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December 6,2012- RainyDayGiftGuide:Create...

Advances in computing, software, and user interfaces have combined to make the creative experience much closer to that of the real-world process. As a result, digital painting on an electronic canvas has been available to artists, sketchers, and doodlers for many years.

When Apple's iPad came onto the market, another barrier between artist and tools disappeared. For the first time, the average person could paint directly on an LCD screen. Of course, finger-painting, while cool for demo purposes, wasn't the best way to draw. So it wasn't surprising that many accessory-makers began offering styli and brushes for the... [more] -RainyDayGiftGuide: Create


December 5,2012- RainyDayGiftGuide:Photo...

Creativity is something we should all nurture whenever possible. Gifts which help foster and encourage creativity are what we will be suggesting over the next couple of days.

It should be to no one's surprise that the gear from Lensbaby are at the top of our recommendations list:

Why are we so stoked about Lensbaby? The biggest reason is their new Edge 80 and Sweet 35 Optics. Both lenses have the 12-blade adjustable aperture. We have enjoyed using the Lensbaby in the studio, but found that... [more] -RainyDayGiftGuide: Photography


November 20,2012- Thanksgiving Vacation...

We know that, like us, many of you are looking forward to a Thanksgiving feast with turkey as the main course. We know turkeys are tasty, but we also want to remind folks that wild turkeys are also beautiful, sleek, and intelligent birds. We caught up with a flock of them at the Boston Nature Center.

Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the turkey the national bird instead of the bald eagle, whom he considered "a Bird of bad moral Character." Some people would rather make the Thanksgiving meal meatless, since the general agreement is that birds raised for this one particular meal have nothing, really, to the thankful for. And, it is generally understood that turkeys were not actually served at the first Thanksgiving, the one with the Pilgrims and the Indians. If you would like to modify your holiday meal to meatless status, here are three options, two of which are companies, one of iwhich is a terrific recipe:

  • Tofurkey - Don't bust it till you've tried it (and don't skimp on the orange juice for the basting
  • Field Roast - Robust and flavorful, made with stuff that you'd find in your side dishes
  • Mushroom Wellington - Who doesn't like puff pastry?

The RainyDayMagazine office will be closed for the rest of the month for Thanksgiving. We will be back in December with the first installment of the 2012 RainyDayMagazine Holiday Gift Guide. Look for the first of the 2012 series on December 3rd!!!

Have a great Thanksgiving Holiday!!! [Permalink] - Happy Thanksgiving!

November 5,2012- Edge 80 at World's End...

After our successful FirstUse outing with the Lensbaby Composer Pro and Edge 80 optic, we went looking for other locations to further "exercise" the lens. We packed up the Lensbaby gear and took a drive out to World's End in Hingham. As it was late October, foliage colors were on full display. The last time we were at World's End was the dead of Winter. We had a lovely visit then and thought we should definitely revisit it again during the Fall. Good thing we went when we did, because after the recent hurricane, there probably isn't much foliage left on the trees.

The ability to direct the viewer's eye by is, of course, the reason for using a Lensbaby. The bonus of shooting Fall foliage with this lens is that the Lensbaby's impressionistic effect works well with the colors. Landscape and scenic shots take on an entirely different quality through the Lensbaby. We especially liked... [more] -Lensbaby Edge 80 InTheWild at World's End


October 25,2012- Zuiko to Nikon adapter...

When we worked at Kodak's digital imaging group in the early 90's, a 1.2MP camera was strictly for professionals. Digital camera technology has changed a lot since those early days. It has improved so quickly that some cell phone cameras today are better than professional DSLRs from just a few years ago. As a result, film cameras have all but disappeared from the market. Film-based professional or high-end gear (Leica, Nikon, etc), can still be found, but only on EBay or Craigslist.

We have a professional system of Olympus OM gear which we had considered putting up for sale twenty years ago. The last time we used any of it was in the early 90s. However, we held onto them for sentimental reasons more than anything else. Fully mechanical bodies such as the OM 3 have since become collector items while the more technically-advanced body such as the OM 4-T have not. The same is true for Zuiko lenses. Lenses such as the rare 500mm mirror lens commands a higher than original list price on the used camera gear market, but many others are not worth the effort it would take to list them (28mm, 35-105mm, 75-150mm). The thing is, most are still... [more] -Zuiko to Nikon adapter FirstLook


October 23,2012- Lens and Lensbaby...

Recently, we have been posting quite a lot about lenses (Nikkor 18-300mm, Composer Pro, Edge 80). We also got a lot of emails asking if we could recommend some books for readers interested in diving deeper into both the technical aspects and creative uses of them. As luck with have it, we were in the midst of reviewing two books on the subject. The first is NK Guy's The Lens: A Practical Guide for the Creative Photographer (published by rockynook). The second is by Corey Hilz, Lensbaby: Bending Your Perspective (published by Focal Press).

We like The Lens: A Practical Guide for the Creative Photographer because it summarizes in oneplace a lot of information about interchangeable lenses. The coverage is broad enough and the discussions sufficiently deep to give readers a quick, working understanding of interchangeable lenses. This is valuable for both beginners and seasoned shooters. Beginners will find lots of topics and terms they may not have heard of clearly explained. Knowledgeable photographers will find the book a solid reference for things they may have... [more] -Books: Lens and Lensbaby


October 22,2012- Lytro FirstThoughts...

We are the recipients of a lot of press releases. A few weeks ago, one announcing Lytro's update to its innovative Light Field camera caught our attention.

We first reported on Light Field tech in 2005. It is a cool technology, but it was confined to the lab. Since then, Yi-Ren Ng has successfully created a company (based on his research), commercialized the technology, and is trying to make money in the real world, so we thought it was time we gave our take on it. We believe that it is MISTAKE for Lytros to... [more] -Lytro FirstThoughts


October 16,2012- Meade ETX-90EC Autostar...

Buying a telescope is tricky. It is tempting to start off with an inexpensive telescope (say, a $50 one) to see if astronomy is a pursuit worth pursuing, but that is exactly the problem. A cheap telescope will do nothing but turn you off because they are not much good for star gazing. The photos on the side of the packaging of the planets, stars and galaxies are most certainly NOT what one would be likely to see with a low-priced scope. This is why we always steer readers away from most low-priced telescopes as they are typically not worth the money.

If you want a good telescope you can buy one retail, or you can do what the RainyDayScience team has been doing for that past few years and keep an eye out for high-end units on Astromart, EBay, or Craigslist. Astromart is the best source for hard-to-find quality astro items. The buyers and sellers are quite knowledgeable and the rating system is very trustworthy. EBay is great for accessories such as filters, eye pieces, and other more common items. For those interested in acquiring a telescope, Craigslist is the way to go. You get to see the equipment, check things out, and avoid having to... [more] -Meade ETX-90EC FirstLook


October 15,2012- Lensbaby Edge 80 FirstUse...

We took a FirstLook of the Lensbaby Edge 80 Optic last week and were eager to give it a FirstUse workout. Since we were heading to NYC for an event, we thought we would bring it along and see how it handled as a "street" lens. For us, "street photography" is about responding to the unstaged and unplanned scenes that unfold around us just by being out and about. Speed and flexibility are the two key things we want in our gear for those situations. It is why when we are shooting in the streets we do it with the Nikkor 50mm f1.8 lens. We like the Nikkor because it is light, fast, and gives us good depth-of-field control.

After this weekend's experience, we were blown away by the performance of the Lensbaby Composer Pro with the Edge 80 Optic. It is likely that it will replace the Nikkor 50mm and become our lens of choice for street photography! While the Edge 80 Optic is not as fast as the Nikkor 50mm, the Lensbaby's focus control enabled us to be so much more expressive, which allowed us to get so many more interesting shots. We have picked a few representative samples to... [more] -Lensbaby Edge 80 FirstUse


October 11,2012- Lensbaby Edge80...

Tilt and shift are two different types of selective focus techniques. Tilt is the angle of the lens plane relative to the image plane. It is used to control the orientation of the plane of focus, and hence the part of an image that appears sharp; it makes use of the Scheimpflug principle. Shift is the movement of the lens parallel to the image plane. It is helpful in avoiding the convergence of parallel lines, as when shooting tall buildings.

These selective focus techniques have been available to large-format photographers since the 30s. Because of their bellows construction, large-format cameras allow photographers to precisely control where to focus in the image by tilting and shifting the lens element. The same can be accomplished with a 35mm camera, but the lenses have always been cost-prohibitive. With the recent release of the Edge 80 Optic, that cost barrier has finally been... [more] -Lensbaby Edge80 FirstLook


October 5,2012- Mammoths and Mastodons...

The Museum Of Science's new exhibit, Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age, opens on Sunday October 7th. The RainyDayScience folks had a chance to preview the exhibit on Wednesday and came away impressed.

The Pleistocene Epoch spanned from 2,588,000 to about 10,000 years ago, which also marked the end of the last Ice Age. Discoveries made by British, American, and Soviet scientists and explorers have indicated that the last of an isolated population may have been living on Wrangel Island until as recent as 2500 BC.

Mammoths and mastodons were giant creatures of the Ice Age. These beasts weighed as much as 8 tons and had tusks reaching out 16-feet. As amazing as it was that these huge animals existed, it was even more amazing that they eventually became extinct. What is cool is they have... [more] - MOS: Mammoths and Mastodons


September 27,2012- New Kata Bags...

While there is an LCD on the back of most digital cameras, its small size limits its usefulness. So when laptops got smaller and lighter, photographers began bringing them along on the road. Being able to immediately check the quality of the shot is reason enough for photographers to add seven more pounds to their take-along gear.

Photo bag makers such as Kata noticed the trend and began adding a padded pocket, sized for a laptop, to some of their bags. That was a big help as it meant photographers no longer had to have a separate bag just for the laptop. Today, laptops have pretty much became standard equipment for photographers in the field. So it should come as no surprise that every one of Kata's new.. [more] - New Kata Bags


September 26,2012- Lensbaby Composer Pro...

The RainyDayPhotography folks have been Lensbaby enthusiats for years. Our first Lensbaby was the 3G. We added the Composer and the Scout lenses to our collection a few years later. We have used them extensively and have found that they offer creative options not available from anything else in our photographic bag of tricks. The only (small) quibble we have with our Lensbabies is with the manual "drop-in" process required to change apertures. It took us a while to get used to doing it, it interrupts the flow, and is not something we like doing in the field.

When Lensbaby announced that they had some new optics with adjustable apertures (Edge 80, Sweet 35), our ears peaked up. These new optics are part of the Lensbaby Optic Swap system. While our older Lensbaby 3G lens is not compatible with the system, newer lens like the Composer Pro are. The Composer Pro is based on the same ball and socket design as the... [more] - Lensbaby Composer Pro FirstLook


September 18,2012- Polarie Setup Videos...

At the start of the year we posted a few articles on Vixen's Polarie (FirstLook, Setup) and accessories. To make sure the Polarie was field-ready, we custom-fitted it with a waterproof carrying case. The first opportunity we got, we took the unit out for its FirstUse. It was out in the desert in Palm Springs and we got a few decent shots of Orion.

We learned a lot about the Polarie Star Tracker on that L.A. outing. Our main realization was that we could have used a bit more instruction on how to set up the Polarie. Setting up the Polarie wasn't difficult, but it has a few quirks and does require a bit of practice to get it right. It is best to... [more] - Polarie Setup Videos


September 12,2012- RDG Update...

Looking back over the years we came to realize that we have not done updates of the RainyDayGarden during July and August. We are not quite sure why, but we thought we would post one this year as the garden is extra lovely this Summer.

Things which are in full bloom during the hot days of August in the RainyDayGarden are the Cone Flowers (Echinacea purpurea), Black Eye Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), Butterfly Bushes (Buddleia davidii), and Passiflora (Passiflora incarnata). They do well because they are all very... [more] - RDG Update


September 6,2012 Ceiva Photo Frame

Digital photo frames have been around for a while. We love them because they are an easy way to both enjoy and share digital images. The photo frames we have around the office have been in constant operation for a few years. Recently, we noticed that the images on one of them looked a little "funny."

Upon closer inspection, it was clear that there was something wrong with the display. The images appeared to be heavily quantized (color, B&W, skin tone). The problem was especially prominent in sections where there should have been a smooth gradient of tones or color. The issue was clearly hardware related, as the original images retreived from the Ceiva server appeared clean. A support call to Ceiva did not resolve the problem (restarting/resetting the frame, reloading the photos, etc). However, as part of the annual Ceiva subscription, any... [more] - Ceiva Photo Frame


September 4,2012- Patriots Training Camp...

NFL Football Season 2012 is starting! The first regular season game is tomorrow (Cowboy vs Giants). It couldn't come soon enough for the folks here at RainyDayMagazine. Besides the Olympics, football is the only sporting event we pay attention to. Yes, we watch the World Series if the Red Sox are playing, we may watch some tennis or basketball, maybe even golf, but not with the interest we have for football.

At the beginning of August, we—along with a few thousand other Patriot fans—stopped by Gillette Stadium to check out the Patriots during training camp. It was a pretty sweltering day, but the heat clearly had no effect on the enthusiasm of New England fans for their team, as the stands were full. Many folks turned out just to see their team go through drills, plays, and other practice routines. Some were hoping for the chance to snag an autograph from their favorite... [more] - Patriots Training Camp


July 16,2012- Hummingbird at the FPZ...

We are trying to entice hummingbirds to the RainyDayGarden. A few weeks ago, we got a couple of beautiful glass feeders from our favorite garden-gear source, Gardener's Supply Company, and put them up. So far, no luck in spotting the little hummers. However, we are hopeful that our efforts will be rewarded now that the trumpet vines and cone flowers are in full bloom.

When we were at the Franklin Park Zoo in June, not all of the exhibits had opened. One of those was the Butterfly Landing. We have been meaning to go back to the FPZ to check it out. So when we heard that the FPZ had some hummingbirds nesting there, we dropped everything and... [more] - Hummingbird at the FPZ


July 11,2012- Nikkor 18-300mm Zoom FirstUse...

The FirstShots we took over the weekend gave a quick glimpse of what Nikon's new 18-300mm DX zoom is capable of out of the box. We wanted to see if this longer zoom could replace the trusty Nikkor 18-200mm "grab-n-go" lens. In order to do that, we really needed to take it out into the field and give a workout. We could have stayed in Boston, but the 90º+ weather made us think that the Cape would be a better choice. So Sunday afternoon, we packed up and head down to Chatham, aka The Elbow of the Cape.

The first place we tested out the new Nikkor was at a baseball game. If you live in the New England area and have not been to a Cape League game, you are missing out. The cost of a ticket? What tickets? The games are free!

We got there after the game started, but were still able to find seats closed to third base. It was around 6:30 when we sat down. The lights had not come on yet, but we knew that in order to freeze the action, we had better crank up the ASA. So all the images taken at the game were at ASA 3200. All of the shots were taken hand-held and with VR active. Here are some shots of the... [more] - Nikkor 18-300mm Zoom FirstUse


July 10,2012- Nikkor 18-300mm Zoom FirstShots...

We gave RainyDayPhotography readers a quick FirstLook of the brand new AFS-DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens yesterday. Today, we thought we would show some of the results we got when we mounted the lens on a D90 and pointed it out the window.

We are fully aware that every zoom lens is a compromise between a host of competing requirements. This lens is no exception. By understanding its sweet spots and boundaries, we should be able to use this new lens to its full potential. We hope to have a better understanding of what this new Nikkor lens is capable of over the next few months. In the mean time, click on any of the... [more] - Nikkor 18-300mm Zoom FirstShots


July 9,2012- Nikkor 18-300mm Zoom FirstLook...

When we purchased our first Nikon DX camera (D40), it came with an 18-55mm kit lens. Knowing that we would want to "reach out" further, we purchased a 55-200mm zoom in addition to the kit. We used that combo for a while, but when we upgraded the body to the D90, we knew we didn't want to be switching lenses when hiking about in the wild. So we bit the bullet and coughed up the cash for the 18-200mm DX Zoom. That turned out to be an excellent decision. We used that D90/18-200mm combo for almost three years. Granted, the 18-200mm zoom was nowhere as sharp as the 50mm 1.8 prime, nor could it reach out as far as the Sigma 50-500mm super-zoom, but the lens was so versatile for everyday shooting that it rarely came off of the D90.

In mid-June, Nikon announced that they would be releasing the AFS-DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR at the end of the month. As soon as we heard the announcement, we placed a pre-order for the lens on Amazon. The package showed up over the weekend. Knowing that RainyDayPhotography readers would want a FirstLook immediately, we thought... [more] -Nikkor 18-300mm Zoom FirstLook


July 5,2012- RDG Update: Cone Flowers...

On Tuesday we gave an update on the state of the RainyDayGarden, at the end of which we mentioned that the cone flowers are hardy perennial which can be a great addition to any garden. Apparently quite many readers agree.

Cone flowers, or Echinacea, is an herbaceous, drought-tolerant, perennial that grows to almost five feet in height. They are native to eastern and central North America and bloom from early to... [more] -RDG Update: Cone Flowers


July 3,2012- RDG Update: Day Lilies...

The RainyDayGarden made it through the second heat wave without a scratch. In fact, the plants have not been this healthy for many years. We think the reason is the large amount of rain we got at the end of May. It must have really helped to establish deep roots during the Spring growth spurt. Whether that was the reason or not, we are happy to sit back and enjoy the show.

Like many people, we got our starter clumsp of day lilies from friends and/or family. In our case, one of the editors got it from his dad (who has been growing them for over forty years). The scientific name for daylily is Hemerocallis. The Greek word Hemerocallis is derived from the words meaning "beauty" and "day." True to its name, each flower lasts only... [more] -RDG Update : Day Lilies


June 25,2012- Hampton Beach NH...

The heat wave that had been steaming up New England finally broke on Friday with some impressive thunderstorms across the area. When it cleared, we took it as a sign to go for a drive. A search for goings on within the 1-hour driving radius pointed us to the the 12th Annual Master Sand Sculpting Competition at Hampton Beach in New Hampshire. When we saw that, we knew we had found our RainyDayDestination for the weekend.

The Hampton Beach exit was just at the border between MA and NH and it took us exactly an hour to get there on Rt 95. The vibe at Hampton Beach is 1950s Summer resort town complete with old-time arcades, fried-clam shacks, and a boardwalk which went for miles. A perfect... [more] -Sand Sculpting Competition: Hampton Beach, NH


June 22,2012- Jardin plant supports...

The Northeast is currently in the grip of some seriously hot weather. According to the forecast, cooler air will be moving in soon and relief should be here before the weekend is over. Because of all the rain in April and May, the RainyDayGarden has been especially lush this year.

While we enjoy having a verdant garden, we minimize watering if at all possible. Someday we will put in a soaker-hose system, but that's a maybe-in-a-coupla-years project. In the mean time, when we do water, we do it early (7AM) and enough in order to promote deeper root growth, not surface spread. Many of the perennials are well established and quite... [more] -Jardin Plant Supports


June 21,2012- Hot Time Summer In The City...

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice, or the first day of Summer. Normally the Solstice is on the 21st, but due to astronomical weirdness, it was on the 20th this year. Anyway, the temperature went from a comfortable 75º the day before to a sweltering 98º in less than twelve hours. It was as if someone said "Summer is here" and threw a switch.

What better way to enjoy the heat than to wait in line to see and smell a plant which entices its pollinators by mimicking the scent of rotting flesh? Super hot day, the odor of decay, it's a "can't miss" combination! We are, of course, talking about the Amorphophallus Titanum, otherwise known as “Corpse Flower,” which recently bloomed at the... [more] -Hot Time Summer In The City


June 08,2012- RDG Update...

The RainyDayGarden is at its most lush at the beginning of June. The May rain, combined with the 70º day-time temperature, is a signal for many perennials to flower. The peonies blooms began to open up about a week ago.

The pink peonies have very large blooms and a heady fragrance. The blooms are so heavy that they tend to overwhelm the stems. We have them in flower cages, but cages can only do so much to hold things up. In order to enjoy the blooms, we typically bring them inside and display them. In water, the flowers can last for up to... [more]- RDG Update


June 4,2012- Franklin Park Zoo: Spring 2012...

We started our Urban Safari series on January 1st at the Franklin Park Zoo (FPZ). We went back in early March and again at the end of May. It was interesting to see how how the FPZ and the animals change over the course of Spring.

The FPZ is open year-round. Many of the animals have no issues with the colder New England weather. Those which do are moved to indoor facilities for the duration and emerge when the temperature becomes more moderate. Animals like the bustard can stay outside all winter as long as they've access to... [more]- FPZ: Spring


May 14,2012- Mid-May update...

Spring this year started out warmer but drier than usual (7" less than average). While the higher temperature gave everything a head start, some plants slowed due to the lack of rain. Some of the allium and quite a few of the tulips did not bloom this year. The precipitation finally came in the latter part of April and the beginning of May and are beginning to make up for some of the early deficit. When the rain came, everything "popped" at once.

One of the goals we have for the RainyDayGarden is to have something blooming at any given time. We have been doing pretty well. The ferns have already unfurled, the peonies have hundreds of... [more]- RDG Mid-May Update


May 11,2012- Brimfield Antique Show...

The Brimfield Antique Show got off to another wet start this year. The weather, while awesome for the plants in our garden, put quite a damper on the show's attendance. We had planned to check out the show on the first day, but the rain kept us away until today.

Having attended the Brimfield show for the past several years, we have found that getting to the show can be as much of a challenge as trying to see everything once you are at the show. The reason is that Brimfield is a small town and there is only one road into and out of it, so during the Antique Show, there can quite a backup at the Brimfield exit. After sitting in traffic last year, we thought it might be faster to go past Brimfield to Palmer and to get to... [more]- Brimfield Antique Show


May 2,2012- SEM in 3D...

While 3D TV programming and movies have not caught on as widely as the studios have hoped (OK...not at all), 3D itself has always been popular in areas where having the third dimension is helpful in one way or another. One area in which depth information can impart significant insight is in science.

When we hacked our Superfocus glasses so we could see Anna Kournikova in 3D, we did not anticipate that they would also be perfect for looking at all of the really cool 3D science stuff available on the Web, stuff like... [more] - SEM in 3D


April 30,2012- Gore Place: Waltham MA...

This past Saturday was kind of cool, but very sunny. After running some errands, we thought we would see if there was anything happening which would get us outside. A few years ago, we went to a Sheepshearing Festival in Waltham MA. As it turns out, the festival was on until 5 PM. The timing was perfect as it was just a little past noon and if we hurried and cleaned up, we could hop into the Boxster and be there with plenty of time remaining.

The festival was in full swing when we arrived. Parking was free (out in a big field) and there was plenty of it. The only drawback was there is only one entrance so there was a bit of a bottle-neck. As this was the 25th time for this particular festival, the organizers have worked out the logistics the best they could. They had cops directing traffic to ensured things kept flowing. We only had to wait a little bit before making our way onto the fair ground. Next year, to avoid the congestion, we may park at one of the auxiliary lots and... [more] - Gore Place: Waltham MA


April 25,2012- BPG in the Spring...

Boston is a beautiful city any time (Spring, Fall), but there is something extra special about it in the Spring. The rain last weekend had things blooming everywhere. We intended to go back to the Arboretum to see what else had popped, but instead went down to the Boston Public Garden (BPG) and said "Hi" to the ducklings.

The Boston Public Garden, America's first public botanical garden, was established in 1837. The design (lots of color, showy blooms, etc) was heavily influenced by the Victorian style of gardening. The garden's large series of formal plantings and the lagoon are maintained by... [more] - Boston Public Garden in the Spring


April 24,2012- After The Rain...

Some areas of the East Coast got hammered by the weather over the weekend, but the few inches of rain that fell in New England was much needed and very welcomed. In the RainyDayGarden, plants such as the wisteria and the Japanese Maple responded enthusiastically.

We were hoping to take advantage of the early Spring and get some of the seedlings into the ground earlier this year, but the lack of rain had us worried. While the basil seedlings are still quite small, the bean sprouts will be ready to go into the ground in another week or so. We have been... [more] - After The Rain


April 18,2012- Spring At The Arboretum...

The Arnold Arboretum is a fantastic place to visit any time of the year (Spring, Fall, Winter). However, if we could only go once a year, then Spring would be it. While the colors of Fall at the Arboretum are spectacular, somehow we would still prefer the blooms of Spring.

We stopped by today to see how things were going and got quite a surprise. We knew the plants at the RainyDayGarden were a few weeks early this year, but the effect was entirely different at the Arnold Arboretum. Plants currently flowering are the magnolias, cherries, forsythia, early azaleas, redbud, Japanese andromeda, and many more. Go here for an interactive map of... [more] - Spring At The Arboretum


April 17,2012- Macro In The Garden...

The weather forecast for Marathon Monday was spot on: the mercury climbed to over 80º. While the steamy temperature was a challenge for the marathoners, the plants in the RainyDayGarden loved it.

The heat sped everything up. The daffodils, which had been blooming, perked up. The yellow tulips, which hadn't even turned yellow the day before, started to bloom. Even some of the irises got into the action. We took advantage got in some practice on shooting close-ups and... [more] -Macro In The Garden


April 13,2012- RDG Update...

A month ago the temperature hit 80º+, but like any aberration, it returned to the seasonal norm quickly enough. Those few days of warm weather in March jump-started all of the perennials in the RainyDayGarden and everything is about two weeks ahead of schedule. The only thing still lagging is the rain. Currently, the rain gauge is registering about 7" less than what should have fallen by now. Fortunately, a little bit of rain (and hail!) finally showed up yesterday. The plants really needed it as they were pretty parched!

Plants like the daffodils have been blooming since the end of March. A few tulips are starting to show some color and we expect to see one open in the next day or so, especially if the 75º forecast for... [more] -Mid-Spring Update


April 11,2012- SKB/Vixen Installation...

Yesterday, we took a FirstLook at the waterproof case from SKB. Today, we will show how simple it was to create a custom-fit insert using the Pick-n-Pluck foam that came with the case, for the two pieces of Vixen equipment we want to protect.

We had to decide how best to layout the pieces inside the case. We removed two of the three foam layers so we could better understand how depth played in the layout. We worked through the various combinations to see what would work best. Things to consider are the space between the pieces and whether the items would bang against each other if... [more] -SKB/Vixen Installation


April 10,2012- SKB i-Series Waterproof Case...

When we took the Vixen Polarie mount and the Polar axis scope to L.A., it was easy enough to pack it in the carry-on case. That got us to thinking that we should get a dedicated case to protect the mount and the polar scope for when we use it in the wild. There are a couple of well known makers (Pelican, Storm, Otterbox) of ruggedized cases suitable for such a situation. We have looked at many of them in the past, and normally we would have gone with something from one of them. However, a while back a reader told us about a company called SKB after reading our DIY article about retrofitting a Pelican case. We had never heard of SKB, so we investigated.

SKB got its start in 1977 making guitar cases in a small garage in Anaheim, California. Today, SKB is a leader in the design and manufacture of molded polymer cases that are used in a wide range of... [more] -SKB iSeries Waterproof Case


April 9,2012- NYIAS 2012: Pure Electric Vehicles...

One thing is certain, oil is a finite resource and one day it will be gone. With $10/gallon gas possibly in our future, electric-powered vehicle's time may come sooner rather than later. Car makers have been demo-ing pure electric-powered vehicles (PEVs) at NYIAS for many years and show goers have been teased with futuristic concept cars and prototypes, but none of them were available to the consumers. Last year, a few (Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt) companies finally began selling models which can actually purchased.

While each generation of e-car has seen significant improvements in battery life and driving range, there are still many issues (cost, refueling time, etc) to be addressed. As the majority of commuters drive less than 50 miles total each day, electric cars builder such as Ford have made the 100-mile range their... [more] -NYIAS 201: Electric Vehicles


April 5,2012- NYIAS 2012: Porsche Boxster...

The Boxster (Type:986) was introduced to the world in 1997. Even though the Boxster is an entry-level Porsche, it was a chance for Porsche engineers to start with a clean slate. What emerged was a two-seater sports car suitable for year-round driving, even in New England. In the intervening fifteen years, this affordable Porsche has developed a large and devoted following. There are car clubs and online forums (986, PedrosBoard) dedicated to the mid-engine roadster. The appeal is understandable. The Boxster is great looking, well-engineered, and incredibly fun to drive. We have had ours for over 10 years and can't imagine driving anything else.

The Boxster has seen a couple of significant updates since its introduction. The first (Type: 987) was back in 2005. With a bigger engine and some cosmetic and mechanical refinements, the 987 addressed some of the requests and lessons learned from the 986. A more powerful engine gave the car more snap off the line and agility when maneuvering. At the start of 2012, Porsche unveiled the next generation of Boxster (Type: 981). This time around, Porsche went... [more] -NYIAS 201: Electric Vehicles


April 4,2012- NYIAS 2012...

The RainyDayGarage folks make the trek to NYC every year for the New York International Auto Show (NYIAC). While the show does not open to the public until Friday, they drove down on Tuesday to catch the two-day press-only event.

Attending Press Day is a much more enjoyable way to see the show for a couple of reasons. First, as the show hasn't officially opened, there is no wait to get inside, and once you do, the floor traffic is very light. Second, the vendors are... [more] -NYIAS 2012


April 2,2012- Kata TLB-300 PL...

Shooting with a long zoom or telephoto lens is a challenging task, but the dramatic photos (hawk, tiger, peacock) you get are often worth the effort. The problem is that a good lens in the 300mm range or longer tends to be big, heavy, and unwieldy. Bringing one along on a hike is not something one would want to do...until now. The folks at Kata Bags (our favorite camera bag company) have designed a few backpacks (TLB-300 PL, TLB-600 PL) specifically for photographers who wish they could take their monster lens with them on their treks.

Today we are going to take a FirstLook at the Kata TLB-300 PL. The TLB-300 PL is a special purpose bag designed to safely transport a long telephoto lens with a body attached. Like other Kata bags built to carry large camera equipment, this bag is well padded and offers substantial protection for the gear inside it. However, unlike those bags, this one was designed as a backpack. Similar to a large backpack, this backpack has an internal frame, comfortable shoulder straps, and a waist belt. Unlike a large camping backpack, this unit is not a... [more] -Kata TLB-300 PL FirstLook


March 19,2012- What would get us to upgrade?

After two years of phenomenal sales and every skeptic being roundly embarrassed for dismissing the iPad, we think it is safe to say the tablet is here to stay. While we don't think that iPad sales have peaked, we do believe that the basic hardware feature set (multi-touch screen, camera, WiFi, etc.) is starting to stabilize. Not seeing any "must-have" features, we were not surprised to find ourselves holding back and not immediately upgrading to the iPad 3. Instead, we asked the question "What would get us to upgrade?"

Some may remember our attempt at building a directly-on-screen pressure-sensitive tablets back in 2008. We had some success, but the display's lack of brightness finally made us realize that if we really wanted such a tablet, we needed to... [more] -What would get us to upgrade?


March 16,2012- WHAT? Not upgrading?...

Those who read RainyDayMagazine frequently know that we have been huge cheerleaders for the iPad since Day 1. Also, you will not find a more fervent group of Apple fans out there than those here at RainyDayMagazine. Some of us can trace our Apple roots back to the 128K Mac days where we performed 512K RAM upgrades to make our own "Fat Macs." So it was SHOCKING to some when they heard that we have decided not to upgrade to the iPad3. Don't get us wrong, we have nothing against the new iPad. It IS the best tablet on the planet today.

We ordered the original iPad sight-unseen, then upgraded from the original to the iPad 2 when Apple added a camera to the tablet. Physically the iPad 2 was different than the original iPad and we needed it to test the new accessories. Those two reasons justified our last iPad upgrade. While this new iPad 3 may have an... [more] -What? Not upgrading?


March 15,2012- Spring Already?...

How different this Winter was from that of a year ago! We hardly had any snow this season. Coupled with the unseasonably warm weather the past week, and things in the RainyDayGarden really got kicked into gear. The growth in the garden is probably a week or more ahead of schedule.

The dwarf irises and crocuses have been out since the end of February. The tulips, day lillies, and even the peonies have poked through the ground. In fact, this is the earliest we we can recall the... [more] -Spring Already?


March 14,2012- Rocky Nook: Fuji X100...

Digital cameras have improved quite a bit over the years. Their sensors have increased in resolution, shutter lag has all been but eliminated, and low-light sensitivity has improved to a point where it may actually be better than film. With all of these advancements, one would think that a digital camera would be unrecognizable compared to the cameras of yesteryear. However, the truth is oddly the opposite. The fact is, today's camera designers have taken stylistic cues from the past and modeled digital cameras to look and feel much like rangefinders (minus the LCD screen and a few discretely place LEDs) from decades ago.

We are, of course, referring to the Fuji FinePix X100. When this camera was unveiled at Photokina 2010, it took the show and the photographic world by surprise. The Fuji X100 became an instant classic. By all accounts, the camera is a masterful piece of work. It was crafted out of... [more] -Rocky Nook:Mastering the Fuji X100


March 12,2012- RISD: Paper Buffet...

In 2008, we dropped Sarah, our RainyDayIntern, off at RISD. Sarah will be completing her studies this year. Last Thursday was the opening of Paper Buffet, RISD's Graphic Design Senior Show. We thought it was time for us to check in and see how she has fared.

The show was an opportunity for the seniors to showcase some of their work from the past four years. Kristin, Sarah's mom, flew in from L.A. for the occasion, but kept it a surprise. Both the show and the... [more] -RISD: Paper Buffet


March 9,2012- Boston ICA...

Boston has an incredible waterfront, but amazingly has never really been developed. One of the reasosn was that the Central Artery (Rt 93) had cut off the waterfront from the rest of the city. In 2003, the roadway was demolished and moved underground as part of the huge Big Dig project. This change has spurred all kinds of development in that part of Boston.

The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) was the recipient of the waterfront site for a "museum that would be the cultural cornerstone of the waterfront." The ICA broke ground on Fan Pier in September 2004 and on December 10, 2006 opened the first new art museum in Boston in nearly... [more] -Visit to the ICA


March 7,2012- MFA: Seeking Shambhala...

In 1933, British author James Hilton wrote in Lost Horizon about a place of peace and happiness. This place, where the inhabitants were isolated from the ills of the world, was called "Shangri-la." Some have equated Hilton's "Shangri-la." with the mythical Tibetan Buddhist kingdom of Shambhala. Is "Shangri-la" or Shambhala a real place or just a state of mind? Some would argue that there is no difference. Regardless of one's personal view, visitors will enjoy MFA's new exhibit, Seeking Shambhala, an extraordinary look at the spiritual search of this mythical place.

The exhibition features more than 60 objects primarily from the MFA's collection, which has one of the largest sets of Shambhala kings paintings outside of Asia. Complementing these ancient paintings are... [more] -MFA: Seeking Shambhala


March 6,2012- Vixen Polarie Setup...

When we went out to L.A., we took with us the Vixen Polarie on the chance that we would have an opportunity to give the Star Tracker a try. For expediency sake, we decided to leave the Velbon tripod at home. That was a mistake.

The problem was the tripod we had in L.A. was not as sturdy as we would have liked. Also, trying to set things up with just one ball joint was a lot more difficult than we expected. We did manage to get some usable shots, but we would have done a lot better had we... [more] -Vixen Polarie Setup


March 5,2012- Drumlin Farm...

We have visited a few Mass Audubon sanctuaries (BNC, Blue Hills, etc...), but have never been to Drumlin Farm. Recently, we popped in for a look and were quite happy we did. Drumlin Farm is Mass Audubon’s flagship sanctuary, containing 232 acres of fields, forests, and ponds. The property features a sustainable working farm and a display of wildlife native to New England. The farm has a full-time staff of 25 people, in addition to 90+ seasonal teacher/naturalists, camp counselors, and farm apprentices. It is the only facility of its kind in the Greater Boston area.

The farm was established in the early 1900s by Louise Gordon Hatheway and her family. The family maintained a working farm and invited city children to visit and learn about farm life. In the mid-1950s, as farms close to Boston began disappearing, Mrs. Hatheway was inspired to... [more] -Urban Safari: Drumlin Farm


February 29,2012- L.A. Visit: Day 6...

In 1970, several trustees of the Palm Springs Desert Museum foresaw the impact that resort development would have on the local desert ecosystem. They created The Living Desert to educate the public and to promote the value of desert conservation. Since check-in at the Rancho Las Palmas resort was not until the late afternoon, Kristin thought it would be fun to drop in for a look.

The place is huge, with numerous exhibits, talks, and staff to help visitors appreciate the variety of plants and animals which call the desert their home. The Living Desert is more than just a zoo. It is active in programs to help desert animals andd... [more] - L.A. Visit: The Living Desert


February 27,2012- L.A. Visit: Day 4...

Knowing that we were in L.A., a few readers suggested we check out the Griffith Observatory. Of course, Kristin had already scheduled us for a visit as Saturday was the date for this month's star party.

The public star parties are held monthly with the assistance of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society and the Los Angeles Sidewalk Astronomers. These parties are a great opportunity for those interested to look at the sun, moon, visible planets, and other celestial objects. It is also a perfect chance to... [more] - L.A. Visit: Griffith Observatory


February 24,2012- L.A. Visit: Day 3...

After a couple days of garden tours, we were ready for something different. What better contrast can there be than a visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)? LACMA is located in central Los Angeles, midway between downtown and Santa Monica. Even though we have been to L.A. quite a few times, we have not had the pleasure of a visit. This trip, we made sure and scheduled time for a look.

With over 100,000 objects dating from ancient times to the present, LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States. LACMA's seven-building complex is located on twenty acres in the heart of Los Angeles, halfway between the ocean and downtown. We knew we would not be able to... [more] - L.A. Visit: Day 3


February 23,2012- L.A. Visit: Day 2...

It is the second day of our week in L.A. We thought we had slept in, but it was only 5 A.M. when we were dressed and ready. To slow us down and help shift our clocks, we decided to stretch the day out (meaning: no naps) and stay up later into the night. Spent most of the day in the L.A. County Arboretum and Botanical Garden. The L.A. Arboretum is a historical site jointly operated by the Los Angeles Arboretum Foundation and the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, and is located in the city of Arcadia.

Visitors to the 127 acre acre botanical garden are often greeted by the free-roaming peafowls. Our visit was no exception. We were greeted by a very friendly peacock. Peafowl, Pavo cristatus, were introduced to the botanical garden by Lucky Baldwin in the late 1800's. Apparently, they were well suited to the garden, as they have thrived. Only the colorful males of... [more] - Urban Safari: L.A. Arboretum and Botanical Garden


February 22,2012- L.A. Visit: Day 1...

Every year around this time we get the urge to visit our RainyDayLA office. It may be that we miss our friends out West, but it may also have something to do with the New England weather. The fact that it has been unseasonably warm in Boston this Winter did not diminish our enthusiasm for the trip! When we left Boston, the temperature was gray, cool, and in the mid-40s. A nap, a few movies, and six hours later, we stepped out into the warm, sunny, if a bit hazy L.A. As always, our host Kristin has assembed various fun and interesting activities and food options for every day of our visit :-) This time her "suggestions folder" was almost an inch thick!

After a quick bite, we headed out to our first destination: South Coast Botanical Garden. It was only six miles away from where we were staying, but L.A. traffic being what it was, it took us... [more] - L.A. Visit: Day 1


February 9,2012- Kata MiniBee Camera packs...

Kata introduced the Bumblebee Ultra-Light backpack in April, 2010. The pack was an instant hit and won the prestigious 2010 reddot Design Award. Inspired by the success, Kata resized the bag for those who wanted the features of the Bumblebee, but in a more nimble package. The results are the Minibee UL-111 and Minibee PL-120.

Like the Bumblebee, these new backpacks leverage Kata's innovative use of technology, materials, and design to give lightweight protection without sacrificing comfort (padded straps, air space between the body and pack) or durability (rigid metal frame). Both bags come with... [more] - Kata MiniBee: FirstLook


February 8,2012- Vixen Polar Axis Scope...

In early January we posted a FirstLook of the Vixen Polarie Star Tracker. As astrophotography is still a bit of a niche hobby, the number of questions we got about it were surprising. We took it as a good sign for Vixen, as they clearly have tapped into a market with some pent-up desires. As a result of the Star Tracker review, some readers asked us about Vixen's Polar Axis Scope accessory as well. We took a look and found the Scope to be of a much higher quality than others we have seen. Interested readers may appreciate this opportunity for a closer inspection of the scope.

When taking photos of stars, long exposures are often required. When an exposure is longer than a few seconds, the rotation of the Earth will result in the capture of streaks of light instead of points of light. The arcs created by these "star trails" have been used to great artistic effect by numerous astrophotographers. However, those who WANT to capture pin-sharp photos of stars have to compensate for the Earth's rotation by using a... [more] - Vixen Polar Axis Scope: FirstLook


February 6,2012- Urban Safari: The Stone Zoo...

A Zoo New England embership has many benefits, one of which is free admission to both the Franklin Park and Stone zoos (ours were purchased after our visit to the Franklin Park Zoo in early January). So while most New Englanders were getting ready to watch the Super Bowl, we visited the Stone Zoo. Stone Zoo, founded in 1905 as the Middlesex Fells Zoo, is located on a 26-acre site next the Spot Pond Reservoir in Stoneham, MA.

Both the Stone Zoo and the Franklin Park Zoo are managed by the non-profit corporation Zoo New England. Zoo New England is a participatant in the Species Survival Plans (SSP) for several of their animals. SSP started in 1981 as a means for zoos and aquariums to... [more] - Urban Safari: The Stone Zoo


January 17,2012- Epson WiFi printer...

Buying a new computer these day more often than not also gets you a free printer. We already have a nice photo printer, so we typically just sell them on Craigslist or give them to one of the interns. Another reason why we don't keep them is because most inexpensive printers do not use individual ink cartridges. When one ink color runs out, the entire cartridge must be replaced. We find the approach both expensive and wasteful, so we avoid using printers which require those all-in-one cartridges. Apparently we are not the only ones who felt that way and printer makers have adjusted their offerings.

Recently, we acquired a printer (Epson NX420) which not only uses individual ink cartridges, but is also a scanner/copier, is WiFi accessible, and only costs around $50! With all the iPhones and iPads around the office, we had been thinking it would be convenient to have a WiFi-capable printer on the network. So we decided to set up the Epson NX420 and... [more] - Epson NX420 WiFi Printer FirstLook


January 16,2012- Snow on bamboo...

Winter has finally arrived in New England. The temperature scraped the low teens for a few days last week, and even dipped into the single digits over the weekend. To the delight of commuters and the dismay of skiers, snow has not made much of an appearance (discounting the freak October storm) except for some light dustings.

A few days ago, we woke up to such a dusting and mananged to grab a few quick snaps before the sun got high enough in the sky to make it all disappear. The one downside of taking shots so early was we could not get any pics with the new glass feeders sparkling in the sunlight. We had mentioned these glass feeders from the Gardener's Supply Company in the 2011 Holiday Gift Guide. The Crackle Glass and Moon feeders are designed to... [more] - Moon and Crackle Glass Birdfeeder


January 10,2012- Boston Nature Center...

The first in the series of Urban Safari got quite a nice response and a lot of excellent suggestions on other locations. One of those suggestions was the Boston Nature Center (BNC) in Mattapan. As with the Franklin Park Zoo, this wildlife sanctuary is just a few miles from the RainyDayMagazine office. While we are frequent visitos to the BNC in the Spring and the Fall, we have never been there during the Winter months.

With the weather being unseasonably warm this January, it felt more like a day in late Fall than the middle of Winter on our visit. We arrived fairly early. The Nature Center building was not yet open and the grounds were very quiet. This urban sanctuary was built on the grounds of the... [more] - Urban Safari: Boston Nature Center


January 4,2012- Vixen Polarie FirstLook...

Last Spring we attended our first Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) conference (Day1, Day2, Day3). The conference is an annual gathering of astronomy enthusiats and vendors from around the world. We got a first-hand look at some amazing astro gear, met a lot of great folks, and had the best time at a conference in a long time. One of the nice folks we met was Kensuke Kazama from Vixen. He showed us one of the most intriquing devices at the show. Mixed among their many fine optics on display was a prototype of a small device called the Polarie. We would have missed it had it not been for Kensuke. The Polarie is a pocket-size motorized camera mount designed specifically for wide-field astro-photography.

Astro-photography used to be a highly specialized niche of astronomy. The main reason wasthat in order to get acceptable images one had to have a combination of sophisticated hardware (scope, camera, tripod), expert knowledge, and patience, lots of patience. With the switch to digital photography and the availability of sophisticated astronomy software, the cost/time of experimentation and the expertise required dropped dramtically. Vixen recognized this trend and... [more] - Vixen Polarie FirstLook


January 3,2012- DomeSkin FirstLook...

Some of you may have received shiny new gadgets as presents during the holidays and may be wondering how best to protect them from the bumps and bruises of everyday use. The choices are extensive and may be sorted into three basic types: skins, covers, and cases. Over the years, we have found good ones in all the different categories. Cases offer the best protection (Otterbox, LifeProof) and are especially suitable for those who tend to drop their gadgets. Covers give scratch and bump protection, but may not protect a device from a fall. Skins are thin but the tradeoff is that they only help prevent scratches and are completely useless if the gadget goes flying.

We use cases and covers on occassion, but have to say that skins are our preference. Gadget designers spent a lot effort to make the gadget svelt. It seems a shame to bulk it up with a case unnecessarily. For everyday use, we either go "commando" or protect the screen with a... [more] - DomeSkin FirstLook


January 2,2012- Urban Safari:Franklin Park Zoo...

The Franklin Park Zoo is just a few miles from the RainyDayMagazine office, yet in all the years we have been in Boston we have never been there. So over the Holiday break, we dropped by for a visit (basically because somebody in the office was a little disappointed---yet again--that she didn't get a pony for Chrismas and insisted on an animal interaction nonetheless). We were not sure what to expect, but what we saw amazed us. Right in the middle of Boston were numerous exotic animal species from around the world! We were so impressed that we decided to lead off the new year with an "urban safari" to this wonderful city zoo.

The Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and Stone Zoo in Stoneham (Massachusetts) make up the non-profit corporation, Zoo New England. If you want to avoid the crowds and spend some quality time with the animals, get there early (and not during school vacation). We arrived right when the... [more] - Urban Safari: Franklin Park Zoo



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