Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Combating the Pandemic with Homemade Hockey Boards

 I have been locked down now for almost 11 months.  This means that my normal exercise regime of biking to/from work vanished behind a double layer fabric COVID mask. So I have been looking for other ways to stay active - partly for physical health, partly for emotional health, and partly to stave off boredom.

   For a lot of lockdown I've been less than 100% mobile.  First was recovering from a mess of broken toes, then I wrenched my knee, and recently I wrenched my back.  Basically a lot of things kept me from going for bike rides, and generally moving muscles, making seretonin, and burning calories.

In the past few months I have started walking around my property, logging a couple miles each day.  I also got a punching bag, which I mounted under our new porch outside, to get some upper body workout.

I was looking for some other activity I could do outside, but not leave my property.  Then I remembered I had some hockey equipment, and a brand new concrete patio.  So I got out the stick and a road hockey ball, and started taking shots against the retaining wall and fence that runs along side the patio.

It was actually a good bit of fun, but there is a problem.  I spent way to much time chasing the ball around my yard.   Its hard to spot if you're the Vancouver Canucks defense, but for the rest of us, there is a glaring issue with this setup with respect to hockey.  My fence is my goalie, and it has a five hole a mile wide.

(yes, I know the five hole is actually between the goalies pads, but its funnier this way, so work with me on this one).

Clearly this needed to be fixed.  Putting up boards is the obvious solution, but I didn't want anything permanent, nor did I want to spend a lot of time setting up and tearing down.

I looked around my house for resources I already had, and noticed I had a 4x8 sheet of foam board, and some 1x3 and 1x4 bits of lumber.

I did a test and the hole is 4x7 feet.  So, perfect size. Another test showed that the 1x4s slip perfectly between the gaps in the fence posts.

So the solution is clear.  I screwed the wood onto the foam board, and left a bit of overhang for the wood to slide into the fence post gap.

I tested it out, and now my fence/goalie stops "pucks" like the best of them.  It is rather ugly (I never claimed to be good at building stuff) but it only needs to be up when I am using it, so the ugly is temporary (which pleased my wife to no end).

 Best part, I can set it up and tear it down in seconds, and it fits easily into a storage area under the patio.

Now whenever I have a few minutes, say between work meetings, I can go outside and take some practice shots, and burn off a few more calories.

Just another lifestyle adaptation thrust upon me by the good people at COVID Incorporated.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Photography Scavenger Hunt Round 30: Pantone Color Of The Year 2021

This is a behind the scenes of my "Pantone Color Of The Year 2021" shot for the 30th round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt.

This is one of the most unique "words" for any hunt I've been in.  First of all Pantone had not even announced the color yet when the list was published.  Second, when they did release it, they had two colors - a grey and a yellow.  The hunt has had a colour almost every round, but never two in one category.

This was the first word I shot this round.  In fact I had it completed within 24 hours of the list being published.  A bit funny that it was the last one released this round, but thats how the cookie crumbles.

My ideas started floating around posters, and Bob Ross style paintings.  I couldn't really nail it down in my head.  Eventually I used the whole experience of how this "word" was revealed to me and put it into a picture.  I imagined a scene where Pantone put a poster of 2020s colour (a blue shade) up on a wall, which faded over the year, and a new poster was being put up over top of it to announce 2021s colours.  

I decided to keep the idea of Bob Ross putting the poster up.  I imagined the poster to be large size, more like a small billboard.  In one of the seasons of Bob's show The Joy Of Painting, the intro montage is Bob with a paint roller painting in a scene.  I figured that paint roller may be a good way for him to be attaching the poster to the wall. 

All I needed was a wall, a poster, a paint roller on a stick, and a Bob Ross.

Luckily I had an 8" Bob Ross figure in a box (doesn't everyone?) so I grabbed him from the shelf.  I made two posters in Photoshop and printed them out at 8x10 on my printer.   I then fashioned a Bob Ross sized paint roller out of wire, string, white felt, and a chop stick.  Finally I made a wall out of a 16x20 piece of foam core, and some craft paint.

I glued the 2020 poster to the wall, and aged it up. I love aging things, and I enjoyed it much.  I then glued the 2021 poster on top of it, leaving one corner unattached and curled.

After that it was a matter of setting it all up and shooting it.  I used a Lume Cube mounted on a gooseneck attached to a Platypod to light the scene.

Post processing was a few simple textures to add a bit more character, and the result is what you see here.

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Photography Scavenger Hunt Round 30: Upside Down

This is a behind the scenes of my "upside down" shot for the 30th round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt.

Almost immediately I got stuck on the idea of Australia.  I wanted to get a Crocodile Dundee figure standing on a globe, upside down.  I lacked a Croc Dundee figure, and the ones that existed were way too expensive.

I went with my backup idea of dressing Deadpool up as someone from the outback.  So I got him a hat, and a machete. Originally I carved a machete out of a piece of wood with a Dremel, but I didn't like how it turned out, so I 3D printed one instead.

Somewhere along the line I remembered that I've always wanted to recreate the Hamilton poster, but with Deadpool instead of Hamilton.  Ya know, this poster:

To match this I posed Deadpool in a similar poste to Alexander Hamilton:

After that it was a decent amount of Photoshopping to merge the image with a star and textures to create the Hamilton look.  Once I got it looking right proper side up, I flipped the whole thing... upside down.

One thing I couldn't decide on was whether to flip the text upside down or leave it upright.  I finally asked an impartial person (my son) and. he thought the text should be right side up, so thats how I left it.

The final image is here:

Friday, February 05, 2021

Photography Scavenger Hunt Round 30: Clouds

 This is a behind the scenes of my "clouds" shot for the 30th round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt

This is one of those photos that came together at the last minute, and in fact was the last image I finished for this round of the hunt.

I did have several ideas early on in the process.   One was a simple air plane, or Star Wars-ian craft, flying through clouds.  That idea soon expanded into creating a scene where DB Cooper was jumping from the plane he hijacked. I even went so far as to purchase a model of a Boeing 727, the same plane DB Cooper jumped from.  

Another idea was creating something along the old Philadelphia Cream Cheese commercials where an angel is on Cloud 9 eating some cream cheese.  You know the one.

I had thought of a variation on this with an actual angel, or Deadpool eating a bagel with cream cheese lounging on a fluffy cloud. 

However none of those ideas really got me excited enough to get around to actually shooting it (and in the case of the DB Cooper shot, I misplaced my 1/12 scale "duffle bag of money" prop).  So I was in a massive state of meh about the whole thing.

As I mentioned this was the last image I finished for this round.  The day after I finished the penultimate shot I sat down at my craft desk and started wracking my brain tried to come up with some ideas for this final shot so I could close out the hunt.   Thats when I looked up and got inspired, like the cream cheesey heavenly angels kicked my muses ass.

In actuality I looked up at my 1/6 scale Doctor Strange figure I keep on the top shelf at my crafting desk.  I started thinking about how he may be put in a zen pose of some sort.  Then I thought he could be zen'ing through the clouds. 

These action figures have a whole selection of hands and other things that can be swapped out to give different poses.  I dug into that box, and found some hands I could use that fit the zen motif.  Finally I double checked that Strange could sit cross-legged (not all action figures are flexible enough to do such a pose).   

Once I had it all checked out I knew I had a winner.  

I tossed Strange into my light box, mounted on a Platypod with some goosenecks to hold him up in a zen pose.  I also had his cape elevated to give the impression it was flapping in the wind. This is the setup and the SOOC:

Then I removed the background, tossed him in front of a shot of some fluffy clouds.  To give him a place to sit, I painted in a nice fluffy clouds using Photoshop brushes.

Finally I added a radial blur around him to give a sense of motion.

The end result is presented thusly:

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Photography Scavenger Hunt Round 30: Warming

This is a behind the scenes of my "warming" shot for the 30th round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt.

After a wee bit of brainstorming to come up with ideas I ended up reminding myself of a shot I already wanted to do.  I have a Kermit The Frog dressed as Indiana Frog action figure, and I used it to recreate the rolling ball of death scene from Raiders.  I've always wanted to recreate another shot from Raiders, which was when the Ark of the Covenant was opened by those damn dirty Nazi's and the wrath of God melted them.

So, step one:  Obtain the Ark of the Covenant. It's only been missing for thousands of years, so how hard can it be?

Not hard, it turns out.  Just a couple days of 3D printing, and some gold paint:

I also needed a pole for Indy to be tied to.  I went to Lowes to get a couple wooden dowels of various diameters to use as a pole.  However when it came time to actually cut the dowel I realized I could likely use the paper towel tube I already had on my desk.  So I did. I also added some drywall putty to give it some old wood textures (Also, I now have extra dowel.  If anyone needs any, let me know).

Once all the props were painted and dried, I set everything up and shot it in my lightbox:

I look multiple shots with a Lume Cube in various positions to get all the right light reflections.

This was a Photoshop heavy image.  I started by combining all of the shots to get the lights. Adding the  massive burst of light from the Ark took several layers of brushes and some light leak textures:

It took a while, but I finally got the flash of lights blended in a satisfactory way to capture the "Glory of Yahweh" sufficiently.  Finally I dodged and burned the shadows, and then added some general textures.

The one thing I could not accomplish was getting Kermits eyes closed.  I couldn't find an example where his eyes were ever closed.  If you are not familiar with the movie, those who look upon the ark with it being open is looking into the Glory of Yahweh, which no mortal can survive, so whoever looks at it gets killed in a dramatic flesh-melty way.  I settled for Kermit looking away from the flash of light.  Sometimes one is truly limited by the characters they chose to use in their art.

The final result is this:

It turns out my idea for Kermit the Frog dressed as Indian jones being tied to a pole, looking away in an attempt withstand the wrath of Yahweh escaping the Ark of the Covenant was a unique idea among the entries.  Who would have guessed?

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Photography Scavenger Hunt Round 30: Antique

 This is a behind the scenes of my "antique" shot for the 30th round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt

I had some issues coming up with ideas for this one.  So many things can be antiques and, photographically speaking, I am not interested in very many of them, and those I am are not accessible in the lockdown.   

Just out of pure luck I received an Iron Man Mark I action figure in the mail. If you are an Iron Man fan this is the suit of armor that Tony Stark built to escape that cave of terrorists in Afghanistan in the first movie.  (If you are not an Iron Man fan, picture in your mind the sort of suit of armor a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist would build to escape a cave of terrorists in Afghanistan).  I had forgotten I had ordered it.  It was a pre-order just as the lockdown hit so its been a while and I forgot about it. I was suitably surprised when it showed up.  It was, however, perfect for this shot, so thanks past me!

I posed him with a simple standing pose and simple overhead lighting.  In post I added the glow of the Arc reactor (the chest thing, where the armor gets its power).  I kinda actually dig this shot all on its own, but it doesn't really sell as "antique" to me, so further post processing is required.

To get that old photo look, I used several grungy and papery textures and blended them together.  Some of those textures added the scratches and worn edge look, others added a faded grainy look.  Finally some colour grading was used to make the whole thing look yellowed, like an old photograph.  

My wife had the idea to add fold lines, which really sold the piece as being worn from use, at least I think so.

The result is what you see here:

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Photography Scavenger Hunt Round 30: Twenty One

This is a behind the scenes of my "twenty one" shot for the 30th round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt.

The first thing I thought of when I saw this word was the federal drinking age in the United States of America of 21 years of age.  I immediately thought of a fake ID. I figured a lot of people would come up with the same idea, but it was the best of my ideas so i went with it (turns out I was unique - yay).

The trick to this shot was coming up with an action figure that would plausibly be flashing a fake ID to get into a bar.  I didn't have any child or teenage figures.  Then I remembered my life sized Baby Groot figure, which was on the mantel in the living room.  This was over the Christmas holidays so he was doing his part to liven up the place by wearing a Santa hat.  I immediately press-ganged him into working as my model.

I created a fake ID for Baby Groot in Photoshop and printed it off on cardstock.  I really wanted to sell the idea of a fake ID, even to people who are not familiar with the character, so I made the ID intentionally and obviously fake.  Since he was a baby, and kids are horrible spellers, I intentionally made spelling mistakes to sell the fakery.  I, of course, used an image of adult Groot, and most of adult Groots stats from the Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki. I did change the eye color as its listed as yellow in the wiki, but the figure clearly has brown eyes. I also made him an organ donor, cause he seems nice like that. (Also, lacking organs, a pretty committal thing to agree to.)

After that I posed Baby Groot to look like he's flashing his ID up at a bouncer, and the rest is my simple regiment of post processing.  The final image is thus:

Monday, February 01, 2021

Photography Scavenger Hunt Round 30: Wheel

This is a behind the scenes of my "wheel" shot for the 30th round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt.

I had two ideas for this shot.  One was based around a captains wheel of a ship. The second was a caveman riding a single wheel, ala the old game BC Quest For Tires:

The caveman shot interested me a lot more.  I had an idea of shooting it really down low so the tire was big in the frame, and the caveman was riding above it.  To add some surrealism I envisioned the caveman holding a cell phone - kind of a hipster caveman.

I went in search of a caveman action figure and I came up empty.  There simply are not any available, and as near as I can tell there never has been.  At least not any I could find.  

My next step was to see if I could 3D print one, so I went off in search of a model I could print.  I didn't find any good candidates either.  I only found one caveman type model, but it was in a weird T post with his arms sticking straight out to the side.  Not exactly useful.

I figured I could use some 3D editing software to change the pose, but I have very little knowledge of how to use this software.  3D software is incredibly complex, so I had a steep learning curve ahead of me.

In the mean time I decided I'd work on my other idea.  I knew I could make that work.  Then I'd see which one I liked best and go with that.

My idea for the ships wheel was to have Deadpool dressed as a pirate (they released such a figure last year), steering the ship, in a dramatic pose.  The wheel would be center in frame since that is the word I was trying to emphasize.

I also happened to lack a ships wheel, but that was something I knew I could fix in many ways.  At worse I could carve one out of wood or foam.  However I lucked out and found a model I could 3D print.   Which I did. 

Once I painted it up to look aged and worn from a life at sea, I set up a shot.

On a whim I decided to turn this image into a fake comic book cover.  I love making comic book covers, and this seemed like the perfect fit.  So I make everything look comic-drawn, and added a title.

The finished piece looked like this:

Back to the caveman shot.  After a lot of research and tutorial watching I did finally figure out that a) I could take a model for a 3D printer and export it into 3D software, in my case Blender, and b) I could manipulate it into any pose I want.  I'll spare the nitty gritty details of it, but it basically involves creating an armature - think a very basic skeleton that defined the parts that move - back, neck, hips, upper arms/legs, lower arms/legs, feet, hands etc.  Once I had that and linked it to the model I could pose the armature and the model would follow suit.

Once I had that figured out, a bit more research led to how I could export the properly posed caveman model as something I could 3D print. 
Then I printed it off.

To finish it off I painted him up.  Then I fashioned a basic cloak out of faux animal print fabric my wife gave me from her quilting stash,  Then I made a wheel out of foam and a BBQ skewer.

Once all that was complete I finally was able to photograph it.  This is how it looks straight out of camera...
... and this is where the story abruptly comes to a halt.  It turns out my idea wasn't working as well as I envisioned,  The print had a lot of rough parts.  This is normal for 3D prints but in both my haste, and my newbieness with 3D printers I didn't spend enough time cleaning it up properly.  All these defects were very obvious when the image was full resolution on my main monitor.  I also couldn't get the cell phone to look right.  

Long story short I decided to abandon the caveman idea, and my backup shot, pirate Deadpool, won the day and was submitted to the hunt.

At least I learned a whole lot about 3D printing and expanded my creative toolbox.  Next time I'll be able to do a much better job.  Live and learn!