My yearly camping trip came and went last week, and as always, it was full of laughter and good times. The “Excellent Adventure” (coined by my friend Tom Green) is now in its seventh year, and with this new year were some changes. Read the rest of this entry »

Written on August 22nd, 2013 , camping, On the Personal SIde, Photography, technology

Graveyard at nightWell, it took weeks of back-burner thinking, and two days of implementation, but my front yard Halloween graveyard hit the mark again! Parents, teens and kids alike were all very impressed with the set up, from eerie lighting, to fog, to ground-breaking undead and tombstones.

Of course, the true acid test is the scream. You know the scream, right? That first, terror-riddled cry from a spooked child as they walk up the driveway and see that first shrieking ghoul, lit by bolts of lightning. In all, 3 or 4 children either refused to approach the house at all, or had to be carried tot he door. One little girl was so scared, she gave me  a hug!

In all, we had over 130 kids (and borderline adults) ring the doorbell on Halloween night. We actually ran out of candy and resorted to raiding a stash of mini Lindt chocolate bars so we could keep the porch lights (orange and black light) on a little longer. Ad even then, we had to turn kids away well before 9 pm.

Halloween oozes its way into the house as well, with a Creepy Towne village set up on the mantle.

While it is a lot of work, I do enjoy setting up the indoor and outdoor displays. It’s fun and relaxing in its own way. And I can get picky with placement, too; I’ll do the basic outdoor set up, then view the graveyard from a few positions and tweak object locations. When the main set up is locked down, I rough in the lighting during the day and at night, position the lights to be more effective (while not blinding any kids as they make their way up or down the walkway.

Which brings me to the one thing that really ticks me off on Halloween night.

Lazy-ass teenagers

<rant> I really wish that older kids would at least take the time to dress up in some way if they plan to trick or treat. It bothers me that they think they can just show up in a hoodie, carrying a pillow case, and expect to get candy. I mean, come on! Make an effort for Pete’s sake. I don’t care if you’re 7 or 17, if you have some kind of decent costume, you have proven you’ve earned the treat. Otherwise you’re just a lazy parasite, taking advantage of a fun holiday. Too cool to dress up, but not too cool to ask for candy. Give me a break.</rant>

OK, I’ve got that off my chest for the year. Seriously, we had so many comments from kids and adults alike, that it makes the time and effort well worthwhile. And while I’ve promised myself not to buy anything else for next Halloween (one storage shed is almost full of just Halloween stuff), I’m sure I see something gory or scary next October, that I just can’t live without.

Only time will tell . . .

Written on November 5th, 2011 , On the Personal SIde, Photography Tags: , , , ,

It’s that time again. August is here (I can’t frikken believe it’s August already) and in a few days, my buddy Tom Green and I will once again be making the 12-hour voyage to the Near North of Ontario. It’s a great time to relax, decompress and abandon technology (OK, most technology) for an entire week. Our sons join us for this trip and they love it just as much. Read the rest of this entry »

I spent most of the recent Easter weekend up at my friend’s cottage, near Haliburton, Ontario. Going up north is one of my favorite ways to recharge my batteries. Very little technology and no classes to think about; just good times with good friends. Read the rest of this entry »

Written on April 27th, 2011 , On the Personal SIde, Photography

Sports - 1st prize image shot by Alex Ward

The images have been judged, the winning photos professionally printed thanks to Henry’s Canada, and just today, fellow photo instructor and professional photographer Joe Marranca and I framed the 12 final images.

Now all that’s left is to show off the amazing images captured by Centennial College’s School of Communications, Media and Design (SCMD) students in the 3-year, Fast Track and UTSC journalism programs. Very soon, the work will go on display in our very own Corridor Gallery here at the SCMD!

Read the rest of this entry »

I have owned this gem of a lens for some time now, the 18- 200mm Nikkor zoom.  It’s literally on my camera 90% of the time. But lately, I’ve been noticing some sharpness issues. The lens seems to work fine, but the final image quality of some recent photos weren’t up to par.  I thought maybe it was just the auto focus having issues with high key lighting, so I tried manual focus. That didn’t resolve the issue. So I tried varying the aperture. Still no improvement. I shot with and without VR (vibration reduction). Tripod. No tripod. Fast shutter speeds, wide angle vs telephoto. Still no luck.

So, finally, about two weeks ago I drove my favorite lens over to Nikon Canada’s service department in Mississauga. I was told they’d get back to me in about two weeks and sure enough, just shy of that time I received an automated email (nobody phones you anymore, it seems) with the damage report and the dent my pocket book will take to fix things.

I’m not sure how it happened, but apparently the lens received external damage:

  • Impact damage – zoom roller / guide compressed
  • helicoid bent
  • main circuit board has broken component

This was/is distressing to me as I normally take good care of my gear. But apparently something happened at some point.  Maybe I took too many pictures of my friend Tom Green on the last camping trip. I dunno.

The repair bill for fixing/replacing parts came to just over $300, including taxes. Ugh. But on the upside, this lens retails at just over $800.00. So, a painful hit, but not as painful as it could have been.

I’m hoping I have the lens back in my hands next week to I can run some tests.

Written on March 20th, 2011 , On the Personal SIde, Photography Tags: , ,
My new Twitter background image, created with my photos and - of course - Fireworks

New Twitter Home page image

A couple years ago I created my first Twitter home page background image using Fireworks as my design tool. The goal was to use the background image as a branding tool by supplying a mini-bio on the Twitter page, in what looked like a little content pod. The background of the background image  was one of my photos from up north, faded into the web page background color. And it was fine at the time.

Some time ago, though,  Twitter revamped its site, generally making more content available to people visiting their own home page or the page of people they are following. Which is good, I guess. But this also meant that less of the background image was visible. In fact, on my 15 inch Macbook Pro, the actual Twitter content was overlapping my old mini bio. Not good visually, or for branding. Read the rest of this entry »

Hipstamatic shot

Flowers are for the birds

I was looking at pics on my iPhone this week and realized I have shots going all the way back to 2009! The funny thing was that I never thought I used the camera feature very much. Typically I’d opt to use a “real” camera like my Nikon D200. Yet here were upwards of 320 photos, shot and/or manipulated on my iPhone 3′s camera roll.

What does this tell me? Well, mainly that my iPhone is a device of convenience for things other than making calls, texting or tweeting. Without realizing it, I have grown used to whipping out the phone to make a picture. And not necessarily some quick “grab” shot, either.  I’ll take the time to compose the scene, maybe shooting a few angles and then often I’ll take even more time to edit/improve the image using another app. So the adage, “The best camera is the one you have with you” is proving true. Read the rest of this entry »

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