Fish & chips & birds

My wife was a bit under the weather this morning and called in sick to work. She stayed in bed all morning, so I looked after taking Scully out for a morning jaunt (normally her job). And then at lunch time I felt like going out for fish & chips, so I took Scully on a longer walk.

We got the food and walked out to sit at my usual fish & chips lunch spot.

Holloway view

I let Scully off the lead to run around a bit on the grass while I ate.

Scully at Holloway Reserve

There were magpies there eyeing my lunch, and Scully chased and scattered them a few times before settling down and just letting them be. One magpie lurked in the tree above me.

Australian magpie

I stood up to get this photo and it didn’t retreat. This was shot with my phone, and the image is not cropped at all. I was maybe only 30 cm away when I took it.

Back home, I mostly worked on writing Irregular Webcomic! scripts. I’m hoping I have enough time tomorrow to shoot photos for this batch. But I also need to prepare my lesson for tomorrow afternoon’s ethics lesson. What’s the topic…. Natural Resources. Hmm. I guess that shouldn’t be too difficult.

New content today:

Cloud photography

Today I mostly worked on comics, but I went out for a walk to pick up Scully from my wife after lunch, and I was amazed by the sky.

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

It was covered from horizon to horizon with these streaky, wispy cirrus clouds.

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

The view was so amazing and beautiful that I just stood gaping in awe, looking up at the sky.

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

I took a bunch of photos of just the sky, to get an abstract feeling with no sense of scale. Then I took some with a bit of foreground for contrast.

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

Sometimes it’s good to sit back and just bask in how beautiful our planet is.

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

New content today:

Catching up on things

My wife set an alarm for 6:30 this morning, intending to start getting up early again this week in preparation for returning to work next week. I heard the alarm go off and assumed she got up. I woke up properly around 7:30, and she was still asleep! So, catching up on sleep, after our road trip and a fairly hectic weekend after we got back home.

After breakfast I went to buy some groceries so we’d have fresh milk and dinners this week. Catching up on food stocks.

I spent some time writing annotations for that batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I made in the week before we went away. So catching up on that.

And then I sorted through my bird photos from the holiday and entered them into my bird photo database. I photographed 5 species for the first time on last week’s trip, taking my total to 295 species. (There are 296 entries in the database, as I have one for “Unidentified”.) The new ones are: bar-tailed godwit, Far Eastern curlew, Pacific golden plover, scaly-breasted lorikeet, and little egret.

(I should probably point out that the list of photos in the database is incomplete – I have yet to go back through my older photos and add links to them all. The number of species is correct, I just haven’t indexed all of the photos into it yet.)

I’m pretty excited about the Far Eastern curlew, as this is an endangered species. Wikipedia says it’s estimated to number 38,000 individuals as of 2006, but I found another site that with a more recent estimate from 2015 which is even lower, at 32,000 individuals. Here’s the photo I got:

Far Eastern curlew

Unfortunately it was across the mudflats and I couldn’t get any closer. So, anyway, catching up on bird photo cataloguing.

And a bunch of houseworky stuff – catching up on folding laundry.

New content today:

Alchemy and kookaburras

I’ve been working into the late evening on some Darths & Droids strips… the time got away from me! So I don’t want to write too much before I head to bed. What else did I do today?

I cobbled together a quick random alchemical ingredient generator. At the moment it’s generating only herb names, but I plan to expand it.

I baked sourdough, this time with 20% semolina/80% flour. It turned out fine. I think next time I’m going to go wild and try 50% semolina and see what happens.

Oh, and I created a Twitter account for Square Root of Minus Garfield. Since all the cool Garfield remix comics are doing it.

At the dog park with Scully this afternoon, there was a kookaburra hanging around, hunting worms and stuff in the bark chips near where all the dog owners sit on the park benches. It landed right on the bench I was sitting on! I managed to get this photo… with my phone!

Sharing a park bench with a kookaburra

New content today:

Bird photo walk

Today I wanted to get out of the house and get some exercise, but I didn’t just want to walk around the local neighbourhood, because it’s so familiar and I see it all the time. So I decided to hop in the car and drive a few suburbs away to Cremorne Point.

The point is a peninsula jutting south into Sydney Harbour. There is a walking path all the way around the shore of the point, and it has both beautiful scenery and amazing fancy houses. The shore is covered with trees and so there are also many birds in the area. I took both my phone and my dSLR with bird lens.

A rainbow lorikeet:

Rainbow lorikeet

Sulphur-crested cockatoos:

Sulphur-crested cockatoos

Silver gull, with an interesting Sydney background:

Gull and Opera House

A panorama of the lighthouse at the end of the point, and the city:

Cremorne Point walk

The MacCallum Seawater pool. This is a completely free public swimming pool, with an amazing view:

Cremorne Point walk

New content today:

Sourdough and Conjunction

This morning I began making my first sourdough loaf. I started by taking 100 grams of my new starter culture:

Making sourdough, step 1

I added 310 mL of water, 500 g of flour, and 10 g of uniodised salt, and mixed to form a dough:

Making sourdough, step 2

The dough seems to have a good consistency. I covered the mixing bowl in cling film and have left it to rise overnight. By this evening it’s already risen a lot, I’d say doubled in size easily. But I’ll bake it in the morning.

The other good news today is that the clouds obliterating Sydney’s view of the grand conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn for the past week finally lifted today. Only they lifted higher into the atmosphere, forming a thin haze over the sky. Nevertheless, I went out tonight with my camera to see what I could, and managed to get a few photos. Here’s the best one:

Grand conjunction: Jupiter and Saturn, 23 Dec 2020, Sydney, Australia

You can see Jupiter, all four Galilean moons, and Saturn. Saturn looks elongated by the rings, but you can’t really tell they’re rings. Here’s the same photo labelled:

Grand conjunction: Jupiter and Saturn, 23 Dec 2020, Sydney, Australia - labelled

It was a pretty crappy view, honestly. Always through cloud haze, and sometimes the planets would disappear altogether as thicker cloud wisps drifted across. But it may be the best I get, because the forecast for tomorrow is more evening rain, and then rain every day for the next week. But at least I got to see it.

New content today:

Photo batches x2

First cab off the rank this morning was photographing a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. I finished writing them on the weekend, but was busy with golf yesterday morning, so I didn’t get started then. I like to do them as soon as my wife leaves for work with Scully, so I have the house to myself, because it makes a big mess on the floor with all my Lego boxes laid out all over the place. If I start by 9 o’clock, I can be done just before lunchtime, then have a nice lunch to wind down.

This batch is big enough to take me beyond Christmas – wow, that’s not far away now is it? I just need to assemble the photos into the strips and write annotations over the next few days.

The other photographic thing that happened today is I got delivery of a new batch of greeting cards, printed with selections of my wildlife photos. I’ve added one of the new card images to Etsy already. I’ll add the second new card to my Etsy shop in a day or two. I also restocked on my cards for the sea lion photo, which were sold out after the market I did a couple of weeks ago.

And in other good news, my comics just updated, and it looks like the mysterious Tuesday cron job failure for Irregular Webcomic! has not occurred this week. It’s updated correctly! I had implemented a logging function on the cron job, so now if it does fail again I can diagnose it a bit and see exactly what part of the chain is failing. But hopefully now that I’ve done that I won’t need it. 😀

Oh, and look at this Sith car I spotted!

Sith car

New content today:

New card stock

Monday – this morning I spent some time looking after details of my Etsy store. I had to reorder stock for one of my most popular greeting cards since they sold out at the market I did a week ago. While doing that, I decided to prepare two other photos for printing on greeting cards and order some stock of those as well. The order is at the printer and I should get the cards in a week or so.

I also set up a new photo available as a matted print (within Australia) – the same sea lion photo that I’d had to restock as a greeting card. The animal photos are definitely more popular than the landscapes, and I’m running out of stock of those faster.

I also spent some time today reprocessing a bunch of old photos from scans of film that I took 20 yers ago. And some time writing comics. I basically stayed in most fo the day because it was rainy, although it stopped in the afternoon when I took Scully to the dog park for a bit.

New content today:

Shimmering views

Today was another busy day for me and my fledgling photography business. My Etsy shop is going okay – I’ve had a dozen or so orders for greetings cards and have been mailing them out. But as I said yesterday, I want to expand my range and start offering matted prints ready to frame.

So today I went down to the garage and grabbed some of the stock I have printed for market stalls, and took some photos to set up some new items on Etsy. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, because taking product photos requires good lighting, and it was a grey day here, and we don’t get a lot of natural light inside because of large trees near the windows – and indoor artificial lighting is often odd colour temperatures and very directional and harsh.

I ended up taking my stock outside and placing it on the ground under the open sky, and standing over it to take the photos looking straight down. Even then the results weren’t brilliant, because taking a photo of a photo naturally ends up with reduced image quality. So I took to Photoshop and made some mock-ups using a combination of photos of the matting boards that I’d taken outside and the original photos.

I ended up with something I could display and created a new item on Etsy. But given what I said yesterday about shipping to Australia versus internationally, at the moment it’s only available (and hence only visible, I believe) within Australia. I’m going to think about using a drop-shipping printer in the US and/or Europe to make these sort of prints available there too, but that’s a job for another day.

While I had my printed stock out, I took a bunch of photos of one of them for another purpose. Back when I was working for CiSRA (Canon Information Systems Research Australia), the last project I worked on was one to create 3D lighting effects of material surfaces. Some of my former team members decided to take their knowledge of the technology and form a start-up company to commercialise it (by re-implementing the systems from scratch in a non-intellectual-property-infringing manner). The company they’ve formed is Bandicoot Imaging. Check out in particular their demos of the Shimmer View technology and the materials gallery. This is imaging technology that I worked on!

What you need to do is take a bunch of photos from different angles, which are then combined into a material appearance model, which can be illuminated by a simulated light source from any angle. So I took some photos and uploaded them to their server, and produced a Shimmer View of one of my photos:

Mouse over it and you can control the motion, and also zoom in and out a bit. You can see the faint sheen of the semi-gloss satin finish of the photo paper, but there isn’t very much going on, unlike some of the fabric and leather textures in the demo gallery. But still, a nice effect.

New content today:

A post on postage

I’m planning to start offering larger prints of my photos on my Etsy shop, to supplement the greeting cards. The prints are 30×20 cm, matted with boards to a size of 40×30 cm, which fits a standard 16×12 inch picture frame. (It’s such a mess working with a mix of metric and Imperial measurements…)

To offer these for sale, I needed to know how much it would cost to package and ship them to potential buyers, so I could price them accordingly. There’s a place near me that does packing and shipping of stuff, so I went there to get a quote. They quoted me $20 to package a print, and $60 to ship it within Australia, or $96 to ship it to the US or Europe. I took the quote and thanked them for their assistance.

This seemed like an awful lot, so I checked Australia Post. They can ship package of this size within Australia for $26 by Express post, or just $19 by regular parcel post. And I’m sure I can pack a print with a few sheets of cardboard, taped up, to keep it safe and prevent it bending. So that seems a lot better.

The only issue is that this print size is just over the maximum dimensions for a package for Australia Post to ship overseas. And I mean just… the matting board itself is exactly the maximum possible size, but by the time I add packaging it will necessarily be a bit bigger.

So I think for now I’ll only be offering these for sale within Australia. I need to take some product photos and set up a new listing on Etsy, but hopefully I can do that tomorrow.

New content today: