Monday, November 16, 2009

Nature Trail to Hell in 3D

Kind of an interesting weekend as it went. P-Doug had a front yard full of leaves he's been waiting to attack. Last week, his leaf sucker's motor burnt out, so at some point during the week, he went looking for another. The timing was bad and he ended up with a gas-powered one with a two-stroke engine.

I offered to give him a hand because it's nice to get out and do something with the weekend, and I figured we'd wind up at a watering hole once the job was done. I also wanted to test a couple of camera tricks. I put the new 3D camera on my dashboard with a class 6 SDHC card in it to see if it would be fast enough to keep up with the writing speed of the camera when it records video (it wasn't). Also, when I was digging around looking for my 0.8x wide angle attachment, I discovered the 0.75x one that came with the G9 when I bought it from the wedding photographer just about two years ago. Forgot about it! Was delighted to discover it. I put it on the adapter for the G9 (giving it an effective focal length of about 26mm, nice and wide) and put the camera on the suction cup tripod I bought a few weeks ago. This time, I stuck it on my sunroof... outside the car. Just to reassure myself, I also closed the sunroof on the wrist strap of the camera. :) I started it up and drove down to East York, and I got a really neat, wide-angle, up-high video of the trip. As for the 3D camera, the W1 overflowed the buffer every three minutes, so I gave up on that for the time being.

Anyway, I got down there about quarter to 11. P-Doug and I set to work assembling the gas-powered leaf sucker. We wound up with something that looked like a tumourous bagpipe. Spilled gas all over the place having to add blue engine oil to it. He managed to get it started. He told me it was heavy, ungainly, and vibrated annoyingly. It half-heartedly sucked leaves for a few minutes, filled the bag (it promised to mulch leaves at a volume of 16:1, but the proportion of leaves that survived without so much as a nick was disappointingly high), and we emptied it. Try as he might... and he tried, and tried, and tried... he could not get the thing to start again. At one point, I said to him that the thing certainly did suck, but only in the figurative sense, not the literal one (it was a good line, I thought, but I kind of fumbled the delivery).  We pondered what to do, and decided finally to take it back and get his money back, and use the rake to do it the old-fashioned way.

When we got near the store, I asked if he'd tried the competitor we were passing by when he was looking for an electric leaf sucker and he admitted he'd overlooked it. He decided to take a look, once he got his money back. That actually went surprisingly smoothly; they didn't give him a hard time (he had the coupons they dish out to hand back and all). When he presented the leaf sucker, he opened with my "sucks figuratively but not literally" quip (much to my delight), but I think it was lost on the bored cashier. We went to the other store, and they actually had one last leaf sucker of the exact model that burned out on him. And it was just a little over half the cost of the gas-powered one, too. He grabbed it and we headed back. Now this thing was so easy to assemble I actually had it put together for him in the time it took him to go inside and get the extension cord. We spent the next hour and a half or so sucking up the leaves in his front yard and doing what we could for his neighbour. I took a few turns at it, but mostly I kept the cord out of the way, provided a second pair of hands for emptying the bag, and raked leaves into handy piles. When the ones from between the houses were sucked up and mulched, the air was filled with the heady aroma of raccoon shit. That's something I won't soon forget. The fun upshot was that I briefly videoed P-Doug leaf sucking in three dimensions. I feel this will be important to the people of the future someday.

Afterwards, P-Doug and G and I took off uptown to a pub we haven't been to in ages — The Three Monkeys, which was once my and P-Doug's regular haunt. There I had a salad and a sandwich on bread that was twice as long as the modest chicken breast it accommodated, but it was spicy and I enjoyed it. We wiled away a few hours and headed off in opposite directions.

Sunday I was determined to get out and work with the new camera some. I went down to James Salmon's old neighbourhood to try to recreate some of the shots he took in the 1950s. I brought the G9 with the wide angle attachment and the W1 to capture scenes in 3D. I also decided to try one last experiment to see if I could overcome the problem the W1 was having with keeping videos rolling. On my way down Leslie Street, I set up the camera on my dashboard beanbag tripod and ran a test with the  4G Sandisk Extreme III card I got when I got the G9. It ran for 11 minutes non-stop till I turned if off. Given the longest the camera can record at 640x480 is about 15 minutes, I'd call that a successful run. Limits the cards I can use to those By Appointment to Her Majesty, though. The G9 seems to do just fine with slower cards, even when I record video, so I guess I'll use the class 6 16G card with it and cede the fast card to the W1.

James Salmon lived on Broadway Avenue, a street that runs parallel to Eglinton Avenue, a couple of streets north of it. I parked near the house and took a few photos of it, then I set off to recreate some of his shots. I'd printed them and had them in my jacket pocket for reference. The first ones were shots he took near Eglinton and Bayview back in the 50s when the strip mall was being built there and the swamp was being filled in. I did my best to recreate them, but it was hard to know exactly where he stood. I also shot the intersection itself from a few angles for the benefit of future researchers. On my way back, I briefly videoed a dozen or so 30-somethings tossing a football around in the bowl-shaped park south of Eglinton.

(...Just so you know... the colour shots here were taken with the G9, not the new 3D camera.)

Below is his house, 461 Broadway.

...and the view across the street from his house; 458-464 Broadway, in 1948, 1949, and 2009. You can orient the view with the fire hydrant in the 1948 and 2009 shots. Incidentally... if you look closely, you'll notice an interesting trend. None of these places seems to have a garage or attendant room above it at the time of construction... but they pretty much all seem to have grown one on in the meantime (including, probably, James Salmon's house, above). I wonder when the vogue for doing this hit the neighbourhood. "So, what'll it be, honey... a garage and a family room, or a bomb shelter?" :)


 ...Looking west down Eglinton towards Bayview, 1951 and 2009...

...and east up Eglinton from Bayview, from in front of Sunnybrook Plaza. In the distance on the right is Leaside Secondary School. Again, 1951 and 2009.

I drove along Broadway a few blocks east to Brentcliffe. Brentcliffe was once the street where Eglinton effectively ended west of the Don Valley. When the Salmons first lived in the area, Eglinton didn't cross the Don yet. It more or less dead-ended in the trees above the valley. I know this for sure because one of the photos James Salmon took in the early 50s was just that. Later, he took photos of the work being done building what was called "the Eglinton Extension" between there and Victoria Park Avenue. No one calls it that anymore; I was astounded to find out there'd even been an "Eglinton Extension" when I first read about it four or five years ago. I took photos more or less matching Salmon's, and then just for good measure, walked west to Laird where he had photographed some store fronts at the northwest corner. They still looked kind of the same, in shape, if not in function. Eglinton and Brentcliffe, 1954 and 2009; Eglinton west of Laird, 1955 and 2009.

Something I noticed when I got home and processed the 3D shots into JPG pairs I could work with (geotagging, etc.) was that my camera had a displeasing tendency to shoot the right image with a hazy cast over it that was increasingly visible towards the upper right. There were no strong blacks in the right side images; they were all faintly grey. Colours were muted towards the right side, too. Earlier in the week I wondered if it were a function of the light direction, but by yesterday it was clear to me it was chronic... it had nothing to do with the direction the light was coming from. It was a defect.

I took the camera back to Henry's at lunch time today, with a few printed examples to make the point in case they thought I'd messed up the camera somehow and was just making up an excuse to bring it back. To my relief, they didn't give me any trouble at all. They simply replaced the camera from one they had in stock (I kept all the accessories that came with my original camera). I took a few shots with it in the parking lot and at stop lights, so when I get home I'll see if it has the same problem. If not, great; if so, it's a "feature" of the model I'll have to live with till there's a better one (e.g., the "W2"). Anyway, that's one reason I'm glad I bought it at Henry's and not off eBay or something.

P.S. Below, a "bonus" shot of Eglinton, looking west towards Bayview (intersection out of sight in the dip). Doesn't match up with anything; I just kind of like the look of it.


jim said...

Interesting how everybody on Broadway added the garages. Where I grew up, people tended to add detached garages a bit behind the house, in neighborhoods where garages weren't built as part of the house originally, that is.

Joyce said...

James V. Salmon only lived at 461 Broadway Avenue until 1956. The family moved to 113 Holcolm Road in Willowdale (Finch and Yonge area)in '56 where he lived until his death in '58. His wife, Jean, became a public school teacher and lived on Holcolm Road until the early 1980's and then moved to Bramalea. In the '90's, she spent her remaining years in various nursing homes as her health deteriorated from Alzheimer's Disease. It's nice to know that my father's work is still appreciated after 50+ years.