Archive for September, 2008

Hurricane!

28 September 2008

Or what passes for one in these parts: mostly a big bag o’ wet. Kyle passed offshore this afternoon, throwing a bunch of rain to all sides.

Looking at the boiling water at the base of the light, it’s not difficult to imagine how the bark Annie C. Maguire got smashed against that big chunk of ledge at the right, on the night of Christmas Eve, 1886 (as usual, click the pix to embiggen):


Portland Head Light, hurricane Kyle

Portland Head Light, Hurricane Kyle: quite a difference from five days ago


From this angle, I couldn’t keep the lens dry, no matter how much I wiped it. It was better from the east, with the wind behind me:


Portland Head Light, Hurricane Kyle

With the wind at my back


I gave up after a while, fearing for the electronics in the camera, and decided to go for a short hike. By the time I got home, my Gore-Tex lined boots were holding the water in, and I was soaked to my skin. It was lots of fun. Even at my age, I enjoy being outdoors in adverse conditions.

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Cram It!

26 September 2008

My bookmarks file is a bloated two megabytes. I save bookmarks that look interesting, and then forget them. A few days ago, as I was browsing some of the photography-related links, I found some good stuff.

One of the links was to NatureScapes.net. I originally found the link at Reflections By Kris, but this time I took the time to read it.

I found a link there to an article by a Michael Brown, titled “The Art of Abstract Macro Photography.” I haven’t been a big fan of macro photography, mainly because my attempts have turned out to be mostly boring. In the article, he discusses a technique he calls the “Cram It” method. It looked interesting, so I tried it out.

Some of the stuff I got was pretty crappy, some of it was okay, and some of it I really liked.

This rose wasn’t, strictly speaking, “crammed,” but I like it anyway, so I’m including it here:

Rose <em>Carefree Beauty</em>

Rose Carefree Beauty

Some of them came out looking like the sorts of things Georgia O’Keeffe obsessed about:

New Guinea Impatiens

New Guinea Impatiens

Some were, indeed, filmy and abstract:

New Guinea Impatiens

New Guinea Impatiens

Pink Petunia

Pink Petunia

Rose <em>Carefree Beauty</em>

Rose Carefree Beauty

And some were so vague as to defy analysis:

Purple Petunia

Purple Petunia

I really like this one:

Rose <em>Carefree Beauty</em>

Rose Carefree Beauty

I think I’ll do some more.

One Afternoon at the Shore

25 September 2008

I don’t usually shoot late in the day; dawn is more my style. But lately I’ve been sleeping till seven o’clock or so, and missing the morning light. These were taken a couple of days ago at Portland Head in Cape Elizabeth, late in the afternoon.

Portland Head Light and Ram Island Ledge Light

Portland Head Light and Ram Island Ledge Light

Portland Head Light, up close and personal

Portland Head Light, up close and personal

Portland Head Light, from the East

Portland Head Light, from the East

One of the things I don’t like about shooting later in the day is that it’s hard to keep people out of the frame. They lead the eye right to themselves and distract from the other elements of the picture. Early mornings are much less crowded.

I guess I gotta get off my lazy rear end and start getting up at a decent hour again.

Basic Security for Windows Users

15 September 2008

Personally, I don’t understand it, but I know that for whatever reason, many people still use Microsoft’s sorry excuse for an operating system. Lately I’ve gotten several requests from Windows users for my security recommendations. Having stumbled through this a bunch of times in the past, I decided to skip the long emails this time and just put it all in a post here on the blog.

The usual disclaimers apply: The downloading and installation of programs is beyond the scope of this article, being so basic that I’m going to assume that if you have a computer you know how to do it. And you take my advice at your own risk; I’m not responsible if you trash your computer.

These are the programs I recommend all Windows users install to protect their computers from malware:


Firefox web browser and Thunderbird email client:

The two largest security holes in any Windows computer are Internet Explorer and Outlook Express (web browser and email client, respectively). Without going into technical explanations, know that YOU SHOULD NEVER USE EITHER OF THESE PROGRAMS. There are safer and better-quality alternatives available.

Go to the Mozilla/Firefox/Thunderbird home page.

Download and install. Each program will attempt to migrate settings (bookmarks, etc) from their Windows counterparts. In use, they’re almost identical to their Windows counterparts.

To make sure Internet Explorer doesn’t try to sneak itself in as your default browser, thus defeating this security upgrade, on the Firefox menu bar go to Tools => Preferences (or Options, I can’t remember how they’re named in Windows) and in the resulting configuration window check the box labeled “Always check to see if Firefox is the default browser on startup.” Then click the button labeled “Check Now.” When Firefox asks you if you want to make it your default browser, always answer “yes.”


AVG Free Edition anti-virus software:

In my opinion, AVG Free is at least the equal of expensive products like Norton, for example. Go to the AVG Free download page.

Download and install and keep it updated. The sociopaths who write malware are constantly coming up with new products to evade protection software; if you don’t keep your protection updated, you’re not protected.


Spybot Search & Destroy:

An outstanding spyware and adware remover. It also removes Trojan Horse programs that antivirus applications miss. If your computer is getting slower and slower, chances are it’s infected with these types of malware, which load themselves on startup and then hog system resources. Go to the Spybot Search & Destroy home page.

Download and install and keep it updated. When it runs, it may take a considerable amount of time to complete, but it’s worth the wait. You may have to run it twice to remove stubborn infections.


CCleaner:

Finally, run this nifty program to clean out crud that accumulates on your hard drive(s). It was originally named “Crap Cleaner” and it’s pretty good at what it does.

This is good to use in conjunction with the other programs because malware has a habit of making copies of itself in the “Temporary” and “Temporary Internet Files” directories. If you keep those directories clean, you reduce the chances of reinfection. Go to the CCleaner home page.

Download and install and keep it updated.


All of these programs are free to use, and work as well as, if not better than, their expensive commercial counterparts.

If you don’t have a high level of comfort with this sort of thing, going beyond the basic configuration of these programs might be a little tricky. In all cases, the default settings will get the job done.