Photos & Random Thoughts

The Passage of Time

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I was out for an afternoon Walk / Run and decided to take a break to observe the sunset.   The clouds were doing some interesting things..  Like a giant roadway in the sky.    This reminded me of those time lapse videos you see of clouds rolling across the sky as if they were on a giant conveyor belt.

The sun itself was obscured and as I headed back, I found about 20 minutes after sunset that I had misjudged it as some serious colors spread across the reflections of the clouds in the sky.

In my impatience I may have missed 'the good part' but I'm always happy to spend some time by the water on a chilly February afternoon. 

Seeking Adventure by Sail

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A couple of years ago, I owned a small sailboat.  It wasn't too different from the one pictured here, maybe a little older and less equipped but similar in all of the ways that matter.

I miss it!   ..or.. maybe I miss the idea of it...

I had a couple of software deals mature into some pretty decent deals for me and I had just buried both of my parents. I decided it was time to do something unpractical and selfish: like the Jimmy Buffet lyric suggested, "I bought a boat and sailed off on it.."  

Problem is, I didn't sail too far.  

We used the 30ft sailboat for some weekend getaways at first but it ended up spending more time in the Marina than being dragged by the wind across our Bays.

During my ownership of the boat, I tried to make some improvements.  Among which was to try to give it a proper name.   The boat's previous name, which I won't print, was a silly French New Orleans saying about not having two pennies to rub together.   I thought that a more appropriate name would be, Stargazer.   So we went with that. 

Being a Stargazer myself, the name was also inspired from Star Trek, The Next Generation, Captain Picard's characterization of the first ship he ever captained:

He described that ship, also called Stargazer, as an
"overworked, underpowered vessel, always on the verge of flying apart at the seams."

Besides, the whole point was to spend time on the water, under the stars with nothing but the sound of the wind and the waves.   Stargazer was a far more fitting name, I thought.

What I learned along the way is that renaming a boat is seriously frowned upon in maritime circles, it is considered terribly bad luck for the boat and the crew.  Still, there is a generally-agreed-upon ceremony and procedure that one can employ to rename a vessel and keep the bad mojo away.  After our Christianized version of the ceremony we removed anything from the boat that had the old name, as is the procedure.   The superstition states that once you rename a vessel anything with the old name should not be returned to the vessel.

We put all of the old maintenance logs, manuals and documentation into a sealed bin and removed them from the boat. 

After a while, sailboat ownership wasn't going as I'd planned. The family didn't exhibit a patience for the amount of time it took to travel by sail. I had bought the boat hoping to escape with my family, not escape from them. I spent far more time either 'working from' the boat or 'working on' the boat than I did enjoying it under sail.  

Eventually my practicality caught back up with me and we sold the boat. 

The person who bought it had all sorts of big ideas for it, too.   After a haul-out, sea trial and comprehensive survey he started to make some improvements of his own prior to sailing it home to Texas.  He made a couple road trips back and fourth from his home in Texas and the Marina on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay.   When the day came for him to sail it home with a friend, I was a little surprised to see he brought the sealed box of documents with the old vessel name on board for the journey.

Evidently, that voyage home didn't go as expected.  The 30 year old gasoline engine started to act up around Mississippi.   I tend to believe this was related to an exhaust back-pressure issue they created by making changes to the exhaust system, rather than some vengeful seafaring deity that was pissed about the boat having been renamed.   

Then, as they entered the waters coming into Texas, a near disaster struck.   Strong storms shredded the sails, ripped off a spreader and started to bend the mast.   They were rescued by the Coast Guard and the boat was hauled in to be repaired.

When I last talked to the new owner, that was enough sailing adventure for him, he planned to have the insurance repair the boat and sale it.

This all came back to me when I saw this sailboat moored comfortably in the waters around Nassau in The Bahamas.   It was a bit of a knife of defeat into my gut.   Stargazer's USGC stamps and captain's logs showed she had made the trip before and it was my intention to make the sail trip from Mobile, AL to the Bahamas.  It was an adventure I didn't get the opportunity to undertake during my brief years of ownership.

With kids in school and a demanding work schedule, right now that adventure feels as far away as the Bahamas themselves but I'm hopeful to be able to pick that adventure up again in the coming years and finally get to make the journey, this time under sail and instead of from the comfort of a Cruise Line. :)

They Reached into the Bay like Fingers

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This was taken from the maximum (legal) altitude via my DJI Phantom 2 (400 ft) while in Gulf Breeze flying R/C with some friends.  Awhile back I did a post about the state of flying cameras (drones, etc), it is here:

For over a year I used a DJI Phantom 2.  Prior to that, I used other camera platforms like the F550 and Phantom 1. The Phantom 2 / Go Pro combination afforded me a 20-25 minute flight time and a range of a km, which was more than I needed in most circumstances.   It really was an impressive platform, especially considering the low cost of entry.  To get photos such as this but maintain my FPV video feed, I would typically put the Go Pro on a 4k video mode and then pull the photos as stills from the resulting video feed at full resolution.    It's workable but not the resolution one would hope for.  

(Using Time Lapse disabled the FPV video feed, so that wasn't ideal, either - for framing and control.)

My Phantom 2, (I called it Theodore: the other two were Alvin and Simon) found a new home this week.  So, now, I'm learning the ins and outs of the the Inspire 1.   I'm looking forward to seeing what we can capture with this new platform.   Getting full camera control from the base station of the Inspire 1 was a major factor in my decision.   Hope to post some results in the next couple of weeks! :)

The Walt Disney Theater

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I have to  commend Disney Cruise line on the level of opulence aboard their ships along with maintenance in general.    It was difficult to go a single day without seeing someone fussing over the condition of the ship.   Painting, cleaning, pressure-washing; you-name-it.   Sitting next to the other ships at port in Nassau you could plainly tell that Disney Cruise line spares no expense in the condition of their ships.

I snapped this, actually using my iPhone it was three different exposures shot handheld and merged for HDR.   I snapped this while my wife was shopping, it was somewhat difficult to find this area without crowds of passer-by'ers.   At any rate, I appreciated the symmetry of it!

As Orion Moves

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I like to share both successes and failures.  This image was a bit of a failure.

I wrote about this some in the main astrophotography primer, here.  Deep space astrophotography can be tough.   If you think about it, we are on a spinning, wobbling ball, rotating around a larger spinning, wobbling ball, with other spinning-wobbly balls in a collection that spins around other spinning and wobbling things in a great dance, whose unheard tune is gravity.

It is really a wonder at all that we were able to observe, record and predict the motion of celestial bodies.

On the day of this outing, I couldn't get my laptop and telescope autoguider to play nicely together, limiting my exposure lengths to those that are tenable within the typical sidereal rotation tracking. 60 second exposures is about all you can get before stars start to trail, on my equipment without guiding.

As the winter comes to a close and our humidity increases, I will do less astrophotography from the backyard and more via remote observatory control, leaving the back yard / telescope for observing sessions over super gear-head astrophotography sessions.

Even though I was only able to get a 60 second exposure and I wasn't able to reliably collection Red, Green and Blue frames, it's always pretty awesome to pluck these images out of the sky.

Warmer Days

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On cold days like we've had recently, you can't help but think about the Warmer Days ahead... 

Some days, I wish the Gulf Coast had a different climate.   Less humidity in the summer and more 'real' seasons.  It seems like when you'd want it cold (around the Holidays) - we are still in shorts.   When you're ready for winter to end (early spring) - we get our coldest snaps.

The Bahamas were sure nice this time of year.. :)

Tell it to the Shadows

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I've always like the look of this tree, the spanish moss, against the backdrop of the pier and the Bay but I never really know how to photograph it.   If you go super wide, there is all of this junk in the way: trash cans, benches, rugged underbrush and sometimes litter  - even a porta-potty.

This perspective seemed mostly agreeable, relegating the details to the shadows, since the details distract in this case.

Mile High Club

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I suppose that title might have different meanings for different folks.   We'll keep it clean and just say this photo was taken from a good ways up :)  The late-afternoon onset clouds robbed us of the usual great February color show in the sky but the aerial view was still interesting looking across the bay towards Mobile.

Aboard The Disney Dream

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We ended up choosing Disney Cruise Lines for our Anniversary trip this month.  It might not have been my first choice but it was a function of trying to find a (nice) cruise that wouldn't be gone for more than 5 days, the week of our anniversary.

It might seem a little off to take a Disney Cruise, without kids.  We've taken our little ones on this particular boat once before and we had a great time together as a family.  But, we also noticed the adult-only sections of the boat were mostly vacated.

This trip, they weren't vacated completely but certainly we had no problems finding a spot on some cozy deck chairs, seats in the hot tubs or lounge space in the adult-only pool.   We avoided the main-dining rotation, which is frantic with families and opted for the adult exclusive (and considerably nicer) Palo and Remy dining areas and off-peak-time buffets.

All said, it was a great trip, where Disney Cruise Line was concerned.  The Veranda on the room was peaceful and the service was what you come to expect from Disney.   While we probably won't ever get to do it again, at least not until the kids move off - I'd certainly recommend it for an unlikely adult-getaway.  

Deer Season is Over

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Not much of a hunter, personally, though I do enjoy shooting sports.  This creepy fella was in a garden, trying to warn away veggie eating intruders, Vlad-the-Impaler style. 

Driftwood of the Eastern Shore

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Nothing too dramatic going on when this was taken.  Just trying out the Leica V-LUX along the Daphne beach areas during a decent looking Eastern Shore Sunset!

Get Your Chill On

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The weather seems crazier these days or maybe we just pay more attention to it than in decades' past.

While the North/North East gets their chill on, here in the South the birds and trees are starting to signal Spring.  A little birdie told me. No, really.

See, every spring, this little bird comes and pecks at his reflection in our laundry room window.  He thinks it is a handsome looking intruder to what he has deemed to be his turf.   Every year, I get somewhat annoyed by the 6:45 am wake up calls that he provides but I am appreciative to his weather predicting capabilities.   He gets territorial, in the Spring.

We may have a few cold snaps (like today, even - in the 30s) but Spring is definitely around the corner, despite whatever the myriad of weather-predicting groundhogs might have said.

In The Bahamas, last week, it was in the low 80s / mid 70s and this hammock and I became acquainted for some time. :)

Martini Mondays

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Martini Mondays.   Is that a thing? 

At the moment I'm trying to reconcile as to if there is anything worse than returning to work after being away for a week? 

I'm sure there are worse things (like not having a job to come back to) but if I'm daydreaming about a Martini Bar in the sky at 7:30am, it's not looking good for today :)

Out to Sea

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For our 15th year wedding anniversary, Dina and I are headed out for a short cruise..  My Mother in Law graciously offered to watch our kids for the getaway.   Having never really spent any time away from the kiddos, this should be interesting. :)


Straight Ahead

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I picked up a Leica V-Lux Type 114 to take to the Bahamas next week.  I love my A7R but there isn't really a vacation lens (yet) available for it.  (Although a 24-240mm Sony FE comes out in February that would have been nice!)

It being my 15 year anniversary and a 'getaway' sort of trip, I didn't think it would be totally kosher for me to bring a bag full of lenses.   So, I was looking for a more subtle camera.   Something with a decent wide and a good zoom. 

The f2.8 to f4 24-400 Lecia glass made me give this one a try, plus the price point was within something I could do.  
I decided to take it out yesterday to catch an epic sunset and see how it performed before I committed it to the trip.

I was really pleasantly surprised by the image quality.   It handles very different than my sony.  Not different bad, just different.   
Actually, the only limitation I've run into so far is the lack of lens profile in Lightroom and that Photomatix really doesn't work well with the RAW files generated by the camera.

A bridge camera with all of the performance of Leica glass and the handling of a DSLR.  Who'd a thunk it?  :)

The Lights of Vegas

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I'm not really much of a gambler, so Vegas isn't my 1st destination of choice.   Still, there's some interesting history in it that's hard to deny.   Sort of a funhouse mirror reflection of our culture over the decades.

In a recent visit, I made sport of asking oddball questions of Cab drivers.   The more I could tell they were shafting me on the faire (by starting at the wrong base faire or taking the wrong roads), the more oddball my questions.

Some of those questions I asked...

"From here, where can I find myself in an alley or corridor where someone has been beaten and discarded for being overly fortunate at the tables?"

and of course,

"How many people have had sex in the back of your car?"

Which had the best answer, his answer was: 
"Today or this week?"