Sunday, April 28, 2019

eBay lighting setup

Ebay pictures are a special case of photography.  As a buyer, I want clarity over artistry.  As a seller, I want to give buyers what they want with pictures that are flattering but don't hide significant flaws, and I want to do that quickly.   Note, this also applies for documenting my collection.

My setup evolved, and I might do it a bit differently if I were starting from scratch or had different sources to scrounge from.  I started with a cheap light tent that my wife found at a big box store, when I was mostly photographing watches.  This could be easily replicated with some sheer white cloth and a PVC or wire frame.  It came with lights, but they were inconvenient to set up in a way that gave the light I wanted, and the official  background cloth that came with the kit was usually wrinkled enough to show in pictures.

I tried various different backgrounds--smooth cloth, fuzzy cloth, cloth draped on its own, cloth glued to plastic sheet, cloth glued to posterboard.  Wasn't happy with any of them.  My current setup is a piece of blue posterboard.  Doesn't look great in person, looks fine in photos.  The downside is that it gets dirty easily.  I'm going to experiment with coating the next one in clear spray on finish. To get the corner curve the way I wanted, I cut open a couple of steel food cans, then cut each can into 1/4 of a cylinder and glued the posterboard to the inside radius of the cans.  The cans make a small radius without creasing, giving more useful space in the tent.  I like blue, but no matter what color I chose it would be a fairly medium shade so it doesn't require compensation in metering.  (This is especially true if your subject is relatively small,

With my old DSLR,  it was hard to get low noise and enough depth of field while handholding with the lights I was using. For a while my solution to that was to borrow my wife's mid-grade point and shoot--its small sensor gave more depth of field at acceptable visual noise levels.   Eventually I covered 3 sheets of foam core board (craft section of Walmart) in LED strips from Amazon.  The sides were about 40% covered, the top as close to 100% as I could manage.  This gives ample light for even my old DSLR.  The lights are powered from a 12v power brick from a thrift store.   (Side note--a new mid-grade DSLR has less noise than a 10 year old entry level)

The rest of the setup is not as necessary, but nice additions with stuff that I had already.  The whole thing sits on a piece of 3/4 plywood bolted to an industrial super heavy duty tripod, probably a speaker stand. This lets me adjust the height while taking up minimal space.  I had an old darkroom enlarger timer in my collection, I've started using it to control the lights--push of the button and the lights go on for about 45 seconds, then the timer resets itself automatically. 





Saturday, January 26, 2019

Photo Eaze dental camera

"The PHOTO EAZE CAMERA will permit an inexperienced operator to obtain professional results of the most difficult photographic areas or cavities of the body."  From the instruction manual that came with this camera....apparently despite its cobbled together appearance, this was a commercial product from a real company made for multiple decades, and the typewritten paper labels and blobs of paint are original to the camera.  The handwritten label on the side of the base appears to be from a previous owner.   (Click pictures to enlarge)


I think this particular camera is from around 1989.   The camera body is a Yashica FX-3 Super 2000, which was introduced in 1986.  One of the accessories is wrapped in newspaper from 1989 and held with masking tape, the handwriting matches the other notes, and other images of Photo Eaze cameras show similar wrapping and handwriting on a different camera.

The lens mount has been removed and a bellows permanently attached with phillips screws.  Lens is a Russian Heilos 44-2, possibly from a rangefinder--a very inexpensive lens, but likely adequate for the purpose.  A collar with a pointer is attached to the aperture ring of the lens, this points to an odd glossy label with numbers that do not correspond to normal F stops.  The mounting screw for the collar runs into a painted over blob, this appears to be deliberately preventing setting the aperture wide open.  Since this lens does not have a typical SLR auto aperture, the viewfinder ranges from slightly dim to very dark depending on the aperture setting.   There is a flash tube on either side of the lens in grey painted cylinders, the lens assembly and front of the bellows appear to be coated in the same grey paint.  The flash lenses were not well masked when built, there are spots of paint on them.  There are wires soldered to the hot shoe on top that lead into the base.  Several places on the camera have hand-painted spots calling out controls, and there's some plastic hacked away to allow easier access to the film rewind button.

The camera, bellows and flash tubes are mounted to a roughly cast platform connected to an aluminum hobbyist project box by a pistol grip.  There's a mount for a cable release in the pistol grip.  The box has a switch, a hole with a small neon tube and a rectangular light, plus an assortment of typed paper labels. On the front is a Photo Ease MFG logo that appears to have been cut from letterhead paper, complete with a phone number starting with YU-2. (elsewhere that's YUkon-2.  The address currently houses a small copy shop in New York City.


 Power cord is to the rear, the bottom has a grey PVC bottom held by 6 sheet metal screws.  Under that cover is a tangle of wires and components wrapped in paper masking tape.  The ground wire is just jammed into a corner of the box, held by the plastic bottom.  I'm guessing not UL listed...

The camera came with a fairly flimsy fiberboard case
with some bare wood blocks attached, and an assortment of rods.  Most of the rods have a frame at the end with dots of paint near the corners to indicate the picture area, one has a platform.  According to the instructions most of the frames are placed even with the part you are trying to photograph.  This will push the camera back on the bellows  by the proper amount to focus at the appropriate distance for that attachment.  Each rod has a large and small number depending on which of the two allowed film types you are using.


The instructions have one page with professional looking (if old-fashioned) typeset, line drawings and photos showing different cameras and an additional 3 pages of instructions that appear to be typed on a manual typewriter, with xx'd out words and handwritten corrections in blue ink.  One of the photographed cameras appears to be a Russian Zenit.  Zenit-based cameras were among the cheapest and most primitive SLRs available in USA in the 60's and 70's.  The other camera in the photos appears to be a Wirgin Edixa with a waist level finder.  The Edixa series ended in 1968, and Wirgin went out of business in the early 70's.  There isn't much detail in the line drawings, but they appear to represent an Exakta or more likely the budget version Exa.  The instructions show versions for dental work, plastic surgery and dermatology, pathology,  "eye camera", a copy stand, and a gynecology camera with a similar set of frames for 2x3", 4x6", 6x9" and "Cervix (Tubular)" attachments.   I think the gynecological version explains the Edixa--In its time it was likely the least expensive SLR with a waist level finder available, so the photographer would not have to put their eye right against the camera while photographing a cervix.  On the other hand with the dim viewfinder I'm not sure if they could see anything anyhow.  (I'm also guessing that any patient who saw how this was wired and the difficulty in sterilizing would refuse...)

By this time Yashica had introduced the Dental Eye for many of the same purposes, even using the same camera body as a base.   The Dental Eye was a much more refined camera.  All the specialty parts including flash are inside an oversized lens barrel, there are no rods or frames, and focusing sets the aperture.

Information relating to the Photo Eaze camera is a bit hard to find, compounded by "eaze" being far more common as the name of a marijuana delivery service and a sexual lubricant.   I've found a few pictures with Edixa and Kalimar/Zenit bodies, and one with a Pentax K1000 body.  One source with a Kalimar bodied version from 1982 showed an invoice for $399. The only picture with a Yashica body I've found so far is the eBay auction I bought mine from.   If anyone reading this has information I've left out, please leave a comment.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Final weight loss update

My stretch goal weight was 180 lbs, about what I weighed coming out of high school.  I thought that was an unrealistic fantasy goal--My real goals were 211, based on the max allowable weight for my height when I was in the Air Force, and 192, based on the top end of Metlife's longevity-based height-weight data.

I'm now 179 lbs.  I've gone from a 42 inch waist to a 32.   Shirts went from XXL to somewhere between large and medium, depending on brand.   I used my phone's health app to track my weight erratically the first few weeks, then pretty regularly.  I lost 20 pounds the first month.  The next 10 pounds took 23 days, but the last 10 took 88 days.  Exporting the data and graphing shows a pretty smooth curve, with slight steps on the weekends--weighing later in the day but still before breakfast was worth about half a pound.   If this had been at all difficult, I would have stopped at about 190, when there's little to no health benefit in further loss.  I'm not really sure how to "stop"...I've gotten used to eating like this, and I don't feel any real need to go back. I'll figure something out in the unlikely event I get too thin.   I've started eating occasional regular meals.  I enjoy eating them, but I'm likely to be a bit queasy after, and it isn't always worth it.  I haven't quite become a Ron White joke...I can have small portions of off-diet foods without problems, but if I eat a full normal meal I'll have a slightly upset stomach. I'm not sure if there's a particular food that is the culprit, but I suspect bread and flour.

My recommendations--based on a sample size of one, your mileage may vary.  Don't take medical advice from bloggers.

I think one of the keys to success on this diet (from the book Eat to Live, by Dr. Joel Fuhrman) is to NOT go hungry at meals.  Fuhrman recommends unlimited fruits, green and colorful vegetables, beans and legumes.  Don't portion limit those, eat enough to be satisfied.   I'm not sure I can stress that part enough--don't go hungry, even if the amount of beans, vegetables and fruit you are eating seems absurd and you spend more time eating.  I was losing 3 to 4 pounds a week for the first 50 or so pounds, eating until I wasn't hungry.  I had to get a bigger lunch box to fit all I took to lunch, and I had to eat more on first break to have enough time to eat all of it.  For breakfast and lunch I take a fruit smoothie made with a little over a pound of mostly frozen fruit and about 6-8 ounces of almond milk, possibly vanilla extract and unsweetened cocoa.  3 large servings of fruits and vegetables--a serving here is 2 oranges, 2 large apples (or an equivalent amount of smaller ones), a whole grapefruit, 2 cups of white grapes, 2 or 3 cups of raw vegetables--carrots, a whole large sliced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, celery, or sweet peppers.   Also a family-sized bag or two cups of cooked vegetables, a 2 cup container of soup, chili, or a bean/legume dish.   I drink the smoothie and at least one serving of fruits or vegetables for breakfast, the rest for lunch.

I will often have a couple cups of fruit when I come home from work.  Dinner is a large salad--about 10 ounces of chopped kale/spinach blend, 2 cups of chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, and either half a cup of sweet onion or 2 cups of chopped fruit.  Probably a quarter cup or so of nuts and seeds, and if there's fruit, another quarter cup or so of raisins.  When ripe avocados are available, half of one in my salad, or I'll make a batch of guacamole to split with my wife.  After the salad, usually some sort of bean dish--a can of beans, a bean burrito, hummus with vegetable or whole wheat crackers. I'm sure I wouldn't have been successful if I had to control portion sizes of all foods in addition to eliminating many.

Go all out the first month, be very strict.  This is in part to break old habits, but it is also very encouraging to see dramatic results as fast as I saw them.  I've had a handful of people around me "sort of" go on the diet, they mostly lost about 20 pounds and stopped.  (None of them were as overweight as I was)  I wasn't perfect.  I was over the "rapid weight loss" recommendation for nuts and seeds, and most of my nuts are roasted instead of raw.  I didn't eliminate commercial dressings but I went to barely adequate amounts.  I made sure my salads had lots of stuff in them--Kale, Spinach, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, nuts, avocado regularly,  sometimes raisins and chopped fruit or onions.  I add seasonings or lemon juice instead of more dressing. I didn't eliminate salt, but used barely enough to taste OK, and that amount went down over time.  Many commercial foods that I used to like are inedibley salty now--Campbell's Bean with Bacon soup for instance.  I didn't eliminate absolutely all white flour, sugar and oils in packaged foods, but I watch the nutrition labels and make sure the unwanted ingredients are far down the list.  I eliminated diet soda, (I will sometimes have seltzer but mostly water) and cut my beer consumption from a few per week to nearly nothing.  I cut out caffeine for a few months (I'd been cutting back before the diet)  and now have 2 small cups of coffee a day, rarely any more than that.   I mostly drink water, and less of it than before.

Weigh yourself at the same time in relation to meals every day.  I've found less fluctuation weighing shortly after I wake up.  I've gained up to 5 pounds during a day (losing most of it again the next day or two), I've lost a pound and a half in a few hours without exercise.  Even weighing at the same time, I'm currently fluctuating between 178 and 182.

Fuhrman recommends avoiding snacks, and getting most of your food in 2 or 3 meals within about 8 hours.  I didn't do this at first, but it was surprisingly easy once I tried--tremendously easier than before the diet.  First I eliminated after dinner snacks, then I moved breakfast from early morning to 9am.  Lunch is around noon, dinner around 5:30.  If I weren't constrained by my work schedule, I'd probably have a combined breakfast and lunch a little later.    I don't know if this is necessary but it was easy enough to do for the possibility it helped.   I'd probably do it the same way again--get firmly on Fuhrman-approved foods before eliminating snacking.  Habits apparently have a huge amount to do with when you feel hungry--I'm more hungry just before dinner, 4 hours since my last meal than I am at breakfast, 15 hours since the last time I ate.

Most vegetarian or vegan meat substitutes aren't even on the "limited amounts" list, they generally have white flour and extra oil, plus soy protein.  I'd have to look up Fuhrman's thoughts on soy protein specifically, I've been treating it as a limited amounts food.   There are a couple of bean-based burger substitutes that taste OK and are fairly healthy.  (When I say "healthy" here, I mean according to Fuhrman) I've tried a few 100% whole grain breads, but except for a burger substitute bun they aren't worth the bother.

I sleep better.  I used to be able to sleep only about 6 or so hours in bed before getting enough of a back ache to wake me up. (I'd often either start in my recliner, or move there later)  Strange beds were worse, now they don't make much difference.  I'm less congested at night.   Stairs are a lot less trouble than they were. My endurance is better, and I can get up and down off the floor much more easily. On the other hand, I think raw strength is down.  I can't lift or carry quite as much as I could, that seems to be roughly proportional to my weight loss

Things I would do differently--I would not buy very many clothes in a new size, especially pants.  I'd do laundry more often instead.  I was not prepared for how quickly I lost inches.  I started in August. By spring I had no shorts that I could reasonably wear, so I stocked up on size 34 shorts thinking that I'd slowed down enough that those would last the summer...I'm now wearing 32's...and they are slightly loose around the waist.  Hips are now the limiting factor instead of waist.  The difference between a 32 and a 34 seems bigger than the difference between 40 and 42.  My feet had been growing over the decades along with the rest of me, now my pre-diet slip on shoes are almost too loose to walk in.

Learn to read labels carefully.   Lots of food  proclaims Healthy! Whole Grain! but doesn't meet Fuhrman's standards--It might be a mix of whole grain and white flour, or have too much added oil.  One brand of 7 Whole Grain crackers tasted suspiciously like normal white flour crackers, despite the first 7 ingredients being whole grains.  When I read the ingredients list more carefully, I found parentheses around all the whole grain stuff, meaning that instead of white flour being not more than 14% of the total, it could have been up to 49%.  Shop often.  If you buy fresh cauliflower, eat it quickly--it spoils faster than raw meat and smells worse.  Pre-chopping your salad saves some time eating-we run a couple day's salad through the food processor and store in mason jars in the fridge.

I wasn't diabetic that I knew of, but Fuhrman says that if you are on diabetes medicine you must monitor your blood sugar carefully, and be ready to adjust your medicine amounts drastically.  Wife is partially on the same diet, but not nearly as strict as I am.  She had some problems with her diabetes medicine, she had to adjust and finally eliminate it, her sugar is lower and better controlled with the diet instead of medicine.

I haven't found many restaurants that fit the diet, but I haven't tried all that hard.  Salad bars have potential, but most don't have greens other than iceberg lettuce.  Iceberg is legal, but bland when it's the major part of your meal.  Chipotle's Sofritos sort of work, although higher in oil than I would like regularly.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Rube Goldberg Vivitar XC-4 with XC-A


The Vivitar XC-4 has a peculiar mix of features. M42 screw-mount lens, with manual stop down metering, typical of off-brand cameras of the era.  Slightly unusual for an M42 camera are the electronically controlled cloth shutter and the LED metering instead of a mechanical meter.  Operation is a bit different than the typical stop-down camera--the lens stops down at the first half of the shutter travel and remains stopped down even when the shutter button is released.  What is very similar to the stop down button on a Minolta SRT series is actually a stop-down cancel--pushing it will re-open the lens to full aperture without having to take a picture.  Another minor oddity is the marking of the PC sockets on the front of the camera--there's the nearly universal X for a strobe flash, but instead of an M for bulbs, the other socket is unusually marked with an A.

The XC-A accessory is one of the stranger ideas I've seen in cameras, and explains most of the oddities of the XC-4  The XC-A has its own 6v battery.  It clips on to the hot shoe and couples with the shutter dial like 60's era clip on meters. Unlike a clip on meter, there's no meter, no photocell, and no shutter control, and there is a cord that is just long enough to reach the PC socket marked A.
The XC-A turns the camera into a slightly clumsy stop-down aperture priority automatic camera.  Holding the shutter button halfway mechanically trips the lens stop down mechanism, turns on the meter and sends an electric signal out the A socket based on the meter reading.The XC-A reads this signal and mechanically turns the shutter speed dial until the exposure meter indicates "good".  After a second or so the shutter button stops whirring (There's a tiny ringing/clicking that remains) more pressure on the shutter button takes the picture.   If you hold the shutter and light changes, the shutter dial will track the light changes--but if you push the shutter early, the camera will take the picture before the exposure is set.  
If I understand this right, the light meter sends an electronic signal out of the camera to be translated into mechanical motion, coupled back into the camera to physically turn the camera's shutter speed dial, which then sends a signal to the electronic shutter.

As far as I can tell this camera is working properly, although the light seals have turned to jelly.  It needed some exercise when I put batteries in the camera,  but after shooting and winding about 25 times the shutter became reasonably reliable.   The lens aperture blades are oily, and it needs the help of the aperture ring to return to wide open.  Battery was dead in my shutter speed tester, so I haven't tested it to see if it is worth film testing yet.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Weight loss update

The big story is that I'm down from an estimated 265 pounds in early August (257 when I bought my scale) to under 210 pounds--more than 50 pounds in less than 4  months.   I've gone from obese to merely overweight.  The Eat to Live diet has been much easier to follow than I expected.  I'm not any hungrier than before the plan, and while there are foods I miss, no difficult cravings.

My breakfast started out as oatmeal with banana.  Now I almost always have a large fruit smoothie--mixed frozen fruit briefly microwaved but not thawed, a ripe banana and 4-6 oz of unsweetened almond milk.  This winds up about a pound total of fruit, or 24 ounces liquid with the almond milk.   I'm not hungry first thing, so I take this to work in a thermos.    If bananas get ripe faster than I can use them I freeze the excess on their last useful day and use them with a few seconds more in the microwave.   If part of the frozen fruit is berries, blend them first with the almond milk to break up the hard bits, then add the remainder of the other fruit.  Thermos should be dry, otherwise you wind up with little bits of ice.  Fruit is on the unlimited list, oatmeal is a whole grain, supposed to be limited to one serving a day--plus I like the fruit better.  Often I'll add cocoa, vanilla and another banana (reducing the other fruit and not microwaving if the bananas are room temp).

On the weekends I cook a large batch of something and divide that into single serving deli containers for lunch and occasional dinner through the next few weeks.  Also on weekends I try to experiment a bit, trying something new before I put it in my work lunch.  Alton Brown's Winter Soup is really good, but because it is time consuming I make a double batch.

For lunch at work I rotate chili (usually twice a week--same as before the diet, with mushrooms instead of meat) different vegan soups and bean dishes.  I'll also take 2 or 3 fruits, a cooked vegetable and a couple servings of raw vegetables like celery, cucumber, sweet peppers or carrots.   This is more food than I used to eat, and I need almost all of my lunch break to eat it.

Dinner is most often a large salad (Large as in a serving bowl for one person) with lots of different ingredients-mostly kale and spinach, sometimes mixed lettuce (not iceberg--it is OK on the diet, but I don't like it as much) or cabbage.  Cabbage gets shredded, the other greens get run through the slicer blade of my food processor.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, nuts and seeds, usually half an avocado or a handful of canned beans or cooked frozen edamame.  Sometimes I'll add fruit, usually diced apples, sliced grapes and raisins, with a raspberry dressing and pistachios.  When I don't do fruit, I'll add raw onions and/or buffalo chickpeas (Frank's is milder than I expected here, sriracha sauce has a bit more bite)  At first I was entirely using commercial dressings that are supposed to be avoided, since then I've discovered a recipe for tahini-garlic dressing that I like, with Fuhrman-legal ingredients.  I add an extra clove of garlic, sometimes nutritional yeast, liquid aminos or fresh basil.  Other occasional salad ingredients are bell peppers, poblano peppers (mildly spicy) celery, carrots, radicchio, Mrs Dash garlic-herb.  Pomegranate turns out to be good in salad even with a garlic dressing.  I still have more nuts than Dr. Fuhrman recommends, and not entirely raw nuts.   Having lots of stuff makes a salad much more interesting--each bite is slightly different.

I'm no longer snacking after dinner or between meals (except when I run out of time to eat lunch I will sometimes finish on my next break), and that has been much easier than before the diet.  I've weaned off coffee and almost all caffeine, rarely drink diet or sweetened soda anymore--instead plain seltzer water with lemon.   If anything I'm a bit less tired than I used to be, and if I do need a temporary boost a can of diet pop is enough--that's every few weeks.

A food processor is nearly essential, used daily. I'm happy with the  Cuisinart I bought based on online reviews.  A high power blender is almost as important, especially for smoothies.  I've shopped at thrift stores for temporary clothing until I figure out what my permanent size is--I was to the point where my original pants would fall off without a belt, but still well above my goal weight.   Even my head has shrunk slightly, I had to adjust my bump cap at work 2 sizes.  Weekly weight loss seems to have slowed from 3-4 pounds per week to about 2 pounds--that might be due to less exercise, could also be slowing as I get closer to the goal weight.  I've gone from size 42 pants to 36.

Even though I haven't been as strict on salt reduction as Dr Fuhrman recommends, I have tried to add barely enough salt to taste good.  Combined with much less packaged food my taste for salt has changed--I used to love Campbell's bean with bacon soup.  It is now too salty to enjoy, like several other packaged foods I've tried.  Finding a restaurant with food that matches the diet is a bit hard, so far I've only tried Chipotle Sofritas.   I could probably manage at most salad bars, but I haven't tried that yet.

Christmas I went off diet a bit--about an ounce of ham, a small piece of no-bake cheesecake and one piece of my favorite Esther Price chocolate.  Neither of the sweets were as good as I'd remembered, and neither made resisting going farther off diet more difficult.  If I go back to eating chocolate at all, it will probably be very small pieces of dark semi-sweet instead of milk chocolate with caramel.