Sunset surprise

After work yesterday I took my drone out for some practice run. It was foggy overcast and I thought the sun had already gone down because there were no sun rays on the ground. As I took off and got some altitude it was clear the sun had not set yet.

I’m always amazed at the photos that I can stitch together using the shitty little camera onboard a Mavic drone. I shoot them in raw so I can manipulate them on my computer to bring out the colors better. From the ground it was overcast and dark already. So it was fun to capture some of the last color and rays of the day.

You can create a ton of media very quickly. Over the last 10 or so years I’ve learned how to take that media, rename it, organize it into folders by date so it can all be cataloged properly. I don’t do that to make my life easier today. I do it so that when I go back and look at this 5-10 years later I know everything about the situation; where I was, what I was doing, notes about the day, my mood, etc. That takes a ton of practice and disipline.

Then as I was going to bed I looked out and the strawberry moon was hanging out in the fog. So I got a telescope out to peer at that for a while. It’s always amazing to see the moon through a nice telescope with all it’s mountains and other features. My iphone can take a decent picture thorough the same lens as I look with my eyes. It’s not the best, but it’s OK.

As seen from my iPhone looking through a telescope and some fog.

It’s incredibly bright even through the fog. It’s best to use a filter to tone down the brightness but I didn’t have that available to me when I took this. You get the idea.

Sheltering in place is still the norm around here. Working from home has been my modis operandi lately. It’s been that way for the better part of the last 25 years so not much has changed. I just don’t see many people I work with anymore except through the computer lens. That doesn’t look like it will change for the rest of 2020.

As of yesterday the remaining events that I would attend this year have been cancelled. That leaves my summer 100% available back to me to do with what I want. That hasn’t happened in so long I can’t remember. So I’ll spend it working around the farm, learning new things, working and hopefully a vacation or two if that is even possible.

I hope your skies are as pretty as mine.

The Burn Pile.

Are you a member of “the burn pile”?

Left discarded, burned, frozen, trampled, ignored, then snowed and rained on over multiple seasons you can still produce perfect fruit.

There is a lesson to learn from this pumpkin who despite all the odds decided life was worth continuing, set down roots, leafed out, flowered and successfully made another pumpkin. It didn’t have to.

That’s the story of being a member of “the burn pile”.

In our lives it’s not easy to do things well but it can be done in spite of the people, places and things that tried to keep us from doing it so well.

We did it well anyway.

Welcome aboard the burn pile.

Gathering firewood.

There’s nothing nicer in the winter than sitting in front of a fireplace with a large supply of wood fuel.

A while back during a wind storm we had a locust tree blow down. It was a tall one at about 70 feet. When it came down it took down a bunch of other trees with it. These things are heavy!

Yesterday I went out to cut it in 6-10 foot sections where I can use my grapple to get them in a clearing where I can cut them into firewood sized chunks that can be split and stacked for the rest of the winter.

We use this firewood every day in the winter to keep our home warm. It is a nice source of renewable stored energy. When we use the fireplace it can be 10º outside and still be 75º inside.

We have a nice wood burning stove in our fireplace as an insert. Its a “reburner” which means it burns extra clean and put out almost no smoke from the chimney. And gets wicked hot.

The first step in getting a bunch of firewood is gathering all the wood into one location. The next step, which I’ll be doing today, is cutting, splitting and stacking it so we can have it dried out for the rest of the winter by the time we run out of what we already have.

Years ago I stopped buying pre-cut timber to burn in our fireplace and replace that wood with wood from our own property. We have plenty of wood here that falls on it’s own or a tree that dies that needs to be cut down. This also gives me an opportunity to clean out the underbrush as much as I can, trim the smaller trees, cut down all the vine that is so ugly and allow us to walk and enjoy the trees and wildlife that hangs around in them.

These days a truck load of timber can cost $600. That’s about a cord of wood. Its not much. Its a little work and time but I enjoy doing this.

I especially enjoy sitting in front of a blazing hot fireplace in the middle of winter around here.

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.

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.

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!

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.