Monday, December 20, 2010

Hello Coffee...

"Hello coffee. Meet Mr. Coffee-Bong"
Both of you: pleasure me.
O.K., O.K., I should back up a bit, before you all think I'm too strange. It may be too late for that, but, oh well. It is what it is. My Christmas gift to myself arrived today.
A few years ago - and I don't remember the exact order of events - but a few years ago -Mr. Randall and I exchanged mischevious little gifts. He sent me the best coffee on earth, Kenya AA from zbeanz in Portland, Oregon and I sent him an Aeropress, espresso maker, affectionately-named the "coffee bong." If you have never tried the "Aeropress" to make your coffee, you are missing the whole point of coffee. I mean, once you've tried it, you will never want to make coffee any other way. Period.
So, because zbeanz Kenya AA is so delicious, I can never repay Randall for sending it to me. And likewise, because the product the "bong" produces is so utterly addictive, Randall still blurts out an involuntary curse under his breath whenever he hears its name...
All kidding aside, this is damn fine coffee in a damn fine preparation. The combination of the best beans on earth, roasted to prefection, with the best (and simplest) coffee "machine" on earth is an absolutely wonderful treat. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

In Praise of Reading and Fiction

"Let those who doubt that literature not only submerges us in the dream of beauty and happiness but alerts us to every kind of oppression, ask themselves why all regimes determined to control the behavior of citizens from cradle to grave fear it so much they establish systems of censorship to repress it and keep so wary an eye on independent writers. They do this because they know the risk of allowing the imagination to wander free in books, know how seditious fictions become when the reader compares the freedom that makes them possible and is exercised in them with the obscurantism and fear lying in wait in the real world. Whether they want it or not, know it or not, when they invent stories the writers of tales propagate dissatisfaction, demonstrating that the world is badly made and the life of fantasy richer than the life of our daily routine. This fact, if it takes root in their sensibility and consciousness, makes citizens more difficult to manipulate, less willing to accept the lies of the interrogators and jailers who would like to make them believe that behind bars they lead more secure and better lives."

Mario Vargas Llosa
The Nobel Prize in Literature 2010


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Great Falls Blur

Nikon D200; 27mm f18; 1/5 second; ISO 400; WB shade; Hoya Circular Polarizer.
Hand held and straight out of the camera. Taken 30 minutes before sunset, in deepening shadows and perfect light.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Macros with a point and shoot

I've ben using this new Canon S95 a lot over the last few days and it is fantastic. It's a little more complex than a standard point-and-shoot, but it's got an "auto" function so it's easy for newbies. The really cool part is that you can control the aperture and the shutterspeed with two very ergonomical (and programmable) dials - and you get to see the results of your tweaking in real time on the rear monitor. Talk about a quick and dirty education in photo basics. This was manually focused at about 2 inches in front of the lens.

Canon S95 ISO 80, at 1/100 sec F2 (very cold White Balance).

Canon S95 ISO 80, at 1/100 sec F2 (auto White Balance).

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall Commute

This is my commute to work in the Fall. These were all taken from the driver's seat as I drove to work this morning. I pulled over, of course. But you get the idea of the colors. Imagine if I actually got up early and tried to catch this in half-decent light...or if I took the time to get out of the car to explore a little to compose a shot.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Douthat State Park

Here's a cool Garmin embed of the main ride at Douthat State Park near Clifton Forge, VA. Click on the "Terrain" tab for a topographic map of the ride.

4,500 feet of climbing in 16 miles is no slouch of a ride, either.

Here are some pictures I snapped along the route. First, a great view from a spur trail right near the top of the first climb. This is the view from the Tuscarora Overlook.

The first climb wasn't bad at all. I was a little tight from sitting in the car and not getting any sort of warm up, but the entire climb was rideable. Nice singletrack and the lower slopes were graced with rhododendron bushes that would be amazing in Spring.

This next shot was at the false summit of the third climb, which was a nasty little surprise of an incline. At this point in the ride, Flickinger and I had been on the trail a little under 4 hours (about 2.5 of that riding). We had just climbed and descended off the nasty second climb. The second climb was absolutely brutal. Granny gear from the bottom, an overall gradient at 12.5%with pitches at 25% on very, very narrow singletrack. At the very top, there was a 200 yard section that neither of us could ride. Tough terrain. So, after that climb and an all-too-short descent, the third climb was a little rough on morale. Makeable, but rough.

The descent off the third climb made the entire ride worth the effort, however. Beautiful smooth singletrack, navigable switchbacks, not too much exposure and great, swoopy, banked turns down ridgelines. And a sketchy suspension bridge at the bottom to cap it all off.

Update: I googled around and found a good video of the Douthat trails. The music is a bit suspect, but if you turn the sound down, it's fine.

Douthat State Park from Sir Bikes on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Kodak Portra 160VC for Landscapes

A while ago I experimented with a Kodak film called "Portra 160NC" and I loved it for landscape shots. As I understand it, the NC stands for "neutral color." It is also fantastic for portrait shots in natural light. I liked it so much I decided to try Kodak's Portra 160VC - the VC stands for "vivid color." Well, I discovered that I am not a talented enough photographer to make that film do what it's supposed to do. My portrait shots looked thought I'd try it outdoors to see what it would do. I thought it might turn out like a slightly less vivid version of Fuji's Velvia 50 which I love, even if I struggle with it a bit. Portra 160VC is very, very different outdoors - muted to the point that I wonder where the "vivid" went. Here are some examples. As I was standing on the beach looking at the sky, the colors were beautiful, subtle pinks, and lavenders in the sky. In these shots, all the color is gone. I'm either doing something wrong (likely) or the result I'm after isn't possible with this film.

Falling Water on Film

Black and White

Friday, September 03, 2010


I've been playing around with filters, and film, and low light here at the beach. This one, however, I took on the digital at ISO 100, f1.4, without a tripod. When I took this, the film camera was sitting on the tripod right net to the digital. My thought was that it should give a reasonable idea of what the film will look like. Hopefully, without the blur.

There was a cool transition from blue to orange in the sky when I started shooting this. I hope that turns out on the film I shot.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

0.6 Neutral Density Grad filter

Check out these two shots and notice the difference in exposure of the trees and the foreground, especially the grass. The notice the difference in the details in the clouds. The clouds look better defined and more like "real life" than in the second shot.

Both pictures were taken on "M" for manual on a D200 with Nikon's 18-200 DX lens at 18mm. 1/200 second at ISO 100, F7.1.

On this first shot, I used the filter:

On this second shot, everything is the same, 1/200 second at ISO 100, F7.1, but with no filter.

While the sky is really very similar (only slightly over-exposed correctly for retaining details of clouds), the foreground is horrible.

I can't wait to start shooting this filter with some nice film!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

Saturday, May 08, 2010


Chicago is a great city. I was only there for a half-day, but the city was brimming with energy and everyone I met was friendly.

The Sears Tower (now renamed the "Willis Tower" from the bottom looking up.

And from the top looking down.

Standing in the plexiglass enclosure on the 103rd floor was really cool!

Home of one of the world's great symphony orchestras.

And a famous fountain with an even more famous skyline.

And, lastly Wrigley.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Film from this Winter

I finally sent in a package of film for developing and scanning.

These were shot as slides, but the scans do an OK job with colors. Actually, it's not the colors that are off, the computer screen makes these shots darker than they are through a projector.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vierundzwanzig Stunden in Köln

Arriving in Köln by train from Frankfurt was amazing. Before you can even exit the Köln Hofbanhof you can see the Kölnerdom, the enormous gothic cathedral across the square.

The Kölnerdom itself is enough for a separate post, so for now I'll just say it's bigger than I could have ever imagined. It's dark, imposing, intricate, and beautiful.

But, the purpose of my visit wasn't to admire the architecture! It was to meet a dear friend in her city, to trip around her world, and to catch up with the one and only Angelika!

After finding my hotel and walking around for a bit on my own, I met Geli about two hours after I arrived. My hotel was one address up the street from her apartment (thanks for the tip, Geli!). Geli then took over and showed me all over her delightful city:

down to the Rhine and the Schokoladenmuseum Köln;

across the Rhine on the bridge that is famously covered in "Love Locks" - padlock mementos left by couples;

all over the downtown shopping area and into the biggest - and coolest - outdoor store I've ever seen (they've got a dive well, a rain storm generator and an arctic room with a wind tunnel and a thermal imaging camera, all for testing out their gear in the store before you buy!!) There are people testing out kayaks in the photo.

For dinner, we ate schnitzel and zweibelringen at a brauhaus (we mistakenly thought "onion rings" would be American-style fried onion rings - heh, joke's on us they were fresh raw onions!) and drank Kölsch (regional beer); wandered around in a snowstorm and planned the next morning's adventure.

The next morning it was off to breakfast for meuslix, cappucinos and PB&J on bagels at Cafe Cafe and then over to the belfry tour at the Kölnerdom where the view of the city and the inside of the cathedral is stunning.

Notice that there was snow at the top of the cathedral, but none on the ground.

The belfry itself was beautiful.

This is looking down the cathedral dome from above the bells. When you're up here, you're really high off the ground. To give you an idea, the windows are roughly 75 feet tall!

One more tourist picture before walking back down all those stairs!

Sadly, all too quickly I had to jump back on the train to Frankfurt to catch my flight home. Right before I left I snapped this last picture! The Pingel family misses you, Geli! Can't wait for this summer!

One last cool little item. On the ride to Frankfurt it snowed, making the countryside picture-perfect beautiful outside the train window.