Bromeliad Mini-Location Shoot

One bromeliad terrarium creates photoshoots for four different types of movies.

The shop Bromeliads in Okusawa opened last year. It’s a cute shop selling bromeliads (mainly airplants) and terrarium items such as glass containers, dishes, bits of wood, sand and other emphermera. An airplant doesn’t have a significant root system. It gets moisture and nutrients from it’s leaves.

I’d been popping in since Bromeliads opened and trying to decide what I wanted to get. Today I bought a few things, a glass container, sand, wood and two airplants. I got a butzii, which rather looks like a squid, and a tillandsia which is spiky looking but not really sharp.

It was fun to set up and once I had it all arranged, it really reminded me of a desert for a photo shoot or a movie set. So I went to my little rummage box (or as I will call it from now on my omnium-gatherum) and grabbed some lego minifigures, and other little plastic toys. Finally! My obscure toy-hoarding reaps some rewards. I ended up with the fixings for five different movie genres: Shakespearean drama, zombie-post apocalypse, aliens, creature feature and dragon fantasy.  Check them out below.

I particularly like the salary man alien. I have no idea where I picked it up. If you have other suggestions for mini-photoshoot sets, please comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

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Blogging Gear: Logicool Keys to Go Bluetooth Keyboad Review

Red version of Logicool Keys to Go at a cafe and used with an iPhone 6plus
Red version of Logicool Keys to Go at a cafe and used with an iPhone 6plus

I’d been looking for a keyboard to use with my iPhone and my iPad. I’m honestly rubbish with the virtual keyboard. I don’t intend to compose epics but I wanted something to do a quick blog post on the go or a quick scene for a project. Being the picky person I am, my dream keyboard needed to be light, qwerty-format, easy on the hands and not weirdly folded. Affordable and accurate figured highly on the list.

During a trip to Bic Camera, I saw the Logicool Keys to Go keyboard. It’s not the smallest keyboard but it’s thin, flat and light. It also comes in black, a nice turquoise and a fablulous red. It’s qwerty-formated without any weird gaps to make it foldable. I quickly looked up user reviews on Amazon.com (because I prefer English reviews) and people sounded happy with it.

Was the search finally over? I tried the display keyboard. The keys felt a bit stiff and my only slight irritation was that the space bar is near the edge of the board and felt awkward at first.  As I write this, I’m no longer having that problem but I’m seated at a table.

I bought the keyboard (it currently seems cheaper online at Bic and Japan than in the store) and charged it up when I got home. It charges via USB quite quickly. It paired easily with my iPad and pairs with a second device if you hold the bluetooth button on the keyboard for two seconds to make it discoverable again.

I like that I can easily highlight, delete and copy text using the keyboard shift and arrow keys. I have the same command key functions I have on a regular keyboard except for command/z (sadly my most used command). It’s also possible to make an em-dash (option/dash) ). What can I say, I’m picky but easily amused.  I’ve been using the app iA Writer and it’s working really well but I’ve used it for texting also.

The keyboard also has function keys: home, language, camera, play and volume. The function key that switches between Keys to Go and the virtual keyboard is really helpful though it’s a habit to develop I think. I spent some puzzling moments wondering why the keyboard wouldn’t pop up when I wanted to text someone after a phone call. Duh… I still had keyboard priority not virtual keyboard. I actually really enjoyed texting with the keyboard instead of the virtual one. My friend appreciated the break from my usual absurdly innaccurate texts.

My keyboard came with a detachable device stand (I have the impression that this is not the case for sales in the US but I’m not sure). It words really well with the iPhone (best in landscape orientation) and is okay with the iPad (which MUST be in landscape orientation, not upright) but that feels a bit tippy.

There is no user manual in the box, just a set up sheet. The user manual is online  and is useful for a quick overview of everything. This link from the support site is specifically about pairing devices.

So far, I like Keys to Go a lot and I’m very happy with the purchase. I feel like this keyboard is the component I’ve been missing and kind of makes my iPad feel a bit obsolete or my iPhone a whole lot more useful.

SPECS:
242 x 6 x 137mm
180 g
Micro USB cable
2.5 hours to full charge
Usage time: each minute of charging gives you 2.5 hours of use (recharging frequency will vary between users)

Morning Sketch: What Would It Look Like if a Kiss Swam with a Goldfish?

I wanted to start of the day with something creative. I used an old illo because I wanted to practice using Sketchbook Pro on my iPad. I used a layers technique like I would on Photoshop but I had to use my clumsy fingers since I can’t find my stylus. Plus this technique is more like coloring than drawing.
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Fist the original illo as I scanned it:
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I processed it in Photoshop Express because it looked dark and gunky.
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Then into Sketchbook Pro:
I kept the lines from the base layer by erasing the blocks of color on the upper layers. I don’t really draw well in this app with my fingers. I added the word KISS because maybe the fact it was a chocolate kiss was vague. I thought about having it just chocolate instead of in foil but then I thought it might look like a swimming poo. I attempted to draw a foil bikini but that look was even more confusing. I spared your eyes the confusing foil bikini.

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Back to PS Express because I thought it could look punchier and you get the image at the top. And thus ends my morning sketch post.

Let me know what you think or if you have any requests for goldfish or kiss cartoons.

Have a great day.

A Tragic Cookie Romance.

While working on other posts, I got the urge to make a stop motion video. I know. Squirrel!-like attention span. Luckily, I remembered some old footage I’d taken using an app called Stop Motion Studio and I put it together on iMovie on my iPhone. The text was done on Over.

So, now I bring to you the tale of two emo gingerbread cookies who take their fate into their own hands.
Disclaimer: Don’t let your cookies try this at home. All cookies in this film were enthusiastically consumed.

Song: black mamba, the academy is- almost here.

My friend Sean made this summary of the video:

It’s like Romeo and Juliet…if they were deliciously dissolved in tea…rather than the whole stabbing and poison. 🙂

App Review of StitchSketch LE. Designing Your Own Patterns Is Easier than Ever!

For today’s edition of Yarn Addiction Thursday, I’m reviewing With StitchSketch LE. You can create your own knit, cross-stitch, beadwork designs, or pixel art on your iPad or iPhone with ease.

In the past, if you wanted to design a knitting pattern, you  needed graph paper or to draw out your pattern. Each block got its own color, just like pixel art. If you were doing it freehand, no worries. A photo was a lot tougher.  It was tough to copy a photo onto graph paper, so you could use a light table or transparancy. Not convenient but doable.

So all is good, until you knit out your design and find that the gauge of your yarn makes a unit block of the design more rectangular than square. Your end result ends up looking stretched if the stitch is more upright rectangular and squashed if the stitch was wider.

How to make sure your design doesn’t go wonky? One solution was to find knitting graph paper with different gauge. I didn’t even know that existed until recently. Or you could use an Excel spreadsheet to make your graph paper by adjusting the column and row sizes according to gauge. So all that work and you still need to get your image on the paper. Yikes.

StitchSketch LE makes things  a lot easier. Use your iPad or your iPhone to create wherever you are.

20141113-132835-48515356.jpg1. You select your medium (stitching, knitting, beading, pixel art) which will have symbols or colors depending on your choice.
2. Input the size of the work and the gauge of the yarn
3. Create your image. Draw in the app or import.

 


4. Save the work
You can save work in the app gallery, your camera roll or generate a PDF. Outside the app gallery, saving as a PDF gets you the maximum amount of information. Saving to your camera roll gets you a chart but no row counts or color info.
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5. Generate a PDF.
Check your settings carefully. You might save without the graph lines which makes it very difficult to use. But don’t close this PDF. You need to click the icon on the top right to move the generated PDF into another app to save it or send it. By doing this you get a file row counts and a list of colors in RGB and hexadecimal (for coding). If you buy the full app, you get color references for the brands they use.

I drew the image below in the app. I posted some versions using different media available in StitchSketchLE. I wonder if one could do pixel art for Minecraft in this app?

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Some examples of stitch symbols

For knitters who design with stitches more than color
There is also a selection for knitting symbols. I don’t do a lot of knitting with stitch symbols so I’m not familiar with the meanings and the effects. I played with the symbols to show some of them. I’m pretty sure this would not actually make anything.

Some tips
1. This is basically pixel art so the finer your gauge, the more refined your design will look.
2. Test knit a swatch and count your rows and stitches then enter: this way you can be sure your design doesn’t suffer from stretch or squashiness

Conclusion: 5 Stars
I really like the app on my iPad. It removes the grunt work (finding paper, creating a graph, transferring the image to paper) from making a design and allows you to focus on making your vision a reality. I downloaded the free version but haven’t upgraded to the full version. Currently, the LE version fills all my needs very well. I find $6.99 a bit spendy for the full version, but the tracing paper mode does entice me. If I did complicated color work or made kits for people, I would definitely get the full version so I could get a color list of manufacturers’ flosses or beads.

StitchSketch LE by Keiji Ikuta is a free app for the basic and $6.99 for full app.

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Wonder Photo Shop Helps You Finish Your Photos with Fun.

Wondering what to do with that great photo you just took? Check out Wonder Photo Shop in Harajuku.

Wonder Shop is on Meji Dori 1 minute away from Omotesando Crossing.
Wonder Shop is on Meji Dori 1 minute away from Omotesando Crossing.

“I have my print, what next?” is an overlooked challenge in photography. The life cycle of a photo tends to be, print it, frame or album-book it and eventually shove it in a box when it got in the way or toss it. One huge advantage of digital photography is that our boxes full of photos are virtual instead of virtually all over the place. But photos aren’t meant to be forgotten in a shoe-box or on a hard-drive. Digital imaging allows us to be more creative with the format of our final images than ever. Wonder Photo Shop by Fuji Film can help you make your photographs into fabulous objects.

Different rolls of washi tape are hung on the branches of a metal tree for display.
I love this display idea. I wish I had the space (and the tree!) to do this at home.

Whether you uphold the time-honored tradition of scrap-booking or just want to stick your photos in a cute album, Fuji Wondershop has an array of scrapbooks, albums and accents to help you along. They have a nice selection of the Washi tape/ patterned masking tape which is quite popular recently. The tape makes a nice way to attach photographs to albums, books or papers. This tape is more forgiving than glue or stickers and, depending on the surface, generally can be pulled up a couple of times.

Animal photo holders.
Total inspiration for a future polymer clay project!

There are many frames or stands available for displaying photos. My favorite is the animal figure. It is cut in half with magnets attached to the middle. Place one half in front, the other behind and the magnets and animal keeps the photo upright.

Like any modern photo store worth its salt, you can print directly from your smart phone via cable, or bluetooth with a photo printer. An L-sized print is 30 yen and is available fairly quickly.

The shuffle print which looks like a more stylish contact print, might be a great way to show off Instagram prints. If you have more time, you can order large prints or print onto other surfaces. My favorite is making your own smart phone cover. I tried this and will be blogging about it next week.

If you are still loving analog and lomo-style, you can buy mini-instant film (polaroid style) for Fuji Instamax cameras. There is also 35mm film available and some cool 35 mm film cameras. For those with studio aspirations, there is a rental studio on the second floor.

Wonder Photo is for anyone who wants to make easy, nice looking prints but the store definitely continues the women-friendly vibe found in magazines like Joshi Camera. (Joshi Camera has been promoting women-oriented photography and photo-finishing for some time) and Popeye Camera (locations in Jiyugaoka and Minato Mirai). I think Popeye was the first store in Tokyo to target the female photographer market with its selection of camera  gear, paraphernalia, stationery and photo developing. Like Wonder Photo it’s a one-stop film/memory card-to-finishing photo store designed for everyone but very appealing to the female demographic. Universotokyo has a great review of Popeye Camera.

Without stores like Wonder Photo and Popeye you would spend more time hunting down the same items at places like Bic Camera and Ito-ya Stationery then creating. The curation of photo-specific products and stores with specific samples of how they can be used is a welcome, and really fun, addition to living with photography and making it part of your lifestyle.
 Access:
Subway: Fukutoshin Line/ Chiyoda Line. 1 Minute
Exit #7, 1 minute from Jingumae Station. You will be on Meiji Dori. Turn right (in the direction of Shibuya/ away from Omotesando).
JR:(Yamanote Line) 6 minutes
Use main exit (NOT Takeshita Dori exit) and walk down Omotesando towards Aoyama. Turn right at Meiji Dori (landmarks are Tokyo Plaza or Lotteria on the Burgers on the corner). Walk one minute. Shop on the right side of the street.
Car: only paid public parking (not affiliated with the shop) available

FUJIFILM WONDER PHOTO SHOP
150-0001
Tokyo-To, Shibuya-Ku, Jingu Mae 6-29-4
Hours: 11:00-20:00 Every day except Year End/New Year Holidays.
Shop Phone #: 03-6427-9703
Studio Phone #: 03-6427-9709
Fax: 03-6427-9719

〒150-0001 東京都渋谷区神宮前6-29-4 1F&2F [studio]
open 11:00 – 20:00 [年末年始を除き無休]
1F tel 03-6427-9703 [shop]
2F tel 03-6427-9709 [studio] 
fax 03-6427-9719
●東京メトロ千代田線/副都心線「明治神宮前」駅 7番出口から渋谷方面徒歩1分
●JR山手線「原宿」駅から徒歩6分
(お車でお越しの方は、有料駐車場をご利用ください)

Tokyo Snowflake Photos Inspired by Russian Photographer.

Two months ago I came across a post on io9.com about a Russian photographer who created his own macro rig and shoots snowflakes. The photographer is Alexey Kljatov and his blog is http://chaoticmind75.blogspot.ru/ The io9 post is interesting and chaoticmind75 has a ton of amazing photos. It is well worth your time to check out both.
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So it snowed in Tokyo today. I wanted to do photography but didn’t really feel like leaving the house. The snow hadn’t really started to pile up enough to be interesting, either. Then I remembered the snowflake photos I saw. There was no way I was going to be creating my own rig, though that process is certainly fascinating. I have a good camera and a decent macro. Having read that Kljatov does a lot of photoshopping inspired me to just go shoot what I can and crop it, shop it later.

I used my 5D and a 100 mm macro. I cropped a lot. Most of the snowflakes were really tiny. Really, really tiny, 1mm at the largest. I read on the chaoticmind blog that a medium snowflake is around 4mm. I was quite jealous when I read that. I just caught the snowflakes on different types of cloth and took the photos while half-in/ half-out of my balcony door. It gave the flakes a place to rest without melting, which gave me time to search through and find some actual flakes.

I handheld the camera using really high ISO. My tripod is no fun to use, especially for macro work. Later, I got a little more serious and brought out my flash. Sadly, by that time the flake size had gotten even smaller and whole flakes harder to find.

That was odd an odd thing I noticed. It was actually hard to find a flake intact. Most of them seemed to be tiny needles or broken flakes.

I hope you enjoy the snowflakes and feel inspired to try shooting your own. If you do, please leave a comment so I can see them!

Photos From Narita Express

Sent from my iPad

Heading to the airport on the way to visit my parents in Canada, I decided to play with an app I hardly ever use. The PuddingCamera App uses a variety of film types and retro camera lens types from single lens, twin lens to 4 lens. I think the single lens type is not very interesting. Instagram does a better job for the retro effects but limited to squares and PhotoWizard also does better with the filters but has the ability to crop as you like. I haven’t tried Hipstamatic. I have friends who do great things with it.

What I like about Pudding Camera is this four lens format. The app takes the image in four parts with a bit of gap and overlap. It gives a subtle David Hockney joiners effect that is fun.

I haven’t used this app a lot. When I get something I like, I like it quite a bit but it takes a lot of retakes to get the effect I want.

Would love to hear what other people are playing with for photo apps.

Editing the Grey and Dreary to Sun and Cheery

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It’s a grey and dreary day which is disappointing since the forecast was for sun and warmth. I’ve decided to create my own version of today.

Rosebud courtesy of someone in my neighborhood.

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This is how it “really” looked today.

Ink Garden of Edgar Allan Poe. Weekly Photo Challenge: Green


This week’s Postaweek Photo Challenge is green. At first I was going to upload a bunch of green bug pictures that I have, but when I sat down, a bottle of green fountain pen ink caught my eye. I realized that for me, green is the color of ideas, growing little thoughts into things that exist in the world.

This ink is by De Atramentis from one of their series of topic inks. The colored inks are based on famous historical figures, writers, artists and musicians. The one I choose is Edgar Allan Poe. I love writing with my fountain pen with this ink. It is a nice, dusty green. It reminds me of old manuscripts and dusty libraries. It also reminds me of Poe and his connection with absinthe, though this site suggests that Poe was not an absinthe drinker.

When I photographed the bottle, it looked black. I thought about writing something to show the color, but then I remembered Wolfgang Tillmans and his ink in water photos. I’m off and on about Tillman’s work. Some I really like and some don’t work for me but I liked his ink in water. It seemed like a great way to show the color of Edgar Allan Poe and at the same time express something.

When editing the photos, I noticed that I was finding a lot of images and shapes in the swirling ink. My own ink-blot test? The dark swirls seem moody and Poe-like. Most of them reminded me of gardens and little seeds trying to grow. It reminded me of ideas and what I try to do when I write– grow my own ideas. And so there’s my concept.

Wondering what kind of images you see in the swirls of ink?

Happy creating.

L.