Saturday, January 22, 2011

Choosing a new nose.

This is my car. I love her dearly, but after an unfortunate incident with an SUV, she needs a little reconstructive surgery.

This is my sad car.

Occasionally in movies, you'll see a character obsessed with rhinoplasty. They carry around cards with various noses, trying to pick one. I think I may have become that cliche. With the hood, bumper and both headlights now being replaced, I have several options.

Option 1: Stock 997

Stock

Obviously this is a Boxster in the photo, but the front end would be the same. It would be a classy little facelift to the new style headlights.

Stock with Tech Art lip

But stock doesn't have to be boring. The supplier offered to throw in a free Tech Art lip if I choose the stock bumper. I'm not sure how it would look without the sideskirts, though.

Option 2: Gemballa GTO

Gemballa

Right now, this is my favorite. I love the scooped hood. It's a sporty, yet classy bumper. I like it a lot. However, this is just a Gemballa STYLE kit, not a true Gemballa conversion. This is the only option that is fiberglass instead of polyurethane and isn't Porsche parts. It looks beautiful in the photo, but I'm not sure how it would hold up in real life. That kind of scares me. Then again, either the front or the back of my car gets hit about once a year, so I'm not sure it matters.

Option 3: GT3

GT3

The GT3 bumper has been a popular upgrade for many Porsche owners for over a decade now. However, when it comes to that black vent, I can never decide if I love it or hate it.

Option 4: Turbo

Turbo

Yes, the turbo is cool. Those LED turn signals are also incredibly cool -- and incredibly expensive. Unfortunately, I don't think there's room in my budget to even pose as a turbo.

I've got to make a decision by Monday. Do I metamorphasize my car while it's having work done or do I just restore it. I can never decide.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How to write with light!

Ever wonder how to make cool long exposures, double exposures and light writing with a digital camera?

Question?

Here's a quick tutorial I put together using the Leica X1.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Reminder: Filter adapter and macro converter for sale

Just a reminder there's only a couple days left on this auction for one of my Leica X1 adapter tubes with a macro adapter and M-style lens hood.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=270690945365&ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT

Custom Leica X1 macro converter for sale

This is a macro shot I took with it last night.

Thirsting for spring

Dealing with strange eBay lens sellers who are frequently bitter about selling me their old lenses at low-ball bids and competing with the Chinese who now have an adapter available on eBay for $23 has pushed me out of the business, so this is probably the last one I'm selling.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

LFI Master Shots

I finally made it into the Leica Fotographie International (LFI) Master Shots gallery on the LFI site and iPhone app. I'm not sure why the powers that be at LFI chose the particular shot they did. It's a good shot, but I think some of my portrait work is better.

LFI Gallery

I get the feeling that Leica wants to portray the X1 as a camera only capable of landscape, vacation and family photos. Kind of like the way the M is only portrayed as a gritty street camera good for shooting soldiers in battle or homeless people. They also never show the S2 shooting anything except fashion.

In a way I feel like the X1 is the unwanted stepchild of the Leica brand. While it's referred to as a reporters camera and it has a better sensor than the M8, it's still not eligible to compete in LFI's "picture stories" competition. I'd dare say that the X1 probably has better built-in glass than most people can afford to put on their M8s as well, yet the M8, which isn't even in production is still considered an upgrade. Let's not forget that most photographers that could afford the X1 can't afford to buy a new M. By maintaining M system exclusivity with things like the picture story contest, Leica is sending potential customers to the second-hand market, which makes absolutely no revenue for the company.

Meanwhile, it has been over a year since the introduction of the X1 and we still haven't recieved the promised firmware update whereas the S2 has been updated. Could I see a spreadsheet comparing the number of $30k S2s sold versus the number of $2k X1s, please? If you're going to entice me to buy into the more expensive M system, it's going to be through excellent customer service and support, not by treating me like a second-class customer. Porsche does not treat Boxster owners any differently than they do 911TT owners and for good reason -- they sell a hell of a lot more Boxsters than they do turbos and many of those Boxster customers eventually become turbo owners.

I won't even go into the lack of X1 product and accessory availability. It's next to impossible to find a 36mm Brightline viewfinder, the six-months-ago-soon-to-be-available digiscoping adapter is still MIA, and if there were decent macro and teleconverters being produced, I wouldn't be logging the hundreds of click per day to my DIY instructions on this blog.

That being said, if you want to enjoy my gallery (and some horrible German-to-English translation) on the LFI web site, you can visit it at http://gallery.lfi-online.de/gallery/index.php?cat=19235

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sorry, I need to bitch

I got backed over at a stoplight on the way home from work. I know, you're asking, how the hell did you get backed over while sitting stationary at a stoplight on your way home from work?

I was sitting in a left-hand turn lane, minding my own business, just waiting for the light to turn green. Suddenly the reverse lights on the Ford Escape in front of clicked on. I was confused. Was someone stuck in the intersection?

There was a car behind me. I couldn't back up. I laid on the horn. The Ford Escape kept coming ... and coming ... and coming. Next thing I know, he's parked on my hood.

Jacked up bumper and hood

Apparently the driver realized he needed to be over in the right lane, so he was backing up to pull out of the left lane and get over. Unfortunately, he couldn't see me in the rearview mirror. Thankfully, the car is still runing, and the driver did have insurance.

This is the third time in three years that I've been hit while sitting at a stoplight or parked.

Once I finally made it home I found a big manila envelope sitting on my porch. I was excited to see it was a portrait lens I'd won on eBay. I was not excited to see that the seller had mailed it in a manila envelope.

Not only was the casing dented from the lens being dropped, but a pretty little snowflake had formed on the cracked inner element.

Broken Glass Snowflake

Who would mail a fragile camera lens in a manila envelope?!!!

Thankfully the seller has agreed to refund my money, but this just hasn't been my day.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Just a few clicks away from retirement

I try most new tech. I've got to stay on top of what's trending and look at how to integrate new forms of communication and social media into marketing and public relations.

I think it was a year or so ago (maybe longer) that I went ahead and joined Google's Adsense program. I figured, why not see how it works? Maybe this is going to help bloggers make some money. I was patient. I knew I wouldn't become a millionaire blogger overnight, but I finally checked in on it.

Yeah, it's a bit of a joke -- especially since you don't get paid until Google owes you over $100.

My retirement plan

I'm trying to decide if I should just shut it off and spare my readers the ads or if I should keep it going. I think I'll keep it going, and if I should ever reach 25 cents per day, I'll call Sally Struthers and sponsor a child with my blog proceeds.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Custom Leica X1 macro converter kit for sale

I'm auctioning one of my custom macro converter kits for the X1 on eBay.

Custom Leica X1 macro converter for sale

The kit includes an adapter tube that lets the X1 accept 52mm filters. The macro converter is made of quality Canon glass and allows focusing at 6 inches from a subject for superb macro shots. An M-style round hood is included for use on the adapter when shooting in bright situations.

cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=270690945...

Teleconverter adapter is finished

As you know, I finally had success in creating a high-quality teleconverter for the Leica X1 last week. I spent the weekend creating an adapter to attach it to the camera.

Once again, I started with a Nikon UR-E8 adapter since it's already threaded to fit the X1. However, this time I machined it down MUCH shorter to accomodate the way the teleconverter's casing needed to fit down over the Leica X1 lens.

Leica X1 2X teleconverter

Leica X1 2X teleconverter

I haven't had a chance to paint the adapter yet because I've been playing with it too much. However, this week I should have time to get it painted and looking nice. I also found three similar lenses on eBay, so if anyone is interested, drop me a line, and we'll talk pricing.

Update: I actually shot the entire 2011 Houston Art Car Parade using the teleconverter. You can check out the results here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ffacker/sets/72157626658792693/

Friday, January 07, 2011

An interesting proposition

An old friend contacted me last night to ask if I knew of any kind of laptop computer dust shields that could keep sand out of the nooks and crannies if someone was using their computer at the beach or in the desert. As the story unfolded, apparently it wasn't for her but for a DJ in South Africa who uses her computer to perform at shows and parties held in the middle of the desert.

I instantly imagined her to look something like this:
(Image borrowed from Deviant Art user PinkPanterrr. Check out his/her gallery.)

I told her that if she'd send me detailed photos and measurements of the laptop, I'd make some kind of sealed protective casing with auxiliary cooling fans for her at cost. We'll see what happens.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Liquid Crystal Reading Glasses!

I hate re-blogging other blogs, but I'm not at CES. I saw this article on Gizmodo this morning featuring PixelOptics Liquid Crystal Glasses -- they use electrical impulses to refocus. The application here is obviously to switch between normal glasses and reading glasses, but could you imagine cameras with lenses that don't need to move to focus or zoom?!

http://gizmodo.com/5726165/pixeloptics-liquid-crystal-glasses-make-bifocals-obsolete

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Sorry, but today you're getting shafted

I'm too busy to blog. I'm in the middle of editing and paginating a newsletter that's already overdue, my sister had a baby yesterday (Grace, 7lbs, 15oz), and I'm desperately trying to understand the 2011 FICA employee tax reduction, so I can send out an announcement about it. I know it has dropped to 4.2%, but apparently there's some other rule that goes into effect once you make over $200k. I'm not sure. Still researching.

So that you don't feel too shafted that I have no words of inspiration or brilliance for you, here's a few photos from a shoot last week.

L1020120

L1020118

L1020144

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The curse of the whispering iPhone.

I've had three iPhones - the Edge, and two 3GSes. Each has suddenly and inexplicably had the microphone quit working.

The old silverbacked Edge was about 18 months old when I started playing the "Hello Game" with callers. It's played something like this:

Me: Hello.
Caller: Hello?
Me: HELLO.
Caller: HELLO?
Me: HELLO. CAN YOU HEAR ME?
Caller: HELLO?
Me: I'M HERE! HELLO. CAN YOU HEAR ME?!!
Click.

... aaaand scene.

I was hard up for cash at the time, so I limped it along with the earbuds constantly tangled in my pocket until I could afford a 3GS. Two weeks later I was playing the "Hello Game" again and back at the Apple store exchanging the 3GS.

The second 3GS just passed the 18-month mark. Last Wednesday I was making phonecalls. Then Thursday, nobody can hear me.

I have no idea what is causing the microphones to just drop out, but it's obviously a real issue. I conducted a few tests with the voice recorder and found that if I screamed directly into the microphone, I could faintly hear myself during playback.

My first step was to restore the phone just to make sure it wasn't a software problem. No improvement.

Step two was to vacuum the dock connector end of the phone. I figured that would pull any lint out and maybe dislodge lint that might have worked its way inside the phone. No help.

My last try before throwing in the towel and calling one of the questionable iPhone repair persons on Craigslist (I'm doing all I can to avoid buying the iPhone 4 and extending my AT&T contract another 2 years) was to spray a few bursts of CRC electronics cleaner up throught the microphone grill. I made a test recording -- slight improvement. I gave the mic another few bursts with the spray and then left it to dry for a few hours.

VOILA! My whispering iPhone was healed! The answer to, "Can you hear me now?" was a loud affirmative.

Now the downside. I've sprayed CRC electronics cleaner into my phone before. When you do this, it gets behind the screen, and you see bright spots where it's wet. However, last time I left my phone off for an entire day and they had all disappeared by the time I turned it back on. This time, I kept my phone on. (I know, I shouldn't have, but my sister's having a baby any minute, and I've got to be able to take the random crazy calls from my mother.)A full two days after spraying the cleaner into the phone, I've still got strange bright spots on the screen.

iPhone screen dots

I have no idea if these are now permanent or if they'll go away with time. Either way I can live with it until either the iPhone 5 blows my mind enough to upgrade or I switch to Sprint and save $40 a month.

How to build a teleconverter for the Leica X1 (or any camera) from an old zoom lens

I've been working on this project for a couple months now, and I finally had a success. The problem with using standard teleconverters on the Leica X1, aside from them usually being low-quality crap, is that they generally have a rear diameter of about 37mm causing severe vignetting.

The idea behind a teleconverter for compact cameras or camcorders is that you not only have a small lens, but you have also zoomed it to capacity, which further reduces the field of view. Therefore, a 37mm rear diameter is usually enough. Not so with the X1. I've experimented with several zoom lenses but was unsuccesful until now.

Enter the Samigon 200mm 1:3.5 AUTO-TELE lens No. 35855. I picked this one up on eBay for $15.99 including the cost of shipping. Unfortunately, I don't even know what kind of camera it was made to fit. I was only familiar with the Samigon brand because I have an old Samigon zoom for my Canon AE-1.

How to build a teleconverter for the Leica X1 step 01

Unscrew the retaining ring at the top of the lens and remove the elements. It's easiest to put your finger over the end and then carefully turn it upside down on your workspace. Then unscrew the flared portion of the housing from the rest of the lens.

You'll need the three lens elements as well as the three metal pieces that fit the elements and the end retaining ring.

How to build a teleconverter for the Leica X1 step 02

Life would be far too easy if the X1 was able to focus through the elements without any modification. However, it just takes a little bit of rearranging to bring the three lenses close enough together to make it work.

Start by putting the medium-sized metal ring into the bottom of the flare case like this.

How to build a teleconverter for the Leica X1 step 03

Put the smallest element into the smallest metal ring, bubble side up.

How to build a teleconverter for the Leica X1 step 04

Carefully place the small metal ring and lens into the casing on top of the medium-sized metal ring.

Be careful not to smear the lenses with your fingerprints.

How to build a teleconverter for the Leica X1 step 05

Place the medium lens onto the small lens, bubble side up. Once again be careful not to get finger smudges all over the lenses.

Center up the lenses in the casing.

How to build a teleconverter for the Leica X1 step 06

Carefully place the largest element onto the medium element, bubble side up.

Be careful not to smudge the elements and make sure they are centered up and seat on one another.

How to build a teleconverter for the Leica X1 step 07

Set the remaining medium-sized metal ring on wide side down on top of the large glass element. Center it up the best you can.

How to build a teleconverter for the Leica X1 step 08

Screw the retaining ring into the threads on the casing until the glass is tight in the case.

The Leica X1 and all other cameras can now focus through the three elements creating approximately a 2X zoom.

In their original positions, the metal rings created small spaces between the glass elements. They had to be relocated, so that the glass could touch but that the combination still retained the approximate height, so that it would screw together tightly in the case.

How to build a teleconverter for the Leica X1 step 09

Take a test shot with your Leica X1 from a fixed location.

How to build a teleconverter for the Leica X1 step 10

Now place the teleconverter over the lens of the X1 and take the same shot.

See any difference?

How to build a teleconverter for the Leica X1 step 11

(Mounting and adapter construction coming soon. I'm tired tonight.)

Update: I actually shot the entire 2011 Houston Art Car Parade with the X1 and the teleconverter. You can check out the results here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ffacker/sets/72157626658792693/

Monday, January 03, 2011

Captain's Log: The first misadventure of 2011

Due to the overheating incident that cracked my heat exchanger and an ever-increasing end-of-year rush at work, the boat had been sitting unloved since the week of Thanksgiving. I finally had time over the break to make it down to the marina to re-install the JB Welded heat exchanger and do some maintenance.

Gusting palms

Thursday was overcast but in the mid-70s and was perfect for working on the boat. The water was up in the marina, and I really wanted to take her for a spin once the diesel was up-and-running, but we were having short rain showers, and another storm seemed imminent.

I returned Saturday ready to start the new year off with a cruise around the bay. It had seemed warm at the house, but the wind coming off the water shot a chill through my fleece pullover. I wasn't especially excited about a shivery trip with snot incessantly dripping from my nose and flipping across my face in the wind, but we'd driven an hour down to the marina. I wasn't going to waste the effort.

I knew the water level dropped in the winter and several friends with bigger boats had mentioned that they couldn't get out of the marina at certain times of the year, but I thought with our 4' draft, it didn't matter too much. I should have checked the depth of the water in our slip. I should have also checked the tide charts.

When I started reversing out of the slip, the boat wouldn't back up to the left. No matter which way I turned the wheel, we were backing to the right. This seemed rather strange since the Starwind usually steers very well backwards. No worries, though. We just backed into the channel, kicked the transmission over in forward and steered right.

We made it past the dock at the entrance to the marina and almost to the second channel marker when the boat just inexplicably stopped. I pushed the throttle lever forward as far as it would go ... nothing. I turned the motor off ... nothing. We weren't moving at all. We weren't rocking with the waves. I had lodged our keel in the mud.

Waiting on the storm

As I looked out onto Clear Lake, I noticed there was not a boat to be seen on the water.

My brother blamed my piloting as he was sure the left side of the channel (which is only two boat-widths wide) was deeper than the right side, and I had obviously strayed too far to the right. I blamed myself as well, but for not checking the tide charts. I pulled them up on my phone, and sure enough, low tide was at 1:07 p.m. A look at my watch confirmed it was 1:15 p.m.

Everyone moved to the starboard side of the boat and leaned with the wind out against the railing. The boat leaned and bounced. I kicked the engine back on and coaxed it in a slow half-circle. We watched mud stir up in the water around us. A minute later, we were moving again back into the marina.

Wind from starboard

Ben voted to turn around again but stay left this time. I voted to call it a day because it wasn't getting any warmer, and even if we got out it didn't mean we'd be able to make it back in.

We grabbed a long lunch and checked the water depth again at 3 p.m. in hopes of a short cruise before it started getting dark, but the water was only an inch deeper. With that, we re-packed the sails and called it a day.

Thankfully, the days are getting longer. Hopefully it won't be too long before the water is high enough to cruise again.

Battened down

New Year's Resolutions

2010 was far from a bad year. I ended up in France three times. I wrote Boosting Business Communications on a Budget, which is still available on Amazon.com for only $2.99. I got back into photography as a creative outlet -- a hobby that meshes so much better with working long hours in an office than does playing guitar all night in bars. The sailboat was brought back to life. I put a new roof on my house. There was much learning. It was a productive year, but I've got a few goals for 2011.

Spinnaker sailing: Since our maiden voyage in May, we've been learning how to handle the boat. Now that we're pretty comfortable with the way things work, it's time to pull that spinnaker out of the closet and see how fast she can go!

Finish my book on boat repairs: Part of the deal I made with myself when buying the boat in 2009 was to document the progress, pitfalls, successes and comedy of errors that would accompany the restoration of the boat. I had five chapters finished in July, but I got busy with so many other things that I haven't written any since then. I will finish the boat book in 2011.

Enter an independent film competition: This is my most challenging resolution. I've wanted to write and direct movies for as long as I can remember, but when it comes time to put my money where my mouth is, I seem to be frozen by a combination of procrastination, exhaustion and fear of failure. It's time to get motivated. I'm not sure what I'll shoot. I have two scripts that have been sitting around for five years now, but I might right something new. Who knows? I just need to do something.

I do feel a slight tinge of guilt that none of my resolutions have to do with curing cancer or helping my fellow man. However, I'll continue to share all the knowledge and experience I acquire while undertaking these pursuits. Maybe that will help somebody.