Wrong Lens, Right Place.

Nick Crosses the Finish Line

Last Saturday Nick’s Nordic Ski team had a Pursuit Race. We had to leave the house at the crack of dawn and I could not find my telephoto lens. All I could turn up were short focal length (7—14mm and 20mm, which in M4/3rds is similar to 14—28mm and 45mm in a 35mm format) lenses.

Shooting sports is always better with longer lenses – you stand off and track the action from afar, letting the long glass get you close to the athletes. Long lenses also flatten perspective and offer interesting bokeh (the unfocused areas outside of the depth-of-field) making for appealing images. I shoot the telephoto from a monopod, which provides me with a stable platform that still allows me to pan side to side to keep the action in-frame.

My 20mm prime is a fantastic portrait lens, and is very fast, meaning it is great in low light, but the focal length makes for “snapshot” looking shots of sports.

I love shooting with wide-angle lenses, but they are not my first choice for shooting sports. In the past I’ve used my wide-angle as a secondary lens while shooting sports, taking close-up shots from a very short tripod close to the ground with a remote shutter. This time however, I affixed the camera and wide-angle to my monopod I usually have the telephoto on, but used it instead like a boom – held low, or high in the track of the race course. I’m pleased with the results:

Pre-race wax

Mass-start of the first boys' Classic race.

Poling to the finish of the boys' Classic race.

Girls Classic race

Girls Classic race

Girls Classic race

BHS Boys start the Skate Race

Nick skates towards the camera during the second lap of the Boys' Skate Race

Nick skates by the camera at high speed

SOL Day Five: Fixing Jerry’s Generator & Touring Mesa Verde

One of the fears people have about taking an old car out on an extended trip or tour is “what happens if it breaks?” This subject came up a few times on our little Southwest Oil Leak email list, and the consensus came down to: “We’ll all pitch in and help fix it.” Darrell Grimes driving an XJ, volunteered to be “the sag wagon” and generally stayed at the back of the pack. His trunk was filled with tools and supplies. The tour was filled with people who had lots of experience working on these cars, a few of them professionally. Having performed my share of roadside surgery over the years I know I’m pretty confident that I could get my car running again in just about any scenario short of a con rod exiting the XK horizontally. Ironically, short of the Bedell’s failed voltage regulator at the start of the tour, the cars had run great – until yesterday, when Jerry Mouton’s generator failed. He drove on his battery all day and planned to swap it with one he’d been carrying in his boot for twenty years in the morning.

Looking for breakfast: David Fey, Jerry Mouton, Darrell Grimes, and Paul Wigton.

The hotel restaurant was closed for breakfast so we gave up on food and decided to fix Jerry’s generator. As was prearranged, we had more mechanics that the job really required!

Paul Wigton opens his toolkit. Note the big hammer?

My car is the 715th E-type that was built after the change from a generator to an alternator. My struggles with alternators are well-known, having gone through many Lucas and Hitachi units over the years. Jerry’s car is a year older than mine, and it was interesting to note the differences, especially regarding the placement of the electrical drive component: in the early cars it sits down inside the frame rail, rather than above it like my alternator does.

Paul attempts to bend a nut to his will in order to remove the generator.

This made removing the generator more time-consuming than originally thought by this group of esteemed mechanics. The “twenty minute job” stretched closer to one hundred and twenty minutes when all was said and done.

The belt comes off.

Lloyd Nolan, Paul Wigton, & Jerry Mouton at work. OK, Lloyd is just supervising.

I didn’t participate much, beyond shooting photographs and making jokes. So when things got tough I wandered off and admired other cars…

David Langley fitted a steering wheel from an XK onto his S2 E-type. I think it looks great.

How many moron mechanics does it take to remove a generator from an E-type?

Apparently, three.

The boot of Darrell Grimes' XJ. Filled with tools and vital fluids.

Jerry had more problems than just a generator!

The belt that came off Jerry’s generator seemed to be made of the same low-quality crap that lead me to give up on the double/grooved belt for early E-types and go with a single AC belt for some Ford product. I went through a half-dozen of these bad belts before I switched and have yet to change my single skinny belt.

Jerry & David fit the new generator and belt back into the car.

Once the old generator was out, and the pulley swapped it all went back in a whole lot faster. We walked to the cafeteria near the visitor center and grabbed a meal (it was now “lunch” rather then breakfast time) before we hopped in our cars to tour Mesa Verde.

Passing Tweety on the road in Mesa Verde

Tweety in an area where forest fires had burned the trees about 8 years before.

This was my first visit to Mesa Verde, despite coming close many times over the years. For some reason I thought it was just a single, large cliff-dwelling, but instead it is a rather large, sprawling, complex of them. I’ve visited some of the remote cliff dwellings in the Gila Wilderness, but until now have not seen the many sites at Mesa Verde. It is a truly impressive place, and I highly suggest a visit if you haven’t been there.

Spruce Tree House from across the canyon.

We started with Spruce Tree House, which is a mid-sized cliff dwelling that is a short hike down a canyon.

Inside Spruce Tree House.

It is fascinating to see these dwellings. How well they are constructed, and then realize the relatively short period of time that they served their primary purpose.

The USGS guys chatting with the USNPS gal.

Half of the park was closed, but we drove around and walked to all of the important sites that were accessible. Much to my surprise there were signs of structures not only in the cliffs, but also along the ridge tops. Some were clearly dwellings, but also there are storehouses and reservoirs. There are also some structures that have no clear purpose.

Cliff Palace from across a canyon. This is the largest and most well-known Anaszi Cliff Dwelling in the US.

One of the ridge top structures.

After a long day of touring these sites and walking through the various museums, we all gathered for a fare-well dinner at the restaurant located at The Far View Lodge. The sun was setting and an evening rain shower approached the mesa, providing a suitably dramatic backdrop for our evening.

We had to wait a bit to be seated, and ended up at three separate tables, but a grand time was had by all, and we ended up closing the place. It was a great end to a fantastic week on the road with these amazing cars.

Waiting for our table(s)

Finally, here is the full week of time-lapse footage shot from that bizarre camera rig attached to my car:

Fun new “lens” that has no glass.

My first shot with the Pinwide lens.

One of the great things about the Micro Four Thirds format is the ultimate flexibility with regard to lenses. You can use all manner of legacy lenses with adapters. Plus there is now a growing market of native mount lenses. There is also the option (programmatically) of shooting without a lens at all, which is how these photos were taken. These are pinhole images, shot with a relatively cheap device called a “Pinwide”. It is a precision machined pinhole with an equivalent of 22mm, ƒ/96-ƒ/128. So it is a wide-angle lens with near infinite depth of field.

It requires a LOT of light, or very long exposures. These are just some test shots I fired off yesterday.

This is a 1 second exposure.

This is a 60 second exposure.

What do you think?

Fresh Photos of the Day (sort of car-related)

Central Oregon Sky.

Today was a long day at work – I’m a little past halfway through a major project. It completely consumes two days of every week – where I’m deep within the datacenter, no idea of what the weather is like outside and 100% of my concentration on the task at hand.

Today I wrapped up the final loose ends of the day’s work around 8 PM and hit the road home. Above is a shot of what the sky looked like outside my car as I left Prineville towards home. That is straight off the CCD in the camera – no color correcting or image manipulation performed to boost saturation. It really was that color!

I occasionally carpool with a friend, but not today (good thing for him as I was so late getting out!) and he posted a photo on his Facebook page last week of this same road, with a caption: “Central Oregon commute on a busy Friday afternoon” and I commented that he needed more motion blur to convey what it was like to make this drive. So I had to take this shot tonight…

I love my commute!

Killing Time

I’ve never felt, much less understood the concept of, boredom. My eyes & brain never fail to keep me entertained. Yesterday I flew from RDM to DIA for a quick trip to visit my parents (more on that soon) and my flight left just before noon. Sue dropped me off several hours earlier because she had work to do, and could not manage to drop me off closer to my flight time. I checked my bag, read the newspaper… and then just left the airport with my iPod, my camera, and just went for a walk. The Redmond airport is east of the town of Redmond and pretty much cut-off from it by a set of railroad tracks. The tracks only have crossings at the north & south side of town, so the area around the airport is quite isolated. The landscape is typically central Oregon, with gnarled Junipers and spots of Cheatgrass amid the dry sandy soil. I walked a mile or so and then turned around to start heading back when I noted a storm squall bearing down on me. I made it maybe one-third of the way back to the shelter of the airport when it arrived with mixed rain and snow. My coat was in my checked bag, and all I had on for warmth was a lightweight pile vest. I sought the shelter of a Juniper tree and waited out the storm. The tree kept the wind and most of the precipitation off of me as I stood under it for the better part of an hour. I wasn’t bored. I was maybe 50 meters away from something I planned on photographing (some old piles of melting snow) and thought about how I would try and shoot these in a way that played tricks with scale. Are the images of Alaskan glaciers, or small piles of snow? After a while I started seeing small beauty in the tree that was giving me shelter from the storm.I had my 20mm f/1.7 lens on the G1, and fired off a few shots of the tree…

The Juniper tree that provided me shelter from the storm.

The Juniper tree that provided me shelter from the storm.

The Juniper tree that provided me shelter from the storm.

The melting snow that originally caught my eye as we drove by, and what I went on this walk to photograph.

The storm abated and I was able to walk to the melting snow piles, and then finally amble back to the airport… with a couple of hours to spare before my flight. So if you ever find yourself bored, just open your eyes and look around – there is plenty of beauty, at every scale from the microscopic to the universal to behold.

Nick Update.

I’m really proud of my son Nick.

We moved last summer from near Arlington, WA to just outside Bend, OR. This happened between his Sophomore and Junior years at High School. Moving when you are a kid is tough, and moving as a teenager is even tougher. My parents moved when I was a teenager and I was morose for the next several years. Not Nick. Despite leaving the place he grew up, a place where he had accumulated quite a nice group of friends, he has hit the ground running here in central Oregon. He ran Cross-Country in the fall, and at the urging of several of his teammates, decided to give Nordic skiing a try. The very first time he ever put on XC skis was on November 20, 2010. Three months later, last weekend he competed at the Oregon State High School Championships… and placed 26th in the state!

Here’s a few photos of him from the meet:


And a photo of the whole Bend High School Nordic Ski Team:

The 2010-2011 Bend Senior High School Nordic Ski Team. Can you spot Nick?

Here’s a clue for the sight-impaired. 😉

Best Photographs of 2010 – Travel/Misc

2010 saw me traveling a lot – always for work. I made “MVP” status on Alaska Airlines – oddly entirely through flights to the Bay Area and Washington DC (The Other Washington, as we from Washington state call it.) Along the way I always had my camera with me and grabbed a few shots worth sharing…

Jet landing above a park in Washington DC.

At National airport in Washington DC jets come in to land right above a park along the Potomoc River. This shot was taken with an ultra-wide angle lens and like your passenger-side mirror “Objects in Lens are Closer than they Appear!” This jet is very close.

Outside the Jefferson Memorial at twilight.

Not long after the jet shot above, I stopped by the Jefferson Memorial. Thomas Jefferson is the founding father I most admire. He seemed more prescient than the rest – seeing how things should and will be long before his contemporaries.

Inside the Jefferson Memorial.

I sat off to the side and awaited this moment. This particular couple standing before this particular quote redacted and excerpted from a letter July 12, 1816, to Samuel Kercheval:

“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

That my friend is the wisdom of an enlightened, scientific mind. I’m proud to live in the creation of this sort of thinking.

Hope Luminaria.

This image isn’t really a “travel” one, but is more in the realm of “miscellaneous”. It is a long-exposure shot taken at the all-night “Relay for Life” event that I chaperoned Nick and his relay team at Arlington High School last summer.

In early December I flew down to the Bay Area for a meeting of Managers & Leads from all the Facebook datacenters around the country. At the end of two days of meetings we all went off into a Redwood forest for one of those “team building” things – this one involving a ropes course. We were all apprehensive about this – because usually these corporate team building things are really lame. However it turned out to be a lot of fun and I shot several hundred photos (which, if you’re my friend on Facebook you can see them all). A few turned out to be nice solid images…

Going up the tree.

Problem Solving Exercise.

Josh's Problem Solving.

I dashed down to Houston, TX for a quick weekend to attend my niece’s college graduation. While there I shot this skyline of the Post Oak area on the west side.

Houston at night.