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Some thoughts about the Olloclip for iPhone 6

If you follow me on Facebook you’ll possibly have seen me periodically posting about how my neighborhood in Kenmore is overrun by wild bunnies in the summer, and this year is no exception. One of the things I quite enjoy about the walk up and down our hill when I’m doing my daily commute is looking for bunnies–whether they’re hanging out openly in someone’s yard, or ducking under bushes, or what have you.

I take pictures of them when I can. Like, say, this one!

Bun in the driveway

You might notice, though, that this picture is kind of soft and fuzzy, and I mean that in a “not just because it involves a bunny” kind of way. The reason for this, I have discovered, is because the iPhone (at least up through the 6’s, as well as the non-Plus 7, according to specs on uses digital zoom. And digital zoom gets problematic the closer in you try to zoom.

The common wisdom I’ve seen is that if you want to take a pic with an iPhone, you need to not zoom at all, and crop to get what you want. This is fine if what you’re taking a pic of is pretty close to you. Like this bunny! (This remains my very favorite bunny pic I’ve taken to date.)

Bus stop bun

But if a bunny is more than two or three feet away from you, you kinda have to zoom to shoot it. Because if you try to get closer, it will very likely sense your presence and bolt.

Which brings me to how I saw Dreamwidth friend cruisedirector posting her own bunny pics! She’s got some nice ones here and here and here, and in general, I’m rather jealous of her zooming abilities! She informed me that Samsung rather gets the credit for this, and if I google zoom specs for Samsung phones, I see things like “10x optical zoom” for the Galaxy S4 and yeah, that’d be why she’s taking better bunny pics than I am. ;D

So then I got all “so what can I do to solve this problem?”

Googling around led me to learning that there are assorted third-party lenses that have been made for the iPhone. The top two contenders I saw in my research were the Olloclip and the Moment, and of the two, camera nerds I read up on have been saying that the Moment is the superior lens.

The problem for me though is that the way the Moment works, they expect you to glue a mounting plate onto the back of your device, and screw the lens into that. I was rather dubious about this–and moreover, decided that I didn’t want to go hunting for one of these, even though I’d read in an article I found posted on the Seattle Times from 2016 that indicated that these lenses would be on sale at the Apple Store in Bellevue.

So instead I opted for the Olloclip. And specifically, I bought this thing, which gives me a telephoto lens and a wide angle one. The telephoto one is the one I’m interested in, since it gives me some optical zoom capability… 2x optical zoom as well as a shallower depth of field. It’s super-easy to pop onto the phone, and I can flip it around to use the wide angle lens. Both lenses can line up with the front and back cameras.

The one drawback here is that I do have to take the phone’s case off, but I’m okay with that.

And so far, the one thing I’m not entirely happy with is that test shots I’ve done with notable amounts of sky in them have caused there to be a bit of a dark halo effect in the corners. So to account for this, I will need to practice aiming and then cropping to get rid of that.

Also, if I change phones and want to continue to have an external lens, I’ll need a different one because this one is specifically designed for the iPhone 6. So far though I’m okay with that, too! My current phone is still perfectly lovely and I won’t be updating it in the near future.

So for now this little toy should be perfectly lovely for my bunny-photographing needs, and I will also be taking it to Quebec with me–because I’m hoping the improved zoom will let me do better at taking pics of musical performances, too. 😀

Here are a bunch of test pics I’ve done with the lens clip so far (and if the thumbnails aren’t coming through for some reason, you can find them directly on flickr here):

Happy with the purchase so far. Playing with this is already fun! Looking forward to learning more!


My kinfolk come to call, Part 1: Underground Tour and the Zoo!

Not too terribly long ago I posted about why it’s not safe for Dara and me to visit Kentucky right now. I am pleased to report as a followup to this, though, that Kentucky came to visit me–by which I mean, my brother Marc and his wife just came out to Seattle to spend a lovely little weekend at the Murkworks. I was very, very happy to see them, given that it’s been about five years since the last time I was there (i.e., when my grandmother Hyson passed away).

Marc had been to to Seattle before–he had in fact briefly gone to school out here. But this was Didi’s first visit. And this was also the first time in a LONG while the two of them had been able to get some time to themselves, without having to worry about their children (who they’d left in the capable hands of their oldest daughter Meighan, now 24). So it was a win for all concerned. 😀

I took Friday off from work specifically so that I’d be available to show Marc and Didi around, and Friday we dedicated mostly to doing the Underground Tour. This was my second time doing it, and I was amused to see that the tour guides hadn’t lost a step with their patter for the crowd–although now, they’ve updated the routine to include Pokémon jokes and asking people not to play Pokémon Go in the tunnels (and we shall pretend we didn’t hear the guide stage-whispering about how they’re full of nothing but Zubats anyway, lol).

After the tour, we poked briefly around Westlake (where a visit to LUSH was definitely in order), and even more briefly into Pike Place, where I showed them the Marketspice tea place. Then around five we hopped into the car to head to I Love Sushi on Lake Union to meet Dara and Paul for dinner at 6. (That it took nearly that entire hour to get from Pacific Place to the restaurant, just under two miles, should indicate to y’all exactly how screwy traffic in downtown Seattle during rush hour on a Friday can get. Even if you’re not trying to get through the Mercer Mess.) And the sushi at I-Heart was, as always, superbly tasty.

Saturday, though, is mostly what I wanted to cover in this post! Because Saturday afternoon we designated for going to our most excellent Woodland Park Zoo. The weather was beautiful for it–mid 70’s, only partly cloudy, an overall perfect day for wandering around the grounds.

Which, of course, meant that the entire population of Seattle had the same idea. Because when we got there, it took us a good half hour just trying to figure out where the hell to park. I’m pretty sure I vultured my way through all of the zoo’s parking lots, to no avail. We finally wound up parking a few blocks north of the zoo grounds, on one of the nearby residential streets, and walking in from there. Thankfully, this went off without a hitch.

Inside the zoo itself we soon discovered that a lot of the biggest and most entertaining critters were in fact hiding. We expect that this was due to it being the hottest and brightest part of the day. But we did at least get to see several types of critters!

Like, for example, these tortoises. They were the first critters we saw as we came into the grounds, in a little cage near the stage where they have the Zoo Tunes concerts.

Most of the critters we wound up seeing being out and active were little ones–but the wolves and the bears were a notable exception, as they were the few big predators out and about in their enclosures. I spotted multiple wolves in the wolf pen. No doubt because the elk were also out, and the Woodland Park Zoo keeps the elk next door to the wolves. (A location decision which has always made me snorfle a bit, because TRYING to tempt the wolves there much?)

Wolves can be seen here!

And OH MY YES THE BEARS. The bears were out and having great fun in their pool, and interacting a lot with each other. One of the bears got right up against the back of the pool, too, so its back was right next to us! This made for some great shots. 😀


And there were otters (two different kinds!), and giraffes, and very drowsy lions (though my pics of them came out looking like impressionist paintings, due to how you can’t properly zoom on an iPhone for distance shots), and a tapir, and pythons, and lots of monkeys!

The whole set of pics is on, and on Facebook here.

Great fun all around! And we eventually wandered home again, in time to get back to go see Ghostbusters that night. About which there will be an entire next post!

EDITING TO ADD 1/3/2019: The zoo pics were moved from my Flickr account to my site. The thumbnails and links in this post have been updated accordingly.

Photos, Quebecois Music

My very first fiddle lesson!

On Saturday I had the great pleasure of visiting Lisa Ornstein for my very first lesson on the fiddle. And to my amused surprise, I didn’t play a single note on the instrument.

Yet I had a couple of hours of deeply satisfying conversation and instruction! So what did I do if I didn’t actually play anything?

A lot of exactly why I wanted to engage an experienced teacher: i.e., a lot of going over the overall anatomy of the instrument and the bow, to talk about what goes into making them and how they work. And a lot discussion of proper stance, both sitting and standing, and proper ways to hold both the instrument and the bow. I very much wanted to sit down with someone who knew what they were doing to go over this stuff, just because the violin does intimidate me a bit, and taking the time to examine it in detail helps address that problem. If I know something, it becomes less scary!

And as part of trying to make all that discussion stick in my brain, I’m writing it up now for all of you! There will also be pictures!

Continue Reading


Goodness, a lot of you are still hitting my mammoth name poll

Google Analytics informs me that my poll from 2013 as to what to name my mammoth is still getting a stupidly high number of hits. This confuses me deeply, given that I’m wondering what the heck all you folks are actually searching for, and whether a poll I did two years ago at this point is in fact interesting enough to you that you’ve clicked over to read about it.

If you did indeed do that thing, HI! The mammoth in question was named not long after that poll, of course. His name is Jean-Claude! (Or sometimes Jeanne-Claudette, because it is important to note that my mammoth is genderqueer. Sometimes he feels male! Sometimes she feels female!)

Either way, my mammoth ALSO says hi. Here are more current pics, of me and J-C and three awesome musicians I learned things from at Fiddle Tunes: Lisa Ornstein, André Marchand, and Normand Miron!

Jean-Claude did had a wonderful time at Fiddle Tunes, and so did I!

About Me, Photos

Behold the coming of the Hair Shenanigans!

Internets! This past August I promised you that if Faerie Blood cracked 300 sales, I would dye my hair. And now, since that milestone was reached, today I have made good on my promise!

This is the second time I’ve ever had my hair colored, ever, and getting it professionally done was a big change from the one time we did it back in Kentucky with a home coloring kit. That was a weird strawberry blonde color that ultimately didn’t look quite natural on me, but it looked like it should have been natural on somebody. I figure if I’m going to put weird colors on my head, screw it, go with colors you just aren’t going to find in nature. 😀

Blue and green were my colors of choice, as those are my two favorite colors, and the stylist agreed that they’d work well with my coloring. I got the work done by Jade at Scream Salon in downtown Seattle–the same woman who does Dara’s vivid fire-engine red. Jade was very amused by the contrast between Dara having a “warm” color and me rocking the “cool” tones, though, you can make a real strong argument for the shades of blue and green we selected being very warm.

I chose to do a few different shades, with highlight-type blocks hiding underneath my actual hair color. This seemed easier on my hair, and also avoids the problem of my roots growing out and therefore losing the color. Plus, having bits of brilliant color lurking in my otherwise blonde hair seemed to fit me well personality-wise. So now, depending on which angle you look at me from, you’ll get different bits of color!

Jade used bleach on the bits of my hair that she colored, and used the second lowest amount necessary just because my hair’s pretty pale to begin with–and I’m starting to go gray in front anyway. Which meant that when the bleaching was done, parts of my hair were lighter than it’s been since I was a little kid! And it also means that the bits of my hair that’ve gone gray in front turned into some neat highlights against the added color. Jade said as well that this is the brightest she’s seen the colors. My hair apparently took to this really well.

This was huge fun, and it’ll be neat to see how the color changes and fades. I may decide to keep doing this, I dunno yet. Paul says that if I do I should totally rock this brilliant dark blue that’s lurking on the right side of my head.

So here’s some of the after shots! This one shows the colors being kind of subtle:

You’d think, looking at that, that I had hardly any color at all. But you’d be WRONG.

And this one’s my favorite. You can see bits of the blue AND the green:

The full set is right over here!

EDITING TO ADD 1/3/2019: I had to move the pics off of Flickr, so now they’re on The links in this post have been changed accordingly.

About Me, Photos

Internets, I give you my new author pic

At the day job this afternoon, my team’s having a little party for our lead dev’s birthday! The theme is mustaches, so there are cookies and cupcakes with mustaches decorating them. And they brought in fake mustaches (the box for which was helpfully labelled EMERGENCY MUSTACHES, y’know, for all your whisker-impairment needs) for all of us to wear.

However, nobody said how we were supposed to wear them. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a QA engineer demonstrating ‘boundary testing’!

Mustache Hat

Mustache Hat

Great Big Sea, Photos

Sneak peek: pics of Great Big Sea at the Moore!

The full show writeup is on the way, but for those of you who haven’t already seen me post these pics to the social networks, behold! My first attempt at getting a full shot of pics of the B’ys on my phone!

These were taken from Stage Bob in the second row, so we were pretty darned close to the stage. I was able to only get a small number of good shots, though–most of the songs were too brightly lit from my vantage point to get clear shots, especially given my newbie skill level. I don’t have a very steady hand yet either.

But! I did get several kinda okay shots during “The Mermaid” and one or two on other songs as well. The sparkly thing hanging off of Séan’s mic stand is actually a mobile saying “GBS XX”, which someone gave to the band as a gift before the show! Plus, there are quite a few shots of the crowd immediately around and above me, during the intermission between sets!

You can see all of the pics on my site!

EDITING TO ADD 1/1/2019: Edited this post to point at the pics on, as I have moved them from Flickr over to my own site.