Monday, June 23, 2008

Lightning! - updated

We've had an incredible series of late-afternoon thunderstorms through late May and June. And I've been frustrating myself trying to capture lightning with the camera. Until last night I didn't have one image I liked. When it started storming last night, the storm came in from the South, instead of from the West and that made all the difference. I had an unobstructed view of the lightning display as it came in and I was able to catch some really nice images. Check the rainbow and the lighting in one shot!



Here's the same shot corrected using DxO. Click to enlarge



Later tonight, I'll plug these into DxO to correct for the underexposure on the trees. For now, I'm happy to have a shot with lightning.



This is probably the most dramatic correction. DxO is really a very interesting program. All I did was let the program correct for the fisheye-effect, and I manually adjusted the exposure to +1.5, which corrected for the underexposed foreground. These shots are very natural looking after correction. They do not look Photoshopped.



Lightning and a rainbow in the same shot:



And again, through DxO.



Friday, June 20, 2008

Wednesday pictures



Recycling works! I would think someone who went to the trouble to save the cool Coca-Cola logo in the sandstone wouldn't then ruin it with the strange lettering underneath it. Guess not. Notice the stained-glass sign in the window.



From the front garden after a late afternoon thunderstorm.

Friday, June 13, 2008

C43 AMG Crankshaft Position Sensor Replacement DIY

Late last week my car started refusing to start when I cranked it over. It would always eventually start, but there was no pattern as to why or when it would refuse. It cranked well, but it just seemed like it wasn't getting any fuel. Then, five minutes later it would start as if nothing had happened. This car has a unique electronic ignition that is *basically* totally idiot-proof. The driver is supposed to turn the ignition and then let go of the key completely. The car does the rest.
So, when it fails to start, there's nothing to fiddle with. It just won't start. And, being an automatic, you can't exactly get it rolling and pop the clutch. Being reluctant to take the car to the dealer, I sat down in front of my laptop and hunted around in the Mercedes WorkstationInformationSystem (WIS) program and out popped the solution: Replace the Crankshaft Position Sensor. Apparently the CPS controls timing and fuel delivery, and when it goes, the car's computer stops firing cylinders and stops delivering fuel.

The part itself is relatively inexpensive ($150.00) and pretty easy to replace. In fact, it's easier than a spark plug. You just have to know a few tricks. Here's my Do-It-Yourself guide with pictures:

1. On my '99 C43 AMG (engine based on the E-Class 4.3 ltr V-8), the CPS sits between the block and the firewall, on the crankshaft housing. A small electrical wire leads to the "D" shaped sensor from the top of the engine. To get there, you have to remove the air filter box. On the C43, there are two very obvious air intake tubes that lead to the air filter box that sits on top of the block. The air intake tubes pull apart from the filter box by hand. The air filter box lifts directly up with gentle pulling pressure at the front corners. Here's what it look like with the filter box removed:



The area to the back right (illuminated) is where the CPS is located. Here's a shot of that area:



And a different version, to give you a slightly better idea of where this little item resides:



Here's a picture of the offender in it's natural habitat:



Before you can remove the CPS itself, remove the electrical wire. Push down on the small flange with your thumb and the connector will easily pull back. Here's what the CPS connecting wire looks like removed:



And here's what the CPS itself looks like with the connector removed. Again in it's location:



O.K., here's the catch, the WIS and the MB forums I looked at all indicate that the bolt used to secure the CPS to the crankshaft housing is a Torx screw. Some even indicate you could use an Allen Key in place of a Torx driver. NOT ON THIS CAR. And here's the tricky part. There is NO WAY TO SEE THE SCREW. I stuck my hand into the cavity and grabbed the CPS, but because it is fastened by a small screw that is out of sight, you cannot tell what tool you need. I had to go grab a cosmetic mirror, attach it to a coat hanger to find that I needed a torx driver, not a torx bit to remove the screw. Here's what that piece looks like once it's removed:



Without a doubt, finding this screw, and getting the torx driver on to the screw head was the hardest part of this whole job. It takes patience. And if you drop your tool, you're in a heap of trouble. It'll fall into the engine cavity and be lost. Here's a picture of the hole for the new CPS:



Putting the new CPS in place is simple. It fits perfectly in the hole. Slide it in, leaving the electrical connection for later. Line up the screw hole and re-tighten the torx screw, manually tighten it. You won't be able to get it very tight, because the area is so cramped. You're not supposed to be able to get it too tight. Click the electrical connection back in place, install the air filter box - making certain you make the connection between the filter box and the fixed intake nice and snug (it's easy) and, maneuver the air intake tubes back into place and you're done. The only thing missing in this photo is the plastic vanity shield that fits in front of the filter box:



Hope that helps.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Indoor exposures

The sunroof at local pool.



No matter what I did, I couldn't get a better exposure without a flash.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sherando

A few weekends ago, Dave invited me down to his folks' place to ride Sherando. This is the view from the balcony, looking East about twenty minutes after sunrise.



The only real creek crossing in the entire ride. The creek had this nice golden color rocks under the water, so I snapped a shot.



This doesn't really look like a climb, but it's in the middle of the "Seven Switchbacks" which are really hard. Every time you climb this thing, you are surprised that there's no break following a switchback. The hill never levels off, and at the top there's one stretch at 30%. I suppose it *could* be ridden. Just not by me.



A nice little break in the trail. Someday we'll have to explore some of these other routes.



Here's the one we chose. Nice.






Monday, June 02, 2008

CSC Invitational



Magnus Backstedt and Roger Hammond. About to blow the race apart from Lap 1. Servais Knaven is visible on the far left. That's two former Paris-Roubaix winners on the front line of an American criterium. Wow.



Servais Knaven. About halfway through the race Knaven nonchalantly decides to ride to the front and lead the race for something like 15 laps. He was *so* comfortable flying around this course, it was rather ridiculous. I was sitting on this corner and he would come by at 28mph lap after lap, barely breathing hard, with the same blank expression on his face.



Knaven, again. Notice how laid-back he looks in this shot? And the previous shot? To get an idea of how fast he's going, you have to look at the posture and expression of his teammate behind him. That's Greg Henderson, a multiple Kiwi National Champion and top domestic sprinter. Hendo's form is always good, but behind Knaven, he looks positively ragged with the pace.



Magnus is HUGE.



That's what I call dedication. A full-face tat to match your team kit.



Henderson, about 25 laps to go.



Hammond and Backstedt in the break.



Put it in the BIG meat, Maggie!



Early on, this guy from Health Net was picking a great line in turn 1.



There were all these pro photographers at the event. One of 'em asked me what I thought I was doing with a fisheye lens...

This is what I was doing. Pretty cool shot, if I don't say so, myself.





Hammond, solidifying the break's lead.



Tyler Farrar looked positively bored. Riding the toughest corner in the race on his hoods.