Sunday, 31 July 2011

solar floor heating - Part 2

Things are still moving in this area, but sadly with life getting in the way of tasks its a little slower than I'd desire since Part 1. Naturally (as with all things efficient) a balance of input and protection is required: so part of the solar floor heating is to not loose that warmth. So I'm installing some basic insulation between the joists of the floor boards of my house; to reduce the heat losses and increase the heat transfer to the floor.

This can be a filthy job with shit falling in your face and whatever dirt and shit that lives under the house in your nostrils while you work. (for those who've never gone there think about every local cat which explores, pisses and drags food down there as well as whatever building materials the tradies dumped while doing their work).

So its important to protect yourself while working.

This mask is rated to organic vapours and works so well I couldn't even smell the festering rotting cane toad that I found in the laundry back in the wet season which had died and been half consumed by rats ... but trust me it stank.

Its important to take precautions especially when doing home reno as health effects from exposure to building dusts is an increasing issue in Australia (as more people do their own). And as you can see in this quick video shit was falling down right onto my face:

So it is well to cover eyes (with my swimming goggles) and breathing intakes (mouth and nose) for safety.

Today the interior of the house actually got 3 degrees above outside temperatures without any other inputs. I'm pretty happy with that as normally it lags behind during the day (that roof insulation preventing the sun from heating the house in summer works the same way in winter). So with the temp overnight being something like 11 (this graph is for the sea way which is actually a bit warmer than we are here just a couple of K inland) the house is often only 3 or 4 deg above the outside minimum and then the same amount below the outside maximum.

Rather annoying really, but so common in Queensland where houses are often colder inside than the outside is soon after sun rises. People sit around alternatly saying "how cold it is" and "how dear the electricity is for heating".

With only 1/2 my downstairs floor area fitted with heating (and I can't fit the insulation till I've fitted the pipes) its all looking quite promising.

We're also attempting a poor mans double glaze with fitting of 1mm clear PET plastic sheets over the windows. You can barely notice them and as heaps of heat is lost via windows (glass being a good conductor not an insulator) we should have a warmer house again.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

gold wages and houses

A blogger called Bullion Barron has done a nice (well researched) piece on the relationship between wages expressed in gold (here) and house prices (here),I recommend you toddle over and have a quick read of that.

Mean time I was ruminating on some of the data and wondered if I could do a quick and dirty shift of some of his graphs to fit the same axis of time scale. So here is his data of wage to gold overlaid with house prices in gold

to me the peaks and falls seem to be related. Although there was a period where our salary buying power went up in these units but there was a lag in house prices until 2003. I would wonder if this was when fiscal policy became looser and people began buying with "all that cash" they now had ... bears further investigation that does.

none the less, then the wages (in gold) fell there was a bit of noise in the system before that followed the same logic. Perhaps we need the quivalent of a Schmitt trigger on the logic systems to work that one through?

I hope Bullion Barron doesn't mind me working his data like this....

time lapse photography

Been considering this for myself for some time. Seeing this one today is quite inspirational.

Great use of technique at work here

The Mountain from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

hats off to this fellow

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Coombabah conservation area

The Gold Coast is perhaps one of the prime examples in modern time of the pressures of urban development and the need to set aside well considered conservation areas.

The Gold Coast City Council has done exactly this in the Coombabah area with the Coombabah Lakelands Conservation Area.

As you can see on the map below the area has been heavily urbanised in the last 20 years.

View Larger Map

and the population growth in the region has been very high, going from around 30,000 when I was born (here) to over half a million and doubling during holiday seasons

So its more or less essential to preserve this area (as much as it can be all things considered) to provide some sort of remnant habitat for some species. Its actually working (as we'll see in a tic)

A quick peek around the general area of the wetland can be had in this video.

We went there on this occasion as there was a Gold Coast City Council (GCCC) guided walk to introduce locals to what may be there (and perhaps get them more interested in their local real area). So we joined a group to take a walk around the wetland.

As you can see above there is also a nice boardwalk there making it possible to get out into the wetland area more and see it from a vantage which would normally require a boat (or getting wet). This certainly helps reduce the impact.

The area does act to keep some of the local fauna living there (remember, they were there all along, we just encroached on their space) with some Wallabys:

and the less shy grey Kangaroo population never disappoints and one can often see one in the area. Basking in the sun after a morning feed

where there's one there's two, and if there's two there's more

Droppings are also an important indicator of what's hanging around the region

and shows us evidence of Koalas (this is Koala droppings below)

The use of movement sensor triggered video cameras also helps with park management understand what moves around both day and night ...

after all you need to know what you've got to manage it right?
As it turns out lots of animals are killed in the region by animal attack (as well as cars) and well meaning (strongly opinionated self ordained expert yet drastically ignorant) local residents think its all "just natural" ... its natural that dogs hunt and kill. True, but then in a natural system there would not be such a large population of dogs living in the area because they'd starve ... because they couldn't go home to a bowl of dog food. Looking at the urbanisation rate in the above satellite image its pretty clear. Often they just kill their prey for fun (better food is had at home).

Local feral dogs and cats are a source of strong predation on the local wildlife. The managers try to understand what is done by domestic dogs and by Dingos.

Australia has lots of reptiles and Carpet snakes also live (and hunt) in the area. These lovely guys help keep our rat population in check, but it would seem in this case it was a ringtail possum (but hart to tell after digestion)

So as we wind up our tour of the wetland area one of the local butcher birds keeps an eye on us as we depart:
So the GCCC has helped make this area that little better to live in amid the influx of population in the region by keeping some of the natural areas. This means its more likely I'll see fellas like these


in my back yard (or my dads)

Its by providing a good balance of natural areas in the midst of human communities that makes Australia nicer to live in than big cities tend to be.

NOTE for the photographically inclined: all these images come from my Panasonic GH1 using a mixture of the standard zoom lens as well as some old Canon FD series lenses which I use via an adaptor ... very handy

Saturday, 23 July 2011

digital vs neg: Australian light

Back in Finland I compared my m4/3 camera (Panasonic G1) to 35mm film and found that in situations of higher contrast that negative film captured the scene better and that in situations of lower contrast digital revealed more of the subtle textures.

As Australia has different light to Finland (perhaps more contrasty) I wanted to explore how well my findings held here. It was also an opportunity to compare fuji frontier scans with what I get from my Nikon LS-4000 as I have done previously with Noritsu systems.

As mentioned in a previous article, its amazing how well negative does in coping with contrasty light like this:

Good shadow details, great highlights.


I was impressed how well I could pull images out of RAW files from the GH1, with the right processing tools you can do outstandingly well compared to negative.

Noritsu machines scan better than what you get with Fuji Frontier

Getting a high quality scan out of a Frontier operator is like getting milk from a stone, and you just wouldn't buy a digital camera producing as few a megapixels nor as shitty a quality.


So, getting on with it, I made the comparison using my EF 24 f2.8 lens on the 35mm camera and the 14mm end of the 14-45mm Zoom on the GH1. I was expecting that the 14mm would equate to 28mm on the 35mm frame, but wondered how aspect ratio (width over height) would effect this.

I used Photomatix 4.x (which has a nice little batch processing mode) to process my RAW files to get that little bit more out of the file (for that little less effort). See my posts here and here about that.

As it turns out the 4000dpi scan of the 35mm frame using a 24mm lens produces pixel for pixel sizes which are quite close (but not 100% exact) to the 14mm lens on the 4/3 frame. The angle of view and amount of scene captured varied ... you can see that below where I've overlaid the frames as best I could.

So the 24mm (as expected) reveals a wider frame than does the 14mm on the 4/3. You may notice how well I've matched the colour and contrast between the two VERY DIFFERENT media.

This makes comparisons a bit tricky as at 100% views (pixel peeping) because magnification is different, just as 100% views of a more telephoto image will reveal more detail than a wider angle. Essentially the digital has a slight 'resolution' advantage in this. None the less...

So, lets take a look at a central portion of the image where there is some shadow detail and bright reflective objects in full sunlight.

Firstly, I see that seven though the 35mm image covers a wider capture than the 4/3 does the feature size of things on the scan is actually a little larger than on the 4/3, which is impressive. The dynamic range capture is pretty equal although the digital looks a little punchier which suggests it wouldn't quite be up to the wider range of highlights than the negative is.

Next I notice that there is greater details in the brickwork and lovely smooth texture in the wall of the building on the digital.

This smoothness of texture really shows itself on skies:

The smooth clear blue is perfect and the small clouds are almost lost on the negative. I guess this is where film folk liked Slide. But to me if you're going to swing with blocked up shadows and blown highlights that slide film brings (without a projector) then you just may as well use digital anyway.

The digital from RAW with this processing is impressive stuff and makes me really question where and why I'd use negative ... I'll need to test this again on a 5D and see how that goes. I've read they have less noise in the shadows than the 4/3 does, which would really assist with this sort of processing.

Lastly I thought I'd present a comparison with the out of camera JPG and the RAW processed in the manner I work with.

Look to the left over at the building and see how much better the contrast range is reproduced, check out the shadow details under the trees, and generally just how much punchier it looks. Sure you may not like the saturation, but that can be dialed down easily!

Lastly I'd like to present 2 images take looking into the light:



the sky blowouts are a little offputting on the digital as is the slightly garrish colour which no doubt came from handling highlight recovery of blown channels. Clearly some HDRI or plain old under exposure would help with on the digital, but then the shadows will either be ink or noisy.

So Negative still copes with the really harsh conditions better ... well in my view at least.


The Photomatix processing of RAW files (automated batch) is now giving me in full sunlight the sort of contrast handling that I once reached to negative for, meaning that I'm now more inclined than previously to reach for my 4/3 digital than I am for negatives. There remain some issues which digital needs to be handled with care.

Its not black and white is it :-)