Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

We're sitting in the apartment on Christmas Eve, it's raining and miserable outside so we're staying in and watching endless James Bond movies. The holiday spirit has been enhanced by a bit of tinsel and some mince pie - we actually managed to find some! Alan is making a Sri Lankan red beef curry tonight and we have been invited to Stef's house for Christmas lunch tomorrow.

To all our family, friends, and random visitors reading this, have a very Merry Christmas and a splendid New Year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Well now, a couple of weeks ago we were invited by one of Alan's colleagues, Mark, to see how he and his Dad did their homebrew beer. His parents live out by Lake Travis so we drove out there to see what was going on, and found them to be lovely people and generous hosts.

They can also brew a fine ale! We sampled a previous brew, an orange-peel beer which was delightful. And here's the homebrew kit - a bit further on from our plastic barrel:

Explanations (and better pictures) can be found at Mark's website.

I promised you Christmas lights, didn't I? We went down to 37th Street last week, where the whole street is known for putting on lots of lights. The kind of street that gets lots of visitors walking and driving by just to look at them. Here's a few pictures, not brilliant but you get the idea. I'm still hoping to get to Zilker Park for the lights down there.

Last Saturday night we held a small party. We spent the entirety of Saturday daytime preparing for it, then some friends who shall remain nameless (to protect their dignity) showed up. Slightly less people than we had anticipated, and the fridge was stocked altogether too healthily with Beer. So we drank it.

It was a very good evening!

Sunday was mostly spent recovering... ;-)

Last night I had a go at High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography for the first time. There's been some buzz about it on the forums I frequent so I thought I'd check it out. The basic idea is that you take several photos (3-5 or so) of the same scene at different exposures, then use some magic software to combine them, so you retain all the shadows and highlights and have detail in all of them, so nothing is all shadowed or all blown out.

Here's one I tried yesterday of the apartment. Notice how you can see outside the windows, where normally the windows would be bright white if I'd just exposed for the darker interior.

I'm hoping to get to the opening of a photo exhibition tomorrow night downtown, a chap called Trey Ratcliff has been doing this HDR stuff for a while and has some amazing stuff. Check it out here.

(Update) Here, I just tried another one, a scene from Las Vegas.
Original photo:

HDR version:

Now, I guess it's up to the subject matter of the picture as to whether this works or not for what you're trying to do. Some might argue in this case the silhouette is a more powerful frame. Either way, this is a great tool. I think I'm going to have some fun with this.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Things are quiet and steady

We're still alive, in case anyone is wondering. Just getting on with normal life.

Alan finally has his car back! It's still not quite finished, it's missing a new boot liner and the badges for the back. They're waiting for those to come in but it's all perfectly driveable, so Alan is driving it, in a much-relieved kind of fashion. The actual repair has been done very well; the shut lines on the new boot lid are parallel to the body and the paint matches nicely. Unfortunately they've managed to scratch the roof but they have said they will fix it.

Meanwhile, the US Government has now decided they want to see our visas and other documents before they will issue me a work permit. (A) they already know these details - they issued the visas! - and (b) why didn't they ask to see them when they called me down to San Antonio the other week? *sigh*

I finished my stained glass course last night. Won't know what to do with myself on Thursday nights now.

Tuesday morning dawned bright and shiny with a full moon. I dashed outside (well, as dashy as I get in the early AM) with the camera; went up onto the car park top level which is the highest point of our building and for some distance around. You get good views off the top.

Dawn is coming and the clouds are tinged with orange. The moon is setting. This was taken with my new wide-angle lens at about its widest setting.

Here's the moon. This is almost full sized - click here to see the full shot, cropped but not resized. Taken with my 400mm long zoom which equates to about 560mm on my camera due to the smaller sensor. These next two were using the same lens.

Dawn breaks. I think the crane and tower are over at the old airport where they are turning the whole area into basically a new town.

Looking towards the city. You can see the Capitol building (domed), the Frost Bank tower (spiky) and the University tower (square-topped), amongst other towers.

I still haven't got near any Christmas lights with the camera but hope to change that soon. Will keep y'all posted...