Monday, April 1, 2013

Dooley the Distorted

We've been playing around with cameras again, as you well knew we would be. This time we took the dog over to Grace Bay beach to try out a new camera mount idea. This one is very similar to the "Dooley Cam" mount that we've used on his life jacket, but made to fit him without the bulky jacket. I stuck a photo of it in the previous blog post. All we needed was a reasonably good beach day. Not too hard to find around here.

We needed another seawater fix and this was as good an excuse as any to take the dog for a walk at the beach. We drove the rented Fiat across the island to the "new" park at the Bight. I think they dedicated this back a few years ago but it's still referred to as the new park, and we've also heard it referred to as the children's park. It's got a very nice and convenient parking lot right across the road from the Department of Boat Stuff. That's not their official name. I use that to differentiate it from the Department of Road Stuff, who are actually over by the airport. We get the dog quickly through the groups of happy picnic lovers on their blankets with all their lovely fried chicken and peanut butter sandwich filled coolers. We have to keep Dooley on a leash while in the vicinity of small people with food. He will lick the chocolate off a suddenly surprised and wide eyed little face and grab what's left of their lunch in mid air. He's good with surprise attacks. Once we got sufficiently clear of the sandy diaper mob, we unshackled the wee beastie and scooted down the beach a bit to get away from the crowds. See the crowds?

I guess crowded beaches are a relative thing. By our standards, this is mobbed. We've gotten spoiled by being able to boat to so many deserted beaches on other islands that we rarely go to the most popular beaches here on Providenciales any more. This particular stretch of sand wins a spot near the top of every list I ever see of the world's best beaches. It's a combination of beautiful, soft, clean sand and the clear, warm turquoise water. And this beach is generally in the lee of the island so the waves don't knock your teeth out or sweep your feet out from under you. And never at the same time. There's a nice reef offshore to take most of the brunt of the breaking ocean waves, and this protects the entire beach. Also makes for some fine scenery.

I noticed some lines of sea weed from the recent tides. Keep in mind that it's winter here, and current patterns change a little bit from season to season. And I was kidding about it being crowded. We've never seen a time when we couldn't walk for a few minutes and find a stretch of beach all to ourselves. Even here in the heart of the local tourism industry's best spot during spring break.

There are a number of resorts, hotels, condos and villas spread out up and down Grace Bay. I just took a quick look in the local Yellow Pages and found 21 hotels listed along Grace Bay. Yet, it doesn't really look at all congested and there really isn't any particular spot that feels crowded to me. It's not that kind of place. It's not built up like some beach resort communities on some other islands that we could name. There are still private residences on the beaches here, and a fair bit of open space.

Speaking of houses, not far down the beach from that one we spotted this new contemporary construction going in. A very solid looking, steel reinforced concrete structure. There is a big open area in the middle, and big overhead steel doors that close off the two apartments. It doesn't appear to be finished yet. What a great location.

We're known to snap a photo of just about anything that interests us, and we were doing a little of that on this trip. We've already posted photos of the other end of the park, back during a sailing competition. a couple years back. This park gets a lot of use, too. Recently we noticed that someone has been sponsoring a Fish Fry here every Thursday evening. I found some good photos of the fish fry thing on a tourism blog here, written by "insiders". It's not all that easy to find interesting subject matter in your own neighborhood. We have to ask ourselves, 'what would someone in the middle of a town some place a long way from here find interesting?' and it's just not that simple. Sometimes the simplest everyday things that are commonplace to one person might be totally amazing the first time someone else sees it. And of course there are some things one just doesn't write about. Not while one is still living there, anyhow..

The quality of the photos we were taking on this trip was suffering from intermittent cloud cover, too. The little pocket digital cameras do a pretty good job when they have lots of light. Not so good under a gray sky.

That sign is next to an exhibit of a 'reef ball'. These are the poured concrete artificial reef habitats that marine biologists put around the sea floor to produce protective homes for little sea critters. Things that crawl and swim can get into the protected inner area though the large holes in the bottom section. I should have put something there to show you the scale of this, but imagine that you could put both of your fists into one of those large holes in the bottom. Unless you're Andre the Giant, I mean. He'd have to use a separate hole for each fist.

The little penthouse apartment section that makes up the top two floors of the reef ball is for small critters that need protection to develop.

I cropped this part of the sign photo to make it easier to read their description of the reef balls. There is a small map representation of this portion of the park there, also. We wuz here!

We posted some underwater photos of the reef balls over at Smith's Reef in an earlier post.

I wish I had some great Dooley Cam video footage to show you, but alas, the prototype mount still needs some modifications. When I made the similar mount for his life jacket, I had the longitudinal support of that jacket to keep the camera motion dampened in the pitch axis. Well, with this new little saddle type mount, the camera was flopping fore and aft way too much to get anything useful. It did produce some interesting images. And a very tired dog. We finally gave up on the photography stuff and just chilled out in the sand for a while. Dooley likes to come down and check out the lee side of his islands on a regular basis, anyway.

He keeps a good track of whatever is going on around him. And you can tell by the wet fur that he's been swimming. That's actually a redundant statement, now that I think of it. If there's a beach nearby, he's been swimming.

I thought you might get a kick out of some of the random images we got by attaching the GoPro camera to my prototype Dooley Cam mount. We shot some video at 60 fps and I also set the camera up to shoot time lapse on a two second interval, and those shots came out really bizarre. Some of this stuff looks like Salvador Dali's spirit got into the camera during a playful moment.

The dog rarely stops moving, of course, and whenever the camera captured an image the chances were excellent that it came in the middle of some quick maneuver that Dooley was going through. Possibly aerial. These are somewhat indicative of the sudden abrupt changes of motion I am going to have to compensate for with this little camera platform. It's an engineering problem, and it's not going to be easy to come up with any kind of platform stabilization for an unfettered dog of this demeanor. Simply put, without the stiff back of the life jacket the little booger is free to wiggle, and it's not that simple to find a good spot for a camera on a wiggling dog. If I strap something to the dog to keep him from wiggling it creates all kind of personal and ethical dilemmas for me. I know how I'd feel if someone strapped me up to keep me from wiggling. Don't ask.

So here for your amusement are some views from the back of an unfettered dog running around on the beach.

It's either that, or I must finally accept that dogs have two feet in each of a couple of dimensions and one can only find that out by designing a very special camera mount that captures things as the dog sees them. For example, notice the shadow of the dog and camera on the sand in that photo above. Nothing amiss there, right? So, what's Dooley looking at? He's given a new vertical dimension to the view across Grace Bay.

And yet a split fraction of a second later he turns abruptly and it's like a view of an alternate universe. Time and space folded over onto itself by a small exuberant animal chasing the very joy of leaping in the sand on a distant beach? This shot somehow manages to capture the same stretch of beach three times, and inverts and folds it.

Interesting that the digital cameras can do this.

I plan to modify the mount somehow, because I cannot imagine any software that would be able to handle this kind of random distortion. Unless Dr. Leary's back and working for Microsoft. It may be that small dogs and GoPro's are not the best combination. I think I might need either a bigger dog or a smaller camera. I know which of those is the most cost effective.

And through it all of course Dooley the Dangerous is totally in charge of all he sees. Or so he would have you think. These are not shy dogs. He has been showing some evidence of turning into a grumpy old man lately, but then put him on the beach and he's a puppy again.

How many dog ears can you count in this one exposure? Notice they're in different positions? That's a mirror image of the tree, too.

And this next one sort of explains why there are so many uncharted areas around here. You have to go around the bend to even see them. And of course Dooley was beside himself

Okay, I won't continue with those. We ran that camera taking a shot every two seconds for about an hour. Almost all of them look like some variation of those five I just uploaded. When viewed in sequence, it's a strange and somewhat disorienting visual trip. Imagine the view of a small cowboy strapped to the back of a 15 lb bucking bronco with really quick moves. For a lot longer than 8 seconds.

I would have tried some more experiments, but Dooley got tired and I could see that I would have to add a longitudinal brace down his spine to keep this camera from flopping and messing up the photos. I don't really want to do that. It could work a lot better if the center of gravity of that GoPro camera wasn't so high. Have any of you guys experimented with the little cylindrical POV cameras yet? I am thinking that might be the next direction we move in. Less air volume to fog, and I can mount it low to the dog. But for now, I figured he'd earned a break.

We've got a bunch of small DIY projects going on at the moment. Dooley's camera mount is one of them. I'm also working on motorizing a camera slider to take time lapse images. I've been very limited as to what I could find down here for a battery powered electric motor. La Gringa finally located one for me, and I've been making pulleys out of starboard plastic. I needed some drive belts and while big O-rings would have been great, we couldn't find any that were even close

I found out that you can cut a circular piece of tough, flexible rubber from the top edge of a Croc without seriously affecting the usefulness of the shoe much

You don't think much about buying things like inline skate wheels, until you need some and start looking around for them. Even cheap ones would suffice. But nope. Not so far. I haven't gone over to Krazy Bargains yet, and it's possible they might have a set of children's skates or something like that that I could scavenge after shelling out three times their value.. This is a second level priority DIY, anyhow. Maybe even third tier

On other fronts, La Gringa continues her flying lessons. Dooley and I look forward to sitting out at the airport for a peaceful hour with our VHF radio listening to the pilots and air traffic and watching her flying around. This is right after a recent take off last week:

As I'm writing this, we've just returned from another trip over to North Caicos. We went to watch a kite flying contest, of all things, over the Easter holiday weekend. We got a lot of nice photos and I'm pretty sure that unless something exciting happens in the meantime, that will be the subject of our next short-post-but-more-frequently experiment

In the meantime, would you believe it if I were to tell you that this is a sunset? Some of them look remarkably like sunrises, don't they? It would have been a good one


Anonymous said...

Another beautiful post. I have some experience with the small, 'lipstick-style' cameras attached to homemade foam-board airplanes for POV flying and ariel photography. 60 bucks for the servos and recievers and a dollar for for the whole airframe, crash and rebuild for a buck, but that's a different story. Anyway, a possibility would be modifying one of those 'doggy hats' to hold the small tubular camera with the battery pack on his mount/harness you have on his back. It's easy to upload an HD frame or two off Dooley the Movie Director's film. His head would give you what he's looking at and probably be a lot more stable. Just an idea.

Wish y'all the best.

Okeebc said...

Dooley needs his own Facebook page just like Cricket! He has fans you know!

Anonymous said...

I don't know how Dooley will react to wearing a hat, but he's pretty good natured about it all so it's worth a gamble. I'll look around the internet for a suitable hat. What do you mean by lipstick camera? Just a small video? We would prefer to get video but have a continuous problem with the GoPro cameras fogging up in video mode.

Okeebc, There's a link to Dooley's Facebook page up there above the comments in the right hand column of this blog.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the market for a cam and have been researching on and off for months now, so far this is the best review of the top ones out there

I'm leaning towards the JVC because it does not need a water proof housing, plus its got WiFi so you can set it up/monitor through it remotely. However the sound is atrocious which is holding me back. It's their first generation and hoping there will be a second soon to address that. Right idea right setup just fails on sound. The very latest which seems to have

Based on reading your blogs I have steered well clear of GoPro.

Still not sure which to get though.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that info. I found a similar comparison with some more data at:

I think any camera sealed up to be waterproof is going to have some audio issues. The GoPro does when it's in the housing with the waterproof back. They recommend the one with holes in it if you want sound. BUT, that means NO waterproof.

We have two GoPros and I think they're great little cameras for certain scenarios. We're still learning what those are. The GoPro mounting system is great. Really the major drawbacks have been the fogging issues, and that only happens with long videos. More than fifteen minutes.

But above all, we absolutely MUST have waterproof, so I don't even consider anything that isn't.

Anonymous said...

I see a Polaroid branded one has just come out, pretty impressive video usage, has all the attachments included, waterproof without the external housing, and nearly half the price of the gopros

quite impressed with the quality of user videos, pretty darn clear and none of that fish eye nonsense

Anonymous said...

I agree on the fish eye stuff. I don't think the distorted view is worth the distortion and lack of resolution in the middle where the subject matter normally is.

A camera with an interchangeable lens would be a nice option to consider.

meanwhile, take a look at this one:

kristine barr said...

I have many, many skate wheels How Many do you want?

Anonymous said...

Wow...La Gringa taking up flying...WAY TO GO! - Chris

dmmbruce said...

I like your 'short and frequent' approach to your blogs. Just not too short of course! :-)

This one was good, again, thanks.


Karen said...

I love Dooley's images, beautiful, weird and wildly free.

Your life there is just so peaceful it seems... and that water..oh, that water.

Anonymous said...

a 'lipstick-camera' or 'bullet-camera' is a tubular camera roughly 2 1/2 to 3 inches long shaped like a tube of lipstick, hence the name. They make several types that can be submersible up to 30 meters. When you start searching for them, one type has a video wire hanging out of the back, which keeps the size of the camera extremely tiny, that is attached to the recording device. They make them with extremely long wires that could double as a dooley leash. OR they make them as one unit with no wires at all. Both are roughly the size of a .50 caliber round. The ones with the LEDs around the lens have full night vision if he crawls into a cave, or low light scenario. Just an idea that is worth looking into. A camera that small would be ideal to capture true point of view. I would suggest getting a doggy baseball cap with a brim, having him wear and get used to it, then add the extra weight of the camera slowly. He would look quite handsome and stylish. 'google' the 'Bullet HD Fire camera'. Best wishes.

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