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Going to show that you never know what you’ll find at the thrift store…

July 30, 2017, 2:39 AM

It’s amazing what you find sometimes when you hit the thrift store.  Case in point, at Unique Thrift Store/Value Village in Hillandale Shopping Center, Elyse and I found this:

Elyse holds a "Big Mavica" type camera

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Exploring an abandoned house…

March 20, 2016, 7:21 PM

This past Thursday, Elyse and I explored an abandoned house in the Elkridge area of Howard County.  This was my first “real” venture into urban exploration, and also the first “operational” photo shoot with the new Nikon SLR.  I have had at least a casual interest in urban exploration for a long time, but never did a full-on exploration before.  The closest things to urban exploration that I had done prior to this were visiting the buildings on Afton Mountain on several different occasions (but not penetrating them very much, if at all, on any of these occasions), and also that relatively brief visit to Lorton Reformatory last year.  Elyse, on the other hand, has a good bit of experience over a number of years with urban exploration.  So I was in good hands here.  After all, Elyse clearly looked and acted like she knew what she was doing in Lorton, while I was more the clueless sidekick, as I didn’t know what I was doing, and was more or less unprepared for that one.

This time, I was ready.  I had a headlamp like Elyse had at Lorton along with a few other flashlights, plus, remembering the strong smell of mold at Afton Mountain, I brought a respirator that I used to carry in my backpack to protests back in my activism days, but never used in that context.  I also brought some rubber gloves so that I wouldn’t have to actually touch anything with my bare hands.  I didn’t know what had been growing on anything at that house, so the gloves gave me more freedom to actually touch things that I wouldn’t otherwise be willing to do.

We had to do a short, but mostly uphill, hike to get to the house, and here it is:

The house.

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Testing out a new camera…

February 28, 2016, 2:44 PM

So I finally got a new camera, with its arriving at the beginning of this month.  I got a Nikon D5300, and got a zoom lens along with it, as well as a new camera bag (i.e. I’m not going to use Big Mavica‘s old bag anymore).  I didn’t test a D5300 when I tested a whole bunch of cameras with Elyse, because it wasn’t available.  But I tested a number of different models around it.  While this one did everything that most SLRs do, this one also had a fliparound screen like the D5500 that I tested, but being an earlier model, didn’t have the price tag of the D5500.  It also had built-in GPS, which I find extremely useful, and that none of the cameras that I tested earlier had.

In case you weren’t aware, I contribute quite a bit to Panoramio.  You know how you see photos in Google Earth and Google Maps?  Panoramio is how a lot of those photos make their way in there.  You upload photos, and then you tag the location on a map.  The problem comes when I’m shooting a lot of photos in an area that I may not be very familiar with.  I’m talking about things like my trip to Richmond in 2013, various trips to Chicago, High Rock, and the like.  In those cases, the way I would typically shoot photos would be to take whatever photos with my real camera, and then grab my cell phone and take a quick reference shot.  The reason for this was that the phone had GPS, but my real camera didn’t.  That worked well enough, but it created extra work both onsite and in post-production.  Onsite, I had to take an extra photo with a different camera, and ensure that GPS had gotten a lock on the position.  Then in post-production, I had to coordinate the two photos, reading the tag on one photo in order to manually place the photo that’s actually getting published in the right spot.  If it sounds like a pain, it’s because it is.  Now that my real camera has GPS on it as well, everything has a location tag on it, which makes my life that much easier.

Also, since it’s come up before, a point of clarification: just because the camera has onboard GPS does not mean that the camera will give you directions.  GPS is a network of satellites operated by the United States government that provides location and time information to users with a GPS receiver.  It is not inherently a navigation system, though the way most people talk about it, you would think that it was.  Just thought I’d put that out there.

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Getting a “big boy” camera…

January 20, 2016, 1:44 PM

Last Thursday was a lot of fun.  I got together with Elyse, with the intent of getting some sample material to evaluate for the future purchase of a new camera.  This new camera will be a digital SLR, as I am quite confident that I have outgrown the “prosumer” level of camera that I have operated on since Big Mavica in 2002.  I discovered that in 2014 when I photographed Brighton Dam and Triadelphia Reservoir with a borrowed Nikon Coolpix P510.  The photos with that camera came out well enough, but other than a few extra pixels because of the higher resolution on that camera, I didn’t get any better features than my existing camera.

But first, after Elyse and I got together, we had lunch at Jimmy John’s.  I had a sandwich, and Elyse just had one of the day-old rolls that they sell:

Elyse eats one of the day-old rolls.

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Acceptance testing on a waterproof camera enclosure…

July 5, 2014, 9:33 PM

First of all, I had fun at the Outer Banks.  I’m going to leave it at that for now, though, because the whole trip is going to become a photo set for Life and Times, and so it’s going to come out, but the “extended Journal entry” treatment in Life and Times is what will do it the most justice.

That said, in preparation for the trip, I bought a waterproof camera enclosure, with the intention of taking photos in the water.  The idea behind the waterproof camera enclosure was to get Duckie, my Vivitar ViviCam 6200W, out of the picture.  Duckie, to put it nicely, has a very limited operating envelope.  It’s because the ISO is too low, as 200 is as high as it goes.  That means that when you take that camera underwater, you have to hold the camera very still to get clear pictures, unless you want to use the flash (which I don’t always want to do).  It became quite frustrating, and led to a lot of bad photos.  Basically, submerged handheld photos were a no-go under the vast majority of conditions.  It worked well enough outdoors and in daylight on land, but the pictures taken under those conditions have a slight red tinge to them, which is a pain to try to correct.  Plus it has no optical zoom, and the buttons were a bit stiff, with the latter’s making the camera’s use somewhat cumbersome.

Thus I got this to replace Duckie:

The new waterproof camera enclosure with my point-and-shoot camera inside.

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Categories: Cameras, Friends, Swimming

Infrastructure pix with a borrowed camera…

April 10, 2014, 9:34 AM

I have had my current main camera, a Canon PowerShot SX10 IS, for approximately five years and two months as of this writing.  The camera still works quite well, but is starting to get up there in age.  For one thing, the fliparound screen on the back of it no longer works when the screen is flat against the camera while facing out.  The electronic viewfinder comes on and the screen goes black when it’s in that position.  Go figure.  I’m also often finding myself “hitting the wall” with the camera as far as its limits go.  Some of the ways I want to go with my photography, the camera can’t go there with me because it doesn’t go far enough.  Also, if it gives you any concept of how much time has passed, I wrecked Big Mavica in a rainstorm after I had owned it for five years and four months.

All that said, I am looking to replace my main camera.  In this case, however, there is no camera damage forcing my hand.  My current camera works fine, though it is starting to show some signs of age.  And even if the main camera was kaput, I have two other cameras plus a phone as backup.  So this puts me in a good position, as there is no pressing need to replace equipment.  I also do not feel that I am currently in a position to upgrade, so running on existing equipment works just fine for me.

However, this doesn’t mean that I’m not trying out other equipment when I can.  I recently got an opportunity to borrow a friend’s Nikon Coolpix P510 and take it out for a photo shoot.  The Nikon Coolpix P510 is a “prosumer” level camera similar to my Canon PowerShot SX10 IS, but is newer and takes photos in higher resolution (16 megapixel vs. 10).  I did this mainly to see where the prosumer cameras had gone in the past few years, since I’ve been toying with the idea of getting another prosumer or finally going to a digital SLR.

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Categories: Cameras, Photography

And I now have a point-and-shoot camera…

June 6, 2011, 11:56 PM

So I now have four active cameras in my arsenal. I have my real camera, a Canon Powershot SX10 IS. Then I have my waterproof camera, Duckie, a Vivitar ViviCam 6200W. Then I have my cell phone, a Motorola Droid. And now I have a fourth: a point-and-shoot, a Canon Powershot A800. It’s there for when I want to take pictures of stuff in instances when my main camera is unavailable or impractical, like when I’m commuting to and from work, etc. This is something that I can put in my work bag or my pocket, and won’t need its own bag like the Canon. This is the kind of stuff that I would otherwise use my cell phone camera for (making this more of an upgrade over the cell phone camera), but I want to do better quality and have a little more control. This new camera is 10 megapixel, which is the same as my real camera. Thus this one slots between my real camera and Duckie.

And the acceptance testing went as well as one might expect. I’ve used Canon point-and-shoot cameras before, and so this was simply a matter of testing the camera to verify that everything was indeed as I thought it would be, and then declaring the camera ready for operational use.

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Categories: Cameras

Leaving for Stuarts Draft in a bit…

January 14, 2010, 11:41 AM

Yes, as soon as the laundry is finished (see, Mom, I am capable of taking clean clothes down when I visit), I’m heading out to Stuarts Draft. I can’t believe that this weekend is almost here. My sister’s getting married this Saturday! She’s going to become Mrs. Chris Lysy on Saturday.

Of course, now I’m going to have to get used to seeing “Ann Lysy” on Facebook and such. That’s just going to be strange to see, but I’m sure she’ll be happy as can be.

Then meanwhile, I am going to get to Stuarts Draft under my own power, despite that the wheel of automotive misfortune has been spinning in my direction as of late. Recall that I’ve not had a good time with the car lately. First the car spazzed out on me on Christmas Eve as I was leaving for work. Then when I was in Roanoke on the 30th with Mom, the car didn’t want to start up. After a trip to the Firestone place in Wheaton when I got back, though, the car was running fine again. However, (automotive) misfortune apparently comes in threes, and on Tuesday, when I went to get into the car to go to work (if I know I’m going to be working late, I drive), I discovered that the right front tire was flat. Greeeeeeeeeat. So I had to call AAA and get the spare put on. Then I was on my way. Then yesterday, another trip to Firestone got my brand-new tire fixed up. The comment was, 20-some thousand miles is what this thing is supposed to last, and it didn’t even make it to 100. But they fixed it, and determined it was probably a bad seal.

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Categories: Cameras, Family, Mercury Sable

You know, I’d wanted for years to have a life in and around Washington. Now, I’m going to be glad to spend a week away from it next month.

July 17, 2008, 11:25 PM

Yeah, it’s time for a change of scenery. After all, I’ve been living in Silver Spring and working in Washington for a year and two months now. Amazing how time flies. But yeah, in a little more than a month, I’m taking my vacation! I’m going to Virginia Beach, and I’m excited. You do realize I’ve not been on a get-out-of-town vacation in three years, don’t you. The last time I went was in 2005.

This one ought to be a lot of fun, though. Usually when I go to Virginia Beach, I go by myself, and tend to concentrate on my photography, with a bit of a change in scenery. And this year… new equipment! While we certainly miss Big Mavica, its optical zoom sucked. And that was a real bummer in 2004 and 2005 when I hit the beach with it, and I couldn’t get close-in ocean shots from the hotel balcony. Now mind you, I think Atlantic Sunrise in 2004 was a great photo set. But I didn’t get a lot of the close-in detail that I really enjoyed in Sunrise at Virginia Beach from 2000. The close-ups really made the earlier set special, and technical limitations prevented me from doing that again in 2004. Now I’ve got a 12x optical zoom, and different nighttime settings, so we’ll see what happens this time around.

But what really excites me is the idea of using my waterproof “duckie” camera. I’d love to take that one out into the surf and see what I can get. After all, the thing is waterproof, so we might as well make good use of it. Big Mavica, to quote Fenton Crackshell from Ducktales, was “more gizmo than duck” when it came to water. So taking “duckie” in the ocean really ought to be fun. Might even cause me to spend a little more time in the ocean than I did last time. I think last time, out of four days, I spent a grand total of three hours in the water. But yeah, with “duckie”, it ought to be fun.

Yeah, I can’t wait until August 24…

Categories: Cameras, Vacations

And we are once again fully operational. Now I just need something to photograph…

May 4, 2008, 9:16 PM

I finally got a chance to test the new Kodak Z1012 IS camera tonight, and let me say that this is a big leap from Big Mavica. So here’s a quick round of test shots:

My kitchen

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Categories: Cameras

I have about 7 GB of SD card volume now – think that’s enough?

May 3, 2008, 2:23 PM

After a trip down to Stuarts Draft on Friday night, Mom and I went to Costco in Harrisonburg to get various odds and ends. Among other things, I got two 2 GB SD cards to use on the new cameras. Thus I have the two 1 GB Polaroid SD cards I bought at Target, the free 1 GB card I got from Kodak along with a fanny pack of some kind (I wouldn’t call that thing a camera bag), and now these two 2 GB ones from Costco. And I hope I’m all set. I get like 200 photos on a single 1 GB card on the Vivitar, and that’s 6.0 megapixels. Then I’ve been too busy to give the 10.1 megapixel Kodak a test run yet (it arrived on Wednesday), so I don’t know about how that will go, but hopefully I’ve got enough capacity now.

That’s the thing about this – I have no track record at all with the Kodak, and then I’ve only done about three photo sets with the Vivitar. That was a test set, then Operation Reconnect with Anonymous, and then counter-protesting the Nazis with my regular activist buddies. Going by Big Mavica’s standard’s doesn’t work, since everything’s bigger now. The Vivitar is 1.5 times “bigger” than Big Mavica, and the Kodak is roughly 2.5 times “bigger” than Big Mavica (remember that the “big” in Big Mavica referred to the resolution). Plus the movies are different, too. The Vivitar shoots in AVI format at 320×240 (Big Mavica shot MPEG), and then the Kodak shoots really high-resolution videos.

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Categories: Cameras

Done for another year, and good riddance to it.

April 6, 2008, 3:26 PM

You know what they say. There are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. The former only comes once, and most of us try to put it off as long as possible. The latter comes annually, and it comes due on April 15. And so I can now put it behind me again.

What’s weird, though, is doing it now, vs. in January when I usually do taxes. But this year was more complicated. I changed jobs and states, after all. I left Wal-Mart (yaaaay!), and found work with Food & Water Watch. And I moved from Virginia to Maryland. So for that, I bought TurboTax, and did the whole thing on the computer. Usually, I just sit down with a 1040, a calculator, and a pen, and do it. For the forty bucks or whatever TurboTax cost, it’s normally worth it to just do it manually. But for more complicated years – I was more worried about the state stuff than the federal stuff – TurboTax is handy.

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What a great visit!

April 5, 2008, 11:42 PM

Mom came up for a teachers’ convention during the latter part of this week, and she stayed at my house. And we had a great time. She arrived on Wednesday, and we met up at Wheaton Plaza and then went to my house. Then while I went to work on Thursday and Friday, Mom was at her convention for the Virginia Writing Project. On Thursday, Mom actually lobbied a few Virginia representatives and senators, and then on Friday they had some workshops.

And Mom got to be a DC commuter for two days. She took the 51 and the Red Line just like I do. She left the house ahead of me in the mornings, but we rode back together in the evenings. Thursday, Mom got to see her first big Metro delay, as there was a train having a problem at Van Ness-UDC in the direction of Glenmont (of course). An out-of-service train whizzed by Dupont Circle station, and then I took the next (very crowded) train, to meet Mom at Union Station. Then from there, we rode to Glenmont and took the Y5 back home.

Then on Friday, Mom and I got Breda 3062, which had advertisements on the ceiling. Take a look…

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Categories: Cameras, Family, IKEA, Shopping, WMATA

Big Mavica is gone…

March 31, 2008, 9:05 PM

Well, Big Mavica is officially on its way to that big photo set in the sky, as I shipped it to Recycling For Charities on my lunch hour today. And I got photos of this solemn event, too, which a friend of mine has described as the end of an era.

Big Mavica is in the box, the last anyone will see of it.
Big Mavica is in the box, the last anyone will see of it.

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Categories: Cameras, Walmart

Big Mavica’s fate is now sealed.

March 29, 2008, 12:18 PM

It looks like Big Mavica will have a happy ending after all. I’m recycling Big Mavica with an organization called Recycling For Charities, with the proceeds from the camera’s recycling going to support Stage Left Theatre, a Chicago-based theater that produces plays intended to raise debate on social and political issues.

So after more than five years of documenting various political mobilizations, among other things, Big Mavica’s recycling will likewise help raise awareness of various political and social issues. Yay!

Categories: Cameras