Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Faster Than The Speed Of Life

Justin's birthday was last week, so we wanted to go out and celebrate and be awesome in general... so, we did. We hit up The Counter in El Segundo for some "man food" as Justin put it. I'd been to The Counter twice before with not great experiences either time, but this time it was really top notch. Burger was perfect, cooled and built to order. Staff as always was friendly, and naturally Justin was going nuts with his new ShakeIt iPhone app by GSG. It's a snazzy little program that simulates the Polaroid experience on the iPhone (complete with Polaroid-y sound and shake). Check the video on The Gorrilla's blog for a tour. Here are a couple of Justin's pics:

Tough guy

Man food

From there we wanted to work on some time lapse photography so we jetted up to the 3rd St. Promenade in Santa Monica. Unfortunately, I realized on the way that I had forgot the software CD to run the capture program on my computer. Bummer. But we decided to set up anyway and try to take some stills. Lady fortune was shining on us that night though, as we realized the lighting conditions were actually not bad for shooting continuously at the shutter speed intervals. No intervalometer needed, just hold the button down! Anyway, this is what I came up with:

3rd Street Promenade Time Lapse from Ryan Tuttle on Vimeo.

Not too bad for a first try. Learned a lot. For example, if you want to be seen, move a lot slower (that's me at the 1:32 mark). A lesson not everyone needed, as you'll see below:

Promenade Time Lapse - Break Dance from Ryan Tuttle on Vimeo.

That's Carlos a.k.a. Barabro with the slow walk and the crazy breaking at the beginning of the clip. He and his crew perform there regularly, and they stopped and chatted with Justin and me to see what we were doing. (You know you're cool when the b-boys stop by and want to see what you're doing, right?... Right?... [chirp... chirp...]) OK, maybe not, but they were cool enough to do some moves for our little movie. I had fun. I think they did too. Here's a couple pics of Justin during the shooting. (Check out Justin's video too!)

Nice face birthday boy

Oh and we saw a piano sitting out on PCH on the way home. The end.

New Software...

...Translated from nerd that means "new toy". It's no magic past-altering Fortran email program, but still pretty cool. I've been using Apple's Aperture 2 to edit all my photos and the one thing I find it lacking for a basic user like myself is a panorama stitching feature. I've tried the software that came with my camera as well as some free programs with (very) limited results. So I went out to Big Blue Sunday afternoon to grab Photoshop Elements 6 (for Mac, natch). Fortunately for me I still had Christmas gift cards so it was pretty easy on the wallet (Thanks Grandma Timmons and Jody), though I couldn't help pick up an Old Crow Medicine Show album while I was there as well.

I've got a lot to learn with this new program but for the most part the auto-stitcher worked pretty well for my Death Valley panoramas. It's pretty cool actually see these come together. My favorite is below, but check them all out here. This was the only one I shot in two rows, and it looks like I could have used on more picture. This is 13 pictures in total. And yep, that's a volcanic crater. The whole neighboring area is volcanic rock as well. Yet more diversity in Death Valley NP. The pic below is resized to about 1/10th of the original. The Picasa posts are as small as 1/100th. If anyone has a need / want for any full size, leave a comment or shoot an email and I'll send you a jetbytes link.

Big Ubehebe Crater

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hot Enough For Ya?

I'd been trying to get out to Death Valley National Park all spring and was finally able to do it last weekend (plus Monday). Now, before I went there I can recall all the horrible thoughts that Death Valley conjured up in my head on hearing the name, and I am sure many of you reading this are in the same boat as well. But really Death Valley, in my opinion, is the best embodiment of California's diverse terrain and ecosystem in the entire state. Yes, its namesake is the lowest, hottest, most brutal son of a gun I have ever come across. To be caught in the lowest, driest portion of the valley without resources is probably a quick path to the hereafter. But... there is so much more.

But... let's start with the valley. More specifically, BADWATER! I'm not sure, but I imagine it was named so because if you drank from there, you would certainly exclaim, "bad water!". It's basically a salt basin in an ancient lake bed, and just happens to be the lowest elevation in the USA at 282 ft. below sea level (see if you can find the "sea level" sign on the neighboring foothill).

Badwater: 282 feet below sea level; it was approaching 100
degrees the day I arrived in

As I have noted, Death Valley is far more than the valley floor that is Badwater. Several miles away - and visible from the floor - sit the Eastern Sierras, including Telescope Peak at over 11,000 ft. In fact - though out of the park - Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous 48 states, is within two hours drive. A 40 degree temperature difference can often be found with an hour drive in the park.

Aguerberry Point: at about 4500ft. it was nice and cool on Sunday
morning (around 60 degrees); much better than the 97 degrees on the valley floor

After a decent winter snowfall, Death Valley is also one of the most popular places for gazing at California wildflowers. I came well past peek this spring, but they were still around.

Wildflower field thinned out heading into summer

Not to be outdone by the plant and mineral life, the animals of Death Valley represented in numbers this year. Spiders stopped by camp to try and bum a libation. Lizards frolicked about. Gopher snakes - or so I'm told - were present in various animated states, namely, dead and alive. And though I was unable to spot him, I am quite certain that the ever-elusive lionman lurked somewhere about. Got liger? I was hoping to see a tarantula, but maybe next year.

Plenty of other good stuff at the full gallery. But before I leave you a little something for the women.

Being alone in the desert for 3 days can result in you finding goofy
ways to amuse yourself. Call me, ladies! Rrrrowwwwrrr!

Much more interesting stuff to come later this week, including some breathtaking panoramas from my Death Valley trip and my first crack at a time lapse. So stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ups & Downs, Thumbs and Otherwise

It's been a while since my last post, and there are a couple of reasons for that. First, it was a little hectic last week. The Vincents were in town for a visit, and I was fortunate that they made a couple slots for me in their busy visitation schedule for me on Thursday and Friday. They are doing well, and Lila is just about the happiest baby I've ever seen... Even when I get to hold her.

Maybe if they send me a pic or two, I can get it posted here. I would have had my own, but I brought my "party" cam to dinner and naturally left the battery at home. How convenient. As far as my "that guy" cam, well I realize now all of the pictures I took with it at my place are out of focus. More on that to come.

Friday night also happened to be book club meeting. We were discussing The Stranger (my pick). The discussion was quite lively and much more enjoyable than the book, in my opinion (note I didn't include the customary "humble" in there). It helped me out a lot getting everyone else's thoughts about the book, but in the end, I still wasn't quite sure what Camus was getting at. Excuse me... at what Camus was getting (this is probably grammatically incorrect as well). So in the end I had to give it the ol' thumbs down, the solitary negative amongst the group (but I'm sure they were all just sparing my feelings... Ha! As if I had any).

OK so back to my "that guy" camera... (This is what Caleb dubbed it when I bought my small "party" cam. I said I didn't always want to lug my big camera places, particularly in social settings - as if that's much of a danger for me - where it can be a bit distracting. Caleb succintly expressed my sentiment as, "oh, you don't always want to be that guy." I'd say that's pretty accurate.) Anyway, this is the second reason I haven't blogged in a bit, as it has had a couple of performance-hindering issues lately. As I mentioned in my last post, I got a new lens from the Corwins. Well, after trying it out on my BOC, I found I couldn't detach the lens from my camera. Yadda, yadda, yadda, the lens was defective and actually broke slightly while I took those dozen pictures. A guy at the local camera shop was able to remove it in a not altogether gently manner, but when I put my other lenses on there were frequent camera-to-lens communication errors and autofocus was not operational. I drove the lens and camera down to Canon (holla OC!) today to see what they could do. They are going to fix the lens, and the camera issue looks like an easy fix they were able to take care of today (but not after trying to charge me $180 - I politely explained that my camera was fine until I attached their faulty lens... and perhaps an encounter with an aggressive camera shop employee). Bottom line is I'll be getting a repaired or new lens in the next week, and my camera is as good as before. And I am much happier now.

One good thing that came of this whole camera situation was that I am now alerted to the fact that Cruella DeVille is roaming freely through the Southland. It's good to be aware that this type of element is nearby.

Unfortunately, the sight of that car in traffic was not the only indication of Ms. DeVille's presence I would receive today. Early this evening, I received a knock on my door from a sweet young lady who suspects she had her miniature dauchsund stolen. It was a pretty sad story, and was actually looking for witnesses who might have seen the perp steal her dog away (she lives across the street). She thinks she knows who has it, but the police can't search based solely on her suspicion. She suspects her ex-boyfriend took it, but if it were me I'd follow the trail of green smoke and puppy. Seriously, what an awful story.

And since I know Anne will ask, no, I did not get her "contact information." Actually I know her name and where she lives so I guess I kinda did.

UPDATE!: Pics from The Vincent's visit courtesy of Jenny's blog (I stole 'em).

Chics dig my beard.

"You've got a baby... in a bar."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Blinged out cabbage? Bandolier of carrots? Good guesses, but no. After much anticipation, my shipment of Random Crap arrived today. Is it truly random? No... But pretty close. I guess I can be glad the powers that be at Woot! went to a new Bag of Crap format as I received considerably more than 3 measly craps. Here's the breakdown:

(1) green bucket
(2) "Yay! It's broccoli" t-shirts
(1) Sansa E200
(1) Sansa MP3 Player / FM Radio (model unknown)
(4 pr.) Sansa earbuds
(4) Sansa USB connectors (for MP3 players)
(1) Motorola USB flash drive

So, yeah, uh, not totally crap. Considering it's marketed as crap, I think I made out pretty well. I've nearly bought a Sansa player on many occassion. And if you're wondering if they're refurbs... You bet they are! And display so unabashedly. Honestly, I wouldn't want it any other way. I'm not sure why I got a multitude of earbuds and dongles (leftovers from other players that did not survive the rigorous refurb process? consideration for high failure rate of said items? randomness?), but, hey, I'm not complaining. As for the bucket, well, who doesn't need a bucket? The shirts are a little small for me (child's size 4). I'll have to send one along to Riley, and... maybe Jenny? She's pretty small.

P.S. Al photos for this post taken with my birthday gift from the Corwins. Canon EF 50mm 1.8 II. Super excited about it. Not the ideal application for this lens but I wanted to express my thanks. I'll have some cool pics with it soon!