Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Perchance to Sleep

"To sleep, perchance to dream-
ay, there's the rub."
Hamlet (III, i, 65-68)
I know that Shakespeare, through Hamlet, said "perchance to dream," but I'm changing dream to sleep for this post. Sorry, Will.

There was a time when Sue and I went to bed together and got up together, more or less anyway. We were young. Now we are not so young, and there is a huge discrepancy in our sleep patterns.

This is a function of aging and how it differs from person to person.

Just last weekend, I couldn't stay in bed for as much as 6 hours. This is pretty well my new normal. Sometimes, it's less than 6 hours, and infrequently it is more than that. I become almost ebullient if I manage close to 7 hours and nigh unto ecstatic on those extremely rare occasions when I get close to 8 hours, which I think may have happened once in the past 6 months.

Meanwhile, Sue was gone for almost 12 hours on that same night (and on into day) — twice as long. While this is not quite the norm, something approximating 10 hours is pretty well what the pretty lady requires. She seems to need this much sleep and will go to bed totally spent at 9PM after having slept for 10 hours the night before.

As tired as I might be, I do try to stay up until 11 o'clock because I would rather not get up before 5AM. If I'm doing well, I will get my 6 hours and only 6 hours of sleep and and that is with the aid of a pill. If I don't take the pill, I will most likely manage to go to sleep but I find myself tossing and turning with increasing fury until I heave my exasperated self out of bed after only a few hours sleep.

Just last night I was up 2 hours later than the good woman, and just this morning, I was up 2 hours earlier. It's crazy-making I tell ya.

And so it is that I curl up in my recliner most afternoons. Now, you might say that this spoils my nights sleep, but I protest that his cannot be the case. For one thing, I do not always manage to nap, and for another thing, my naps, should I manage to drift off, almost invariably last for 20 minutes or less — usually less. That should really not be the cause of me existing on so little nighttime sleep, especially considering that 20 minutes is pretty well the max.

I am pretty certain of this 20 minute duration because I keep my eye on the clock — when I hit the recliner and when I rouse. Frequently, as I begin to find myself succumbing to drowsiness, I will think to look at the clock a second time before nodding off. Once again, I can confirm that 20 minutes is pretty well the max. In fact, my total time in the recliner yesterday was 17 minutes, which, obviously, included whatever amount of time it took me to nod off and then to wake up enough to think of checking the clock again.

A curious thing frequently overtakes me in my easy chair; I often see faces. These faces are very clear and are always people whom I don't know and, to my knowledge, have never laid eyes upon. The odd thing about seeing these faces so clearly, in addition to the fact that I don't know these people, is that I cannot ordinarily call clear images to my imagination when I am awake. So, seeing these faces kind of wakes me from my drowsiness because I find them interesting, but as soon as I become aware, they quickly fade. Frustrating.

I really have no clue as to how and why the faces work. On on occasion, they moved so quickly from one to another that it was like cards being flipped quickly. Mind you, it has only happened once like that, but I frequently see one or two faces of people who are strangers to me.

So, you can see that even my so-called naps are rather disturbed. Indeed, if I feel that I truly require a few minutes of unbroken napping, I must roll onto my side, for I only seem to see the faces when I'm on my back. Also, if I stay on my back I tend to keep waking myself with snores and sometimes drools.

This is our sleep story: mine and Sue's. We have most certainly gone in opposite directions. Oddly enough, we are in somewhat the same predicament as each other. Neither of us can get enough sleep: she because even 10 hours barely does it for her, and me because no matter what, I simply can seldom sleep past 6 hours — or 6 hours + 20 minutes, if you insist, on a good day.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Warping with a Purpose

Photoshop CC has a Perspective Warp filter. Although I don't think I would have the occasion to use it often, if ever, I looked for a photo that I might try it on.

I chose this one that I took last year about this time.

There's nothing wrong with it, but I decided to see what I could accomplish using Perspective Warp.

As you can see, I turned the house, so that more of the front is visible. It's not a huge change, but it's a change.

Perspective Warp works in such a way that it seems like the photographer has shifted his/her position. It could come in very handy when one simply can't get to the position one wants. Although it wasn't necessary in this case, I think I do prefer the 'warped' version better.

Just to see the difference a little more, I put the two perspectives side by side in this composite.

AFAIK this tool is only found in the Creative Cloud version of the program -- Photoshop CC. Adobe has switched to a monthly subscription plan for its major programs, and you can rent both Lightroom and Photoshop for $9.99US/month. It's really not an onerous cost if you're into photography as Photoshop alone used to cost well over $500 to purchase and the updates would set us back another $200 or so about every 18 months. With the new model, Adobe rolls our updates whenever they are ready for market.

Meanwhile, getting back to Perspective Warp, this link provides a very good explanatory, video tutorial.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Blurring the Background in Post

Note re. Captcha:  I read something about this a few days ago. It's a new variation, and I think the idea is that as long as you're within the Google system and trusted as it were, you won't have to use it, even if you see it. I wish I had paid more attention at the time, but I don't feel like going back to research it. :)


While on the subject of DOF (Depth of Filed) and blurry backgrounds, I pause to mention that if all else fails, you can sometimes accomplish the effect in post (post processing). Sometimes, you are just shooting quick snapshots but see something that you like and wish to enhance it a bit. Such is the case with this shot from Danica's birthday party last April. The background is a little too in-focus for my taste.

In Photoshop, I used the field blur option from the blur gallery. I set a blurry point on both the left and right edges. That blurred the whole photo, so to counteract that, I set a number of non-blur points around the subjects. I also used the mask created by the filter to darken the background a little.

This is the result.

Once again, just because I have it for another project, here is a mono version of the same photo.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Blurry Backgrounds Without Big Aperture Lenses

I have previously posted about using DOF or depth of Field to isolate subjects from the background. We tend to think that this isolation can only be captured by using an advanced lens with a wide open aperture. There is another way, however.

In this photo, I did not use a wide aperture but a medium opening (f5.6). It was a telephoto lens, so by standing back and zooming in on the seed head, I was able to achieve the same effect as being closer with a wide open aperture. In this case, I had my lens extended to 142mm, which is a fair zoom, particularly with a crop sensor camera.

I think it worked pretty well in separating the subject from the background, possibly even better than an in-tight, macro-style shot at f2.8.

FYI: Those fuzzy shapes in the background are distant buildings that would really mar the photo if their detail was visible. As it is, I think they look acceptable: not perfect, but acceptable.

In passing, here is a b&w version of the same image that I really did because of a b&w meme/challenge on FB. B&W wasn't the intent of the photo, but since I had it, I thought I may as well include it here. I do like the colour version better, though.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Photoshopping My Hockey Star Grandson

We made our first visit of the year to JJ's hockey practice. I well remember the first session that we attended last year — the one where he preferred to sit on the ice to skating. Well, he's doing pretty good right now. After shooting all sorts of photos through the plexiglass, I chose some for a collage, which is a good way to tell a story. At one point, I did whole photo albums using the collage method; when you can get 7 or more shots of one print, it's a good way to make an album. I haven't done this as much lately (who does photo albums in the digital age?), but I still more or less know how to make a collage (or montage or composite if you prefer).

This is the result.

And this is how we got there.

Layer 0: A shot for the background, lightened and blurred. I wanted a background in case there were gaps between the individual photos.

Layers 1 and 2: my larger, anchor images forming a frame for the rest of the photos. You can see my layer masks, used to blend the images with each other and the background.

Layers 3 to 6: 4 more smaller images showing different aspects of the practice session.

Layer 7: Putting all of the previous layers together into one layer. At this point, I cloned away as best as possible bits of yellow etc that you can see in the base layers that pull the eye away from the subject.

Layers 8 and 9: I added a title in the bottom left, and a little signature on the blade of the hockey stick.

The next day, something in my brain told me to try to make a sports card, so I did but will just present it and not describe the process. I made it to the standard 2.5" x 3.5" which is just a 5 x 7 downsized. So, I really made a 5 x 7 and then shrunk to the correct size for printing.

I also took several video clips and mashed them into one montage.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The Making of a Composite Image

This is the story of how I made this photo, which is a composite of two photos.

It began by taking a picture through the missing pane in the barn at the cottage. I held the camera over my head and took a few exposures and settled on one to process.

It was okayish, but after a long time of letting it simmer, I decided that I wanted to see something more interesting through the panes.

So, I thought this one shot at Wheelers might make a suitable interior.

After bringing the images into separate layers in one Photoshop file, I did some masking to put them together. Somehow, I couldn't get the two images to look right together although I settled for some darkening and blurring of the interior shot. This result is below.

After all the work was done, I saved it and then re-opened it in Lightroom ... and decided that it didn't work as well as I hoped. For one thing, I wished that I had left the panes more opaque to draw more attention to the view thru the missing pane.

Darn it all, I had flattened the file and lost my selections and masks, so I started from scratch and imported this image instead.

On my first try, I inserted the whole image and saved the photo, thinking I was done. IIt had taken two layers of masking to get the opaque effect that I was looking for.

But then, once again back in Lightroom, I decided that the fence didn't look right in the thru-the-window view,  so I re-opened the file. Thankfully I had not flattened the image, so the selections and masks were still available for editing. I am a slow learner, but, sometimes at least, I do learn.

Anyway, I selected the layer(s) of the interior photo and used the transform tool to pull it out until the fence was gone from the image. Hopefully, it now looks more or less proper, and you may notice that I did achieve the effect of making the part of the room behind the glass, dimmer.

So, here is the finished image one more time (the same as at the beginning). It was an interesting project that I undertook on a whim, and I am happy enough with the result.

Friday, November 28, 2014

On Finding Common Ground

I am not normally a biography reader, and I don't say that with pride. It's just not a genre that I tend to think about. However, Justin Trudeau's new autobiography, Common Ground, practically leaped into my hands at the library this week, and I consumed this very readable book in just a few days. Trudeau wrote in such a conversational style that it was both interesting and easy going.

Justin is the son of, arguably, Canada's most renown prime minister of the twentieth century or at least my part of it which began about halfway through the century. Pierre Trudeau was both a charismatic and a contentious politician, whose standout accomplishments (in my mind and likely in most) were repatriating the constitution and enacting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Having lived through the Trudeau era, both for better and for worse, I was interested to read Justin's accounts of his early days and memories and opinions about his famous father, who demanded that his sons show respect for others, including those on the other side of issues. This surprised me somewhat, as Pierre was seen as a bit of an aloof elitist.

Although it was all interesting to me, I was most interested in Justin's entry into political life, which came rather late in his life, as well as his political views. I was rather surprised that he didn't indicate very much interest in politics in his earlier years, only becoming interested and absorbed in his thirties after spending several years as a teacher in British Columbia in both private and public schools.

I had assumed that the younger Trudeau had been given an easy path to the leadership of the Liberal Party on the strength of his father's name, but such was not the case. When he first began to show an interest in running for parliament, his party actually blocked him from entering the nomination race in his home riding and, then, was offered no support in his quest to represent Papineau as the party preferred two other candidates over Trudeau.

Fascinating to me, was how Justin worked the riding for so many months in order to build support for his candidacy. He was constantly knocking on doors and engaging people at subway stations and supermarkets, talking to them and encouraging them to purchase $10 memberships to the party, so they could vote for him at the eventual nomination meeting. Naturally, he was successful, or neither the biography nor this post would have been conceived.

After the surprise of his winning of the nomination for the Papineau riding, he applied the same formula of hard street work to win the riding in two general elections. Although his father was not the sort of politician to enjoy on-the-street interactions, this became Justin's forte. In this, he was more like his grandfather politician, James Sinclair, from his mother's side of the family. He diligently worked the riding, day after day, month after month, for a year and a half until the first election and applied the same formula to the second. His success was opposite to the party's experience which was defeated in the first election and absolutely trounced in the second one.

Perhaps it was the Liberal Party's hard electoral times that enabled Justin Trudeau to vault into the leadership role as such a young politician, who is still in his very early forties and without vast political experience. However, his fresh vision and ability to engage youth and others in all sorts of roles, mostly volunteer roles, help him to ascend to this position.

He does not speak highly of Prime Minister Harper's and the Conservative Party's disposition to practice both an undemocratic and a divisive style of politics. Unlike his political opponents, however, he seems to be able to voice his concerns and differences without resorting to mudslinging and character assassination. Indeed, as you will see in the quotes below, he is very critical, but he doesn't stoop to underhanded, personal attacks. One hopes that he will continue to take the high ground when push comes to shove in the next general election, which could be called soon, but it will be difficult to continue to turn the other cheek as it were.

The title of his book, Common Ground, fundamentally reveals his view of Canada and how it should be governed. Despite this huge country's differences in geography, Trudeau, in his extensive travels, has discovered that the country's people hold very much in common, even from the typical French-speaking Quebecker to the prairie farmer. He desires a more inclusive government where the common person is seen, heard and considered.

He wishes to bring greater democracy to parliament with more open discussion and votes and wrote that "People feel the effects of democratic decline over time." Trudeau is pro economic growth that also benefits average Canadians, who have seen little or no real personal income growth in the past several decades. He believes that the economy can be developed in an environmentally friendly manner. He is pro immigration and also want to see improved conditions and opportunities for our first nations people.

Permit me to conclude my pithy review with a number of direct quotes. I have ended up including more than I had thought to, but I think it may be instructive to read some of his own words on various issues.

"The whole experience [of having his motion for the creation of a national policy for youth quashed] hardened my resolve to speak loudly and clearly for young people across the country. I would make sure that at least one strong, vocal politician was fighting for youth in Canada." (224)

"In my first years [as an MP] I was on the environment committee, and I later served on citizenship and immigration. On the former, all the government cared about was looking as if it cared about the environment, while doing the absolute minimum it could get away with. On the latter, it felt it had all the answers already, and anyone who disagreed with or corrected it must be a rabid opposition partisan." (224)

"Since the early 1890s ... we have always understood that immigration is essentially an economic policy ... The economic value of immigration has always been recognized. We wouldn't have much growth without it ... I think the current policy has lost sight of immigration's most critical role for Canada; it is a nation-building tool ... We should see the newly arrived as community builders and potential citizens, not just as employees."  (216-17)

"The predicament of First nations, and our willingness as non-Aboriginals to abide the abject poverty and injustice that afflict so many, is a great moral stain on Canada ... there are more than 1,1000 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. The government refuses to call an inquiry into the matter, and that is shameful." (235)

"What progress has been made has largely come through the courts, as First Nations people litigate the Charter ... This has to change. Canada's relationship with first peoples is definitional when it comes to our national character and is currently a practical obstacle holding our country back ... First Nations communities across Canada have a right to a fair and real chance of success. They cannot be an afterthought as we develop the resources on their land. (236)"

"I believe that Canadians want a national, non-ideological party that is connected to them and focused on them. One that is focused on the hopes and dreams they have for themselves, their families, their communities, and their country." (238)

"If I earn the privilege of serving as prime minister, I want to be judged by the quality of the arms I twist, all across Canada [emphasis mine], to actively serve our country." (244)

"These Conservatives [after finally winning a majority] are not interested in building on the common ground where we have always solved our toughest problems. Their approach is to exploit divisions rather than bridge them ... One you've divided people against one another ... so you can win an election, it's very hard to pull them back together to solve our shared problems." (254)

"Too many people were being left out and behind in Mr. Harper's vision. I said I believed that the Conservative government's basic flaw was its smallness, its meanness, its inability to relate or work with people who do not share its ideological predispositions." (from speaking to a committee of friends and colleagues while assessing whether he should run for the position of party leader, 258-59)

"I made it clear that I wanted to run a campaign focused on the future, not the past. I wanted to build a new kind of political movement by recruiting hundreds of thousands of people into the process ... We would build an inclusive, positive vision for the country, and have faith that Canadians would want to take part in it."  (also from the same talk as above to his friends and advisers, 264-65)

"I made it clear in my campaign that the Liberal Party needs to be a liberal party. By that I meant that the core values of liberalism — equality of economic opportunity and diversity of thought and belief, which I see as the building block of individual freedom, fairness, and social justice — ought to be the cornerstones of the Liberal Party and its policies. I said that we needed to be a party that stood up for the people's right to have a real and fair chance at success, regardless of whether they had been born rich or poor, where they came from, or what, if any, faith they professed. (281)