After 201,000 miles it’s finally time to change out the head light assemblies in my 12 year old truck. The old lights work but not that great. I think the new ones look (and hopefully work) better than the older opaque ones.
This spring I’ll be replacing the bumper and a passenger side quarter panel that was damaged in a crash, new fog lights (one of these leak) and put a new coat of paint on the front end. It’ll still be an old truck but will look a little nicer.
After that work, I’ll replace the roof. One of my family members decided it would be a good idea to dance on the roof with some friends at an outdoor event. Nothing that time, money, steel parts and some paint can’t repair.
To replace the assemblies you have to take off the wheels. Go figure.
A quick reminder that tonight is the best night to view the Geminids. If the sky around you is clear to the west after midnight look up in the direction of the Gemini constellation. Find the Betelgeuse star and you are there.
2020 has been an interesting year to say the least. One thing that hasn’t changed is the Universe. I work to keep that in mind as I live from day to day.
From my front porch every evening this summer Jupiter and Saturn have been some of the brightest objects in the sky. Using Gloria’s telescope I’ve been able to clearly see the rings of Saturn and the storms of Jupiter along with many of their moons.
Even with nothing than a regular set of binoculars Jupiter is so close to Earth that the moons are clearly visible without much aid. With a zoom lens, camera and tripod one can take a picture of them without much difficulty.
Then there is comet Neowise. This one snuck up on us. Somehow we can put landers on the moon but not know when a comet is orbiting the sun. Granted, the last time it was here was 6,766 years ago. And it won’t be back for another 6,766 years.
That being said, I wanted to find this comet and see if I could capture it from my own front yard. The biggest problem I have with some of the astronomy stuff is that it happens at like 5 in the morning. That’s not always appealing to me. I’ll do it but it would be way more convenient if it was like around midnight.
And, as it turns out, that was going to happen. All I had to do was wait a couple of weeks and I could get a view in the northwest sky as it set with the sun after 10pm.
The first time I saw it was with binoculars. It was so much larger than I was expecting that I had overlooked it for 30 minutes. And it was much more faint than I was expecting especially as it was dodging in and out of the clouds. With my older eyes and the less than ideal viewing conditions this was going to be challenging to take a clear photo of this thing at night.
With a 600mm lens I knew that I could only keep the shutter open for about 5 seconds to keep the blur at a minimum. That means the ISO has to be fast and the aperture wide open. This is going to produce a grainy/noisy photo and if it’s not tack sharp it not going to come out well.
Focusing in the night sky is not easy. Because my eyes are not the best at determining the focal distance like they were when I was 16 I have to use the camera to help me by focusing on stars in the sky and getting them sharp and then assuming that the comet will be sharp in that background. One tiny camera shake and the photo will be ruined.
300 images later, I picked the 3 I liked the best.
The color image above shows the green core of the comet against some of the stars on a very cloudy night. I was never afforded a totally dark sky view of the comet while it could be seen from here.
When the comet was behind the clouds I turned my camera around to see if I could take a decent photo of Jupiter and maybe some of it’s moon. Keep in mind I only have a Nikon camera and lens on a tripod so this is not a telescope or anything fancy.
The picture of Jupiter doesn’t look like much at first glance. But I was shocked that I could get such a good photo of the planet and some of it’s moons. If you zoom into the photo you will see that one of the moons is blue. I think this is Europa which has high water content.
If you didn’t get to see it this trip around the sun unfortunately you are now going to have to take my word that it was there. Or use better camera gear than I have.
It was a fun evening I shared with my family. Interesting time in an interesting year looking at cool astronomy objects.
If you get bored, look up. The comet is about gone but many other object are up there. The sky can offer some interesting things to think about. Maybe give you break to think about other things for a while.
This cathartic video from above shows 5 minutes of the process of making hay on our farm. There is no music or narrative. Just make it the size of your screen and enjoy the process.
We gathered 34 round bales of hay in this first cut of 2020.
Things generally slow down this time a year. With the virus things are REALLY slow right now. Everything I’d normally do in the spring, summer and fall is cancelled. There are no vacations planned or other distractions that would normally happen in a summer. This doesn’t look to change before the end of the year.
Health, Family, work and hobbies; I’m blessed to have all these near me.
After the hay bales are wrapped they have to be moved to a place they can be placed on a trailer and placed under a barn roof. This hay is for horses so it must be kept dry.
For some reason I am drawn to the engineering of making hay. There was a time when it would take 5-6 people to do this work and it would take 2-4 times to get the same amount of hay off the ground. Now 1-2 people can do it in a day.
Hopefully we’ll get 1-2 more cuttings this year. The air is cool and we are getting plenty of rain. The grasses love this grow environment. So if the trends of cooler summer and consistent rain continues the hay yield will be high this year.
Today I was out flying my glider with air so laminar that it appeared from the ground that there was no turbulence. I though, “Hey, I should record this!”
So I land, go inside and get this GoPro Hero 3 sitting on my desk and put some Velcro on the bottom then attached it to my glider as near the CG as I could get it. I had no idea if it would fly well with the camera attached which will no doubt introduce a ton of drag because it is not small at all. Or light.
I was surprised how well it actually flew and even more surprised to see the footage from the GoPro when I got on the ground.
This plane has no FPV (First Person View) optics on it so I fly it 100% by hand and with only visual cues from the ground. From the ground you do not get a sense of how things are going on board the aircraft except from what you can see from the ground. I’ve always wondered what it was like up in the sky with this lumbering old bird.
I call it the pterodactyl because it looks like an old dinosaur. I recovered it from a box that was destined for the trash at the hands of others. I thought that I’d put it back together but it was low on my list of plane priorities. But one day I did put it back together, added a motor, motor controller, radios, servos and the like and got it back in the air. It’s one of my favorites now.
It’s a circa 1970 balsa glider that was designed to be launched with a rubber band from the ground then flown into the thermals from there. It was only designed to be turned with rudder and elevator. I added ailerons to the wings as well which gives me much more control of the large wing it has.
This video is pieces of a 10 minute flight. I cut out a ton of it so it wasn’t so boring.
I’m lucky to live so close to the Shenandoah Valley. From my house to the middle of Skyline Drive at Shenandoah National Park may be 45 minutes of driving.
Mostly I’m out there on the weekend when I have time to waste driving around Virginia without worrying about work. When I do get there the views and quiet of the mountain is quite therapeutic. Most everyone slows down and just enjoys being out there.
Every part of the day in every different season will produce a different feel of the mountain. Some days I get to go out during the week when there are very few people there. In the winter it can be lightly traveled where it feels like you are the only one there.
This old tree has been standing at Little Devils Stairs as long as I have lived in Virginia. This rest stop will be much different without the tree there once it finally gives in to gravity.
The sunsets can be quite a site to behold as well. Never disappointing even if it doesn’t show up from behind the clouds like you were expecting.
It turns out I’m never the only person there at a sunset like this. It’s a busy time on the mountain as people take selfies and then go about their way. If you can wait 10 minutes after sunset you will be left on the mountain alone again.
It’s these times I enjoy most alone in this sacred place.
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.
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.
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’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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
This week we experienced the first snow of the 2018/2019 winter season. It’s a little early for this much snow so soon but not unusual either. I have some media to share with you
The first to are some time lapse videos I put together from my cheapo Raspberry Pi cameras in the windows. These computers put three time lapse sequences a day together for me so there is nothing I have to do to make these happen.
I was a little surprised at how heavy the snow was at times. Normally we don’t see this heavy of snow this early in the season. It will snow then go away. 5″ of snow is a little unusual. To have this much show meant that it snowed from morning until evening on this day (November 15).
I didn’t have to look too far to find the deer finding refuge from the wind in the tall brush eating the leaves still on some of the trees there.
This blue spruce tree was bought in 1999 from a nursery in Frederick Maryland to use as a Christmas tree when we lived there. The idea was that we would plant the tree once we moved to our new home. We did do that when we moved in here. First it was planted by the mailbox and then we moved it to this place after we wanted to plant the silver maple trees down the driveway. It has thrived in this location.
It’s sunny out now and 40º. The snow is melting off of the paved surfaces and things turning back to normal. The snow on the grass/ground is going to hang around for a while.