Friday, March 24, 2017

Semi-abstract wood

These were a challenge. The light was changing quickly from clouds and gusty wind blowing the trees around. For a while I was twiddling the shutter speed dial back and forth as fast as I could and the light was changing faster.

Part of the plan was to walk around (wearing traction aids as it was extremely icy) and think about the scene, trying to find interesting images. There's no shortage of interesting lines and angles from fallen trees, one just has to compose them, while not walking into the half frozen swamp, or worrying about the deadfall making it the last few dozen feet to the forest floor, or impaling vital bits of anatomy on spiky tree bits. Lots of fun.

That last one has a bunch of images as I experimented with trying to frame the shot just right. This was one of the times I wished I'd had my tripod. I was getting this image of a mouth emerging from dragon scales, but couldn't quite find the framing. The footing was tricky and the light kept changing. I might have to go back and revisit this.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Last one of buildings

Here we are again, last one of buildings. For now. Unless I find more cool ones. I'd wanted to get a shot of City Hall right from the point of the triangle, but someone put a sculpture right there. Exactly there. Sigh.

I was a little disappointed in one shot. I could see a reflection of the cars on the street, and buildings in the other windows, but somehow it didn't work out. But these with the various lines and angles please me. Yes, I meant to have the triangle of dark in the picture. It's the +15, note the angle of it, with the vertical concrete wall, and the panes of glass. 

There is a building in there, really. Old City Hall is being renovated. There was something about huge  chunks of sandstone falling on pedestrians that City Council didn't like.

And just like that, another weekends starts! I'm going to go pour a glass of wine and contemplate my options. I expect to be busy.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Off-beat buildings

Doesn't this one sort of looks like it belongs in a Mordor-lite? Maybe if Sauron were a competent leader, one with an office staff to properly organize ring searches, manage army logistics, run a ministry of (mis)-information, ensure that orcs had a proper chain of command, and so on. Of course, the real building is perfectly inoffensive, it just looks this way because the glass isn't flat. Which is sort of weird, when you think about it.

In real life, this is one butt ugly building. It's called a fine example of the Brutalism school of architecture. No kidding, you can look it up. I'm not even sure why I took a photo of it. But once I got home and looked at it, I sort of liked the composition. Cropping helped. Then I went nuts with colour, wondering what would happen if a graffiti artist with taste attacked the building.

There's a fence around it now. The Calgary Board of Education sold the building a while ago, but I don't know what's going to happen. I hope they tear it down (budget extra for demolition, guys) and put up a nice building in it's place. Tie in the +15 to the Bow and to Bow Valley College, and life is good.

Swim this morning was excellent! 8:45 for 500 m feeling really good, some stroke drill, and water running after. A nice lady I was sharing the lane with asked me to video her. She's been learning to swim and wants to put together a proper video showing her progress. Of course I did so.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I was rapt

The Bow can be a fascinating building. The interesting shape generates fabulous reflections in other buildings, and the reverse. Yesterday during my equinox photowalk I got some nice reflections of the Calgary Tower, and some shots of the brilliant sunshine that turned out really well, along with a bunch of shots of the Bow you haven't seen. There's been some nice things said about the LRT shot, thank you very much!

There were two problems with the Bow photos. One is that it's a tough building to compose a classically nice photograph. The other is the light show put on by the steam coming from the top of the building. It was sending these lovely cloudy reflections down the side of the building, echoed on the various faces. I clicked off almost 2 dozen shots of the clouds chasing each other down the building. It was almost like watching one of those old time barbershop spirals.

A few other people were standing there as well, heads tilted way back, watching. I was completely absorbed by it, thinking about light angles and reflections. I knew I was running out of space on the camera memory card so I put the camera down and focussed on looking at it.

I suppose if I'd been on the ball I'd have tried to video it, but I haven't done that with my camera, and I've no idea how it would have turned out on my phone. Plus, camera video eats memory space big time. As it is, I picked the one photo that I thought had the nicest cloud display, and tried to get the building shape looking nice.

Perspective is a funny thing. We know that most buildings are built straight up and down, but they appear to get smaller towards the top because of perspective. Our brains just deal with it, but cameras aren't that smart. Depending on the lens and a few other things you can get buildings leaning way over. There are settings to "correct" this but often the results look odd to our eyes. Having both sides going straight up in the photo tends to make the top of the building look much larger than the bottom.

Perspective is useful in other areas as well. Problem solving for instance. In one role I was viewed as an extraordinarily good problem solver, but the main reason for that is I had a lot of distance on the problem, wasn't involved in it's origin, and had no stake in the outcome. At work last week it took about 5 minutes to figure out an issue that was driving one person bonkers. It had never occurred to them that a database designer would not spell field names correctly, or even consistently.

There's lots of ways I'm enjoying the perspective that comes from getting older. Many fads are over before I even know they are a thing. Ignoring fads is so restful.  It gets easier and easier to determine if the floating elephant rule is appropriate or not. That's one of my most useful rules for living. Follow the link there and see if it will work for you.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Almost equinox shoot downtown

The equinox was yesterday, I think. For those that don't know, in Calgary the avenues run east west. Downtown it's pretty close to exactly east west. Meaning that a couple times a year driving downtown can be brutal. The pedestrians have to be really careful.

I'd wanted to do a downtown wander around the new Brookfield place building, and do some equinox shooting, and get some reflection shots. I'm so picky. Here we go. Calgary residents will recognize all of this, but feel free to ask if you have any questions.

Best image of the day! I even planned it, once I got the settings failed in. The difficulty with this light is that it's nearly impossible to see the info the camera is trying to show me.

This is pretty well what a driver is going to see if they try to turn east onto any of the avenues. Yes, I could have brightened the shadows so you could see what's there. Or shot it in HDR. But why do that? I was hoping to get both rails on fire, but wasn't about to kneel down in the crosswalk. There's an LRT in the sunlight. A few pedestrians every year get surprised at how fast they move.

Even going west can be tough. I nearly got run over here. Just because I was fairly sure the driver had seen me doesn't mean he or she actually had. Or had but didn't care. That happens too.

After this shot I begin to see the appeal of street photography. There's a guy in reflective safety gear standing next to the bus stop a block down. If I'd had the nerve, I'd have asked to take his photo. The hat and gear and light made a nice image. But I didn't.

No, I don't know why a couple of the windows don't have any glass.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

An abstract frame of mind

One of the sure signs of spring here is that we start getting nice fluffy clouds, instead of the flat grey overcast of snow bearing clouds. None of that rain fell on us.

There's an old saying, "What you see is what you get." I'm struggling to learn that this is almost true in photography. It's what you see in your mind's eye, provided you know the technical aspects of operating your camera to capture the potential for that result, that you've done your homework so you are in the right place at the right time for the right light, and a bit of luck in tweaking the light so it's extra special is always nice, plus knowing the software to realize your vision, is what you're going to get.

Sometimes I've been disappointed. Lots of that, actually. But a few times I've gone wow! What appeared on screen was better than what I'd hoped for.

Take these two, shot yesterday after the sunrise and landscape. I was looking around and suddenly realized these could be good. They aren't quite what I'd visualized, since the wind kept complicating things. But if it were easy then everyone would do it and it wouldn't be fun anymore.

I'm not going to tell you what you're looking at. Whatever you think you're looking at is fine by me. But I'm curious if these evoke a response within you.

That first image took more processing time than a dozen "normal" images would have. It's the first time I've deliberately done something so abstract, and I was trying to get a particular result. It still isn't quite right, I'd hoped for it being a little more sparklier.

Today I was out deliberately looking for more photos that could be the basis of an abstract piece of art, and I think I've succeeded with one beyond my dreams. I'm going to sleep on it, but I think it's one of my 10 best images, ever.

I talked a little about Bruce Barnbaum's book yesterday, and finished it today. I loved it! Some books you read and you are all meh. Others don't tell you anything you don't already know. Some tell you stuff you know, but do so in a way that compels your attention or relates it to other stuff in ways you hadn't realized. Some talk to your soul, hitting that sweet spot of saying what you need to hear, in a way that makes sense. I'll be going back over it again before it goes back to the library. What he says about composition knocks my socks off.

One of his points is that when he's shooting his medium format camera he takes quite a bit of time thinking about what he's about to shoot, composing it in his mind, before ever he clicks the shutter. (With rare exceptions when racing to capture the light before it goes.) He notes in the digital world it's all too easy to click first and then look what you've captured, and then do it again and again. Only when you get the images onto a computer do you critically assess them.

He doesn't say it quite like this, but it becomes easy to accept what you've got, as what there is to get. You might have to read that again. I've been really bad about this, clicking away madly, thinking I'll find out what's good on screen. What I'm trying to learn is to actually look at the scene and think about what would make it a compelling image, if there's a better way to compose the shot.

Or in another way of thinking about it, what *I* want to do with that shot. There's a bunch of things to think about, and I'm trying to take the time to do that. Since I'm still learning I'll also try other ways, just in case I don't have it right.

I know I can usually get a technically good picture of the scene. It's in focus, and people can see that it's a car, or a mountain landscape, or a bridge, or whatever. Then they yawn. The world doesn't need any more of those, and I don't need to take the time to do it anymore.

Sometimes I get people perking up and saying that they really like a shot, which is nice. And sometimes they are actually enthusiastic about it, which is even nicer. But if you don't know what you're doing to get the shot, then the next nice one will come along only by accident. I'd rather figure out what it takes to get a good, or even dare I say, a great shot, and do that.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Went for a sunrise, and

I got this instead. There was the faintest of rosy glows along the poles that I wish I could highlight a bit more, or wait till the sun was up a hair more, but that moon moves pretty fast.

That location wasn't working out for sunrise so I moved down the road a bit, and got a really nice landscape that has someone so excited they want to buy a print. Yay! So I'm not going to show you that one just yet.  You get this one instead.

There was a slightly earlier shot of this that had lovely pink clouds over the mountain. Unfortunately, that turned lurid on the computer. Really lurid. Won't be showing you that one.

In other photo news I tried sunset from the Anderson Pedestrian bridge, but that was bleah. The view isn't as good as I remember it being, so I probably won't shoot there again. I'm still thinking of an equinox shot tomorrow, and am willing to meet up with anyone else interested.

In fitness news I was out for a lovely run with BRBE today in South Glenmore park. People are ready and past ready for spring. I was hoping for shorts and a tech shirt sort of run but we were just a bit early for that, so tights and a light jacket were perfect. A few people were doing shorts, but they didn't look happy. I'm glad we got the run done then, it's become really windy this afternoon. That doesn't slow down the BBQ bison burgers, though!

Yesterday got my swim groove back on, right in the middle of a swim. Last Wednesday was a basking shark sort of day. I'm ashamed to say how slow it was. Friday started sort of rocky and clunky and about 400 m in something clicked and I found the groove. The first 500 m was 9:25 or so, and the overall swim was 18:10, so I seriously negative split that. The second 500 (does complicated math) was 8:45. There was a guy in the next lane trying to race me every now and then. Wearing fins. Sorry guy. Maybe if he swam with his hands instead of his elbows he'd go faster.

Deeply involved in this book. Deeply.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A director's cut, so to speak

You know how on some movies, after the theatrical release, and after the DVD or BluRay, and after it makes a ton of money or the director becomes famous, they release the director's cut? Blade Runner is probably the most famous of these. There are seven versions of it.

Some of my photos have two versions, but lets begin at the beginning. There are an infinity of things to photograph around me, and I choose only one of them at a time, captured a particular way. There might be another very like it captured slightly later. I gradually accumulate electronic data on my camera and eventually decant it to a computer so I can see a decent sized image. Some of those get rejected out of hand for a variety of reasons. Many get nothing further done to them.

Some get edited in Lightroom, and there's a subset of those that get further processing in other software. I end up with photos suitable for sharing on social media or showing to whoever might be interested in them. A very few I tweak for print settings, mainly to see what they look like, and in preparation for the long discussed trip to Resolve.

There are some edited photos that I'm still not entirely happy with, for whatever reason. Some maybe I shouldn't have edited it in the first place. Some might need a different crop to work. Others might need more software skill than I had at the time. I've been going back and revisiting some of those, applying more software skill, and more of a willingness to edit to match my visualization.

I can't remember if I blogged this one or posted it on Facebook. It was taken during a photo walk last August and was dark. I've learned a bit more about software and composition, and had another go at it. I changed the crop to include the people at the bottom and cut out a bit of the sky, plus other software tweaks to bring up the colour a bit.

I've been reading about Ansel Adams.

I'd known nothing about him, other than being one of the most well-known landscape photographers in North America. I recognized a few of the images in the book, (duh!) but many were new to me. Part of the enjoyment was looking at the photos and thinking about why the composition works. Why take the photo from that particular there, as opposed to some other place not far away. In some cases there is no other choice unless you want to walk off a cliff.

Plus, I hadn't realized that he made the prints himself, and Stillman goes into the process a bit. Each print is subtly different, and over his career they gradually got darker. In his case, each print is in fact a unique piece of artwork.

That got me thinking. I don't have a printer, but I could get one, then go buy the right paper. Or I could take the file to a printer and have them help me pick the right paper. From there they could produce prints till the cows came home, or they ran out of supplies. But each is essentially identical. I could put a digital signature on each and they would continue to be identical. Or could sign in ink and then there would be a slight difference.

But putting a number x of y prints is meaningless. Sure I could print 100 for example, and if they sold, what's to stop me from printing more? Some people buy art because they hope it will appreciate in value, mainly because it's a nearly unique piece. That isn't true with my prints, or in fact any photographic produced on a digital camera. I suppose they could buy a print simply because I've somehow captured an image they are fascinated with, and want to continue looking at it. That's nice. Very nice in fact, and if any of you have that feeling, call me day or night. I'll get you that print as soon as humanly possible, tweaked and sized for exactly how you like it.

I've been thinking of one of his quotes, "There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept." Let that roll around in your head. There's a bit of a trick to learning how to get sharp images out of your camera. I'm getting the hang of it. But that part about the concept of the photograph, I've been struggling with that. I expect to continue struggling with it for the rest of my life.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Broken trees

In one of the earlier blogs I talked about trees lying half in and out of the creek, hanging on with every root to stay alive. Some pretty dramatic weather comes through the park. Everybody knows about the flood a few years ago that carried away several of the bridges. The wind can blow hard enough to snap trees.

There's a few I've seen where I want to get back with the 100 mm lens and get some nice close up shots of the splintered wood.

In other news fitness stuff is going ok. Running is slowly coming back now that my quads and hams aren't so cranky. Till Wednesday the swim was doing really well, but things were really stiff then. I've even been on the bike a couple of times for easy spin then some stretching and core work. I even did a minute of (gasp!) plank all at once.

I'm starting to think about equinox photos. Anyone want to get together for a sunrise or sunset session? Let me know.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


No that title isn't some obscure bit of SQL code. Not doing that to you today. This is Fish Creek bridge 2, not once, not twice, but 3!, 3! THREE times for all of you. There's a reason why I did all three. Before I tell you why, do you have any preference? Don't be afraid to take a minute and embiggen each one.

It wasn't a rigorous comparison, but I wanted to shoot the same scene (the bridge with just a bit of vegetation on each side) with 3 different lenses at different focal lengths and see how it turned out. I suppose for a proper comparison I should have measured the distance to the bridge with each shot, and been more careful about the crop, and ensured that each of the three were treated identically through software processing. Maybe another time, when I get my hands on a laser range finder. Or when I get paid to do such detailed painstaking work.

So far I think this is the prettiest of the Fish Creek bridges, especially when it comes to background. I just love how the bridge emerges from the trees on either side, and that hillside of trees backdrop is beautiful, especially with snow on the trees. The arch and colour of the bridge are a nice contrast, but not jarring.

But why? Ok ok. The first was shot quite close with a 50 mm lens, the second quite a bit further away (but I'm not sure if it's twice as far) with the 100 mm lens, and the third a long way off with the 200 mm lens. A really long way, on the order of half a K away. All the shots were on a tripod with the same aperture (f22 for you photographers), and shutter speed tweaked for slight variations in the light.

I suppose if I'd been on the ball I'd have a shot of each with the lens wide open to see what the shallow depth of field does to the shot, but the intent today was to get everything into focus. From these shots, and especially the last one, it looks like the bridge is right beside the bank with the trees, but it's not. It's probably a half K away from the bridge as well, so the trees are nearly a full K from the camera.

My preference, you ask? Well, I've just spent a few minutes looking at each shot blown up to full size on a 27 in monitor, and they all look lovely. Each is slightly different, but I think I prefer the middle one. That lens is just a hair sharper than the other ones, and I think the quality shows. The triangular peak of trees above the bridge adds an element of interest and a bit of layering.

Tell me which one you like best.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The dragon spine, as I thought of it

I sure hope you aren't sick of photos from Fish Creek. Sometimes you know as you take a photo that it's going to be good. Other times you know it could be, if you tweak the settings or shift the position of the camera a bit, or use a different lens (if you have one), or you hang tough and wait for the light.

This was the second. I was walking upstream of bridge 3 and could see this grouping of trees sloping over the river. I took some shots as I got closer, but they were just ok. There was a dead tree in the river that looked interesting, and got more so as I got closer.

I thought it had an wonderful shape and walked around it. As soon as I got close to the other end I knew there was a great shot with the sloping trees, if I could just find it. Here you are.

The camera was actually sitting on the tree, with me draped all over the roots, trying to get the camera positioned and focussed just so, and playing with settings.

I'm confident that once the weather gets much nicer this would be a great spot to bring a model to pose on the tree. Any of my trail running buddies want to combine a photo session and a run along the river?

Monday, March 13, 2017

A reflection

I'm jumping around a bit. These photos are from near bridge 8, shot last weekend as I write this. Flat dull light. As you all should know by now I'm always looking for reflection shots. The problem with that in winter is that water is mostly a mineral.

There are some exceptions, though. It had warmed up enough for some liquid to show, which makes for careful walking on the creek. Ice sometimes makes interesting noises, but no feet got wet in the course of this photo walk.

A little further along there was a nice little ice jam and a bit of a waterfall.  This was a case of knowing there was a nice shot if I had a different lens and was willing to risk getting really wet. I didn't. I wasn't.

The point of the walk was to get to bridge 8 and get a photo, but none of them really worked. For one thing, it isn't a particularly pretty bridge, and at least from upstream the background for it isn't anything to write home about.

I'll be making another trip there to try again. Maybe the other side is it's good side, or the light is better. Maybe at just the right time of year the sunrise will sneak under the railway bridge and light it perfectly.

A little earlier in the walk I found this tangle of bush. I like the tangles of dead or nearly dead trees as they collapse into the creek. The wood has such interesting textures, and I like the juxtaposition of the dead tree and the living plants. From a composition perspective I like all the diagonal lines.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A lurid sunrise. Or not.

Sometimes a photo captures a mood perfectly. There I was, making coffee. I looked out the kitchen window, then hustled to the front and looked east. Then I hustled to change lenses on the camera. I could have brightened this up in software to make it quite lurid, but I like the subtle colours and the silhouette of trees and stuff. It was gone quickly, replaced by a gentle creamy yellow glow. Sort of a pity I wasn't somewhere for a nice sunrise shot, but that's the way it goes. The coffee was good.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Waterdrop luck

The intent at the time was to catch the light coming off the ice on the rain chain. I was hoping to get a rainbow effect with the light diffracting through the bits of ice. I've got almost 2 dozen attempts and none of them worked out for that.

However, one, just one, had something else interesting. After a bit of tweaking you get this.

At least I didn't get any water on the lens or camera. That's what I was worried about most. I think I'll try this shot again next warm and sunny day. I'd like to catch the drop round enough and sharp enough to see my reflection in it.

One again we had the furnace guy out. One of the fans has been making more and more noise. Sort of a buzzing growl. We hadn't realized just how loud it had become till some guests were startled by it. Last night I slept like a rock in the peace and quiet. Maybe that's why I haven't been getting much sleep lately.

Time to head down to Fish Creek for more photos.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Latest books

All of these are photography related books, so if you're looking for my experience with the latest thriller, sorry.

In reading order.

Photographic Visions

The front cover caught my eye and I had to get it. This is one of the books with lots of photos to illustrate various topics, such as action, architecture, landscape, macro, and others. They are taken from, and have comments by the author about the photo. This was a bit annoying, actually. It's full of I did this, that, the other, and simply manipulated things in photoshop and there I was.

There doesn't seem to be much in the way of general information about producing better photos, it's about how they got this particular one. There are some good ideas, though. The one that struck me was visualizing the result you want, and figuring out how to get it. They might be by scouting the situation, looking at software tools to see where sunrise is, tweaking the lighting yourself, or knowing what can be done in post processing.

Zen and the Magic of Photography by Wayne Rowe

I was disappointed. It's more about the zen than the photography. I stopped reading when I tripped over this, "With practice, your eye will be intuitively and subconsciously drawn to the light, and the light will be drawn to your eye."

Rick Sammon's Creative Visualization for Photographers

This was worth the read. Lots of stuff I knew already but it never hurts to be reminded again. Lots that was either new to me, or a different way of thinking about it. Lots of ideas. I'll browse through it again before it goes back to the library.

Last and best, Fundamentals of Photo Composition by Paul R Comon

This one is the pick of the litter! The best part for me was about using the Fibonacci number sequence as a composition tool. That sounds hard, doesn't it? A number sequence. Math. Artistic photographer brain. Oops.

But it's easy! In Lightroom everybody sees the rule of thirds grid when they crop an image. But there's much more. You can get the triangles, the modified grid, the Fibonacci spiral, and a finer grained grid like what you see when you are correcting the tilt of the horizon. Who knew?

This photo is my best photo-painting so far, and it uses the Fibonacci series in two ways.

Firstly, the crop is 1.618 : 1.

Second, I've darkened the image too you can see the spiral. I only wish I could convince my camera to display that in the viewfinder window. One trick that was mentioned is putting the spiral on a transparent overlay on your viewfinder. Given there's 8 different orientations, I'm not sure how useful that would be.

I confess I hadn't thought of the spiral when I took the photo. At best I was thinking it was an illustration of depth of field, where I wanted the broken end of the tree to be tack sharp, and the background increasingly blurred.

Comon goes through the usual composition tools, but for whatever reason, the way he said it made more sense to me. Or maybe he had better examples. I'll be going through this and making notes before it goes back to the library.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

My blog brain was overflowing

Yesterday it was overflowing. So many ideas for blog posts.

Today, tonight, not so much.

My work week has gone by in a blur, especially today. Part of it was trying to figure out why a particular query someone else wrote wasn't working right. For a little while I was side tracked by them saying "but I copied the query from one that works, why wouldn't it work here?"

The answer to that is that the query was asking for the field "ConstructionCodeto" and the field is actually named "ContructionCodeto". It turns out there are several others like this as well, where the people that built the database did not name the fields in one particular table consistent even within the table, let alone consistent with similar tables. They are back to square one with the query, and I'll probably see it again next week. And you wonder why people that write code get a bit twitchy about details.

I booked a photo trip for early September, and I'm already so excited! More details soon.

I've been having a blast playing with further edits of recent photos, and thinking hard about composition. More on that in a later post. They look way better, and I'm noticing all sorts of detail in them I didn't notice the first time around. I almost want to go back and look all the photos I've edited to date, but no, life is too short, Plus this process wouldn't be good for the macro flower shots, I think. Hmmm.

Here's another of the recent ones I tweaked to bring up the colour, though I'm still not entirely happy with the snow. I tried making it easier to see the birds, but that just messed up the sky.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Books and brighter

I've been reading through a bunch of photography books lately, and had a bit of an epiphany. The photo doesn't have to be about representing what the eye actually saw during the photo shoot. The photo can be a work of art that expresses the photographer's visualization of the scene.

So this photo, for example. It was a shot in light that was dull and flat. Great for shooting a portrait, but not so good for a landscape.

But I have photo editing tools. Here's the drab original, the way I developed it at first. In hindsight, it's actually a little brighter than this.

None the less, in my mind I know the colours are much brighter than that. One of the books encouraged me to push the photos more to express my own visualization. I did a few others in a more 'painterly' just to see what would happen.

Do you have an opinion about the two shots?

One of the books is this one. Amazing! I've just finished it, and will be going back through taking notes. Actually, I want to buy it. There is a ton of good stuff in here for photographers and painters. I think it's going to change how I take photos; it's already changed how I think of them, especially the Lightroom composition thing I hadn't known about.


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