Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Magic of Disney

Old Post Alert! This entry was started in 2010 after my Disney trip and saved as a draft, but published in 2012. So to say its out of order is a bit cheap. It's way out of place in this blog and I just want to make sure any readers were aware. It would be different if I were posting regular and threw in an oldie, but I havn't been. And I thought I could get away with it inserting itself this post into the old time frame in which it was started. Nope. That only works for the immediately preceding post. So, the following is what was penned, with only a few revisions, in 2010.

It's been a good long year since I last ventured a post. Haven't felt the need I suppose. And in many ways I still don't, but there is that nagging something... a distant grumbling feeling that I get whenever I look through my bookmarks and see "TrippingonThrough" just sitting there all lonely and abandoned. It makes me wonder, is there not something I feel compelled to blab about? Some pic or interesting idea I need to share? Some point of fact on the previous years events I wish to record for the generations?

Um, not really.

Truth is it was fine year. Nothing overly dramatic or insightful but a fine year nonetheless. With my free time I was much more oriented around music than pictures again this time around... I wonder if there is a cyclical swing to be mapped.... and will the blog last long enough to tell? Anyways, far too much effort was put into pursuing the magic of the high-end audio sound. Not that this is a bad thing. I like it, the wife hates it, and on the cycle goes.

Disney, though, was a great break from it all. I got to see Epcot for the third time and finally came away from the place feeling as though I had had enough. If I never see it again I will not mourn. If I do get out to see it again I will feel as though there are secrets left to plumb that I have only to discover. Win. Win.

Until next time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

White Sands New Mexico

White Sands is a dazzling place. The gypsum sands there are highly reflective so you will definitely want to bring your sunglasses and a hat. We were up early to try and get into park before the sun took all the magic out of the dunes and turned it into mother natures version of the "easy bake oven." (Ok, so "I" was up early and my brother was a good sport about keeping up with whatever crazy times I decided to set.) We managed to get there not long after they opened the gates so it all worked out ok. Truth be told, though, given how I was feeling, jello legs and all, I probably would not have fared any better on my own. Quite possibly even worse!

We took the main roads straight to the back area of the park where the larger dunes are and immediately struck out on foot to get into the heart of it all. It was nippy in the shade of the dunes, but in the sun things were already heating up nicely.  

Be forewarned about the conditions: you will get sand in your shoes. And your shorts. On your skin and in your hair. Pretty much everywhere. Walking up the dunes reminded me a bit of trudging through powder snow, which I have only experienced a few times, and never on such a scale. It was tricky. To hike upwards along the dunes you have manage your footsteps in a way that doesn't completely waste your efforts and still provide you with at least a little forward motion. If you adopt a standard hiking style you will dig deep postholes at close intervals all the way to the top. If you side-step along the edges of the sand ridges (my favored method) you will not dig quite as deep with each step, but it's still not easy. 

We had to trudge for a half an hour or so to find some locations where there were relatively few footprints left by others. Managed a few nice images. All in all it was hard work, but there were some very cool views for our efforts. 

Within a few short hours of our arrival it got downright warm, bordering on hot. So we made our way out and stopped by the gift shop. Lots of great stuff in there, and the prices were reasonable enough. 

Next stop, some petroglyphs as we make our way northward.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Carlsbad Underground

The trip out west has been over for close to a month, but it has taken me this long to get used to "normal" again. For weeks the reintegration was punctuated by the simple muscle aches and pains of the trip and I was surprised at how difficult it was to shake off a few thousand miles of travel... I am definitely getting older.

First stop was Carlsbad, NM to visit the famed caverns. They did not disappoint. We took the simple walk-in tour and decided to take the natural entrance down to the caverns. It's a long downhill walk underground but it gives you some nice views of the natural entrance along the way. On the way down I started trying to get the hang of how I was gonna photograph the caverns with the new camera (Sony 5n). My idea was to take advantage of the in-camera HDR function, and I forgot that this meant that I would be limited to using JPEG. It took a good deal of fiddling but I finally remembered to change to JPEG and enabled the HDR. It didn't help that the camera had arrived barely a week before the trip!

Once I got things set right, I tried, in vain, to get a reasonable shot of the natural entrance. Couldn't do it. The DR of the scene was far more than the in-camera HDR function could handle... and I kept getting what I thought were some very odd colors? In any event, I got the hang of squatting down and forcing the camera into my tiny beanbag while it was perched on the hand railing to get the necessary support to use the HDR function without a tripod. This was not easy. And it didn't help that the railing was constantly vibrating due to so many others using as it was intended. I found it was better to use the railing support columns where this wasn't an issue. Still, it was very much hit and miss on whether or not I was able to hold the camera steady enough for the series of multi-second exposures this HDR trick required. But eventually I managed to get a few sharp frames.

It took a good hour to get down to the main level of the cave where we took a break before exploring the main trail. It's all self-guided, so there was no rush. We purchased some drinks and filled out some postcards before getting back on the trail.

On the way down my brother had commented that he did not think the cave was that pretty. Too dry, and lacking in color. I thought it was quite nice, but then I had prepared myself by reading about how the cave conditions in NM were dryer than those in more temperate states (like Arkansas) and I was actually surprised to see that it was as wet as it was. Being below a desert, I saw more water than expected.

The main part of the caverns, though, was much more to his liking. It is a very large and nicely decorated cave by any standard, and ultimately I managed to shot just over 100 HDR frames. The image posted is one of those from the main trail.

Upon sorting through the images I was only mildly surprised to find that the number of sharp frames was so low. I could tell from chimping on location that I was not getting sharp frames every time. So I had bracketed the scenes I really wanted when I found a nice one. Overall I was not disappointed except for one large problem... white balance.

Before leaving Arkansas I had set the camera to Tungsten for some reason. Forgot all about it. Not a problem, of course, if you are shooting RAW, but now every image from the cavern was Tungsten. Oh well. They didn't look that bad, except for the failed entrance attempts, and after reading that the cavern had every color of lighting imaginable down there... but mostly tungsten, I guess it was just plain luck. AWB probably would not have managed much better.

The biggest problem with shooting Carlsbad turned out to be my technique. But I only discovered this the next morning. Remember how I mentioned that I was squatting down (often on my toes) to brace the camera on the available supports for long exposures... and that I did this over a hundred times? Yep, my thighs were jello for the rest of the trip, and for many days afterward.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Return of the Part-Time Photographer

Yes. It's that time again. Another trip out west has been planned and there is even a new camera purchase in the works... The Sony NEX-5n. As good a time as any, I suppose, to make another post to this now two years fallow blog. I never planned to be absent for so long, but that's the way it goes. You get busy with this or that and the next thing you know... we'll, you know what I mean.

Anyways, I bobbled for weeks on whether or not I even wanted to purchase a new camera, it's not like I really need one. But in the end I had the free cash and I wanted one... so there. I ordered the damn thing. However, it's currently hung in Amazonian limbo awaiting their stock of the camera to arrive--weeks after many other camera specific stores have started shipping. Oh well, it will be a wait and see on whether or not this purchase goes through. If confirmation isn't received soon I will have to cancel and order elsewhere.

But enough of that. The image accompanying this post is from several weeks ago at the local zoo. Not my favorite place to take pictures but I can't help carrying the camera when I go. Who knows, I might get a nice shot that doesn't look too much like it was taken at the zoo. This shot turned out OK. The tigers were terribly hot (over month of mostly 100 plus days) and this one is hanging out in a cooling pool doing his best to beat the heat. I like his expression. Kind of sums up how I feel about this camera thing...

This years adventure will be just me and my bro, hitting some of the high points of New Mexico. We plan to take in quite a variety of things while we are there, including Carlsbad, White Sands, Acoma Pueblo, Canyon de Chelly, A ride on the Durango Silverton Railway, and a host of other things. We have so much planned that the week we have to spend there will not be enough.

Also plan to take in some great eats while we are there. We have already lined up a few famous places, including the Owl Bar in San Antonio and Chope's in La Mesa. And there will no doubt be many more along the way.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Canoes and Lake Maumelle Don't Mix

Lake Maumelle is one of Central Arkansas most significant drinking water resources and there is no doubt that its excellent quality needs to be preserved. That said, larger drinking water impoundments nearly always serve a double duty with regards to recreation and in many ways lake Maumelle is no different--with some very curious exceptions.

Allow me to quote the big one directly from the rulebook: Rule 8. "Swimming, bathing, wading, and the use of aquaplanes, surfboards, motorized surfboards, wind-powered surfboards, personal water craft, water skis, rafts, kayaks, or other similar devices or vehicles that the Rules and Regulations do not expressly permit are prohibited."

The idea would seem to be that getting nasty humans and their associated toys in the water is a bad thing. Fair enough in theory, I suppose, but the truth of what's allowable is almost stranger than any fiction I could concoct. And rememer, it's prohibited unless expressly permitted.

So what is permitted? Big, gas-powered boats are allowed as long as they are more than 14 foot in length. Sailboats are also acceptable. But canoes and kayaks aren't welcome unless they are operated at the extreme western end of the lake. They cannot legally venture into the lake proper. In fact, they even have nice bridge to server as boundary. "Lake patrons shall restrict canoeing to the Lake Area west of the Arkansas Highway 10 Bridge." The problems is that there is not much lake here folks... this is where the river comes in, so for all intents and purposes canoeing and kayaking are prohibited on the lake.

Maybe I'm slow, or maybe I'm just missing some key point, but this just doesn't make any sense. And apart from the drafters of this plan having a personal bias or vendetta against human powered watercraft, it is a difficult position to understand. On the one hand I get how allowing swimming opens up a whole can of worms that becomes rather difficult to contain. First their are simple rafts and inner tubes, then simply powered navigation with things like windsurfing, kayaking and canoeing, and from there it just escalates with personal watercraft taking on motors with things like jet ski's and skidoo's.

I also get how you can't very well open up a lake for fishing without allowing boats with motors. What I have hard time with is how they drew the line and so neatly excised canoes and kayaks from legally using the lake. To me it would make much more sense to require the containment of the human body to the inside of any watercraft, and have this be the deciding factor when drawing the line. This could allow for small craft like canoes and kayaks, and yet prohibit things like inner tubes and swim rafts, whose use requires direct contact with the water.

Today's image shows a kayker on the lower portion of the Maumelle river, the section below the dam, where its perfectly legal for canoes and kayaks to tread.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Black Trumpets

On my latest mushroom foray my daughter and I stumbled across a whole area rich in these marvelous black trumpets!

These are supposedly not an uncommon species in my area but I have only encountered one other patch in all my 25 years of mushroom hunting. And I went back to that same patch again and again for several years (until I moved from that area) to gather a few. Sometimes finding some, sometimes not.

I dunno. Maybe I just wasn't looking for them hard enough before... they are rather difficult to spot on the litter of the forest floor. Or, maybe I just missed them season-wise. According to sources on the web they go through periodic fruitings (which I take to mean, not continuous) from May through November, so maybe I just havn't been in the right place at the right time. Once we found this big patch and started looking, we did find lots of smaller ones.

Got a pretty fair harvest (and still left plenty for others) of which most were dried for later use. A good portion, though, went into a lovely quiche.


Sunday, March 22, 2009


It's been awhile, but I finally got out with the camera today. First time in a long time that I have had the camera along and actually used the thing. But then, come to think of it, I haven't been out much anyway. I don't care for the cold so much these days, and the recent spring weather has been a delight.

The camera setup I hauled along was the mini-view setup I put together a few years ago. It's seen precious little use, and that's a shame, cause I like the kinds of images it creates... they're different. I suppose they can viewed as gimicky, and I could probably do much the same thing with a much simpler to use lens baby, but then, I don't have a lens baby.

Anyways, images number 1 and 2 of 2009 with the mini-view. I hope to get out and get more them soon.