Easter 2019

It was one of those temperate spring days in Virginia today. It’s too cold to go out in short sleeves but too warm to we a jacket with the sun out. So I took a nap. I looked like this out:

60º with a strong breeze on Easter afternoon.
It was one of those lazy kind of days. Mongrel knows how to chill.

In addition to flying a drone I also flew some fixed wing aircraft. The winds aloft were a good 20+ miles an hour sustained. When I flew a glider into the wind it would appear to hover in place. That pattern continues today with a 57º brisk wind blowing.

I hope you have a nice day today and can spend it with those you love.

We spent quality time together.

I’ve been getting ready for a long motorcycle ride for a few months now. On the last trip I took an electronic fuel sensing unit started to fail on my Ducati. It’s not a huge problem except that you don’t know how much fuel is in the tank and it constantly throws errors on the computer that are hard to ignore.

I took it to the local dealer over the winter in hopes they could repair it easily. There was a discussion that it was a defective part and that Ducati would make it good. The end result of that discussion was that for $700 they would change it for me.

Nope.

I purchased the part for $100 and started taking the skin off this bike. I was going to fix it myself.

It took 2 weeks to get the part. Apparently they put in on a boat from Italy after I bought it. Then by horse to Omaha Nebraska. It did get here.

By the time it arrived I had my bike apart, all the fuel out of the tank and ready to put the new part inside this tank. These gasoline tanks are not the ones you may remember. They are formed plastic built to wrap around the frame of he motorcycle. The tank alone is $1200.

Taking the skin off was not an easy process. Someone at Ducati decided it would never have to come off. Apparently they didn’t talk to the electricians who make shitty sensors. Long story short, I had to do some destruction to get the cleats out of the plastic and reconstruction to put them back in the plastic. That took a couple of days.

I got the part, cut the plastic connectors off both the part and wiring harness, soldered the new part directly to the wires, shrink-wrapped it all up and all was better with the computer.

In two more days I’d have it all back together. Well, except for two screws. Which, for the life of me, I could not figure out where they went. I’ll have to take a closer look the next time I take this apart. I predict this sending unit will last a few years if it was made by the same electricians that made the other shitty sensor.

Yesterday I took it out for a 200 mile ride. It ran perfectly. No errors from the computer. And nothing fell off the bike. That I could see, anyway. That’s a win!

2014 Ducati Multistrada 1200S – 150 horsepower, 417 pounds.

When I put it all back together I made sure the bolts would not seize up inside their fittings. And didn’t use the “Ty Stiller school of torque” technique for tightening them back. That technique is interesting. No bolt being too tight until it’s actually broken off and you have to drill it out. I use a gentler method. Nothing wrong with Ty’s methods if you don’t mind drilling things out all the time. Or just throwing it away.

So we got to spend quality time together before the big ride. I still have some work to do but should have it done in a couple of weeks. That’s a week or two before I have to launch. This is new to me. In recent times I’ve only had time to do things at the last minute. This is a nice change in my life.

All I had was my iPhone to take photos. This is the best I could get out of it.

Still decidedly winter looking in the mountains.

I drove my favorite 4 hour loop with an hour stop for lunch. The loop looks approximately like this on google maps:

No trip to Luray, Virginia is complete without a stop to Uncle Bucks for some southern style comfort food. I recommended it. Lots of people were out and about in this town.

It was a necessarily long day. I wanted to make sure everything is working properly. I’ve got to bleed my back brakes because they are pretty mushy. This is also a known problem with a Ducati design. My Honda has a physical linkage to the back break. The Ducati has hydraulics. The hydraulic lines sit right on top of the catalyst which essentially cooks the oil breaking it down over time. This week I’ll bleed them all out and make them new again.

The newer bikes take a lot more maintenance than the older ones. But they sure are fun to ride! And I was not alone. This weekend set up a perfect day of riding so everyone with a motorcycle, their friends and families were all all out riding today.

I rode alone. But wasn’t alone.

She’s warming up to me.

We’ve been together on warm summer days and in freezing, wind driven rain.

At first, I could only hear her calls. That was when she was young and being trained by her parents who are long since gone.

In the last couple of years she has let me walk close to her. This is her territory. I see her all the time as she hunts for small furry creatures.

Today I went saw her through a window on this pole close to the house. That alone is unusual. I took pictures through the double-paned glass which makes things blurry at best when you shoot from any distance.

I decided to walk outside and maybe get a few photos before she flew away like she normally would. I did get a few but something unusual happened. She stayed on the pole.

So I walked closer. Took a few photos. Closer. Took a few more. Then I noticed she really didn’t care about me being there. Clearly watching me but not caring that I was getting so close.

I kept walking.

This is not a small lens. It’s 600mm and designed for shooting subjects at a considerable distance. When I got to 40 feet I stopped walking towards her and took this photo:

Red Shouldered Hawk on a 4×4 post.

At this point I can’t zoom back out much. It’s just she and I looking at each other. She is still not showing any sign of leaving. I can see per pupils in the middle of her brown eyes now. She is very orange. Her feathers are blowing in the wind.

I stopped taking photos and just watch her look for things. The smaller birds were watching her closely.

There was a small concentration of animals watching this hunter. I suspect it was so they did not become prey. I estimate her height at 14-15 inches tall and about 8 inches at her shoulders. She is not small.

Soon she decided to move on.

Takeoff into the wind.

And I went back to work.

It’s mid-March already.

Spring is just around the corner now. We’ve moved the clocks up and suffered through the first week of time change. Seems silly we still do that. It likely never did make a difference.

Last snow coating.
Last snow coating.

It snowed on March 8. The night it snowed it was very cold and fluffy stuff that wasn’t being whipped around by the wind. So it light laid on top of everything.

Is anyone in there?

Once the sun came up above the clouds things started to melt quickly. First the sidewalks but by the end of the day it was pretty much over. It may not be the last snow but it’s going to be close to the last storm we have. It’s snowed here in May so we are not out of the woods yet.

What I do hope happens is we get a respite for a few months from the wetness. Our ground is so saturated with water it’s difficult to even walk on top of it much less manage it with machines. I try not to wish that it doesn’t rain but we could use a little break. Just a couple of weeks of no rain to let the water run down to the tables or rivers.

Lit tree after a snow storm.

This is what it looked like around 10 in the morning. Snow is almost gone and the sun would appear soon.

Have a nice day!

One last snow storm.

It’s February 21.

I woke this morning with ice covered snow. Snow is not unusual for this time of the year. It feels strange only because I think I’m done with the winter of 2018/2019. I am ready for spring.

Like last year, I’ve not had to use my snow thrower to move large amounts of snow as in years past. It sits quiet, thankfully, in the barn. I don’t have to work in the weather now so I let the snow do what the snow is gonna do.

Today it’s been warmer than it’s been since I’ve been physically here this winter. The current temperature in the front yard is 55ºF so the snow is quickly melting. Because of the temperature difference between the ground and the air we get the low fog and cloud layers in the morning.

Sunrise after a snow storm.

I missed the 65º “Indian Summer” when I was gone for work a few weeks ago. So the 55º was as warm as I’ve seen it this winter. We normally get a few days like this each year in between the really cold weather we otherwise have.

It’s fun to take the drone up through the fog in the clear above. Things look so different up there where the birds fly.

I don’t know how to get a shot like this without the use of a drone (or helicopter).

The lonely tree; It now has a large broken branch from all the ice and wind.

This winter has been nice. At night when there is no wind Its super quiet around here above a layer of ice. I’m glad we have four seasons here.

I’m glad spring is just around the corner.

More snow; More cold.

Yesterday we had another snow storm roll through this area. The snow didn’t amount to much. We did get more than was predicted which left quite the wintery landscape behind.

The above was video taken from my drone while the following is from my Nikon camera using an intervalometer:

I’m almost never in a position to use my nicer cameras to do time lapse photography like this. It’s not hard but quite time consuming so if you have to baby sit the camera you can’t be working like I have been lately. But stuck in my home and working at my desk allowed me the time to monitor the camera while it took 1000 images through the day.

Ironically, the above uploaded on to YouTube is about half the actual resolution of the images. You tube and other services take out so much of the quality to save storage space and not use so much bandwidth.

The camera was set up for manual images with fixed focus, fixed aperture and fixed f-stop. All of the rest was done with software. I use Adobe Lightroom to do the heavy image edits, crops and the like. And then LRTimelapse (Version 4) to put together the time lapse. LRT is very cool and powerful software.

And the drone also takes some very unique images in raw image format so that the image can be manipulated very easily post production.

The Lonely Tree in undisturbed snow after a storm.

I like the high contrast photography I learned when I was 16/17 years of age. Back then I would look through all the Ansel Adams photographs in awe of how he accomplished such unique high-contrast black and white photography.

He’s gone now but I can’t wait to tell him about drones.  He would carry his camera gear on his back, spend days/weeks in the wilderness to get the perfect image.

I flew my drone from my front porch in between work meetings to get this one. Things have changed. Photography has really changed even in my lifetime.

Stay warm!

Summer.

I miss the summer days …

I was looking for a file on my computer and ran into this video. She has blood on her talons so has been clearly successful in her hunting.

Behind her is the tall grass while we were harvesting hay.

Then I look outside my window between meetings and see this:

Behind this snow storm is wind and bitter cold. I’m not going to complain because it’s only supposed to get down to about 5º here. In Ohio it’s going to be -15º.

I’m rooting for spring to come soon while I disconnect all the exterior water pipes from the high pressure water lines inside our home.

Total Lunar Eclipse

Well, it took me 22 days to write my first post in 2019. Happy new year to you!

All this “Blood Moon” talk hyped up this event which is really just the earth passing in front of the sun casting it’s shadow on the moon (lunar eclipse). It does glow an odd color when in totality. That’s about it though. All the drama in the “news papers” made it more than it really was.

I did get a nice photo of the moon in totality.

The “Blood Moon”, January 21, 2019

At my home in Virginia the sky is always very clear if there are no clouds. This night happened to be one of those super clear nights so taking a picture of the moon would normally be a piece of cake. Enter the 40 mile an hour wind, 10º temperature and the location of the moon at 90º to the horizon.

The photo was taken with a 600mm lens which is not the smallest, lightest lens in the world. Attached to the camera and a tripod it’s steady but unwieldy. The wind was so strong that I had to use f-stops much higher than I normally would so the photo was not blurry. Had this been in the summer, for instance, I could have laid on my back and peered into the sky indefinitely. Not this night!

I did three sessions each about 5 minutes long. At the end of each session I could not feel my fingers! This photo came at the end of the last session after I dialed in the light and shutter speeds that I could use with a shaky camera(man). It wasn’t until I saw it on my computer that I knew I didn’t have to go out for a fourth session. Shew!

The camera was pointing straight up in the sky making it very difficult to focus on the moon and set the camera up to take the photo. But I finally managed to get a good one. It would have been fun to spend more time outside but it was just too uncomfortable.

Some astronomers have captured a meteor striking the moon during totality. That would have been cool to witness.  You can find that on the web if you are interested. I don’t think it was fake news. It’s always possible these days.

Lunar eclipse are fun but if you really want to see something cool make plans to see a total solar eclipse! That’s a sight to see for sure. The next one in the USA is on April 8, 2024. I’ll be there!

I hope you have had a nice day today.

Christmas Day 2018

Still kinda groggy from all the travel we didn’t jump right out of bed this morning. Well, I didn’t. Gloria did like every other day. I don’t understand how she does that.

Since we have not spent any time as a family in 2018 being together is what these few days are about. I tried to find evidence that all four of us had been together yet this year and couldn’t find any. So this is the first time we’ve all been together in the same place this year.

That said, I took some time to take some high quality photos of all of us together so I can make nice prints to hang on our wall at home.

Christmas Day 2018, Boulder Colorado

Olivia has a new boy cat named Tron. He has a sweet personality but so very shy. It took some time for him to warm up to me. But once he did it was mostly like I wasn’t there. Especially when he spotted a squirrel the same size as himself through a window as I got my cameras together to take pictures of the girls.

Tron, the boy cat in natural inside light with a 50mm f1.4 Nikkor lens.

He loves being outside. Those big ears of his make it clear he can basically hear anything. When I went out to set up for some photos he followed me out. He is not one to bounce into a scene instead making sure that the coast is clear.

Is it safe to come out?

I’m standing 50 feet away with a 600mm lens. He did come out to play while I set up. When Olivia brought Tron home I was worried that he would not stay close to home. But that will not be a problem. He definitely knows where home is. Now I just worry about his size. The squirrels are larger than he is. He is clearly growing from his kitten pictures but still so tiny. Man, does he love his mama. There is safety there.

One of the main reasons I wanted to bring my cameras, not that I would ever leave them behind, was to take a contrasting photo from one that was taken by a professional photographer in Memphis back in 1999. We had been taking photos for some time when the girl became restless complaining about being tired and not wanting to take photos anymore. The photographer said, “OK, let’s take a break!” At that moment the girls just relaxed. Then all I heard was “click, click, click, click …” when this photo was taken:

Memphis, c. 1999

It’s one of my all time favorite pictures of me and my girls. I realize that it captured a moment in time that will never be revisited in the same way. They will grow up. They will move on. It didn’t seem like it then while we were immersed in the chaos of raising a family. It wasn’t until many years later I realized just how special this photo would become. They will never be that tiny again.

I wanted to take a current photo in a similar setting.

21 years later.

Time flies. People would tell me when I was a younger man that you need to enjoy every moment because at some point these moments will seem fleeting. That time is now. Hold on tight if you’ve got ’em!

We enjoyed a quiet Christmas evening together. Soon we will part ways again. It won’t be too long before we get back here again.

Christmas Eve 2018

It’s Christmas Eve already. Everyone is inside for the day awaiting Santa’s arrival. I hope he can find us here!

We’ve spent the better part of the last 3 days in torrential rain on interstate highways in the Pickle. This day there was barely a cloud in the sky. It’s hard to get contrasty photos when there is harsh sunshine but I sent the drone up anyway to take a few photos and video.

Sunset Canyon at Sunset

Speaking of driving, we had the most interesting experience when we met, completely randomly, some of our family while driving down Interstate 70 just east of Wichita, Kansas. I got a call on my cell phone from Karen who had just passed us. Of course, it’s hard to miss the big green machine we have named “The Pickle”:

The Pickle with family

So we took that selfie with the drone. The odds of this happening again are so slim. The odds of this happening at all is probably more slim. Hey, the Pickle has a new paint job on the roof which has repaired all of the water leaking we had with this machine when we bought it.

The Pickle is outfitted with enough seating for 5 people comfortably and a full sized bed for two people to sleep comfortably. It’s really nice to be able to get up and move around when you travel 1,700 miles like this. Of course, inside I also have all of the electricity we need to run our laptops, charge batteries, phones and the like.

It’s been a labor of love getting this machine back road ready. When I bought it the machine was a bit of a mess. Slowly I’ve repaired all of the bigger problems we’ve had with it. There is still more to do. I look forward to taking it on motorcycle trips when the weather turns warm again.

We searched pretty hard for accommodations for our travel here. How Gloria managed to get this close is pretty amazing. We are just a stone’s throw from being together which has worked out very well for us.

Our AirBNB

We attended the local Unity Church for their version of the Christmas message tonight. It was an interesting mix of various rituals. Tomorrow we will attend a NatGeo exhibition of “Living with Wolves” at the Boulder Museum.

We’ve spent most of our time in Boulder on Pearl Street where most of the restaurants are located. There is one in particular we enjoy named Wonder Press. Wonder is a 100% organic, cold-pressed juice and nut milk shop located in Boulder, Colorado. They also serve up tasty snacks like avocado toast with radishes. Yum.

The weather here has been clear and cold but from what I am reading that is going to change the day after Christmas where they are predicting a winter storm to race across the US dropping a wide swath of snow. This could change the way we travel home. The Pickle is not 4×4 so we have to be careful to avoid large quantities of snow. I did pick up some chains before we left on this trip but still hope we don’t have to use them.

Merry Christmas, everyone!