Dec. 15, 2010

Photos from Thanksgiving 2010

Chris and Mom Looking Over Shots

I visited my family in Charlotte for Thanksgiving, and in addition to my mom and dad, we had something like seventeen other guests join us for the meal. There were cousins, aunts, uncles, family friends, neighbors—it was a full house, but good fun to see everyone.

On the other hand, my brother has been living in Cape Town for the past two (?) years, so he wasn’t able to join us. (It would have been too short of a stay to make the trip there and back, understandably.) He’s a cracking good chum, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing him over Winterfamilytime later this month.

Photography wise, I tried out a couple new lighting setups for some of my shots. For the exterior grill shots, I used my Gorillapod SLR to attach my Canon 430 EX II to one of the gutters (with a LumiQuest Softbox attached to it). That actually worked out better than I thought it would. (For instance, I think that helped fill in some shadows on shots such as this one of my dad checking on the turkey’s thermometer.)

Indoors, I used my second 430 EX (albeit not an “EX II”) to set it upon various spots on the countertop in out kitchen (with a Gorillapod functioning simply as a tripod). Partially through process of elimination—as I only have so many light modifiers—I used my LumiQuest Quik Bounce atop the flash in the kitchen. The idea with the Quik Bounce is that you can bounce some of the light upward while allowing the rest to project forward, creating—in theory—a balance of soft reflected light off the ceiling along with a dash of more focused light.

I have no qualms with the Quik Bounce as a product and I’m sure it often works quite nicely. In my case, though, I think the 9-ft ceilings in my parents’ kitchen probably weren’t ideal for bouncing one’s flash. Come to think of it, the ceiling in their kitchen might even be painted a soft creme color rather than plain white (which may affect the color of any light bounced off it). It’s a pretty great kitchen, but I may have to try a few more ideas in case there may be a lighting arrangement that works even better.

I think nineteen people may be a record for a Bischoff-family Thanksgiving and it worked out pretty well. The turkey was tender and I enjoyed many a conversation with family and friends. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite yearly holiday and this one didn’t disappoint.

Aug. 16, 2010

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

Back at my old job, my friend (and coworker at the time) Matt brought in some chocolate chip peanut butter cookies into the office a few months back. They were pretty yummy—the cookies were soft and full of peanut flavor. I recently asked Matt for the recipe and he was gracious enough to mention that I could share it as well:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup sugar (set aside in a small bowl for in which to roll the cookies later)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup creamy (or chunky) peanut butter [I used Skippy Natural creamy peanut butter when I made a batch recently and that seemed to work out pretty well. —Alex]
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. flour
  • 12 oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°

  2. Combine sugar (just the first cup), brown sugar, butter, peanut butter, baking soda, vanilla extract, and eggs in a large mixing bowl.

  3. Add the flour about ½ cup at a time. This makes it easier to mix by hand, but it also helps you achieve the right dough consistency. You want the dough to be as moist as possible, while still peeling cleanly off your finger. Much dryer than that and the cookies will be cakey. Not dry enough, and they'll be too doughy.

  4. Mix in the chocolate chips.

  5. Using a small spoon, scoop out little clumps of dough and roll them in the small bowl of sugar you set aside. Place the dough balls on a cookie sheet (no need to grease it).

  6. Bake each batch for 8–10 minutes. You want to take them out just before they look done and let them continue to bake outside of the oven on the hot cookie sheet for a few minutes.

These are probably my favorite chocolate chip peanut butter cookies and I’ll definitely be making these again. Om nom nom.

Oh, and on a side note, while I normally go for just-peanuts peanut butter (the kind with “Peanuts, salt” as its only ingredients), I’ve learned that most recipes that call for peanut butter usually do so under the assumption that you’ll use pre-sweetened peanut butter. So, if you’re buying peanut butter that you plan to use in a baked good (such as cookies), I’d recommend buying one that includes sugar among its ingredients. (And though its name may imply otherwise, Skippy’s Natural line does include sugar.)

July 19, 2010

In-Car Autocross Video

In the days leading up to my autocross on Saturday, I got to thinking that it could be fun to try recording some in-car footage with my Kodak Zi8. After thinking about it for a bit, I decided on using my Gorillapod SLR-Zoom to attach the camera to my passenger-side headrest:

The video worked out better than I had hoped. The wind noise was a bit more than I had expected, but maybe I’ll try getting (or making) a wind muff or the like for next time. And, if it’s of interest, I’ve also posted a few photos of how I set up the Gorillapod to attach the camera to my car’s passenger-side headrest.

Update 7/25: I’ve also scanned a copy of the drivers’ map for the autocross (PDF, 1.2 MB). You may also notice some hand-drawn arrows weaving through each of the slaloms. Drivers are allowed to go through the slaloms in either direction (whether Left-Right-Left or Right-Left-Right) and once I figured out which of those would offer a smoother line, I drew in those arrows to remind myself of the path I had wanted to take.

July 13, 2010

Photos from SXSW 2010

Andrew Huff Enjoying a Shiner

SXSW Interactive apparently had over 12,000 attendees this year, more than this year’s SXSW Music. And I still had just as much fun this year as I’ve had any year. It was great.

Once again, Grant Hutchinson helped organize a “Found Type Photowalk” around Austin. Ostensibly, it’s about typography—and there is quite a bit of typography talk—but it’s also a fantastic mid-conference respite where photographers of all types can enjoy a leisurely walk around Austin while taking shots along the way.

I brought along my trusty Canon 40D and it held up pretty well. If anything, the one thing I noticed is that even an image-stabilized lens (like the 17–55mm f/2.8 IS that I was mostly using) can’t save every shot—several of my shots during panels ended up around 1/13sec (at ISO 400) and shots that slow just don’t have a great chance of coming out sharp. (I could have theoretically bumped up the ISO to 800 or 1600, but my 2007-era doesn’t do that well at high ISOs.) Maybe I’ll consider Canon’s rumored 60D if that comes out in time for next year?

I wouldn’t be surprised if there might be even more attendees next year. And that’s okay. I’ve made so many great friends at SXSW over the years and I wouldn’t miss the chance to hang out with them again.

April 11, 2010

Review: Review: Clash of the Titans (2010)

Louis Leterrier took to the director’s chair for Clash of the Titans, a remake of the 1981 film of the same name. Given that Leterrier has done some halfway decent films (such as the first two Transporter movies), I was cautiously optimistic going into the theater.

My review gets more into it, but the short of it is that I would generally concur with Metacritic’s score of 39 (“Generally unfavorable reviews”). Actually, scratch that, I would have to slightly disagree with Metacritic’s score—if only to the extent that even 39 might be a little too generous.

Review: Clash of the Titans (2010) from A. Bischoff on Vimeo.

Feb. 12, 2010

Review: From Paris with Love

From Paris with Love is a new action movie starring John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. To get right down to it, I had a fun time and I rather liked it. In fairness though, I’ll also point out that it currently has a score of 42 at Metacritic (which equates to “mixed or average reviews”).

If you like action movies, I think it could be worth a shot.

Review: From Paris with Love from Alex Bischoff on Vimeo.

Feb. 1, 2010

Death at a Funeral Trailer Mashup—2007 vs 2010

I was a bit surprised when I recently came across the trailer for the remake of Death at a Funeral. (After all, the first one only came out in 2007.) Just to see how the films compared, I made a mashup trailer out of the two trailers—and, yeah, there are a few similarities. (For one thing, Peter Dinklage stars in both films.)

Minor spoilers below. But, heck, I’m talking about stuff that’s in the trailer(s) anyway.

Admittedly, I haven’t seen either film, but on a more serious note, one thing that struck me was the wafting homophobia in each of the trailers. The unmashed-up version of the trailer for the 2010 remake, for instance, includes a shot of Martin Lawrence’s character in a full-body grimace upon learning of his dad’s sexuality. For cripes sake, who cares if your dad is gay or straight? Family is family, no?

(To be sure, I’m not in favor of outing nor blackmail, but I don’t think either of those factors fully explain away the “eww—teh gay” vibe from each of the trailers.)

On a lighter note, though, if I get some recommendations to see the 2007 film, I might consider adding that to my Netflix queue. On the other hand, I think I'll be staying far, far away from the 2010 remake.

Jan. 28, 2010

Hard to Find Good OpenType Support in OS X Apps

Liza Display Pro—Attempts at the word “Polytechnic” with OpenOffice.org 3.2beta, Pages ’09, and Word 2008

It should have been simple:

  1. Buy font with awesome ligatures.
  2. Use font.
  3. Get awesome ligatures.

So, that’s the short version. The longer version is that I bought Liza Pro Display the other day, partly because I needed a script typeface, but partly because it had some sweet ligatures.

Ligatures, in case you’re not familiar with them:

“In writing and typography, a ligature occurs where two or more graphemes are joined as a single glyph. Ligatures usually replace consecutive characters sharing common components and are part of a more general class of glyphs called “contextual forms” where the specific shape of a letter depends on context such as surrounding letters or proximity to the end of a line. […]”

Liza Pro is published by the Underware foundry and their website has an online test page where you can try out the typeface beforehand. Try as I might, I couldn’t replicate those results in any of the common apps I had. I didn’t annotate all the rendering errors in the accompanying image, but among them, OpenOffice and Pages both do a poor job of linking the letters together, and Word simply refuses to create any ligatures.

Going off the foundry’s website, they do include a table of apps known to include contextual alternates (which is apparently the secret sauce that one needs to get this working). Indeed, many of the apps listed there come as little surprise—InDesign, Illustrator, and QuarkXpress all basically work out of the box.

As luck would have it, I have none of those.

I do happen to have Photoshop CS3 (which did make the list), but that’s probably the last app I’d want to use for composing a letter, jotting a note, or anything approaching word processing or desktop publishing. So, at this point, it seems I’m kinda stuck.

To be fair, I don’t consider Underware at fault here; it just so happens that top-to-bottom OpenType support for ligatures & contextual alternates seems relatively sparse within the I-can-afford-this application space at the moment. And it’s not that I have qualms about paying for software—I just don’t have a spare $520 for Illuatrator or $640 for InDesign lying around [sad fontbone].

Jan. 25, 2010

Review: The Book of Eli

I saw The Book of Eli with some friends the other day and, well, it wasn’t exactly my favorite movie of the year. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re probably not missing much.

Review: The Book of Eli from Alex Bischoff on Vimeo.

Minor spoiler warning: I give away the name of Denzel Washington’s character. I doubt it’ll affect your enjoyment of the movie (or lack thereof), but there you go.