Very Large Grouper (Fish)

In the 1990’s we went on a vacation to Australia. During that trip we spent a few days offshore at the Great Barrier Reef. Most notable was at a place called Lizard Island. If you’ve not been to Lizard Island I highly recommend it. It’s pricey and very far away but you’ll never be quite the same when you get back.

But I digress …

During that trip we did a lot of snorkeling. The reef is so beautiful that you do not need to scuba to see the wildlife. On each one of our snorkel trips we encountered large schools of grouper fish that I estimated to be 1.5 to 2 times larger than my body. While they didn’t seem aggressive I mentioned back then it would likely not be a good idea to swim out where they were.

I would come back from this wonderful vacation and tell my friends stories of these large grouper that were twice my size and shape swimming in the Great Barrier Reef. They all looked at me like I was crazy. I don’t think anyone believed me. To this day, I think people thought I was making this shit up.

Yesterday I read this story about some sharks that were feeding on a dead swordfish at the bottom of the ocean off South Carolina during a diving expedition headed up by NOAA. They featured this video of the sharks feeding on the swordfish. Watch to the end … wait for it …

Go to this link if your browser does not support HTML5 video.

That grouper ate an entire shark!

Do you believe me now? This is the fish I saw.

If you happen to be snorkeling and see a giant grouper I’d treat it like the wild animal it is.

You can say I told you so. No bullshit.

Dive 07: “Shark Rock”

Photos and video were produced by NOAA.
Date: June 28, 2019
Location: Lat: 31.59517078°, Lon: -79.10225958°
Dive Depth Range: 446 – 454 meters (1,463 – 1,490 feet)

For the full web site story by NOAA go here

This is the location of the grouper. Don’t swim here! 🙂

July 4 2019 in the Shenandoah

At some point in this day I got in a bad mood. I wanted to go for a motorcycle ride and was frustrated that I didn’t do it. I let chores and other things keep me from getting out early.

Until we ran into this.

It would soon rain

It happened on the way back home after lunch. As we drove into and out of light rain showers well before all this happened I chatted with my partner that the summer rains are nice since mostly you ride into them and then quickly out of them. Our riding suits are “waterproof” for short duration rains. This was not one of those. Soon it would really come down in buckets.

As we move towards home this cloud got closer and closer.

Lightening started crashing down all around us and it was very hard to see out the window. The casual ride got pretty cosy and I was thankful that I was not on my motorcycle this day.

We watch this cloud roll in very quickly. It enveloped the mountain. The temperature dropped. Then the torrent came.

The ridges as seen from Hogback Mountain

To capture the picture above I use a 600mm lens. The mountains are very far away. You can tell the pressure is dropping as the fog starts to hug the mountains. This was the precursor to the big rain cloud above.

It was nice to get out in this weather. Glad I had my cameras even though it was frustrating gather it all.

I stayed in a bad mood. Sometimes I don’t get that. Maybe it was the weather.

Scenes from Annapolis, Maryland.

Last week we went to Annapolis to visit with some YouTubers I follow at the Annapolis harbor. They are sail enthusiast. I enjoy watching their adventures on terra firma.

I brought my camera with me in case there was something I wanted to capture that I couldn’t with my cell phone. I’m still learning how to shoot things other than landscapes.

We didn’t take any pictures of the event we attended that evening but ended up working our way into downtown Annapolis where the pride festival was in full swing.

I’m not sure if the amount of people down there was “normal” for a Friday but there were sure a lot of people there. I was quite surprised to drive into town, go to our restaurant and park right up front and center. Looking back, I think it was just the luck of the draw that evening.

It was nice to meet friends I only know over the Internet doing what they love and meeting others who are doing the same. And nice to get back home to enjoy a long weekend goofing around here.

It’s a long way to drive but we should do this more often.

50 millimeter.

I first picked up a camera in 1978 when I was 15 years old. A friend of mine was working to be a professional photographer and let me hold his camera. I pulled the trigger of his camera a few times. From that moment I knew that I would eventually own my own camera with no means to make that kind of a purchase.

How it came about is unclear but eventually I did get a Pentax film camera with one lens. It didn’t seem like much at the time. It definitely was not fancy. A simple camera with basic lighting controls (F-stop, shutter speed). Back then the ISO was set with chemistry in the film being used. The camera came with a 50mm lens. It was enough to take a few college courses and become familiar with the photography process.

I had no idea what I was doing. It turns out, this is where everyone starts.

Since then the photography industry and methods have completely changed. My film cameras and lenses are all gone now. When I moved to digital I didn’t think I’d have a need for my film cameras and old lenses. So they were sold. Today I wish I had hung on to them. It’s one of my regrets.

After I sold my film cameras yet still years ago I bought an f1.4 50mm lens for my Nikon camera. It’s an amazing piece of glass. Lately I’ve used it exclusively. This is where I started with photography and a place I wanted to go back. So when I bolt out of the house lately with my camera that’s the lens being used.

The clarity of this lens is striking. With an aperture around f/9 and an ISO of 100 the photos look very natural.

Unfiltered with some light post processing to bring out the shadow areas. f9 / 100 ISO / 1/200

The photo above was done without filters. I do set my camera white balance to be in a warmer mode because the Nikon makes everything cold by default. Other than that, this shot was right out of the camera.

Every lens has a purpose. There are thousands of different types and brands. My focus on my own photography is to use what I own and become proficient with that. If you can frame it with a 50mm lens you can make any lens work for you.

This biggest lessons I’ve learned in my 40 years of photography is this: 1) always have your camera with you. It may not be the best camera but still bring a camera with you. And 2) stop and use the camera. If you see an image in your head don’t drive past it. Stop, turn around and go get the image. If you are with others that do not want to stop they are not on your path. Let them go.

That’s what I did here. And I had no idea a bike rider would drive right into my frame. Had I not turned around, got off my motorcycle and stood in the middle of the road I would not have captured any of this. I didn’t even see the rider coming.

Flashers on so no one would run over me. Turns out only a bike rider would ride by.

The more you pull the camera trigger the more you learn. It’s a common theme I hear from the pros: “I wish I had more images to compare”. Because you never get another chance to be in that same situation again. That opportunity has passed.

When I hold my camera in my hand today I know I’m hold a tool. I still don’t know why I take so many photos. So many of them only I have seen. I haven’t even printed many of them for myself. Still, I stand alone in these places and wonder where everyone else is?! I can’t tell you the number of times I look around and wonder why others are experiencing this same thing; this beautiful color on one of the first days of summer. But I was completely alone in a public park except for one bicyclist for almost 30 minutes.

Its because it’s my path. The place I’m supposed to be. My path has taught me to do the things I enjoy. If you can share the experience with others that’s great. If not, enjoy the walk alone.

Who knew my path would take me from a place of wonder with an old camera with a 50mm lens to where I was last night with my own camera and a 50mm lens. But I was ready.

I wonder, what’s around the corner?

Solstice 2019

Has it really been since Easter since I’ve posted?

Today is the summer solstice marking the first day of summer. Around here the air is more humid and warm. It’s not like this very long so the next few months are enjoyable compared to the very cold of winter. We soak up as much of the warmth as we can.

The last week was supposed to be stormy and wet. It turned out not to rain much at all. I worked to get all the grass cut so I didn’t have to worry about soggy ground. I have a lot of grass to cut each week so getting that done when I can is important. Turns out I had plenty of time and got to take the week off anyway.

It does get stormy around here. Although this was the week before it was supposed to get crazy. This storm brought crazy rain and wind. It was also the last time it really rained around here.

Since the weather is nice I hope to get out on my motorcycle some. It should be a good weekend to ride.

Normally this time of year, in particular today, I would be preparing for the Radio Field Day. This is the first year in, I think it’s been …, 10 years since I have not been involved in a very big way. It feels really weird that I would not be involved to the extent that I have been in the past.

Not only am I not involved but the club I belong to called the entire event off for 2019. It’s a weird time of inflection for our small club. Feels a little splintered. Probably a growth thing. It’s just weird to go from full throttle to a complete stop in the span of a year.

Back to the fun stuff.

My Ducati Multistrada 1200S at one of my favorite locations near home.
The riding around my home is some of the best in the USA.
Quiet time in the forrest.

My motorcycle takes me to cool places. Places I would never go in my car; down roads that are worth driving but much too far out of the way when I’m trying to get from point A to point B. It’s also a time I don’t have to think about anything else other than enjoying my environment and making observations.

Work has been busy which is most of the reason I have not been able to focus on my blog, photography, etc. Hopefully that changes soon.

The solstice is a time marker for me. A half way point in the year. A time to look forward and maximize the summer months to get things done in preparation for winter when things get cold again. Maybe go fishing, camping and otherwise chilling out. Its typically a quieter time around here.

I hope you have a good day!

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.