Monday, February 04, 2008

P-Doug and the new tech

Saturday amounted to my first real opportunity to go on a geotagged hike. Now that P-Doug has the S-80, I thought he might be interested in putting it through its paces. I suggested the closed part of Humberline Drive in Rexdale, but he was anxious to go further afield, and suggested hiking Dominion Road (the closed part of what's now Dominion Street in the little hamlet of Brimstone) up into the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park.

It snowed quite a bit on Friday and it was touch-and-go as to whether or not we'd actually go. In fact, it was well after 11 when I heard from him. I thought about phoning but given that he was one doing the driving this time, I decided that was undue pressure. I was within minutes of taking off on my own to wander Humberline when P-Doug did phone me, and about half an hour later we were on the road.

We were well up Winston Churchill Boulevard before I remembered to turn the PhotoTrackr on. Luckily I did this before I started taking photos. It did a really admirable job of keeping the trail we drove and walked for hours, with only a couple of gaps, mostly due to our being stationary indoors.

HDR And miles to go

HDR Caught a prize

HDR Define "cozy"

First thing, we drove to Erin to go to the bakery there that he and G favour. I didn't buy anything myself, though of course the temptation was thick in the air. After that, we drove up into Brimstone and parked at the end of the road. We set off up the trail, immediately noticing tracks laid down by skis. P-Doug eventually realized that they were actually two sets of skis, one wider and one narrower. We never did see the people who laid down the tracks, but they sure did make the going easier for us.

The trees were hung heavy with wet snow. It was really beautiful. The air was around freezing and almost absolutely still. My feet were a little bit cold (no, I was wearing shoes, honest; just not particularly wintery ones), but we did wander up the trail for more than half an hour. I had meant to keep an eye out for the chimney we saw standing alone last autumn, but we never did catch sight of it. What we did see was a couple of bugs on the snow who'd come out tragically too early; a midge and a spider.

HDR Compelled

HDR Snow tracks

HDR A near thing

HDR Fingers of snow

I was shooting mostly RAW in anticipation of 'finishing' the shots using Photomatix to bring out the details. My results were uneven and not wholly satisfying, though some were pleasing enough. If I had the chance to do it again, I'd shoot AEB spreads and see if they were superior in bleak, low-contrast situations. But I have the feeling there's the rub: if there's not much light and not much contrast, you're probably never going to get good HDR results anyway. P-Doug was shooting mostly AEB spreads, so it will be informative to see what kind of results he eventually gets.

I think it had been his intention to get as far into the park as we were when we came down from the rise at the east the first time we were there, about a year and a half ago, when I remember we encountered a Russian fellow trying to get his bearings and met a young couple coming in from the route we ourselves were walking Saturday. I remember testing the waters of the Credit and pronouncing them too cold for our indulgence, even if there had been sufficient cover. Well, we never got that far on Saturday. It was starting to get uncomfortably cold for me, in street shoes, and to be honest, after half an hour or so, one bend after another of snow-laden trees was starting to lose its charms, especially when the only reward was to see a big plain of snow at the risk of frostbite, or at least doubling the duration of my discomfort. I gently wet-blanketed the trek and suggested a retreat to warmer and more interesting digs, and with some small reluctance, P-Doug indulged me. But it seemed to me all our mission objectives had been met, even if we didn't land on the plain and plant the flag... I'd geotracked a hike matched to many photos, and P-Doug had had ample opportunities to both shoot AEB spreads and videotape (is there a better word for that, now that there's no tape involved?) this, that, and the other thing (mostly me, playing with tree limbs and relieving them of snow burdens). More-ambitious treks call for better weather conditions, I think. Either that or I have to go buy real winter boots!

HDR Skyward

Similarly, I had plans to do a lot of time lapse photography downtown. Those plans didn't pan out, either. When we arrived downtown, it was surprisingly foggy. Not absolutely socked-in by any means, but enough that the top of the CN Tower wasn't visible. Given that filming the light going up the Tower was a big part of what I wanted to accomplish, it seemed like I'd be better off just waiting for another weekend. We ended up passing through the downtown core and heading east to a bar we'd been to once before, in warmer weather in the summer of 2006, I think. The bar was named for the Keating Channel, alongside which it resides (apparently it used to belong to the Irish Rovers). We had a thoroughly pleasant couple of hours there. It wasn't loud or very busy; we shared a pitcher of Keith's Red, and P-Doug had potato skins while I indulged in broccoli and cheese soup in a bread bowl. Very nice! Our waitress was an attractive and attentive African-Canadian woman who chatted us up about photography, in a matter that was never intrusive. I formed a very favourable impression of the place, re-enforcing the one set previously.

Towards the end of our stay, P-Doug asked me if I'd be staying downtown or returning with him to go out with G. I opted for the latter. Conditions had improved but by then, I was less ambitious about photography. We all ended up at Boston Pizza in Scarborough.

Skip forward a day. I'd put P-Doug onto Google Earth because of its facilities to geotag photos, but mostly because its pseudo-3D imagery gives a real sense of what we're facing in our plans to explore a particular river valley this spring or summer. It wouldn't work for him because it barfed on his video card. Combined with the fact he has only USB 1.1 in his computer and the card reader I lent him isn't recognized by his system, it was enough to have him looking for some hardware. He called me out of the blue early Sunday afternoon with plans to go to Tiger Direct. A USB 2.0 card quickly morphed into a potential computer purchase once he saw how low the prices were. Problem was, nearly every "good" computer sported Windows Vista, and it just wasn't worth the hassle. Oh, sure, the guy told us, all you have to do is look up the serial number of your motherboard and then download the XP drivers and put them on a pen memory and scrub the new computer's hard drive and (buy and) install XP on it and install the drivers from the pen memory, oh, sure... not a problem.

Fuck that.

It wasn't my call, but that's what I was thinking. As it turned out, so was P-Doug. We got out of there and went to Factory Direct, where P-Doug snagged a sweet machine, high speed, 2 GB DDR2, 200 GB HDD, for $399. And it had XP on it! He wandered for a minute or two, talking himself into it, and then grabbed it. Even there, it was the only one we saw with the useful OS on it.

It'll be interesting to me to see what happens from here. P-Doug has the S-80, and a computer that can work much more serious mojo than his old one. I'm not sure yet what it will mean for his creative output, but it does open the door to a lot of potential. Once the warm weather's back and hiking becomes more of a joy rather than an ordeal, opportunities will really expand.

Eight weeks till April. :)

1 comment:

Chris Lego said...

These photoes are beautiful.
thanks x Chris