Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

I’m Back! I think.

26 January 2017

Well, this is odd. It’s been a bit over a year, I think (too lazy to look and see for sure) since my last posting here. On top of that, this particular post isn’t necessarily my standard fare. It’s probably a mix of rant and quick updates. All ranting is my personal opinion, of course. No pretty pix, those will come later.

So, which first, the rant or the updates? Ah, you figure it out, they’re all mixed together.

Photography wise, it’s been a bust, between building the Vardo (done!), Idaho weather, my dad, and other stuff, I’ve not actually gone out “to do photography”. I’m working on that, though, and you can expect some more pictures this year. Time lapse. Video. Landscapes. Macro. Whatever grabs my attention at the moment. And yes, I did indeed say video, that wasn’t an error.

I’ve written a small script, more a proof of concept idea than anything else, that I plan to video. If it turns out good enough, I might even look into YouTube. My granddaughters want me to start putting my videos up there and I’m tempted. If this project works, I probably will start putting a couple of older videos up and create more. I never expected to get into or enjoy making video but I find I do.

Don’t expect much in the way of audio on my videos. I’ll try and include music based on the input of other people, but I have a beef with the lousy captioning on YouTube and am going to extract my revenge by including captions and no voicing. So there. I swear, I never know whether to laugh or cry when I see the automatically generated captions on most of the YouTube videos. It sucks. The only ones any good seem to be those that go out of their way to include captioning themselves.

This next video project is showing me a bunch of stuff already, and I can’t get out to the Owyhees to film it. Film it…video it…whatever. I have a DJI Phantom 4 and that’s what gave me the idea for this video. Next up, I needed a video recorder that could become your eyes, so I wound up asking around and borrowing a GoPro Hero 4 Black. The video specs for that match well with the video specs for the drone, BUT the Hero 4 is a fixed fisheye. More on that later.

The Hero 4 has no playback capability and the only way you can get any kind of immediate feedback or live feed, is to use their Capture app. Or a third party one. And guess what? Those idiots at GoPro seem to think you absolutely need to log into their servers before you can get any use out of the app. Yeah, right. Waaaay out in the middle of the Owyhees, where I set up for my video on the GoPro and test it, where there’s NO cell service? How in Hades am I supposed to log into their servers from there? Stupid and pointless. However, I did manage to find an older Capture version and that one lets me have live feed and control over the camera to change settings WITHOUT having to log into their freaking servers first. Those of you out there wanting this…look for the newest version prior to 3.x. It also has the older logo. Just be sure and don’t allow your apps to automatically update or it’ll get replaced with the new one. You’d think losing their market share would warn them and that it’s logical that if you want to keep your fan base, you shouldn’t push out an upgrade that makes it impossible to use the app where there’s no service. Especially for a camera intended for extreme stuff out in the middle of nowhere. I guess common sense isn’t part of the job requirement there.

Now about the GoPro fisheye situation. For my wants, the fisheye gives me a great wide field of view, but it does have those pesky fisheye effects. You know, the curved  vertical and horizontal lines that should be straight.

To remove the fisheye effects, there are plenty of tutorials and apps out there. The first I tried was the GoPro PC app. Posts, reviews. blogs all say it has a built-in fisheye fix that’s good. Guess what? Yup, you got it. It, too, requires a server login. Forget it, I’m not gonna look for an older version of that, too. That made it easy to uninstall and discard with only a second or two’s thought.

I moved on to four programs that I already have. I’ve restructured my home systems so I have a laptop that’s just for photography work. On that machine, I have Linux as my OS: Ubuntu Studio. There are some things I don’t like about the OS layout, so I may just migrate to a clean, minimal Ubuntu 16.04 and have only the video and graphics programs that I find work for me. And yes, there is a point to mentioning this.

The four programs I was looking at for the fisheye removal are: Adobe After Effects (Win), daVinci Resolve Free (Win), OpenShot (Win/Linux), and Kdenlive (Linux).

OpenShot was the first I looked into, and while it’s a nice basic editor, it was taking me too long to find out how to deal with the fisheye effect so I dropped that approach. I then went and played with After Effects and it did a reasonable job, but the file size went from 357 MB to 12 GB. HUH? OK, I figured that was user error and I could set the parameters better later or transpose to a different format. At the same time I was playing with After Effects, I was messing about in Kdenlive. That one was not only easy to deal with the fisheye, but it had a couple different ways to do so. After I got done trying After Effects, I then looked into daVinci Resolve. This was just as easy to use as Kdenlive but the free version is apparently time bombed or has a file size or video length restriction. Unlike last time I used it, this time it slapped a watermark on the entire video. I’m going to look into that, but if that’s the case (time bombed or file size) then I’m going to toss it.

So, looking at the various outputs, I was rather surprised to find out that the best resulting corrected video came from my Linux machine: Kdenlive’s Defish filter. Not by a little, but by an easily noticeable difference. File size, quality of resulting video, quality of corrections…Kdenlive was the best. daVinci Resolve was the next, but it had a huge file size as well. That I expected, though, as Resolve doesn’t output the final video, only the feed into the conversion. That I could live with. To be honest, though, when I started looking at these I really didn’t expect the Linux program to come out ahead like that. That was a very welcome bit of support for my Linux love.

I’m going to take a look at PiTiVi (also Linux) later and see how it compares to Kdenlive, but going forward right now it looks like for my project I’ll be using Kdenlive as my editor.

On the writing front, I’ve been assembling an ebook with the various tales of the Pa’adhe. It has a cover for each story plus the ebook itself. I need to create three more covers, so I’m waiting for the weather here to get better so I can go get the pictures I need. We’ve busted the local records across the board for snow this winter. We got more than the winter of 1985, and that was on the ground only about two weeks. This winter’s snow has been on the ground for over a month now, and it’s been piled high. Buildings have collapsed as a result of the amount and type of snow.

I’ve sure enjoyed my first year retired, but funny enough, I sort of seem to be way more busy than when I was working. And I’ve still not gotten back into my radio stuff. Maybe this year!

Pa’adhe Sails Again

17 February 2016

After a long hiatus, I’ve begun writing another tale of the Pa’adhe. This resumption in writing includes an interesting discovery about both my writing and my personality. Or at least of my writing preferences.

Maybe a month ago, I felt the urge to write a new blog entry. I actually sat down and over two days wrote an update on my Vardo project. I even went so far as to identify the various photos I wanted to include and to revise the post several times. Then, rather than post it and the pictures, because I wasn’t quite ready yet and I was having trouble finding my albums on Google Plus with their new layout, I let it slide. So, I have that post ready, but just haven’t felt like finishing it and actually posting.

Then a couple of weeks back, I was drifting off to sleep and a new Pa’adhe story began to form in my mind. Excited by the story and unable to sleep, I got up about 12:30 AM, logged into the computer, and began typing it in.

By 2:30 AM I had finished writing the opening and crawled back into bed. I had written about 500 words of the new story and about 250 words in a new Encyclopedia entry providing background to the people of the story. 750 words plus a little bit of back and forth tweaking.

Now, when I had stopped writing about a year ago, I had been trying to write a story providing Scarle’s background. I had gotten as far as 1,870 words, and then I just quit writing. I didn’t know why, but I just suddenly had no urge to write either blog or story.

So, what changed?

Interestingly enough, nothing. My subconscious solved a problem with Scarle’s story that I didn’t even realize existed, until now.

When I started writing this new story, I hadn’t figured out this part yet, but it include a visit to the Sea Gypsies for help. Part of my writing is intuitive, and it was here that I realized I could pull in Scarle’s history as a way of furthering the Captain’s journey to…well, I’ll not reveal where yet.

In hindsight, after I decided to pull in Scarle’s already written background into this new story and so provide, finally, history on all four main characters in Tales of the Pa’adhe, I realized what had happened and why I hadn’t been writing for so long.

At least I think I know what happened.

You see, if you read my other posts on the Pa’adhe stories, you know I write by coming up with an idea, that I write by the seat of my pants, and it is my characters that dictate what happens, not this author. That’s how I describe my writing style, and I know it’s not truly the characters, but my subconscious directing what gets written. But it’s more fun to say the characters take over.

In writing Scarle’s story the way I did, my characters didn’t like it being done that way and rebelled. I had been writing it not as part of a story, but as if merely sitting down with his family and visiting. That just didn’t fit and as soon as I had the basics down, the Captain and crew decided not to co-operate any further on that story. For each of the other characters, if you read the Tales of the Pa’adhe listed on the right of this blog page, you see that their three backgrounds came out in the course of solving a problem. Scarle’s was being presented as a mere family get-together and that just wasn’t my usual style. I had actually been writing Scarle’s background just to provide the fourth crew member’s background and for no other reason. It just didn’t fit with the structure of the other Pa’adhe tales or the way I write and clearly I recognized that, at least subconsciously.

Now this part I’m guessing at, but it seems to match my personality and how I dealt with the other time this happened. When I am blocked like this, I don’t want to work on any other writing until I get this fixed. Apparently, if I have an unfinished writing task, working on some other writing is just something I don’t want to do.

Wait, that’s not completely true, so maybe it’s related to the size or type of problem. If I’m just having a wordsmithing problem, I have no problem taking a break and working on something else. But when it’s something fundamentally wrong like this, a major structural issue that looks complete but isn’t, something that my subconscious calls a halt to, then all writing shuts down.

The interesting discovery I made about myself is that apparently if I’m not true to the structure of my tales, I won’t finish the tale. This is actually the second time this has happened, but it’s only now that I think I understand what happened both times. My subconscious, aka the Captain and crew, recognized that while what I was writing was something I needed, I was going about telling it the wrong way. Thus, my writing got hijacked until I figured out how to make it fit the proper structure. The previous time, I had about half the story written before I tossed it. I still have the story, as is, but it’s since been incorporated into one of the other tales and indeed gets presented much better that way than the original writing.

I think this time it took much longer because shortly after I hit the wall on Scarle’s background tale I also entered the stressful period of prepping for retirement. Then after that, I focused on building my Vardo for a while, actually getting the construction started. Then came the various holidays and a certain amount of ennui.

A couple of weeks back the Captain and crew decided enough was enough and started a new tale, one that would allow me to pull in Scarle’s background story. It’s a story that makes that background relevant to not only the question of who Scarle is and where he came from, but also provides some more history of the Sea Gypsies. Then I can use that to let the Captain…but I get ahead of myself. That tale is not yet complete and though I have an idea where it’s going, I don’t yet know the details so I better not say anything.

Besides, I know the Captain and crew of the Pa’adhe will hijack the storyline if I do and take it somewhere else. And I want to see…um, never mind.

The weather is starting to get good again, albeit not yet stable, so I will be working on the Vardo once more. Soon I will actually post that already written blog detailing the work thus far.

The time spent on the Vardo build and exploring the Owyhees as the weather improves may cut into my writing time. However, the Captain, Xinu, Scarle, and Cook are insistent that I tell this new tale so I feel that I’m back, writing-wise, and that the Pa’adhe is indeed once again sailing.

Fair winds and a following sea!

Stars Over Wickahoney

21 August 2014

These last two weeks have seen me focusing on three things: my Vardo, my writing, and my astrophotography.

Vardo

After much thought, I jumped at the chance to get a utility trailer, 6 feet by 12 feet, for a really good price. My original base, seen here, would have given me a 6 foot by 8 foot Vardo. The new trailer will let me have an 8 foot by 12 foot vardo plus a drop-down porch if I work it right. The extra room is very welcome and more appealing to my wife as well.

Factoring in the cost of paint, steel wool, a new trailer light system, new wheel bearings, sandpaper, new tongue, and sheet metal just to get that old base rebuilt into a foundation for the Vardo, getting this new trailer was actually cheaper. And the plan is to be able to remove the Vardo if I need to use the trailer for hauling stuff.

Image of a 6 foot by 12 foot utility trailer with one pair of wheels. Sides are an open framework of angled metal. Tail gate is about 4 feet tall when up and contains a metal mesh. Parked next to a blue-green 1992 Chevy Blazer in front of the garage in the driveway.

This is the new utility trailer that will become the base for the Vardo. I’m especially happy to get the all metal bed.

That tailgate will make a very nice sized porch with the addition of some drop-down or other legs if I do it right. I’ve already got some ideas how to work it and still be able to use it as a ramp if needed. It’ll be good for scraping off mud or stamping off dirt and sand before going inside, all that stuff will just fall through the grating.

Construction should be starting after the middle of September due to vacation plans and other such interruptions. The goal is to have it ready by 4 July 2015, when we go to Haines, Oregon, to my wife’s brother’s place. All her cousins and his friends get together then and have these huge motormansions (her term, not mine) or behemoth trailers. She’s tickled pink with the idea of seeing our cute little Vardo tucked in the field with all those. She’s even been coming up with ideas and suggestions for stuff in it. She’s apparently been talking about it so much so that even the oldest granddaughter made me agree that “it won’t just be a box on a trailer, but it’ll be a cute trailer.” I showed the granddaughter the pictures of Paleotool’s Vardo that I’m using as my guide and said, “it’s going to be like that.” She approves of that design, just like my wife. Clearly, I’m going to be spending a lot of time this winter in the garage and driveway.

And in trouble if I don’t get it done!

Besides, I’ve been dreaming of all the places to go camping around here. Farewell Bend. Cascade Reservoir. Bruneau Sand Dunes. Steck Recreation Site. Leslie Gulch. Those are just off the top of my head, there’s so many more.

Writing

Lately, I’ve been trying to go swimming every Tuesday and Thursday. I don’t always make it, but when I do I just swim laps. That has been very conductive to my writing process as it lets me just swim along and think about the storylines, back stories, future stories, or just mentally write. I don’t always remember those exactly (I need a waterproof laptop!) but I do remember enough to get a lot of it written down.

Recently, I’ve been trying to focus on the next short story, Scarle’s back story, as decided in my last blog posting. The last two times I went swimming, though, my mind drifted away from that and instead focused on another part of the overall story. It was something that I’d been wondering how to tell without revealing any secrets. Throughout the Tales of Pa’adhe I’m scattering little subtle clues that I don’t amplify or even, usually, reference again in the tale they appear in. They’re usually presented in passing and should be easily found in hindsight, but they all point to one thing and I had no idea how to present that to my readers.

I now have a solution to that conundrum and have written half of it. Unfortunately for my readers, this can only be told in The Final Voyage. But at least I clear everything up with it. As soon as I finish writing that section up, it’s back to Scarle’s back story and what’s supposed to be the current Work In Progress.

Astrophotography

Strictly speaking, I probably should just say “photography” since I’ve been busy with more than just astrophotography planning, photography-wise.

The last several days I’ve been planning for the trip back to Wickahoney this Saturday, 23 August 2014. We’ll be heading out Saturday, I’ll be shooting all night, and we’ll head back Sunday.

My main project is a time lapse of the Milky Way. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for some time now, and I think the Wickahoney ruins are a perfect foreground for it. I want to start shooting around civil twilight when the stars are just coming out and shoot until 3 AM Sunday or my batteries run out. I’m hoping for some additional foreground “action” in the time lapse, but it depends on the timing of when everyone gets there, where we set up, and all that good stuff. We’ll see how that works out. I’ll definitely get the Milky Way time lapse, which may or may not be all that great. I’m still learning to shoot good Milky Way images.

I also want to shoot a 360 degree panorama for incorporating into Stellarium as one of my three personal landscapes. That’s simple enough and just needs decent light. High noon Sunday should be good for that to minimize shadows. I need to re-do the other two to get a sharper division between the distant land and the sky, but that’s a project for another time. Each new 360 pano that I do teaches me something and each gets better.

Finally, I want to shoot some video for another project. Originally this was going to be another time lapse, but I ran into problems there: I only have two batteries for my main camera, and I need those intact for the Milky Way time lapse. I could shoot this with my second camera, but I plan to use that for other astrophotography shots and can’t guarantee the battery capacity of that, either. I’ve decided, then, that I will shoot this as a video and try to achieve the desired result post-production. As a time lapse it would have made it easy to do certain scenes, but my homework last week seems to indicate I can do the same with a video file anyway. We’ll see.

It does indicate I need to do something about my camera battery situation. I’ve several ideas for that, one of which is just get another battery for both cameras. I’ll need to address this soon so I will be good to go next time I head out for an all-night time lapse like this.

UPDATE: Here it is Thursday and now they’re predicting Saturday as partially cloudy and Sunday as clear. Hopefully, the night will still be clear!