Photos & Random Thoughts

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?"

Reflecting on Balance and the Holidays

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As the garbage guys haul off the Christmas paper and the kids' toys have a few days of use, the Christmas ornaments begin to get boxed up as we look to New Years Day; I was reflecting a bit on the Christmas Season and that difficult task of trying to strike the right balance.

I like the idea of the movie, Christmas with the Kranks, "We're going to skip Christmas this year and take a cruise."  -- And the social harassment that ensues.

As parents, we of course have the pressures of trying to strike the right balance.   Little Johnny shouldn't get more than little Janie.  What is Santa bringing vs, what are we getting the kids this year?  In years past we've been pretty bad about over-doing it for our kids and under-doing it for everyone else.

As citizens, we start each holiday season with some intentions to give to charity in new ways.  To do more than put a $20 bill in the bell ringer bucket but to volunteer in meaningful ways.   I'd like to have done more in this respect.  It would have been nice to participate in our local Help Portrait, for instance. 

Then, there are Christmas Cards.   For folks that are in our Daily lives, you want to provide a Christmas Card but they know what's going on, so writing the hand-written year-in-review seems redundant.We have friends we haven't seen or talked to in months, relatives we haven't seen or talked to in years.   We love them and it would be nice to sit down and write each of them a letter and at times past we had.   This year, we didn't, just couldn't find the time.  

Then, you start to think how much of this Christmas card thing is happening out of obligation versus true sentiment.   On one hand, we love to get the cards that do come in but on the other hand, the accounting of reciprocity (Jane didn't send us a card this year but we sent her one) is counter-to-the point of the practice.

This year, I think we failed at reaching out to all friends, neighbors and loved-ones but we found a pretty good balance within our core family unit.  The sea of gifts wasn't overbearing but everyone received something that made them smile.  The typical 'we have to go to your parents and then my parents and then to the office party' was reduced significantly with the only surviving parent living with us temporarily.

Still, I saw plenty of bleary-eyed shoppers, swiping the plastic and griping about this-or-that.   Encountered plenty of road-raged drivers and even had to work to keep myself in check when the site-to-store gift pickup at Target didn't go as advertised for one of my kids.

Before December 25th was Christmas, the season was Saturnalia.  It was a carnival atmosphere with parties, gift giving and a little charity towards slaves.  One can imagine the Roman aristocrat putting to death some servant because a Saturnalia meal wasn't prepared correctly.    

That would certainly have made the dried-out-turkey scene in Christmas Vacation go differently, if Cousin Eddie, with the help of the Griswold's, incorporated corporal punishment on the cooking staff over an ill-prepared meal.

So maybe in our Christmas Seasons we are more balanced than those festivals of the past or maybe we are just 'balanced differently' with more focus on commercialism and gift giving than tradition or accepted religious canon.

I still think Luther Krank was onto something with a Christmas Cruise or maybe the President with his annual visit to Hawaii.  

Well, there's always next year :)

Happy Holidays!