Making hay June 2020

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.

Strap on a GoPro? Will it fly?

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.

Will I crash?

This video is pieces of a 10 minute flight. I cut out a ton of it so it wasn’t so boring.

I hope you’re having a nice day!

Take care.

Shenandoah

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.

Looking north towards Front Royal, Virginia.

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.

Low Gap

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.

Little Devils Stairs

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.

Looking west towards Luray, Virginia from Hogback overlook
Looking west towards Luray, Virginia from Hogback overlook on a previous trip

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.

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?

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.

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.

First Snow of 2019

Tower 2 – First Snow 2018

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).

Weather station in heavy snow.

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.

Deer

Deer

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.

Christmas Tree – Blue Spruce

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.

Have a good weekend!

2 minutes …

Mongrel and I went for our normal walk today. He was patient while I shot some photos and video during the golden hour of the day.

Sunset with Mongrel, July 18, 2018

Mongrel is a sweet boy. Well, as long as you are not another cat. In particular, another cat named Mary Jane. Otherwise he’s the most laid back and docile animal I know.

Around Mary the cat things change. She turns into the anti-Christ and he goes pretty nuts too. My thinking is that the relationship started out pretty rough and that just carried forward. At least for Mary it did and he doesn’t ignore her. When he was a kitten she would tear into him randomly; Swatting, biting, growling and the like. It was all good until he got older and stronger. When they meet now it’s quite a show.

It’s been an interesting week. Mostly good. Sometimes weird. Just trying to figure out where to point my rudder in the coming months. The path forward is not always clear.

Here are a couple of shots from today …

Looking east … long shadows.

Panorama of the sunset.

Sunset Panoramas July 15, 2018.

Most of the day was cloudy and spitting rain. That was good for me because I had a ton of work to do around the farm. From trimming trees to bush hogging our road it was a busy day on machines of various types.

We also sold our ping-pong table to someone who would provide it a good home. I hope his kids have fun playing on the board. The best part of the sale of this is that it’s taking up space in his garage now, not mine.

Tonight I was cooking a steak and out of nowhere a wasp landed and stung me on my nose. I used to think that getting stung on the temple was a bitch but now I think the nose is the worst. It’s been over an hour and my nose is still throbbing. I get stung a couple times a year so I’m becoming an expert on where being stung hurts the worst.

The day was pretty hazy and humid. I wear loose cotton clothes that cover all my skin. That makes working in the summer hot. When I got home I was soaked from head to toe with sweat. It was nice to take a shower and relax in the cool of the evening. It was 75º as the sun set tonight.

Speaking of sunset … here’s what it looked like:

Sunset July 15, 2018

At about the same time I turned the camera away from the sun to get the valley between the hills where we live. Looking to the left of the photo is Harpers Ferry where the gap in the mountain lets the Potomac river come through on it’s way to the ocean.

Looking towards Brunswick, Maryland.

There are lots of pastel colors this time of the day.

The moon and Venus are very close to each other today and tomorrow. I was too lazy/tired to go get my camera and take a picture of that. Hopefully they will be reasonably close tomorrow evening and I’ll get the photo then.

That is all …

Sunset in the Shenandoah

If you know me you know I’m a sucker for sunsets.

If you know I like sunsets then you probably also know also like sunrises but I can’t seem to get up early enough to see them. Getting up early is not something I generally do on my own. I usually arrive there from the day before.

It would be way more convenient if the sun would rise around 10am. If it did, I could get up, get some tea, check my e-mail, pay some bills THEN look out the window. But, lately it’s happening around 5:30am. Who has time for that?!

OK, back to the sunset yesterday.

I’ve posted the following photo on Instagram and Instagram does what Instagram does best with photography … completely screw it up. How can you take a photo like this with such nice detail and screw it up?

Well, start with making it a 1 by 1 square. Then take out all of the detail that tells the story. Then make people put their words around it to explain what is going on. Then claim it’s the only way to get your story out.

Shenandoah Sunset from Hogback Overlook on Skyline Drive

I like the above photograph but it’s not my favorite. I took a few others that I liked equally as well. Here is one:

Shenandoah sunset from Hogback Overlook

In the photo above I was getting ready to take pictures right when the sun was going over the mountain. My goal in the photographs that follow is to tell the sunset story with some depth of the mountains in front of it.

At this time of the “golden hour” just before the sun sets light springs up from everywhere. It’s at this time of the day that I go from being isolated in my environment to where people start to show up all around me to take in the experience. While I like a good sunset others clearly do as well.

My favorite photos of the landscape are panoramas. The following shot is actually three shots that I’ve sewn together to make a single image. I do it in a way that you can not tell where one photo ends and the other begins. Over the years, I’ve obtain the skill and software to pull it off well. It’s been a long road trying to figure out how to do this. My journey in panoramas started in the 1980’s. It’s only been recently that I’ve figured out how to do it in a way that looks good to me.

Note that the photo below is only a thumbnail … you will need to click the photo to get the detailed panorama shot I mention.

The following photography is one I would actually print and hang on my own wall. After all, that is what photography is for me. It doesn’t matter to me that you might not like it. It matters a lot if I like it. The older I get the more I enjoy my own work. Why it took me so long to get here I really do not know.

If you do click the link below make sure you zoom in and look at the detail. And then realize I still have the original that has 10 times the detail in it. That photo shows exactly what I saw with my own eyes yesterday. I have to say, it’s pretty cool.

Enjoy my photograph. Or not. 😉