Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hold That Flower - A DIY Project

Someone posted a review of the Wimberly Plamp on Nature Photographer's Network's forums today. It is a clamp for holding a plant still when you are shooting a close up and the breeze keeps moving it. It struck me as a good idea but $36 seemed a bit stiff so I set about making my own.

I used AWG 12 electrical wire because it was what I had on hand. 8 or 10 gauge would be stronger and probably better for holding reflectors, gobos or shades. The clamp is one of a dozen I got at Big Lots 2-3 years ago in a package. I think I paid $5 for the dozen. The plant holder end is a wooden spring clothespin. I figured I didn't need as big a clamp on the plant holding end and the wood might be a little more 'friendly' to the plant than metal or plastic. One problem was that when I just taped the wire to the plastic spring clamp the weight of the wire would spin it under the tape so that it always drooped downward. I fixed that by feeding the wire through a hole that was already in the clamp handle (but you could make your own if your clamp didn't already have a hole) and then tightly winding the wire around the handle using pliers to make it snug. As you can see in the photo it now stays where I put it. I'll tape over it but I left the tape off for the photo. Alternatively you could attach the clamps with epoxy putty.

In this case it cost me nothing but time since I had all the parts but if you were to buy them I estimate the cost as follows:
Plastic clamp - about a dollar if you buy them singly, less if you buy a bunch (they're handy for other things too). Wooden clothespin - pennies. You can get a whole package at the Dollar Store. Wire - AWG 12 is between $1 and $2/foot for 2 wire with ground at building suppliers but there are 3 wires in the outer sheath, a black covered wire, a white covered wire and a bare wire so if you bought 2 feet you could make 3 of these. AWG 10 and 8 wire would cost more than 12 (like f/stops, smaller number = fatter wire and copper is expensive right now). The tape is black cloth tape similar to duct tape. I chose cloth because it doesn't stretch. It won't make Wimberly happy but I have my holder and my $36 (plus shipping + tax).

Friday, March 26, 2010

New Camera

I bought a Canon 7D and it arrived today. After charging the battery I just had to go out and shoot some photos with it. Although my usual subject matter is the landscape or nature details, the local landscape is not very photogenic right now. We're between snow and the beginnings of green, in other words, brown. So I decided to go for something geometric that didn't depend on weather and went to the campus of Clarkson University where there is an interesting mix of architecture. As it turned out I did get a touch of green in some of the ivy on the science building. I ended up with 36 photos before I caved to the cold. It was only 20ºF here today with a 8-10 mph wind that made it feel much colder. There is a chance that it could go below zero in the North Country tonight.

"Man is a credulous animal and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief he will be satisfied with bad ones." Bertrand Russell

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Came, Spring Went.

Last week we had some very nice spring weather, temperatures in the 50s and even 60ºF a couple of times. I got some of the yard raked before the weather turned but this week a cold weather system is coming through and this evening it started snowing again. This blogging program doesn't have emoticons or I'd put a frowning face here. March is always a see-saw month so it is no surprise but everyone has seen enough of winter for a while and impatient for real spring. The photo is our front walk looking out toward the driveway and road.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Early Spring?

Our snow is almost gone. It seems a bit early but I looked back at several prior year's photos and we've had bare ground this early about half the time. Other years the snow has hung on until the first week of April. Winter might be just toying with us, waiting to come back when we least expect it but the Red Winged Blackbirds are back so I'm betting that spring is really here. I just looked out the front door and there were about 3 dozen Tri-colored Blackbirds around the base of the bird feeders. Aside from our feeder they like to hang out in marshes where they perch on the cattails. Theirs is  one of the most cheerful bird songs I know.

Update: If the weatherman on the local TV is to be believed our early spring is an illusion. He's saying that next week highs will be in the low 30s and we'll need our snow shovels again. Weather.com on the other hand is forecasting 40s (one day at 50º) and only a chance of snow flurries. Who's right? The one thing you can be sure of when it comes to North Country weather is that we will have some.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Clivia Blooms

Diane's Clivia is in full bloom and I couldn't resist. Handheld photo with a Canon G10, ISO 400 and auto-exposure. A cheery spot on an overcast day when the world outside is all grey and brown.

Friday, March 05, 2010

My First Good Camera

My first good camera was a gift from a neighbor who was a friend of my mother. It was a Voightlander Vitessa L that she had replaced with a Kodak Retina Reflex and wasn't using any more. I used that camera a lot during my last two years in high school along with a Graflex Century 23 that I later bought. Prior to the Voightlander my only camera was an Ansco ReadyFlash. Amazingly I still own all three of those cameras but only the Voighlander is currently functioning. The Ansco used 620 film which isn't made any more. I could re-spool 120 for it but the camera isn't worth the bother. The shutter on the Graflex sticks and needs cleaning. The Voightlander was in disrepair too but I had it fixed and CLD'd (Cleaned, Lubricaded and Adjusted) by Classic Camera Workshop in Huntingdon Valley, PA in 2007 and ran a roll of film through it after getting it back to verify that all was working as it should. I hadn't done anything with these two photos from that roll until yesterday when I decided to combine them into a diptych. I may have been thinking in those terms when I shot them but didn't get around to it at the time. They are certainly aligned as if I intended to use them together.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Health Care Reform

The argument has been made that the US “has the best health care system in the world” therefore we shouldn’t change it because that would lead to lower quality health care. That claim is supported by the anecdote that people come to the US for health care they couldn’t get in their own country.  While it may be true that some people, those who are wealthy enough to afford it, do come here for treatment and it may also be true (no one has offered objective evidence) that we have the most technologically advanced medical establishment, there is more to a health care “system” than technology. Equally important is access and delivery. It is inadequacies in those aspects of the system which the administration is trying to address.  If you aren’t wealthy, if your health insurance refuses to pay for it or you have no insurance, it might as well not exist.

The fact is that despite having what may well be the most technologically advanced system, the US’s health outcomes are at the bottom of the barrel as compared to other industrialized countries. Compared to the 19 most advanced nations the US is dead last (pun intended) in deaths that could have been prevented by “timely and effective health care” according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund. Forty one countries have longer life expectancies. Among the G7 nations we are at the bottom. According to Wikipedia there are 32 countries that have lower infant mortality rates than the US. Those abysmal statistics are a reflection of the failures of the access and delivery part of our health care system.

To make matters worse we are paying twice as much per capita than those countries that have better outcomes. To add insult to injury, the cost is going up at 2, 3 or more times the rate of inflation every year. We need to reform the delivery part of the system now. Not step by step over time, but now. If we allow the insurance system to remain as it is the rise in cost over the next ten years will make the administration’s reform proposal look like an after Christmas sale price and we’ll still be at the bottom of those lists because millions will still not have insurance and insurance companies will still be denying treatment. Write or call your senators and representatives and tell them not to listen to the nay sayer's and the lobbyists. Vote for change. Vote for the people they represent, not the insurance industry.