Friday, August 30, 2013

going home

rail and water

Sometime early tomorrow morning around oh-dark-thirty, I'm going to get up, pile into my rental with my luggage and my cameras and drive back to SEA-TAC for a twelve hour flight back to Orlando, via a connecting flight in DFW. This trip has been a true business trip; a lot of time devoted to the job, with little left over for the pursuit of personal enjoyment. For me, personal enjoyment means getting out and exploring and documenting what catches my eye.

Today was the first full day I wasn't on the task, as it had ended 24 hours ago. I wanted to plan a big day of driving and exploring, but I got up late and felt tired. So, instead, I ate a late breakfast, piled in the rental with my cameras, and sort of meandered up towards the harbor area and Steilacoom.

When I got to the area around Steilacoom I felt more like just walking around and enjoying the mystical border between land and water than doing anything of significance. I grabbed a few snaps, but nothing to set the world on fire. Just small little moments in time, a number of them subconsciously pointing towards my taking a long trip. I do want to come back to Seattle, and I hope it's sometime in the near future. And most significantly I hope it's a trip devoted to personal travel. But if it isn't that's OK. After all I need this job to pay the bills and buy camera gear. Until the next time, if there is a next time, good bye and thank you all for your hospitality.

steilacoom II
harbor transportation
front yard garden
floral studies
walking the gang

Everything taken with the Olympus E-M5 and M.Zuiko 45mm.

tipping point

giulio sciorio at glazer's camera

I can tell when I'm in the middle of a tipping point when I get three major indicators within a 24 hour period. The first was last night with Giulio Scorio at Glazer's Camera. It was, for me, eye opening. The second and third came later today via the web.

I don't normally visit Luminous Landscape all that much, preferring to hit the place about once a week to scan the headlines, and then move on. But today Michael Reichmann published "The Ten Commandments of Cinematography For Still Photographers" which I will copy the core of below. I've seen bits and pieces of these commandments over the last few years (with a few going back decades to when I was attempting to shoot with Super 8, then 16mm). Here are the core commandments from the article:
  1. Don't zoom. Zooming simply looks amateurish. Yes, there may be times when it's useful or even necessary, but avoid doing it if you can.
  2. Turn off autofocus and focus manually. Even the best AF systems "hunt" during a shot and nothing looks worse than losing focus at an important moment.
  3. Turn off autoexposure. Set your camera to M and manually set the shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Exposure changes when they're not deliberate are terrible to watch.
  4. Set your camera to "Natural" or a similar low saturation look. Standard is almost always way to saturated and contrasty.
  5. If at all possible, shoot at 24FPS and with a shutter speed of 1/50 second if you want a "cinematic look". This is not ideal for sports or any type of action, but it produces the motion cadence that has the feel of motion pictures. 60 FPS with a 1/125 second shutter speed looks like video. If that's what you want, or when shooting fast action – fine.
  6. Use a variable neutral density filter (Fader) so that you can control the light entering the lens and adjust the shutter speed and aperture to the settings that you want. Shooting at f/16 because it's sunny out just looks awful. But that's what an appropriate shutter angle (a speed of double the frame rate; ie: 1/50 sec for 24 FPS) requires unless you have a Fader. Buy a good one. Cheap ones are crap.
  7. Move the camera slowly. Any panning should be at a speed much slower than you think looks right at the time. It will at the end. Experiment.
  8. A tripod, monopod, or table-top pod are all a great idea. Hand-hold as little as possible, and when you do, use wide lenses and stabilization if your camera/lens offers it.
  9. Use an outboard digital audio recorder if at all possible. The mics and pre-amps built into almost all DSLRs and camcorders are mostly terrible. Small recorders can easily mount on the camera's accessory shoe with a small ballhead. Sync the high quality audio with the ambient track recorded by the camera when editing. Good sound is 50% of what people will experience when watching your video production.
  10. Don't try and shoot stills at the same time with the same camera. You'll screw up both. Cameras setting are so wildly different for each that your best approach is to have two different cameras with you which share the same lens mount. That way you can quickly switch from one to the other and also swap lenses between them as needed.
  11. (Important bonus commandment): Before, during and after shooting, think about the story that you want to tell. Cinema has been described as "telling stories over time", and one can also describe them as, "telling stories through space". A still photograph fails or succeeds at its job of story telling in a single moment. A film spreads those moments out over time and space. Think about it. For the still photographer who wants to break out of a rut, or expand their creative or business options, making films and videos can have great appeal.
Everyone like to talk high concept with regards to hybrid photography, but high concept will only get you so far. You need nuts-and-bolts guidance, such as these commandments or from somebody like Giulio, who was enthusiastically sharing practical tools and techniques. You can tell from my bit of video from last night that violated 2, 3, 4, 5, and 8. I believe Giulio might disagree with 8 (Use a tripod...), but then Giulio has reached the point in his career where he can break them all and get away with it. Which points out a fundamental truth to rules such as this: use them as a starting point, learn them well, then learn how to creatively break then when you need to. Don't let them become a creativity-dampening cage.

The second is another blog post on Journeys of a Hybrid. "How Motion is Changing the Future of Photography" was published back in February of this year, sandwiched in between two other posts around the same story line. Once you read that post you should scan the entire blog; it's worth your time.

The one paragraph that stood out from the article was this one:
Understand that technology affects everything and will continue to do so. You may think in terms of what’s possible today and that it would be incredibly labor intensive to go through tens of thousands of motion frames to pull out still images. But advances in technology will change that as well in the future. Technology affects everything. Realize that software is changing too and that the edit process for pulling out frames will be easier and more streamlined in the future. In fact, an editor’s job description will change greatly and that may be a job that is in high demand in the future. Even now, just do a quick search on LinkedIn and you’ll see that while there are very few job listings for still photographers, there’s a lot of demand for video editors.
This meme, that technology is rapidly advancing and making what was once hard, simple, was driven home by one of Giulio's demonstrations where he showed how to achieve certain hybrid video effects with an app on his iPad. He did a task that would have taken a large fortune in hardware and software and tens of hours of work a decade ago in less than five minutes with his finger.

It also points to another scarey word, convergence. Consider two examples of convergence, Samsung's Galaxy NX (which I don't think will be quite the barn burner Samsung hopes) and Sony's NEX 6, to name but two. It's still early days, and it will take a while for the market to sort out the winners from the losers, but it is coming with all the force of an unstoppable tsunami. It's funny how I can see all this, living as I have for the past 40 years in computer technology, but it seems to be eye opening to general photography.

I'd also like to point out an unfortunate truth; if you want to use the best tools, or even find the tools Giulio and others are talking about, then you're going to have to do it on iOS. Last night I went looking on Google Play for all the tools Giulio mentioned and didn't find a one. If you want to get on this particular train then your ticket to ride is going to be iOS, not Android. The one notable exception is Google+ and Auto Awesome, but you can get Google+ on iOS as easily as Android...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

giulio sciorio at glazer's camera

giulio sciorio at glazer's
It's been a long three weeks here in Dupont and JBLM. Tonight, on the day of my work's conclusion, I drove north to Glazer's Camera in downtown Seattle to participate in Giulio Sciorio's presentation on Hybrid Motion Street Photography.

Among the many hats that Giulio wears, one of them is the founder and chief driver of SmallCameraBigPicture.com. His primary interest is what he refers to as the hybrid aspect of contemporary digital photography, the blending of still and motion into the final visual product. His jam-packed two-hour talk tonight was an attempt to convey some of the techniques and tools he has discovered and developed, along with many examples.

The group was small and intimate, allowing Giulio to interact directly with every member of the audience. I'm not about to go over every detail of his talk,  partly because I don't understand it completely to accurately convey what he said, and partly because you should go to one of his presentations to fully appreciate what he has to say.

I did try out one of the techniques he mentioned right there in the audience, grabbing about 60 seconds or less of hand-held video and then editing it in Lightroom 5 at a later time to go along with a still of the subject. Quite frankly the video is horrible and doesn't do the subject justice due to my extremely rough execution. In particular I left the M.Zuiko 45mm on autofocus; you can see the E-M5 hunting when Giulio moved around in the frame. There's a lot of challenging learning I need to accomplish, such as: either I need to learn to put the lens on manual focus at a moment's notice (the inexpensive solution), or else spend more money on gear and get a manual focus lens. The problem with manual focus is setting it up at the right point so that the moving subject is in reasonable focus most of the time as they move around.

If nothing else the video serves as a video snapshot of how Giulio is in front of an audience, which is to say very good.


Giulio spoke to and demonstrated the tools available to the photographer to achieve hybrid motion street photography, and hybrid motion photography in general. You're no longer limited to just the PC and tools like Photoshop and Lightroom; the tools are now available on tablets and smartphones as well. And with the way that many cameras can interoperate directly with WiFi enabled tablets and smartphones, you can do your hybrid motion post processing on the spot, or just ship the photos directly to a service in the cloud and have the motion aspect handled automatically, such as with Google+'s Auto Awesome feature. Which just goes to show you can do more than shoot lame Instagram photos with your cellphone.

When you go to a presentation you can come away with two things; facts and far more importantly, motivation to use the facts you learned. I came away with a lot of both tonight. Thanks Giulio.

attentive - glazer's
intensity - glazer's

I'd like to thank Paula Thomas for alerting me to this presentation.

yes it rains in seattle
yes, it does rain in seattle


Note:

This is posting 1,500.

samsung charitably helps olympus sell cameras


Rumor has it that the kit price of the Samsung Galaxy NX mirrorless camera will be a rather lofty US$1,700. (Body-only is a measly $100 less).

Yes, a rather lofty $1,700.

What do you get for your hard-earned 1,700 simoleons? Along with the body you see above you get the Samsung incomparably made precision 18-55mm kit lens, the Samsung made 20.3 MP APS-C sensor (not all that bad, really, but one of many APS-C sensors competing in a crowded space, especially when compared against Sony's nearly invincible offerings), and the fabulously fabulous Android Jelly Bean 4.2 (nearly one year old, not the latest and freshest 4.3 JWR66Y build), with WiFi, Bluetooth 4, and 3G/4G LTE connectivity, all delivered to you through a 4 inch-plus screen that runs across the entire back of the body.

I've been wanting (some) wireless connectivity, and I've been wanting (something like) Android in a camera for a while now, but this particular implementation isn't exactly what I had in mind. Right now I can tether certain cameras from those Other Brands to my cell phone (a Samsung Galaxy S4) via WiFi and an Android app that then uses my existing cell phone wireless connectivity infrastructure (AT&T in this case) to push my exceedingly lovely photos up to the social cloudscape. There is, however, a problem with this picture (pun intended).

Most folks already have a cell phone. Folks who might consider purchasing this particular camera probably already have a smart phone with a rather rich data plan. Buying this phone is like buying and carrying a second cell phone. Except it won't make calls (unless Skype is installed, I think (you need a mike and speaker). If I had to blow $1,700 on a camera, I'd rather blow $1,700 on a Real Camera, not a freakish hybrid like the Galaxy NX. You know, like the upcoming Olympus E-M1. Or the just-released Olympus E-P5, or the just-released Panasonic GX7. Or even (heaven forfend) the new released Canon 70D.

Don't get me wrong, I love Sammy. I have a Galaxy S4 through AT&T, a Sammy Series 7 Chronos 17.3" notebook, a Sammy 44" LCD TV, and a Sammy Blueray player that also shows Netflix (and other streaming services). I have no shortage of expensive, premium Sammy devices. But the price and design of the Galaxy NX is a step or two too far in the wrong directions, both price and design wise.

No, I think I'll pass on the Galaxy NX. By-the-way, you should check out the video at Engadget, especially where the reporter is trying to use the camera around that big fat touch screen on the back.

Link: http://www.engadget.com/2013/08/29/samsung-galaxy-nx-pricing/

Monday, August 26, 2013

the ever so interesting α3000

Sony α3000 with E-mount 18-55mm kit zoom (via 1001 noisy cameras)
So Sony finally went and did it. They took the basic components of the NEX line (the E mount, the sensor, the mirrorless box, and the EVF), added them to a DSLR-alike body, and bundled it with an existing E-mount 18-55mm kit lens for the shockingly low, low price of $400. A price you don't normally see on a mirrorless camera unless its been out for 6-12 months and then put on a fire sale.

This is Sony's way of telling Canon's Rebel and Nikon's D3x00 class entry level DSLR cameras to go and take a hike. I have heard all the critics harp about how the E-mount lenses were too large for the NEX bodies, how using their APS-C sensor somehow doomed the highly innovative NEX cameras to a lingering death. And all those reports reporting how mirrorless was doomed in general.

I guess Sony decided if you can't beat them, join them. They took their box of NEX parts, mixed in a DSLR design body, and voilà! A highly affordable faux DSLR look-alike with key critical technologies, such as the hybrid focus sensor supporting phase detect as well as contrast detect auto focus, allowing for reasonably fast and accurate low light focus capture, as well as a respectable 20.1 MP resolution sensor, sitting it in between Canon (18MP) and Nikon (24MP). Yes, Nikon has a little more. But no-one will be able to tell the difference, especially the market group at which this particular camera is aimed at.

What Sony has produced is one of the world's smallest DSLR-alike cameras, profoundly challenging even the Canon 100D in size as well as every µ4:3rds DSLR-like camera from Panasonic (primarily) and Olympus, and even Samsung. What Sony has produced shows the true strength of mirrorless, particularly in new designs. The price of this kit system is remarkably low because it has none of the mirror and pentamirror crap that Canon and Nikon put in their entry-level DSLRs. Instead of looking down a small, dark tunnel with Canon and Nikon you can look into a bright EVF with the Sony, which is going to make a lot of new owners happy. What's more, you'll see a full 100% because you'll see what the sensor is seeing. With Canon and Nikon, the view is truncated (usually around 95%), which for a small sensor is a waste. Yes, seeing 100% truly matters.

I have a feeling that this is Sony's direction now with entry-level DSLR-alike cameras. The A-mount entry levels will go the way of all flesh, with the E-mount being used to fill those slots. The A-mount will evolve on its own (probably dropping the mirror and pentaprism as well) and be repositioned as the high-end enthusiast to professional offerings. It would make a lot more product sense if APS-C were the complete domain of NEX cameras, while A-mount (a.k.a. Minolta) would evolve back to essentially its roots as a 135mm (a.k.a. "full frame 35mm") digital system. And I could see Sony producing a low-end 135mm sensor A-mount system to slot where the α77 currently sits, say for around $1,500, body only. Wouldn't that tie a knot in Canon's and Nikon's fanny? Sony could pull that off if they produced a pure mirrorless solution in A-mount, where the mirror box and pentaprism are replaced with a PDAF sensor and built-in EVF.

It will be interesting to see where Sony goes with this particular line of cameras. Very, very interesting...

Saturday, August 24, 2013

will he or won't he? (buy the rumored om-d e-m1)

OM-D E-M1 with MZuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO zoom lens

About a month ago I wrote a long soppy post about how I was tired of buying cameras and I wasn't gonna buy no more new cameras, no way, no how. I managed to keep that promise through the Olympus E-P5 and the Panasonic GX7.

While the E-P5 was pretty, the design of the GX7 left me cold.

And then Olympus leaked (yes, they did) the video of the E-M1 with the Zuiko Digital 12-35mm f/2 mounted on it. I looked at the blurry video and found I could resist the siren's call.

And then, over on 43rumors, there appeared these two, much much clearer, more professionally produced photos of the E-M1 with the equally rumored 12-40mm f/2.8 constant aperture zoom.


You're probably thinking "Here it comes. Here's where he falls off the wagon and makes wild claims about buying the rumored E-M1 no matter what."

Maybe.

I certainly like the design of the E-M1. It has an incredibly attractive chiseled look that speaks volumes about its refinement. While it does indeed remind me of the film OM bodies, it also has some echoes of the E-1, especially around the "pentaprism" hump and the grip. I find this look far, far more appealing than the Canon, Nikon and Sony melted camera shape, especially their mid-to-upper range DSLRs. It is the same chiseled look I find so appealing in the E-M5, and one very important reason I purchased the E-M5 I have. The look of a camera really does factor into its purchase, along with handling, image quality, and surrounding system.

The 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens boosts the overall appeal even further. That lens is equivalent, in field of view, to a 24-80mm lens on a 135mm sized DSLR. If the rumored claims about that lens' performance are true, then this will be one of those nearly-instantly legendary Olympus lenses. I hope the release of the 12-40mm PRO lens presages a new line of high-end and high-quality, environmentally sealed lenses, finally replacing the Zuiko Digital HG and SHG lens lines.

I do have, however, a major gripe about the outward design of the zoom. Once again Olympus' changed the sculpting of the zoom and focus rings as well as the coloration and coating. Back in the past all of the OM film lenses and Zuiko Digital lenses shared the same look-and-feel, the same outward design regardless of focal lengths. You knew they were Olympus lenses and they all looked like they fit in the same distinct Olympus lens family. But not these lenses. Nearly every lens looks like it came from a different maker, or should I say, different ODM lens manufacturer somewhere in China. I wish Olympus would just make up their collective mind, pick a lens casing design and stick with it.

While the E-M1 is rumored to have PDAF capabilities on the sensor itself to support the HG and SHG lenses, I've come to the conclusion that if I'm going to buy something to replace my ZD 12-60mm and 50-200mm, I'd much rather have it in true native µ4:3rds mount lenses, rather than use the MMF-3 adapter. It will, in the end, cost less money. And the newer PRO lenses will be all new designs with all new glass. Those HG and SHG lenses are getting a bit long in the tooth. If I'm going to be spending that much money (and don't kid yourself, those PRO lenses will cost) then I might as well spend it on the latest PRO lenses.

So am I going to break my "vow" and buy and E-M1? I have no earthly idea. Everything I wrote in that earlier post still stands. My two current favorite µ4:3rds cameras, the E-M5 and GX1, still work just fine. And as I wrote yesterday, I'm still learning how to get the most out of them. And to point out the obvious, the E-M1 and the new zoom are going to be quite pricey. I can easily see the combined kit hitting ~$2,500 or more. Probably more. That probable pricing is what's tamping down any desire to commit.

If I do purchase both the body and lens, then I'm going to be selling a lot of existing glass. It might be big, but if the 12-40mm is as good as rumors have it, then I will sell every prime I own from 14mm up to 45mm. There's just no reason to keep them all in the bag. And there would be no reason to budget for either the 12mm or the newer 17mm f/1.8, even if both are one to one-and-a-half stops faster.

When I had my E-3 I found I got along just fine with the 12-60mm and 50-200mm. I had the 50mm macro for those moments when I needed macro, but they came far fewer than all those moments when I needed either of those two zooms. Two µ4:3rds bodies (the E-M1 and E-M5) and two superb µ4:3rds zoom (the 12-40mm replacing the 12-60mm, and something equally good that replaces the 50-200mm) is about all I would need. And maybe the µ4:3rds 60mm macro. And I would be right back to what I had (functionally) with my E-3 system, but with a whole lot better sensor than the E-3.

Update

Read on 43rumors that someone has already placed a pre-order for the kit (body + 12-40mm) for $2,200.

Friday, August 23, 2013

the trailing edge

red wheels
red wheels
In an age of ever accelerating camera releases, we can't keep a camera long enough before the next iteration is released and the world at large starts calling what we currently have as old and busted, while the latest releases are the new hotness. I went out tonight for my walk around Dupont, but this time, instead of taking the merely old Olympus E-M5 I took the very old Panasonic GX1 with the hoary old Panasonic 1.7/20mm mounted on it.

I took them because together they're a quite unpresupposing combination. They just blend in. They're a compact powerful photographic pair that with the right kind of light and careful attention to exposure can produce some excellent images with that je ne sais pas ce image quality. The 20mm, matched with the absolutely ancient Panasonic 16MP sensor, produces some quite detailed images that match the E-M5 in sharpness and detail.

The E-M5 and the GX1 represent a kind of µ4:3rds yin-and-yang camera pair for me. Depending on the mood I'm in, influenced in no small part by the lighting and the subject matter, I may reach for one or the other. There is no automatic decision process where I always reach for just one camera. It just all depends.

I'm slowly growing more attuned to the qualities and features of both cameras. I'm taking great satisfaction learning how to get the best out of both. And in the process they're helping me learn how to get the best out of me.
bus bay 6
bus bay 6
geared
geared
sky light
sky light

Thursday, August 22, 2013

the only constant is change

I had to change the theme of my blog because the prior Blogger theme, named Dynamic Views, heavily dependent upon HTLM5, Javascript, and CSS, was failing to properly load all the time, especially with ... the latest version of Chrome.

That's right, the latest version of Chrome wouldn't properly render Blogger's most sophisticated blog theme at all, or at least, not on any of my versions of Chrome. And I'm talking about Chrome running on Windows 8 and several Linux distributions. I don't know what was up with that, but when one part of Google (the part in charge of Blogger) isn't paying attention what another part of Google is doing (the part in charge of Chrome), such that one (Blogger) can't work properly with the other (Chrome), then it's time to make some changes on my end.

Such as picking a less web-technology-challenging (read: buggy) blog theme.

I remember when I picked Dynamic Views. It was cool and had all sorts of cool effects. It was too smooth, a way to project a "quality experience." Maybe. It's too much like everything else in today's internet world, too much about style over substance or solid unbroken execution. The more complicated it gets, the easier to foul it up, and when it's fouled up, it really annoys my readers. And when it annoys my readers, it really annoys me. Which Google seems to be on a strong trend lately; annoying its users over gratuitous and somewhat pointless over-the-top changes. I'm looking at you, gmail.

This new Blogger theme will also allow folks to leave comments again if they like. I'd gotten enough messages through other channels about how there's no way to leave a comment on the blog under Dynamic Views. That happens when the Dynamic Views fails to render properly; the fancy comment section doesn't appear.

Never again.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

sunday in seattle

seattle sunday stroll
This is my trip report for the second, and possibly last, day trip to Seattle. I would have written this earlier but I've been busy and at the end of the day I'm tired. The biggest reason I didn't write this up on Sunday evening after I got back was because I had a week's worth of dirty laundry I had to wash and dry before the start of my second (of three) weeks here in Dupont. So here I am writing about an event three days after it happened...

There's a lot to like about Seattle. It's a dense, compact, multi-level city. When I say multi-level I'm not referring to its skyscrapers, I'm referring to the steps and levels that exist from the harbor up to First and the San Francisco-like steep streets that run east-to-west through the center of the city. I had a great time walking through Seattle centered around the Seattle Art Museum and the section of First that ran roughly north and south for a good 10 blocks in either direction.

Seattle is a city filled with people. Not overly crowded, like say Downtown Disney, but a lively city with a lot of folks moving and walking around. Yes, it has a lot of vehicles, but it also has a lot of pedestrians; the drivers respect the pedestrians, allowing you to enjoy walking around Seattle.

Seattle is an outdoors city. Many local restaurants and taverns had outdoor sections for patrons to congregate, and they were full. Seattle isn't hot and muggy like Orlando is right now. The weather has been and continues to be comfortable and pleasant, the ideal let's-sit-outside-and-eat weather.

Seattle is a beautiful city with a lot of history, or at least it is to my jaded eyes. Seattle is real, not made up and "themed in" like Disney or Universal. It is a city of considerable substance and great appeal. It may have its problems (what city doesn't), but it has incredible energy and potential.

Seattle is a congenial city, at least when I was out walking. Seattle has its share of asshole drivers, and I met a few on the road, but even asshole Seattle drivers are mild compared to the variety that infest the roads in Orlando. Maybe it's the (lack of) quality tourists Orlando attracts. I've met plenty of nice natives in Orlando. I just can't stand to drive I-4... any more than I can stand to drive I-5...

Seattle is one more reminder that I'm getting older and I need to get out and do a lot more traveling and experiencing of the world before I can't anymore.
seattle sunday stroll
seattle sunday stroll
seattle sunday stroll
seattle sunday stroll
seattle sunday stroll - miners landing
seattle sunday stroll - the trumpeter
seattle sunday stroll

Everything taken with the E-M5 and the 12 to 50mm zoom.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

a little nature

dupont evening stroll

And sometimes, it's nice to find little examples of nature to please me along with the big trains. I wish I could get out to the parks. But it won't happen any time soon. Maybe Saturday before I have go work second shift I can go to one of the nearby wildlife reserves.

dupont evening stroll
dupont evening stroll
dupont evening stroll - douglas

I've been walking around with the 45mm on the E-M5. No other lens. Sometimes the 45mm makes me wish for the 75mm. The 45mm is so small and sweet, and such a nice optic to work with.

trains

dupont stroll - machine ghost
machine ghost
There are trains in my family's background. My grandfather was a lineman working in Texas in the 1930s (my father was born in Dallas before the family moved to Savannah Georgia). My great-great grandfather owned a railroad in Georgia. I've always had a fascination with trains, especially as a little kid. Before my grandmother started to fly between Atlanta and Savannah to visit us, she would travel on the Nancy Hanks II, an earlier generation diesel. My toy trains as a kid were models of diesels. I didn't care all that much for the steam models; they were too "old fashioned".

There's something about the raw horsepower of machines of this type. They don't go fast, but they're the closest thing to an irresistible force I can think of. And there's the hybrid nature of using the diesel to drive an generator to drive the electric systems that drive the wheels. My Prius is a hybrid, but nothing like this. The D-E is probably the most powerful and efficient railroad engine every built.

You might think them ugly, but I think they're beautiful and well engineered.

I caught these three over a two day period parked on a track just outside of Dupont, within walking distance from my hotel. The trains gave me a destination while out walking in the afternoons when I was done for the day at JBLM. I'd carry my E-M5 with me and experiment with various compositions. So far the photos worth showing are pretty mundane with regard to composition. But I don't care. I like them and that's all that really matters. Perhaps I'll go back and play around with the files some more in post.

dupont stroll - tough locomotive
tough locomotive

dupont evening stroll - tacoma rail
tacoma rail

Saturday, August 17, 2013

schmitz preserve park, west seattle

Schmitz Preserve Park in West Seattle was today's Flickr meetup location. It's a bit of old growth forest that was donated to Seattle 100 years ago. It didn't come into being totally untouched; there are still some stumps from a century ago when logging was permitted. It will take more centuries to completely erase those stumps, assuming that the effects of global warming don't kill what's left first.

I met with the group around 1pm local time. The only person I recognized, naturally, was Paula, who has her photo on the web due to her work with her website, her Flickr stream, and her work on Small Camera Big Picture. Once everyone gathered and the preliminaries were taken care of, we all took off into the park. As is my wont I drifted off on my own, just happy to be able to walk and not be cooped up in a room with no windows.

The park is indeed green. The further I wondered the trails into the park, the greener it became. The sunlight would slice through the canopy at certain points, imbuing the foliage with an almost mystical light that seemed to come from within as much as from without.

I noticed that the micro-climate of this bit of old growth forest is humid. I tried to climb a steep trail, only to be blocked by a fallen tree towards the top. The further I walked the trail, the denser the undergrowth and the higher I walked into the larger tree's canopy area. And the more humid the air became. I was soaked with sweat by the time I stopped and came back down towards the entrance to the park.

This shows what happens when you destroy a forest and replace it with civilization. Outside the park the air is unnaturally dry and warmer than inside the park. You can't walk through something like Schmitz and not realize what you've truly lost. I'm glad I had the opportunity to experience Schmitz, however brief.

saturday in seattle

Heading north into Seattle on I-5 with lots of locals
Today I headed north from Dupont to Seattle. The goal was a Flicker meetup with some of the locals, notably with Paula Thomas, a.k.a. gapey on Flickr. But before I met up with them I traveled into the heart of Seattle (or a bit into Seattle) to just look around a smidge. I've never been to Seattle, and I don't know when I'll be back. For today's very brief sojourn into Seattle I got off on 1st Avenue South via the West Seattle bridge, found a spot to park, and then got out and walked about.

Before I finally parked I drove north up 1st Avenue to check out what was there, and was amazed and tempted to stop multiple times with my camera by all that I saw. In particular I drove past the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and then turned south at Pike Fish Market. I'm headed back downtown early tomorrow morning to visit SAM and to walk more of 1st Avenue, and possibly down around the harbor.

In driving around, espeically back and forth on the West Seattle bridge, it dawned on my just how big the Seattle harbor really is.

I have no doubt that Seattle has been photographed to death, by far better photographers than I, but still, it is a chance to get out, stretch my legs, and enjoy the city as well as try to rise to the challenge of viewing it just a tad bit differently. A lot of the time I didn't bother to use the camera, just walking and appreciating the weather and the vistas of a new (to me) city unfold all around me.




Being in Seattle I had to see if the Starbucks coffee is any different here than elsewhere. I must report that it is a strong and bitter here in Seattle as in Orlando. I prefer Dunkin' Doughnuts and other milder brands, especially if I can brew my own coffee.

Along with the coffee I had a toasted bagel (plain), and then sat at a table to enjoy the bagel and wash it down with some of the coffee. It is a very nice Starbucks, with a touch of ambiance missing from ever other Starbucks I've been in around Orlando (there's three I know of). I noted that everybody was reading something at the Starbucks, divided between electronic and old fashioned print. The electronic folks were inside, while the old fashioned print readers were outside. I was inside with my AT&T cellphone trying to use my Google Maps to find the Flickr meetup location because Google Maps refused to load maps over the AT&T 4G network. Ironically I was able to get Google Maps working over the AT&T WiFi at the Starbucks.

Which leads me to another annoying feature loss with Google Maps; I can't download a static copy of a map on my handset. I did last year while in Toronto, and it was an incredible help navigating around that city. But it appears that feature has been removed. Google is beginning to really annoy me with their arbitrary and capricious changes to their applications and services, which reduce the usability and usable features. I used to be a strong supported of Android, but not so much any more. I think it's time for me to move on to something else besides all Google all the time.


dupont, washington


I've spent the last week in a small town next door to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, otherwise known as JBLM, by the name of Dupont. With the majority of each day spent on the base, I've had little time to myself other than to drive back and forth to the base, walk around DuPont a bit after work, eat a bit of supper, and then work in my room until I go to sleep. Then I wake up the next day and do it again. And there's the issue of adjusting to the time zone difference between Orlando and Dupont...

I've got two more weeks of this until I fly back to Orlando on the 31st.

This is not to say the work or the town is unpleasant. It's just I'm very busy. You always have hopes that when you travel you'll have time to do some of the touristy activities, but being rather south and east of Tacoma and Seattle, that won't happen, especially if you're trying to use the horribly congested I-5 that links all these places. And so I walk around in the afternoon with my E-M5, just walking for the enjoyment of walking, and taking the occasional snap.


The nice feature about Dupont is its emphasis on walking as the major form of transportation within the town instead of the automobile. There's plenty of cars around, but there's plenty of sidewalks as well. The combined sidewalk area in the section near my hotel equals that of the road that runs between them.

I know of no other town, either in Florida or any other part of the country I've traveled in, in which the walking spaces are as ample as they are in DuPont. It's an urban design that has always been spoken of over the decades, but has never been acted upon. The closest communities in central Florida that I can think of with this kind of urban design is Lake Baldwin in Orlando and certain parts of Celebration near Disney. Otherwise it's every person for themselves everywhere else. In most communities a very narrow sidewalk is considered a luxury, if you have sidewalks at all..


In spite of the width of the sidewalks, the businesses along the street have further setbacks, some of which are places to sit and eat if you're a restaurant.


This are plenty of green spaces throughout the town, such as this park. There are smaller parks scattered about as well, many of them devoted to small playgrounds for children.


And there are little touches, such as explicit signs that tell you which street crossing a button is devoted to. It's something of a guessing game in Orlando, especially across the larger roads, such as the intersection of University and Rouse near the University of Central Florida.


When the concrete gives out, there walking paths more than wide enough for bicycles, paths that are small roads in their own right, but limited to foot and bike traffic. These roads combine with other sidewalks such that I found I could walk throughout DuPont.


What's missing in Dupont? Golf courses. I hate golf. And the heat and humidity. I've been getting regular reports of Orlando's afternoon storms and morning humidity that you can cut with a knife. The weather has been so cool and pleasant in Dupont that I've had the window to my room open the entire time I've been here. I've not had air conditioning on once. Of course being on the third floor helps; I don't think someone is going to scale the side of the building to come in through my open window.

And there's something about the light in Dupont. Maybe it's because it's further north as well as far to the west. But the quality of light is different here than in Orlando. I can't say exactly why, but I like Dupont's light better than Orlando's, at least in August.