Mark my words: at 6 PM PST on 02May2005 while listening to Liz Phair’s Shitloads of Money, Something Very Bad just happened to the life of Michael Paul Bibik Junior. I’m not sure what, but I felt it and boy did it feel weird. I can best describe it as “Well, shucks, that’s horrible, but there is abso-f’ing-lutely nothing I can do about it so I might as well finish this Diet Coke and end my work day.”

I only have 30 minutes of internet time a day and only 30kbps to boot, so here’s a quick update. Here are the pictures from our first day in Puerto Rico!

Now that I have gotten a little bit better with photography, I have started looking for solutions to some of the problems I have come across. One of the major problems is getting the exposure right on a scene with a broad range of lighting. A good example of this would be an area in bright light and an area in shade, a landscape toward the sun or indoors with a lighted window. The average camera can only process so much contrast and is definitely not as good as the human eye.

The more I investigated this issue, the more I uncovered and ultimately found out that improving this is called dynamic range. The solutions all require more than one picture. This limitation removes many possible subjects, especially moving subjects. The basic technique is to take a picture that properly exposes the dark areas then take a picture that properly exposes the light areas without moving the camera. Basically, this should not be attempted without a tripod as the slightest movement will cause items in the frame to move, removing the ability to overlap the correctly exposed dark areas with the correctly exposed light areas.

The combination techniques work for just about any image editing software. The two basic techniques are to either cut and paste the correctly exposed light areas over the dark exposure or to paste the entire light scene over the dark scene and use transparency on both exposures to average out to a good picture. There are tools out there to do this automatically: Fred Miranda DRI Pro Plugin uses the selective cut and paste technique and Bill’s Dynamic Range Action uses the transparency blending technique.

I decided to test both out. Bill’s is free and Fred’s was $20. $20 is a small price to pay to perform this analysis for my faithful readers! All three of you. My test subject was a landscape with a very dark foreground and a very strong light source in the background, the sun. I will perform a more reasonable test at a later date. Here is the series of images I took to get a baseline:

So as you can see, this is an extreme example. Even at the quickest shutter speed, the area around the sun still just shows up as pure white. At slower speeds, the light of the sun streaks into the darker foreground. I know I will not get a good picture out of this set but it will give a good idea of the technique.

These tools take two images as input and give you a single image as output. I started out with two relatively extreme images:

Here are the results:

Program Adjustments Image
Bill’s Dynamic Range None
Bill’s Dynamic Range Levels
FM DRI Levels

Both programs created completely unreasonable shots as the sun basically looks like an exploding nuclear bomb. Additionally, the FM DRI plugin created a band of near-white all long the top of the image. Unacceptable.

I decided to move on to more moderate images:

Here are the results:

Program Adjustments Image
Bill’s Dynamic Range None

Both shots are much more reasonable. The sun isn’t completely blown out and everything is visible. The FM plugin did not cause a band of white this time. As for which result is better, the FM kept more of the blown highlights while Bill’s has better overall range. This round goes to Bill again..

For a final test, I did a merge of five different images:

Here are the results:

Program Adjustments Image
Bill’s Dynamic Range None
Bill’s Dynamic Range Levels
FM DRI Levels

Again, FM has blown out the highlights. The rest of the image is quite comparable to Bills.

So, what is my final conclusion? The direct comparisons between FM DRI and Bill’s Dynamic range for each technique have shown Bill’s to be better, FOR THIS EXAMPLE. I will do a test with a more reasonable baseline later. Which technique is best? Obviously the high/low merge is out of the running. The highlights are blown and the overall tone is still of very bright highlights and underexposed foregrounds. Between the mid merge and the five image merge, the five image merge is brighter overall without removing information from the highlights. It is about five times as much work with Photoshop, but it’s only about 2 extra minutes. It also requires additional images, but if you have taken the time to setup a tripod, taking five pictures versus taking two pictures is practically no additional work.

The bottom line is, use Bill’s FREE Dynamic Range Action with more than two images to produce the best results!

Yeah, just a bit too depressed to post. Give me a few minutes.

So my work laptop has been crapping out for the past month or so. The first event was when the trackpoint (or as I lovingly call it, the track nipple) started acting up. Left/right movement was fine, but I could not move down and clicking would cause the pointer to jump down about 10% of the screen. That made navigating Windows quite difficult. The laptop had both a track nipple and a trackpad, so I just switched to the pad. Eventually, the pad started acting up so I started using a USB mouse. That made using the laptop anywhere but a desk difficult but was sufficient. Eventually, even that started acting up!

I called the helpdesk and they opened a Priority 1 request. 24 hours later, someone checked out the laptop and decided that it needed to be repaired. Whenever a major repair is needed, they try to find a hotswap. They take a different laptop, switch out the hard drive and any other drives and give that to you. The helpdesk guy said it would be upwards of three days but he would try to find one in fairly good shape.

Just a few hours later, he called and brought over a brand new laptop! It was the exact same model so I didn’t get an upgrade, but my old one had a worn out LCD hinge, it was fairly dirty and lots of the trim was worn off. Today was a good day.

So, do you remember how I backed into some construction equipment that was carelessly left behind my driveway? No? Here’s a picture:

I finally decided to look into getting this fixed. Since it is a plastic bumper that was ripped all the way through, I knew it couldn’t be patched and would have to be replaced. Given an estimate of $428.17 for JUST THE BUMPER COVER, I knew the final estimate to have it painted and installed was going to be painful. The final total: $922.08. My response: “F U, good day, sir!”

The breakdown of the price is as follows:

  • Rear bumper cover: $428.17
  • Rear grill: $51.83
  • Paint: $89.70
  • Flex additive: $6
  • 5.8 hours of work @ $46/hr: $266.80
  • Tax: $79.58

I looked around and I found the SVT rear bumper cover and grill for $312.50. If I just have them paint the bumper cover, it looks like I can drop the price to just the paint, flex additive and 3.9 hours of labor for a total of $299.31. Including the price of the bumper cover and grill and this is easily over $600. I may just end up having insurance cover this and paying the damned $500 deductible.

Given the five paint choices and the two wheel choices for 2005, I would rank them as such:

  1. Black/Silver
  2. Blue/Gold
  3. Black/Gold
  4. Blue/Silver
  5. White/Gold
  6. White/Silver
  7. Dark Silver/Silver
  8. Silver/Silver
  9. Dark Silver/Gold
  10. Silver/Gold

Back in 2004, I believe I would have placed Black/Gold at the top since the Black paint had so much gold metallic to it.

Whoa, it’s 3:20 PM and I still haven’t posted this. The horns are mounted, wired and working! I purchased those damn things on 10Oct2004 so that means it took me 163 days to install them! I should do a full write up so you can all laugh at my lack of expertise and tools. Come on, specifically buying a 2×6 for use as a workbench/vise? Pathetic.

BMW 6 Series rice. Expensive rice, but still, unbelieveable.