Getting into night time photography


Salzhemmendorf Church at nightI woke up around 3:30 this morning and found myself wide awake with not a chance of going back to sleep anytime soon. So, since the sky was clear, I decided to finally do what I’ve been threatening to do for years, which is getting into night time photography.

Over the past few years I have seen so many great pictures shot at night with available light, and every time I saw a new one I thought, this is something I really like to try, but somehow I never got around to it. This morning I finally took the opportunity. When I realized that the night was clear I got dressed, grabbed my camera and tripod and headed down to the Salzhemmendorf church, which seemed like a good location to try this out. First of all, it’s not very far, and second of all, I like the castle-y look of it. It really fits this type of picture.

The result is far from what I’m hoping to get at some point, but I learned a few lessons. The most important one: Damn, we’re moving fast… No, seriously. The star movement is amazing. Brings to mind Monty Python:

Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at 900 miles an hour
That’s orbiting at 19 miles a second, so it’s reckoned
A sun that is the source of all our power

— Monty Python, “The Galaxy Song” from the movie “The Meaning of Life”

According to Wikipedia, it’s quite close.

So, what I really learned from this is that Continue reading Getting into night time photography

Guitar with new strings — Video

As promised, here are some videos with my old guitar and the new strings, the 13s that I put on yesterday. Sounds great…

The first one was even without the finger picks. Unbelievable how loud it suddenly is. Also, I tuned it down half a step; it’s now in E flat, so I’m actually in F sharp on this song since I didn’t put the capo on. That gives the guitar even more power. Of course, it also means I will have to play a lot of songs with the capo on the first fret now, but for this song it actually fits. It’s way more relaxed, the way this song should be sung.


“The Last Thing On My Mind” by Tom Paxton

Here’s another one, country strumming this time, also without a pick.

“You Are My Sunshine”

New strings — almost like having a new guitar

Trying out some new strings on my Washburn. I changed them in hope that I would finally like my guitar again. I thought I would after I put the Silk & Steel strings on, but that didn’t last; first of all, I couldn’t really play it with a pick or my metal finger picks anymore, and second of all, the fret noise I had been complaining about for a while was still there. Now that seems gone, and it also sounds great.

Other guitar players will probably hate me though… they’re 13s 😎 .
Which, of course, is the reason I wanted to try them in the first place. I wanted to know if that would solve the noise problem, and it did. Before I changed them I played Alan‘s Martin with the 13s for a bit to make sure I can actually play them, and I didn’t notice anything. I mean, of course I did, but it didn’t really make it more difficult. He thought it was a good idea, too; he said, it makes it a much better guitar. I think he’s right; it has a lot more power this way.

As an added bonus, no one else will want to play it now :P. (Well, except for Alan, of course; he’s been using that size forever on his Martin.)

I’ll post a video as soon as I have time to make one.

The Magic of Books

Books are magic.

Right now, I’m about one-third through Tad Williams‘ “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn — To Green Angel Tower: Siege”. I read this series two or three times in the German translation, now for the first time I’m reading in English. The last time I read them was quite a while ago, and I forgot how great they are. I just oredered part IV today.

I remember, when I held the English copy of “The Dragonbone Chair” in my hands for the first time a few weeks ago, it was like Christmas come early. It really is one of the greatest fantasy stories of all time, and it’s even better in English (no surprise there, I’m not exactly a fan of translations and only read them if the book was originally written in a language other than German or English.) The author’s language in the books is very poetic.

Anyway, there’s something about a great story well told that’s just… well, magic. How you get to know the characters as if they were real and you’d met them, and how you come to care for each and everyone of them… when the book ends it’s like having to say farewell to old friends. The one book I have read more times than I can count (as a matter of fact, I stopped counting after I read it for the 27th time) is The Lord Of The Rings, and there were times, when after finishing the last page I would turn the book around and start over.

There are other books that captured me with the same kind of magic (although none of them quite as strong as Tolkien’s books): Ralf Isau‘s Neschan trilogy, the Avalon books by Marion Zimmer Bradley, even the Harry Potter books; just to name a few. I don’t know what it is about books, but there is so much life in them that that sometimes it’s hard to believe they are just made-up stories.

If you don’t read, you won’t understand. If you do, there’s no explanation necessary.

Wacom configuration issues on Ubuntu 12.04

I just installed the Beta1 of Ubuntu 12.04 in a virtual machine because I’m soooooo curious. Also, I spent about an hour on the internet trying to find out how to configure the buttons on my Wacom Intous3 tablet. And yes, there is a connection between those two seemingly unrelated statements 😉

Since I just started to work with MyPaint, I’m using the tablet a lot more than I used to since I closed my business. I thought it would be nice to have those buttons (and the strips) available, so googled… and found nothing, at least nothing that worked with the 3.x kernel. Then I noticed that there is a “Wacom tablets” entry in the Gnome control center. Unfortunately, no tablet button configuration options are available:

Click to enlarge

So, out of curiosity I activated the tablet in my virtual machine with Ubuntu 12.04, and behold! there’s an option to “Map Buttons”…

Click to enlarge

Sadly, though…

Click to enlarge

There isn’t anything to configure there, the button list, which I’m assuming should be there, is empty 🙁 No right click options to add them, either, and I couldn’t figure out yet what the problem could be. Whatever it is, I hope this will get fixed by the time 12.04 gets released. It’s going to be really useful.

Getting back into drawing

I used to be quite good at drawing, but I haven’t done any serious artwork in over a decade. I’ve been threatening to get back into it for quite a while now — since we moved, in fact — but somehow I never got around to it. I tried a few times but ended up only wasting paper, and I lost patience rather quickly. It was so frustrating to look at the stuff that I used to do 15 years ago and then realizing I can’t do it anymore because I’m totally out of practice.

Then I discovered MyPaint, a digital drawing software to be used with a graphic tablet. I only started to work with it, but I can tell already that it’s pretty amazing. First of all, it’s really simple. You select a color and a brush and you’re ready to go. No complicated software to learn first, unlike with Gimp, Inkscape or Blender (all really great programs, don’t get me wrong, but it takes a lot more time to learn how to use them.) You can work with layers, which is great and definitely something you can’t do on paper. And you can select a background. Other than that, there isn’t that much to it — and that’s one aspect I really like about it. I appreciate a piece of software that does one thing and does it well.

The other thing that’s great about it is the selection of brushes that come pre-installed or can be downloaded from the official website. It allows you to cover pretty much every style available outside of the computer. If you’re into drawing at all, I definitely recommend to check it out. It’s FOSS (Free and Open Source) and available for Linux, Windows and Mac.

Also, be sure to check out the Gallery at deviantART. Not only does it show the capabilities of MyPaint, it’s also a showcase for art from some highly talented people. All I can say is, I hope one day I’ll be among them 🙂

Concept check

We’re planning to do a promotion video for Alan, and we had some ideas that needed to be tested on the technical level. To find out if my latest idea for the project can be done with the means at our disposal, I created this little video of me singing with… me 😉 The quality isn’t that great, but that’s mostly because I worked with webm files as a basis and there were several conversion steps involved. I didn’t want to create a giant project just for a concept check. Enjoy!

I have to admit, I was surprised how well this worked. Here’s how I did it: Continue reading Concept check

Causa Twitter and the state of “Free” and “Open” on the Internet

A blog post from Twitter published yesterday has fired up the censorship debate again. Right now, all over the internet people are discussing this, and the discussion doesn’t exactly show Twitter in a favorable light.

Reading other people’s comments on the subject and posting my own made me realize I have to write something on this other than just comments and replies.

For those of you who haven’t read the said post, here’s a little clarification of the issue at hand:

According to Twitter’s own announcement, the only change is in the addition of the technical means to block certain content only in certain countries, where said content would be illegal.
They give an example from Germany and France, explaining how pro-Nazi content is illegal in both countries.
Blocking content only for users in the country where it’s illegal is certainly an improvement over blocking it for everybody.
So, it’s not really a change in their policies.

Still, the heat of the debate is undeniable, and in light of other recent threats to a free and open internet it is also understandable.

However, I think an analysis is in order of where we stand today when it comes to Continue reading Causa Twitter and the state of “Free” and “Open” on the Internet