Photos and Words of Patrick Calder

I live in Washington, DC with 1 cat named Pixel, 6 cameras, 3 computers, 158 movies, 286 books, and 1 bowling pin. I own the Design Foundry and pretend to be a graphic designer by day.

Shopping / February 2, 2011 / Comment on this

I am impressed. I placed an order with Amazon yesterday. Well … one of the retailers who sells through Amazon. Because if this was Amazon, I would not be impressed. If this was Amazon, they would tell me “Your order has shipped”, and for the next 3 days, UPS would tell me “it’s sitting on the docks at Amazon”. But no… this company had it into UPS last night, and across the country by this morning. Not here yet, but a damn good start.
And I like the ‘new’ look of the tracking page on UPS. The page groups information by the order people typically want it. Colorcoding to show the status of your order. The number of days left before delivery, in big bold type at the top. I even like the progress bar.

Lens update / December 7, 2009 / Comment on this

12 weeks.
I took Jenny’s advice and called the head of repair at Penn. He returned my call within about half an hour, after checking with the factory. They apparently had been waiting on backordered parts. But given the length of time so far, he says they’re trying to replace it instead, at the same price as the repair.
On one hand… nice. On the other, it makes me nervous. The quality difference between one lens and the next, even of the exact same model, can vary. And I loved the quality I got out of the original. Tack sharp with saturated colors.
We’ll see. Nothing certain yet, anyway.

Video Game Lessons / November 2, 2009 / Comment on this

I’ve played 3 different video games recently. Two of them had great features I would love to see in more games; and one I could definitely do without.
Just to quickly get the bad out of the way:
I finally got around to playing Darwinia, a game put out by a company whose done some other great games. It’s got an interesting concept, nice graphics, (and once they dumped the gestural interface) was easy to use. BUT… I refuse to let any application call in over the internet to their manufacturer’s servers unless there’s something productive in it for me. And judging from the error messages I get every 30 minutes when the game crashes, it won’t run unless you let it connect. Deleted.
But the good stuff:
I picked up the complete Lego Star Wars. The name pretty much says it all. You get to play through all six movies done up in Legos. There’s a great sense of humor about it all. While it’s easy to play, it’s not simplistic.What I really liked though doesn’t even kick in until you ‘finish’ the game. Once you’ve gone through every mission, and you go back through again, playing different characters, you get access to new tools, capabilities, and areas of the levels that you didn’t have before. Rather than the typical method of going back and refining your game until you could beat any level in your sleep, you’re actually not even finished, and haven’t seen everything yet. It really makes for a more interesting game, spread out over a longer time.
The other game was Homeworld 2. It’s a pretty straightforward sci-fi, space-battle game. The graphics were pretty well done for their time. The 3D navigation was a little rough, (or I was just missing something). And it was WAY too short, with a truly disappointing last mission. But what I loved was the continuity. The exact fleet you built — or at least whatever survives the mission — is what you start the next mission with. Good or bad, this carries through for the entire game. It’s nice to see a game that can handle that kind of flexibility. It saves you from either having to waste time at the start of each mission building up a whole new force or from simply being handed exactly what you’ll need.

mmmm… camera / October 9, 2007 / Comment on this

Thanks to Stephanie, I went to the ‘yardsale’ the Washington Photography School was holding this weekend. I could have gotten in a lot of trouble there… but I generally behaved myself.
I picked this camera up as soon as I saw it. I’ve been wanting to try out some Through the Viewfinder photography, and the glass on this camera’s viewfinder was in perfect condition, and huge. (Yes, yes, I was looking for a nice piece of glass).
Every piece of identification has been removed from the camera. All nameplates remove. There’s been some painting on the top, I think. But from what I can tell, the body, at least, is a 1928 Rolleiflex Original. But the viewfinder housing doesn’t match up. The body and lenses are such a dead-on match, though, that I have to assume this is either a poorly documented varient, or a well-done mod-job. (All future versions of the Rolleiflex changed distinctly, so it’s not one of them).
I haven’t gone out with it yet. Just tortured pixel with a few pictures.
Besides that, for myself I just picked up a couple polarizers and some color filters.
But oh… so much temptation.

leash / October 5, 2007 / Comment on this

Unanticipated side effect of the new Macbook. It has magnetic latches for holding the lid shut, apparently at each corner. And Pixel–who loves to rub up against the corners–has a tendancy to become attached to the laptop by her metal collar tags.

iPhoto 6 / August 6, 2007 / Comment on this

I played with iPhoto 6 this weekend, in probably the most detail since I got it. It leaves me conflicted.

The problem comes from timing. I’d been using iPhoto for years, since I bought my first digital camera. It’s never been the most powerful tool, but it was the most flexible. I got this most recent version of iPhoto when I bought my new laptop this spring. But the new computer triggered several things. I’d also been waiting for a new computer with a DVD burner, so I could switch to shooting in RAW format. (RAW files are just too big to easily backup to CDs.) So now I had the new computer, and started shooting in RAW. And conveniently enough, the new version of iPhoto was the first one to handle RAW files.


I really don’t like the way it works. The first time you edit a RAW photo in iPhoto, it resaves it as a JPEG. (First rule: always preserve the original file). And from then on, you’re always resaving off that JPEG. But that means if you want to make non-destructive changes to your image, you have to start over again from scratch. And even if you’re willing to do that, iPhoto has never been the most efficient piece of software in the world. 2 or 3 copies of each photo can really add up.

So I stopped using iPhoto. I found a system that worked better for me.

Original photo:

original photo

But playing around this weekend, I found they had made a few improvements in iPhoto that really would have made my life so much easier. Just being able to adjust the temperature and tint (essentially white-balancing) is amazingly handy. And it works right on JPEGs, which I don’t think even Photoshop does natively.

First Draft, c. 4/06:

first pass edits

So I used the few photos I still had floating around in iPhoto as test files. Color correction mostly. I’ve always been obsessed with color, like and half-decent designer. But I’ve only been white-balancing my still camera for about the last 6 months. So I have plenty of orange photos laying around. My basic color correcting would fix the worst of the color casts, usually. The above picture was a first pass at correcting, from last spring; (though admittedly not my most detailed). Some of the orange has been removed. There’s a bit more contrast. Nothing serious. That is how the image was posted at the time.

Current Draft:
final image

But with the new version of iPhoto, and it’s finer level of control, this is what I got. It really just blows away the last proof. All of the color cast is gone. The black in the dress is incredibly rich. And the decorations on the corset practically sparkle. And with a little bit of sharpening, which iPhoto handles amazingly well, the whole thing just pops. It’s really incredible what you can now do in iPhoto.

iPhoto. Which I don’t use any more.


(Disclaimer: Yes the photo is blown out, because the lighting at the shoot was too blown out for my setup. And yes, she has incredibly pale skin in real life as well. Probably not the best person to be shooting in a black dress against a dark backdrop.)

Really makes me want to go back and clean up that whole shoot, though.

a manly purse / July 29, 2007 / Comment on this

I think maybe I need something new in my bag.
I carry a bag. It’s really a purse by any other name. But it’s big and bulky and I take it everywhere. It’s the stuff I need on an average day while traveling through the greater Washington area. There’s an umbrella so I don’t have to check the weather report every time I want to run out. There’s a book, because you can be sure no matter where you’re going and how you’re getting there, you will have to wait, at some point. There’s my camera. Originally I said that this city was so crazy that you needed to always keep the camera with you, on the off-chance that something interesting suddenly took place in front of you. But now, I’d say it’s just because I’m a photography fanatic. My iPod is usually in there somewhere, too. And I like the bag, because it’s big enough and generic enough to hold all this and more. Most photo bags or courier bags are too specialized to hold an umbrella, or the book.
But I want some kind of vacuum pack of supplies for a night out. The odds seem to be pretty even that any time I go to a planned ‘event’ with my friends, I won’t come home ’til the next day. But I hate wandering around greasy and feeling grungy. So I just want to vacuum-pack a t-shirt, boxers, and a comb, maybe. Enough so I can walk into someone’s bathroom in the morning and come out feeling like I won’t scare yuppie families in the park.
Just… you know… something the size of those little travel umbrellas or smaller. Or is part of the fun of going out, in coming home completely burned out and in need of showering?

back from somewhere / April 23, 2007 / Comment on this

I’ve been away. That is to say, “not available”.
(holy fuck I’m sick of the firetrucks)
It’s been a month, and it wasn’t particularly fun. One month ago, my computer started to die. My laptop started to die. From the first glitch to the final flash of life from the screen was maybe a bit over a day. That’s plenty of time to clone the whole damn thing, and futz around with it just enough to realize I wasn’t going to save it.
But this is hardly the first time. I have a stack of repair slips so thick they barely fit in their box. This is the first time since the warranty ran out. I really couldn’t do much about it, but it kind of ticked me off that it ran out while I was in the hospital. The current machine was already over 3 years old, so no one was going to insure it. But from past experience, I knew enough to keep a backup under the desk. It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t pretty, but it was a machine, and it meant I could keep working. And that’s what I did.
When I get busy, I don’t have time to worry about fixing stuff. I work for 16 hours, just to keep up. Then I eat dinner while watching something from Netflix, and go to bed. And maybe I just don’t want to face up to the loss of my exterior brain. Right up until this week, it still sat on the corner of my desk where I always worked with it. Taking up space. Always careful not to pile too much on top of it, in case something could be done to fix it. (geek-mourning). And even when I did admit it was beyond being worth fixing, I held out. I held out for rumors of new toys and new features from Apple.
Well that didn’t fucking happen.
Do you use a laptop? Do you use one religiously? Do you use it like a laptop, and not just a slick looking desktop? A laptop takes all those second-brain features, and makes them move right along with you. A desktop is a tool. A laptop is an opportunity, a possibility.
And I had lost my laptop.
I think it took about a week before I consciously realized what crap it was working with a desktop again. What crap it was being restricted to the desk and the chair. What crap it was that my spur of the moment thoughts were all dying on the vine. And what crap it was that I had to work around my tools, and not the other way around.
And I’m not that stupid. My backup machine isn’t even as powerful as my laptop was. A laptop that was already 3 years old. This, of course, is the cue for a couple jobs involving massive, fucking photo collages to come along. If you don’t know why that sucks, just imagine cutting fire wood with a steak knife.
My taxes were done. And all hopes of new toys were dashed when Apple announced a delay in shipment for at least 4 months. So I went ahead and with the help of a friend, I ordered a new laptop.
It’s just fucking beautiful.
It’s got every bell and whistle, and a few spinning pasties, for good measure. I absolutely cannot afford it, but I absolutely cannot live or work without it. I feel like I’m back reliving good-ole-days. Relearning what worked, and why I did certain things.
And now my camera is back. My other baby had gone away too. It had served me faithfully, suffering slings and arrows and dusty rooms. I finally got sick of spending more time touching up dust marks than doing anything else with a photo, and I sent it in to be cleaned. (This was while I still had … thought I had… money.) But my second baby… she is back. I missed her.
And it feels like a new golden age of overly expensive toys. Everything is clean and snappy, and aims to please. My gawd, I’m in geek heaven.
(If you’re a real nerd, you noticed the dates and ages don’t match up, on my laptop. This is actually the third full machine in what I consider to be one computer. The first was stolen off the delivery truck. The second served me well for half its estimated life, before being replaced by the manufacturer with a newer model, after they scratched the screen fixing a error they made on a previous repair. And both machines I had in my actual possession had their guts swapped out multiple times. Five years total.)
Right… so now where was I?

Christmas / January 2, 2003 / Comment on this

2 dvds: Three Kings and As Good as it Gets
3 cds: Joan Osbourne – Early Recordings; Allanis Morrisette – Jagged Little Pill; Grosse Pointe Blank Soundtrack
1 book: Beyond This Horizon by Robert Heinlein
2 calendars
Coca Cola stuff: bottle, gummy bears, tin sign, vintage ads, painted glass marble
One DVD Player
cat stuff: toys, catnip, scoop, collar, food
2 hammers: (I asked for a 10 oz, which they couldn’t find, so they got a 12 oz and an 8 oz to balance it out.)
100 blank CDs
4 shirts, and a sweater
not a bad haul. Thanks, people.

MSRP / September 14, 2002 / Comment on this

So I bought a cool new backpack for traveling, about 2 months ago. “Made by the company that produces Swiss Army Watches.” and all. It is very cool looking, holds a ton, and is very very comfortable and strong. (I packed 5 days worth of clothes, a camera and tripod, reading material for the plane, and several gifts in it for my first trip with it).
I admit… I splurged. But it came just as I finished paying off my loan, and I was treating myself (among other things). Cost me about $85. On clearance from $129.
Not bad.
So I was walking through Pentagon Fashion Center (read: the mall) today. Passed some wannabe-ultra-high-class luggage store; Bentley’s or some thing. And instantly recognized the same bag in there, along with several others in the ‘line’.
That sonnovabitch was marked “down” to $285 from a MSRP of $465.
Anyone wanna buy a slightly used bag?