Saturday, June 27, 2009

Where Was I?

Ten minutes after I made the previous post our internet shut off.
It's been 8.5 days with no webbage, and that wasn't cool at all.
Rene just drove off in his ATT truck, and I'm finally online again.

Here's the rest of my Museum Reach photos, which would have been available here last Saturday had ATT not screwed my pooch so hard:

A neat little footbridge across the river, just around the bend from the Museum.

San Antonio Museum of Art.

SAMA again.

While working on this project an old forgotten dam was discovered.
Archaologists dug around and did the research, and their findings are on a historical marker nearby--I'm just glad they added underwater lights or it wouldn't be noticed.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Museum Reach

Museum Reach is what the newly-opened section of the RiverWalk is called.
It connects the older parts to the San Antonio Museum Of Art, and beyond to the Pearl Brewery and maybe even Brackenridge Park and the Witte Museum--we turned back to save some for another day.

Everything is clean and new and modern and cohesive compared to the rest of the RiverWalk, since it was designed and built all at once.
I can't begin to convey how much we love it.
It's wonderful, beautiful, whimsical, convenient, fun...I could go on and on.

What struck me was that unless you read the newspaper very carefully (or read Dave's blog) you wouldn't even know that all this beauty was being built! It's below street level, so miles of construction was hidden from view for years unless you knew where to look.
Then suddenly it's there, and it's great.

We got to watch several barges use the new locks.
When Lila Cockrell was mayor, she suggested that people get out of their barge and walk past the dam, then board another.
This is SO much better in every way.

I have four more photos and some stuff to tell you next time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Antique Agua

Around 15 or so years ago the band I was in got an unusual booking: to be the opening act for The Village People at whatever Tiffany Billiards on San Pedro was calling itself back then.
We played rock and pop hits and original Texas blues/rock, so the whole idea was pretty silly but money is money.
All I remember about that night was that as soon as our last note died I was unplugging my sound gear and hauling it out as fast as I could.
My goal was to be drinking a Bud at Rocky's by the time the Villagers hit the stage, and I made it, too!

Was informed later that one of our members was lingering in the dressing room and during their set, stole one mineral water and one towel for each of the six VPs.
He made a little shrine with his treasure, displaying the 6 bottles with a white sweat towel wrapped around it.
A funny band story that I have told many times over the years.

Fast-forward to July 2009:
Through the unpredictable twists of fate and circumstance I am suddenly in possession of five bottles of Topo Chico™ mineral water, a product of Monterrey Mexico. Ingredients: Water, Carbon Dioxide.
Inside the same carton are photos of the band member who raided the Village People's backstage supplies, as well as tapes of him playing and writing songs at home and in the studio if the labels are accurate.

I'll be passing these items along to him eventually, but at the moment I'm laughing my ass off. The story I've been telling has come full-circle and I now have some of the evidence in-hand.
Sure, I always believed the tale but never saw any part of it for myself.
Now, I know!

In my mind I always pictured it being Perrier™.
I'm curious if this water still has any fizz after 15 years.

For $100 cash I'll drink one.

Friday, June 12, 2009

LG EnV2 Problem Pictures Won't Display FullScreen

My new phone is a hand-me-down LG EnV2 on the Verizon Network.
I'm really happy to finally have a qwerty keyboard for easier texting during my loud rock shows, and the main LCD screen is pretty freaking sweet.
320 x 240 pixels inside a roughly 2" x 1.5" display--nowhere near my new camera's LCD by orders of magnitude, but it beats my previous phone all to hell.
For one thing, viewing angle isn't critical.
It's big and bright and the colors closely match what I'm used to seeing on my computer's Dell CRT.

A problem the previous owner had was that .jpgs of my pictures which were transferred to the phone via Micro SD card would only display really small, as seen in the photo below.

A rare few older pictures would go full-screen just fine, but the vast majority were tiny no matter what I tried.
Being clever, this phone's previous owner discovered that using the phone's cropping function would fix the problem. I don't normally approve of anyone altering my work, but at least the pics I took could be shown at a decent size even though cropped a little.
It was a functional solution, and Google searches never turned up a fix.
Of course it goes without saying that the owner's manual was no help.
Ask a Verizon or LG rep for advice?
Don't make me laugh.

*****Fast forward to yesterday*****

I like being able to whip out a few of my photos on a device that's already with me. Sometimes the conversation (or job opportunity) requires it.
You can make a sale or at the very least share some laughs.
I've been doing this with my old phone for years, but it's smaller vertical screen meant that most of my pics looked little and had to be viewed from a precise angle to match my original.
So I was highly motivated to make this LG EnV2 submit to my wishes.
And for once I had an entire day to sit at the computer with several graphic programs running so I could try every possible idea as soon as it came to me, while also learning how to navigate the phone better.

The EnV2's 2mp camera delivers 1600x1200 resolution, so I started there.
Then I tried going all the way down to the screen's native 320x240 pixels, with every possible size in-between.
They all looked the same--tiny.
After that I used programs other than Photoshop to re-size my files.
Still nothing works.

I knew from looking online that 500kb was the file size limit, or else you have to crop in-phone, but I was using the exact files that have been displayed here at Views Of Texas which are usually around 200kb or less. what else is the phone's crop function doing?
And I kept going back to the random older photos of mine that would always display nice and big like I wanted.
What was different about them?

Then a little fact hit me--I started using the free version of Neat Image noise reduction many years ago to fix my old camera's high-iso and long-exposure noise problems, but after a little while started using it as a PhotoShop plug-in instead of a stand-alone program for more control over the final product.
And the random pics that displayed full-screen were all old enough to have been run through Neat Image after they had been through PhotoShop, instead of as a plug-in.

So, what else does the free version of Neat Image do to a .jpg besides tame ugly digital noise artifacts? strips the camera settings file (exif data) that is automatically embedded inside every digital photo by the camera!

And that was the fix!

Seriously, this is a HUGE difference in view-ability.
I find it hard to believe that I'm the only one who cared enough about seeing their pictures as big as possible and also managed to find a way to make it happen on these popular phones.
What a dumbass thing, for always-embedded .jpg exif data to force the display to go all tiny unless you actually took the pic with the phone.
I'm still: Shocked. Pissed. Amazed.

Rather than run all of my photos through NI whether they needed it or not, I chose to keep them as close to the original as possible by simply opening them in PhotoShop and then using the 'Save For Web' protocol that I already knew would strip the exif data from the files.
Now there are a buttload of my pics looking good on the LG EnV2.

Even after a huge number of web searches I was only able to solve this problem through trial and error.
That's why this blog post's title reads like a Google search query--hopefully someone gets relief by stumbling into View's Of Texas.
It's a stupid design mistake on LG's part, especially since they didn't bother to pass it along to the owner's manual people.

I feel sorry for all the folks who want to carry around some snapshots and can't make their expensive phone do what it should without some big secret pain in the ass.

Did you know that there are moisture-sensitive stickers inside your cellphone's battery compartment?
They use them to diagnose problems and void your warranty whenever possible.
A small white circle around 1/8" in diameter with red crosses is how Verizon/LG do it.
The closer the circle gets to plain red/pink, the more excessive moisture you have exposed your phone to.
Before you take it in to be "fixed" (replaced at your cost) take my advice and remove the battery, open the charger and MicroSD card hatches, and place the phone in an open position in front of a fan for 24-48 hours to dry it's guts out.
If you're lucky, it didn't really sustain permanent damage.

***** UPDATE *****
While getting the EnV2 activated a few days ago I shared these findings with my Verizon dude, Ray.
He got a little excited because he's had the same problem and also has customers ask him about it periodically.
From his reaction I can assume that LG and Verizon either haven't figured out that there's an issue (hard to believe) or haven't figured out a solution (easier to believe).
Or if they know as much as I do, maybe they just don't care enough to pass this tip along because it makes their programmers look like idiots.
Seriously, this was a dumbass design flaw that makes absolutely no sense, which was why it was so hard for me to solve--I tried all the stuff that made sense first.

I would LOVE to know if this has been fixed on the new EnV3.
Guess I'll be visiting my buddy Ray soon so we can test one.

Friday, June 05, 2009


I never had any interest in water drop photos before.
Didn't see the point--good ones are cool and all, but does anyone buy prints of them to hang on their walls?
Can they be used to report an event of some kind?

All that changed when I actually tried it myself, due to seeing a good tutorial on how it's done at The Strobist blog.

The Strobist has taught me and a few million other people how to use flash units in the quickest and most effective way, and what I've learned there over the years has really taken my photography to another level.

I think this one should be called Balanced



It took more time to fill my bucket than it did to take the pictures, even though for stuff like this you have to "spray and pray"--I took 85 shots in a few minutes to get these three.
And it turns out that I really enjoyed the process and the results.
It was fun, and I like looking at them.
Pics like this make nice desktop wallpapers.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Speaking of the Strobist, David Hobby: As a mentor to millions around the world, he's a pretty famous guy in photography.
Making DVDs on how to light, flying to Dubai and Seattle and Paris etc to give hands-on workshops, and just operating his incredible blog, this fellow is busy!.
So it's always a thrill when he takes the time to personally comment on photos of mine over at Flickr.
Apparently he's a fan of my pictures of guns and katydids, with the bugs having the edge since he actually added them to his "Favorites" listing.
With the guns, I get the impression he likes the guns themselves more than my photos.

Here's the full photo of my brother's hunting pistol:

It was my favorite photo from our second session shooting pics for his website, ZZakk's Lab.
(Link on the right side of this page)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Views Of Texas #601: Tom & Kenny

Had I known what I was doing back in November 2004 this moment might have been captured better, but I still LOVE this picture of my brother inside the Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC.

Got my first digital camera (Sony F717!) two weeks later because I suddenly got physically ill for the whole time at the thought of having a borrowed camera taken away for good.
Lost 5 pounds and discovered that NO photography wasn't an option.

Kind of like how I feel about not being able to shoot in infrared.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

"The Pearl Is In The River"

Anyone who knows this movie quote also knows that 'river' was a mispronunciation of Liver. Name this flick?
There were actual munchkins in it.

On Firday night--a rare free Friday for me--we drove around looking for satisfying food. Going towards downtown on Broadway I was trying to stay open to messages/ideas from the ether while we discussed our options when I spotted Sam's Burger Joint.
Knowing that Sylvia had never been there before, and having eaten Sam's burgers myself back when Acapulco Sam's was a huge draw on the Riverwalk, I quickly turned and parked under US281.
Me and Sam go way back--I used to run sound for bands at Acapulco Sam's at least 4-6 times a month in the late '90s, and even did a bunch of gigs when he was located in the Chopsticks building on Loop 410 and Summit Parkway circa 1991-2.

The 1/2 pound classic burger is what a burger should be, plus nicely seasoned onion rings. Cold fries on this visit but at least they were real.
Her tea got dumped out and replaced with a slightly less ass-tasting Diet Pepsi.
$17.50 not entirely well spent, but the burgers and rings are good and we want to try the tater tots.

Walking to the car I noticed the sunset. It was spectacular, and the clouds had insane shapes lit perfectly.
I set out at a very fast walk towards the Pearl Brewery complex, intending to use the main building as my subject in front of the awesome sky.
In my heart I knew I would be too late, and I was by about 20 seconds.
The lighting conditions change every second as the sun goes down--the difference between 75 and 65 degrees overhead is almost meaningless, but when the setting sun is lighting clouds from below the change between -2 degrees and -3 is huge.
Sometimes a beautiful scene simple disappears in the time it takes to remove the lens cap.
Oh well...

Luckily, we parked our butts at a table next to a fountain and hung out for a bit.
I shot the fountain for fun while we talked and people-watched.
Then the sky turned on some more magic and I rushed to get this one.
Remember--as soon as it gets bad, it can get good again.

On Flickr I titled these photos Scaffolding 1 and 2 as a nod to my friend Matthew up in Toronto.