A new toy!

I’ve had this for a few weeks now, and I am really enjoying it. It is also one of the reasons I have been so busy! The item in question is a large format printer, a Canon ImagePROGRAF 6300:

I realized how expensive large prints are, especially on canvas. Buying my own large-format printer made sense in the long run, and printing for other people has already started to pay for it. Its a 24″ roll printer, so I can easily print off 24″x36″ prints, or even 24″x60″ or wider if I wanted. Here a shot of some of the things I’ve put together so far:

It has been quite the learning curve, especially with the canvas and applying protective coatings. I have all the kinks out of the process and I’m really enjoying being able to print any size I need on a whim. The control I have over the end result is wonderful, and the results are even better than I expected. A great investment for sure. I’m looking forward to reproducing some of Desi’s paintings with it as well!

The only downside is its size: this thing is huge! This is how it fits in my workspace:

Experimenting with HDR

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, a technique of combining images at different exposures to create an image with far more detail in the over-exposed and under-exposed areas.The technique is usually used with three or more different images (one over exposed, under exposed, and regular exposure), but it can be achieved through processing a single RAW image from a camera too.

For those of you whose eyes are glazing over or think I’m speaking another language, this is what I’m talking about.

Taking this:

…and ending up with this:

Pretty neat, eh? It shows you how much data is in a RAW image, that normally you don’t see. I find that half the fun is taking the photo, and half the fun is processing it. I’ll be playing around with this technique more in the near future, so let me know what you think of the results!

Seeing more of a snowflake: Focus Stacking

Macro photography is definitely one of my favourites, but it can be tricky. The area of focus is so thin that it can be frustrating at times, especially with my new lens. I looked online for help and wow did I find it.

The kind folks at Digital Photo Experience answered my e-mail in their latest podcast, linking to a tutorial showing exactly how to get better focus in post-processing. Thanks to Juan and Rick for their help!

The idea is to take the photo at different focus points, and then combine them into one image afterwards, gathering all the detail from the various images. I happened to take numerous photos of one of the snowflake from the below post. Here is the “before” image:

and here is after:

Photoshop did a great job, but I did have to clean it up a bit. This photo was hand-held, so not only did it align all of the images but it added all the focus to one single image. I didn’t have images that spanned the entire snowflake, so the edges are still blurred. Now that I know how to do this however, I know what I need to get it perfect.

This was definitely a “wow” moment for me. Thought I’d share ๐Ÿ™‚

July 19 2009: An early morning engagement

I have been asked by many people for the story our engagement, so here we go ๐Ÿ™‚

I had bought the ring here in Canada after doing some exhaustive research to find exactly the right one. My intention was to keep it with me throughout our trip to Europe and wait for just the right moment to ask the big question. During the evening of the 18th (Nasi’s wedding), I got the feeling that this would be a great place to propose, with many of Desi’s friends around. As the evening was winding down, I told Desi to call over Nasi because there was something that I wanted to give to Desi and I wanted her to see it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Shortly after Nasi arrived at our table, the DJ announced that Nasi will have to go and throw the flower bouquet, not giving me enough time to say what I wanted to, so I waited. After this, the reception quickly drew to a close without giving me another chance to propose. Not exactly what I had planned for, and now Desi knew that I was planning something (and knew what it was – it could only be one thing) so later that evening we had a nice romantic talk and I proposed to her in the home she grew up in somewhere between 1-2am on the 19th. The answer was a resounding “yes” and we celebrated with a glass of rose wine we bought at Balchik Palace. I called a few people to let them know the good news just before we fell asleep, and Desi did the same. It was a wonderful end to a wonderful day, in so many ways. Definitely one of the most memorable days in my life so far, and I’m very proud to call Desi my fiancรฉ. ๐Ÿ™‚

To say it was one of the happiest moments of my life would be an understatement. To travel across Europe with Desi as my fiancรฉ brought that happiest up even farther. I also really appreciate all of the congratulations and support that everyone has given us, it is truly remarkable. A really big thank-you to everyone!

So after a nice restful sleep, we started our day. We visited Desi’s grandmother’s grave in the morning, which was a very sombre moment. She had passed on earlier this year, so Desi, her aunt and I all went to pay our respects. Afterwards, we brought Desi’s grandfather to her aunt’s place for lunch and we had some great conversations and laughs over a great meal. Desi’s family is very warm and welcoming, I enjoyed every minute we spent with them!

Also worth showing here is one of Desi’s paintings that her aunt has in her kitchen. This is probably my favourite painting that Desi has made, and I will be making a copy for us to have here in Canada:

Desi’s aunt was kind enough to drive us to the bus station to help us arrange our travel from Varna to Bucharest, from where we could use our Eurail train passes. After that, Desi and I walked around town for a while and had a delicious dinner at a salad place called “Godzilla”, we ordered a salad and a pizza and shared them both. On our way home, Desi showed me a small area of town that had some small amusement park rides, and we decided to try the bumper cars. I hadn’t been on bumper cars in many years, and the experience brought out some childhood thrills that I loved. Another great end to a great day ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh, and here a few pics from the 18th that didn’t have to do directly with the wedding, but I thought would be interesting to share none-the-less:

Research through distributed computing: Folding@Home

This is something I have wanted to talk about here for a while now.

Computers have been used for scientific research since their invention, and computer simulations are currently researching most of the world’s incurable diseases. The most successful endeavour so far as been a project called Folding@Home. Folding@Home is extremely unique, in that it allows you to contribute spare processing power for this research.

What they do is chop up molecular simulations into bite-sized chunks for you to process at home. Once the simulation chunk (work unit) is completed, your computer uploads the results back to Stanford University where the research is analyzed. So what exactly are they analyzing? Proteins and how the fold. Trying not to get too technical, proteins change from an unfolded state to a folded state when they are working in your body. Sometimes, proteins misfold. Protein misfolding is the cause of many forms of Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Mad Cow disease, Parkinson’s, among many others. By running simulations designed to understand how and why proteins misfold, medical science is one step closer to understanding, treating, and possibly curing these diseases.

The project has published 63 peer-reviewed papers, and the research is continuing. I have been running the software on my computers for over four years now, and I’d like more people to be aware of it. Because this distributed computer model effectively gives Stanford University a supercomputer hundreds of times faster than the world’s fastest dedicated super computer, the combined efforts of every contributor is what makes the project successful.

You can find out more about the research project and the community built around it here. If you are interested in trying it, visit the download page and give it a go. They also add some competition to the research, as each work unit you submit gets you “points” based on how much processing power was required. I’ve had my own Folding@Home “team” for years, and we’re in the top 1000 worldwide. The team number is 34931 in case you’d like to join. I’ll make a banner to sit on the side of my blog permanently to help promote this, and I invite everyone to spread the word on their own blogs if they like the idea.

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