Geeking Out on Trail Cameras

Truth be told, I’m not much of an outdoorsman, but I do like to take hikes in the nearby county park once in a while.

I was out there last week, and happened upon a couple of guys working with something that turned out to be a trail camera. It turns out they worked for the county, and were setting up these devices on the trails to monitor wildlife during the night hours.

trail camera(Lest you were concerned, they were deactivating or taking them done during daylight, when people were around. The park is closed at night).

Anyway, I was somewhat aware of these gadgets, but after chatting with these two, I got curious in how they work. While I’m not in the market for one myself, the technology brought out the geekiness in me.

An initial online search turned up a site called, which tries to help folks find the best deer camera for their needs. Their buyers guide page, however, gave me some good, basic info on how these things do what they do.

In essence, they’re digital cameras controlled using infrared light. When something moves in front of the infrared beam, it triggers the camera shutter and zap … a great image of the neighborhood deer. Their infrared capabilities also allow them to take photos and video at night, even without a flash.

The intricacies of these devices rather impressed me, though. For instance, depending on what you’re buying the game cam for, you need to consider things like the detection angle (who wide a range the infrared beam covers), the field of view (who wide of an angle the camera lens will cover), and the detection range (how far from the camera the beam reaches).

Actually, after learning more about them, I can see where I might find a trail camera useful for security purposes on my property. Maybe I’ll have to read a few reviews. Hmm …

Air Purifiers: The Right Answer for Pet Dander?

I have two pets: a dog and a cat. They’re great: loving, entertaining and (mostly) well-behaved.

Sadly, they have one downside: dander. A couple of my friends have pet allergies, so it’s virtually impossible for them to visit my place without experiencing a lot of discomfort.

dog and catWhile I’m not big on entertaining, I would like to have these folks over more often, so I’ve been looking at machines to filter the dander out of the air. Specifically, I want to find the best air purifier for pets.

Before getting too far down this road, though, I thought I’d better find out if one of these devices would actually do the job I was asking of it. An article I found on the Animal Planet website proved very helpful in this respect.

Briefly, it stated that, while both HEPA and electrostatic filtering machines would do the job on airborne particulates, they wouldn’t remove dander already infused in carpeting, upholstery and such. Using them in combination with a HEPA filter vacuum, however, seems to be a good overall strategy.

Unfortunately, both types of purifiers have their downsides. HEPA machines can be expensive to operate, as the filter needs to be changed on a regular basis, while many electrostatic models emit ozone, a potential lung irritant that could actually cause more discomfort for sensitive individuals than not using a purifier at all. As with so many things, then, caveat emptor.

At this point, I’m not entirely convinced that buying one of these gadgets is the best move. Perhaps I’ll try some other strategies for making my home more acceptable to my suffering friends, such as cleaning house more regularly (ha!), and grooming/bathing my furry buddies more frequently.

In the meantime, though, I reckon I’ll keep researching.

Hi-Tech Strollers with Room for Two

So, I was visiting my sister’s house this week. With a pair of small children on hand, she stays awfully busy, and is always looking for ways to make everything more manageable.

One of those turned out to be the purchase of a double stroller travel system. While I’m a bachelor, I haven’t lived completely under a rock when it comes to these things. I certainly knew that there were strollers that had two or more seats. Still, I was quite fascinated by how the travel system actually works.

If you’re not familiar with these things, the concept is pretty simple: instead of permanent seats, the stroller comes with two car seats that snap securely into the stroller frame. My sis is camera-shy, and wouldn’t let me shoot a video of her demonstrating the stroller, but here’s a video of a single travel system by the same manufacturer as hers:

As you can see, it’s really very slick and easy to use. I was particularly struck by how easily the folding and unfolding process was for the stroller, as well as how neatly and quickly the regular seat could be removed and the carrier attached.

I can see both advantages and disadvantages to such travel systems. The obvious plus are that you can move the child quickly and easily from the car to the stroller and back with minimal disturbance. This would be especially important if they’ve fallen asleep, as you don’t want them to wake up and get fussy.

One of the downsides is that these things are quite heavy and, even with all of the built in conveniences of the Graco stroller my sister owns, it can still be a handful for her to deal with.

But then, so can two little ones!

Making Movies with a DSLR

One of my favorite things to do with technology is find multiple uses for the same gadget. I mean, if a widget that will set things on fire will also make coffee, why by a separate coffee maker?

Among my vast collection of “stuff” is a DSLR camera. Obviously, its primary purpose is to take exceptional still photographs … but did you know that most of them also have the ability to shoot high-quality video?

Here’s a YouTube video reviewing some of the great things that can be done with this technology:

I was particularly struck by the how you can easily control the depth of field to keep the focus on your main subject, as well as how easy it is to edit the recording on your computer. Very cool!

After doing some more research, though, it’s apparent that you’ll get frustrated if you don’t have a few accessories that will help you shoot better video with your digital camera. I found an excellent article on the Popular Photography site that, while somewhat dated, covers this ground very well.

Most especially, you’ll need a tripod or some way to hold the camera steady. Also, because video files will be very large, you will want to invest in high-capacity, high-speed memory cards so you don’t run out of space will filming.

Finally, if you want to include audio in your videos, a separate, high-quality microphone will be a necessity. The little one built into the DSLR itself just won’t cut it under most circumstances.

So, you probably can’t just pick up your camera and go out and start filming the next Casablanca without investing in some additional equipment. On the other hand, unless you are dreaming of winning an Oscar or three, shooting video with your DSLR can still save you money, while producing very satisfying results.

You Found the Geek!

My name is Tim Balfour, and this is my new blog.

I’m a bit of a geek. No, check that: I’m a serious geek! If there is new technology out there, it will nearly always capture my interest. New science, or ways of doing even the most mundane things? I’m all over it.

Simply put, I’m fascinated by how things are done and/or work. In future posts, I’ll be sharing my passion, hopefully in a way that non-geeks will find interesting and understandable.

That last bit may be a challenge for me, since I love jargon and terminology almost as much as the technology itself. Specialized vocabularies are fun, I think, because there are so many words in them that were made up for a specific purpose. I mean, when was the last time you invented a new word?

Anyway, I hope you’ll bookmark this blog and stop by once in a while to see what kind of techy things I’m up to. Thanks for visiting!