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December 22,2011- Macy's Windows...

Every Holiday season, we make a trip to NYC to check out the window displays of the major department stores (Macy's, Saks, Bloomingdale's, etc...) Without fail, we always seem to like Macy's the best. This year was no exception. Since Macy's is a corner store, it always has two different sets of window displays. While the windows on the Broadway side was extremely cool, our favorite this year were the ones on the 34th St.

The theme was "Yes, Virginia", which was inspired by the true story of little 8-year old Virginia O'Hanlon, who wrote a letter to the New York Sun in 1897, asking if there really was a Santa Claus. The answer to this question recently generated some very passionate discussions. More than a 100 years later, a NYC second grade teacher answered the question differently than that of the Sun's editor Francis Church ("Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist …") and instantly found herself in the... [more] - 2011 NYC Holiday visit


December 19,2011- RainyDayPhotography GiftGuide...

Kata bags are the only ones we trust to protect our photography gear. Every year we look forward to seeing what's new from Kata, and this year is no different. The Kata bags that caught the interest of our RainyDayPhotographers were:

The TLB-300 PL Telephoto Lens Backpack is designed to safeguard a Pro DSLR with 300mm Telephoto Lens attached, while keeping it as light and as compact as possible. A padded cradle divider fits around the base of the lens where it joins the camera, and provides stability to the heavy load. There is also an adjustable circumference divider that will fit around any lens diameter, and an internal securing-strap which make sure the... [more] - 2011 RainyDayPhotography GiftGuide


November 15,2011-iOptron Telescope...

Meade and Celestron are the two dominant players in the telescope market. In the past, the astro gear (LX200GPS, ASGT tripod, HyperStar, etc...) we looked at was more suited for advanced amateurs. Some readers have asked if we would recommend some quality telescopes for beginners and youngsters. We thought it was a reasonable suggestion and began looking around. Turns out, finding a good quality beginner telescope was more difficult than we thought it would be. If we saw large colorful close-ups of planets, galaxies, or comets on the box, we skipped it; there is zero chance one will see ANY of them with a low-power telescope. We think it is blatantly false advertising and sets a completely false expectation of what one may see with that instrument. We wanted no part in perpetuating such falsehood.

One telescope company did catch our eye. That company is iOptron. iOptron offers a range of mounts and telescopes for both beginners and serious amateurs. They are a new player who has been steadily gaining traction because their gear strikes a good balance between... [more] - iOptron iExplore 70 AZ Telescope FirstLook


November 10,2011-Eibelshaeuser on Lighting...

Lighting is one of the more difficult topic to master in photography. Our eyes see a scene very differently than a camera. Seeing the light and capturing it are two very different things. Understanding how light interacts with the subject, the environment, and the camera are basics which every good photographer must understand.

Once those basics become second nature, the next step is to be able to manage or manipulate the light so one can "get the shot" even under challenging conditions. If you are serious about increasing your... [more] -The Art of Photographic Lighting


November 7, 2011- Pixeet FirstUse...

There are many ways to shoot panoramic images. One way is to take multiple images and stitch them together into a larger photo. That approach is great for landscape and scenic photos. However, the problem is that things can change or move between shots. Those motions can show up as blurs in the final image.

A single-shot approach is often better when shooting a crowd or where there may be a lot of movement. A fisheye lens, with its 180º field of view, is used to make such a shot. Obviously, due of the extremely wide-angle, the scene captured is quite distorted. Up until the last decade, fish-eye lenses were used more for their artistic effects than for... [more] -Pixeet Panorama Kit FirstUse


October 31, 2011- First Snow...

The Nor'easter made quite a mess over the weekend. Many are still feeling its effects today. Fortunately for Boston, the storm only dropped a few inches of the heavy white stuff. Even so, limbs and branches were down everywhere. We went for a hike around the Arnorld Arboretum to see how the trees there fared.

The Arnold Arboretum is 250 acres of managed greenery in the city of Boston. The responsibility of maintaining the grounds is shared by Harvard University and the City of Boston. We got there around 10AM and most of the snow were already off the leaves. For the most part, the trees... [more] - First Snow


October 28, 2011- First Frost...

Bostonians woke up to frost on their windows and black ice on the ground today. The sheen will not last long, but it is a clear sign that it is time to get out the fleece. Last week, we took advantage of the one warm day and swapped out the Summer tires on the Boxster for its Winter shoes. We didn't install the hard top because we still have hope that we will get a chance to put the convertible top down a few more times before things get too cold. New England weather...you never know :-)

Most of the slippery stuff should be gone in a few hours. However, a Nor'easter is making its way toward Boston. The word on the street is that... [more] - First Frost


October 25, 2011- Installing ofxKinect...

Playing with the Kinect hacks are a lot of fun. Getting the hacks to work on the Mac, not so much. OK, not AS much. However, we REALLY REALLY wanted to see the Kinect running on OS X. So we banged our heads until we figured it out. Once we got things to work, we realized the instructions were actually quite accurate. They just needed a few clarifying steps. Hopefully, by pointing out where we went astray, we can help keep those of you interested in venturing down the same path from wandering around.

Before downloading any of the hacks and demos, the first item of business is to install some software development tools. Fortunately for Mac users, the tools are supplied by Apple and they are completely FREE. The latest version of these free tools is Xcode 4. Xcode 4 is a fully integrated (editor, compiler, debugger) software development environment and is specifically for creating software for Apple devices (Mac, iPhone, iPad). It is the version that we used for... [more] - Installing ofxKinect for OSX


October 24, 2011- Kinect Hacks for OSX...

We got a Microsoft Kinect 360 camera through Craigslist back in April. The main reason we got it was because the cool Kinect-based hacks, which had been Linux and Windows only, have (finally!) been ported to OS X. Kinect is at the forefront of one of the more exciting user-interface directions which has come along in a while.

What can be done with the Kinect? How about manipulating things in three dimensions? A great example is demonstrated by Memo Akten by his 3D drawing and manipulation hack. It is not a stretch to see that "drawing" in 3D is no different than... [more] - Kinect Hacks for OSX


October 21, 2011- Unpacking an LCD TV...

One would think getting a TV out of the box would be no big thing, but a large screen LCD TV is kind of unwieldy. While not very heavy, thethe LCD TV panel is wide and thin. How do you get it out without either throwing out your back or risk dropping the TV? The last thing you want to do is to crack the screen getting it out of the box!

We could cut open the box, but what if there is something wrong with the TV and we had to ship it back? We could wait until there were more people around to help, but that would require patience. After waiting all day for... [more] - Unpacking an LCD TV


October 20, 2011- The Cult of LEGO...

John Baichtal is a contributor to MAKE magazine (awesome for their articles on DIYs, hacks, and other such things) and Wired's GeekDad blog. John has written for legendary tabletop gaming magazines Dragon and Dungeon, as well as for Kobold Quarterly and 2600: The Hacker Quarterly. Joe Meno is the founder of BrickJournal, a print and online LEGO fan magazine. He has organized and run LEGO fan events, acted as an advisor on LEGO projects, and helped design LEGO sets. Together, these two have assembled book which gave us a fascinating look at those obsessed with LEGOs.

Known affectionately as Adult Fans of LEGO, or AFOLs, these folks love those colorful plastic bricks so much that their fascination borders on cultish adulation. Tens of thousands of AFOLs attend conventions to meet with like-minded builders, and they spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars creating replicas (pianos, Yankee Stadium, etc...), scenes, and sculptures with the colorful plastic bricks. The creations are... [more] - The Cult of LEGO


October 11, 2011- Paradise City Northampton

The weather this weekend could not have been more perfect for a road trip. We took full advantage of it and drove 100 miles out to Northamptom for the Paradise City Art Festival. We have been to the Marlboro PCAF a number of times and so thought we knew what to expect. We were happily mistaken.

What we found was a show that was about three times as large. As expected, the show was extremely well organized (free parking, fast moving ticket lines, etc...) and the vendors were all very... [more] - Paradise City Northampton


October 7, 2011- Paradise City Fall 2011

Normally, we head up to Maine for Columbus Day, but this year we'll be in town for the holiday weekend. Instead, we are going to take a drive out the Northampton and check out the Paradise City Arts Festival.

We have been to a few PCAFs (2004. 2006, Spring 2010, Winter 2010) over the years, but they have all been the Marlboro show. The buzz is that the Northampton one is bigger. Our friend Mark Del Guidice will be exhibiting at the show. We have not seen Mark recently and are eager to check out his new work. If you have time this weekend and are looking for something interesting to do, go check out the Paradise Arts Festival. It should be a great show! [Permalink] - Paradise City Fall 2011


October 5, 2011- Mithril Kevlar Jacket.

When we hear "Kevlar" we immediately think "bullet-proof vest." So when we heard that a kevlar jacket had arrived at the RainyDayMagazine office, we thought "Cool! Which intern should we shoot?" Fortunately for the interns the jacket is not for that kind of protection.

Klättermusen is a Swedish company that designs and manufactures outdoor clothing and equipment for outdoor enthusiasts. Their products are often unique, definitely not the "same old same old." The company is not just unique in its approach to product design, it also put its money where its mouth is when it comes to environmental ethics. One percent of their sales is allocated for... [more] - Klättermusen Mithril KevlaJacket FirstLook


October 3, 2011- Otterbox iPhone lens case...

We are always looking for accessories which will enable us to extend what we can do with the iPhone 4. Lens attachments for the phone's 5-megapixel camera are such an accessory. Brando's inexpensive macro lens converts the iPhone into a fairly capable microscope. The Pixeet fisheye lens enables anyone to take 180º images and make immersive panoramas. These two lenses are tiny enough to bring everywhere. However, as with any optical gear, we thought they deserved a proper case and not just tossed into a backpack or jacket pocket unprotected.

Whenever we think of protecting gear, Otterbox is the first name that pops to mind. They make cases that are tough, water-proof, and come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. The Otterbox 1000 is the smallest one in their collection and it is the perfect size for our project. We like the clear case because it makes it easy to see what is inside. Some Otterbox cases come with... [more] - Otterbox iPhone lens case


September 27, 2011- Pixeet Panorama Kit...

Accessories for the iPhone have typically been limited to skins, cases, and other protective gear. With the introduction of front and back cameras, items such as lenses have occassionally popped up. The iPhone 4 has been used successfully as a digital microscope as well as an astrophotographic imager. A few years ago, a Japanese company called Digital King created a fisheye lens for the iPhone. It met with limited success. Recently, a company call Pixeet rebranded the lens under its own name, added a case and some free software, and bundled it into a much more compelling offering.

The Pixeet Panorama Kit consists of a 180º fisheye lens, a silicone case, and some misc bits (mounts for other phones, lens retaining cord). The fisheye lens is well constructed of aluminum and glass. It attaches to the case using magnets. This approach is pretty clever as it... [more] - Pixeet Panorama Kit: 180º Fisheye Lens


September 16, 2011- Delkin Pop-Up Shade...

We got the Delkin Shade for our Nikon D40 back in 2008. The Pop-Up shade is a helpful accessory for anyone who likes to check their work via the camera's LCD, especially when out in bright sunlight.

However, we stopped using it after a while because we found it interfered with our style of shooting. With the shade popped-up on the D40, it was difficult to frame the photo because we could not get close to the eyepiece. We had to constantly open/close the shade and it was more of a bother than it was worth. However, the issue went away when we got our... [more] - Delkin PopUp Shade ITW


September 12, 2011- Brimfield Vintage Tech...

We were out at Brimfield in July for their giant antique show. We planned to do the same this past Thursday for the start of the Fall show, but the torrential rain changed our plans. The skies finally cleared on Saturday. We left Boston before 8 AM, had breakfast at a diner on the edge of town, and made it to the show before the crowd.

All the rain definitely had an impact, both on the number of vendors and the overall attendance at the show. Many parts of the fields were still soggy and walking around was sloppy at times. Fortunately, the weather for antiquing was perfect on Saturday (sunny, cool, dry) and attendess did start to show around lunch time. One of the benefits of a smaller crowd was... [more] - Brimfield Antique Show: Vintage Tech


September 8, 2011- Sugru Hacks...

If you don't know what Sugru is, check out our FirstLook post. If you have ever looked at something and thought "if only...," then this stuff was created for you! The stuff was created by people-who-love-to-hack for people-who-want-to-hack, even if they don't know it...yet.

Sugru comes in a few basic colors and can be combined to create lots of different shades. The stuff feels like putty. It can be moulded, shaped, and worked just like putty. It will cure in about 24 hours. Once cured, the stuff is... [more] - Sugru Hacks


September 2, 2011- Passiflora Update...

Hurricane Irene went inland, pummeled Vermont, but spared most of Boston. All of the plants in the RainyDayGarden came through unscathed. As we had mentioned in July, the Passiflora made it through the Winter, buy got a very slow start due to all the rain. It has, fortunately, been budding furiously. The sunny weather these past few days finally got the Passiflora blooming.

Our plant was originally purchased at Logee's in Connecticut eight years ago. It has been propagated over a dozen time. Some of the cuttings were given to friends, others have been... [more] - Passiflora Update


August 31, 2011- Raen Sunglasses...

High tech materials and exotic lens coatings have taken sunglasses from just a pair of "shades" to performance "gear." The styling of sunglasses have followed suit. Oakley has developed a billion dollar business by taking it to the extreme. While not just anyone can rock the look of iridescent lenses in a X-metal frame, everyone looks great in a pair of Wayfarer. Even better if they incorporate the latest tech along with the retro styling. The interns are always on the look out for modern sunglasses with the Wayfarer sensibilities. Recently they happened upon a boutique brand that may just have us reaching for them before our Oakleys.

Raen Optics is a relatively new entrant in the eyewear market. RAEN, headquartered in Encinitas CA, was created in 2008 by the designers at Libre Design. In three short years, they have managed to... [more] - Raen Sunglasses


August 29, 2011- Sugru FirstLook...

We battened down all the hatches this past weekend and managed to weather Hurricane Irene without incident. Rainy days are good for watching TV or doing projects. We spent two days watching back to back episodes of the BBC series MI-5. If we had gotten off our butts and looked at some of the stuff which came on Friday, we would have seen that we had received a shipment of Sugru. If we had, how we spent our weekend might have taken a completely different turn.

The name Sugru is an Irish word "sugradh" for "play", but what is Sugru? The better question is not what is it (silicone elastomer), but what you can do with it. According to the instructions, Sugru is designed to... [more] - Sugru FirstLook


August 22, 2011- The Ultimate Night Vision...

Wild Planet's SpyGear line is an amazing collection of gadgets for the James Bond/Lara Croft in all of us. So we are always thrilled when a box labeled "SpyGear" shows up on our desk. While we never know what we are going to find, but if it is from Wild Planet, we know it will be fun.

This time, the SpyGear box contained a pair of Ultimate Night Vision (UNV) binoculars. Unlike the Wild Planet SpyVision goggles we've looked at previously, these use infrared to (invisibly) light up the scene. The box states that these binoculars are the ultimate in... [more] - SpyGear: The Ultimate Night Vision


July 27, 2011- Vermont: The Shopping...

When we set out for our Vermont Summer Outing, we had no idea of the beauty of the state. Our base was the Inn at Sawmill Farm in West Dover. From there we ventured up Route 100 then onto Route 30 around the edge of the Green Mountains to Manchester. Our goal was to then go down 7 or 7A and loop back to the Inn via Route 9.

Shopping was the goal of the day and we found plenty of places to stop, wander around, and into which to poke our heads. We knew we would find a lot of antique stores (and we did), but we were impressed with the amount of high-end crafts (glass workers, furniture makers, sculptors, artists) we came across on the trip. In retrospect, it should not have been surprising as... [more] - Vermont: The Shopping


July 5, 2011- Shooting Fireworks...

We wanted to see the Fourth of July fireworks on the Esplanade, but the thought of fighting 800,000 people for a spot along the Charles River was not at all appealing. Just considering the idea required way more effort than we were willing to muster up. However, opportunities to take photos of fireworks are hard to pass up. What we needed was to find an "undiscovered" spot that was close enough to the city, accessible by car, and preferablely with a view of Boston skyline to serve as a backdrop for the show.

After a bit of discussion, we decided to head down to the HarborWalk at Fan Pier. The one problem with the location is the buildings. It meant we would only see fireworks which would be high in the sky. However, that vantage point has a great view of Rowes Wharf from across the water, the Custom House clock tower would be visible in the distance, and the fireworks would look... [more]- Shooting Fireworks


July 1, 2011- Backyard Adventures...

A bright red cardinal has been visiting the bird feeder in the RainyDayGarden these past few weeks. For days, we have been stalking this elusive visitor, but despite our efforts we came up empty.

One would think it should be easy to get a photo of the cardinal: set up the camera, autofocus on the feeder, wait for the visitor. We could hear it singing up in the tree. Occasionally, it would do a fly-over of the feeder. However, it almost seemed like it knew what we were trying to do and didn't want any part of it. Maybe it was because of the interns, maybe it was... [more]- Backyard Adventures


June 30, 2011- Quincy Quarries Reservation ...

If the rock outcroppings in the photo below don't look natural it is because they were man-made. The formations are the result of over two hundred years of granite quarrying for stone used to build everything from the cornerstones of banks to the Bunker Hill Monument. The Quincy granite quarries are amongst the oldest in the country. They began in the 1700's, ceased operation in the 1960's, was purchased by the MDC in the 1980s, and are now managed as part of the Blue Hills Reservation.

After the quarries closed in the 1960s, they became filled with water and were popular with the locals for swimming, diving, and rock climbing. Its popularity was a struggle for the police as public safety was a constant issue. Numerous attempts, none of them successful, were made to discourage the more dangerous practices such as cliff diving. Some of them (floating old telephone poles) actually... [more]- Quincy Quarries Reservation


June 22, 2011- Sigma Zoom...

Last year (almost to the day) we went with our bird watching /photographers friends Candy and Andy to a spit of rock to get a look at the heron rookery at Manchester-by-the-Sea. The camera gear we took with us last year was adequate for the outing, but the D90 body/Sigma lens combo was pushing the limits of the TrekPod from a stability perspective. Since we knew we would not have to trek very far with a tripod, we took a beefier unit with us this time. In the year since we had been out there, we had acquired a slightly bigger Sigma lens. It seemed appropriate to bring it and see how it would perform under similar conditions.

Bringing the bigger tripod was definitely the right decision. Even though the terrain was uneven, we were able to set up the rig and had confidence that it wouldn't tip over. The older 80-400mm Sigma lens had built-in optical stablization (OS), but our newer 50-500mm lens did not. However, since Sigma recommends switching off the OS feature when the lens is mounted on a tripod, not having the OS capability did not hamper us in any way. In fact, when we... [more]- Sigma Zoom: Manchester By The Sea


June 21, 2011- Sunset at Wollaston Beach...

We don't know what others call Wollaston Beach, but around the office we refer to it as the "Cape Cod of the South Shore." Wollaston Beach is a 3-mile long stretch of sand in Quincy. It is only a few miles outside of Boston, but has a vibe all its own. We can get to it in less than twenty minutes if the traffic is light. When we don't want to fight the traffic to the Cape, but want a bit of the flavor, that is where we go.

One of the great things about Wollaston Beach is that it is pretty low key. There is a boardwalk that edges the beach for a few miles. Off the boardwalk are a few local yacht clubs. Sprinkled along the other side of the boardwalk are... [more]- Wollaston Beach: Sunset


June 16, 2011- Leathinity camera strap...

Yesterday, we had posted a write-up on a case for our new Nikon P7000 point-n-shoot camera. In the discussion, we mentioned that we were not a big fan of camera straps because they made the camera less "pocket-able." However, as putting the camera in a case had already made it too large for most pockets, we saw no reason not to attach a strap so we could sling the camera on our shoulder. While the camera case came with a perfectly adequate nylon strap, we thought we would see if we could find something a little more elegant.

Craft-savvy folks know that for lover of things handcrafted, the best source is a site called Etsy. It was there that we found exactly what we were looking for. The name of the company is Leathinity. The maker is out of Hong Kong and goes by the initial "sths". This maker has many other great looking offerings, but the item of interest was the camera strap. The strap was... [more]- Leathinity Camera Strap


June 15, 2011- Nikon camera case...

The Balda camera below was passed from father-to-son to one of the editors here at RainyDayMagazine. While the camera is over fifty years old, its bellows is light-tight and its optics razor sharp. The mechanical system (shutter, film winder, etc...) is still in excellent operating order. Protecting the camera is a purpose-built case. It is made from leather and is shaped to wrap around the various curves and protrusions of the camera.

Camera cases have changed a lot since the days of the leather "ever-ready" ones like that on the Balda. Today's cases are typically padded, have pockets for accessories, and are sometimes part of a larger "system." While our new Nikon P7000 fits perfectly in the Kata S-312 camera bag, we wanted something with a more vintaged look for it. A little more like the... [more]- Nikon P7000 Camera Case


June 14, 2011- iPhone4 Camera Skins...

The interns got the idea for this iPhone4 DIY project from an item they saw on Etsy: a skin for the iPhone4 that gives it the appearance of Leica camera. They thought it was such a cool idea that they wanted to make their own skins. A quick search turned up a surprisingly large number of shots of old cameras to serve as seeds for their iPhone skinning project. A few quick size adjustments in Photoshop was all it took to create a bunch of images suitable for use as skins for the iPhone.

The interns' problem was that there were many cool camera images and they liked them all! Obviously, it was not practical to turn them all into skins. They decided a better approach was to print them out and... [more]- iPhone4 Camera Skins


June 10, 2011- Thunder clouds...

The 90º heat in Boston finally broke yesterday and it did it in dramatic fashion. Around 4PM in the afteroon, clouds started to form overhead. In the span of less than thirty minutes, the sky got dark, the wind picked up, and flashes of lightning streaked across the sky. It had a kind of "wrath of God" feel to it all. Which immediately led to the thought..."Cool! Thunderclouds! Wonder if we'll need a polarizer?"

We had considered setting things up to see if we could capture some of the lightning strikes, but decided it was probably prudent to not bring too much gear out as the situation could get really wet really fast. Shooting with the D90/18-200mm with VR active, we took a series of... [more]- Thunderclouds


June 3, 2011- Summer Reading...

For some people Summer is a time for lounging around the pool, hanging out at the beach, or getting asymetrically sun-burnt because either they did not apply the sunscreen evenly or they fell asleep in the sun. However if you are like us, napping by the pool is not your thing. Even when we are out "relaxing," we are optimizing our down time with a stimulating read. If you are like us, then you will surely be interested in our Summer reading list.

We RainyDayPhotographers are always looking for something new to try. The recently released Painting with Lightfrom Rocky Nook looks to be a great source of inspiration. The warmer Summer nights will be the perfect time to try some of the ideas in the book. We have recently... [more]- Summer Reading


June 1, 2011- RDG: June...

Gardening has a lot of similarity with software development. There are a lot of ways to go about it and some of it works better than others. Take planting perennials vs annuals for instance. Planting perennials, like writing reusable code, takes a bit more planning and can cost more upfront. The payoff is that you don't have to do the same thing over and over again. Annuals are like demo code, they look great, can be done quickly, but are often a one shot deal.

The RainyDayGarden folks here plant mostly perennials, because while they love seeing the blooms and the colors, they don't really enjoy the associated physical tasks (digging, weeding, etc...) as much as the more hardcore gardeners. Another benefit of planting perennials is the ability to... [more]- RDG: June


May 20, 2011- PED3 Mount...

When we mentioned that we were looking for an appropriate tripod mount for the iPhone, a few readers pointed us to a couple of possibilities. Of all the suggestions, the unit from ThoughtOut appeared to be the best one for our application. The major pieces (grip, stem, arm) are made of metal, the tips are rubber-coated, and the design does not interfere with the macro lens protruding from the iPhone.

Assembly of the PED3 mount was quick and simple: insert arm into stem; thread mount onto tripod; slide in phone; adjust grip. We should note that it is a good idea to make sure the phone is secured in the cradle before moving the... [more]- PED3 Mount


May 19, 2011- Lensbaby Macro...

We have been on a bit of a macro-photography binge lately. We have done some fun and creative things with the Lensbaby in the past. A recent "ah ha" moment led us to realize that it may be interesting to mount the Lensbaby onto a bellows and use it as a macro lens. While we know we could mount the lens, we were not sure if we could get it to focus.

There are macro accessories for the Lensbaby 3G lens. However, the bellows, if it works, would give us the option of playing with the amount of magnification on the fly. The downside is that the rig would be... [more]- Lensbaby Macro


May 18, 2011- Nikon P7000 FirstLook...

The Nikon D90 has been our daily workhorse for two years. Prior to that we had been using the D40s. The D40s were light, grab-n-go, take anywhere, cameras. However, they were a little bit too large to easily slip into a coat pocket for when we wanted to be a little mor, um, discrete. We kept the D40s around as a backup for the D90, but in the two years of owning the D90 we really only used the D40s a few times. A few weeks ago, we sold one of the D40s on Craigslist and used the funds to purchase Nikon's top-of-the-line point-n-shoot camera, the CoolPix P7000.

We had not purchased a point-n-shoot digital camera since we bought a Canon S100 when it was first released more than a decade ago. While we were not surprised at how much has improved in this product segment, we were surprised at how much we were able to... [more]- Nikon P7000 FirstLook


May 16, 2011- iPhone Microscope Outside...

Last week we posted a write-up of the Brando iPhone4 microscope lens. It generated a bit of email asking if the setup is at all practical out "in the field." It was a fair question, as all of the sample images provided in the article were taken inside under controlled conditions. This weekend was overcast, in the mid-60ºs, and had a light breeze. Those were fairly reasonable conditions for seeing out how the iPhone4 microscope would perform InTheWild.

The advantage of using the iPhone4 camera outside during the day is that there is plenty of light. However, having TOO much light can overwhelm the camera's sensor. The day being bright but overcast was a huge benefit as the diffused light lit the plants without creating hard edges and harsh shadows. Another benefit of a cloudy day was that it was easier to... [more]- iPhone Microscope Outside


May 13, 2011- Brimfield Antique Show...

Every few years we make the drive from Boston to the giant, outdoor, practically the whole town, antique show out in Brimfield. We go, not because we are big antiquers, but because we love the idea of poking around in other people's attics.

The awesome thing about the Brimfield Antique Show is its hallmark organized chaos. We have been to the show a few times and have realized that long-time vendors are situated in approximately the same location year after year. Other than that, it is just one big jumbo. If you are looking for something specific, somebody at this show probably has it, but... [more]- Brimfield Antique Show


May 10, 2011- iPhone Microscope...

We came across a DIY article on the Crabfu Artworks website last September on how to turn the iPhone into a portable digital microscope. We thought the idea was ingenious. Apparently, so did the company that makes the lens. They thought the hack was so cool that they started shipping the lens with a slip-on iPhone4 cover. We got one and have been playing with it for a bit. Of all the iPhone accessories which come across our desks daily, this one from Brando is quickly becoming a favorite.

For an inexpensive little gadget, this tiny lens is more complicated than we expected. The housing of the lens and sleeve are made of plastic. The lens can extend in the sleeve to adjust and accommodate different minimum focus distances of various cell phone cameras. A clear brace is positioned at the end of the lens so the light from the LED can shine on through onto the... [more]- iPhone Microscope


Apr 28, 2011- NEAF 2011: Expo wrap up...

This is the final installment of the 2011 NEAF Conference write-ups. It was our first time attending the Expo and it was excellent. We got to meet and chat with like-minded folks, listened to some interesting talks, and had plenty of hands-on time with all kinds of equipment. In this last post, we thought we would cover a few of the more unusual things we saw at the show.

We first came across Fullum-built telescopes last Summer at the World Science Festival om NYC, and were happy to come across them again at NEAF. By combining world class hand-made optics with... [more]- NEAF 2011: Wrap up


Apr 27, 2011- NEAF 2011: Soar Party...

Not all astronomy has to be done at night. Some of the most interesting stuff happens during the day. The downside is there is really only one thing to look at during the day, the Sun. Of course, just because there is only one thing to see does not mean it will be boring. The Sun is an amazing to look at and utterly fascinating object to study.

Solar activities are not just visual curiosities; they can have immediate, direct, and substantial impact here on Earth. In fact, NASA is devoting a lot of resources (Solar Dynamic Observatory, Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, Hinode) to monitoring and reporting on what is happening with our Sun. While not as popular as night astronomy, amateurs are increasingly... [more]- NEAF 2011: Solar Party


Apr 26, 2011- NEAF 2011...

Astronomy may be the most accessible of the scientific disciplines to the general public. All that is really needed is a clear night, a comfortable chair, and a pair of binoculars. Of course, that does not mean a little gear wouldn't add to the enjoyment of looking up at the night sky. Every year those who have been bitten by the astronomy bug gather at the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) and Telescope Show to look at gear, share stories, and to generally have a great time.

NEAF and the Telescope Show is presented by the Rockland Astronomy Club of Suffern NY, and is the biggest telescope show in the world. We decided to drive down from Boston to see it for ourselves. The two-day event featured world-renowned speakers, workshops, special events, and over... [more]- NEAF 2011


Apr 22, 2011- NYIAS: Opening Day...

We just got back from NYC after spending a few days at the NYIAS. It was a blast. We sat in every exotic car we could, played with the knobs, and imagined what it would feel like driving them on an open road. The press preview started on Wednesday and the show officially opened to the public today. As with any show of this magnitude, there is something for everybody: sports cars, fuel-efficient hybrids, trucks with built-in gun racks, concept cars, and some which defies description.

As always, our favorite car from the show were the concept cars. Concept cars are the manufacturers' way of showing off to each other. The majority of the concept cars (Porsche Boxster being one of the rare exceptions) never make it into production, but they serve as a showcase for... [more]- NYIAS: Opening Day


Apr 21, 2011- NYIAS: Black Edition Boxster...

Porsche is the reason we go to the NYIAS whenever we can. This year, visitors to Porsche's booth will get a close-up view of the Black Edition of the Boxster S. There will only be 987 of these specially outfitted vehicles. Each will be numbered and labeled.

Boxster owners will immediately notice the subtle difference: black instrument dials and shifter, black rear side intake grills, embossed logo on the convertible roof, black twin tailpipes, body-matching... [more]- NYIAS: Porsche Black Edition


Apr 20, 2011- New York International Auto Show...

We are spending a few days here in NYC for the NYIAS. If you are interested in the basic coverage, there are dozens of major networks, mainstream press, and folks from the usual car-focused publications to tell you all about it. Our plan at the 2011 NYIAS was to find the unusual or extraordinary.

Of course, like most plans, it went out the window once put into action. When we arrived at the show, we saw a long row of Jaguars parked out front. We soon discovered that fifty years ago, the New York Auto Show played host to the launch of an automotive classic: the Jaguar E-Type - or XKE as it was known in America. If any country took the E-Type to its heart, it was the... [more]- NYIAS: Jaguar


Apr 14, 2011- iPad Microscope...

Yesterday we mentioned that the Flip camcorder was taken off the market by Cisco. One of the reasons for the Flip's demise may be the ubiquity of camera and video recording capabilities in portable devices such as smartphones and iPods. When Apple upgraded the iPad, they added no less than two cameras to the tablet: a front-facing camera for use with FaceTime video-conferencing, a rear-facing camera for photos and video recording.

Apple clearly made some trade-offs (resolution, cost, power consumption, etc...) when choosing the cameras for the iPad2. According to Apple, the rear camera can take 720p videos. This translates to images with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels (0.92MB). Apple realizes the technical details of the cameras were nothing to crow about and has pretty much left it off the iPad2 spec sheet. However, just because the iPad2's current cameras are pretty lame from a specs perspective, the addition of a camera to the iPad's large portable multi-touch screen can be a powerful combination.

Last Summer, we reviewed a bunch of digital microscopes for RainyDayScience's BackyardBiotech project. We found the microscopes to be suitable but impractical for field use. We tried to find a way to attach one of those digital microscopes to the iPad. Even thought they were all USB devices, none of them were supported on the iPad. When Apple announced that the iPad2 would have... [more]-iPad Microscope


Apr 13, 2011- Flip no more...

In 2005 digital videos camcorders were bulk and complicated to use. So it was not surprising that when Pure Digital introduced its single-use digital camcorder to the market, it made a huge splash. The one-time-use camcorder was branded and sold through the CVS chain. The "problem" was that the camera was too good. Users purchased the inexpensive cameras and kept them instead of returning it to CVS for processing, killing the original business plan. The relationship with CVS ended, but Pure Digital gained an extremely valuable insight (something they could have learned by reading Clayton Christensen's Innovator's Dilemma) regarding consumer's willingness to trade quality for low cost and ease-of-use.

Pure Digital revamped and spent the next few years selling directly to consumers, building the brand, and creating a $400 million dollar business. In 2009, they cashed out and sold the company to Cisco Systems for $590 million. This story would have had a fairy tale ending if it wasn't for the bombshell announcement yesterday from Cisco that they would be cancelling the Flip division and laying off over 500 workers. The announcement was surprising because Flip has... [more]-Flip no more


Apr 11, 2011- Emerald Necklance...

The Emerald Necklace is one of Boston's treasures. This park system ringing parts of Boston was envisioned and created by Fredrick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) over a hundred years ago. Olmsted, as many know, was the designer of NYC's Central Park. While Central Park is a chunk in the middle of Manhattan, the Emerald Necklace is woven into the flow and rhythm of the city of Boston. Parts of the Emerald Necklace parallel some of the busiest sections of Boston, but others make you feel that you are nowhere near a city.

The Necklace runs for quite a distance. The complete system is over seven miles long from end to end and covers over 1,100 acres. To get a sense of the full Emerald Necklace, download this 31"x17" map of the entire park. There are busy spots (Public Garden, Jamaica Pond, Fens) and quiet sections (connecting paths, Arnold Arboretum, Riverway). Of course, when we say "quiet," we mean city-quiet where you may see a person every minute or two. Still, quiet enough... [more]- Emerald Necklace


Apr 6, 2011- MFA:Chihuly...

Born in 1941 in Tacoma, WA, Dale Chihuly was introduced to glass while studying interior design a the University of Washington. Chihuly continued his studies at RISD, where he later established the glass program and taught for over a decade. Over the years Chihuly has worked with hundreds of museums worldwide. On April 10th, Bostonians will get a spectacular view of Chihuly's work at the newest exhibit Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass at the MFA.

The MFA exhibit features 12 breath-taking installations in the new wing. They are in the Shapiro Family Courtyard, the surrounding gardens, and in the Ann and Graham Gund Gallery downstairs. Stepping down to the exhibit, visitors are greeted by the Persian Wall, a welcoming collection of flower-like glass shapes in orange, yellows, and reds. Immediately inside the gallery is... [more]- MFA: Chihuly


Apr 5, 2011- Sigma 50-500mm FirsttUse...

Yesterday's "Macro at the Mall" write-up got us thinking: wouldn't it be interesting to follow the macro piece with something from the other end of the spectrum: images brought in close from a super telephoto lens. Some readers might remember that we snagged a little-used Sigma 50-500mm zoom (Bigma) lens via Craigslist a few weeks ago. We were going to do a side-by-side shoot off with that and the Sigma 80-400mm, but the 80-400mm has found a new home.

A week ago, we got an offer for the 80-400 from a local photographer that we just could not refuse. Money changed hands, and so the planned comparison article has been permanently shelved. Still, we thought it was time we took Bigma out for a spin. Our favorite testing ground is Memorial Drive in Cambridge. Foot traffic on weekdays is generally pretty low and the stretch lets us... [more]- Sigma 50-500mm zoom FirstUse


Apr 4, 2011- Macro at the Mall...

Taking closeup and macro photos is a lot easier when the air is still. Even a light breeze can set things swaying back and forth, ruining the focus. Waiting for things to settle back down is both time consuming and frustrating. Thus it is no surprise that when the proper condition presents itself, you have to take it. We were out Saturday night when we noticed that a local mall was hosting a flower show, we took advantage of the opportunity, went back with gear Sunday morning, and were able to get in a photo shoot before the place got busy.

Shooting inside a mall, while more controlled, will also present its own set of challenges, the biggest of which can be lighting. When we were there on Saturday night, the stores were closed (except for the restaurants) and the main sections were pretty dark. We thought compensating for the interior lights and properly illuminating the flowers would be a problem. Fortuitously, the mall actually had a... [more]- Macro at the Mall


Mar 11, 2011- Flip Video Underwater...

Wow, this could not be easier: a video camera the size of my cell phone, and very clear instructions for its assembly and use! We were going on vacation in the Caribbean so we easily packed and transported it. Also provided was an underwater housing so we were able to take it with us on our dives. Andy is an underwater still photographer and I would never dream of carrying all the equipment necessary for that (two 60 gallon coolers full of cameras, housings, flashes, and lots more) but this little mini marvel could be fun.

After a little practice on dry land filming the locals and some of the guests at the bar and in the pool, I realize that this is way, way beyond easy. There is on-off, start-stop, zoom in- zoom out and... [more]- By Candace Storm


Mar 10, 2011- Spring in the Netherlands...

Our friend Patrick forwarded us an email containing some images of the tulip fields of northen Netherlands in Spring time. They were a lot like those from the Flower Fields of Carlsbad, CA. The images also reminded us of one of our favorite Hockney paintings. The Dutch landscape in May is a patchwork of purple, yellow, red, pink, orange and green. Each year, more than three billion tulips are grown there, with two-thirds of the blooms destined for export to the U.S. and Germany.

Anyone who has taken Econ 101 knows of the great Dutch tulip bubble of 1637. At it's peak, a single highly-desired tulip bulb could fetch a price 10x higher than the annual income of a skilled worker at the time. Crazy! Like all bubbles, it... [more]- Spring in the Netherlands


Mar 4, 2011- "Bigma" 50-500mm zoom...

A long zoom lens is helpful when you can't, don't want to, or are otherwise legally restricted from getting too close to your subject. The zoom lens we use on a daily basis is the Nikkor 18-200mm with vibration reduction (VR). Getting REALLY close to a hawk, especially when you can't fly, was made easier with our Sigma 80-400mm zoom. The Sigma 80-400mm zoom has optical stabilization (OS) which makes handheld shooting with the big heavy lens possible. However, after a few outings, what we learned was that while OS is a great feature, a big lens like the Sigma 80-400mm really needs to be on a tripod.

So, when Sigma upgraded their 50-500mm zoom with onboard OS, we kept our eye out for used non-OS units on Craigslist. After a few months of diligent scouring, we finally scored. We picked this unit up from a local photographer. He originally purchased it for... [more]- "Bigma" FirstLook


Mar 2, 2011- PhotoStuio In-A-Box...

Proper lighting is the key to getting "the shot." Controlling light is a lot easier with the right tools. Different situations require different tools. A bounce flash will go a long way for portraits, head shots, and other situations. Photographing a smaller object is trickier, especially if it is shiny or reflective.

Setting up a space to photograph small objects properly is made quicker and simpler with a set up such as Photo Studio In-A-Box (PSIAB). The "studio" is a portfolio-style case with pockets to carry the gear (lights, tripod) needed for a photo shoot anywhere anytime. The kit came with... [more]- Studio-In-A-Box FirstLook


Feb 25, 2011- RockyNook books...

We have been using Photoshop since version 1.0 came out. Photoshop is the image-manipulation application of choice, used by the majority of photographers. The software is very powerful, feature-rich, and expensive. For photographers on a budget, GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is a less costly alternative. In fact, GIMP is free.

GIMP is an image processing application developed using public domain code. It was first released in 1996 and has seen a few major updates since. After over a decade of enhancements, it can now be a considered a viable subsitute for Photoshop, provided one is willing to invest the time in... [more]- RockyNook books


Feb 1, 2011- Digital Foci Moments 8...

Digital photo frames are finding their place in more and more homes. We mentioned a few of them in the 2010 Holiday Gift Guide. Both the Ceiva and Kodak frames were reviewed in detail last year. Sharp-eyed readers noticed that the Digital Foci Moments 8 was a new mention and asked for a more detailed RainyDay review. Today, we are happy to comply with a FirstLook of this full-feature photo frame.

The Digital Foci Moments 8 is a high resolution (800x600) digital photo frame which also contains a pair of quality stereo speakers. It is the stereo speakers which distinguish this photo frame from the Cieva and Kodak units. While the Digital Foci Moments 8, unlike the Ceiva and Kodak photo frames, is not email-enabled, it distinguishes itself from the others with the ability to handle more than just still images. The Moment 8 frame is able to play both... [more]- Digital Foci Moments8 FirstLook


Jan 28, 2011- Snow Day at the Arboretum...

Yesterday was too nice to spend inside so we packed some camera gear in our Kata sling and trekked on over to the Arnold Arboretum. We love the Arnold Arboretum. It is an amazing resource and a treasure for the city of Boston.

The last time we were at the Arboretum in the winter was during the December storm in 2008. It was practically white-out conditions, but people were nevertheless walking about with their dogs. This time around the storm had already passed, the sky was blue, and a foot of... [more]- Snow Day at the Arboretum


Jan 20, 2011- Meade RCX400 Tripod comparison...

Yesterday we took a FirstLook at our newly acquired Meade RCX400 Ultra-Stable tripod. Weighing in at close to 60 lbs, this tripod is a beast. However, since it can be taken apart it is actually easier to transport than many other smaller telescope tripods. When we were doing our research on the RCX400 tripod, we were especially interested in seeing the difference in the thickness of the legs and mount as compared to other tripods. Unfortunately, we were unable to find any good comparison articles with other units. Now that we have the RCX400 Ultra-Stable tripod in house, we aim to rectify that issue.

Today, we are going to compare the RCX400 tripod with some of the other tripods we have, especially against the OEM tripod which was supplied with our 10" LX200 GPS telescope. We hope this comparison will be helpful to... [more]- Meade RCX400 Tripod Comparison


Jan 19, 2011- Meade RCX400 Tripod...

Bigger is definitely better when it comes to telescope tripods. The main reason is telescopes are very sensitive to vibrations. The sturdier the tripod, the better the stability. The better the stability, the better for viewing and imaging. To that end, we are always on the lookout for beefier tripods. A few months ago, we found a used tripod from a Meade RCX-400 up for sale. We made an offer, but the seller was hoping to get more for it. A higher offer did not materialize, we went a few more rounds with the seller, and finally came to an agreement.

The tripod arrived this week in two very large boxes, the sum of which were over sixty pounds. This thing is MASSIVE. All of the pieces are made from aluminum. Really thick pieces of aluminum. Unlike our other tripods, the head and the legs are... [more]- Meade RCX400 Tripod

Jan 18, 2011- Superfocus 3D hack...

Stereoscopic photos have been around since the 1800s. Widespread interest in them never really materialized outside of the various blips in popularity (ViewMaster, computer graphics, etc...). However, 3D is seeing another surge in popularity because digital photography has made it easier to create stereopscopic images. The benefit of digital photography is once you have the equipment, it costs almost nothing to experiment.

The problem with stereoscopic images is that special viewers (stereoscopes, glasses) are needed to see the 3D effect. Having to wear the special glasses is annoying if you have normal vision, but it is actually a problem if... [more]- Superfocus 3D hack


Jan 17, 2011- Kata Owl 272-DL backpack...

Six years ago we did a FirstLook/FirstUse write-up of the Kata R102 backpack. The bag was one of the best camera backpacks we have used, as it can hold quite a bit of gear without making us feel like a pack mule. The one feature we wish it had was the ability to access the camera from the side like a sling pack.

Clearly, we were not the only ones with that desire because when Kata designed the Owl 272-DL, they made a host of improvements to the basic camera backpack,including the addition of a side access port. However, we are jumping the review gun here. The Kata Owl is part of a revamped line of... [more]- Kata Owl 272-DL



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