It’s been a bit of a quiet one this week – some time was spent on continuing work on the long work benches I was making, but the biggest consumers of time have been a complete screwup by my hosting provider, and consulting on a sculpture gig that could lead to producing a big new work.
Well, I quit the TIG welding course.
I’d had reservations about the course from day one. The opening night was a theory class, that frankly wasn’t particularly professional in its delivery.
Week 2 and 3, I made some progress, but spent a lot of time dicking around with the machine to try to get it into an optimal state – which means that I never got to know if the problems I was having were a result of my physical technique, or a misconfiguration of the machine.
This leads to a side rant:
Students should always be given tools that are of sufficient quality, configuration and maintenance, that they can learn the physical practice of a skill, isolated from any influence the tool might have.
The other problem came from the fact that there were just too many students for a single teacher, which meant that when you had a problem, you had tens of minutes to wait before he came over to address what was wrong, which when it happens a couple of times per class, means you’re losing a pretty significant hunk of your course time.
Oh yeah, and to find the teacher in order to get help, you had to walk down the corridor between the welding bays, where half the students had their welding curtains open while welding, which means your eyes are exposed to weld-flash – not the best idea when you’re driving home at night in the rain.
Added to that, the class roll wasn’t “computerised”, whatever that was supposed to mean – which amounted to every class starting with people having to pass around a piece of paper, find their student number, and write it down with their name and signature – something the teacher could have done beforehand, meaning we’d lose 30 minutes of our 3 hour class before we’d even started.
So, on the 4th week I cracked – 30 minutes on the roll, then angle grinders to prepare my pieces of metal, that had their wheels worn down to nubs. My machine was in a state of disrepair from the previous user, and the parts I needed to set it up for my use were nowhere to be found amongst the mess of bits and pieces in various boxes on the workbench. I went to ask the teacher for a new critical part, and sat down to wait for him. 20 minutes later I was still waiting, so I attempted to make do with a part I thought might do the job, but the machine room I needed to use to clean it up was offline. One thing after another conspired to stop me getting any significant work done.
It wasn’t until 15 minutes before the class was due to finish that the teacher came to check on my progress, and seems mystified as to why I haven’t gotten stuff done. So, I told hi what a joke I thought the night had been, and that I was going to seek a refund. Then I left.
I sent a complaint letter, an angry complaint letter, and they responded, saying I’ll get a full refund, and that they’re going to be reviewing OH&S practices.
Aside from that, I went down to Brisbane overnight to see a gig at a venue which wouldn’t let me take my camera in, so I had to walk back to the hotel, drop it off, then come back. I am getting really sick of this “no professional cameras” garbage that seems to be springing up all over the place.
If there was one thing I wish I could do with this review, it’s to show you what this gig looked like. From the back of the venue, a view over the silhouetted throng of fans, the band ripping it up in full flight amidst the colour and smoke, the giant spray-stencil banner in the background like an industrial-music altarpiece, and the repeated perpendicular structural ribs of the drum-vaulted corrugated iron roof, that formed a perfect semicircle over the crowd, catching and outlined by the light, creating such a precise repetition in linear-perspective from stage to circle, that Kubrick himself could have set the scene.
I’d LIKE to show you that.
However, after buying tickets to the gig, driving 2 hours down to Brisbane, paying for a hotel room and parking for the night, phoning the venue and leaving a message asking them to let me know if there were any problems with cameras, packing seven grand worth of pro DSLR and some of the finest wide-angle optics ever made into a compact “body & lens only” camerabag, so that I could show you this near-religious vision of industrial music performance, I discovered at the door, that despite their website’s FAQ having no mention of this rule, The Triffid is yet another venue that has fallen victim to this idiotic policy of banning “professional” cameras from entry.
So, I can’t show you that.
Half the audience can block people’s view by holding up a cellphone, to take mediocre pictures that offer greater potential pixel detail than a “pro” camera could achieve 10 years ago. They can shoot video that would have required a steadycam-harnessed cine-camera that cost more than a luxury car 5 years ago, but apparently a DSLR, which will only block the user’s own view, is such a big problem, it requires blanket bans.
Sorry Ashley, but we missed Caligula (and the beginning of Jim Bob) walking back to the hotel to leave the gear – because again, when a venue has an unadvertised “no cameras” policy, you’d think they’d have enough of a clue as to have a proper security check-in situation with lockers, not “leave your camera here at the ticket booth” – an idea from which they retreated, when I told them what it cost.
Anyway, on to the music.
Jim Bob. Hmm, how to put this… Carter USM is consistently one of my favourite bands. They hold a deep sentimental spot for me because they were a high rotation band when I first got into the goth scene, and were on a couple of the played-to-death mix tapes I had back then. They’re also one of those bands that through poor timing, I never managed to see live. What Carter did, along with other contemporaries like the Poppies, even The KLF in their stadium house monsterworks, is construct huge, rich sounds, from so many dissonant sources, that you could just be overwhelmed by the music.
Jim Bob on his own with an acoustic guitar is not that. I don’t know what I was expecting – maybe the JB doing Carter tracks with a backing band, maybe with the Poppies actually doing the backing band stuff, I’m not sure. Even Carter’s acoustic tracks, like “The Man Who Bought The World”, have more in them. He joked several times about people being disappointed by the “is that it?” of it all, so I suppose he’s heard that reaction before.
In the end, it was an interesting performance, and thinking about it from the perspective of a soloist, doing acoustic protest songs, I’d have enjoyed it more if I was better prepared for that reality. As a positive, Jim Bob’s voice is still in great form. His anecdotes and chatter had the audience, myself included, laughing, but for someone hoping to see the indoor-nuclear-detonation opening of Surfin’ USM… maybe next time?
On to PWEI, or “PWEI Mk 2.5” as Mary Byker described them.
Holy freaking hell, they’ve so got it. Epic – there’s no other way to describe them. A big band, six musicians on stage – two vocalists, live drums, everyone looking like proper rock stars… except Graham, who in his grey, short-sleeved, button up collared shirt, looks like someone’s dad got lost in the wings, and ended up on stage. It’s adorable, and he looks like he’s really enjoying performing, so madprops, because nothing could detract from just how goddamn good, and how real, crunchy and live the band sounds.
It’s hard to say much more about them – how many superlatives can you come up with? Poppies fans in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, you’re in for a freaking treat.
The week started pretty well, with a group event at the local council chambers, organised by Create Noosa. A bunch of people involved in various forms of tech – VR, AR, photography, robotics and video held a showcase in the council chambers to talk about what we do, how we do it, and what the utility of all our workflows could be.
Wednesday, I had my third TIG welding class, and made some significant progress:
It’s all a matter of learning the muscle memory, and setting up to have a good work-angle, so you can control the direction the weld pool is going to slump into. Also, I’m finding that working at a slightly lower amperage on the arc, which means it’s a little cooler and slower to liquify the material, gives me a bit more time to think and reposition.
Gotta say though, the hand injury I did a while back is still causing problems which I’m having to work around.
This week had my second TIG welding class, where I finally got to use the machine. It’s a difficult process – keeping the tip a constant distance from the material you’re welding, while also moving it along, and bringing in a filler rod to add material to the weld, is problematic with unsteady hands.
In the photography world, I’ve been re-entering my panoramic photography process, trying to put together a demo of some of my panoramas for an event happening at the local council chambers next Monday. Once again, I’m struck by how clunky, and poorly implemented, the tools in panoramic software are.
Another relatively quiet one – the big event being that I started my TIG welding course. Hopefully, as a result of this training, I’ll be able to make delicate welding projects, like under 10mm stainless steel armatures. With that, I’ll be able to start on a series of small, figurative sculptures I’ve been planning for a while now.
On the same day I was going to the welding class, I had the laughable misfortune to get my first taste of being the target of an internet troll. Having been part of a group decision to remove a member from a Facebook group, as a consequence of their use of abusive and libellous language towards another member, and having drawn the duty to announce that to the group, I then found my phone going nuts with notifications as this person found me on Twitter, and started sending abusive replies to dozens of my recent tweets. So, after screenshotting everything, I blocked him, and he became a nonentity within my Twitter world.
Then, he started sending me abuse in Facebook Messenger, and commenting on Facebook, as my Tweet about this was crossposted there as a public post. The more the guy went on, the more unhinged, or at least mentally unwell, he seemed. So, I started deleting his comments to protect his reputation from himself, and then blocked him from commenting. He tried to rejoin the Facebook group a couple of times, so we just blocked him entirely.
A friend who saw the exchange noted that he lived only a stone’s throw away from him, found pictures of the guy from newspaper articles in a local paper, and made a prediction as to where he probably hung out, given the demographics and location involved.
Felt very Spook-y for a moment there.
Anyway, the welding course was OK – not the best organised theory session I’ve attended, but we’ll see what happens when the practical classes start. Driving back from Nambour, I was treated to an impressive lightning display, and the air, the whole way back, smelled of wood smoke. No rain, however.
This week has been quiet – the major project being a documentation of the photography kit I’ve been working on, which when I posted it on Twitter with @mentions to the companies whose gear was featured, received likes from 3 Legged Thing (as well as a retweet), Peak Design & Blackrapid.
Sunday evening was a cruise on the Noosa River, organised by the local creative community. There’s some formidable talent here – I spent an hour or so chatting with one of the 3D effects artists from the original Tron, and met a couple who are 3D animators, and fellow former Sydney Goth scene folks. We’ve probably been in the same nightclubs over the past couple of decades, despite having never met before. Small world.
I’ve finally succeeded in getting my Urban Exploration / Urban Landscape photography kit together, so I thought I’d document it here.
The goal was to have a single backpack that I could travel with, which didn’t scream “tactical gear bag”, and which could handle a versatile photographic load.
Here’s the loadout.
Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L, with:
Nikon d8XX with the 14-24 2.8, with a modified 3 Legged Thing QR-11 L-Plate. Umbrella in side pocket. Headphones and small medikit with hand sanitiser, paracetamol etc. Godox V860II & X1-n. Blackrapid Sport Breathe. GSI low-profile water battle in side pocket. 3 Legged Thing Leo with Airhed Switch.
It all packs in very snug, and there’s some modifications to the dividers to scavenge every last millimetre in width across the bag (not such a big commitment now they sell them separately). There’s also lens tissues, lens covers, remote release cable, camping knife-spork and a couple of cable adapters in the interior side pockets. Wallet and a protein bar in the top compartment, and still space for an iPad in the laptop sleeve.
Inside, there’s one vertical divider at the bottom to separate the camera onto the left, and tripod on the right, then one horizontal divider across the top of that.
The horizontal is folded up on the right to make one tall space for the tripod on the right. One layer of the folded up part on the horizontal divider is removed to give 5-10mm more room in the top left compartment. The vertical divider has a layer removed from the folding section as well, to give more room to the L-Plate on the camera, so as to stop the grip from poking out through the side. That vertical divider also has an extra row of velcro sewn onto it, so the whole side adheres to the inner surface of the bag, rather than just the stock tab. The Blackrapid bag packs in behind the tripod in the space it creates where the carbon fibre of the legs is exposed. The trimmed parts removed from the folding sections of the dividers are velcro-ed into the bottom of the bag with adhesive-backed velcro strips, to provide a bit of padding for the lens and bottom of the tripod.
This week has been another relatively productive one.
Tuesday, I was over at the Men’s Shed again, picking up the modified Blackrapid connector. It wasn’t quite as modified as necessary, unfortunately. Therefore, most of the day was spent with a file, manually cleaning up the lathe work, and removing material. Important lesson – never use a power tool, to do something that a hand tool can accomplish. The hand files have produced a beautifully even result.
I kept working on the Blackrapid connector throughout the week.
I also did a bunch more modifications to the 3Legged Thing L-Bracket, which involved taking some material out of the back so that the Blackrapid connector could be screwed through the plate and into the camera.
It’s not the prettiest result, but it works. That little cutout gives the Blackrapid connector’s loop the necessary room to rotate. It’s a simple design issue that could have been avoided, by just making the cutout a bit longer so that the threaded part of the slot was equidistant from the edges on all sides.
There was more extensive surgery to follow.
While the bracket is “universal” and specifies the Nikon D800 as having first tier compatibility, there’s still a couple of protuberances on the side of the camera that limit how snugly the bracket can nestle against it. One of these, is the attachment point for the rubber covers for the ports on the front of the camera. Another, is the thumbnail catch for the door covering the side ports, and another is a slight curve in the body’s geometry.
So it was back to filing to pull a bit of material out.
Now, this wouldn’t ordinarily be an issue, except that I’m trying to save every millimetre I can in overall camera width, so that I can pack it into my camera bag without taking off the L-Bracket. With these modifications, I was successful – the bag can zip closed, and the camera produces no visible bulges or bumps on its profile.
Thursday night was a meetup to talk about grants and funding as a followup from the Immerse conference, in conjunction with the Horizon festival. It was great to see the same faces, and get to the point where we know each other’s names.
Friday was a bit of a down day, but I bought a little pack of micro-files from Bunnings. They’re brilliant – don’t know how I made do without them in the past.
Here’s a gear hack to combine two products that should play well together, but don’t. The Blackrapid FR-T1 connector, and 3 Legged Thing QR-11 L-Bracket.
Technically, the QR-11 does work with Blackrapid straps – there’s a 1/4″ mounting hole in the short arm to screw in a Connector, however this interferes with the ability of the short arm’s rail to mount in the Tripod’s Arca clamp. Also, the ergonomics don’t work as well when the camera is hanging on the strap.
As a bonus, here’s a modification of the short arm on the L-Plate, to get it as close as possible against the side of the camera.
Material needs to be removed to clear the rubber gasket covers for the ports on the front of the camera, as well as the thumbnail catch for the port door on the side.