Finley's signature with a real quill pen and black walnut ink

This reenactor showed Finley how a real quill pen works with actual black walnut ink he made himself. He then showed us his collection of flintlock muskets and rifles, explained how he bakes bread as the pioneers did, and generally humbled us with his knowledge. I have no desire to dress in buckskins and wool in August, but I have nothing but respect for men like this. We put the paper he wrote Finley’s name on up on the fridge, and it makes me smile.

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Date posted: June 24, 2017 | Filed under finn, photography | Leave a Comment »

I’ve hated the steps of our back porch for as long as we’ve owned the house. They’re just tall enough to be hard to climb and dangerous to descend, not wide enough to be comfortable to sit on, and uglier than a mud fence. Among several other projects I started last weekend, I began scraping and repainting them.

First, though, I had to pick up my second ladder from my brother-in-law. Nothing sucks more than having to hump a single ladder back and forth while waiting for primer to dry on a second-story window. I found a way to wedge one ladder up to the windows over the garage-side porch (also with hideous steps) and washed the atrium windows before scraping them. By Friday evening I had those windows scraped and painted, the hallway window scraped and primed, and the back porch scraped and primed. Saturday I continued for as long as I could before the baby shower, and by Sunday evening I had the rest of the windows painted, washed, and ready for reassembly. I still have to hit the cream bedroom window, which, due to its location, has never been painted (the roof of the pantry makes it impossible to get a ladder on the window, and the pitch of that roof is nervous-making) and the back porch trim and ceiling.

Wednesday evening I took advantage of the break in the weather and ran out to get some deck paint, which then got brushed on to both decks and stairs. It’s amazing what a coat of paint will do to freshen things up. I followed this up each night after dinner with as much painting and scraping as I could do before it got dark.

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I have a plain-vanilla GoPro 3 Silver, which is the base model, and which (by coincidence) works perfectly with my Phantom 2. I just found out, quite by accident, that the GoPro 3+ Black will shoot 4K video or 1080p at 60FPS, and is compatible with the gimbal mount on my drone. I’ve been considering a second GoPro for backup since mine is semi-permanently mounted to the drone (two allen screws, but still) so if I could swap the original out for something that will do buttery-smooth higher-def aerial work, I gotta have that.

Date posted: June 24, 2017 | Filed under house, photography | Leave a Comment »

It’s low-resolution because uploads are throttled at work for some reason. A longer version will appear later tonight.

Update: New version posted. Be sure to click anywhere in the video and move around.

Date posted: June 12, 2017 | Filed under photography | Leave a Comment »

Today I ticked off about ten things on this summer’s giant to-do list, starting with getting my ladder back from the brother-in-law. He’s had it since last fall when they were having some gutter issues, and I didn’t need it until I saw buckets of water coming down from the center section of our atrium gutter and knew I needed to get up there to clean them out.

But first, in the morning I loaded up the Scout with 6 months’ worth of crap for a dump run and got in and out of there in 20 minutes flat. This cleared out the garbage can area by the garage and a pile of brush that’s been sitting next to the driveway since last fall. Then Finley and I took a drive to the Home Depot to get a replacement canopy and some other small items for scraping windows.

Up on the ladder I got the gutters cleaned pretty quickly and then started washing and scraping the windows that are staying (5 out of 7). That got finished pretty quick, and I was about to bust out the primer when a friend stopped by so that I could shoot her headshot for LinkedIn. I’d brought home the Canon portrait rig from work and with a piece of illustration board as a light bounce we got some good shots of her, Jen and Finley in no time.

After that was done I headed over to the neighbors’ to help him finish splitting wood.  I worked for about 2 hours in the sun and we got a couple of big rounds split and stacked, then called it a day.

* * *

Having flown my Phantom 2 a bunch of times in the past couple of weeks, I can say I’m getting the hang of it, but I’m seeing some of the limitations of a 3-year-old product. The video monitor it came with is an odd variant of a DVD monitor with no inputs other than an antenna. I can’t dig up technical information on it and no manual exists online. It’s good but I’d love an HD monitor instead (this is a pitiful 800×480), with a stronger signal. The camera gimbal it came with is specific to the GoPro Hero 3, which is a fine unit, but doesn’t shoot at anything above 30FPS. I’ve read that the key to smooth video is shooting at 60FPS, which the Hero 4 will do. A new gimbal mount is $200. This is all stuff I don’t need to spend money on, but I’d love to tinker with it more.

Finley and I took it out for another spin on Sunday night and soon had attracted a crowd of local kids. Finley, who is always happy to invite total strangers to her birthday party, ran right over and told them about the drone, then started inviting the kids to fly it. Which then meant I had to break the bad news to them. I’m getting the hang of how it flies, and although I’m not Chuck Yeager I’m beginning to make it do what I want.

Meanwhile at work, my boss went to a networking function where a woman gave a presentation on 360˚ immersive video. He was enthralled, and thus I am playing with a Samsung Gear 360 this weekend. It’s a pretty nice little gadget, but because it’s Samsung and they want to try and play Apple’s game of keeping users within their ecosystem, their iOS app is isn’t as robust as the Samsung version, but I’m working out some of the bugs and learning about (if there’s a) production workflow.

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I love Death Cab for Cutie, and I loved Soundgarden. Here’s a cover of Fell On Black Days by DCFC where Ben Gibbard just barely pulls off the high end of Chris Cornell’s insane high range, and their version is arranged perfectly for acoustic instruments and piano.

Date posted: June 12, 2017 | Filed under family, geek, house, photography | Leave a Comment »

Well, that’s interesting. A federal court overturned the law that required drone pilots to register with the FAA. As a sometime drone pilot, I’m happy I don’t have to fill out forms just to take pictures of my own house.

Date posted: May 21, 2017 | Filed under photography, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

I like photography and I like cars. This woman wrote a fantastic ‘How To’ Guide to Car Photography which also includes business, technical, and visual advice. Worth reading on several levels.

Date posted: May 9, 2017 | Filed under cars, photography, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

My neighbor, the one with the drone I borrowed to take to Paraguay, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. We’d just taken it up for a spin to sort out a camera issue; he’d flown it over the neighborhood Easter Egg hunt to shoot some pictures but when we looked at the footage afterwards, it was pictures of him–he’d mistakenly set it for Burst mode, so it took five pictures and stopped, instead of Interval mode where it would shoot continuously every couple of seconds. I walked him through getting the GoPro app sorted out on his phone and showed him how the various modes work, and it immediately clicked for him. While we were working, he mentioned that he’s been thinking about getting a new drone and selling his, and I immediately told him I’d buy it.

So it’s a DJI Phantom 2. It was upgraded by the original owner with a camera gimbal to fit a GoPro Hero 3, a long-range transmitter-receiver, and a 7″ monitor that I can’t find a manual for anywhere. The camera sends real-time video back to the monitor to make flying easier. It comes with an extra set of propellers and the two new batteries I bought for the Paraguay trip, the three original batteries, assorted parts, and a pelican-style travel case. It’s in great shape, and for the price I couldn’t pass it up (he got it for a steal and sold it to me for what he paid, which is hundreds less than the going rate).

The only way I can justify this purchase is because I spent every waking hour on the ground in Paraguay running around shooting, preparing to shoot, or organizing gear for the next shoot, and thus didn’t eat much. Besides the complimentary hotel breakfast (which was lovely to look at but not much in the way of carbs or protein) I was subsisting on bottled water, Clif Bars I’d brought with me (having learned from previous shooting trips) until dinner. I paid for my meals out of pocket, which was just easier, but when I got home the per diem that came back to me was easily four times what I’d spent–and about $50 more than what I paid for this drone.

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What are the plans for it? Fly it, first. Learn how to keep it in the air, aim it at what I want to see, and make the movements fluid. I took it out with Finn earlier in the year and ironed some of the issues out, even though it was a windy day.

Eventually, I’ll have to see if upgrading the gimbal to a Hero4-compatible unit makes sense; the Hero4 adds a lot of extras in terms of camera angle, improved ISO and a higher frame rate. But that will only happen if I can get some paying jobs that call for a drone.

* * *

Meanwhile, I went through my old hardware box and pulled out ten old hard IDE drives that have been decommissioned for years to prepare them for disposal. First I put a rare-earth magnet over each drive platter for a couple of days to scramble the electrons. Then I broke a couple of cheap Home Depot drill bits going through each drive to render them unusable. They will get dropped off at the dump with a bunch of other large metal items I can’t put out by the curb, and hopefully be recycled into compact cars.

* * *

We had another contractor come out and look at the bathroom Thursday evening, which puts our grand total at four. One has responded with a price three times our budget, another went completely dark, we’re waiting for the third to respond, and the fourth will get back to us within the week (we hope). The last two guys are single-person operations so it may be a couple of weeks/months before they can get started, but it would be nice to get someone interested in the job for a reasonable price to sign a contract and get this thing moving.

Date posted: April 28, 2017 | Filed under house, photography | Leave a Comment »

It’s not a break. The orthopedic doc said it’s a bad sprain and that I don’t need the boot anymore, so I left it off after the appointment and haven’t worn it since. Over the past week I’ve walked on it, careful not to do anything stupid, and while it’s not magically healed I’m not feeling pain during normal movement.

* * *

I’ve been afraid of switching to Lightroom for a couple of months now after an aborted attempt to switch at work; in a time-sensitive workflow I couldn’t get it to do what I needed to do and switched back to Aperture (now discontinued, but my solution for 5 years). With a little more free time this week, I moved all of the 2017 pictures I’ve taken to an external drive and built a Lightroom catalog for them after watching a couple of tutorial videos so that I knew the basics. The interface is strange and things are in different places but once I sorted out what was going where it started to make sense.

In other old photo news, I sprung for development of four rolls of film that have been knocking around the house since we moved in. I had no idea where they came from or what was on them, so I wrote a check, mailed them off, and waited. The service is really good. I got a notification email when they arrived, another with links to an online archive of images, and a third to tell me they were in the mail. One of the rolls is Jen’s from 2004 =, containing shots from Rome and a trip to Aurora. The second is 120 film shot at Finn’s birth, but unfortunately there are only three exposures. The third is color film from a trip to Monticello in 2007, and the fourth is a roll of double-exposed film from our friend Dave, which somehow found its way into our hands.

This got me thinking about the three unexposed rolls of Tri-X I’ve got sitting in the cooler downstairs, and the perfectly good film camera I have up on my shelf. I bought some new batteries for it last week and powered it up; I’m not certain but I think there might actually be film in it. That also got me thinking about film cameras within the ecosystem I’m in, and I poked around for some late-model Nikon film cameras on Craigslist as a lark. It turns out they’re available for ~$200, which means they’re something that would be fun to have but not required at this time.

* * *

The big honking TV is in the back of the CR-V waiting to be recycled this weekend; I’ve got three other computer monitors and a battery backup to join it as well as some other small appliances that have been sitting around for months. I’m waffling over getting rid of the lampshade iMac I got back in 2011, which is itself over ten years old; it’s a nice piece of history but I don’t really know what I’d use it for besides decoration.

* * *

I’m hooked on a couple of new podcasts: Crimetown is a series about crime focused in one city and its effects on the people there. The initial series is about Providence, Rhode Island, which was gripped by the Mob up until the mid 90’s. It’s an engrossing story and the narrators do an excellent job of keeping all the people and stories sorted out.

Heavyweight (now on break) tells stories about people who have unfinished business–things that happened to them in the past that could use a little revisiting. It’s handled with humanity and dignity, and also a good bit of humor.

Criminal is a podcast about, well, criminals. Criminal activity, examining crimes both famous and obscure. It chooses a wide range of topics to discuss, which keeps it interesting.

Song Exploder is a shorter podcast with interviews of musicians who take apart and explain how they’ve constructed a song they’ve written. Some of the musicians are better at doing this than others, and some of the songs are more interesting than others, but overall it’s an insightful look into who the artists are and how they make their music.

Date posted: April 21, 2017 | Filed under geek, photo, photography | Leave a Comment »

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Date posted: April 19, 2017 | Filed under finn, photography | Leave a Comment »

A few years ago, out the window of my train, I spied something interesting along a wooded patch of forest. I sat on the same side for the return trip and confirmed my suspicion: a the hulk of a finned 50’s sedan of some kind, minus doors and hood. I filed this away for future exploration and checked on it once every couple of weeks, always meaning to plan out an investigation. Recently I was appalled to see that a tree had either fallen on or had been felled on the roof of the car, squashing the back half flat, and decided I’d better shoot it now while I had the chance, and before spring vegetation swallowed it.

I did some Google sleuthing and found the nearest road to access the site, then found a place to park my car. I noticed that several lengths of chainlink fence nearby were missing or knocked over from snowplows, so I knew I could get to the trackbed easily without bushwhacking or climbing fences.

I woke up at 6AM on Saturday to balmy weather, stopped at McDonald’s for some breakfast (don’t judge–nothing else in the ‘Ville is open that early) and set out for my parking spot. Getting down to the trackbed was as easy as I expected, and the hike was short.

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There’s been some work done to erect fencing along the track, and upon arrival it became clear that a bunch of the clowns on the work detail decided they’d use the car for target practice when they dropped one of the trees.

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Using these three distinctive bolt holes on the remaining front fender, and the fact that it had single headlight buckets when most other sedans of its era were dual-lamps, I determined it was a ’57 Chevrolet Belair Sport Coupe, a desirable car in good condition.

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This one had been abandoned since at least 1998 based on graffiti I found etched into the paint.

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Anything of value is long since gone. The only distinctive element left on the car other than its shape is the wiper knob barrel, which holds one last piece of the hammered metal dashboard fascia in place.

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I stuck around and shot a couple hundred photos with a Canon 7D and my Fuji X10 over the course of an hour, at times walking back into the woods for different angles. I found some castoff elements hiding under leaves and under bushes, including the brake pedal. Then I packed up my gear and headed back home.

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Date posted: March 26, 2017 | Filed under cars, photo, photography | Leave a Comment »