All posts by Gregg

I am an Electrical Engineer, having graduated from The University of Texas in Austin with a B.S.E.E. degree in 1986, while specializing in Computer Engineering. This is my career, and this is how I pay the bills, but hey, this is a web site about my photography, not electrical engineering! I have a deep passion for photography, and have recently registered myself with the state of Texas as a small business doing photography. I am still exploring the many different types of photography, and getting a feeling for which type(s) I want to specialize in after I retire from my engineering career. I love to photograph a wide variety of items, including nature, landscapes, architecture, cityscapes, and large panoramics. Lately I have become excited about making portraits of people, both posed and natural. I have been using using multiple portable Canon Speedlite flash units for quite a while, and find them fun to play with. I have recently purchased a full set of studio lighting equipment, as I believe that I will also really enjoy corporate product and still life photography.

Marcia Ball at The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar

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Well, it has been quite a while since I put up my last post here – over 6 weeks, actually. A lot has happened, but I am not interested in writing a 2000 word blog post filling in that 6 week gap….  However, something happened in the last day that has brought me back to my keyboard, where I finally feel that I have something meaningful to say, and to show you. (But you have to read to the end to know what that is.)

Since this web site is dedicated to “Gregg’s Adventures in Learning Photography”, I must mention that after weeks of debating in my own head, I took the plunge and on December 14th, Barb and I headed on down to Precision Camera here in Austin, and bought the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera along with two new Olympus lenses: the 12-40mm f/2.8 and the 75mm f/1.8.

After a full week of evenings sitting around reading the manual and trying out all of the settings and (way too many) menu options, it was time to take this new camera out and start shooting with it! Every December, for the past 7 years, we have met some of our good friends at a local restaurant for a meal and then afterwards we head over to the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar and enjoy seeing a local Austin band perform in a rather intimate setting.

This year we met our friends at Threadgill’s Restaurant on Riverside Drive for brunch/lunch on Sunday morning, December 22, 2013. We then drove drove the 2 blocks over to the Palmer Events Center, where the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar has been held for the last 4 or 5 years.

The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar is one of those things that helps “keep Austin weird“. It is a place where all sorts of artists come together to sell their wares to those who are shopping for different or unusual Christmas presents.

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As a means to help draw in more shoppers, they have local musicians perform 2 or 3 times a day. The talent that they bring in is great! In the photo above, you can see the colored backdrop of the small stage where the musicians play. (That photo was handheld with a shutter speed of 1/13th of a second!)

We came specifically to see Marcia Ball play.

When we arrived, the band named Sons of Fathers was still performing their set, so I wandered over toward the stage just to have a look.

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I had set the ISO to 800 and the aperture to f/2.8, and since I was shooting in aperture priority mode, the camera would choose the shutter speed, while I just had to change the exposure compensation setting – which is very easy to do with the EVF (electronic view finder) and Olympus’s Highlight and Shadow information display.

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The camera was choosing a shutter speed of 1/30th or 1/40th of a second, and I knew that the 5-axis image stabilization would allow me to shoot even slower, so I never saw the need to increase the ISO above 800.

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I enjoyed the Sons of Fathers enough that I bought their most recent CD, “Burning Days”!  After Sons of Fathers left the stage, there was nearly an hour before Marcia Ball’s show was to begin. Even so, the best that we could do to get 5 seats together was on the 4th row. Thankfully, I got a seat on the center aisle.

David Carroll, the bass player, was the first musician to get setup and work with the sound board guy.

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Marcia Ball is an outstanding piano and keyboard player. I have seen her several times over the past 25 years or so, and she always delivers a lively, energetic performance.

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For the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar performances though, she does not bring her regular band for the show, but always invites other musicians to perform with her. (I distinctly remember a “Pianorama” show a few years back.) This year she had invited not only David Carroll, but Chris Gage and Christine Albert (aka Albert and Gage), and Sarah Elizabeth Campbell. We did now know this before we saw them come out onto the stage, but we were thrilled! We have been to 4 or 5 Albert and Gage shows over the years, and have ALWAYS enjoyed them immensely.

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That’s Chris Gage with the electric guitar, and his wife (I’m pretty sure…) Christine Albert on the acoustic guitar.

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I only brought the 12-40mm f/2.8 lens, but I was wishing I had also brought my new 75mm f/1.8 lens. The photo above was made by a very tight crop of a much larger field of view photo.

Here’s the entire band, including Sarah Elizabeth Campbell (in the center).

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I understand that Christine Albert, David Carroll, and Sarah Elizabeth Campbell had a regular gig playing together at El Mercado restaurant on Monday evenings.

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My last sentence was correct in using the past tense. I took these photos on Sunday, December 22nd. Christine, David, Elizabeth, with guests Slaid Cleaves, and Butch Hancock (who was in my 32 year old slide at the Armadillo World Headquarters blog post) played at El Mercado on Monday evening. Sadly, yesterday morning, the day after Christmas, Sarah Elizabeth Campbell passed away after a battle with liver cancer (obituary is here).

This summer, while on our cruise to The Bahamas, I read Zack Arias’s excellent book “Photography Q&A”. On page 62 Zach writes “This may sound weird – every time I photograph someone I think about their funeral. It is my goal to get a great photo of whoever is in front of my camera, one that is worthy of being enlarged and placed next to their casket. Everyone needs a great portrait. Everyone is going to leave it behind. The portrait that gets left behind needs to be the best that it can be. I’m serious; I think about this on every shoot.”

I think about those words often. I thought about them as I took our usual family photos during Christmas. I didn’t think about such wise words as I played with my new camera at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. I had no idea that I was photographing someone who would no longer be with us less than 90 hours later. That is a haunting thought.

Rest in peace, Elizabeth. Rest in peace.

Thank you for visiting my (infrequent) blog.

Spinning the State Flag of Texas

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On Saturday, November 2, 2012, Barb and I attended the (American) college football game between the University of Kansas and the University of Texas. It was a home game for the Texas Longhorns, and was the first daytime game of the season, so I thought it would be fun to take my camera with us.

The University of Texas athletic department has a policy of “no professional cameras with interchangeable lenses”, but I didn’t have any trouble getting into the stadium with my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera. I had the 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 “kit” lens on the camera, which was hanging around my neck. In Barb’s bag, I had stashed my Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro lens.

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I took about 140 photos that afternoon before, during, and after the game. When I was culling through them to see which ones that I wanted to include in my next blog post, I still had way too many photos to show. I couldn’t help but to notice this little “story within a story”.

Before the game actually begins, and right before the national anthem is played, they bring out this huge flag for the State of Texas onto the football field.

That is one very impressive (in size) flag. But wait, there’s more!

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The students holding that flag begin to bunch it up from two opposite ends.

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Eventually, when the two groups meet in the middle, the flag naturally takes on a circular shape.

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They then begin to rotate, or spin, the flag on the field. Notice where the blue section is now, and follow it as it changes position!

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It doesn’t take them very long to get it around.

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I would guess maybe 30 seconds to do the full revolution.

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And once it’s made the full revolution, there isn’t much else left to do, but to turn it back into a rectangle.

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All of these photos were taken with the 12-50mm kit lens zoomed to 45mm (which is 90mm equivalent on a full frame camera).

Thanks for visiting my blog today!

Fun Photos from Fredericksburg

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Last Saturday morning, October 19th, the Austin Shutterbug Club had an outing to the lovely little town of Fredericksburg in central Texas, near the Hill Country.

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Only 5 people showed up. Not sure why. Don’t really care. Those of us that did make it, had a really fun time!

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All of these photos were taken with my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, and the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 “kit lens”.  I also had 4 excellent prime lenses in my camera bag, but I never used any of them.

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Reminder: You can always view any photo at a larger size by just clicking on it. You will then need to use your browser’s “Back Button” to return to my story.

I did not take any “street photography” photos of people doing interesting things in their environment.

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That morning, I was only interested in taking photos of whatever color, pattern, or object that caught my attention.

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Snapshots? Sure. Why not?

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There are only a couple of photos that the viewer would recognize as someplace in Fredericksburg. The majority of them could have been taken anywhere.

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It is late October, and Halloween is near.

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I believe that these two steeples belong to St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

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That was as far west as we walked. On the way back, I noticed that there seemed to be lots of places for people to sit along the sidewalk.

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Some seating was pretty rustic.

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And some was rather unusual.

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I wonder how comfortable that seat would have been for the framer sitting on his tractor years ago!

Here’s a photo that even says “Fredericksburg” in the photo. This is the 2nd story of the building. I even used Lightroom 5’s new healing brush feature to remove the power line that crossed in front of it.

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The 5 of us had a great German lunch at a place near the west end of town, named Friedhelm’s Bavarian Inn. I had the Jager Schntizel. It was great!

Thank you for stopping by and visiting my blog today.

My Favorite Photos from Our Summer Cruise Vacation

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It’s been a while since I put up my posting showing the hardware build of my new computer. All of that hardware worked just fine, so the only snags that I hit along the way were software related. Getting my HP LaserJet printer networked was pure joy, as was the discovery that some software installed by default from the Epson scanner installation disk (ABBYY Fine Reader) will interfere with Microsoft Office 365 in such a horrific manner that you cannot even open Outlook to read your email.

Anyway, all of those issues are now behind me, and I am very happy with my new computer! In the end, I set it to max out at 4.4 GHz, even though I could get it to run at 4.5 GHz long enough through a torture test of software to put me at #32 on the ASUS ROG RealBench LeaderBoard for the Intel quad-core systems (on October 5th).

After I got my new computer up, I had to get Barb setup on my old computer, and then prepare her old computer to give to Goodwill. All of that “computer cascading” takes time. So it wasn’t really until yesterday that I really had time to sit down and enjoy using my new computer, instead of working on some computer issue.

So yesterday I went back through the photos that I had taken on our cruise vacation in mid-August, and just selected my favorite 20 photos to share with you for this blog post. (I didn’t say my “best”, but rather my “favorite”.) You have already seen one of them.)

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All of these photos were taken with my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, and the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 “kit lens”.

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Reminder: You can always view any photo at a larger size by just clicking on it. You will then need to use your browser’s “Back Button” to return to my story.

All of these photos are shown in the chronological order that I took them in. I do not have a story to tell that links them all together.

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All of the photo up to this point were taken on the ship, which was the Carnival Magic. The next few photos were taken in Key West, Florida.

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Even though you’ve seen this next photo before, I still wanted to include it in this “favorite 20 photos” blog post.

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This next photo was taken while we were in the middle of our Key West Pub Crawl.

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No, the guy on the ground isn’t real… he’s part of the artwork.

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The next day was spent in Freeport, The Bahamas.

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These were all taken in the tourist marketplace next to where our ship had docked.

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This guy was chopping off the top of coconuts to make alcoholic drinks. It took me several attempts to capture the action the way that I wanted to.

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The shore excursion that we enjoyed that afternoon was a ride on a glass bottomed boat.

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Later that afternoon, I went out on our balcony and watched a couple of tug boats bring in a cargo ship into the harbor.

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The next morning it was raining in Nassau, The Bahamas.

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Fortunately it stopped in time for us to go on our Segway tour of the beach!

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We got back to our ship by mid-afternoon.

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By then the skies had cleared enough that I was able to get a pretty good photo of Atlantis.

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The next two days were spent at sea.

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I love days at sea. I love to read a good book and to enjoy playing around with my camera!

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Here’s a good example of what I mean by “playing around with my camera”.

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No, that’s not a mistake… that was my best of 6 attempts to do that.

Thank you for stopping by and visiting my blog today!

Photos of My New Computer Build

It’s been just over 2 weeks since my last post, in which I mentioned that I was waiting for the delivery person to bring my new computer that I had ordered. It arrived very soon after that, and everything seemed to be just what I had ordered. Since I am an Electrical Engineer, with my specialization being in computer systems, I didn’t order just any computer. No, there would be some assembly required…

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While I intend to keep this blog as “my adventures in photography”, this particular blog will reveal some of my engineering nerdy-ness. While I put together my new computer, I did take some photos of the process. I used my little Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera on top of my big Gitzo tripod. For the background, I just used some reflectors and diffusion panels that I have. For the lighting, I sometimes used natural light coming through the window, but since I took these photos after work in the evening, I mainly used two Fotodiox LED panels on a couple of small light stands.

I will try to keep the geeky-ness to a minimum. I’m not going to explain why I chose the components that purchased. I’m just going to show them to you, and tell you what they are.

Before I get into the photos showing how I put this computer together, I just want to vent my frustration for a minute about the current state of the personal computer market, and Microsoft Windows in particular.

*** Rant Mode Now Turned On

Computer companies like Dell and HP are selling far fewer desktops and laptop computers than they did last year, and the year before that. All of the analysts say it is because everyone is moving to tablets and high end cell phones.

I think that’s a small part of it, but doesn’t explain the huge reduction in sales (of laptops and desktops). Tablets and high end cell phones are great for checking your email, surfing the web, killing time seeing what your “friends” are up to on Facebook, etc. Companies need real computers for office workers to do real work on. People like me that enjoy photography, might want a tablet to show off a portfolio of photos on, but I need a real computer to process the RAW files that my cameras produce. I damn sure don’t want to do that on a 10″ screen with some cute little apps running on a processor that simply cannot compete with what’s available on a desktop (but maybe a low-end laptop).

Furthermore, the last fricking thing that I am interested in is a touchscreen-based monitor on my desktop (Windows 8). For crying out loud, I’ve got this beautiful EIZO 24″ monitor; and why would I want to replace it with something just so I could smudge it all up with my finger oil? I don’t get it, and I suspect that millions of others do not, and will not get it, either. I think THAT’S why people are not buying Windows-based desktops and laptops. Even though millions of people would like to have a new computer, they are either going to just keep using their same old computer and wait to see if things get better with Windows 9 (Windows 8.1 isn’t gonna do it), or they are switching to Apple computers. In the meantime, they’ll just buy a tablet or a new high-end Android smart phone or a new iPhone.

*** Rant Mode Now Turned Off

I could get along without a new computer, but Barb is still using a 7 1/2 year old Dell XPS-400 running Windows XP. About 2 years ago I replaced the hard drives and the battery on her motherboard, so it could probably go another 3 or 4 years. However, Microsoft will be “end of life”ing Windows XP next April 8th, which is about 6 months from now. So in the end I decided to get myself a new high-end computer and to move her over to my current computer.

I like Windows 7 a lot, especially the 64-bit version. You can still purchase a new computer with Windows 7 installed on it, but most likely it is built with last year’s components. That means that you probably would not get any USB 3.0 ports, and the SATA ports that transfer data to and from your hard drive (or SSD) would be SATA II (3 Gb/s) instead of the new SATA III (6 Gb/s).

I decided to build myself a high-end computer with new, modern components, and put a 4 year old operating system onto it (Windows 7 first came out in October of 2009).

Let me just say that the total cost of all of the components (including a new $100 mechanical keyboard and $80 mouse which I didn’t really have to have) AND the Windows 7 64-bit installation disk set me back right at $2300. That’s about what an entry-level Mac Pro would cost. I have nothing against just buying a Mac Pro but I don’t think you can “hot rod” a Mac Pro like I’ll be doing to this computer. (That $2300 is about what I paid for my original 128kB Macintosh back in 1984.)

The mid-size tower computer case in the photo above is the CoolerMaster RC-692A-KKN5. It comes with 2 USB 3.0 and 2 USB 2.0 ports on the front, and also comes with 3 fans installed.

That case was the first component to be delivered, which was on a Friday afternoon. You can’t do much computer building with just the case (other than check for shipping damage), so it just sat until I got home from work on Monday.

The first thing that I did was to get the whole “air flow” strategy implemented by moving two of the fans that CoolerMaster installed, and adding a Noctua NF-S12AFLX and three NF-A14 FLX fans.

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Reminder: You can always view any photo at a larger size by just clicking on it. You will then need to use your browser’s “Back Button” to return to my story.

In the photo above, if you look carefully, you should see 5 of the 6 fans that I installed into the case. This is a view looking up from the bottom into the case. The 120mm fan on the back (left side of the photo) and the two 140mm fans in the top are installed so that they blow air out of the case. We all know that hot air rises, and these fans are at the top of the case, so their purpose is to exhaust the hot air out of the case.

At the very bottom, hidden behind the mesh dust filter, is another 140mm fan, which sucks air into the case from underneath, and blows this cool air up to the top.

That compartment in the lower right corner is the “hard drive cage”, which can hold up to 6 disk drives. On the right side of that cage, which is really the lower front of the unit, the clear acrylic 140mm fan that CoolerMaster provided sucks air in from the front and through the hard drive cage, keeping those disk drives cool. On the left side of that hard drive cage is a black colored 120mm fan (with all of the colored wires pass behind) that “pulls” air from the hard drive cage into the middle of the case. (Later on I replaced that black fan with an extra Noctua 120mm fan that I had left over from my last computer build.)

Not shown in this, or any of the photos in this post is a 7th case fan. It is mounted in the left side panel (the large side closest to you), which sucks cool air into the case and blows it right onto the video card.

So the “air flow strategy” is to suck in cooler air from the front, left side, and the bottom, and then blow it out of the top and the back of the case. There is a little arrow on all of these fans indicating which way the air will move through it when it is spinning – double-check to make sure none are in backwards!

Yes, there are 7 fans installed in this case, but you should not think that this computer will sound like a hover craft when it is running! These larger 140mm fans do not spin at high RPMs. They top out at 1200 RPM. Only the two fans pushing and pulling air through the hard drive cage will be spinning at full speed all of the time. The other 5 fans that you see here (plus the two that I will add later to the CPU heatsink) have their speed controlled by the motherboard. They spin about half speed at room temp, and gently ramp up to full speed when the CPU reaches temperatures that should only occur when stress-testing the new computer build. Also, all of the tan and reddish-brown Noctua fans are attached to the case using some very pliable silicon anti-vibration pads, instead of using screws.

Here’s a look at the case standing upright, with the front and side panels removed.

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Now that all of the case fans have been installed, it’s time to mount the power supply into the case.

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That’s a Corsair HX850 power supply. What’s nice about it is that it is a “modular” power supply. That means that the unused cables can simply be unplugged from the unit. That makes a world of difference when you get to the end of the build and you have to find someplace to put all of those unused cables.

Oh yea, that power supply also has a fan inside of it. It pulls air in from under the computer, and exhausts it out of the back. That fan doesn’t run at all, until the power supply is putting out about 35% of its rated load of 850 Watts (so it may not turn on at all when the computer is sitting around in idle mode). That brings our total “fan count” up to 8.

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That’s a look at the right side of the unit, with the power supply cables at the bottom, the colored cables coming from the front control panel, and a couple of the fan cables.  Without a “modular” power supply, there would be more than twice the number of power supply cables that you see here. Of course I later needed to use several power supply cables that are not shown here to provide power to my disk drives, DVD burners, and the two fans that move air though the hard drive cage.

Computer cases are needed to hold everything together, and to provide good air flow. But they certainly are not sexy. Motherboards are sexy!

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The motherboard that I chose for this build is an ASUS Maximus VI Hero board.

Motherboards are where all of the action happens. This is the socket where the CPU (for Central Processor Unit, microprocessor, or just processor) will live.

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Let’s open that socket and have a look.

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This socket holds what Intel calls an LGA-1150 package. This is the new package that Intel is putting all of its 4th Generation Intel Core Processors (code named “Haswell”) into. Here is the microprocessor that I purchased.

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Most people have heard of Intel i3, i5, and i7 processors. They generally know that i5 is better than i3, and that i7 is better than i5. They don’t know why they are better… they just are. (If you are interested to find out, click here.) When someone tells me that they bought a new computer and mention that it has an Intel i7 processor in it, I always reply with “Cool! Which one?”. Of course this just gets a blank stare. They don’t know because the computer manufacturers do not tell them. There are literally dozens of Intel i7 processors out there.

All you really need to know is that the Intel i7-4770K is currently the highest performance Quad-Core processor that you or I can purchase. (There are two Hex-Core processors that are faster, though.) That little “K” on the end of the part number is immensely significant. Intel “unlocked” the clock multipliers on the i5-4670K and the i7-4770K processors. This allows these two models to be operated above the rated speeds of 3.4 GHz and 3.5 GHz, respectively. This is called “overclocking” the processor.

I fully intended to do find out just how far I could overclock my new computer, and then eventually back off a bit for everyday use. Everything that I have read in my research tells me that an air-cooled, really good i7-4770K should be able to run at 4.8 GHz, while the real dogs can only get up to 4.2 or 4.3 GHz. I thought that even if I purchased a real dog, that I would be very happy with 4.2 GHz!

Here’s that shiny new microprocessor in its new home.

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If you increase the clock rate of a CPU just a little bit, it will run faster. Turn up the clocks a little bit more and it will probably have insufficient voltage to run at that speed and will crash. Upping the voltage will get you up and running again at this higher speed, but the CPU will also be generating more heat. Your cooling solution must be able to dissipate this heat. Even at the rated speed (3.5GHz for this one), no CPU will run without a heatsink attached to it. Here are the brackets installed that my heatsink will later attach to.

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The real art of overclocking is to learn just how little of a voltage increase is needed to allow you to run at the next faster rate. The least amount of voltage provided, without crashing due to voltage starvation, will also generate the least amount of heat. To insure that you are not going to crash due to voltage starvation, you must have your processor running the biggest, baddest programs that you can find. There are lots of stress test programs out there. I am using both AIDA64 and an old version of Prime95 (v25.11).

Even as you continue bumping up the voltage just enough to allow you to run faster, you will eventually come to a point where you can no longer keep the temperature under control. Intel recommends that you keep the internal CPU temperatures below 85 degrees Celsius (185 F), but it will operate without damage up to 100 degrees C (boiling water!). World records are set by overclockers who use liquid nitrogen to keep their CPUs cool enough to operate. Serious overclockers use liquid cooling, much like the radiator in your car keeps the engine cool. I’m in the 3rd class of overclockers… I choose to use a simple heatsink and fan combination. Here’s my heatsink.

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That’s the Noctua NH-U14S heatsink, which comes with a NF-A15 fan.

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That fan pushes cool air into the heatsink. The NH-U14S also comes with a spare set of fan clips and extra thick anti-vibration pads for mounting a 2nd NF-A15 fan to the heatsink.

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That second fan pulls air from the heatsink. This push-pull configuration is just like what I did with the two fans mounted to the hard drive cage. (The fan count is now up to 10.)

Time to add the 16 GB of memory to the motherboard.

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Those two red and black memory modules (called DIMMs for Dual In-line Memory Modules) are a Corsair Vengeance Pro 16 GB kit, which consists of two 8 GB DIMMs. They operate a DDR3-1866 speeds, which is really 933 MHz.

That’s all of the preparation work needed for the motherboard. Time to sit back and admire our work so far!

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Just to put this motherboard in someplace safe, let’s put it into the computer case.

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Here you can see the 3 exhaust fans at the top of the case near the CPU heatsink and its two fans.

I prepared the case by mounting all of the fans and power supply on Monday evening (with Monday Night Football) going on. I prepared the motherboard the next evening. I took Wednesday evening off, and came back on Thursday evening to wrap up all of this hardware assembling.

The first item to add was the video card. This one is made by EVGA, and it is the GTX-760 SuperClocked model.

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Notice that this video card has two fans of its own, and that brings the total fan count up to 12. (That’s the final fan!) They pull in cool air from the bottom area of the case, and about half of that is exhausted out the back, and the other half just gets blown back out into the case. That doesn’t fit right in with the otherwise pristine “air flow strategy”, but it’s not all that bad.

Next I installed two ASUS DRW-24B1ST DVD Burners.

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Why two of them? Just habit, I guess. Anyway, they are just $20 each, so why not? (Photo is backlit by natural light coming in from my office window.)

That’s all that I need to do up front, so it’s time to put the front panel onto the case.

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Swinging around to the left side, I opened up the latching covers for the hard drive cage. This case will hold 6 disk drive units. The top latching cover is completely removed, but the other 5 are swung open to have a look inside.

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The top and bottom drive bays are good place to tuck in the middle portions of cables that are longer than I needed them to be, and you can see that’s what I’ve done. The next to the bottom bay is where I put my SSD (Solid State Drive). It’s a Samsung 840 Pro Series 256 GB drive. Since it generates very little heat, and since hot air rises, that’s why it’s at the bottom.

Above that, in drive bays 3 and 5, I installed two Western Digital Caviar Black 1 TB hard disk drives. I like the Caviar Black series of hard drives, as they come with a 5 year warranty.

I didn’t put these two drives in adjacent bays, simply to help with the air flow between them. You can clearly see how they are positioned relative to the little 120mm pull (exhaust) fan that mounted to the hard drive cage.

The DVD Burners and all three disk need their own SATA data cable, and they all needed to be connected to the power supply. All of those connections have already been made, and if you look closely (and know what you are looking for), you can see small portions of those black cables.

That is a pretty clean, uncluttered interior for a computer case! It needs to be that way to keep the air flow as smooth as possible.

Where are the other portions of these cables? Well they are hidden around back, on the right side of the case.

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The loose cables that you see here are all that remain to be connected. These are the front panel items like the power and reset buttons, the 2 USB 3.0 ports, the two USB 2.0 ports, and the headphone and microphone jacks.

Let’s hook all of that stuff up, and here’s the finished wire management behind the right side panel.

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At this point, there’s nothing left to do but to put the side panels back on!

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Remember that clear acrylic fan that pushed the cool air into the hard drive cage? Well it comes with a blue LED to light it up.

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Fortunately, there is also a switch on the front panel that can turn that off…

That’s really all of the photos that I took showing how I built my new computer. For the only remaining hardware to add, I went to our storage closet and got out an old Dell monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse. It’s all software after this point. Install the Windows 7 64-bit OS and install all the latest drivers for this motherboard and video card. For anyone not interested in overclocking their CPU, then they are done at this point.

But I am interested in overclocking, so my next steps were to install some specialized programs that allow me to really stress the system, and to monitor its voltages and temperatures while I’m doing it.

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This phase of the project can take several hours to get it roughly where you want it. It can also take up to a couple of weeks, if you really want to fine tune everything, and really make sure that it is stable and a computer that you can always trust.  Right now I’m just over a week into it.

So what are my results so far? Was it worth all of those fans and giant heatsink?  I’m very happy right now! I have kept excellent records as I worked, and I can now pretty accurately determine where my voltage vs. frequency vs. temperature envelopes are. I have created and saved several UEFI (aka BIOS) sets of settings that instantly get me to stable overclocks of 4.5 GHz and 4.4 GHz. I never could get anything stable at 4.6 GHz, without using very high voltages and not running heavy loads. I originally thought that I would be very happy with 4.2 GHz, but I haven’t run this computer that slow in over a week now. I’m sure that I will end up at either 4.4 GHz or 4.3 GHz and then just leave it there for the next 6 or 7 years.

I have no idea if anyone out there enjoyed this blog post or not. It’s not technical enough for an overclockers discussion, and it’s way too geeky for my photography friends. What it is though, is the combination of my two passions!

Thanks for stopping by today!

Cruise Ship Folded Towel Art

It has taken me a lot longer to get into the mood to put up this post than I originally thought that it would. I finished going through the 805 photos that I took on our Bahamas Cruise vacation, and cut it down to the 475 that I decided were keepers. But then I got all tied up in researching everything and anything that an engineer “needs to know” before ordering his next computer. I finally ordered everything this afternoon, so now I can finally turn my attention back to getting this blog post up!

Here is one of the first photos that I took on that vacation. This is our cabin on the Carnival Magic – our home for the next 7 days.

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Reminder: You can always view any photo at a larger size by just clicking on it. You will then need to use your browser’s “Back Button” to return to my story.

I took that photo right after we unpacked our luggage and neatly put everything away into the storage areas that they provided within our cabin. Barb had some time to relax with her Sudoku puzzles, and I got to play with my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera.

I only show that photo above to show the setting for the rest of the photos in this post. The rest of the photos were taken on the bed. Now get your mind out of the gutter!  This is a “family oriented” blog (or at least G-Rated)…

Living on a cruise ship is very much like living in a hotel or motel. While you are out and about during the day, people come into your room and clean the place up. They make the bed, change your towels, empty the trash, and in the evening, they always leave a folded towel on your bed.

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Now they do not fold the towels that they leave on your bed the same way that you or I fold our towels. No sirree…

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When I went on my first cruise, which was our honeymoon in 2000, the room steward did this same thing. I really thought that we had a really special room steward! But now that we have been on our 10th cruise in 13 years, I can only say that EVERY room steward on a cruise ship does this. It must be a mandatory requirement for their job.

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I brought my Gitzo GT1542T Traveller tripod with me on this vacation, but it never left our cabin. I only used it for the photos that I took of these folded towel works of art. All of these photos required a shutter speed of between 1/4 of a second up to 1.6 seconds in duration, so the tripod was a must.

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This next photo was the only one (besides the opening photo showing our cabin) that was taken during daylight hours, where diffused sunlight was coming in from the windows, backlighting my subject.

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The room steward left this one for us in the afternoon, while we were Segway riding along the beach in Nassau, Bahamas. Later that evening, he left this one for us.

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The main consideration to be taken into account when photographing white towels is to remember to override the camera’s light meter, and overexpose from what it suggests. I added +2/3 to +1 stop of exposure. When I used Aperture Priority mode, I just added some Exposure Compensation. When I used Manual mode, I just “overexposed” from what the meter indicated.

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If I didn’t add the extra exposure, the towels would have turned out gray in the photos. If I had added too much exposure, the entire white towel would have turned completely white, and you would not be able to see the texture in the towel.

I wanted to share these photos with you, but didn’t want to spend the hours to write up a big story to go along with them. So, I’m keeping this short and sweet!

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Now when will that UPS delivery guy get here with my new computer?

Key West Pub Crawl

Last week, Barb and I were on vacation. To escape the August heat in Texas, we took a 1 week cruise from Galveston, TX to the Bahamas and back. We got on the ship in Galveston about noon on Sunday, August 11th, spent that afternoon and the entire day on Monday at sea. On Tuesday morning, we docked in Key West, Florida. We got off of the ship about 10:25 AM.

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This was our 3rd time to be on a cruise ship that docked in Key West. The previous two times, we took a romantic sailboat ride out to enjoy the sunset, and the other time to take the Conch Train and do the typical touristy sightseeing stuff. This time, we signed up for something rather silly for a couple of old folks our age…

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Even though I had already walked 4 miles earlier that morning on the walking path aboard the ship, we were going to be vigilant and get our physical exercise in…. ;-)

Our excursion was supposed to start at 11:00 AM, but we stood around on the stark concrete dock until 11:20 (50 minutes) waiting for everyone to show up.

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Our tour guide led us across the pier to land, where we had a pretty nice view looking back at our ship, the Carnival Magic. Here’s a photo of the front half of our ship.

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Reminder: You can always view any photo at a larger size by just clicking on it. You will then need to use your browser’s “Back Button” to return to my story.

About a block later our tour guide, Robert, stopped the group of about 25 people (we had split into 3 groups), and told us what we needed to know to have a fun time on this shore excursion.

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That’s not his real hair. He’s as bald as Kojack was, but he’s wearing this very funny Guy Fieri visor & wig thingy. (Guy has a show called “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on The Food Network). Robert said it would make it easier for us “pub crawlers” to not lose him after we had been to a few bars…

I had my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera with my “usual” Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens mounted onto it.

Our first stop was Rick’s Tree Bar, where I had a drink called Caribbean Breeze.

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I rarely drink fruity, sweet alcoholic drinks, but this was very yummy. Besides, did I mention that I was on vacation? :-)

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We had about 20 minutes to spend at Rick’s Tree Bar, so I walked out to the street and took several photos of all sorts of goofy stuff. Here’s a photos of our bartender hamming it up for me.

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Pretty soon, it’s time to leave. Robert gathers us all up and leads us into an alley, where he was giving us some information about the next place that we were headed.

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Our next stop was Fogarty’s Flying Monkeys Saloon.

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I don’t remember what I ordered there, but it was what Robert recommended and it was delicious!

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Here are about 1/3 of the frozen drink dispensers that this bar had.

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I guess if you tried one of each flavor, that you certainly could see flying monkeys!

While we spent our 20 minutes here, I popped my little Olympus FL-600R flash onto my camera and played around with using the flash in daylight, including this photo of our tour guide.

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Head ‘em up and move ‘em out! We made our way to the end of William Street, which is at the water.

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It was a very short walk to the Schooner Wharf Bar, where the bartender was ready with jugs of pre-made rum-based drinks.

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The cup didn’t have the establishment’s name on it, so I just propped this coaster up to it for my photo.

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We were in an outdoor patio area, and there was a musician playing in a shelter at one edge of the patio. I walked over, put $5 in his tip jar, pointed to my camera, and he gave me a friendly, positive nod. I took 4 photos of this guy. I wish I knew his name, as he was very entertaining.

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Shortly after this, Robert gathered us all up and herded us over to the Lazy Gecko, back on Duval Street.

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This was the only bar that would serve a Margarita, so that’s what I had.

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After about 15 minutes, Robert had us all go into an air conditioned room in the back, where we had a conch blowing contest! I blew it for a pretty long time, but never really got it to resonate in a melodic tone.

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Now that photo was severely underexposed as I took it. I tried bouncing my flash off of the ceiling, but it was just too far away for my little FL-600R flash. I was amazed at how much detail came back by adding +2.75 stops of exposure using Lightroom 5 (and I didn’t do anything for “noise reduction”).

Our next, and last, stop was right across the street. Rick’s Bar.

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While I was waiting for the bartender to serve everyone else, I wandered over and tipped the musician, and he hammed it up long enough for me to get 3 pretty decent photos of him.

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Although I had already had 4 drinks in the previous 2 hours, I certainly wanted to say that I had survived the Key West Pub Crawl… I wasn’t going to be the sissy who couldn’t go the entire distance!

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If that cup looks familiar, it should! Remember our first stop? That was Rick’s Tree Bar. This was Rick’s Bar, which was right next door. Rick seems to have 8 bars in Key West…. (I thought Austin had a lot of bars… but Key West must have more bars per capita than any place on earth.)

OK, that concluded our official Key West Pub Crawl shore excursion. Barb needed a safety pin for a broken strap on one of her dresses, and I needed some AAA batteries for our alarm clock. Robert told us where the nearest CVS drugstore was, and we headed over there to get the items that we needed.

After purchasing our needed items, we had to walk about 5 or 6 blocks to get back to our ship. Just a couple of blocks into our walk, we came upon the “Smallest Bar in Key West”.

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Here’s a photo of the entire interior of this “saloon”.

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All of their drinks are served in your choice of either a coconut or a pineapple. Barb just had to have one. What the hey? Didn’t you just have 4 drinks already? OK… just let me take a photo of it. Besides, we weren’t driving anywhere, and did I mention that we were on vacation?

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You can walk down the streets of Key West with a drink in your hand, but we thought it best that we take a few sips first… we really didn’t want to spill any of it. :-)

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We took at least 45 minutes to make it those 5 blocks back to the ship. Not because we were incapacitated, but I kept stopping to take photos. When you are on vacation, everything is new and interesting, and must be photographed!

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Thanks for stopping by and visiting my blog!