Tuesday, August 9, 2011

This Blog Has Moved

To see the Crossings blog posts after May, 2011, Go to the new Crossings location.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tokina Test

After watching the birds in the previous post, I wondered how it would be to shoot macro stuff with the long Tokina lens, and walked through the patio gate and captured the frame shown here. 

The tricky thing about shooting macro with a long lens is the distance from the subject. It is really a tripod shot, though this one was hand-held. 

Waiting for Lunch

These two still-downy youngsters waited quietly for lunch for twenty minutes on the telephone wires. Their patience paid off when their mother arrived with worms. 

My Nikon 18-105mm didn't have the reach for this shot, so I used the old Tokina 70-210mm manual focus zoom (105-315mm equivalent).

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Kodak Sensor Again

This one is another frame of the old mill in Bellona, NY. Kodak DC 3400 2.1 Gigabyte Kodak sensor, 38-76mm lens (equivalent).


This photograph was made during the last, golden light before sundown at Anza Narrows in Riverside, California.

Antelope Hills

The aforementioned Antelope Hills, that is. The photo above was taken on a Lumix FX01, not the older Kodak camera. Every time I've traveled from Flagstaff, Arizona on Route 89 through this area, I've stopped to look at the hills.
The map shows the general shooting direction toward the hills. Antelope Hill is beyond, and obscured by, the ridges on the right. Route 89 travels north toward the Navajo Reservation. Route 180 rolls north toward the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
To my senses, there's something prehistoric, perhaps neolithic about the area. I can easily imagine dark masses of bison and antelope moving between the shoulders of the hills... 


A couple days ago I remarked to an old friend that for a guy who isn't a sports shooter, I seem to shoot a lot of sports. The sequences above and below were shot at f/8 with a 1/250 shutter speed. Preferring blurring balls and bats, I didn't want to completely freeze the action with a faster shutter speed.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hillside Poppies

These poppies were shot in 2010 at Diamond Valley Lake, a man-made reservior near Hemet in Southern California. 

"When Life Was Good"

This photo has been floating around since one day last year when I ran into a rider who was close to my (middle) age who had just restored a 1973 Honda CB 350 like the one in the photo, though the bike he restored was red. The photo is not mine, but I can't find the owner.
Near the pumps of a service station, we talked about the bike and the restoration for a couple minutes. The 350 was all stock, just as it should be.
I looked the bike over and nodded. "Very nice." I said. "It takes me back."
The proud owner nodded back. "That's what I like the best about it. It takes me back to the Seventies, when life was good..."

The Mill

This old grain mill is in the hamlet of Bellona, in Yates County, New York. I lived in Bellona for several years during the sixties when I was still in school, so I was familiar with the mill and the stream that originally powered it, Kashong Creek. 
On the day in 2005 the photo was made with the Kodak DC3400, it was the only digital camera I owned. The camera was quite slow compared to the digitals I use now, a Nikon DSLR and a Panasonic Lumix. Both of the newer cameras are now out of date by several years, but I don't anticipate newer cameras any time soon...    

Bristol Dry Lake

This photo was taken in the desert near Amboy, California after a time of rain in early March, 2010, which explains the yellow blooms. 
Amboy's volcanic crater sits on the west shoulder of the dry lake, and the town itself is on the north of the old lake shore. This viewpoint is looking east-north-east over the briny lake bed toward the Old Woman Mountains. 

In The Canyon

Sycamore Canyon, that is. These photos were made during a hike in Sycamore Canyon on April 21, 2011. Like every Spring, the hills are green from the winter rains, and the wildflowers are in bloom. Being on the edge of the desert, the greening won't last long. The verdant hills will slowly fade within a couple months, with the plants turning various duns and browns as they dry during the approach of Summer. The plants fringing the hills on the edge of the desert are typically dry eight or nine months of the year, so the green is a temporary visual treat.

The hillsides are blooming. This is the best time of year to photograph wildflowers in Southern California, whether you are heading deeper into the desert, up into the mountains, or across the farmlands in the valleys. Below: Isolated yellow blooms.

As shown in the long view of the first photo above, most of the more prominent flowers in the canyon run toward yellow. The spray of red shown below broke up the dominate color, if only in a small area.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Planned Obsolescence

Not that I planned on it. But it seems likely that my Kodak DC3400 had an estimated expiration date of a decade. The DC3400 was released in 2000, if I remember correctly (and there's no particular reason to believe that I do). 
Mine was bought by my wife Lisa in 2001, and I used it during a trip to New York a few days after 9/11/01. At the time it was a nice "high-tech" point and shoot camera. For a consumer camera, it had a large at-the-time 2.1Meg sensor. And I always liked the way the Kodak sensor handled color.
In recent weeks, the images written to the CF card have been degenerating in quality at times. During the last few days I haven't been able to make the camera write images to the card. Sometimes it writes the framework of the file, but it doesn't put any photo information in the file. I eliminated the CF cards as possible culprits, since they work fine in another camera. 
So I have officially pronounced the device dead. The ceremony with monosyllabic chanting, rattling vegetables, and bird feathers will be held later.
My most distinct memory of using that camera was stopping a long motorcycle ride in 2004 to get a photograph of the Antelope Hills north of Flagstaff, Arizona. That photograph remains one of my favorites, largely because of the way the sensor and camera handle color. The color is rich, but there's a subtle difference between Kodak color and the output of other digitals.


There's no particular reason for the photograph. I had been thinking about various color and black and white film types, which somehow led me to the flowers with the digital in hand.
This is the second blooming of the year for this plant. I'm wondering if the plant will survive it's first desert summer. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Fair

My interest in photography leans very heavily toward landscapes. When I think about grabbing a camera and going somewhere to shoot, I’m thinking about landscapes. Shooting people or events rarely filters through my consciousness and as an event photographer, I’m probably an almost-adequate landscape photographer.

Despite my shortcomings in that arena, people continue to ask me to shoot events. On request, I’ve shot parties, parades, baseball and football games, and weddings, among other events. Yesterday’s event was an Easter Fair for a local church. I walked through the fair for an hour and a half, covering the entertainments,  the various “booths”, the crowd, and local politicians.

The payoff for me was the kids. Children are often good subjects when they don’t know they’re being photographed, and the fair was crowded enough that they weren’t paying much attention to me.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Snaked Again

At the end of the hike mentioned in the previous post, In The Canyon, as I walked the last two hundred yards to the parking area, this snake began crossing the trail. I stopped, got down on one knee and framed through the viewfinder to capture the image. The snake had paused as I stopped, as if it was profiling for the photograph.
The Nikon autofocus was hunting for the main subject, so I switched to manual focus and took a few frames. I had seen a couple in their twenties behind me on the trail. They walked up behind me, then stopped abruptly as the woman said, "Oh!"
"There are no rattles, so it probably isn't poisonous." I said. "Looks like it might be a gopher snake. My granddaughter could tell us immediately what it is."
I took a couple more frames of the snake. "It isn't coiled to strike.", I said and stepped around it by the edge of the trail.
The couple hesitated, then walked a large u-shaped detour through the thick undergrowth of the adjoining hillside where there were considerably more likely to be snakes than around the trail. I didn't mention that probability to them. They seemed nervous.  

Saturday, March 26, 2011

About Color

This one was about color. I was shooting a wedding for friends, the second time I had engaged in that particular activity. The flower girl squatted down to check out a sprig of roses. I was struck by all the color in the scene and quickly captured a frame. I shot it for myself with no intention of including it in the wedding photo book I was going to create for the bride and groom. Later, when I was putting together the book, I still liked the photo so much that I included it along with the formal (posed) and informal photos.

Zabriskie Point

The photos below are from Zabriskie Point, in Death Valley, known for its erosional landscape. It is composed of sediments deposited in Furnace Creek Lake, which disappeared around five million years ago. 

Twin Towers

The twin water towers shown in the photo below are in Death Valley Junction, California. I don't remember seeing twin water towers anywhere else, but that may be the result of a memory failure. It struck me as odd when I saw them on a two-day motorcycle ride that Mike Harmon and I took through Death Valley National Park in March, 2011. The towers were part of what appeared to be an abandoned mining operation.
It certainly made sense that additional water storage was needed in the area, since it frequently records temperatures in excess of 120 F during the summer, and holds the record for high temperature for the Americas at 134 F, recorded in Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913 

Saturday, February 5, 2011


I've taken on a short "fire brigade" writing contract, and due to that contract, it is extremely unlikely that I'll have time to also blog and work on some other writing I've become engaged in (sorry, the other writing wins out).

So I'm taking a break from this blog. Check back here for more ramblings in April.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Slow Photography

A few days ago, I pulled out the first digital camera I owned, a Kodak DC3400. The camera was a birthday present from my wife Lisa, given in the Fall of 2000. I hadn’t photographed anything with the camera for about seven years. I questioned whether it still worked. 
The camera came with an 8MB Compact Flash card, which I upgraded to a “big” card with a whopping 256MB storage capacity. The upgrade allowed me to store 412 .jpeg photos. Four AA rechargeable batteries account for a large portion of the weight of the brick-shaped camera.
Just to play around with it and “remember” how it was to shoot with it, I took only the DC3400 on a group motorcycle ride on January 29, 2011. Photos from the ride appear in Mojave Desert Ride, the previous post.

One of the bonuses of this old technology is the simplicity of the camera. The menu system is very limited, so it is quite simple to change from color to black and white.
This camera was considered an above-average point and shoot digital at the time it was introduced to the public. It was assigned a MSRP of $499, though it was quickly available for around $300 from various retail stores.

The DC3400 forces you to shoot slow. There is no alternative. The specifications say that you’ll have to wait 1.5 seconds between shutter releases, but in practice I’ve never experienced it being that quick. To further slow things down, the default ISO setting is 100. It’s slow shooting speed forces me to take my time, which is probably a good thing.

For another article on slow photography, see
Tim Wu’s Slow Photography

Mojave Desert Ride

The map below shows the route for a group ride on January 29, 2011. The 334 mile loop through the Mojave Desert took us from the Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino) on Route 60, Route 62 through Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, Twentynine Palms, Amboy Road to Amboy, Route 66 through Bagdad, along I-40 to Barstow, I-15 through Victorville, then down the Cajon Pass to the Inland Valleys. The map below is courtesy of DeLorme. See Delorme.
The photos in this post were made on an outdated (11 years old, gasp!) digital camera, the Kodak DC3400. The DC3400 was a 2.0 megapixel camera, which was a big improvement over the 1.0 megapixel cameras of the time (around the year 2000). For more information on the DC3400, see the following post, Slow Photography.
As always, click on a map or photo to view the larger version.

Testing out the black and white, I snapped the photo below at a gasoline station in Riverside after setting the camera to –1 stop exposure compensation. It was a very bright day and I didn’t want to wash out the sensor on the Kodak, which tends to happen in very bright conditions.

The photo below was taken at the roadside on Indian Canyon Avenue in North Palm Springs.

The photo below was taken in the pass through the Sheephole Mountains between Twentynine Palms and Amboy. The view beyond Mike Harmon (left) and Dan Underwood (right) looks down toward Bristol Dry Lake and the town of Amboy, many miles in the distance.

Below: There’s no mistaking that you are on the “mother road”, Route 66, which runs through Amboy.

Below: I have too many photos of Roy’s sign, but black and white seemed appropriate.

Below, the tank in this photo sat on display beside the gas station in Barstow when we stopped for the third and last tank of fuel for the ride.

The ATSF caboose shown below also resided beside the gas station in Barstow.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Ultimate Keyboard

The following statement is just my opinion, of course. Yesterday UPS delivered the best computer keyboard ever made to my door: The “IBM” 101-key. As I mentioned in The Crown of (Keyboard) Creation, the IBM 101 was manufactured by IBM, then by Lexmark for IBM. It is now manufactured by Unicomp and is available in multiple configurations at http://pckeyboards.stores.yahoo.net/ind.html. This particular model, the Customizer 101, doesn’t have the superfluous  Windows-specific keys. I deliberately ordered it that way. Those keys, like the human appendix, are totally unnecessary. 
I’ve logged approximately 1,200 words on the keyboard in a day and a half, and am happy to report that this board is the real deal. It has the “click-back” of the original 101 board, because it uses the same buckling spring technology. It feels exactly the same as the original keyboards, though that isn’t surprising since it is manufactured to the same specifications.

Compared to the sponge-like and cheaply made Compaq keyboard that I used most recently, it is a joy to type on. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not faulting Compaq for the typing sponge that came with the Compaq machine I bought ten months ago. It is exactly what it was intended to be: A cheap board that allowed the company to trim $50.00 off the price of the tower/keyboard/mouse combination.
But if you do a lot of typing, and loved the old IBM boards, it is probably worthwhile to look at the new Unicomp boards.

The photo above shows the effect of ten months of typing on the Compaq board. The alpha characters are starting to wear off. Click on the photo and the wear will be plainly visible. The A is nearly completely gone, the E is half-gone, and the S is getting quite squidgy around the edges. The characters appear to be decals. They’ll all wear off at some point in time, though it is unlikely that the board will last that long without some mechanical failure.
My wife Lisa used the new keyboard for a time last night. She was and is a big fan of the original IBM keyboards. I asked her what she thought of the new 101 keyboard today. “It feels just like a keyboard should.” She said. “It’s like the good old days, when times were slower, and keyboards were clickier.”