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   Tazz has purchased a studio lighting kit and wanted to play with it.  He initially wanted to try some out doors shots in a canopied area.  The idea was to experiment with getting elimination on a subject while exposing properly the natural background.  We decided to try this shoot at Big Hill's Park.  They don't have outlets available to the public, so we would have to bring our own power source.  My truck is equipped with a 1,000 watt power inverter, which I thought would do the trick.
   I bought the power inverter after having experienced no power for 5 days in Kansas City after an ice storm.  However, I didn't have it wired to actually produce 1,000 watts—only about 300.  In order to pull the amperage for the full 1K, I had picked up some 4 gage wire.  I didn't install it since it required drilling a hole through the firewall of the truck.  For this lighting project, I would need the power, and I didn't have the time to dill the firewall.  So, I decided just to connect the wire and set the inverter outside the truck during the shoot.  A quick stop at the auto place for some battery terminals, I had everything ready.  To test it out, I got out my 1,000 watt halogen work lights (2x 500 watt lights) and powered them up.  The engine dropped in RPM a bit as the governor compensated for the load on the alternator and the lights were up.  The amp meter on the inverter was a little under 100, but the lights were full on.
   We packed up and headed to Big Hill's.  Our initial location wasn't doable, since we didn't have the extension cord to reach.  We picked an other location and set everything up.  But as soon as we turned on the strobes, the inverter turned off on overload.  We tried a couple things, and even though the draw was only around 30 continuous amps per strobe, the inverter tripped on overload.  My guess is that the capacitors for the strobes drew too heavily when they recharged—more then 8.3 continuous amps.  The inverter is suppose to be able to take surges up to 2,000 watts for a short duration (16.7 amps), but it seems this just wasn't enough.  The other possibility is the 4 gage wire simply wasn't large enough.  To my dislike, I found while installing that the positive cable was not copper (probably aluminum).  It's possible that voltage drop across the cable was too much.
   After this short failed experiment, we traveled to Tazz's in-law's house to shoot in their living room.  They have 20 foot ceilings in the front room, which we needed in order to extend the strobe tripods.  Together, Tazz and I tried several experiments with his lighting rig.  Since our cameras did not know the power the strobes would have, all our metering would have to be done manually.  Tazz preferred a shooting with a large aperture and fast shutter speeds, while I preferred to close up the aperture and leave the shutter open longer.  Since there was some ambient light, I played with shooting shutter speeds of around 1/10 second (open fairly long) and a tight aperture (around f/13).  This allowed me to capture things such as the light from a near by table lamp.  The trick was finding the correct white balance.  The shots would have elements of flash light (typically very cool) and incandescent light (typically very warm).  I found it was best to compensate for the flash color temperature, and keep the warmth of the incandescent light.
   Pictured is Tazz.

1 comment has been made.

From Pluvius a.k.a. Tyson (www.pluvius.net)

Caledonia, IL

July 04, 2006 at 1:48 PM

Nice - looks cool went to a wedding a couple days ago the photographer had some interesting equipment. Wonder if Tazz bought any of the stuff I saw there - I took pictures of it have to have you identify it.
   I did a 13 mile bike ride today to Big Hill's Park in Beloit.  I played with the 75-300mm for a bit, shooting a woodpecker.  Like the name implies, Big Hill's is a large hill.  There is a paved road the goes to the bottom level on which I decided to open up a little.  Last I checked, I was holding 32 MPH.  Unfortunately, the road at the bottom curves, so I had to slow down quickly.  Again I'm glad for the disc breaks as I don't know if standard breaks would have been happy absorbing that much kinetic energy.  The front caliper was quite hot when I reached the bottom.  Knowing I hit this as fast as I was means I was traveling more then twice the posted speed limit.
   Pictured is a wood pecker.
   I had not thought it would be necessary to stay more then one day for this work trip, but I had planned for it anyway.  However, the day was cut short due to operating conditions.  So, I was back on the road by 2:00pm (Michigan time).  This would get me into Chicago traffic around 2:30pm (Chicago time).  That's probably before rush begins, but still in the middle of the day where traffic is very heavy. 
   Prior to leaving, I checked on-line for some staking rinks in the area and found one that had a Tuesday session.  It was in Kalamazoo, about 45 minutes from where I was working.  The session wouldn't start for an other 4 and a half hours, but I thought maybe I'd look around the city for awhile.  I was going to try and find a park or something to do some shooting, but I found a ton of traffic and a tangle of road.  Instead, I found a coffee shop close to University and spent the remainder of my wait sipping tea and tooling around the net.
   I arrived at the skating rink just as they opened.  The rink had some kind of linoleum floor, which to my delight, was not slippery.  It was just a little smaller then my rink in Watertown and didn't have air-conditioning.  None the less, they did have a good number of skaters for a Tuesday night.  I skated the entire 2 hour session and finished completely drenched with sweat.  But, it was a good run and it was now 8:30pm. 
   One of the reasons I decided to go to Kalamazoo was because after the skating session, I would be right next to I-94.  This would take us exactly where we needed to be, so the trip really wasn't out of the way.  On the drive back, I started falling asleep (lesson: don't skate hard for 2 hours before you need to drive 4 more).  I pulled over at a rest area and despite the start of a rather heavy thunderstorm, slept like a baby for about an hour.  I hit Chicago around 11:00pm and I'm very glad I decided to wait.  Traffic was still very heavy, but it was the construction that will really making things congested.  Luckily, despite bumper to bumper conditions at times, traffic never dropped below 45 MPH.
   Pictured is a candle in a globe at Shogun restaurant.
   Began my trip to Michigan for work.  The location I was going is about a four and a half hour drive.  I left around 2:30am, which gets me to Elgin. IL around 3:15.  The Elgin toll is pretty much the location where Chicago traffic begins.  The interstate becomes three lanes and for the next 100 miles (sometime after Gary, Indiana) is urban traffic.  This portion of the drive I prefer to do in the early morning hours.  Even then, traffic is heavy, but it's moving steady.
   Pictured is civil twilight (just before sunrise) over South Ave.
   Did some work on Tazz's site trying to add the gallery scripts to his new layout.  Part of my scripts use the EXIF information from images to fill in data about the camera and lens that took the shot.  Tazz's pictures are edited with Photoshop, which apparently discards some of the EXIF data when you save.  One of the items it discards is minimum and maximum focal length of the lens, which is what I use to determine what lens was used to take the shot.  This is unfortunate, since there really aren't any other clues in the EXIF data to determine this.
   The sun at it first makes it's appears over the trees on a new day.
My Bike

My Bike

   This is my bike.  This is the first picture of my bike with it's side panniers.  This picture was slightly out of focus as I had forgotten to turn the lens back to auto focus.
   Since I was up, I decided to shoot the morning sunrise.  The camera reported this shot was taken at 5:16am.  When I checked, the camera was 11 minutes fast, meaning this shot was taken at 5:05am.  According to my sunrise calculation program, this is about 15 minutes before sunrise, or civil twilight.
Dark Skies Over the Garage

Dark Skies Over the Garage

   Kristy and I were up at 5:00am today so we could take a 10-mile bike ride.  I've been going to bed around 7:00am, so I was already awake and Kristy got up when her alarm clock went off.  So far, so good.  As we were preparing, I opened the door to look outside.  It was rather calm, but the skies were full of dark-gray clouds, moving quickly.  I checked out the back door and saw fairly regular flashing along the horizon.  The skies were not looking good, but there was no rain yet.  Storms have a habit of going around us.  So, I consulted the radar.  There was a thick band of bad weather coming right at us.  In fact, a huge spot of red (red being the most severe) was just about on us and a severe thunderstorm warning was issued.  The bike ride would have to be an other day.
   Despite the threatening weather to come, it was very pleasant outside.  Kristy and I went outside in a nice increasing breeze to observe the neat looking skies.  Within 10 minutes, the wind was quite strong, lightning grew more frequent and soon there was a heavy down poor.  I snapped off several pictures, but missed all the lighting.  Most of the flashes were in the clouds and rarely were strikes visible.  The first wave of the storm pass in about 20 minutes, leaving just a sprinkle and steady winds.  Checking the radar again I saw a second heavy front forming on the tailing edge of the first one, and it was aimed right at us.  Sure enough, we got hit with a second around. 
   I found a cute little program that will calculate sunrise, sunset, solar-noon and twilight time.  Nice to know for photographers and relevant for me, since I've been experimenting with more twilight pictures.  You need to enter your latitude and longitude, since that will determine when these events occur.  Gave a reason to figure out that the Garage is located at 42.5623 north, 89.03855 west (although the program does need to be this accurate).
StaAck

StaAck

   I implemented some basic AI for the Squares game.  In my first pass, I simply made the AI player determine which move would take over the most pieces of the opponent.  That worked fairly well.  In fact, when playing against 3 computer players, the game is nearly impossible to win.  But beating the computer one on one is fairly easy. 
   My second addition to the AI was testing the risk of each move.  It would determine the vulnerabilities of each move and weight them against the gains.  If the vulnerabilities were greater or equal to the gains, a different move was used.  This meant the computer would play more defensively.  However, the implementation was a failure.  The computer did random, silly things and was really easy to beat.  There were bugs in the implementation, and the computer would often make illegal moves.  I'll have to redesign some of the game internals to fix this problem, but I'm not in any hurry.
   What I would like to do is implement a learning system so I could play the computer and teach it, or let it play itself and learn.  I'm afraid my AI knowledge is greatly limited, so I'll have to research doing something like this more.
   Pictured is StaAck.

1 comment has been made.

From Rich Howe

Maryland

June 25, 2006 at 11:30 PM

StaAck, whats up man? I have not seen or heard from you in long ass time. probably not long after Berner and I went military. Rich Howe antera69@comcast.net