Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Richmond, VA









I left San Diego as a permanent residence about 20 years ago. Since then I've lived all over the West Coast, in big cities, small cities, small towns, suburbs and urban centers. Then I moved to the East Coast and right into suburban D.C. Needless to say, nowhere has ever had that "hometown" feel that San Diego had, and still has, for me.

Over the last few years, I've only had the occasion to drive to Richmond, VA a few times. This last week, however, I had to come down for work and I arrived an hour or so early. Walking around the downtown area and driving around some neighborhoods near downtown, I get this really cool feeling that living in Richmond would be really, really excellent. There's enough of a "city" that it wouldn't feel isolating, but it's small enough that you might actually get to know some people with some local knowledge and some roots. On this grey day, the bricks and the clouds made for some nice contrast. This place has some history too. Really neat town.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Scofflaw


This is precisely why I carry my camera with me everywhere I go. As I was walking out of a parking garage at my work, I glanced across the street and saw what I thought was a brown grocery bag stuck on a street sign. It only took me a second to realize it was a very big bird, and a few more seconds after that to run and grab my camera from the trunk of my car.

This bird was so nonchalant about his perch (about 6 feet off the ground near a busy street and a sidewalk) that he let me take pictures from less than 10 feet away. It wasn't until I stepped up on the curb, and got within 5 feet, that he looked at me and flew right over my head to a tree branch a few feet higher off the ground.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

X-Ray

Metal Surf

Imitation

is not only the sincerest form of flattery. It's my expression of gratitude.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

More Velvia

More from my first roll of Velvia 50.







Well. That was certainly interesting. I can see finding a certain satisfaction in getting it "right" with film. When it all comes together, this stuff really delivers the color. All of these shots are taken straight from the slide. I didn't manipulate them in any way, except to have them scanned straight from the slide, so you could see them here.

Look at how cool the 3-D effect is on the rocks and the water in the last shot. Nothing I took on the digital that day looks anything like this. It's not so much the color in this shot, it's the way the picture looks so "real". If that makes any sense.

This is Velvia

The first shot was taken with a Nikon N90s using Fuji Velvia 50 slide film.



This second shot was taken seconds later with a Nikon D200 DSLR.



The Velvia delivers a "darker" or "richer" result than I've become accustomed on the DSLR. The sky is definitely much deeper blue. The film is thirsty for more light.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Live Oak at the Lighthouse



Blood Red Sky



This is a sunset over the Intracoastal Waterway taken without photographic trickery. The sky really did turn this blood-orange color. And about ten minutes later it did this.



I have to say, I miss the sun setting over water.

If you have a minute, check out the link to the Intracoastal Waterway. Prior to moving to the East Coast, I had no idea such a thing existed. But, it turns out you can drive a boat, on water, from Brownsville, TX to - basically - New York harbor without ever navigating into open ocean. Amazing. To me, anyways.

Spirals

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Winter is an Island



I took a walk over the weekend, that passed by this reservoir. I set out on this walk, thinking of how to compose pictures of beautiful things, colorful things, expecting to walk along a great river with beautiful vistas. Instead, the beauty I found was distilled from the only available subjects: harsh objects and stark, contrasting light.

Not unlike the photographic subjects, the quality of the walk itself was harsh, unforgiving, and totally unexpected. I set out expecting a casual stroll. Instead, the walk I discovered was more like an arduous bouldering session than a relaxing stroll.

Hmmm. How will this coming season meet with my expectations?

Monday, November 17, 2008

This is Winter


A bit bleak.  More barren than we'd like.   Withdrawn and shuttered.

But beautiful and rewarding if you use it to regenerate and return stronger, wiser, and more energetic than before.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Technical Question

Most, if not all, of the pictures posted on this site are taken with a Nikon D200, and a Nikon 18-200 lens. It's a great camera that has been an excellent, convenient, and inexpensive way for me to begin to learn how all of the technical aspects of photography play together: aperture, shutter speed, film speed, lighting, etc. I take literally hundreds of pictures and the ones that don't turn out, I delete. No cost.

Recently, however, I've started using slide film with a very, very cool "older" Nikon N90s and Fuji Velvia 50 film. The results from slide film are a quantum leap ahead in terms of my input and photographic output. It's harder to use, more demanding mentally and definitely more expensive if I take "bad" shots.

One of the things I've noticed with using film, in contrast to digital, is that none of my shots is EVER out of focus with this setup. Whereas, a lot of my shots on the D200 are ever-so-slightly out of focus. Now, I understand out-of-focus shots with action shots, and I've started to figure out how to manipulate the D200 in "S" (shutter priority) mode, or "M" (full manual) mode to eliminate some of the variables that produce fuzzy results. The auto-focus can only move so fast. Fine. But, can anyone explain why so many of my landscape shots turn out to be slightly fuzzy on the digital? These are shots where the subject is not moving. It's almost as if the auto-focus sensor is purposely focusing 6 inches ahead or behind my subject. In fact, in some shots, there's no single part of a shot that is dead-on in razor-sharp focus. The whole shot looks like it's a close approximation of focus. This does not happen when I shoot slide film, only digital.

Is this because when I'm shooting film I'm taking so much more time to prepare a shot? Because I'm aware of the cost of film, developing, etc.? Is it something that I'm noticing only because I'm now able to look at each digital shot in such a huge format, whereas with slides, I'm still holding them up to a light or using a slide projector?

One thing I absolutely notice, is that if I turn the DSLR to manual focus and I shoot landscapes, I get razor-sharp pictures every single time. If I use auto-focus, only about 1 in 5 is dead-on. What gives?

Here's an example of what I'm describing:



This first shot was taken with a 200-400 F5.6 at 400mm; f13 @ 1/320 shutter, ISO 280 (Auto ISO). The sun was so bright I could afford to stop the lens up 3 or 4 full stops to broaden the depth of field, in an effort to get better focus. The camera was set to full manual, including focus, except Auto-ISO. Focusing was actually, easy, because the kayaker always stayed in the plane of focus. As you can see in the full-sized shot, the focus is nice and sharp throughout the kayak and the facial features. Everything looks sharp.



This second shot was taken with a Nikkor 18-200 f3.5-5.6 VR @200mm, f9 at 1/250 second, ISO 100 (Auto-ISO); taken in "P" or full auto mode, including auto-focus. Notice in this shot how the kayaker is *so close* to being in focus, but isn't quite. This is the same section of Great Falls, at the upper end of the short rapids where the first picture was taken. The kayaker is the same distance from the camera, and yet no matter how many pictures I took, every one in auto-focus mode came out like this. Why?


Perspective



It's all about maintaining the proper perspective. 

Great Falls From The Maryland Side



I've long wondered if actual falls at Great Falls were navigable in a kayak.  They look like they should be, but until Tuesday, I had never seen it in pictures, or in person.  Impressive.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Blazing!

I'm not a fanatic for restored cars, really I'm not. Especially not restoration-customs, like the car in this shot. But, as anyone who has seen any of the paint jobs on my bikes will attest, I really like intricately painted flames. So, when I drove by this yellow whatever-it-is the other day, I had to stop and take some pictures. Wow, this yellow on yellow paint work is amazing.

The Tower

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Icon

Sepia seemed right for this beautiful restoration of a '75 BMW 2002.



Note the auxiliary lights on both bumpers. The red light on the back bumper is for alerting drivers behind you when driving in thick fog, or heavy rain, when vision is impaired. It is always on the driver's side of the rear bumper, and, in modern BMW's in integrated into the reverse lights.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Egretta Thula

A Snowy Egret (Egretta Thula) in the San Diego River, December 2007

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Neon Lights and Irony




I love the neons, the colors, the glow.

Red Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)



I'm starting to think this must be "cool pictures in strange places week" or something.

My wife and I were driving into the city for dinner, when she spots this raptor swooping up the street about a block ahead of our car. He was just beneath the trees, between multi-story downtown buildings, and just barely above the cars driving beneath him. When I pulled over at the intersection where he flew out of sight, this beautiful Red Tailed Hawk was perched on a lamppost about 20 feet above the street.

Pedestrians walked along clueless that this big, beautiful bird was hunting squirrels up and down their street.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fall Color in Odd Places

When I think about getting the best Fall colors, I definitely don't think about the local office parking garage.  But, that's where I happen to be these days, when the color is at its best.  In fact, the lat several days the garage has had this really cool pink/red glow near one of the exits, from the morning sun backlighting a tree with great color.

Here's the tree:



Here's the cool pink glow in the garage from the tree.

 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pumpkin Carving

For the longest time, carving pumpkins has been one of my favorite artistic outlets. I picked it up from my Dad, who is a master at the use of light and shadow to make the best designs. Here is this year's lineup:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween Punch

Our neighborhood puts on a cool Halloween Fair every year. The punch was a particularly inspired creation!



The green hands are colored water placed in surgical gloves, then frozen, and removed from the glove before dropping in the punch. The red rings are actually gummy teeth. Unfortunately, they floated teeth-side down, but it was still a nice effect.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Vulture

American Black Vultures (and their cousins, Turkey Vultures) are probably the most common large bird in this area, most likely due to the volume of roadkill on area roads. They're not all that attractive up close, but they're big birds, and they soar very gracefully. I'll put up an enlarged and more tightly cropped picture later, but for now, click on the link for a much better look at this bird's wing feathers.

UPDATE: Fixed the picture.

Fauquier County




Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wow.

This is impressive camera work. It really gives the viewer a window into the final 500 meters of one of the biggest prizes in the world of the sprinters of the Tour de France.



When Steegmans (the winner) really decides to commit to making his move, his acceleration is an enormous application of power. Wow. I love how he's managing traffic, keeping his vision to the finish clear, developing a slight gap to his lead-out man...and the how he uses that gap to slingshot himself into his sprint. Watch as Steegmans rounds the corner, inches up closer to his lead-out man, (seconds 34-38), sort of pokes his nose into the wind (moving slightly to the right)...and then lights the fuse (second 39). Once he's started his sprint, watch how smooth his body and pedalstroke are. He never fades and his style never gets ragged.

Sprinting from behind an organized lead-out is a very specialized skill. It is not easy, at all. But the way Steegmans does it here, you might never know it. This is very impressive.

Oh, and figure his top speed is somewhere between 42 and 45 mph.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Imagine

Imagine a world where you have a right to free healthcare. You don't have to work for it, someone else provides it for you. Free.

Imagine a world here you have a right to housing. Again, provided by someone else. Free of charge. And a right to food. A legally enforceable right to a "living" wage, and so on.

Only it’s not something for nothing. “Free” health-care costs us something precious, and it's not something you'll hear about in the media or on college campuses or in our country's law schools (which is an almost unbelievable state of affairs). All of these things are only free, because the payment is something that is literally priceless.

Because there’s a word for someone who has their food, housing and care provided for them… for people who owe their existence to someone else.

And that word is “slaves.”

So, what price are you willing to pay?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Sunday, October 05, 2008

And Now, Back To Our Regular Programming

Justice Delayed

This blog is not normally about current events, but in this case, I'm going to break with my convention. Because, I've just gotta say, FINALLY!

O.J. convicted on all counts, faces life in prison.

I was in Law School during the "O.J. trial." And, the reason for this post is that I was taking Criminal Procedure from a certain Gerald Uelmen. Uelmen, as you probably don't know, was the brief-writing brains behind Johnny Cochran and the rest of O.J.'s legal dream team. He was the white haired, older guy with the white mustache who was frequently sitting behind the defendant's table.

I can only tell you that, much to my dismay, the quality of my professors went downhill after leaving high school. And by the time I got to Law School, the ratio of truly dedicated "educators" - people who teach you how to learn - had dwindled to the point where I had two "excellent" professors in all of Law School. The rest were awful. And Uelmen was the worst of the bad. He was an intellectually dishonest. He belittled students in class, he was smug, arrogant, and he was incapable of teaching anything that wasn't straight-up propaganda.

If you agreed with him - even if he was objectively wrong - he showered praise on you. If you disagreed with him, or he got any whiff that you were challenging his "politics" he would unleash on you. He would accuse you of being racist. Or a misogynist, or whatever crude insult he could cobble together. The guy was incapable of restraining himself from attacking his students with vicious personal attacks and insults. Think about that. In a classroom, full of students paying $30,000 plus per year, this professor would regularly employ the "politics of personal destruction" like he was in a barfight. If you were: white, male, or excerised even the tiniest bit of non-conformist thinking, that was three strikes in his book...and that was all he needed to ruin your grade and maybe your career.

And if you thought he was bad before and during the O.J. trial, you should have seen him after he won.

The one good thing to come of my experience with Gerald Uelmen? He prepared me for dealing with the dishonest, low-down, lying, underhanded scumbag lawyers and judges I would later encounter in the profession. And, in some small way, he's partially responsible for my happily calling myself a "recovering attorney" today. I got out before being a lawyer ate my soul. Can't say the same for Mr. Uelmen.

p.s. If you want a flavor of how sick Uelmen truly is, go read the first link, the Frontline interview. He blatantly states that any white person who thought O.J. was guilty is a racist.

All I can tell you is that I'm *still* having a very hard time not typing out a string of profanity at him.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lou Rawls "Live!"




I don't normally put up a post about some revelation I've had, or whatever. Tonight, however, I'm feeling funky, and life is good.

Nothing major, just a discovery I stumbled across. I figure it's not news to the majority of the world, but to me, discovering Lou Rawls on the iPod was unbelievable. I just happened to hear a snippet of a *really, really* cool song on Lounge-Radio (click the link on the upper right...yeah, yeah, right up there...really...), so I clicked over to iTunes and up popped a bunch of Lou Rawls' albums.

And, then I remembered my Dad, many years ago, raving about seeing Lou Rawls live at the Catamaran, in San Diego. Dad's got a good ear for tasty music... So...I bought "Live," figuring it might be worth a few bucks to see what all the fuss was about.

WHOA!!!

Stop whatever you're doing. I don't care what it is you're up to! Go listen to some Lou Rawls and give your wife a hug and some tenderness. Because that is some good stuff.

Where has *that* been hiding all these years. I mean, day-amn, that is some funky goodness.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

BALLAN! BALLAN!! BALLAN!!! --- Alessandro!!!!



This is a clinic! This is the best in the world, straight-up schooling the rest.

Alessandro Ballan takes the field at cycling's World Championships and conducts a master-class in "How to Win from a group of 8." The video is 10 minutes, but it's the first 4:00 that are instructive.

As the race enters the final 3k and summits the final climb, there's a group of 8 riders dangling off the front of a much larger group. Ballan is in the lead group, but appears to know three things that no one else does: 1. Neither he, nor his group is going to get caught; 2. the winner is only going to get one shot at the kill, and 3. he's going to take that shot.

Watch closely as the finale develops, and it appears Ballan is actually more concerned with being the last rider in the line of 8, than he is with what's going on in front of him. It's almost as if he's a cat, letting the prey in front of him fool around, while he watches them, sizes them up, and waits for a glimpse of the jugular. At least once in the final 3k, Ballan is more than 20 feet off the back, and yet he appears unconcerned. And then, at 3:19, after a series of meaningless attacks and pauses, Ballan finds the artery he wants and lunges. His attack is not like the silly little efforts of his escape compatriots. Once he's gone for the kill, he
sinks his teeth in, certain that he has struck the mortal blow. His first 10 pedal strokes create a 3 bike length separation, his next 20 make the gap a 10 bike length lead and it gets bigger from there. After his attack, Ballan's former companions are dumbstruck, like some hapless deer on the African plain, still alive, but in the mouth of a huge lion. Nothing they do in response will do anything but hasten the end.

Ballan's attack leaves everyone stunned. And then watch what happens. At 3:25, rather than remaining standing, stomping on his pedals, in a futile search for more speed, Ballan sits down, adjusts his cadence (upwards), and turns on the afterburners. And he's simply gone. He's got his victim by the neck, and he can feel the life slowly draining out of his conquest. With the roar of the home country crowd ringing in his ears, Ballan flies through the final 1500 meters with time to celebrate. This is how it's done.

Here's the lesson. Just like Oscar Freire's win in 1999, here Ballan doesn't reach victory the way most amateur cyclists think they should. But, winning from a small group is NOT a matter of being the third, or fifth guy into the last corner. It's not about a magic formula. It can't be coached, but you *can* learn it. When you're in that position, you can either feel it, or you can't. Period.
In fact, Freire's '99 win is so eerily similar to Ballan's here, it's a wonder more people don't learn this lesson.

What it is about, though, analytically, is decision loops. It's about putting yourself in a position where your opponent can't do anything that will surprise you, but when you decide to act, it catches your opponent off guard, and he's forced to first figure out what just happened, and then react to you. By the time he's spotted your move, figured out what it means, and determined how he's going to react, you're GONE. If you want a classic example of being inside someone's decision loop, watch at 3:19, when Ballan first rockets into the screen, passing a rider in a red/white jersey. Ballan comes by him with extreme prejudice, in progress of making the winning move. But this rider can't even recognize what's just happened to him. He actually looks at Ballan, watches him go by and his first reaction is to look over his OTHER shoulder, to see what everybody else is going to do. WRONG!!!! If this rider had put himself in a position (mental and physical) where no other rider could surprise him, he would NEVER have hesitated. He would have reacted instantly, and his outcome may have been different. Or maybe not, but at least he wouldn't have been caught with his pants around his ankles.

My question is, how can you get yourself into the final 3k of the Worlds, and not have anticipated that someone in your group of 8 was going to attack....? And what in the bleep were you doing in front of that guy so he could surprise you?

Bravo, Alessandro!

Took a Drive Today

Here is some of what I saw.