Sunday, January 6, 2019

Camera Things (Part 1)

Man...It's be like forever - almost 2 years, really - since I've done a blog entry.  There's been a Sunshine Community Garden plant sale and everything (spoiler alert: I bought too many tomatoes and they only produced a handful).

Anyway, today's blog entry is brought to you by Roberta's Camera, El Presidente.

El Presidente got sick about a month ago so he was sent off for treatment.  Now he's back, but there's a new stud in town (Pincay) so he's been relegated to second fiddle.  Because I always talk about how I need a better camera than my trusty ol' Rebel XTi, Roberta offered to loan me El Presidente with one of her lenses so I could play around and determine if I really wanted a new camera. 

I haven't done a "camera" test yet, but I did do a "lens" test the other night.  I used El Presidente with different lenses to see what type of difference a lens makes.  The lens I borrowed is a 70-300 IS lens.  The IS stands for "Image stabilization." That means that it tries to account for you moving ever so slightly while taking a photo so that you get a clear photo instead of a blurry one.  I have a 70-300 lens, and Shawn has a 70-300 lens so I put them all to the test.

All three lenses have autofocus on them, though Shawn's is a pain in the ass and you really have to use manual to get it close, then switch it to auto so it actually will focus.  In any case, while I took a bunch of photos, the ones on the tripod looked about the same, and the ones where IS was turned off on Roberta's also looked about the same, so instead I'm only showing the three photos that demonstrate why you either a) want to use a tripod when taking photos at full extension (i.e. at 300 or b) why you want an IS lens.

As mentioned above, because Shawn's lens doesn't really autofocus, I decided I'd use Manual focus for these photos.  Aperature (how much light is let in) was set to 5.6 for all the photos (meaning that the background should be kinda fuzzy).  The shutter speed was set to automatic, but ended up being at 1/20 of a second for all three photos.  Usually, to cut down on motion blur (i.e. the camera moved), you want your speed to be 1/your distance - that is, I had these all set to 300, therefore I should have set my shutter speed to be 1/300 to cut down on motion blur.  Unfortunately, because it was dusk, I didn't really have the luxury of setting my shutter speed faster (unless I changed the ISO - i.e. film "speed" - it's why they always used to tell you "use 400 speed film when photographing sports, 100 if you're doing portraits")

The lens line up:  My lens (on camera), Roberta's lens, Shawn's lens

First up: My lens at full extension (300) attempting to take a photo of our formerly feral cat, Stripsie.  As you can see - terribly out of focus.  This is worse than normal - Shawn's lens is closer to what I expect, but you also will end up with a LOT of photos looking like this.  In this case, I probably didn't properly brace myself (bend the knees, engage your core, breathe in, breathe out, and as you breathe out, press the trigger - it's like shooting a gun, really)
300mm, 5.6, 1/20, ISO 320, lens= Canon 70-300 EF 4-5.6 III ($200)

As you can see, it looks a little washed out, but that's something that's easy enough to fix in GIMP (free photoshop)

a little better but still really bad.  The one thing to remember about photo editing - you can fix a lot of errors, but it's damn near impossible to fix 'blurry' so you really want to start with a crisp photo.

Shawn's lens
300mm, 5.6, 1/20, ISO 320, lens = Sigma 70-3004-5.6 APO Macro Super ($200)
Much clearer, but still a little on the fuzzy side.  That fuzz is from motion blur - I probably stabilized myself well, but you still have to depress that shutter button which moves the camera a little.  This is the type of stuff that can be fixed by using a tripod or monopod.

And with the level fixing: (btw, this is what happens when you click that little sun at the top of the screen on Instagram if you go into "edit" mode - and aren't using one of their pre-set filters - I believe they call it "lux")

Finally, we have the Image Stabilization lens.
300mm, 5.6, 1/20, ISO 320, lens = Canon EF 70-300 4-5.6 IS USM ($650)

As you can see immediately, the image is much clearer.  It's not actually 100% clear - there's still a little motion blur, but it's so much less than the other photos that it appears clear.  I also technically had this set to the wrong type of motion correction - I had it set to II, when I maybe should have had it set to I as II is to be used for when you're panning, vs when you're not panning to the side.

And with levels fixing:

So yeah if you plan to be using a telephoto lens, it really does make sense to pay the extra cash for an image stabilization lens unless you're going to use a tripod/monopod for everything.  As I said, the photo above is STILL blurry from motion blur, and the only way to fix that would have been to have either a faster shutter speed or use a tripod.

Next up: the different camera bodies: 
- Canon D30 (Shawn's. It may not even work any more - it's been probably about 10 years since it's been used if not longer)
- Canon Rebel XTi (Katina's)
- Canon 6D (El Presidente)
** Also, sometime in the last 20 years, Canon changed their lens mount so I may not be able to do my camera test like I want to anyway.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

2017 Sunshine Community Garden Plant Sale

The annual plant sale was huge this year, and they still had plenty of plants - the volunteers were on their game today and removed plant signs as soon as they were gone so I didn't really even notice if they were out of varieties.  Of course, I also tend not to plan when I go to the sale (except for how many plants I'm going to get).

This year, I pre-determined that I should only get 3 or 4 plants since I grew peppers, basil, and tomatoes from seed.  Roberta also stuck to her guns and only got 6 tomatoes.  Of course, having it be cold and rainy may have helped with this.  The tomatoes I got this year were all recommended tomatoes in the book, Epic Tomatoes.


Black from Tula - Heirloom - Deep, reddish-brown Russian beefsteak. Smooth skin, fairly heat-tolerant, can be a good producer. Delicious slightly sweet fruit, 8-12oz. Indeterminate. 78 days.

Coyote - Cherry - A yellow jewel-like cherry, that bears 6 to 8 on a branch. Very flavorful. Indeterminate. 75 days.

Nepal - Heirloom - 10-12 oz., medium-large, globe-shaped, bright red fruits are rather soft but meaty with excellent flavor. Plenty of old-fashioned tomato flavor. Indeterminate. 78 days.

Rosella Purple - Container - Dwarf, good for containers. Similar to Cherokee Purple for great flavor and 6-10 oz. deep-purple fruits. Determinate. 65 days.

Black Krim - Heirloom - Flattened 4-5" globes with dark greenish-black shoulders. Likes hot weather. Rich complex flavor, sweet-tasting fruit. Indeterminate. 75 – 90 days.

Cayenne - 75 days. Concentrated set of wrinkled, very pungent fruit, 6X1/4 inches. For sauces and drying.

Pasilla Bajio - 75-80 days. Good yields of 8-10 inch long fruit that are mildly hot and turn from green to dark brown when mature. Used to make smoky flavored sauces.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Spring Seed Starting

I usually start my spring seeds around the 1st of the year: new year = start yo' seeds, especially the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.  This is my second year using my seed starter set up - a shop light, 2 little Jiffy starter trays, and my textbooks (finally putting that Organic Chemistry book to good use). I also went through ALL my seeds, and boy were there a lot of them, selecting the oldest for use first. 

I'm a weirdo and will usually try to start my seeds in conjunction with a recommended day based on the Farmer's Almanacs.  Bob once told me the general rule of thumb for seed starting, but I don't remember what it is (it's probably something like between the first quarter moon and the full moon is the time to plant above-ground crops, and below ground from the full moon to the 3rd quarter moon and any seeds that need light to sprout should be planted on the full moon).

Seeds started:
Black Krim Tomato (from 2011)
Italian Roma Tomato (from 2011)
Long Red Cayenne Pepper (from 2009)
Red Demon Thai Pepper (from 2011)
Cossack Pineapple Ground Cherry (from 2012)
Custom Blend Basil (from 2010)
Pasilla Bajio Pepper (from 2016)
"Green Leaves" Renee's Black Jalapeno (from 2012)
California Poppy (from 2012 or so)
Elaine's Fennel (from 2010 or so)

As you can tell, I did start ONE seed that is new to me - the Pasilla Bajio Pepper which I found on clearance right before Christmas. 

It's been 10 days, and so far the tomatoes, basil, and Cali poppies have sprouted; the ground cherry, cayenne, red demon, and fennel are just starting to sprout.  The jalapeno and pasilla are doing absolutely nothing.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Gird your loins, kids; it's going to get cold.

That's right - we're in for a hard freeze tonight and tomorrow night with temperatures MAYBE reaching 40 on both Sunday and Monday if we're lucky.

I've gone out and covered the spigots, I've watered the plants well, I've even set up boxes with "keep hot/cool" bags inside for the cats (if they'll even use them), I've even brought in the hoses (which I never do), all that's left is stringing out some Christmas lights with some bed sheets for the plants and I think we're good to go.


My garden is technically comprised of items that are hardy, but the cauliflower is on the fringe so I figured I should cover everything - especially with the rest of the week having been warm

Christmas lights strung up with care and cauliflowers/broccolis covered with bed sheets and weighed down with rocks.

Friday, December 2, 2016

A (mostly) Blank Slate

After a few years, my Iris bed...drifted.  The irises didn't necessarily drift, but the Mexican Petunia sure did.

Here's a picture after I planted it in 2012:

And here's a photo after the first year:

And from December of 2014 (the last time I took a photo):

The petunias only got more out of control - like to the point where they were completely shading out the irises, so I decided they had to go.  The problem with the petunias, however, is that they can be a bit problematic to pull out because the stems break easily.  This means that the best way to get rid of them is to dig them up.  Considering that it had also been 4 years since I planted the bed, I figured it would be a good time to separate the irises anyway (those that had survived in any case).  All that to say that bed now looks like this:

Surprisingly (to me) it had more irises that were still good versus those that were bad which I'll replant in the area:

Since I think I need something a little taller in the back, I'll plant some milkweed (or really just dump some milkweed seeds in the back and hope they do well).

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Timmy and Coco Adventures: Argus Cidery Edition

In another edition of the Timmy and Coco Adventures, Roberta, Michael, Shawn (my husband), and I met up with Joel and Dion whom Shawn and I know through Shawn's XTERRA races at Last Stand Brewing for Chicken Shit BINGO.  To let Shawn catch up with Joel and Dion, Roberta, Michael and I went to Argus Cidery, which is just down the street.  I'm much more a fan of Cider than Beer so I thought it was a rousing success.

Cider being made

You can see Roberta's photos on her Instagram account here.  Photos are from October 16 (though I think Roberta didn't start posting photos until about a week later).  My favorite is the one Roberta took of me driving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016