Monday, August 30, 2010

Facebook Places knows where Waldo is!

If the latest viril Facebook status is any indication, Waldo will have no place to hide thanks to Facebook Places, and neither will your kids.

Facebook launched Facebook Places yesterday. Anyone can find out where you are when you are logged in. It gives the actual address & map location of where you are as you use Facebook. Make sure your kids know!!! TO UNDO: go to "Account Settings", ..."Notifications", then scroll down to "Places" a...nd uncheck the 2 boxes. Make sure to SAVE changes and re-post this!! Stay safe!

First of all, Facebook Places was launched about a week and a half ago. But that's a moot point.

If you follow those instructions, what you are actually doing is disabling two notifications for Facebook Places. One notifies you when someone tags you, and the other notifies you when someone comments on one of your Places visits.

If you're paranoid about the whole concept of Facebook Places, wouldn't you want to be notified of these things?

As I mentioned in previous blog post, when Facebook Places came out, the default setting is not enabled. I say "not enabled" rather than disabled because the setting for mine was neither enabled or disabled, it was waiting for me to pick one.

Apparently there is some uncertainty about whether or not it really is disabled if you don't pick one, so if you'd like to make sure and disable it yourself, see my original blog post, describing step-by-step how to do that. Or look it up on the web; there are other sites that describe where to find the option in your Facebook Privacy settings.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Parc Safari Revisted

Somewhere around 1973/74, in either grade 3 or 4, I recall that our class had a field trip to Parc Safari. Back then I'm pretty sure it was called "Parc Safari African". There's very little I remember about the trip. I have a very vague image in my head of the deer park that you walk through and feed deer. I remember a red double-decker bus with all the windows replaced by mesh that we rode in through the drive-thru part of the park. It also had ropes running up the side of the bus so the baboons could climb on. I remember us all being told not to stick our fingers out through the mesh because if a baboon grabbed hold, they would never let go. I remember there being a very large picnic area. That's about it.

A few weeks ago, I won 4 tickets -- a "family pack" -- for Parc Safari. Today, we went.

I read a few reviews earlier this week and they were mostly mixed. There were comments such as "In need of upgrading" (it is in fact coming, apparently). The "food is expensive" and terrible. Half the rides either don't work or weren't operating when people went. The drive-thru part of the parc is packed and takes 3 hours to complete, when it should only take 60-70 minutes. The admission is overpriced. Some people, despite the negative comments, did say they enjoyed themselves but would not return because it was too expensive.

Thankfully, I wasn't paying, except for gas for the trip. We also brought out own food for a picnic. Oh yeh, we brought a bag of carrots and celery too to feed the animals.

It was about a 3-hour drive. It's a good thing I have a GPS because we didn't see any signage directing us to the park. Perhaps the GPS took us through the back roads near the end, but I fully expected to see a few large "Park Safari" billboards along the highways. Surprisingly, this was not the case. And they say that this place is one of the biggest tourism attractions in Quebec. Or is the the biggest? I can't recall.

We arrived at around 10:30am. During the drive up to the main gate, there were many signs asking "Do you have enough gas?" The multi-lane lineups were surprisingly short. I expected longer lines since it had already been open for 30 minutes. When it was our turn, we drove up, handed the guy our tickets, he gave us a receipt, a map and a souvenir tour book and told us there were two rules while driving through the Safari park: 1. Stay in your car, and 2. Don't feed the zebras because they bite. Too easy.

We made a quick pit-stop at the washrooms and then headed over to the Safari park after tuning our radio to the English "Parc Safari" station to listen to them talk about their animals. Sandra said she would drive so I could film and snap photos. We passed on buying boxes of food because we brought our own. It wasn't long before the traffic jams began. It wasn't because there were so many cars, it was because of human ignorance and lack of consideration for others. There are signs that say "Stay left to drive through" and "Stay right to observe", or something like that. It didn't seem to matter to anyone. They stopped in both the left and right lanes to feed animals. I read comments such as this on the review sites, so it wasn't too surprising. Now, even that would not be too bad if people would quickly feed the animal one or two carrots or whatever they had, and then move on so others can have a turn. But nooooo.... some would sit there and it was a like a fucking conveyor belt of food coming out the side of their van or sunroof. Sometimes the "whipping boys", as I like to call them, would come along and get the animals moving again.In the case of the giraffes, it was always away from us. It's like we were chasing the damned things at 5kmh through the park. While waiting to catch up to the giraffes, we were entertained by the zebras all walking past the cars looking for food. A few people did in fact feed them. Some of them reached out and pet them. An SUV with the rear hatch open had two little girls sitting back there and screamed at the top of their lungs when a zebra walked behind and poked its head in. :)

Let me explain the "whipping boys". These are young guys working at the park, each armed with a whip. They never hit the animals, but would sometimes crack the whip to get them moving, or prevent them from going in a certain direction. The park is split into gated sections and I think they're main job is to keep the animals from straying into other sections while the gates remain open during business hours. It's quite impressive seeing a small human bossing around a towering giraffe or massive deer or bison. Pretty cool.

Eventually, we did get to feed the giraffes and it was... amazing. To be so close to these giants is indescribable. Way cool. We fed one of them a couple of carrots or celery and moved on to the next. And then next. That's consideration. Helloooo? We got stuck in more traffic jams as people in the left lane would drive ahead, pull over to the right and get the attention of the giraffes who would then walk ahead again and we'd be held back once again. We eventually moved to the left and passed them all to move on to other animals. The more potentially dangerous animals, like elephants and rhinos are all in fenced areas so you can't really feed them. There are no cats roaming around. No baboons roaming around and hopping on cars or grabbing fingers. The drive thru park, for the most part, contains fairly "harmless" animals I would say. All deer, antelope, cows, bison, gnus, ostrich, and the like. Oh ya, all of the signs identifying the animals are in French. No English anywhere on them. I realized it's in Quebec, but come on... many of the visitors at the park are from the U.S. which isn't too far. Hopefully they add English names when they upgrade the park.

So, we continued on through the park, and didn't really encounter any more major traffic jams after the giraffes. We found out that most of the animals don't like celery. Giraffes ate it and a couple of the antelope/deer-like beasties. Carrots were never refused.

There was one scary moment not far from the end of the drive. I don’t know the name of the animals (*ahem*... need English names!), but they were these tall antelope creatures. A herd of them on the road. We, and another vehicle in front of us, fed them as we drove by. All of a sudden, four or five of them near the vehicle in front got very startled or excited and bolted a little. The "whipping boy" was nearby and started doing his job.. cracking that whip to get them to move to the other side of the road. He walked to the mini van in front and spoke with them and then looked at their rear left fender. Sandra heard something about a "baby". Perhaps one of the adult beasties got suddenly protective over one of the younger ones? Then as he walked towards us, again he cracked the whip a few times as he watched them on the other side of the road, the passenger side where I was. A couple of them were looking at him and moving toward him. Sandra asked him if we could move on, and he said something in French. We can understand French, but it wasn't loud enough to fully understand. We think he said something like he was using our vehicle to prevent the animals from charging at him. A few minutes later, he moved back to the next vehicle and we continued on down the road. Pretty freaky stuff.

I'd say it took us about an hour and a half to drive through the park. We parked near the picnic area and ate our lunch before exploring the rest of the park on foot. As others had commented on review sites, a lot of the attractions (rides, stores, food places) weren't open for business. Maybe they're understaffed? Or maybe it's near the end of the prime tourist season? Who knows. The park was pretty clean and did look like they were upgrading and maintaining the different areas.

The first place we headed to was the deer park to feed the deer. We had apples slices that we didn't eat for lunch, and celery left from the Safari Parc. These deer loved celery and the apples. I think we all had fun feed them as they followed us around. Sandra didn't seem to enjoy it as much and was pretty happy when we ran out of food and moved on to see the rest of the park.

The baboons are now on their own fenced off island, surrounded by water. You walk on large wooden decks over their habitat and look down at them. The same goes for apes, bears, wolves, some unknown cat (I think it was an ocelot) and other assorted animals. It's not bad because you can get a nice unobstructed view of the animals to shoot pics. The lions and tigers section was very cool. They have clear glass or plexiglas tunnels that you walk through. One big lion was lying on TOP of it as we walked underneath him. So close. :)

We didn't bother going on any of the amusement rides. Some of them look pretty archaic. It's funny because the guy on the Parc Safari radio even commented that some of them could be "museum pieces".

Sandra and the kids popped into a few gift shops and then we stopped for some ice cream. By around 3:30pm, we were pretty much done and ready to head home. Not the best time to leave because we hit the Montreal rush hour and extra slow downs due to an accident.

All in all, we did have a pretty good day. Would I do it again? Not if I had to pay for tickets. The value of the two adult and two child tickets that I won was just under $100. I honestly don’t feel that it was worth $100. I think a family pass should cost no more than $60 max.

I never did see a red double-decker bus. The rest of the park didn't really drum up any old memories of my first visit either.

I'll post a few pics and maybe some video at a later date, after I've had time to go through it all.

 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What is this?

If you arrived here using www.scottpaterson.org and are surprised that the entire layout and colour scheme has changed, there's a reason for that. (if you got here with that address and the page is black with grey text, then there's a problem...)

This is the same blog, but now hosted on Posterous.com. After a month or so of playing around with Posterous, I decided that I like it enough to switch my domain to point here.

However, if you prefer the old location on Blogspot or wish to purchase any of my photos via Fotomoto (which currently does not work with Posterous), the old blog location still exists and is synchronized with here. You can get to it by using http://blog.scottpaterson.org or its Blogspot address, http://spaterson.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Zoo photos

Here's a handful of my favourite photos I shot at the Toronto Zoo last week. I think posted a few of them on here already.

Enjoy!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

RAW Processing

Ever since I bought my Canon T1i/500D a little over a year ago, I've gotten in the habit of shooting both JPG and RAW for every shot. My reasoning was so that if I got a really good shot, I'd have a high quality RAW image as a back up to tweak and process to make the shot nicer, or fix something if necessary. I rarely ever found a need to process a RAW image, even for shots that I consider to be really good shots.

For a short time, I turned off the RAW format and shot only JPG. More shots per SD card.

I turned RAW back on when we went on our recent family vacation to Toronto and I'm really glad I did. I had a few "accidents" and shot images with totally messed up white balance, and even a few with the wrong aperture/shutter speed, resulting in an underexposed image.

This afternoon I decided to finally start digging through all of the photos I shot on our trip. I'm amazed and how much I was able to fix the underexposed images using the Canon Digital Photo Professional software that came with the camera. They're far from perfect, but they're better than a wasted shot and they turned out better than any underexposed JPG version of the same photo using a few tools that I often use for such things.

Not only that, but I started changing the white balance for a few seemingly good shots and found that they looked even better. Most of the time, I had my camera's white balance set to Auto. It does a pretty good job, but I noticed differences between an "auto" photo shot outdoors, compared to a "daylight" photo shot outdoors. You'd think they were the same, but that's not the case. The same applies to indoor shots with different lighting. Coincidentally, I'm currently reading "Light Science & Magic" and it talks about the fact that sometimes lighting is a mix of different light sources, which can result in incorrect colour. It's cool that I got to see the practical side of that first hand.

Anyhow, rather than hunt and peck through my images, I decided to do them all. All 633 images. It took me most of the day, but I'm really happy with the results. As I write this, DPP is exporting all of my processed images back out to JPG versions that I store on my PC. The original RAW files will remain on the 1TB external drive.

After this experience, I'm almost tempted to turn off JPG altogether and shoot just RAW. Almost. There are times that I do have a need to shoot a quick JPG and really don't have a need for a RAW file, so I think I may end up keeping it on for now.

I may turned off JPG for future trips though.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Checking out of checking in Places on Facebook

Thanks to Misty for bringing attention to this new Facebook feature.

Facebook is adding a new feature called Places, similar to FourSquare that some people use with Twitter. It allows a person to share their location with friends via their mobile phone.

You can read more about Facebook Places in this Washington Post article.

For the most part, it's something you would have to intentionally use and you may not need to do anything else to your privacy settings since it supposedly defaults to Friends Only. The feature that could worry some people is the ability to check-in their friends. Your friend could check you in to locations that you may not want others to know about. However, according to the Post article, "your friends can't start tagging you as being present until you authorize that activity."

If you want to make sure, here how to Disable that feature.

First go into your Privacy Settings:

Then into Customize Settings:

Scroll down and look for Friends can check me int to Places under Things others share:

To the right of that there is a dropdown you can set to Disabled. On my account, this option was neither Enabled of Disabled, it was set to Select One.

If you have no intention of ever using the Places feature, you may as well set the Places I check in to Only Me and disable the Include me in "People Here Now" after I check in option.

Scroll back up and look under Things I share:

Uncheck Include me in "People Here Now" after I check in and then click the the drop-down beside Places I check in and choose Customize and change These People to Only Me.

Save the changes and you're all done.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Toronto Trip - Day 3

Our first stop today was the CN Tower. It took us a while to find parking nearby in the spaghetti mess of streets and missed turns, but thanks to the GPS getting lost was pretty much impossible. :)

After parking, Sandra and Kaitlyn decided to pay a visit to the Leon's store located inside the old roundhouse. Kyle and I hung around outside and checked out the trains.

For the CN Tower, we decided to pay the extra and go the extra height up to the skypod, and it was amazing. The glass floor on the main viewing platform was fun. It seems the popular thing to do is lie down or sit on it and get your picture taken. Kyle and Kaitlyn both sat down.

Once we were back on the ground we went to see a 3D movie on surfing which was included in the price, then Kyle, Kaitlyn and I went for the Himalamazon "ride", which was sitting in side a small "room" that moved while a video displayed on the screen on front. It felt a little like a roller coaster ride. At the start, the woman said if anyone wanted it to stop for whatever reason, to wave their arms. A minute or so into it, Kaitlyn said she didn't like it. I told her to wave, she did, and they stopped it so she could exit. She stayed with the attendant and it started up again for the rest of us. While she was with the attendant, she got to watch the video camera showing us all inside the ride.

Next, we walked up to Yonge Street to grab a bite to eat at one of the hotdog vendors and to snap a pic of the Hockey Hall of Fame building. We decided not to go inside partly because of the time, and also the cost. In retrospect, we probably should have gone to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

We headed back to the truck, paid the $17 (SEVENTEEN DOLLARS!) for parking, and left for the Ontario Science Centre. The layout of that building is terrible, imho. And it seemed that most of the hands-on stuff that we tried didn't seem to work. Anyway, we were there up until around closing. I think I would have preferred the Hockey Hall of Fame.

So, we're done, and we'll be heading home in the morning. Overall, I think we had a great trip here. Kaitlyn is already asking where we'll be going next summer.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Toronto Trip - Day 2

What a long day.

Breakfast downstairs here at the hotel was excellent. Eggs, bacon, sausage, cereals, muffins, bagels, you name it, they had it.

The zoo was awesome. We paid the extra $3.25 per person to get tickets for the stingray petting pool and decided we'd leave it for last. More on that later.

There were a few exhibits that were closed for one reason or another, but not really any of the major animals that you would expect to see, so it really was fine with us. The day was hot, but the only animals that we didn't see because they seemed to be hiding were the lions. That kinda sucked, but even one of the zoo volunteers admitted that they didn't know where they were. That was a little disconcerting. :)

There was lots of walking, but what really burned us out was the walk down to and back up from the Canadian section. It way down a hill and the only way out is back up the same hill.

The highlight of the entire day for all of us had to be the stingray petting pool. It was much better than I expected and was well worth the extra $3.25 each. I thought it might be like where you lined up and got to pet one or two and then they'd move onto the next person, but it wasn't. They had this large shallow pool where everyone could stand around the side and spend as much time as they wanted and pet as many stingrays as they wanted. There was also a nurse shark and a few horseshoe crabs in the pool that you could pet. The shark kept its distance, but the stingrays were everywhere and seemed to enjoy being touched as they swam past. They asked that you only touch them on the back, but the stingers on the tails had apparently been "trimmed" just in case. Here's a tip: if you ever check this out, don't wait until the end of the day. Before you can get to the petting pool you have to remove all jewelry and watches from your hands and wrists, and wash your arms up to your elbows. After spending a day walking in the hot sun, we had a really difficult time taking our wedding rings off. :)

Our day wrapped up at around 6:00pm. We picked up some food at KFC and then headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow's agenda includes the CN Tower and the Ontario Science Centre. Depending on how much time we have, we may also visit the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Here's a few pics from our day. I have tons to sort through before posting more.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Toronto Trip - Day 1

We left home at around 5:45am this morning and arrived sometime around 11:00am.

We decided to first visit Casa Loma. It was awesome. The place is much bigger than I expected and we ended up spending a lot more time than than I thought we would. I can't believe how many different movies have been filmed inside there!  If you ever decide to visit there, take my advice and go in the spring or fall. It was soooo hot inside, despite the large floor and ceiling fans they had running in an effort to keep the place cool(er). Keep in mind that the place was built before air conditioning and I can't see them installing any a/c any time soon.

After we were done there,it was around 2:30pm, so we decided to find a place to eat and head to the hotel in Scarborough to check in. The traffic was pretty bad downtown and we ended up in front of the Royal Ontario Museum, one of the places we planned to visit. We decided to find a place to park, grab a bite to eat and then go to the museum instead. Lucky for us, they had the Terracotta Warriors exhibit, which cost an extra $7 per person to see. My wife really wanted to see it, so we did. Unfortunately, our time was somewhat limited because the museum closes at 5:30pm on Sundays. We had about 2-1/2 hours to see what we wanted to see.

We first checked out the Terracotta Warriors. Unfortunately, photography in that exhibit was not allowed. :( I could have had some really cool shots. It was a great exhibit to see though and we picked up a couple of our own smaller Terracotta Warriors from the exhibit gift shop.

We then checked out an Egypt exhibit, some dinosaur bones and the bat cave before hitting the gift store at closing. I have to say that we found the layout of the ROM to be a little confusing. Everything is very spreadout. But they did have air conditioning! :)

 
We checked in at the Holiday Inn Express in Scarborough. We were here for 5 minutes and we were already impressed. The staff are all super friendly, the place is very clean, and has nice decor throughout. They have free breakfast and free 24hr coffee. :) I'll let you know how good the breakfast is tomorrow. Oh ya... and free internet! (not wifi though)

It looks like we'll be heading to the zoo all day tomorrow, if the weather is good in the morning as the Weather Network says it will be.

I have way more photos taken and will post more once I have time to sort through them.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Perseides Meteor Shower

Perseides Meteor Shower is tonight!

From everything I've read, there's supposed to be between 80 and 100 per hour. I always miss out on this every year, but tonight's weather forecast for Ottawa is clear skies.  I'll be taking my camera out on a tripod to a nearby hill where I'm hoping there will be very little light pollution. I just spent the last hour or so searching for info on the best settings and configuring my camera so it's ready to go.

It's probably a little late to share this info for this year, but here we go:

Digital Camera Settings for Astrophotography http://www.astropix.com/HTML/I_ASTROP/SETTINGS.HTM

This message forum has a couple of links to downloadable PDF references for astrophotography. The thread subject says Canon T1i and astrophotography, but it’s not specific to the Canon. I just skimmed through the PDFs and they look like pretty good references:

Canon T1i and astrophotography http://cs.astronomy.com/asycs/forums/p/47502/451169.aspx

I'm pretty excited about this since it’s my first time trying it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A few more photos

I was browsing through my photos on Flickr and thought I'd share a few other favourites that didn't get posted to Project 52, not because they're not good, but because I chose another photo that week. :)

These are a couple that I shot at the Mer Bleu Bog last fall. The first one almost doesn't look real.

I got this one printed on canvas at work for my home. I still have to mount it on a frame.

Monday, August 9, 2010

iStockphoto, take two?

About a year ago, I thought about trying to sell some of my photos on iStockphoto. I didn't expect to get rich from it, but I thought it might be cool if I could make a few bucks to save and put toward more camera stuff. Part of the enrollment process was submitting three photos for consideration. The powers that be take a look at them and decide if they're good enough.

I was rejected. Twice. I gave up.

I am by no means a professional, but I like to think that I can snap a sale-worthy photo once in a while. Anyone has the ability to get lucky once in a while, no?

A couple of weeks ago a friend suggested in a comment on one of my photos that I should sell some of my photos on iStockphoto. That got me thinking about it again. Have I improved enough to be accepted? Should I give it another try just for the hell of it? Do I feel lucky... err... punk?

I could probably go through them and pick three out the most commented and most favourited photos and submit them, but I’d like to hear from anyone who reads my blog.

So here's the deal. When you have some time to spare, take a look through all of my Project 52 photos. Each of the photos has a number in the title indicating which week it was for. Pick what you think are the three best photos and then post a comment on here with the numbers. I may submit the most popular three to iStockphoto and see how it goes.

Tilt-Shift Photography

Ever since seeing some cool examples of tilt-shift photography, it's something I've wanted to try. Thanks to the Photojojo newsletter article, I have now bookmarked a site with a few different examples on how to make your own tilt-shift lens. All I need now is to pick up a cheap, used lens to try it out.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Week 52 - 52 on 52 for 52

It was just over a year ago that I bought my first DSLR camera -- a Canon T1i/500D. I spent a couple of months familiarizing myself with most of its features, and finishing reading a couple of books that I bought a year earlier: Understanding Exposure, Learning to See Creatively, and Understanding Shutter Speed, all three written by Bryan Peterson. (excellent books, by the way)

After that, I felt that I needed a goal. As you can read in my first project-related post, I've always liked the concept of Project 365 but I didn't think I'd have the time and commitment to shoot and post a new photo every day for a year.

Enter Project 52.

52 weeks, and 4523 photographs later, my first Project 52 comes to an end. Although I still have a lot to learn, I'd like to think that my photography skills have improved since. Overall, that is, there are still some shots that I've posted that don't really do much for me.

On to this week's photo.

I have to thank my wife for the inspiration. I was wandering around my house, searching for something interesting and thought aloud, "I need something 52 to take a picture of..."

My daughter left the room and returned to place a small scrap of paper on the table in front of me. '52' was written on it. "Thanks, but I don't think that's gonna cut it..." :)

My wife said, "What about a deck of cards?"

Bingo.

I fired off about fifteen shots from different angles and narrowed my choices down to two. I tweaked the contrast and color and then cropped it a little. That's it, that's all.

Will I begin another Project 52? I don't know yet. One of my friends thinks I should go for 365.

I think what I'll do is shoot and post when I feel like it. Rather than wait for Sunday to make my weekly post, I'll just post whenever I feel that I've taken a good shot worthy of attention.

Let's see how that goes. :)

If you're reading this on my Posterous site, you can click on the Project 52 tab along the top to see all of the shots I've taken for the project.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Screw Yer Buddy

If you try to access my pool rules site, ScrewYerBuddy.com, and get a Connection Timed Out error, it's due to the DOS attack issues that Posterous was having. They’re working on fixing it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Week 51 - Three x 2

Oops. A day late.

This was a really easy choice for this week.

It turned out surprisingly better than I expected. One of the comments pointed out the two different areas of focus in the photo: the furthest pin and the closest reflection. I have a few different shots of the pins and that's the only one like that. It was completely unintentional and a cool surprise.