Saturday, 22 August 2009

90 = 170

90 = 170
Originally uploaded by dustylens
I figured this spot would give an interesting perspective. Old Chiang Mai lies inside a square with 2km sides, surrounded by a moat. On the interior lie remnants of the old (700 years) brick city wall, and the counter-clockwise road. Most of the wall is missing; plundered for its still useful bricks, or displaced by the objects of progress. The corners are largely still intact though, and don't seem to attract many visitors. Scaling a short stairway brings you to a parapet overlooking the moat and exterior (clockwise) road to one side, and the interior road (pictured) on the other. The corner is only ninety degrees, but the fisheye lens compresses the extreme angles so much the road almost looks like a hairpin bend. If it weren't for the obvious fisheye frame it might be believable too; geometric distortion of nonlinear subjects can be quite subtle.

Monday, 3 August 2009


Originally uploaded by dustylens
I was on holiday in Kuala Lumpur recently, and took my young younger
niece and nephew (13 and 15) to the KL Tower. We tried going up the Petronas Towers first, but discovered on arrival that tickets are rationed daily -- you need to get in line by 7-8am. I asked the cashier why they were limited, and she told me they were provided free, which didn't really answer my question. I asked why they didn't simply charge, like every other tower I've been to, but she just looked at me oddly and said she didn't know. I realised there's no point getting mad with people at the bottom of the tower...them's just the rules!

We walked to the KL tower, and paid about 40 ringgit each to access the observation deck. Good panoramic views of the city, and the the realisation that the Petronas towers' skybridge was 100m below, made it worth the outlay.

Coming out of the elevators on the ground floor I was struck by an exquisite hemispherical glass/crystal ceiling feature. My fisheye lens was made for this!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

DIY Digicam Fisheye

My fisheye Lomo is great, but I haven't found a processing lab near my hotel. I got to thinking about ways to convert my Canon ixus 980 since I don't really use it -- it takes such boring shots out of the box... So I added a fisheye lens.

Here's how:

1. Obtain one of these

I got mine from an old guy in Bo Ai Lu, Taipei, for 700 TWD (a big Mac combo is about 100). He only had one, otherwise I would have bought a spare... as you'll see there's a strong possibility I'll need it! It's intended for video cameras, so it's about the right size for a P&S digicam.

2. Get some rubber bands

3. Stretch them out and pull them into the filter ring, which slides down leaving a gap

4. Turn the camera on and wait for the lens to extend

5. Pull the rubber bands over the camera, and start shooting!

6. Optionally, hold onto the lens so it doesn't fall off...

Monday, 11 May 2009

Cute stuff in Taipei

Taipei has lots of cute stuff that Auckland lacks.

There are little dogs on scooters...

There's Mos Burger, where combo meals come with jelly (in a cup, with a straw) instead of coke, salad that tastes like moss, and paper place mats with interpretive depictions of NZ.

Mmmm, natural beef. I can't stand that imitation factory rubbish.

There's Apple Sidra, which is good (and nothing like cider in case you were wondering - I was), partly because it is Without Chemical Ingredients.

There are people with facemasks everywhere (Taipei air, H1N1). The security guard at the company I visited today asked me if I was American, then handed me one.

Taiwan also joins the fray of countries where Google forces visitors to play an annoying little game called Where the Fuck is the English Display Setting.

Google products default to the local language, and redirect to (.cn, .th...), displaying in traditional Chinese, of which I know about 6 characters (the useful ones, like mountain, rabbit, and death). The fun part is finding the language setting on the page ('Language' is always in the local language...).

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Campfire in IR

Campfire at coffee farm, Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Snow in Auckland

I've been dabbling in IR (infra-red) photography lately.

Here are some of my initial results, shot in Victoria Park during a lunchbreak last week.

T: 5s
A: f4.0
ISO: 3200

This was supposed to be a quick test shot (hence low f-stop and high ISO) but turned out to be one of the better shots, largely due to superior composition -- something hard to get right without image preview.

T: 4s
A: f3.5
ISO: 500

Backlit plane trees.

Foliage appears white (infra-red actually -- I've converted to B/W in post-process) because it reflects IR.

T: 4s
A: f8.0
ISO: 3200

More plane trees.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Geography Fail

While standing in line at Bangkok airport waiting to get my passport stamped I glanced up at this international wall clock.

I chuckled a little, then reflected how Americans are not the only ones who find it challenging to locate world cities on a map.
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Sunday, 25 January 2009


I've been tinkering with CHDK on my old Canon Powershot S3 lately, and I'm wondering why it took me so long to get around to playing with it. My S3 was promptly relegated to storage after I acquired a 40D DSLR a year ago where it has remained since, guarding it's untapped potential.

Here is a timelapse video I made out my bedroom window using a readymade script:

Friday, 9 January 2009

Auckland Drivers = Fail. Or, Spare Socks, Your Time Has Come!

I arrived in Auckland at midnight on Friday December 12 last year. By Sunday evening the universe had conspired to put me in hospital with a broken ankle. I was destined to wear left shoes for the next six weeks.

I had been navigating a roundabout on my conspicuous red motorbike when a car pulled out in front, promptly forwarding me to the tarmac. The bike landed on me, all 151 kilograms crushing down on my right ankle.

It hurt. A lot. It was the most agonising thing I had ever experienced, short of watching Ms Teen South Carolina attempt to string a sentence together.

It happened like this:

I didn't want to imagine what state my ankle would be in. It felt like it was detached, or dangling by a few threads. I was rather glad to find later the situation wasn't nearly as macabre.

The offender was a 17-year old girl, whose honours included 'Prohibited from Driving' (now twice) and 'Idiot'. She proceeded to drive off after her unwelcome greeting; presumably the thought of extra traffic fines was too much to bear.

Anyway, I got lucky. The driver behind me saw it all and slowed down before running over me, while memorising the offender's license plate. I'm extremely greatful for this turn of events - I didn't get run over, and There. Will. Be. Justice. Hurrah!

Some things I've learned from the ordeal:

  • Drivers are not to be trusted. Everyone (and everything) on the road is trying to kill you. This applies generally, but motorcyclists should take particular care. I knew this before the accident, but only in theory. 'Real world learning' elucidates theory like nothing else can.
  • Crutches generate more suffering than the injury proper. Palms are bruised purple, shoulders pop and grind, and the remaining foot withers under twice it's rated load.
  • Despite bruised palms, the urge to hop must be resisted. The hopped-on foot won't last the first day of hopping.
  • Moping at home on Friday night isn't fun.
  • Shoe pairs become assymetrically worn, as one sits unused.
  • Spare socks can finally enjoy a purpose in life.
  • Indeed, pairs of socks go twice as far. This is the sole advantage of having one foot out of service.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing I've learnt is that some people actually want motorcyclists to get hurt. Popular sentiment would suggest that if you're on a motorbike you somehow want or deserve to be hurt, that you're literally asking for it by riding a motorbike. That you need to be taught a lesson, etc. It's rather unsettling, and somewhat perverse. In other countries I've visited, ones westerners consider to be comparatively less civilised, larger vehicles give way to and look out for smaller vehicles. No sane person would disagree with this line of reasoning.

I encountered this attitude in a lot of people, from close family to strangers. Conversations usually began with them asking in a concerned, friendly voice what happened. We'd then progress to how it happened, at which point the tone would abruptly flip to one devoid of sympathy. Ouch! I think I'll just start taking the bus.

Thursday, 1 January 2009


Luck, it's an odd commodity.
Or perhaps the currencies used to sell it are. Take these caged birds I encountered in the Chiang Mai night market area one Saturday morning.

A woman (attached to the white sneaks) encouraged me to give her some money. In return I would be allowed to let a bird free, earning me luck*.

I wondered, out of the three parties, who would gain the most luck were I to pay the money and free a bird?

I figured the luck would be distributed thus:

1. 100% to the bird, who escapes captivity, naturally comes out on top.
2. 10% to the woman. She can buy some new sneaks, and has a good laugh at the morons who pay for them.
3. -10% to me. I'm poorer, the bird will probably shit on me, and there's one more sucker in the world who's easily parted with money at the first opportunity to buy what must be earned.


Luck is created through hard work, understanding of the world's workings, enthusiasm and imagination. Anyone who thinks you can buy it is a fool!

*Probably karma points actually, but 'luck' may appeal to a wider audience.