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School So Far

I was just telling my friend Marianne, over at her deviantART journal, about what I’m up to at school, so I’m posting it here too:

I’m doing great, though it’s a lot of work this semester. Here are the courses I’m taking (6 this time!). I’m in a learning community that covers three courses, continuing from last semester, which is fun despite the high demands. I’m doing Trigonometry and Internet Research (an easy online course), plus my favorite, Photography. I got my film camera today and had it for the class; they let out early though so I’m writing this from the school computers. I know most of the concepts from digital work, except everything relating to film. :silly:

Trigonometry is the hardest because math takes the most effort for me… need to study this weekend.

Speaking of the photography class: I got my camera, a Canon EOS Elan IIe, just today, and was ready in time with 72 exposures of black-and-white film (Kodak Tri-X 400) and the special battery. Today’s weekly class covered a lot of the basics of shutter speed, aperture, focal length, film speed, etc. which I already know, though everything about film was new to me. We learned how to put the film on a spool, and an overview of using developer, stopping, fixing, and washing (we’ll get to do it ourselves next week). I took a photo of two dandelion clocks against the bright sun, like Two of Us Against the World, but with a lot more contrast. Then I took it with my digital camera, and found that I had to go quite below what the light meter indicated, so I likely over-exposed three pieces of film… I was dumb and forgot about the danger of the sun, but stopped immediately when my eye hurt a bit… didn’t damage my vision, fortunately. Let this be a lesson to all of you! If you’re going to have the bright sun in the viewfinder, do it quickly and without looking, or if you must look, get a point-and-shoot and use the LCD screen, so that you don’t hurt your eyes. If the sun is below the horizon, there is little danger, but otherwise, take caution as normal. I got a really great photo though; will be adding it tomorrow. It’s title will be Two of Us Against the Sun Spores of the Sun.

That’s all for now! Glad to see I’ve gotten fifty visitors in the past day; people must be liking my photos and finding my writings informative. :cool:

Simple Advice on AA Chargers & Batteries

Rechargeable AA batteries and chargers — Photo by Richard X. Thripp

Normal alkaline AAs are fine for the casual shooter, but in the long run, you’ll save money with rechargeables. Duracell and Energizer are good, but my favorite is Tenergy (sold at all-battery.com), which are cheaper and have worked well for me. Get a charger that is “smart,” in that it doesn’t stop just on a timer. I like the Duracell CEF90NC 30 Minute Charger, though I have an older version. Mine doesn’t take long (one hour), has built-in cooling, stops based on some sort of charging detection system that works well, and has worked without fail for 2+ years. The new model should do the same, unless they’ve messed things up. Then, you won’t have to change batteries often, unless your camera is particularly power-hungry. The charger runs $30 and comes with 4 Duracell batteries. Avoid 15 minute or faster chargers, as they stress your batteries more, are prone to overheating, and cost more.

When I got my first digital camera, I bought a charger with four AA batteries for $10. The charger took 16 hours, and would not stop automatically. It was inevitable; I charged the batteries for 24 hours once, but fortunately there was no apparent damage, likely because the charger is less apt to damage batteries for being so under-powered. One month later, one of the batteries leaked acid. If it had been in the camera, it would have corroded the contacts and perhaps render it unusable. I bought new batteries, but continued using the original three for my CD player. Another month later, I opened the player to find that the battery had leaked, and the acid had burned through the compartment, onto the CD, corroding it so that it was unusable. It was a CD I burned, but if it had been a commercial release it may have been a loss of up to $20. I stopped using those batteries, filed down the corroded part in the player so that the CD wouldn’t touch it while spinning, and used aluminum foil to fit the battery against the corroded spring. After several months, it became such a hassle to keep the aluminum foil in place that I stopped using the player; the batteries would frequently fall out of place despite my efforts. I paid $33 for that CD player; this was three years ago, and it was one of those fancy models that would play MP3 files from CDs (flash memory was expensive back then), so it was quite disappointing to lose.

That is my cautionary tale: be careful of the batteries you choose; the cheesiest option isn’t the best. Digital photography is expensive, but this is no place to skimp, as your camera is useless without working batteries.

In the banner, the chargers, from left to right: Tenergy V-2833, Duracell CEF80N, Energizer CHDC, Digital Concepts CH-1800. The Duracell CEF80N is the one I’m saying good things about above; the Digital Concepts CH-1800 is the one I’m saying bad things about. The Energizer one uses an 8-hour timer, so I don’t like it. I haven’t opened the Tenergy one, but it says it takes 18 hours, which is too long. The batteries on the left are Rayovac Hybrid brand, which are low self-discharge batteries. I’ve kept them for a year without charging and they still work, but I only recommend them if you use your camera infrequently, as they’re pricier. The middle ones are Tenergy brand, which I like. The Energizer brand batteries on the right are good too, but are $10 a pack.

If you don’t want to worry about changing batteries, or want some spares to keep in your bag just in case, lithium AAs are a good choice.

Photo: Spring Sunshine

Spring Sunshine — bright green and yellow leaves, lit by the sun

Shot this on Christmas day; the winters aren’t so brutal in Florida. This looks like a spring scene, so I named it such. Enjoy. :smile:

Basic contrast enhancements with curves and sharpening is all that this needed.

[sniplet 4×6-glossy]

Canon Rebel XTi, EF 50mm 1:1.4, 1/640, F3.5, 50mm, ISO100, 2007-12-25T11:49:21-05, 20071225-164921rxt

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

10 Ways to Get Your Camera Stolen

1. Wear that “Canon EOS Digital” neck-strap proudly so the whole world can see what expensive equipment you have.
2. Take the camera on a plane; no need to keep it in your carry-on bag because you won’t be using it. If it doesn’t magically disappear, I hope you like broken glass.
3. Keep all your gear in your fancy new Lowepro bag, then leave it at a restaurant table to go the the bathroom. Don’t worry, it’ll only take a minute!
4. Use a lens with a big red ring around it.
5. Leave your big red ring and “EOS 5D” logo open for the world to admire. Some black tape and a Sharpie marker just doesn’t fit in your budget.
6. Stash your camera and pricey lenses in your hotel room. What could be more secure than a hotel room?
7. Leave it on a beach towel; you have to go surfing after all. Or, for extra safety, walk back to the car and put it in the trunk, then wonder how someone knew it was in your trunk.
8. Have a friend hold your bag. Oops, I forgot about your stuff! It wasn’t anything important, right?
9. Oh no, your brand-new DSLR has dust spots! No matter; just send it back in a big box labeled “Camera Repair Dept.” for warranty service.
10. Family portrait, no one to snap the photo? Just get one of the local bums to assist. Oh wait, he’s backing away slowly… must be to get the most compositionally pleasing shot.

Piano: Turkish Rondo, Rustles of Spring, and The Entertainer

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Songs by me on the piano at a recital on 2008-01-04. I’ve been playing for five years; Rustles of Spring is the newest one, which I started on a year ago. I still can’t play the middle part at tempo, but it’s coming along. The Entertainer is quite entertaining, and I’ve perfected an abridged version of Turkish Rondo (Alla Turca); the beginning is cut off as my Dad started recording too late.

Turkish Rondo, abridged [Mozart]
Rustles of Spring [Christian Sinding]
The Entertainer [Scott Joplin]

Photo: Modern Lightning

Modern Lightning — a white tree branch against an ominous sky

Lightning reborn. This is what I get for leaving the flash on. I’m proud of this for its uniqueness.

More contrast, darkening, and switching to black and white makes this awesome. :big-grin:

[sniplet 4×6-glossy]

Canon Rebel XTi, EFS 18-55mm, 1/60, F10, 18mm, ISO400, 2008-01-12T17:43:29-05, 20080112-224329rxt

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

Adventures in Film

Started my photography class two days ago (2008-01-18). First thing I see entering the class room is a large-format camera mounted on the most impressive tripod I’ve seen; very nice. Shockingly, we’re expected to buy our own cameras and black-and-white film. I did a quick, thorough search online, and settled on the Canon EOS Elan IIe, a 35mm SLR film camera with no lens. It was $70 used, including shipping (paid $5 extra for expedited shipping, so it ought to be here before next Friday’s class). The MSRP was $720 when it was released in 1995, but we can see that has fallen drastically. I imagine my beloved Canon Rebel XTi will be $70 in 2019, if not less.

My main reason for picking a Canon SLR with an EF mount is so I can use my Canon EF 50mm F1.4 lens (photos). I do use it as my primary on my Canon Rebel XTi, though with the crop factor it is like an 80mm lens, but on a full frame camera; in this case, a film SLR with a 36x24mm film, it’s just peachy. The zoom lenses that come standard are more versatile for their variable focal lengths, but falter in low-light and low depth-of-field photography—if I want to take a photo at 50mm with my XTi’s kit lens, I can’t go below F5.0, but with the non-zooming (prime) 50mm lens, I can open the aperture up all the way to F1.4 (though below F2.2, the depth-of-field is generally too shallow). Plus, prime lenses are lighter, cheaper, have better image quality, and, according to some, cutting your zooming potential forces you to be more creative.

Speaking of creativity, we are in an age where it is harder to be creative than ever, with the tools available to most digital photographers. Too many consumer cameras omit manual mode or give too few controls. I started out working with one where I had no control over aperture, shutter speed, ISO speed (!), only auto-focusing, no manual white balance, and while I did produce many of my best images with it, I could’ve done far more far earlier otherwise; even 5-second exposures, focusing closer than three inches, RAW mode, etc., were not options. While I keep my DSLR in shutter-priority mode with auto-focusing for quick shooting, it falls short often; all auto-exposing systems want to make everything look gray, including snow, a bright sky, or scenes dark with shadows. Cameras do not know where to focus; if I place my subject in anywhere but the center, my friends become a blurry blob while beautiful trees get razor-sharp clarity. Switching to a different focus point is quick and easy, but in digital compacts it is painfully hard, or entirely omitted; then you have to put the subject in the middle, half-click, recompose, and shoot, which takes too long. Don’t even try it on a cell phone camera. It’s good to take a film class cuz they’ll force you to learn all that stuff, and you’ll be using a camera where it’s all available. I’m in it more for film and film processing, as I know nothing about that (good stuff to know so I can sound like an expert, ha ha).

In twenty years, 35 millimeter film will be a relic of the past for still photography. Medium and large format film will stick around much longer, as they will continue to outstrip digital cameras in clarity and resolution. Perhaps the megapixel war will be over (it ain’t yet), and we’ll be junking our silly rasterized cameras for infinitely scalable, automated vector photography. We’ll have flying cars too.

Speaking on my website: if you haven’t been here in a week, you’ll notice that the author line below each post has spiffy formatting. It’s now a dynamically-compiled sentence with the author (I’m richardxthripp), time of posting, categories, and tags. Had to change my WordPress theme to use ISO 8601 date formatting. Get used to it; we’ll all be writing our dates like this, soon as we switch over to metric and start using Oxford spelling. All the times are UTC, which is five hours ahead of local time (North American Eastern Time), and four hours ahead during that pesky Daylight time. I do show the local time that each of my photos was taken at; look for the data line below the sales pitch.

The same fancy line appears on the printable view of each page (which has been moved to a gray-text link at the bottom of each entry). I use WP-Print for those pages; I could use a special style-sheet for print, but it’s more work, and I wouldn’t get that pretty list of links at the bottom. By default, it likes to append a trailing slash to every link: “/print” is instead “/print/”. I don’t understand everyone’s love for trailing slashes on every URI (“URL” is obsolete); I know they’re supposed to represent directories, but all pages are not directories. So, to get it to do what I wanted, I had to edit the source code (there is no option in the user interface). Unfortunate, but not hard to do through trial-and-error.

If you like to read this blog on the LiveJournal or Xanga mirror, all the “add to your shopping cart” links now work from there! I hard-coded my blog’s URI into the YAK source code (the WordPress plugin I use), because before, it was relative, so the buttons would try to take you to the add to cart page at livejournal.com or xanga.com, which obviously won’t work. Other bugs have also been squished. The Printable, ShareThis, similar, next, and last entries links have all been moved to the footer of entries instead of being displayed inline with the text; this makes them clearly separated, gives focus to the content, and saves a lot of space.

There is also a brilliantly simple hit counter on the sidebar, below the ads; it says “You are visitor # 1,190 at thripp.com” right now. You are two visitors if you browser for over an hour, or come back later. This is all thanks to StatCounter; I’m not putting the load on my server. Dedicated WordPress plugins write stats to the database for every visitor; this is awful if you get really popular.

That’s all! I hope everyone is looking forward to the Martin Luther King holiday, which we’re celebrating six days after his birthday, for some reason.

Critical Analysis: “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

The first entry in my new essays section. The story of Omelas is a fascinating classic, and I recommend it for anyone who likes to think.

A Critical Analysis of “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” a short, fictional story by Ursula Le Guin. Question-and-answer format. Text included. Essay and annotation by Richard X. Thripp.
2008-01-18 — http://richardxthripp.thripp.com/essays/
PDF version, with an annotated copy of the text (1.3MB).

Question One: What is a utopia? Does Omelas meet the definition?
Omelas is a utopia, though not of the lifeless type that the word inspires. Le Guin notes that the inhabitants are not “bland utopians,” not “simple folk,” nor “dulcet shepherds” (2). The residents need not live simply—there can be all sorts of luxuries, wondrous technologies, drugs, beer, and orgies in the streets, because their happiness is not based on possessions, but rather, “a just discrimination of what is necessary,” “what is destructive,” and what is neither (2). This insight is the definition of a utopia; when everyone knows it, wars, slavery, and competition is not needed (2-3). The children are happy, and the adults, “mature, intelligent, [and] passionate” (2), with no need for a hierarchal church or government (2-3). The city is beautiful, the weather and harvests are kind and abundant, and most everyone healthy (5), yet this is just the icing on the cake. It is indeed a utopia, for all except the suffering child (4-5).

Question Two: What is the narrator’s opinion of Omelas?
Our narrator sympathizes with the citizens of Omelas, even going so far as to name the child’s plight as the source of all compassion in the town. “There is no vapid, irresponsible happiness”; all the residents know that “they, like the child, are not free” from the “terrible justice of reality” (6)—that one human, just as important as any other, must be dehumanized for the democratic benefit of the majority. Knowing of the child “makes possible the nobility of their architecture, the poignancy of their music, the profundity of their science” (6); it drives and inspires, gives compassion and robs the people of their innocence. “To throw away the happiness of thousands for the chance of the happiness of one: that would be to let guilt within the walls indeed,” Le Guin reasons (6). The few that leave, leave without incident, in the dead of night never to return, as their quite protest, going “through the beautiful gates” and farmlands, “to a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness” (7). The narrator seems to find the dilemma at Omelas to be acceptable, as he calls those who leave “incredible” (6), saying that he “cannot describe it at all,” but “they seem to know where they are going” (7). His opinion, like the adults in Omelas, is that idealism must yield to pragmatism; it is too much to ask for everyone to give up the niceties to save one person from a life of torture and suffering.

Question Three: What is the symbolic connotation of the locked, windowless cellar in which the lone child suffers?
The forsaken child is the rotten foundation which their beautiful society rests on. In the iconic words of Honoré de Balzac, “behind every great fortune there is a crime,” and the crime here is that the utopia of Omelas is supported on strict terms: “there may not even be a kind word spoken to the child” (6), lest he be pulled, even for a second, out of his “abominable misery” (5). Children learn the terrible fact between eight and twelve, and no matter how well their parents explain and justify it in advance, the new discovery is sickening and angering (5). It may take months or years, but they will come to accept the torture of one for the benefit of the many—pragmatism will rule over whatever ideals they once held, as they know that the very hour they would save the child, “all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed” (6). Quite a price indeed. We have ethical dilemmas in the real world that are similar yet more murky, such as euthanasia for the hopelessly ill and elderly, triaging in disasters and on the battleground (not every limb, person, or finger can be saved), and wars that are supposably1 fought for the good of the world, but result in millions of deaths and injuries. The story of Omelas symbolizes them all, and as in all such systems, there are some who “walk straight out of the city” (7), never to return, unwilling to bear the guilt. Others gain peace of mind by deciding that the lost child could not possibly be human. He or she is sub-human, and is instead referred to as “it” (4-6), “too degraded and imbecile to know any real joy” (6), and thus the crime is just.

Question Four: In the story, do you find any implied criticism of our own society?
Le Guin criticizes “a bad habit” that trickles down from the “pedants and sophisticates” (2), the classy intellectuals that teach us to celebrate pain over pleasure, violence over peace, and despair over delight. We are taught that “happiness [is] something rather stupid,” while the “banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain” (2) is replaced by fascination with death, deviance, and necromancy. A utopia is a backwards kingdom filled with happy, simple-minded subjects. In the real utopia, there are no careless princesses to be rescued by valiant princes, no arch-bishops to create the newest refinements to an oppressive religion, and no misguided soldiers to fight bloody wars in the name of freedom. You can be happy and peaceful without being a naïve, passionless simpleton. When we come to believe that “only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting,” we have come to “lose hold of everything else” (2). No technological wonders can provide happiness when our thinking is collectively flawed. “Joy built upon successful slaughter” will not do; we must be joyous like the citizens of Omelas, where “the victory they celebrate is that of life” (3), and not of death and suffering.

Photo: The Garden in Yellow

The Garden in Yellow — sharp yellow flowers against a black background

Yellow flowers highlighting a dark garden. This was in the flower section at Wal-Mart; who says you can’t take great photos there? :big-grin:

A darkened background, brighter flowers, and contrast enhancements make this photo stand out.

[sniplet 4×6-lustre]

Canon Rebel XTi, EFS 18-55mm, 1/40, F3.5, 18mm, ISO100, 2007-08-23T22:21:15-04, 2007-08-23_22h21m15

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

Back to School

My winter break ends tomorrow, when I begin my second semester at Daytona Beach College. I’ll be taking six courses (sixteen credit hours), but three of them are with the same wonderful teachers, and one of them is Photography I, so this will be my most fun semester.

The photography course is in-class for four hours weekly, so I won’t be there till Friday. While I do some black-and-white photography, this course will be mostly black-and-white film. I haven’t worked with film before (only digital and digital editing), so this will be a useful learning experience.

The courses I’ll be in: English II, Humanities II, American Political & Economic Issues, Trigonometry, Photography I, and a one-credit course on Internet research, which is good for my intended majors (computer science, and library science as my master’s degree).

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