In late May, I started using Merlin ID to identity photograph the birds in my backyard and the nearby woods.
This may be because I have used the Merlin Bird ID app to identify the birds singing in my backyard. In the afternoon and morning, I sat on the steps of the deck in the backyard, waiting for the birds to land on a tree branch or one of the large rocks in the backyard. The neighbours must think it odd seeing me walking slowly up and down carrying the imposing XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR super zoom.
The house wren is a delightful little bird with a cheerful song. It's a small bird, but the house wren brings a bit of whimsy to the backyard. I see quite a few zipping between the woods beyond the fence and the short pine bushes in the backyard.
This week the Merlin Bird ID app identified a blackpoll warbler this morning, but I have not seen or photographed this bird.
A friend shared a link to an article by Christopher Brennan the growing trend of "data poisoning", a type of misinformation campaign that researcher Priyanka Ranade specifically targets information security professionals.
“I used to work in a cyber security operations center, and the analysts do use a lot of the cyber threat intelligence that’s out there on a daily basis,” Ranade said.
“I was reading Krebs on Security one day and I thought ‘How does he get all this information?’ He has to do research and probably has people working under him doing research, but what if they come across something that is misinformation that gets spread on these popular blogs. You have all these analysts reading it and they trust these sources.”
An entertaining piece by science fiction author David Brin in response to people "..that insists on interpreting the legends of illiterate shepherds as physically precise accounts".
Now of course, it is somewhat like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel. Past scholars, uncharitable toward literalist believers in “biblical inerrancy,” have calculated the needed size of the Ark, for example. Were even just all known mammal species shoved aboard, shoulder to shoulder — you’d need a hundred modern aircraft carriers.
Alas, that raises a counter question about the fallibility of a deity who had to revise His design. (Not a problem, by modern reckoning! All ambitious projects undergo revision. It is only a quandary – ironically – to the obsequiously devout, who insist on zero-fallibility, a completely unnecessary trait of a creator and, well, a hard piece of flattery to live up to!)
… instead of as the vastly subtle Creator worshipped by Einstein, who concocts a vast cosmos of stunning complexity, diversity and extant — a universe truly worthy of respect. A God who — Albert would tell us, if he were here today — must have gotten things started fourteen billion years ago by uttering the stunning beauty of Maxwell’s Equations, in order to command…
“let there be light.”
Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something. Just a week after homeowners on my street organised to protest the creation of new townhomes and affordable housing on the other side of our fence line in the wooded area behind our units, a blog post in my RSS leads me to see another perspective.
Who pays when a capricious preservation ruling sacrifices 200 homes? The developers? They just move on: failed projects are built into their business model. The 200 well-off households that would have rented those shiny new apartments? They just compete for other homes in the city in bidding wars that their flush bank accounts ensure they win. But then that sequential process of outbidding steps down the housing market to lower and lower cost homes until the poorest families are left with nothing they can afford. When historic preservation cuts into home production, the people who pay most dearly are those with the least housing security.
The article includes excellent examples of the problems.
It struck me that wristwatch collecting is probably as close as you can come to a purely passive or undemanding form of gear enthusiasm. It really requires nothing of the collector except that they like watches and want more than one. The only skill required is telling time.
At the other end might be guitar connoisseurship. Does it make any sense at all to collect guitars if you can't play guitar and know nothing about music?
Although I'm sure there must be non-playing guitar geeks out there, because, well, because geekery.
On the spectrum of "active skills required" (guitar geekery) to purely passive (watch geekery), photography is remarkably flexible. Being a photographer can require a great deal of dedication, visual aptitude, and skills at one end of the spectrum. But on the other, well, anyone can take a photograph—just point it and shoot, as the phrase has it. You might not get a masterpiece, but you'll get something. Anyone can participate.
With photography, you pick where you want to be on the active <—> passive scale. You can just collect gear and rarely if ever use it. Or, your whole focus can be shooting and you can all but ignore the gear.
I don't collect cameras. I use them. I don't collect cars. I drive them. I don't collect guitars. I am tone-deaf. I had a small watch collection, but now I just wear the same watch every day.
I do try my best to collect experiences.
When I’ve heard vinyl over the past few years, I’ve generally not been impressed. To my ears it didn’t sound better than a CD or even a good streaming service. That evening with my brother-in-law changed my perception completely. He’s been a vinyl collector for many years and has a lovely set of refurbished 1970s hi-fi separates to play his records on. The sound quality melted the wax in my ears.
What utter shite! The sound quality from vinyl does not compare well to the quality of a CD. A listener may prefer the sound from a vinyl setup but to call the sound quality is hyperbole. So what brought me to this article.
I have some vinyl recordings by soca musicians from the West Indies that are not available in the digital compact disk, or digital streaming audio or downloadable digital audio files. The Caribbean studios recorded these calypso albums long before the advent of compact discs. The market for the 1980s soca is limited. I want to listen to them, but I need a record player, perhaps one with a USB output, to digitize the audio for enjoyment on other devices.
But as I started to explain to my wife why large thin disks were arriving in the mail from Brooklyn, I realized more was going on.
When I was a teenager, Dad was very much into Hi-Fi. Over time, he had built an impressive rig. Dad would sit in the living room on the weekends, place one of his favourites on the turntable, and sit back in the “right” spot for a focused listening session. Sometimes I would join him. We sat there, both enjoying the music, the moment broken by just a few words between us.
After his passing, my brothers found Dad’s LP12 in storage in pieces. Termites had eaten the wood plinth, and the metal parts were water damaged. We don’t know what happened to the rest of Dad’s HiFi gear.
…the buyer market is shrinking and not backfilling. The leading profile for vintage audio buyers is ~50+ year old males. Buyer motivation is a mix of appreciation of sonics, mid-century design style and ?nostalgia for gear they grew up with?. When I sell vintage audio gear, almost without exception, buyers are 50+ year old males — while my personal experiences are anecdotal, they represent a small snapshot of a global trend to all HiFi, not simply vintage audio.
I’ve spoken to several leaders in the HiFi world that corroborate even today, the focus market for high-end HiFi gear is male, over 50 years old. Even the contemporary high-end audiophile buyer market is shrinking precipitously. Supporting evidence, the Stereophile Magazine media kit that includes readership demographics, 99% male, average age, 47.
I don’t need expensive audio gear to recreate the moments of focused listening with Dad, and I don’t want an extensive HiFi setup. I listen to a lot of digital audio, and Apple recently updated their Apple Music service to lossless audio. My iPhone is a convenient digital audio source. Apple’s audio catalogue is extensive. Schiit Audio makes capable DACs and headphone amps with phono inputs. I think I can build my audio listening experience around that. It’s not about the gear. It’s about the memories.
My brother-in-law Dipan sent out an SMS. Come hang out in the backyard. We'll grill, make some frozen cocktails and hang out. This was fun.
The family get-together provided ample subjects to practice shooting the aperture of the Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm f/1.7 lens wide open. I had adapted the MD Rokkor-X 50mm f/1.7 to my Fuji-XT2, and with the 1.52 crop factor, this lens offers an angle of view similar to a 76mm lens on a full-frame 35mm camera. That's a "short" portrait lens range, and the f/1.7 produced some creamy background.
While hid Dad, Dipan grilled, Rahul offered up his usual cheesy smile. We chatted about the new 85" TV Dipan had bought to "hang out with your friends in the basement" room. I immediately ordered a copy of the F1 2021 racing game to be delivered. We are going to have some fun.
Shaan wanted me to take her portrait, which is unusual for my kids. She wanted some headshots and some full-body photos. I took all at maximum aperture.
Dipan grilled hotdogs, veggie burgers, mushrooms with a spicy marinade, jalapeno peppers, and corn on the cob while mixing up frozen margaritas.
Dipan bought a new Honda Odyssey mini-van. I had warned him that although spacious and comfortable, mini-vans were boring to drive. They are young Dad cars. I know. We used to have one. He acknowledged that I was spot on, but the mini-van is what he wants for the long roads trips with Rohan, Rahul and his parents. This summer, they want to spend some time exploring the northeast - the Maine coastline, perhaps Niagara Falls, Canada, etc.
Above, Mukesh talking excitedly with Dipan about the mini-van.
Bhavna was happy to be with her family. She had a rough week with sleep, and this was a pleasant distraction. I can see the happiness in her eyes.
Later in the evening, we sat on lounge chairs in a circle, having those witty but deeply connecting conversations that families have. Rohan finally sat still long enough for me to capture his portrait.
Lens-Artists Challenge #154 – One Photo Two Ways
When I was at my sister-in-law's home last night, I noticed these flowers that she planted along the side of the hose near the garage. I thought it would be great to focus my Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm f/1.7 lens, which I had adapted to my Fuji X-T2, on something other than portraits of the family. Just like with the portraits above, I set this nearly 40-year-old lens at its maximum aperture.
I almost always forget to attach an image for the weekly Lens-Artists Challenge. I am either too busy during the week, don't get outside, or get too busy on the weekend, hastily post my journal for the week, and forget to attach images. I remembered this morning - Monday - so I did some quick editing in Adobe Lightroom and Luminar AI. This week's challenge is One Photo Two Ways.
The original image (below) is underexposed.
I wanted the brighten the image but still let the flowers play the central role. I increased exposure and white balance and then pulled back the shadows to darken the leaves framing these purple-pink flowers. There is some colour shifting in the flowers.
My second edit was a bit simpler. I applied a fade to the image while increasing highlights and whites just a bit.