Photoshop “Miniature” Tutorial

This is a pretty cool technique for take images of real environments and making them appear to be a miniature of the real thing. This is done using Photoshop CS.

First picking a good photo will make the technique turn out better, here is a list of things I have found that work.

  • Images taken looking down onto the scene.
  • No horizon or a sky that is very uniform.
  • Not having much in the foreground.
  • Lighting that casts shadows to make it look like one source.

Miniature Example Start

  1. Load your photo into Photoshop.
  2. Press “Q” to go into “Quick Mask” mode. This will allow you to quickly mask off an area of your photo to remain sharp.
  3. Press “D” which sets the colour palette to default (black foreground and white background).
  4. Select the Gradient tool from the main tool bar (may be hidden under the paint bucket).
  5. Set the Gradient tool to Reflected Gradient.
  6. Next, choose which area you want to be in focus (in this case it was the top of the pyramid). Click and drag the gradient tool from the point to the top of the image and let go. This is the part that requires a little trial and error to get right: try different points in the image, drag the tool different distances and even a different angles. In the example I did it slight off vertical.
  7. You should now have an area of the photo that is red. This will be the area that will left untouched.
  8. Press “Q” to leave quick mask mode. You should now have two areas to the photo selected (marching ants), below the point you selected and above.
  9. Go up to the “Filters” menu, scroll down to the “Blur” category – then select “Lens Blur”.
  10. In window that pops up you need to play with the following settings until you get a look you are happy with. Iris:Radius – controls the amount of blur, try something around 30. Specular Highlights:Brightness – controls how bright the blurred white points will be, try something around 20. Specular Highlights: Threshold – A what point a bright blurred area gets made white, try around 245. Again this is the part that take several attempts to get just right. When you are done click OK.
  11. Now deselect the two areas, should see the “marching ants disappear. (Under menu Select or pick the Marque tool and click on your photo)
  12. Bring up the “Hue / Saturation” Adjuster (Under Image->Adjustment or Ctrl-U or Apple-U). Increase the Saturation so it makes the colors in the image more vivid and bright, try something around 20. The idea it to give it a plastic look so play with it.

Miniature Example Final

That is it. You can check out some examples in the miniature gallery.

Ottawa photography show – 2007

If you are even a bit interested in photography then it is worth the $15 (for the full weekend) to check out the Herny’s Photographic and Digital Imaging Show. The show has the normal trade show area, where you can spend your time drooling of the latest HD camcorders or those massive telephoto lenses. All the major companies will have booths where you can pester them with questions and try things out. There are show specials worth checking out if you are in the market for more equipment. The show also offers you a great opportunity to pick up some photographic or photo processing tips. This years show has 5 session areas with topics covering the basics of photo composition to professional sessions on photo organization. Each session is about an hour and is a condensed version of some of the Henry’s School of Imaging workshops. Worth going to check out for a few hours on the weekend.

Photography Show Banner

Bullfrog Power: Best company ever?

I got a email today from our electricity provider Bullfrog Power letting us know that our locked in rate with them was going down because of lower costs. Are they insane? This is no way to treat customers! They may tell friends!


Bullfrog Power is an electricity retailer in Ontario and Alberta that sources 100% renewable (wind and small scale hydro) power that you can sign up to receive. It costs you a few cents more per kWh on your bill but you can offset that by making a few energy improvements around your house. Overall it cost us about $100 more a year to have Bullfrog Power.

So do yourself and the environment a favour and sign up today!

By the way these sorts of emails will get your company a permanent link at the bottom of the site, Bell Canada I hope you take notice!

Bullfrog Power Logo

GO VOTE! – 2007 Election

Another election and another “go vote” plea from me. But wait this time there is a difference. You get to vote twice this time.

So like always I advise you to get out to vote on October 10th in the provincial general election. I won’t rehash all the reasons why you need to do this. (57% voter turnout last time, sooo sad!)

On October 10th you will also be given a second ballot. For the first time in 200+ years Ontario will get to pick how it elects members of the legislator. You will be given two choices: the existing first-past-the-post (FPTP) system and a new system, that was chosen by the Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform, called Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP). I think the members of the assembly did a great job. They spent 8 months studying all the different systems that are in use around the world. MMP is their choice for the future of voting in Ontario. You can see more about their work at: TVO

I encourage you to consider the new system. To me the best test of any electoral system is how closely the results reflect the will of the voters. By this test the MMP system is far better then our current system, FPTP.

FPTP is a great system for a country or province with only has two parties, this was the case when the system was first picked. I don’t feel that the diversity of ideas in Ontario can be well represented by just two political parties, and thus the FPTP system does a disservice to this diversity.

Remember that no electoral system is perfect. I encourage you to use the links below to find out more about your two choices. Figure what priorities are important to you and pick the system that best matches. (some are clearly for or against one system, it is worth reading both sides (minus the scare tactics))

I hope they help!

Reply to anti-MMP forwarded email

I got an email from my mom that looked a lot like another I had seen making a lot of arguments against the MMP system. Some of the concerns were valid but a lot of it was simple scare tactics with not much to backup what was being said. So here is my reply.

First, blame for the lack of education on this referendum falls clearly on the shoulders of the current government. I agree that education on the issue has been very poor. Given that the Liberals do not want the MMP side to win I would take the argument about people not knowing and turn it around. I think they are hoping that most people do not understand the question so vote to keep the current system.

A change in electoral system has been asked for. Many groups have raised this issue with the government asking for them to take a look at a change. B.C. faced the same question. I expect other provinces and the federal government will also be looking at the issue. Our current system is old (215 years) and outdated when it comes to the diversity that Canada and especially Ontario have. It is an important cornerstone of our democracy and is probably worth reviewing every 100+ years or so!

I don’t believe in the conspiracy theories about the Citizen’s Assembly. This was done by a Liberal majority government that does not support the proposed system. Take a look at this to see what these people did in 8 months time. TVO Doc. They have done their work. Now it is up to you to take the time to understand what they are proposing and go vote.

I totally disagree with assessment that the shift in power away from the people of Ontario. In 2003 the Liberals received only 46% of the vote yet got 70% of the seats. In a parliamentary system that translates into a huge majority and 100% of the power. So with FPTP 46% of the voters got all the power while the 54% (a majority) were left with opposition representation or in a lot of cases no representation at all. How can a system that creates false majorities be considered good for giving power to the people.

The FPTP system also attracts a lot of strategic voting. Voters end up voting for a candidate not because of the party platform or candidate but because they think they have the best chance of beating someone they like less. In the MMP system this can still happen in the local riding races but not in the party vote. It will provide a much closer result to what people in the province think the priorities should be.

In response to the party hacks making up the list, this would be political suicide for a party. Each party will have to choose how their lists are made up. Call it a judgment of each parties character. Will some parties just have lists made by the leader, possibly yes. If that happens I highly encourage the voters to vote against that party to send a message that this is not acceptable. This is however no different then how parties choose to nominate local candidates. Some will hold a local candidate nomination so that local members of the party get to pick the local candidate to represent the party. However there are cases of the party leader picking candidates to run in specific ridings, sometimes with the strong objection of the local members. Neither FPTP or MMP systems are responsible for this, hold the parties in either system accountable for how a local candidate is selected and how a list candidate is selected.

I encourage you to get involved in a party and make sure they select candidates in a fair manner. I can describe how several parties in New Zealand will pick the list members. Two lists will be created one of potential male candidates and one of female candidates. The party membership will be asked to look at each person on the two lists and rank the candidates on each list from 1 to XX. The party list will then take two lists sort by the overall ranking of the candidates and merge them together, zipper merge. This means the party list will have an equal number of male and female representation, interleaved.

Women are horribly underrepresented in the legislator. Currently only making up 24%! Check out links below for the reason why.

Given that Ontario has the highest MPP to voter ratio, 1:110,000, in all of Canada maybe it is time to add a few more seats. This will increase representation not decrease. We have supported much more seats in the legislator, this was reduced in 1999. Yes there is added cost but nothing that is going to break the bank. Currently the cost of salaries and benefits is less then 1% of the budget. Is extra representation worth the cost?

I think there is a myth that list members will do nothing at the local level. This is not true. In New Zealand most list members will setup an office in the area they live or in a riding that their party did not win the local seat. The idea is to give people in that riding another member to contact to have their ideas heard and have local issues addressed. Also there are so many issues that are not local to a specific riding, for example think of this election so far: environment and education funding.

With FPTP you get one representative. My riding has been Liberal both provincially (since 1971) and federally (since 1933) since I have lived there. I don’t feel that I have someone representing issues I feel are important at either level of government. Try send a letter asking for support on an issue that is against your MPP’s party’s platform and you will see what I mean. The MMP system in this case would provide you with an alternative to having to go through your local candidate. You would be able to contact any list candidate from a party that supports your views and ask them to represent your opinion a the legislator.

FPTP is a great system when you only have two parties. I don’t believe the diversity of ideas in Ontario would be well represented by just two parties (think United States) and thus FPTP does a disservice to this diversity.

I feel that the best test of an electoral system is how well it represents the will of the electorate. In this respect I believe that MMP does a much better job then our current system. I see it is a good balance between a pure PR system and maintaining some riding based representation.

There is no such thing as a perfect electoral system. I really encourage you to do some research about the two systems. Figure out what is important to you (fair results, local representation, …) and pick the system that best fits.

Here are bunch of links that you should take a look at:
(some are clearly for or against one system, it is worth reading both sides)