Thursday, November 24, 2016

Flopped

I titled this 'flopped' because my original subject matter was going to be very different. A month or two ago, I went through the whole backlog of this blog and deleted probably the bulk of it. I decided it was all way too personal, irrelevant, and silly, especially when a lot of it was based on an emotional motivation.

Originally, having been struck big by a song I discovered yesterday, I was going to analyze it along with several others over my life that have really had an effect on me - 'Our House,' 'Millennium,' etc. - and see if there are similarities and characteristics between them that say all I need to know about what I absolutely love to hear. However, that's a personal thing I can write in a journal. Why should you care about why I like something or that I like it? Unless it's a song review and I'm using my musical training/background/taste.

Instead I'm going to put a short thing I wrote about the election several weeks ago that I'd written. A friend told me it would make a great opinion piece, so why not, I'll have it here.

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Regarding the election, the outcome shocked the world. I wasn’t surprised, but I wasn’t particularly happy, either. Everyone around me knew Hilary Clinton would win the election, and even by a landslide. I didn’t have such high hopes, thinking that if she won, it might be by very little, or not at all. I was right not to invest all my hope; Donald Trump won in a landslide against Clinton, largely for his anti-establishment rhetoric and protectionist agenda. It partly amused me, though – people like my friend Atley were adamant that the Americans would “go forward, not backwards.” They went backwards, and extremely so.

Results like this tell me two things: 1 – being loud, belligerent, apathetic, relatively famous and full of financial resources, and infinitely narcissistic can win you the highest office in the United States – and 2: People’s emotions are probably a lot more cyclical in nature than they are progressive. We might enter a period of little racism or discrimination, but that doesn’t mean we’re in an eternal period of enlightenment. Racism, xenophobia, and many other negative –isms have a way of rearing their ugly heads, and in a vengeful, massive way, all over again from time to time. Regardless of how much effort has been done to educate. Educating can do so much, but it can’t eliminate the hate and evil that persists in our very imperfect species. I’ve read in more than one book that the best enlightenment can do is keep evil at bay (but never successfully eradicate it).

Spiritually (and ideologically) fanatical proponents of the positive –isms such as feminism, etc, will immediately label the American working-class of uneducated white men as disgusting animals who cannot bear the idea of having a female president in office. I expect there is some truth in their propaganda, but I can’t disqualify Trump’s fear-based platform as having little to do with their purported main reason. Rather, I think his rhetoric about 'dangerous' Muslims and Mexican “rapists” as well as cutting trade programs and outsourcing to keep jobs in the country (while opposing the all-elite classes against him) spoke a little more to them. Not to mention Trump used very plain, simple language that such a working class of people would probably appreciate – he came off as an everyman more than as a politician.


Either way, it should be interesting how this will play out in the next few months. Trump came off as speculative in an ignorant sense, and I suppose his office may undo some of the better things previous presidents have done in the name of social progression (gay marriage, abortion, etc.) but we’ll see. I don’t see the point in feeling wholly negative and despairing as a large many do. Life is a ride; sometimes it gets bumpy, and when it does, that’s when it gets exciting.

That was the original end of what I'd written. I feel I should go on to point out that in saying turmoil is 'exciting,' I mean that often the ride to success is a lot more fun than the arrival at it. I'm not looking forward to people getting hurt or even killed, etc. That being said, I am not treating everything as a black and white issue; Muslims are peaceful and dangerous just as westerners are the same; there are definitely Mexican rapists just as there are American rapists and Canadian rapists. Living on planet Earth means living with risk. It's impossible to mitigate it. There are definitely base standards - why we have policing systems - and that affords us, in the western world, a reasonable, acceptable standard of safe living. With risks that we can manage.

The world is not a black-and-white place; emotional motivations and judgments are not reflective of logical ones; humanity is not a perfect (or simple) species; one cannot please everyone.
Red Cloud
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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Night Aerial Photography - Redux

Back in September, I tried attempting aerial photography from a plane at night for the first time. Using my Canon 7D, I got grainy, dark, barely-attractive images.



Thanks to that experiment, I gathered my resources and traded in my 7D - as well as nearly all of my lenses - and upgraded to a Canon 6D at a reduced price.

I was specific: I wanted a camera that had the best noise reduction and capabilities for night photography. For Canon, the 6D was the body to for that. My old camera's highest ISO rating was 12,800; the 6D, in comparison, stops at 102,400 ISO.

The camera would need amazing noise reduction capabilities if Canon felt that 102,400 ISO was the point of no return for overwhelming noise.

It didn't matter. I only ended up needing an ISO of 8000 when I went up last Wednesday. The fact the 6D also uses a full frame sensor instead of cropped also reduces the noise, as well as the amount of surface for light to expose on.

Using the same lens, the same exposure time (1/125th), and the same f/stop (1.8), at a higher ISO rating (I never ventured beyond 6400 on my 7D) I got this:

Barrhaven - South; Woodroffe towards Strandherd Drive.

There was no sheen of colourless grain; blacks were blacks, and lights were full. There were many, many more sharp images than last time, and while there's noise, it only shows up as non-destructive, small grain that blends in with the colours of the image. It's noisy - but in an absolutely non-destructive way.

I was even able to try some vertical straight-down shots:

Merivale Mall, Viewmount Drive. Light from the blue 'M' logos bleed out onto the ground from the building, as does red light from the large Harvey's sign on the restaurant.

Strandherd Drive; looking straight down on the Barrhaven Wal-Mart and surrounding Chapman Mills Marketplace. White light from the parking light standards dilute the orange-lit RioCan Ave as well as fall across the roof of the buildings.

Of course, I had my pilot fly me at a much lower altitude - 2,500 feet rather than 5,000 feet as last time - so lights on the ground probably came out brighter. I was also impressed by the way cars and vehicles appeared - very insect-like, their head and tail lights not very noticeable unless they braked or appeared on low-lit, or unlit, roads. What I couldn't believe is that my camera was actually, despite the lack of light, able to pick out objects on the ground or just the ground in general of areas that weren't lit at all.

My neighbourhood; I can actually see roofs - and lawn lights - this time.

My old neighbourhood. If you look closely you can actually see unlit streets and the tennis court. Geez.

This flight is the one that properly proved that with a good camera you can really make things look amazing at night. I traded in a lot to get my Canon 6D - I only have one proper lens (my 50mm) as well as my fisheye (which requires I crop each image I take with it thanks to the full frame sensor) and it was obviously worth it. Noise is evident but not in a horribly, destructive way that renders the whole flight pointless, and I can focus now on other issues - such as aiming for a slightly smaller aperture, a slightly faster exposure time, and more all-around sharpness. Thanks to both, quite a few of my images had some camera shake in them (though not as much as I expected) and many had very small areas of sharpness due to the tiny depth of field. I tried an ISO as high as 56,000 and even then, while the noise was very obvious, it wasn't destructive - not in any way my old camera was at a mere ISO 3200.

The only difference here is altitude and ISO level. Every other variable is the same - save for altitude, ISO (bottom one is 8000; top one is 6400) and camera body. And the LED lighting on Meadowlands Drive and Fisher Avenue.

This goes to show that night photography, as I'd hoped, can be quite a fun, interesting, artistic, new way to see things.


The accompanying video:

All images here.

Red Cloud
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Monday, November 7, 2016

Red, White and Blue - Oh, the funny things you do, America, America...This is you...

I haven't said a single thing about the American election, and typically, I wouldn't. I'm not interested in having a say about a country I don't live in or have real reason to talk about.

But, considering this past year and a half, perhaps I should be a bit vocal.

I'm not usually very forthcoming with my own politics, unless I disagree with something, like the focus of my last post. Most of them weren't well developed until a couple of years ago, when I read a couple of great books.

While I don't have the right to vote, being a Canadian citizen, etc., I would - without much to need to think about it, really - check Hillary's name off on my ballot.

There are a haze of reasons why I would not go in Donald Trump's direction, but I'm just going to focus on one. Aside from Hillary Clinton having years of political experience and policy knowledge, Trump suffers from obscene, remarkable narcissism.

I cannot think of a presidential candidate who was so focused on "looking good" and jumping at every single jab at his character; his team of litigators must be massive considering the amount of people he sues because they said something mean or disparaging. I think about some of the things he has said; the obvious xenophobia, paternalism and racist nature aside, he honestly thinks he is invulnerable. He thinks he can grab a woman's genitals with no negative repercussions because he's famous; he thinks he can shoot someone and people will applaud or look the other way. His own singular beliefs that he is a 'genius' and essentially perfect in every way, to me, is what makes him unfit to run a country.

He pounces on anyone who proves his imperfections or his faults; his reactionary nature is so childish he might as well be a bully on the playground. How can this demeanour translate into diplomacy on the world stage? While he has actually committed to developing a small (very small) framework of policy, 95% of it is likely all show and grandeur. I haven't observed, over the past ten years, the U.S. to be particularly smart with its economy. Spending billions on an impractical wall based on inflated statistics - no doubt brought into existence by strong emotions than logic or stats - won't help.

The hypocrisy is overwhelming. I don't understand why someone's personal life should be considered in excess when running for president, but apparently having your husband cheat on you may influence whether people will vote for you or not - while the other candidate, who threw wives away or disregarded them while talking about groping women without fear of consequences maintains a strong level of support.

I am not putting any extreme hope tomorrow evening for either candidate. Some people are convinced Hillary Clinton will win. I'm not going to be absolutely sure about that. Donald Trump has stayed with little to no issues in the race, keeping it very close. It was easy for people to joke about his running from the first day he announced it two years ago. Then he campaigned and won primaries and knocked every other Republican nominee out of the race. No matter how many new scandals (however serious, evidently) pop up to bring Trump down a level, he recovers without much problem. He has almost no support from his party yet he's mere single digits behind Clinton. I will be ready to see the results when I see them. It should be very interesting.

If Trump wins, I will admittedly be quite amused at the kind of values and leader our southern neighbours actually want. As far as I'll be concerned, we've got a country-wide election version of America's Funniest Home Videos. Where American citizens actually believed in the commercial Trump created featuring the slogan "Making America Great Again." Except when he doesn't work, they can't return him to the store. He's non-refundable.

Red Cloud
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