Before the sun went down today I wanted to get some grass cut. When I started it was warm and dry but on the horizon I could tell it was raining. The rain didn’t really look like it was going to come meet me but about half way into my task it really started to rain.
It was one of those rains that wasn’t overcast; just showery. I was thinking, “Why don’t I just park this thing and be done with it for the day?” I was soaked all the way through all my clothes and getting cold riding on the mower. “Just another 15 minutes and I’ll be done,” says my internal voice (like it always does).
Then I looked up and saw a full, very bright and vibrant double rainbow. By the time I got my phone out, figured out how to get into the camera app in the rain this was all I could capture:
I was sitting next to my bees, in the rain with nothing more important to do.
I’m reminded to slow down and enjoy the moment. It may not seem like it but little bits of nirvana surrounds us all the time. Everything is as it should be.
Today nirvana was a rainbow sitting in the rain at the end of a busy work day. All I had to do was look up.
Saying goodbye is never easy. Some are harder than others.
I wouldn’t be so bad if she weren’t 1,500 miles from here and could pop in anytime she wanted. It’s back to work for all of us in the coming week. The holiday is about over and time to get back at life.
Gloria is off to a wedding. Helen and I are home with the cats. The cats want to be in someone else’s home. Well, two of them do anyway.
After getting up at 4am I think I’ll go to bed early tonight. Or not. Depends on what I get involved with between now and then. Ha. It always depends.
It was a quiet but very full day. I spent most of the day on the phone on work related projects that I needed to complete today. I don’t normally talk about work but that’s what I do during the week from the time I wake until the time I sleep. I may play in between but I think about work all the time.
Speaking of playing, I was able to fly both my drone and RC plane today. It was one of those super harsh sunny days where there is no clouds in the sky. On these days it’s super hard to take a good picture that is not all washed out. It’s hard to look up at what you are controlling from the ground and for the same to look down and take a decent photo.
Of all the photos I took during the day this the one I liked the most.
I post in Facebook as well but Facebook will down sample the image and make it look like junk. If you touch the one here you’ll get a full photo that you can fill your screen with and really see what it looks like. Even this one is downsampled a bit. It’s only a JPEG image out of a GOPRO 3 camera. It’s amazing what that little camera will do. When it’s hung under a drone and lifted into the air I just think it changes everything about photography.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw a picture from the bottom of a drone. It was way, way before it was the cool thing to do. I was mesmerized. I mentioned to Gloria that this is going to be a big thing when it catches on. And it did catch on. People like Casey Neistat became quite famous flying drones and publishing videos.
One of the things I did today was work on my weather station. The Raspberry Pi computer had a disk failure and won’t boot. A year ago I bought some “cheap” microSD cards to use as disks. They have all failed so that didn’t pay off. Name brands for me from now on. I’ll pay a little extra for those things now. None of the SanDisk brands have failed even after years of use. They are not hard to fix but it takes too much time. I’ll have my weather station back working again tomorrow.
Mongrel and I didn’t go for our normal walk today. Instead we played in the grass. Well, he played in the grass while I troubleshot my weather station some during one of my breaks from work. Watch it to the end if you want to see what it looks like for a cat to run through grass like a deer … but he’s only a cat.
We won’t tell him he’s any different.
It’s quiet here. Everyone is sleeping. Tomorrow is on the horizon and should be similar to today.
I hope you’ve had a nice day today. If not, I hope you have a better day tomorrow.
This weekend was about goofing off. Goofing off as much as possible. It all started like this:
… sunrise September 17, 2017
Officially I had to do some volunteer work for my radio club but that was over before 10am Saturday which left the rest of the day to do something I’ve had in my calendar for a while now: The Flying Circus.
We didn’t stay long but we made a day of getting there and back like we tend to do now and again. Typical trip down I-81 where you have to be crazy to be with crazy. But it was OK with both of us in the car together to stay distracted. Although I think my driving drives Gloria crazy. She has to listen to me postulate about statistics of queuing and crowding; the mathematical advantage of being in a small car in a big car world. 210 horse power helps but not as much as being small.
The venue for the RC event is atop a hill south of Covington, VA where people are flying all kinds of different aircraft from fixed wing to drones and even some cars and the like. But it’s mostly about flying something. It’s put on by Jeremiah at Stone Blue Airlines. Jeremiah owns the place there in Lynchburg two hours away from Covington. He’s helped me outfit some of my RC gear here that I fly. It’s cool that he’s made a living out of his passion. It’s really hard to tell when he is working and when he is playing. Which is I think the point to life.
After looking through my FPV goggles at other people flying we took back off for home in hopes of getting back at a decent hour. We lumbered along the back way home up SR220 through some really pretty West Virginia and Virginia back roads. After a dinner at the Fireside Cafe it was slabbing it back home as fast as we could once the sun went down and both of us grew tired.
Gloria had a big morning on Sunday and presentation in the afternoon so we needed to get her back and rested. She had a good, productive presentation on how to make Kombucha. She makes really good Kombucha!
Not me. I took the day (Sunday) mostly off. Besides a 5 mile run at sundown I really didn’t do much but goof off with electronics, some photography, RC flying of various types, radio. Some people have said that my goofing off looks a lot like work. I resemble those remarks.
Oh, radio. I chatted with a “DXpedition” station from the Czech Republic operating in Mauritania using call sign 5T5OK. I was parked on a 14 mhz frequency when I noticed the activity on the spectrum scope. Turns out these guys were testing their station and I was able to snag them in a “pile up” on the first call once I figured out how they were set up on the split frequency. We really didn’t chat long and they went on to making more contacts. It’s about 4,200 miles from here to there. I’m always amazed that I can just “key up” and talk to a totally different country on the planet. Makes the world seem really small. I was on and off the radios all day today which was particularly fun.
I’m working on an adjustable square wave generator circuit with a 555 timer chip. I’m not terribly good with electronics so this is half learning and half doing. I want to create a string of LEDs that use a transistor to switch between on and off at a rate that I can control with the timer chip. The circuit is gonna look something like this:
I got my bench power supply back from the shop so I can start building stuff again. Or breaking stuff, depending on how badly I mis-calculate things like voltage, current and the like. My method is less “Ohms Law” and more “Poke-n-Prod” until the blue smoke comes out. When I see blue smoke it’s generally back to the drawing board. It’s a good way to learn but leads to a lot of dead parts.
I’m sure I could buy the circuit from China for a buck but what’s the fun in that? I have this idea on making an LED string look like it’s pumping electricity like water through a tube. I want to vary the alternating lights at a rate and amplitude I can control. Yea, boring.
Mongrel and I got to walk together some today. When we weren’t moving he was chasing his tail. I can’t tell if he is goofing off like cats can do or if he’s frustrated that he can’t control it. One thing’s for sure is that he is very transparent because of that tail which exposes his current mood. The little biting flies were bugging the crap out of us both too.
We were also still a lot today. It’s interesting to watch Mongrel. He generally sits facing opposite of me. If I were to lay down he sits on top of me. Must be some weird instinct thing going on there. Seems to watch out after me when we are together. Anything out of the ordinary while he is on watch will render a “growl”. Could be a dog ½ mile away or a person riding a horse. He just lets me know it’s out there.
When all that is done and we are back in the quiet, cool of the house where his guard comes down he starts to slow down after some dinner. Quietly protesting that he doesn’t want to be inside he climbs in his box next to my desk. He starts off looking at me. Then falls asleep.
Soon he is on his back with his feet in the air. This cat can sleep like none other I’ve ever met. And will sleep like that all night long.
I hope you’ve had a day that was fun like ours. And that you are back in your safe place where ever that may be.
I’m done goofing off. Work tomorrow. Headed to my box.
Yesterday I was reading yet another article about what “mode” to keep one’s camera in so that it is always on the ready. The consensus is that no “pro” would shoot anything other than in full manual mode in raw format. The stories go something like, “5 reasons why you should alway keep your camera in full manual mode…” blah blah. It’s all BS.
In the last year I’ve learned that capturing the shot is the most important thing. Forget how the camera is set. Set the darned thing in a way that when you pick it up the next time you are ready to capture the shot when the shot happens so that you are not “fiddling” trying to figure it out … sometimes in complete darkness.
You just can’t predict where you’ll be and there is just no such thing as a perfect camera setting. And you don’t need a “pro” camera to take good pictures. You don’t need the latest technology. You need to get in the back yard and take the picture with the shit you got right now. That’s how this works.
So touch the picture above and look at the details. It’s not like standing in my back yard and feeling the dew on your face as it moves about in the cool breeze. But you’ll get the idea.
I woke with no specific plan and no place I really wanted to go.
After reading a bit I got up, showered and headed out the door after feeding the cats and eating a light breakfast. Mongrel was all over me to go for a walk so off we went. Like our other walks we stopped at the same trees, inspected everything we’ve inspected before just to be sure and walked essentially the same path as we always do. There’s always something new to see and interesting lights to capture.
Mongrel is content just to be with me. But we’ve got to figure out how to travel in a car together if I am to satisfy his need to be around humans all the time. He’s not a fan of the car.
I ended up in Shepherdstown, WV where I visited with Timothy a little as he played guitar on the steps of the old McMurran Hall. His message is the same; be patient, read the bible, be kind to others, do as Jesus would do.
I like his guitar sound. But we mostly talked.
On the way home I hung close to the Potomac river and the tiny roads next to the C&O Canal. I stopped at places I normally just drive past to take a few pictures.
BTW, do you like the picture above in landscape or this picture below of the same spot but in portrait?
I tend to like the landscape photos but this one shows more of the sky and clouds. This part of the Potomac is dammed up south of here near Harpers Ferry that allows people to use normal boats here. There were several pontoons and others mixed with a kayak or two.
The C&O canal extends as far east as Georgetown, District of Columbia all the way up to Cumberland, Maryland. It may go further up towards Ohio but I’m not sure. It’s a long way. You could spend several days on a bike on this if you wanted. It’s said to be slightly declining as you go east. However, when I get on it it is uphill in both directions. I can’t figure that out.
What day would be complete without several ascents into the trees?
Gloria came home tonight from her trip with her mom and sisters. We got to walk together before the sun went down. It was fun to hear about her travel to Cleveland, the restaurants, boat, people and other stories. She let me try to take some portraits of her.
I’m trying to teach myself how to augment some of my photography with a flash. Flash photography is something I just haven’t spent much time doing over the years. You wouldn’t think you’d need a flash on a sunny day like today … but it helps when the sun is in the sky like this.
And if I could fit just one more thing into the day it would always have something to do with an RC plane or drone. Mongrel joins me in these 20-30 minutes flying sessions. As I bring the plane in slow for landing he will chase after it like it’s a rabbit. It’s pretty funny to watch.
I started with no plan and ended up with a full day. It’s dark now. I’ll finish this blog and go down and do radio for an hour or two before I finally give in for he day. I did as many of the things I like to do as I could. I was with as many people that I love that I could. Tomorrow’s a “work day” but I hope it is as interesting as today.
Today we decided not to follow our normal path on a road less traveled. Instead, we got on a set of roads we’ve never traveled not knowing for sure exactly how to get to where we wanted to go.
To start we were looking for some lunch in Charles Town, WV at a place we’ve eaten before. We didn’t understand why it was so hard to find until we go there and saw that it was closed. It was Mediterranean food where we’ve only eaten once but it was one of the best meals I’ve had in some time. It’s a bummer to see it go.
We ended up across the street at a diner run by Grandma. All of the comfort foods you could want were under that roof. Even an egg salad sandwich on white toast with fries and a sweet tea. I’m definitely going back there!
We set out for “Sleepy Creek Lake” in West Virginia to see what is there. Maybe a place to camp, take some photos, scope out some new motorcycle roads. It’s not far from home. The roads between home and Charlestown are well traveled for us. Beyond that it was all new to us.
Yesterday I put a 50mm lens on my camera to play with depth of field. This is something I haven’t done in some time and want to relearn. The lens I have is super nice and lets ton of light in to play with. Unfortunately, it taught me some lessons that I’m going to have to pay closer attention to. In this panoramic view of the small lake you can see the focal point is in the center of the lake but I had it so tight nothing beyond that in the background or foreground is in focus. Oh well, next time I’ll be more careful.
On the way to the lake we randomly came upon a grass air strip that was also home to the local RC flying club. We turned in to find two gentlemen taking a break from flying their gas powered scale aircraft. It’s a ton of well groomed land and apparently a very active club. Something to check out It’s called the PropBusters RC Airplan Club.
I was headed out to take pictures of the sun going down tonight and saw this plant on the table reaching for the last rays of the day. I really don’t know what kind of plant this is but it has very long arms reaching as far out as it can to soak up all of the sun’s rays.
Speaking of sunsets, the sun was very harsh today in a mostly clear sky. In order not to get a totally washed out image I had to pull the “stand behind a tree for shade” trick. Even still, there was a ton of light to deal with.
I was about to rotate the wheels on my car when I saw the moon rise in the eastern sky. You can’t do much with a 50mm non-zoom lens so this is all I can do to show the moon today.
Sock joined me for some of my picture taking. Sockies is getting older these days. Not moving as fast as she used to. Here eyes are getting a bit cloudy, she’s missing a tooth or two but otherwise doing OK for a cat her age.
In that photo you can see the effect of strong depth of field. Her eye are super focused and detailed but everything else is out of focus. That was taken at f2.5 at 1/800th of a second with an ISO of 80. Clearly it’s letting a ton of light end to be able to use these settings. And it’s an f1.4 lens so the focal point can be even that much more narrow. It’s very, very hard to shoot a moving target with this kind of a narrow depth of field.
It was a fun Labor Day holiday. We did as much as we could with the time we were given. We’ve found a new place to get some grub and a few new roads to explore more. Maybe even a place to pitch a tent for the night.
I was sorting through photographs the last few days and came across this one. It’s just such a beautiful picture to me which has in it so much of what I enjoy in life: quiet days, mountains, summer, cool breeze, flying, nature, beauty, rebirth … the list goes on.
I wasn’t looking for butterflies to image this day. They just happened to be everywhere I looked. I was at this place on Skyline Drive near home when I saw this one just going back and forth on this plant. It appeared to me to be a new butterfly. It’s wings were still unfurling and it seemed to be orienting to it’s surroundings completely oblivious to me. I was able to spend 15 minutes with the butterfly before I moved on and left it there.
This was actually taken with my iPhone. I did that because I thought this butterfly might take off before I had the opportunity to take it’s picture so I didn’t want to grab my camera from the front seat of my car to capture the image. I did ultimately use my big camera and got some amazing photos of this butterfly but this was my first image. Lately I’ve learned that taking the photo is often more important than taking the perfect photo. Never miss that first opportunity! I just put my cameras on “AUTO” and start shooting. If I have time to be an artist … I’ll know when it comes.
Touch the image and make it as big as the screen you are looking at right now. It’s just such an amazing picture to me I wanted to share it with you. It tells a story of life, of distance, of effort and of purpose. This butterfly didn’t choose this path but I know for certain it is on it’s path, whatever that means for this butterfly.
You three are no different to me. I know the path is not always easy but it is your path. I hope you spread your wings a little today as you continue to tell your story. Enjoy a cool, summer breeze and if your path takes you to a overlook as beautiful as this I hope you can stop for a while and take it all in.
This is the sunrise out my office window this morning. You know the drill, I wasn’t up to see it personally but my Raspberry Pi was.
The sun is moving into the southern sky as fall approaches. There is a very pronounced Coriolis effect going on in the clouds while the fog moves around this very dewey morning.
I was up early working with an arborist to try to figure out if we could save three ash trees that are being consumed by ash borer bugs brought in from China. I learned this morning that 90% of all of the ash trees in Virginia are dead or dying.
One of our trees is gone. His suggesting for the others is to enjoy them while they are around and plant something else in their spot.
Attending a total solar eclipse was not anywhere on my bucket list a few months ago. A few months ago I decided to put it on my list and attend the solar eclipse that will happen on August 21, 2017.
We are going to be able to take in the solar eclipse on the line of totality in the small city of Andrews, North Carolina. We’ve been planning this trip for a very long time now and set off this morning to go “stare at the sun”.
We are going to view the eclipse right smack dab on the “totality line” which means for over two full minutes the sun will be completely GONE! That will happen at about 2:36pm on Monday, August 21.
We’ll be camping on a ball field in Andrews where the totality line will pass through the outfield of the park. That is where we’ll be camping and viewing the event. I think the only thing we could do better is to be closer to the place on earth that totality will be the longest but that would only gain us about 2 seconds as seen from this map. That is just how close we are to the place that will have the longest totality experience.
The drive down to NC today was like nothing I’ve experience before. We took a route mostly down I-81 which was gridlock at times on this perfectly clear weather day. Tomorrow I hope to capture some of the maps as Google/Waze keeps the route updates with the latest traffic flow information. If today is any indication, tomorrow will be a serious travel headache for many who plan on coming down then. Monday? Forget it!
This is going to be a continuing document. As I write down my experience I’ll upload all of the details as I have access to the Internet. I’m told by many that where Internet was normally available it might not be available on Monday. Or to even make a phone call for that matter. That being the case, I have brought my radio equipment for both entertainment and in case an emergency really does happen I’ll be ready to figure it out. I also plan on doing some science with radio in the coming days.
It’s Sunday, August 20 now. We left Bryson City around 9am this morning and headed on to Andrews, NC where we’ll be setting up our tent for the night so we don’t have to travel tomorrow to the location where we will be viewing the eclipse.
Part of what I did today was volunteer some time to help the science teacher of the middle school in Andrews explain some radio science that NASA provided to the school. They did hourly presentations on “radio JOVE” which is what I have been helping with.
As I get more information, photos and the like I’ll keep this updated. Right now I’ve completely run out of juice and have to got to bed.
Update: It’s 11:45 and we just got home about 30 minutes ago, unpacked and ready for the day tomorrow. We were on the road today for 14-15 hours trying to get back home in gridlocked traffic jams all the way up to DC. That was after going 74 miles in 3-4 hours yesterday right after the eclipse. I don’t have the energy to stay up all night and then work all day tomorrow so I’ll get with my photography tomorrow.
C1 to C2 contacts points:
More to come… I have to get up at 5:30 to go to work tomorrow.
It’s August 24, 2017, a little after midnight. I’ve been working on some of the time lapse photography today and think I have a sequence going after sorting through 10,000 photos. My computer was acting a bit strange as I worked to sew things together. I’ve finally got a first-cut sequence in the works. It’s taken over an hour so far for my computer to start the process which it’s about 80% through now. I’m going to try to stay up to get to the point of rendering a video and then head on to bed.
I’ve notice that my GoPro camera might be in the process of failing as some of the images didn’t come out perfectly. I think I’ll be able to take some of the images out that didn’t take properly. Some of them were corrected when I cropped the images. When you watch the video you will notice some pink images from time to time. That’s an error in the GoPro camera.
To process the images I use a tool called “LR Timelapse Version 4” I’ve used this program for years. The developer, Gunther Wegner, has kept this software updated and improved over the years. It works in conjunction with Adobe Lightroom to be able to edit the sequence the way you want. Essentially, Lightroom does the heavy lifting for editing enmasse and outputs to LRTimelapse for the sewing of the video. I don’t know how else you’d do something like this and you certainly could not do it easily by hand. 30 years ago, I don’t know how you’d put this together with a film camera either.
Lightroom has the ability to make massive edits to thousands of files for things like lens correction, which is important for a GoPro camera to correct aspect ratios, image quality, size, shape, color correction and similar settings. For example, I can crop the first image to a 16:9 aspect and have all of the other photographs have the exact same cropping.
16:9 aspect is very common. It’s the size and shape of most TV screens and computer monitors. Whereas a 1:1 aspect ratio is good for a photo or video posted on Instagram. I don’t know why Instagram likes square stuff, but ok, whatever. They like you to fit your round objects in their square sockets which is one big reason I don’t like using Instagram for stuff like this. Sometimes my stuff is portrait, sometimes landscape. Most often it’s larger then they allow on their servers. Sometimes it’s not worth the trouble to fit my stuff in their format so it doesn’t get posted there.
Facebook will let you post anything you want in the aspect ratio you prefer but what they won’t do is keep the image quality to it’s original for either a photo or a video.
Back on this video. When I finish the first cut I’ll have to work on the final cuts. For that I use Apple Final Cut Pro which allows me to edit video at scale and add anything I want to it like captions, music and the like. I haven’t figured out what I want to do in that regard yet.
After the first cuts I’ll have to figure out how annoying the bad images are going to be and then go through them one at a time and either edit or remove them. After I do that I’ll have to get a new first cut which will take another 2-3 hours of rendering. As I write this paragraph the process of rendering the first cut for the first time has started.
When this first cut is complete I’ll have to find a place to post it so you can download or view it. That will likely be YouTube because DropBox frowns on that kind of thing and don’t allow embedding like I plan on doing here.
While we wait on that, it’s a good time to mention the Eclipse of 2024. You will need to start planning this event now. Figure out where you want to be in the path of the eclipse. Tilt things in your favor by making sure you are in a place where the weather will cooperate traditionally for you in the area you want to go. For more information on that eclipse you can go to NASA’s web site here. We plan on going!
Helen and some of her friends came down to join us from college at Virginia Tech University. They set up their tents next to ours on Sunday night and were able to enjoy the eclipse with us.
While we waited for the eclipse to arrive there was much tale telling under our shade tent. My only regret was not taking more actual video of people talking, especially during the eclipse, and more photos of just the normal happenings around me. Gloria picked up my professional camera and didn’t know the focus is “manually activated” so a lot of the photos she took were blurry. While they help tell the story I am not going to publish them here.
It’s no surprise to my family but I brought some of my radio gear with me to have while I observed the eclipse. There was a ton of chatter on all of the bands about what was about to happen. We were on a “grid square” of EM85 with a coordinate of 35.20490 -83.81650. I used this coordinate to calculate the exact time of all of the event contact points.
The antenna is built out of common wire I bought at Lowes, constructed in my back yard and tuned to the frequencies I wanted to operate. It worked perfectly for what I was using it for. It’s not like my other station antennas that are very high off the ground for maximum effectiveness but it worked just fine. I made many contacts in the 0-3500 mile range just like I expected I would.
Here is the first cut of a time lapse from my GoPro:
The idea was that I would capture everything going on around us. There was a flurry of activity before, during and after the eclipse. During the eclipse everyone cheered, shot off fire works and otherwise celebrated the event. That was a ton of fun. As soon as totality was over people started packing up and heading out!
We were also able to capture the “Shadow Bands”. Shadow bands are thin, wavy lines of alternating light and dark that can be seen moving and undulating in parallel on plain-coloured surfaces immediately before and after a total solar eclipse. They are caused by the solar crescent thinning to a narrow slit, which increasingly collimates the light reaching Earth in the moments just before and after totality.
I think it’s fun that at some point the camera was thrown into the sheet, probably unconsciously, to watch everything going on around us.
We didn’t. We packed up slowly and planned to load up the car and head into Andrews for some dinner while the traffic bled off a bit. We could tell it was going slow on the road so we thought we’d let it loosen up. Little did we know that in the next 24 hours it will be very difficult to get back home.
After we has some dinner, packed up the car, motorcycle and trailer we took off from Andrews and headed out the only real road out of town towards Asheville. We thought the traffic would have thinned by the time we got on the road hours after the eclipse where all the eager types had blazed the trail in front of us. It was a good plan anyway.
But that plan didn’t work out. After 4 hours and being rerouted by Waze several times we were in Maggie Valley only 74 miles towards our destination in Northern Virginia. We decided to stay the night and let the traffic continue to bleed off. We thought that was a good plan.
But that plan didn’t work out either. Traffic was pretty good through Asheville and on to I-26 north but the second we got on I-81 our luck changed. The traffic was essentially gridlocked from the intersection of I-26 and I-81 all the way home although we wouldn’t learn the latter until well into the trip north.
Our plans just kept changing as we tried to make it all the way home. At Blacksburg Waze routed us again through the city of Roanoke which even I knew that plan was not a good one. So we got off the main path and headed west towards route 219. SR219 is a goat trail best driven by a motorcycle but we were in a car pulling a motorcycle so we made the best of it. There was very little traffic on the road between Blacksburg and I-64 where we headed east to SR220.
From there it was north towards WV SR48 where we got back on to I-81 into guess what? Yep, grid lock traffic. It was slow going until we got off to SR7. The rest of the trip was uneventful but we were beat tired.
I have to get up in the morning at 5:30am to attend meetings all day in Baltimore. 5:30 will come early.
And all of the logistical nightmare was worth the 2.5 minutes of totality. I’d do it all again tomorrow if there was an eclipse featuring solar totality. We have our sights set on 2024 for the next total solar eclipse.
A solar eclipse wasn’t on my bucket list. It should have been on the short list. I highly recommend you make it to one in your lifetime if you can.
See you in 2024 somewhere on the line that is totality!!