Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Books, Books, Books.

Where did we ever get so many books?

I've always been a reader. In my youth, my family used to make a cross country trip every summer to visit my Grandmother in West Virginia. We'd head east from California on the southern route and return on the northern route. Must be where I acquired this wanderlust.

On those trips, I would always read at least a book a day. It was like I could never get enough. It was a habit my parents were pleased with and cultivated, happy to have a child who loved to read. Now, I look in my book cases, and still see a lot of same books I've had for fifty plus years.

To add to this, for some years before we went on the road, we collected items for sale on eBay. This led us to opening an online book store (via half.com), which resulted in even more books. Now, we've gotten rid of many of these in the last couple of weeks, but still we haven't really made a dent yet. And that's just in the house, because then there are the books we've collected on the road.

I have to admit, it's really hard for me to pass up a deal on a great book. This has meant that we've carried a lot more books than we should in the motorhome. We read them and get rid of them, but still they seem to flood my personal space, no matter where I am.

I'm not saying this isn't a good thing, but something really does have to be done.

For the last six months or so, I've tried reading books on my iPhone. It works better than I expected, but not perfect. So following this thread, I've bought a Kindle. It will arrive tomorrow and I have high hopes of it helping with my book problem.

I've held off on this purchase for a while for several reasons. The main one being the cost of most of the electronic books (e-books). Since we almost always buy our books at thrift stores, the prices of books online seem high, usually $5 to $10 as compared to $.25 to $1. Lately though, I've found several online sites that tell of daily deals (here is my favorite).

The e-books they find are usually under $1.00 and often free. Using these sites, I've amassed quite a library on the iPhone, and I'm sure it will transfer

Another reason I've hesitated is because, in my heart of hearts, I really want an iPad. The thing is, I like to wait for at least the second generation of Apple products before making my purchase.

Also, in doing research online, it seems that most people agree that having a dedicated book reader is preferable to using theiPad for that purpose.

Weight seems to be the big issue here with the Kindle just a smidge under seven ounces and the iPad a bit over a pound and a half (7 ounces versus 24, quite the difference). It seems the older I get, the more my hands bother me, so a lighter reader is a definite plus.

With this in mind, today I went through the books in the rig and now have three more boxes to take to the local used book store.

I'm trying to learn some lessons about my hoarding ways while we're here at the house.

I hope it sticks.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why I LOVE living in Under 200 Square Feet

We've been here at the house for about one month now, and more and more, I begin to understand why I love living in the motorhome instead of a stick house.

While we've been working in the house, we continue to live in Cholula Red. Coming "home" every night is so cozy and comforting.

The house is so large and every bit of it is full. Every other day we are making trips to the local thrift store or the used book store, yet it seems we make no progress at all.

The other morning, I asked Terry if he thought that perhaps Snow White and her forest friends might have come in the night and cleaned the house for us? He said he kind of doubted it, and sure enough, when I went in the next morning, nothing had changed.

I continue to hope for a miracle.

But it all goes away at night when we come into the rig, and once again we are home.

Even of it is totally torn apart and completely out of order, it's still home. And the good news is that even when I have spent the entire day moving things between the house and the rig, I can still come in, clean the entire motorhome, make dinner and get the dishes done in under a couple of hours.

Try that is a stick house!

This month has certainly taught both of us that we made the right decision to live smaller.

Now if we can just get this job finished, we will be on the road again, living the life we love.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Too Cute

Still digging through boxes at the house, I came across this . . .

This is my Hunny Bunny Terry
when he was just a wee little boy.

This next shot is the family dog, Rex.
When Terry was a baby,
he learned to walk by holding on to Rex.
I am eternally grateful to Rex.

One more shot of my young man.
Is he handsome or what?
You gotta love the hair.
And the suit.
Pretty spiffy.

That's it for today.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Another Day at the Wharf, and a Pelican!

I don't know if I've mentioned it, but a good friend has asked me to show her a bit about photography. This means that instead of going out and shooting with Terry, I'll be going with her a couple of times a week.

I know I've already posted pictures of the wharf at Santa Cruz, but the day was rainy and overcast, so I figured this was the safest bet for a beginning photographer. Of course, I had to take a few shots also, so here we go.

This guy was having a fit,
squawking and screaming at everyone.
Great, cheap entertainment.

I'm still working on closeups
of birds' faces.
They really do fascinate me.

I like mirror images.

The sea lions were out today,
but much quieter than usual.
Maybe it's the weather.

This is cropped from a larger shot.
Then I played with it a bit,
softening it here,
lightening up a little there.
I like the final effect.

A moment later, we spied a large pelican.
This isn't quite in focus,
but I liked the pose
and the background.

Next, he took off,
then roosted for a bit on a rooftop.

Then he was off again.
These next threes shots
were taken in sequence.

The way he flies
reminds me of the herons
at Bosque del Apache.

My favorite shot of the day,
(feel free to click to enlarge).
To me, this looks like
some kind of painful ballet pose.

And like ballet,
almost unbelievable,
but quite beautiful.

The afternoon was getting on,
so we decided to have
some of the best clam chowder
known to man.

Then we came out to this.
Nice clouds, but no color to the sunset.

the Thanksgiving mini vacation
is over
and it's back to
rooting through the house.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Aliens Have Landed

We had a lovely day today, and hope that all of you did also.

The weather has broken (at least for a day or two) so we ended up down at West Cliff Drive, one of our favorite walks.

While the weather was beautiful, the clouds were noticeably absent, so this wasn't the best day for scenic shots. I'm not complaining, mind you, I'll take warm sunny days over gray and gloomy any old day.

Since the seas and skies weren't really cooperating photography-wise, this left the plant life. West Cliff has always had an abundance of beautiful flowers, it's one of the things that makes it such a pleasant place to stroll. While I've always appreciated the plant life, I must admit, I've never looked at them as closely as I did today.

Taking lots of pictures will do that to you, it really does make you see things differently.

I spent a few hours snapping away. It was only when I got home and looked at the photos in the computer that I began to realize how alien these plants appear.

There's a place called
the Garden of the Shrine.
I love the gate.

Look at these,
are these colors ethereal of what?

I'm playing with HDR again here.
The sky is a bit too blue,
but the fan of the fronds
pleases my eye.

I'm not sure of the name of this plant,
I think it may be a Chinese Lantern,
but the shape is so beautiful.

You need to click this one to enlarge it,
I know it's just a succulent,
but the mathematical
precision of the leaves
always strikes me speechless.
I've seen thousands of these,
but their beauty so appeals to me.

As the day drew to a close,
I couldn't resist
just one shot,
straight into the sun.

I would surely rather be on the road,
but I'm thankful for the beauty
around me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More HDR

Since I've been playing around with HDR, I decided to go out and try to shoot a few frames specifically for this process.

Under perfect circumstances, if you want to play with HDR, you need to shoot in Exposure Mode. I sort of understand this, but the easiest way to explain it is that you will be shooting three versions of the same image (or almost exactly the same image). Ideally, you'd use a tripod, but I wasn't all that serious, so I just shot hand held. By the way, I didn't have the Canon with me, so these were shot with the Panasonic.

Back to Exposure Mode.
You set the camera up
so it records in 3 different levels.
The first will be way underexposed.

The second will be what the camera
believes to be correct.

The third will be very overexposed.

It's important that you understand one thing about digital photography vs film. As I understand it (and I'm not always right because, remember, I don't speak Camera), film is essentially a chemical process. Chemicals in the film react to light, then chemicals in the lab complete the process.

Digital is different in that it deals with information, well, digitally . . .

This means that there is often information contained in a digital image that can't be seen with the human eye, but the computer knows it's there.

Before I ever try any "automated" software (really not a correct term as there are a ton of decisions to be made by the operator, but much of the work is predetermined by the program), I always try to "develop" the image myself, using my own judgement and Photoshop.

Here's my first "manual"try.
OK, but not great.
The sky is still too blown out
(as it was in real life)
and the smoke way too blue.
You may need to click on the images
to see them at a larger resolution
so you can see the differences.

Time to try something else.
This time I used software
called Photomatix Pro.
It's specifically developed to
create HDR images.

I liked this shot a lot better.
The sky was really grey,
like it had been in real life
and the foreground was sharp and clear.

Still, in my memory,
the smoke in the valley
had been more distinct,
so I went to work on the image
(that had previously been converted to HDR)

This was more like it.

Now that I had an image I liked,
it was time to get a bit creative.

I like the idea of
taking the color down a bit.

Just cause I can..

Next, I decide to go
in a whole different direction.
I've just watched Avatar again,
so I decided to enrich the color
and soften the entire shot.
Kind of like a dream.

This is what I love about digital photography,
the possibilities are endless.

That's it for today.

I hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving.

Weather permitting,
we'll be going to the coast
to shoot a few pictures.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hank, Woody and Ramblin' Jack

Regular readers already know my passion for certain kinds of music, particularly traditional folk music.

I've already written about Hank Williams Sr. and Woody Guthrie, and tonight I want to wrote about another favorite, Ramblin' Jack Elliott.

A short aside here, one thing that I love about Santa Cruz is the wonderful library system. The people of Santa Cruz have a deep appreciation for music and the selection at the local library is outstanding.

Anyhow, I was at the library looking for music and DVDs and I came across a DVD called the Ballad of Ramblin' Jack. Wow, what a trip.

I checked it out and was thoroughly entertained. Have you ever heard Ramblin' Jack Elliott? As a young man from New York, he left home at 15 to pursue his dreams. This led him to the west, where he took to cowboy music and thus the legend started. He traveled all over this country, eventually hooking up with Woody Guthrie.

And the rest is history.

Here's what I found really interesting. I knew that both Woody and Jack traveled extensively, but what I learned from this film is that much of he time, Jack was traveling in an RV!

The film uses lots of old home movies and you can see him in various vehicles over the years, starting with a VW van, but it's pretty apparent that he was an early adopter of the RV lifestyle. It appears that, at least up until the time of the films release (2000) he was still traveling in an RV.

But that was just part of what I most enjoyed about this film. For me, the thrill was the chance to see Jack Elliott perform. Just one man on a stage with a guitar, he stands there, telling stories and singing his songs. Kris Kristofferson says he's called Ramblin' Jack not for his travels, but for his storytelling style, which pretty much sums it up.

His tales are wonderful, his music clean and simple, yet moving and somehow very real.

As a longtime fan of his music, this was a truly welcome insight into the man and his music.

One small note, the film was made by his daughter, who obviously has issues with his rambling ways, and this is a bit distracting. Still, I felt that the very fact that he agreed to do the film speaks volumes.

There is one part where Arlo Guthrie tells her "Maybe you just don't get to get the answers you want". That pretty much echoes my feeling about grown children and their parents.

Another quote from Dave Van Ronk says (and I'm paraphrasing here) "Jack could have settled down and been a fine, working, family man,and the world would have had one more good working family man. But then we'd never have had Ramblin Jack Elliott and that would be a real loss."

I think he put it perfectly.

A recommended film, and of course, if you've never heard him sing, you should give some of his music a listen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Photography Lesson-HDR

Have you heard of HDR?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range Imaging, and supposedly, it's a way to allow you to manipulate a photo to give you a more realistic looking image. The idea is that you can see into the shadows (as the eye does) and colors are more lifelike.

That said, most HDR images that I see are pretty unrealistic looking, but not in a bad way. I like the look, and that has led me to play around with it a bit.

I really like to shoot straight into the sun. I know this is a no no. I know I'll get all kinds of artifacts, but I don't care. I like the effect.

This shot was taken outside of Capitol Reef.
The aspens were glorious,
as was the entire day.
Prior to working on it in the computer,
the whole shot was washed out,
but HDR takes the shot to a whole new level.

This was taken later the same day.
HDR brings out the details in the clouds.

Again, Capitol Reef.
This is the kind of shot that's perfect for HDR.
When you get back in these canyons,
the cliffs are bright as day
but in photographs,
the shadows are black as night.
HDR allows you to see the entire image.

Another example
of HDR and shadows.

This is a different kind of shot entirely.
Here, HDR intensifies the whole scene

Here, thanks to HDR,
you not only see the background,
but the detail in the tree
that frames the shot.

Another similar shot.

So now you can at least say you sort of know what someone is talking about when they mention HDR. It doesn't always look realistic, but I think it's an interesting artistic choice.


On another note, today, as I was going through the mountains of stuff in the house, I found my very first digital camera. Wow, what a trip that was.

It's a Kodak DC40, purchased sometime around 1995 for, I believe, something like $800. And it was a true miracle machine. It weighed a full pound and held a whopping 48 pictures. It still seems to be working, but you need to connect it to a computer with a serial port, which has sort of gone the way of the dodo bird.

Now, I do have 4 or 5 old computers lying around, and if I wanted to spend days trying to get them up and running, and find the proper software, and all the cables, I might take it out for a few shots.

Or maybe not.

As to Thanksgiving, we've about decided to have a small dinner with just the two of us. Then, weather permitting, we'll take a drive down to the beach, take a long walk and try to take a few pictures.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Everything Old is New Again (a Trip Down Memory Lane)

With the horrific weather the last couple of days, we've been pretty much hibernating in the rig.

A good friend of mine has been seeking my advice about getting a camera and learning to take pictures. I really don't know why she's asking me, but I'm trying to help.

In looking around the internet, I found the Panasonic Lumix FZ35 on sale at Amazon for only $265, a great deal. This is the camera I've used for the last couple of years. I now also have a Canon 7D, but when I know I'm going out shooting for a few hours, I bring both cameras. Really, they are different animals completely. I love the Lumix for the quick shot, the 18x optical zoom and the Zeiss wide angle lens. If you just want to fire off a few shots, or don't wish to learn the unspeakable language of the camera (which I've discussed many times), this is a perfect camera.

In preparing to try to show my friend a bit about photography, I went back and started looking at some of my old shots.

A truly humbling experience.

I now see how they can all be improved, since I'm so much better at photo manipulation than when we first went on the road. A lot of people seem to think that tweaking your photos on a computer is a cheat, but I feel it's the same kind of manipulation that used to be done in the darkroom.

That's my stance and I'm stickin' to it!

ANYHOW, this whole project led me to playing around with some of my old photos. Long time readers have probably seen all these, but I think they'll be new to many readers (and I like them, so there . . .)

This is probably my favorite shot ever
out of the thousands
of hummingbird photos
I've taken over the years.

Another favorite
(feel free
to click to enlarge)

I could only do so much with this shot
it's not too clear
but I love the face.

Handmade hardware in Santa Fe.
What beautiful work.

Chica and Hombre,
Two of my favorite dogs.
They were huddling under the blankets
because it was snowing outside
and they're Mexican beach dogs.

Intricate and colorful tile work from
Albuquerque, New Mexico.

A close up of more tiles.
If I could,
I'd cover the outside
of Cholula Red with these.

This is a shot of a weed patch,
I turned it in to a watercolor.

This is some kind of insect
that visited the rig
when we first went on the road.
It stayed around,
posing for pictures for me
for a couple of hours.

Another shot that's not so great
but this was the very first time
I managed to catch
a sharp(ish) photo
of a bird in flight.

Another not so great shot,
but it shows the thousands of birds at
Bosque del Apache.
Where I wish I was right now . . .

One more shot of
the Bosque.

This was taken while we were
at a celebration
at one of the Pueblos.

A final shot.
Caterpillars on their nest
2006, Hyde State Park
Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I'll get out in the next
couple of days
and won't have to resort
to posting old pictures!