RA Photoclub Open House

I went to the RA Photo Club Open House this evening. Lots of people around, and I stopped by the studio. I really must book the studio for practice sessions this year.

I think this year will be a good year of learning and putting into practice all that I have learned.

Magical Mystery Tour

In the last few days, I watched videos of two Beatles movies Let It Be and Magical Mystery Tour on YouTube. I have a copy of the former on VHS somewhere, but I have never seen the later.

I think Let It Be is much maligned for the tensions in the group, but aside from one not-very-big spat between Paul and George, it’s really not as bad as others have made it out to be. And the Beatles (with Billy Preston) actually seem to enjoy themselves at times when they are playing some classics or during the famous rooftop concert.

My thoughts while watching Magical Mystery Tour? “This is unwatchable.”

I have an iPhone!

I have an iPhone 4!

iPhone 4
iPhone 4

After a team lunch today, I drove to Kanata Centrum on a physical hunt for an iPhone. Even though I wasn’t expecting to find anything, I thought that if I found a store that had some, I could get in line.

I tried the Rogers Wireless store, then Best Buy. Of course, neither had any. I was about to leave and thought, well maybe Future Shop might have something. I should stop there just in case.

Success! Future Shop had two iPhones. I almost started jumping with joy! I got the 32Gb and bought an LG KM555R for Rosa, as we are moving from Telus. The wireless salesgirl also moved the phone numbers over too, so we didn’t have to get new numbers.

The Moons of Jupiter

Tonight, Jupiter is at opposition (closest) to the Earth. Hanging in the sky well above Jupiter is the full moon. Just above and to the left is the far distant planet of Uranus. The autumnal equinox will occur in a few hours.

The sky is truly magnificent tonight. The only spoiler is a slight haze in the evening sky.

As I had heard that Jupiter would be closer than it has been since 1963 (or will be again until 2022), and that Uranus would be close by, I wanted to see what I could do with my camera.

My only long lens is the Canon 75-300mm, which is one of the lowest-end optics for Canon and I wasn’t sure what results I would get. I set up my tripod on my back deck. Barrhaven has some light pollution, but my house is close to the river and the backyard is shielded from the majority of the urban glow.

At first, I tried to get both the Moon and Jupiter in the frame. The results were disappointingly overexposed. Additionally, the moonlight was causing the haze to glow and blow out any other stars in the photo.

So I decided to focus (literally and figuratively) on Jupiter and hopefully Uranus. I tried many different exposures to see if I could see any of the disc details (such as the Great Red Spot). This was apparently beyond the abilities of the lens.

Reviewing the results on the LCD on the back of the camera, I realized that I was able to see the four Galilean moons of Jupiter. This was an expected thrill. It had not occurred to me that I would also see them. I tried to see them through the viewfinder to see them with my own eyes (well, with a little help from the 300mm lens), but I could not. I could only see them when I zoomed in the LCD screen.

The four largest moons of Jupiter : this is what Galileo saw 400 years earlier when he was discovering that the universe is not anthro-centric. This is the pleasure of finding things out

Jupiter and its moons with Uranus
Jupiter and its moons with Uranus (f/5.6, 1s, 300mm, ISO640)

Still Looking for an iPhone 4

Out of Stock
Out of Stock

I’m still looking for a Rogers iPhone. I’ve been calling all around the city. Two stores said they just got some in but both already a lineup of people waiting.

I call everyday. Today, I figured I needed to get better organized. I created a spreadsheet of every location that carries the Rogers iPhones. Then I called all of them (of course none had any in-stock) and asked what days they normally receive shipments and what time of the day the shipment usually arrives.

Now I have a spreadsheet with all the delivery times and phone numbers. I’ll keep cycling through the list each day, focused on the stores that are likely to receive a shipment that day.

I want an iPhone 4 so badly!

A Walk in the Woods

I wanted to go for a walk while the weather was still so nice. I saw on Google Maps that there was a nearby wooded area called Heart’s Desire Park. I wanted to see what it was like and maybe take some pictures.

When I arrived, there was no designated parking so I parked next to the (locked) gate. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to park there, as the vehicle gate to the entry road was locked, there were no signs, and no one else was around. I didn’t want anything to happen to my car.

Purple flowers
Purple flowers

I entered through a gap in the fence and walked up a vehicle path into the woods. Soon, I could hear others in the park, walking dogs or with their children, so I relaxed a little about where I had parked my car.

At one end of the paths was a waterfall over a small (1 metre) dam. I stopped and tried to take longer exposure photos of the water, try for that silky look from the moving water, but it was too bright (water is a near-perfect mirror for the sun). I could not get the correct exposure even at f/22. To the look I wanted, I would need a neutral density filter.

Tree stump
Tree stump

I walked along the banks downstream and realized that this was the same stream that I wanted to explore from the kayak a week ago. I tried some more longer water exposures in the shaded areas but it was still too bright.

I walked down to the far end of the park, closest to the Rideau River before turning back.

As I was walking back, I noticed three blue jays who were making a lot of noise and seemed to be flying from tree to tree in an unusual way. I stopped to see what they were doing. When I looked up at where they were flying, I saw the biggest owl I have ever seen in my life. It was HUGE! The blue jays were flying at it, but it just sat there unperturbed trying to sleep away the day. The owl must have been 40cm tall. It was the size of a small eagle.

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl

I was thrilled to see such a huge owl. I’ve only seen a few owls before, possibly because of their nocturnal feeding.

I left after a few minutes of staring up and taking lots of photos. I wish I had a better lens or brought my tripod. With the cheap Canon 75-300mm (non-IS), the photos look blurry (ISO 250, 1/80s, f/5.6, 300mm focal length). The camera shake is noticeable – the shutter speed should be kept as the inverse of the focal length. In this case, I should have used 1/300s for the shutter, but I could not open up the aperture enough to get the correct exposure. I should have also increased the ISO as well, but the higher I go the more noise I would get. A trade-off: more noise versus more blurring. Sigh.

When I got home, I looked up owl references on the internet. The blue jays were performing a tactic called “mobbing“, which they do to draw attention to a predator. That behaviour was what caught my attention. After lots of research, I discovered that I had seen a Great Horned Owl. The Great Horned Owl is also known as the Tiger Owl due to the feather patterns. They are an average of 55cm tall and have average wing-spans of 124cm – WOW! They can weight 1.4kg.

Seeing the owl really made my day.

Eskimo Roll – Fail

Today, I went kayaking again. After the roll I had last weekend, I thought I should learn how to do an Eskimo roll so that I don’t have to get out of the kayak if I were to roll over.

So I pulled up every video I could find on the internet. However, I found it very confusing. I tried to mime the motions while watching the video, but I just couldn’t quite figure out the motion in three dimensions (and while the perspective rotates with the kayak).

After an hour of watching videos and practicing in my basement, I loaded up my kayak drove over to the Rideau River and went for a paddle. This time, I also brought my GoPro Motorsports Hero HD camera, formerly used for our Team00 in-car racing footage. It came with a suction cup that allowed me to mount it on the front of the kayak, pointing back at myself. I wanted to see what kind of footage I could get and also to record the roll I would attempt later.

I wanted to try the roll at the end of the tour, as the water was cold and I didn’t want to get wet and cold in the strong wind – that is a recipe for hypothermia. I paddled downstream for a little while, then returned back upstream to the dock where I departed.

It was windy and the water was cold. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to try this. I also didn’t want to freak out any bystanders, so I waited until there was no one standing on the dock.

After about 30 minutes of thinking about it and working up the courage, I gave it a try.

My first (and only) attempt was a complete failure. I rolled the kayak then, while upside down, I leaned forward, and quickly rotated myself and the paddle to try to flip the kayak back upright. This didn’t work so I exited the kayak instead of trying again. My day was done.

Kayak-Eskimo roll from Richard Muise on Vimeo.

The water wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be, but I immediately got out of the water and brought the kayak and all my gear back to the car to dry off and get warm.

I will have to take a more advanced kayak course to see how to do this, because I cannot figure it out by myself.

Summer is Ending

A Gaggle of Geese
A Gaggle of Geese

I went for a long walk this evening. I need the exercise. As I was walking along, overhead I saw the first gaggle of geese flying in a V-formation, preparing to fly south. It’s been been 5 months and 2 days since the geese first arrived back in Ottawa, and now it’s time for them to leave again.

Summer is ending.

Gone Kayaking

I went kayaking today for the first time in about 11 months. The warm 20+ degree weather will not last much longer this year. I was out for over 3 hours, including the stop detailed below.

I decided to go up-current (meaning south) on the Rideau River today. I knew from Google Maps that there was another stream that joins the river, and I wanted to see it.

After I left the dock, and rounded the first bend, I saw big cranes just ahead. I wondered what it was for. When I got there, I realized it’s for the new bridge that is being built. It’s less than 500 meters from our house but I didn’t realize they had started the construction.

I continued upriver until I found the stream joining the Rideau. There wasn’t much to see after all. I couldn’t explore, as the stream was too shallow.

From that location though, I could see something strange further up ahead. I didn’t wear my prescription glasses in case I loose them. So I was not able to tell what it was. It looked like a wall or cliff blocking the river. On the top, there appeared to be boats.

Curious, I went to investigate.

When I reached the area, I discovered it was a dam. I paddled around the base. Then I heard a heavy stream of water, so I went to investigate that.

This part of the Rideau River flows around Nicolis Island. Looking at Google Maps, it appears that one side are rapids (which I did not see as I missed the entrance to that part of the river). On the other is the dam and a set of locks for raising boats over the top of the dam. The sound of water came from the locks, which were being used to raise three boats. The water was cascading over the top of the lower lock door. I got closer to investigate. I thought it would be interesting to go through the locks myself in my kayak.

But I was too late to join the boats already in the lock, and I didn’t want to wait for another opportunity.

As the lock was full (water pouring over the top of the door), the lock workers opened underwater doors at the bottom of the lowest locks, which stopped the overflow, but created a huge, churning, foaming swirl of water. I paddled a little closer to see, but tried to stay away from the center of the disturbance. The swirling water started to rotate my kayak. I paddled backwards a little, but it was not enough and the kayak continued rotating. I leaned back to stroke backwards again and turned around to see how close I was to the wall. This put my center of balance too far to one side and over I went.

Upside down, I immediately grabbed the front handle of the kayak skirt, yanked on it to release and then rotated out of the kayak. I had not practiced it since my school. I go over the procedure in my mind every time I prepare to get in my kayak.

I popped up to the surface. I grabbed the side of the kayak to prevent it from floating away and threw my paddle in the cockpit. I started a strong side stroke to swim away from the lock and to try to find a place to steady myself. My goal was to try to get back in the kayak, although this was not something I remembered very well from my school. I got up sideways on the kayak easily enough, but attempting to rotate around to get my legs in only dumped me overboard a second time.

I gave up on this approach. By this time, the two workers from the Rideau Locks were on the shore next to me to help me out. Although I just wanted to get back in the kayak, I didn’t protest their help.

They bought up the kayak and I climbed out of the water myself.

A few people joined the two workers and they all asked me if I was ok. I laughed and said I was fine. I was happy because I remembered my training, and also laughing at myself for making a mistake like that.

Still wet from flipping the kayak
Still wet from flipping the kayak

One very nice lady offered me some food – nuts and raisins trail mix – and we talked about kayaks and canoes for about 20 minutes. I thanked her and put my kayak back in the water on the other side of the wharf. I had to go retrieve my hat, which was still floating in the water, a little downstream.

The paddle back to where I had parked my car was uneventful. I passed some other people in open kayaks (not quite canoes), paddled past some fishermen, and quietly drifted by a gaggle of Canadian geese.

Once back to my car, I spent a few minutes attempting to get a picture of myself and the kayak. I used my car as a tripod and set the shutter for a 10 second delay.

At home, I checked Google Earth and I found I had paddled over 3km each way during my trip.

Looking for iPhone 4

Out of Stock
Out of Stock

I’ve been wanting to buy an iPhone for months now. I waited until the iPhone 4 was announced, rather than pick up the previous model. Once it was announced in Canada at the end of July, I started to look but then I had some unexpected repairs to my BMW, so I held off until I knew how much it would cost to repair (oil level sensor on the oil pan).

Today, with the BMW repairs done, I started calling around seriously looking to get the iPhone 4. I called over 20 dealers in the city, including Rogers, Best Buy, Future Shop, Wireless Wave, Telephone Booth and Shoppers Drug Mart outlets. No one has one.

The push is to buy one before Rogers ends the $30 for 6GB/month deal on September 30th.

My current cell phone is a Telus Sanyo SCP-5000. It is 13 years old and I can’t get service outside of the city of Ottawa – it’s just so old. I bought it when I was 27 years old; I’m 40 now.

I’m switching from Telus to Rogers because we will get a discount on our Rogers bill because we have cable, internet and soon (I hope) our mobile with Rogers.