Ever wonder what's inside of an Ikea tabletop?

If you follow me on Twitter or YouTube, you may have seen my latest workspace setup.  For the project I did in early January 2014, I ordered some stuff from Ikea.  I bought a 47" LINNMON tabletop thinking Ikea says it can support 110 pounds, should be strong enough for what I need it for and the price was cheap, well I should of known better.  After roughly 6 six months the tabletop have began to bend from the weight of my two monitors.  The monitors together weigh almost 30 pounds, now I'm not saying it was bending to the point where everything was rolling to the center, but enough that some of the feet on the monitors stand wouldn't be touching the surface allowing the monitor to move very easy.

I'm working on creating a new workspace using a solid butcher block, not going to reveal anything quite just yet, you'll just have to wait and find out.  But anyways, I decided to take this cheap Ikea table top outside and cut it open, here's what I found.

Inside of the Ikea LINNMON table top has revealed that Ikea is so cheap that they decided to fill the inside of table with some kind of honeycomb paper.  When I ordered the tabletop, I knew it wasn't going to be like my old MDF desk, but still..I was hoping for it to be somewhat of a solid material inside.  If you dropped anything accidentally on your desk, it would go through it easy. 

The table top was so easy to cut open with a utility knife, within seconds I already had this section cut out.  I'll be honest, I really did like the acrylic painted top, it didn't scratch at all, unless you are using a utility knife of course.  

Would I recommend this particular table top? Nope.  But would I still recommend Ikea after all of this?  Yes, absolutely.   If you are willing to spend the money, Ikea actually does make some rather good furniture and most of it is solid hardwood.  So when you are planning on building a home office, don't go cheap like I did.  Go with solid hardwood because it will last you forever, nothing will peel off and its not filled with paper. 

Tamrac MX5341 Pro 50 Lens Case

I recently purchased the Tamrac MX5341 Pro 50 lens case for my 12-24 f/4 and 85 1.8G (Tamrac says it will fit lenses 5.5" tall, but I could fit slightly longer lenses without a problem) and I would like to give you some of my thoughts about this product and why I ended up returning it back to the store. 

The lens case is actually quite durable with heavy duty zipper and the PolyTek nylon material its made out of is water resistant so you don't have to worry about the lens instead getting wet, also a rain flap prevents the elements hitting the zipper.  The padding inside of the lens case is thick all the way around offers really good bump protection. 

The lens case is designed for Tamrac's M.A.S. system (Modular Accessory System) but can be used on your regular plain old leather belt.  You can either un-velcro the belt loop or slide it through the non velcro part (that's what I did).  When attached to my pants belt, it really did feel secure and didn't bounce around as much as I thought it would.  Tamrac also put in a couple button snaps to give you that little extra layer of security.

Despite the lens being made of high quality or pro grade, it just wasn't practical for how I wanted to use it.  The lens case is really  designed for their M.A.S. system to increase storage with their camera bags or be used with their accessory belt not for wearing on your side like a fanny pack.

The reason why I wanted to try a lens pouch was because I didn't want to carry a camera bag around all day for one lens.  Sure, it did make it lighter only having the pouch, but its a lot easier using a messenger bag or sling style backpack because there is a less of a chance of dropping a lens when changing them.  I don't know how many times I almost dropped my lenses because I was fumbling around trying to swap lenses with that little pouch.  

Not to say it didn't work because it did work fine, but Its just not for me, not for my style of shooting and some may agree and some may disagree, I know a lot of pro photographers that love their lens pouch system, but they have a whole array of them for events and that's really where this product is marketed toward.  But I also think these lens pouches would work great for added an additional spot for a lens.   

3 things my Dental Hygienist told me

I neglected my teeth for many years.  I stopped going when I was a little kid because I was apparently too much to handle at the dentist office.  Couple years ago I decided that it was time to take action and get my teeth fully restored not only for my appearance, but for my health.  After an entire year practically every 2 weeks (My doc gave me a month break here and there) of getting my teeth drilled and filled (and lots of numbness) I was finally done! I had nearly 20 fillings. I am thankful for being able to keep all my teeth after my bad mistake of not going to dentist.  A lot of people are afraid of going to the dentist and honestly, I wasn't nearly as bad as I thought.  The only thing that kind of sucked was the needle..but I had an awesome doctor.  Don't stop going to the dentist because you don't like it, you'll pay like I did.

Last week was my first appointment with my dental hygienist to get my teeth cleaned and it was truly a breeze.   I was in and out in about 15 minutes.  No cavities!  Woohoo!

Before she started to clean my teeth, we had a little discussion on maintaining my newly restored teeth and she gave me a few pointers that really helped me out and I would like to share those with you.

Mouthwash before your brush & floss

Using mouthwash before brushing and flossing helps to loosen food particles and build up, making brushing and flossing much more effective. A lot of people love to use mouthwash after because it gives you that "just brushed" feeling. I like to get ones with the least or zero alcohol content as alcohol can dry out your teeth, allowing bacteria a place to grow. However, I produce a lot of saliva and therefor I am lucky because my teeth never dry out. Dentists don't like people with a lot of saliva, its messy! Believe me! But saliva keeps your teeth healthy.

Brush your tongue!

Everyone focuses on brushing their teeth, but they tend to forget about their tongue. Your tongue is a breeding ground for bacteria. The foods and beverages we drink during the day live and breed on the rough surface of your tongue. Brushing your teeth eliminates bacteria that have adhered to your enamel, the bacteria on your tongue may transfer to your teeth over a period of a few hours. By brushing your tongue, it removes the bacteria hiding in rough surface of your tongue and not only prevents bacteria spreading to the teeth, but also combats bad breath and of course your overall health. Don't forget to rinse after!

Brushing before or after breakfast doesn't matter

I've done a lot of research on this particular subject. I discussed this with my hygienist because I could not find a solid answer, I kept hearing both sides. She basically she told me, it doesn't matter. Technically speaking it's better to brush after you eat breakfast, but not everyone has time to eat and wait a little bit for the saliva do its job and then brush. Everyone typically prefers to brush first thing in the morning "during your morning bathroom stuff" before they eat breakfast, that's actually what my hygienist told me she does. I say, do what you prefer because either way will produce similar results. Your teeth is self cleaning to a point, they can take care of themselves during the day. Remember saliva is your friend, it's crucial for good dental hygiene. Brushing your teeth before you go to bed is far far far more important.

How to Remove the Yahoo Bar from Flickr

I have a love hate relationship with the new Flickr design and while they removed the Flickr Pro which stills gives me unlimited storage and ad-free browsing, but why on earth would they put this silly Yahoo bar on top of the page?  For once its just out of place and sticks out like a sore thumb and I pay money for ad-free browsing..I don't want to see their stupid Yahoo bar floating on top.  I found a way to remove this silly bar in just 2 easy steps forever!  I hope Yahoo doesn't get mad at me.

yahoobar

Step 1

Install an extension for your browser called "Stylish" which is available for Firefox & Chrome.  If you use Safari (come on get Chrome!!) there is a beta version, but use at your own risk.

Step 2

Install this CSS style to remove that silly Yahoo bar from Flickr.  Click "Install with Stylish"  (not that green download button, thats an add!) to install the CSS style.  Now just refresh your Flickr page and that Yahoo bar should be removed!

There are plenty of other CSS styles for Stylish to make your new Flickr experience better and I may share some of those as I experiment with them further.

What's a Supermoon and How to Shoot it.

Before I begin, I wanted to say that the picture below is the supermoon I took in my backyard, it may be boring to some because I don't live in city or a place that would have many foreground elements that I could use to my advantage to make the picture more interesting.  Instead I decided to do a scientific style photograph.

Supermoon

When the moon makes its closest approach to the earth on its orbit and it just happens to be a full moon at that particular time, is called a Supermoon. On average the moon is typically 238,900 miles from the earth, however, the moon distance varies over the course of the orbit of the moon from 221,600 miles at perigee and 252,500 miles at apogee. We call this a supermoon because it happens to be a coincidence that the moon is at perigee and at full moon.  So it appears bigger and brighter than normal.  To the naked eye, it really doesn't look any bigger than the moon on average, but it is far more brighter than normal and that's because its at perigee, the closest point when the moon passes the earth.

Technically speaking its 14% larger and 30% brighter than when the moon is at its farthest point or apogee.  Supermoon's occur about once every 14 full moons.

supermoon comparison

Supermoons seem to appear incredibly large when the moon is rising from the horizon, scientists are unsure why it appears extremely large.  When the moon is at the horizon, this is the best time to photograph the moon, especially if you have some foreground elements to include in your picture, like a city skyline for instance.  I want to give you a couple tips when photographing the moon that can help to insure a sharp picture of the moon.

 

1. Use a telephoto lens

Well this is a no brainer, you're not going to take pictures of the moon with a 10.5mm fisheye, you could..but the moon would be a tiny dot.  Use a telephoto lens to take close up pictures of the moon.  I used a Nikkor 70-300 VR lens to take my picture of the moon.  If you are really serious, then you could always rent a 800mm lens for a couple days to get a even closer shot of the moon.  If you shooting the moon at the horizon with a city in the foreground, then a wide to tele lens,  like a 24-70 2.8 or a 17-55 2.8 should do the job just fine.

2. Get a sturdy tripod

You'll want sharp pictures of the moon and when you're shooting the longer focal lengths like 300mm or 800mm, you'll get camera shake even with vibration reduction is turned on.  So having a tripod to make the camera is steady is the key to getting a sharp picture of the moon.

3. Use live view to manual focus

Most of the new DSLR cameras have the ability to use live view mode, basically all it does is flip the mirror up to expose the sensor and sends what the sensor sees to the lcd monitor on your camera.  I use this mode when taking pictures of the moon because I can zoom it on the moon with the lcd monitor and then manual focus to get an even sharper picture than what the camera's autofocus will do, because it may not be spot-on when taking pictures of the moon.

4. Avoid ultra fast and slow shutter speeds

The ground you may be standing on is still, but the earth and moon are moving and the moon is bright, so you'll naturally want to avoid a slow shutter speed because otherwise with a slow shutter, you'll get blur and the moon will be overexposed.  When taking pictures of the moon, I try to aim for shutter speeds around 1/125th or 1/200th (may vary on what aperture you use) to get a decent exposure and get the details while freezing the moon and helping to reduce any camera vibration that there may be.

5. Keep the ISO low as you can

Keeping your ISO low will produce a clear and noise free image, I wouldn't go any higher than ISO 400.  If you are using a small aperture, like f/8, you may have to adjust your ISO to keep your shutter speed above 1/125th of a second.

6. Shoot in RAW

I always recommend shooting in RAW format period.  RAW files are basically a digital negative, it has not been processed yet and requires you to process them and yes, you may think that it requires more work but it allows the flexibility when editing your photos, theres just more data in RAW files than JPEG files.  The dynamic range is far better in RAW format then JPEG  files. I can take an overexposed shot in RAW format and then bring back the exposure in Lightroom and you're going to see details, possibly saving the image.  Something you just can't do with JPEG.

7. Experiment and have fun!

Listen, the moon isn't going anywhere any time soon.  Its there to stay.  So no need to rush things and just have fun and experiment, try different settings or zooming out more and take a picture every 10 seconds until the moon goes out of frame and then layer them in like Photoshop and you'll see where the moon tracks.

What I ended up doing is an HDR (high dynamic range) of the moon so I can get further details.  There was clouds approaching so I didn't want to waste time and bracket the shots, so I just used the one RAW file and then used Adobe Camera Raw to make my exposures adjustments (ev-1, ev-0, ev+1) and the I let Photomatix process them and then final adjustments here and there in Photoshop.