Focus on innovation

Anyone who's spent time in both the traditional and digital darkrooms knows that the freedom afforded to photography by digital electronics has completely changed the landscape of photography both as an art and a craft. Photography has become affordable and less time consuming. Pixels are free, as they say, and the nature of a digital medium means more time can be spent behind the lens and less time behind an enlarger and chemical baths.

One of the major leaps forward that digital technology allowed for was the ability to change ISO on the fly. Suddenly encountering a low-light situation can be compensated for with the turn of a thumb-wheel. This feature meant far less missed opportunities due to the speed with which one can change sensor sensitivity compared to swapping out a roll of film.

While digital advances allow for less time in the darkroom, they also mean new creative abilities in the digital darkroom. The current generation of digital imaging devices allow the user to change the color temperature of an image since the RAW data can be captured and manipulated in postproduction. The future of photography will produce even more creative freedom. As this video demonstrates, microprocessors now have the ability to handle so much information that we can shoot an image which contains far more information about the captured scene than ever before. When we keep this information and manipulate it through software, the image can take on many new forms.

More after the video…

I made two points earlier that may seem to be a bit contradictory:

1. Digital photography allows more time behind the lens and less time in the dark room
2. Digital photography allows for more creative choices in the digital darkroom

but I’d like to drive home an important point in regards to these statements: The Digital medium removes procedural tasks from the photographic process and provides additional opportunities that film simply can’t offer. Just like film speed (ISO), focus will become more controllable. Missed opportunities become beautiful captured moments via a slider on a GUI. I don't believe, however, that focus manipulation will be limited simply to correcting human error. Take the advent of HDR processing and the extended dynamic range of modern sensors for example. By capturing an extended range of luminance, a whole new kind of image is created. Processing a photo often times leads to a different interpretation of how the moment was originally visualized. Or, in the case of HDR, how the moment can possibly be visualized by the human eye. Focus can now be one of the tweakable variables in that creative process.

Certainly there are purists who will insist that such so-called advances will only promote laziness in photography. They're probably right, but let the lazy laze and let the creative create.


Engineering Communication and DSM

How does it work and how do I tell people? This guy knows. He wants to tell you. Bill Hammack wrote a pretty killer (and free) 68-pager on effectively communicating as an engineer, particularly using new media.

I stumbled over this book after getting back from a party where someone asked, "How does that work?" This was in reference to the all too familiar force we all know and love: Gravity. I find that people in the scientific/technological community are at a loss for words when it comes to effectively communicating scientific and technological principles. After that encounter, which resulted in a mediocre attempted at explaining classical Newtonian physics and general relativity, this book was well-received.

Why Engineers Need to Grow a Long Tail also hit home for me because I'm very interested in demand side management. In a nutshell, it's the idea that energy demand can be lessened through efficiency measures and public education. The fifth chapter gave two hypothetical case studies, one of which was centered around the electricity grid. Interfacing with the electricity grid is one of the main challenges associated with incorporating renewable energy into our lives. It's also one of the main communication challenges an engineer faces when asked why the intermittent nature of renewables is a problem.

Hammack describes the concept of Citizen Engineering as a useful educational tool for the public and an effective information gathering tool for power engineers. The idea is analogous to programs which monitor ecological activities through collecting data contributed by volunteers. Just this summer I took part in a workshop which educated volunteers so that they could collect samples, identify specimens, and contribute to the maritime butterfly atlas. The same principle which is already applied to variety of ecological studies can be employed by engineers. In the power grid scenario, the end-user has the ability to monitor their own power usage and strain on the grid. With the rising popularity of Feed-in Tariffs resulting in more local, small scale renewable power projects, this sort of data is very beneficial for the engineers who need to accommodate these sources (Which they do need to do.) Also, something that's just as important (if not more) is the sense of knowing that is afforded to the people participating in such a project. Monitoring one's own strain on the grid gives the user a much better idea of how their lifestyle affects it.

Hammock's comments on engineering in society and youth involvement are very refreshing! He also makes makes Bill-Nye-esque youtube videos which are definitely worth a watch.


Photons 'n stuff

Just before the Christmas break I suddenly became very interested in the wonderful world of image recording devices, specifically lomo photography. Most of us have used a camera, but few people know how it works and what all those things on the dial mean, which is unfortunate because it's fascinating!

I purchased two cameras to get started: a
Holga 120N from ebay with a cable release ($40) and a used Canon Rebel GII from Kijiji ($80)

A friend of mine stumbled me a link to the whites stripes web site where they have special edition Holgas for sale. They had a lot of sample photos that were really neat. Holgas are known for being terrible cameras. They were made in the 80s by a chinese company but failed in the consumer market because of their blurry images that frequently exhibited light leaks. That's all part of the charm though. A lot of people that shoot on a holga are into new and experimental photography. These are a few of the common "mods" that I have tried out. They allow for some pretty neat and unconventional photos.

35mm film

This shot was created by putting 35mm film in the holga (its native format is 120). A good tutorial can be found here.

Cross Processing

Cross processing is when you develop one type of film in the solution typically used for another. For example, this was slide film shot in the Holga and developed in regular color negative film. This method usually yeilds greater contrast and saturation than with regularly processed film, as well as a dramatic color shift in some cases. There are plenty of great Flickr groups out there with all kinds of xpro shots.


This is achieved simply by removing the mask from the Holga so that it no longer produces crisp edges.

Nowadays, you can see lomoheads and hipsters the world over with these plastic beauts. They're cheap, come in a wide variety of colors, and when you're toting an eye-catching analogue camera around your neck at a party it makes people think, "gee whiz, so and so sure is trendy." And that's just swell.

By far though, the best thing I got out of the Holga is a greater understanding of photography. Since it is such a terrible camera, you have to know how it works to take decent shots. That means you have to understand it's relatively narrow aperture (~F8) and quick shutter speed (~1/110) means you need to take a few measures to properly expose your subject. That can include manually determining shutter speeds in low light, using a flash, picking the right film speed, etc.

My flickr
A great way to understand exposure
Holga know-it-all


Pleasure machine

Last summer I spent a lot of my time designing and assembling one sexy hunk of wood. I had two guitars before starting this project: an Epi Les Paul and a Squier fat Strat. As any guitarist knows, these are the low-end versions of the most iconic electric guitars ever built. Having played these, and a variety of other guitars, I embarked on a journey to design a guitar that was both aesthetically and functionally beautiful. Of all the guitars I had played I still loved the feel of my good ol' Chinese strat. The pups were noisey and harsh, tuning machines were cheap and didn't stay in tune, and the countless layers of black paint and poly-U were chipped and cracked. I thought I'd use the body of this beast for familiarity's sake and for sentimental reasons. This post is a rewritten account of what was presented in this forum. Enjoy!

I've been playing for about four years now and I decided a while back to sell one of my guitars and an amp to rebuild my squier strat (first guitar). So, armed with $350 and a computer, I threw together a couple of models and made a few investments (soldering iron, wire, wood, all that jazz).
The first few pics show it with a rosewood pickguard. I later found out after visiting a hardwood specialty shop that I would have to sell my soul to pay for a good chunk of Indian rosewood, so on my way home I picked up a 2'x4' oak veneer at kent for $3. The knobs are going to be boxwood dome knobs, and all the hardware is going to be gold. although, I'm going to try to carve a jackplate out of a piece of oak...Which probably wont work. but it would certainly look neat . Pups will be cream hot gold lace sensors, and the controls will function as follows: master volume, master tone/passive overdrive push/pull pot, and a blender pot. all 500k pots, standard 5-way switching, and a 0.022uF tone cap + volume kit.






This is my first attempt at making a pick guard. it went okay. That wood chips like something horrible though. I've made three since then, and several neck plates and trem covers


Back side with neck plate and incomplete trem cover. I think I'm going to put some gold string ferrules in there.


That's all so far. Still have to buy lots of parts. I doubt the neck plate will work at all if I leave it like that. What I'd really like to do is take the veneer off the plywood, glue it to the neckplate, then put the Fender "F" on there with gold leaf.

This is a schematic of the wiring I did a while ago. Pretty sure the wiring for the switch is wrong, don't remember, but it gets the point across. I took a picture of my white board, so it's not too clear. The Blender pot has six leads, black is top, blue is bottom. red things are caps, green thing is a resistor, and the black box is the overdrive thing.


The program I used is called Rhino3D (http://www.rhino3d.com/). Any 3D modeling app is a great start to any design project. if you're not sure how your car will look with that new spoiler and hot pink paintjob, you can always model it first


I just got my neck and pickups from Warmoth. Still have to wait a while for the hardware (gold vintage tuners, bridge, screws, maple bell knobs), but I thought I'd put this up here. I've decided to finish it with tru-oil to keep it as raw feeling as possible, but protected.


Those gold frets are mighty high and narrow (0.090"x0.055"). A LOT taller than the frets on the squier neck. It'll take some getting used to, but I'm pretty excited to try it out. While this guitar was in pieces I attached a piece of plywood to one of the pick guards that didn't turn out so well and stuck a humbucker in there. Played pretty good for an electric pickguard!


I've changed my mind about the wiring. I am going to use the passive overdrive, but it'll be a little different. One push/pull pot will turn it on, and another will switch between symetrical and asymetrical clipping. It's a mod of this, which is a mod of the black ice overdrive. and I'm thinking of making a varitone instead of using a blend pot. Anyone ever make one of these/find them useful?

Okay, finishing is done. Couldn't find any tru-oil, so I went with Minwax tung oil finish. It's oil, varnish and mineral spirits, the closest thing I could find to tru-oil. I ended up guilding my nut because the white stuck out a lot. I just threw it together for a test fit, and to see how everything looks. still need to drill the tuner holes a little bigger, so they're not in there yet.
I had to rout the cavities a little deeper because I dreamed up this complicated wiring with two push/pull pots and a six way rotary switch.

Pushpot 1:normal (parralel wiring)/series wiring (all three in series, neck and bridge in series)
Pushpot 2: middle pup out of phase

Rotary switch:
2-neck in
3-coil shunt
4-asymetrical clipping
5-symmetrical clipping
6-Kill switch, maybe?

This should give me a total of something like 39 different sounds, all within what looks like a normal strat.






The wiring worked the first time, no problem, which made me very happy because it was hell to wire. The two p/p pots were facing each other and I had to fit wires, two orange drop caps, and a resistor onto 18 lugs within a little more than an inch (tweezers came in handy).



I'm taking it into music stop tomorrow so that they can adjust the intonation and action, because I have no clue what the hell I'm doing with truss rod and saddle adjustment. Other that that, She's done.

NOTE: Adjusting the truss rod and saddles is not that difficult or dangerous. after I got it back from musicstop I found that not only was it not done properly, but I was out $60. Just take your time with it and you'll be okay.


neck - $208 pups - $150 (on clearance)
GUITAR PARTS RESOURCE - bridge, tuners, picks, misc parts - $281
STEWMAC - electrical components, hardware (screws, jackplate, etc) - ~$200

All and all...too much. There's stuff I got along the way like a soldering iron, poly-U, tung oil, gold leaf, other tools and stuff, but it's stuff I'll use in the future, so it's all gravy. Probably around $1000 in the end. Which isn't bad, it was my entertainment for three months. Plus I got to learn everything there is to know about passive guitar electronics. If I ever run into some cash I'd like to go for a second build.


One man's trash

One of the great things about being a student living on your own is the inherent creativity involved in making your house feel like home. We don't have money for those fancy "bed frames" made of "real wood". Since the dawn of student dept students have been propping their beds up on milk crates, using industrial cable spools as kitchen tables, hell, when I moved into my house the walls were adorned with construction signs.

This weekend I made two pieces of decor that only cost me a roll of heavy duty twine, and here's how!

When I left Good ol' O'Brien hall in April I found six skateboard decks in the garbage. They weren't broken, but heavily used. I figured there's got to be something that you can make with skateboards, so they sat in my father's basement for several months...

The other day when I was coming home (on garbage day) I found a mirror on the side of the road. After that I did what anybody with six skateboards and a mirror would do: Said, "Shit, son, I've got too much garbage in my house." Then Put them in my closet for later use.

I tried to put up my mirror, but not only did it look ridiculous, it didn't have any way to fasten to the wall. I needed a frame so that I could hang it somewh- A FRAME I'LL MAKE A FRAME! But not just any frame, a ROUND frame made of SKATEBOARDS.

Step 1: Design
The first problem was how to make the largest ring possible with the materials that I had. An optimization problem, essentially. To solve it I made a set of formulas that would calculate the length of each side of the trapezoids that make up the ring relative to the number of pieces being used and the radius of the ring. If trigonometry isn't your bag, you can download a spreadsheet here to work it out.


For those that want to know, the equations used are below


Where Θ is 360/number of pieces

I had to play around with the numbers a bit to find a size that didn't require me to cut at an angle of 13.15982 or something equally impossible. You have to keep in mind that you can only cut about 12 inches of the middle of the skateboard (within the wheelbase), after that the contour changes and pieces wont fit together uniformly when you put them together. You'll also run into the holes for the trucks.

Step 2: Cut!
Pretty simple. Just make your cuts. if you don't have an electric mitre saw you can use a mitre box and hand saw. Or if you have a lot of patience, draw a line and cut with a hand saw. Or, if you're Chuck Norris, use precision round house kicks.
On the topic of precision, mitre saws are not. If I had to guess they're probably accurate to within +- 1 or 2 degrees. If you're cutting a lot of pieces at small angles (like I was) your wedges are not going to be identical. This means that at the end you will have to compensate, probably by adding an extra piece, which is what I did. If you have some extra wood you could make practice cuts and find where on the saw the right angle is.


Step 3: Glue
Glue that shit together.

Step 4: Drill
Once the glue has dried you should be able to handle it. WITH CARE. Wood glue is strong, but it is by no means ready for a game of skateboard ring Frisbee. Put it on top of some scrap wood or on a floor that is impermeable to drills...Drill four holes in each piece. One at each corner. You could measure these, but I didn't want to mark 100 holes so I just eyeballed it.

Step 5: Sew
This isn't your grandmother's sewing with little needles. This is hard ass MAN sewing with NAILS and twine that smells like old people basement.
There are probably many ways to do this. I cut a very long piece of twine, about three times the circumference of the ring. On each end I tied a nail. String it through the first hole. Bring the ends together and put half the length on each side of the hole. Sew all the way around with one length and all the way around with the other (same direction).



Step 6: The mirror
I don't have any pictures of the mirror being attached, but it wasn't anything special. Since there are holes all the way around the ring I tied the mirror to the back using more twine. I did this by making an X on the back and tying knots on the ends to keep it there. There's probably a much safer way to do this, but this worked for me.



While I was on my way home to build this, I found four shutters on the side of the road. I took them home and made a planter for a trunk (Also, destined for the landfill)



While doing this I searched the web trying to find inspiration and a purpose for these old skateboards. The only use for skateboards I could find was for handbags and ear rings, but I did find a lot of handy sites all about reusing and recycling. It's exciting to see such a large community developing that is all about DIY projects, ones that often times rely on reusing materials, thus keeping them out of landfills and reducing consumer demand. It's a beautiful thing! Make your own furniture and decor from trash! Show me! Enjoy!

Great Green Goods
How Can I recycle this?
Green your...
Ecolect Blog: skatewear
And last but not least, Instructables.

As for acquiring material,
Freecycle (free stuff)
Kijiji (Cheap stuff)
Craigslist (more cheap stuff)
Dumpster (One man's trash...)


I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike

This blog was assembled from a stockpile of free time, sewn together with threads of nothing better to do, and shellacked with a few coats of sought approval from anonymous internet personalities. I suspect it will be equal parts internet-based portfolio as well as a forum for all the delightful things that pop into my head and/or onto my screen. This week the topic is bicycles!

What did Freddie Mercury want to ride? I'll give you a hint: It's hard, strong, and gets around... That's right, he wants to ride his bicycle, he wants to ride his bike. I couldn't agree more with the Queen frontman's desire to hop on a finely tuned, two wheeled piece of machinery. Up until recently I've been riding cheap, pre-owned mountain bikes from local shops. That was until a trip to the grocery store with my roommate. He was riding a single gear Trek Soho S and I couldn't keep up! I hadn't realized the benifit of those narrow wheels and lightweight frame. A few days later I went to the bike shop and had them assemble my own Soho 1.0 and took it for a test ride. What a beautiful machine! I immediately felt my stomach sink when those 900 precious dollars left my bank account, but it was well worth it, even after flying over the handle bars at an intersection just a week after the purchase.

sprained wrist from intersection incident)

My love for this mass of rubber and aluminum stems from many interests. I think the two most inportant reasons to ride a bike are to stay in shape and to support sustainable transportation. There's no greater feeling than passing a line of automobiles stuck in traffic, knowing that you're going to be home before them, and instead of burning petrol your burning fat. I don't know if I'd call myself a "Cyclist". I don't parade around in a spandex onesie and ride across the country, but it is my main form of transportation and I think Halagonians need to consider a bicycle to be just that: a mode of transportation. Bikes are not just for Lance Armstrong and the weekend adventurer. Far too often do people hop in their car to travel to a friends house or to pick up their favorite Queen album at the record store. Ride a bike! Get in Shape! Reduce your emissions! Have fun!


Maiden post

Hello blog viewing community. Today I wont be sharing any wisdom. don't worry though, you'll soon experience the wisest shit on the internet. I've yet to decide how my blog will be arranged, but hopefully tomorrow night I'll put on the old HTML editing cap and get to work. Then y'all can bask in its aesthetic glory. Until then you'll just have to do your basking some place else.