Tuesday, September 06, 2022

When You Wish Upon a Star...

Not all went according to plan. At least, not at first.

The reconditioned W1 arrived on July 11th. I was ecstatic, of course. I took it out for a walk at lunch time to test it out. What an amazing thing to be able to take infrared photographs in 3D!

But when I got home and split the MPO files into right-left independent JPG pairs, I realized that the right images were somewhat soft and out of focus. I reached out to the guys at Life Pixel and asked about returning the camera to correct the fault. The response I got was immediate, kind, professional, and apologetic. They agreed to revisit the camera and see about making the right view just as sharp as the left.

Now, understand... The Fujifilm W1 is not a camera LifePixel lists as one of its standard models for reconditioning. They were taking it on as a challenge and, in a way, a favour to me. They even offered to replace the camera if they couldn't fix it, but I told them I appreciated their efforts, that it had been my gamble, and if it couldn't be done, it couldn't be done. No harm, no foul. It was all on me. So, with their kind indulgence, off the camera went on its way to Washington state again.

They went right to work as soon as they got it. And sure enough, working on it for a day, they corrected the fault. The owner even had a brief phone conversation with me to explain what they'd done. If I remember correctly, it had to do with turning the right lens assembly very faintly to intersect with the view of the left... obviously something they never have to do working with 2D cameras that only have a single lens assembly. They sent it back to me, and it arrived on August 3rd.

Well, the arrival itself was an adventure. Let me quickly tell you about that. Lately, my job has had us coming back into the office on Wednesdays. August 3rd was a Wednesday. UPS was going to drop it off that day, and the last thing I wanted after all this was to have the thing dropped off outside my door and vanish before I got home. So, I made arrangements to have it delivered to a nearby UPS depot. Turned out to be a little hole-in-the-wall convenience store. During the day, I got email from UPS telling me it had been dropped off. At the end of the day, I took the bus a few stops further to go pick it up. They told me it had not been delivered yet; that it would probably arrive that evening.
Disappointed, I started walking home, got about half way there, and turned around. I was going to sit it out. I went to the pub next door to the place that had only three beers and downed a couple of pints of Canadian while I waited. P-Doug offered to come up and keep me company and maybe go to Pizza Hut after. Just before he arrived, I decided to check again. I showed them the email saying it had been delivered (secretly terrified they'd "delivered" it to someone else). Well, that did the trick. They really went and looked this time, and hey, presto, whattayah know, there it was. Idiots.

So, off P-Doug and I went to Pizza Hut, where we looked it over (I had no battery with me, so looking at it was all we could do), and eventually he dropped me off and I had the chance to actually try it out. Well, it was late in the evening by then, so the interior shots weren't too great, but they were good enough to confirm that both lens assemblies were in focus. I was looking at my first crisp, clear 3D infrared images. I took it out the next day into the sunlight and the shots were spectacular. Everything I hoped they'd be.

Infrared shots typically benefit from having level and/or curves corrections done on them in Photoshop to really emphasize the contrast. The shots you're about to see are side-by-side JPG images rendered by StereoPhoto Maker, and then curves-corrected and reduced to 20% of their original size for presentation here. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, friends of all ages... let me now present to you actual single-click 3D infrared images, taken at various times and places over the past month. Click on the first one, cross your eyes, and arrow-key through the remaining shots. See the world as you've never seen it before... thanks to the guys at LifePixel.


Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Infra-ready to go...

So a few hours ago, I heard from LifePixel with some good news...

Your order is complete

Hi there. Your recent order on Infrared Conversions, IR Modifications & Photography Tutorials | Life Pixel IR has been completed. Your order details are shown below for your reference...

A second email informed me...

Life Pixel complimentary IR training session invitation

Now that your converted camera is on its way back to you it’s time to schedule your complimentary One on One 30 Minute Online Training Session – a $40 value!

Whether you are new or experienced with digital infrared photography, you will find the session quite useful in helping you get up to speed with your IR camera and help you learn required techniques for great results.

It's kind of them, but I don't imagine I'll take them up on it. I've been shooting digital infrared for about 15 years now, and I've been pretty happy with my results for a long time. Besides, most of what they're keen to impart is for the wide-spectrum filter (I opted for a hard cut B&W filter) and processing RAW images, which the W1 doesn't produce (it creates MPO files, which are nested JPG pairs).

And then one last, faintly intriguing missive... Kind of a courtesy call...

The conversion went smoothly but there is one small thing.  In 3D mode, it shoots a 2D and 3D picture at the same time and they are both good.  But, in 2D mode, there is a spot on one side of the image and we have no idea why.  Once you get it, please let me know what you think.

I emailed them back and told them I'd certainly have a look, but in all honesty, I'd never used the pure 2D feature of the camera in the 13 years I've owned it, and couldn't give a fig about it. It's not how I used it in the past, and not how I intend to use it moving forward. If they got the 3D functionality to work, that's really all I care about.

So, anyway, hopefully the old W1 will be in the mail soon, and maybe as soon as sometime next week I'll be able to start taking honest-to-goodness infrared 3D photographs.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Lost Homes on Sheppard Avenue

There's a short strip of single family homes on Sheppard Avenue that I've been vaguely aware of for decades now, since I moved to North York in 2000. They're on Sheppard Avenue, a little east of the two homes I've had since moving here. They always kind of caught my eye in passing because of the pretty stand of trees that front them.

A few years ago, they were bought out and boarded up in anticipation of a single long unit of stacked townhouses. That will move more families into the same space, but it really will not have the charm of the current homes. I also don't think the little grove of trees in front of them will survive.

Here's how the places looked when they were still homes, and how they look at the moment. (From Google Maps street view.)

The homes appear to have been built in 1957. As you can see, this part of Scarborough was the fringe between suburban and rural at the time, and Sheppard Avenue was still just a two-lane cross-county road. (These shots are from the Toronto City Archives collection of aerial photos.)

So I thought it would be a good idea to go out and get some shots of these places before they're finally gone. They have been boarded up for at least a few years now. Odds are, it won't be long.

I got P-Doug to man the second W3 (these shots are all natively 3D; I'm just putting up the left side images here) and we set off on Sunday morning a week ago. The first place we took some shots of was the little strip mall on the southwest corner of Pharmacy and Sheppard Avenues. This mall itself is due to disappear soon, but for the moment, is still in business.

On the southeast corner, across the street, is a new condo building with some commercial space downstairs that replaced a different strip mall that had been there since probably the 1960s.

The houses in question are now fronted by a long wooden barrier. What I found most interesting is there was no evidence of any driveways; just paths to the sidewalk. It occured to me that the driveways might be coming into their backyards from the street behind, and P-Doug made the same suggestion when I mentioned the lack of sidewalks. That turned out to be the right guess. Once Sheppard was four-laned, either in the 60s or the 70s, that was probably a godsend to the people who lived here.

In order to get any shots of the places, I had to stand on tiptoe with the camera poised over the top of the barrier, and essentially shoot blind.

We didn't get any shots of the backs of the houses with their driveways that Sunday, so I decided to go back this Sunday just past and do that. Thing is, there, there are other houses, and I was a bit concerned I'd look creepy doing it. But, you have to break some eggs to make an archive, so it's either do it or whine that I didn't once the houses are gone.

I decided to walk it rather than drive. I took one of the W3s and also the S80 I had converted to shooting infrared. It was a bright June morning; just the time for making the ordinary look ethereal.

Getting to the boarded up places involves crossing the 401 on Victoria Park Avenue. This stretch is also designated "The Highway of Heroes" as it's the part returning fallen service men and women take after landing at CFB Trenton and the Don Valley Parkway (oddly enough, about a kilometre behind me in these shots below) that takes them to downtown Toronto to the coroner for certification.

Going through the neighbourhood to the south of the houses, I took a number of IR shots. These are the ones I liked best. Oh, I can't wait to be able to do this in 3D... hopefully soon.

The street that the houses back onto, where their driveways were, is called Abbotsfield Gate Lane. It's actually two streets that meet as a cross and all share the same name. The eastward branch was the part in question, and it still has one house extant on it, right on the corner. Sure enough, the people who live there were right outside; a dad and his toddler son and a friend or other family member. While, strictly speaking, it's still a public street, it still felt a little like I was intruding, since there's no real reason to go down there. The road ends in a cul de sac and doesn't have a path leading out... so why are you there, kind of thing? Fortunately they utterly ignored me, didn't ask why I was there, keep the evil eye on me, anything like that. Nah, it's just some old weird guy taking over-the-fence shots of places about to be torn down; a nerd, a harmless crank. If that's what they thought, they totally called it. :)

This is what I saw. Or, more correctly, what my cameras saw for me. (Note: in the shot immediately below, the house just off to the left side there is the one that's still a home, and likely will continue to be.)

I took a few shots on my way back, during which I decided to go past my place to the grocery store to pick up some stuff to make soup. The entire walk was 6.4 km, or just about 4 miles. That surprised me; I would have guessed about half that. Anyway, I saw a number of interesting things on the way back, a couple of which I'll share here in passing.

This house is also on Sheppard. For the moment, it's still a home, but I have to wonder how long it will be here. Single family homes are rapidly disappearing from up and down Sheppard Avenue East.

Whatever business this used to be, it's in the process of becoming something else.

I suppose The Toronto Sun thinks this is clever. And if you're a) over 50 and b) read at a grade three level, then yeah, I suppose it's a real laff-riot.

It's also been my observation that Scarborough, the eastern quarter of Toronto and, for about 200 years, a separate municipality, has been the poor stepchild since it was incorporated into Metro from 1953 to 1998 (after which it became part of the City of Toronto proper along with the rest of Metro). It looks like the people of Scarborough have started to speak up about that, too. This photo was taken on Victoria Park Avenue, which is the border between Scarborough and North York, the part of Toronto where I live.