas, we got too late a start for that and the parking situation had already become absolutely insane, which turned us away. So on to Plan C, which was a stroll around a downtown park we like and then lunch. In my fuzzy-headed brilliance I brought my camera but had neglected to make sure it had a memory card, and my bag had no spare (something I have now rectified), so no photos there. By this time I was feeling decidedly not-right, and when we headed home after that I started feeling feverish and got chills. So I ended up taking a 3-hour+ nap with Amy while Heather went ice skating with the older girls. Even after the nap I still felt bad, so the evening was pretty much a waste too.

Sunday I woke up feeling significantly better--bugs for us tend to be of the 24-hour variety, which is nice--but still not 100%. I still had a family photoshoot booked for the evening, so I wanted to take it easy and conserve my energy for that. So we thought we'd go check out Mead Garden, a park that we hadn't been to for years. It was very nice and the girls liked it very much, but we were disappointed to see that they STILL haven't gotten around to repairing (replacing, really) their boardwalk, which was very nice until the 2004 hurricanes came through and knocked some trees onto it. The part that was closed last time we went was still closed, and the rest is in dire need of replacement too. I hope that's on their agenda somewhere, because it's really a nice place otherwise.

The photoshoot went well--it was my usual, an extended family reunion/vacation down around Disney. They were staying at the Bay Lake Towers, so that's where we did the shoot. I'd never checked that place out--it's essentially a new Disney Vacation Club section of the Contemporary Resort, right outside the Magic Kingdom. Looked quite nice, though there wasn't a lot of variety in the scenery. And for some reason they were one of those families who didn't want the photos to reflect that they were at Disney World, so they wanted things as natural as possible, no buildings in the pics. Kinda boring for me, but whatever the client wants, right?

So now it's Tuesday, and I still feel a bit off. The upset stomach went away, but I still seem to feel little twinges of feverishness, and now I also have sinus congestion and a sore throat. Last night, between the sore throat, thunderstorms rolling through, and the dog (who is terrified of thunderstorms) scratching at our bedroom door, I feel like I got hardly any sleep. The throat is feeling a little better, but not entirely. I hope tonight I get more sleep and maybe wake up feeling normal tomorrow!

Okay, a few more pics from the weekend. Clicky! )
This Thursday is when I'm supposed to meet up with the family from the Christmas wish radio thing I mentioned a while back! I'm looking forward to that too, should be fun and it looks like nice weather for it. Today I'm planning to cut out of work a bit early to go home and watch a movie and get some quiet time. Any suggestions?
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Pretty awesome, thanks for asking! :)

I feel like I didn't use it as much as I would have liked this weekend--as mentioned in my weekend update, we didn't do as much as we might have, and Sunday was mainly working around the house, so no photos in there. But I got a few, so consider this both a weekend photo recap and a lens review. :)

20140301-IMG_7001
This is the set of railroad tracks that carried shuttle parts and probably rocket fuel out to the Kennedy Space Center--so it's not used very much these days. The Hammock Trail paths cross the tracks, and I figured the girls would have fun walking along the rails and checking out the rocks of the track bed. Yep.

More! )

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