Saturday, August 27, 2005

5 Idiosyncrasies

The gauntlet having been laid down, I will respond with my list of 5 idiosyncrasies in no particular order.

1. I'm an E. In the parlance of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I am an ENTP. The E part means that I'm an extravert but it manifests itself in that I think out loud. I can sit down quietly and think through tough problems, but I will do a much better job if I can bounce ideas off of people. This also means that I sometimes say things that I don't mean just to see if they sound right when they are said out loud. Boy can that throw some people off.

2. I can be repetitive when making a point. I'll often find several ways to say the same thing just to make sure I've made my point. Sometimes I'll use analogies, sometimes I'll rephrase, sometimes I'll summarize. If I can find a different way to say it that is more precise, or more graceful I'll say try that too. Redundancy can be a virtue.

3. I can't remember shit. It's not just names (which I'm really bad with but have great coping skills). If I don't write stuff down, I'll forget it -- but if I do, I'll forget where I wrote it, or forget to go back and read it later.

4. I can't ignore music. This is why I can't listen to it when I'm working. Music is at a higher interrupt than thinking and it encompasses all of my thinking.

5. I want to do too much. I have way too many projects to work on. Photography, golf, travel, recording music, playing guitar and bass, hanging out with family and friends, writing cool software apps, blogging. How will I ever find time to get fluent in French, German and Italian, learn piano, become a great drummer, teach, start another band, write a book or even get really good at the things I'm already doing...

6. Rules are guidelines. When someone gives me a hard and fast rule, my first inclination is to look for exceptions or ways around it. Why only 5 idiosyncrasies? It's not that I'm an anarchist or don't believe in authority. If there is a good reason for it, I am totally supportive of rules, but I need to believe it is a good rule before I stick to it. I would suck in the military.

Who's next?

Macro M&Ms

M&Ms are pretty. And macro lenses are fun :)

Abstract blurry M&Ms

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Lake Placid

After New York City, we drove up to Lake Placid to visit my parents, brother and grandmother. We used to go to Lake Placid pretty regularly when I was growing up. I think one of the things I like so much about going to Whistler is that it reminds me of our trips to Lake Placid. My grandmother would rent a house that was big enough for her three children and all of the grand children. 14 in all. I vividly remember running around the Lake Placid Club resort with my cousins, spending the day down at the pool, stopping by the gift shop to buy candy and everyone dressing up for dinner and traipsing off to the big dining room at the resort each night. It was the first place I went skiing. It was where Kate said her first words and took her first steps.

In the years since, the resort went steadily down hill. Some time after the Olympics were there in 1980, it closed down and the big hotel had a series of suspicious fires. The last time we were there, there was only a small part of the once grand building left standing and this time it was all gone. Another big hole in the sky though really this is more of a hole along the shore of Mirror Lake. Leslie and I walked through the vacant lot that was once the Lake Placid Club Resort and found a bunch of remnants of the past. It was really sad to see something that was such a memorable part of my childhood completely gone.

The good news, though, is that the rest of Lake Placid is doing just fine. The downtown area (which we call "over town" since it is just across Mirror Lake) is in many ways exactly like it was back in the '70s. Some of the same shops are still there and it is just as inviting as it ever was.

Lake Placid hosted the Olympics in 1932 and 1980 - one of the few towns to ever host it twice. 1980 was one of the last times that the Olympics could be held in such a small place as well. The opening ceremonies were at the local fairgrounds (the torch is still standing there) not in some gigantic stadium. The speed skating competition was held on the High School track which was frozen over for the event. The bobsled and luge runs were left over from the 1932 event but still served their purpose well. My dad, brother and were in Lake Placid for the 1978 bobsled world championships and that was when I was really bitten by the Olympic fever. It was so much fun to hear the sleds roaring by, listening to the announcer describe their descent over the PA ("They're taking a big curve at shady.... sliding in to the zig-zag turns... they're zigging..... zagging..."). I started collecting Olympic pins that winter when there were probably 25 different pins for the whole event, not the thousands that are available today.

Lake Placid is still a big Olympic town. Many of the US Olympic teams train there year round and other events like the Ironman triathlon have adopted Lake Placid as their new home. On Wednesday, we had our own Olympic day which started at the bobsled track when we all got to ride in a bobsled for the last 1/2 of the same track I watched the championships on back in 1978. We zigged and zagged our way down and took a big turn at the end. It was very cool. Then we headed over to the Intervale ski jumping complex which is still quite active even in the summer. Freestyle ski jumpers from around the world practice there by jumping into a giant pool and they have rigged the 90m jump to allow them to practice on the big hill even in the summer. Both of these were happening on Wednesday (wet and wild Wednesdays, they call it) so we watched both of these events. I took a ton of pictures of both venues though once again, the cloudy skies made for less than ideal shooting conditions.

Perhaps he most impressive thing was one of the ski jumpers we saw on the 90m hill. She was just 11 years old but was jumping like a pro. I'm certainly not an expert but she looked great leaping off the ramp and flying down the hill, then landing and sliding out to a finish. ELEVEN YEARS OLD and jumping off the 90m hill. Dang!

We did a bunch of other fun things in Lake Placid as well, kayaking, golf, watching luge training, runs around the lake, shopping and just hanging out with family. It was a blast. Oh, and I got a few more Olympic pins for my collection :)

Remnants of the Lake Placid Club

Taking a curve


More freestyle

The 90m and 120m ski jumps


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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Hole in the Sky

Day 2 in the Big Apple. We started the day by taking a cab to the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge and then walking back to Manhattan. I am reading David McCullough's book "The Great Bridge" which is about building the Brooklyn Bridge and I just read 1776 which also has something to do with sneaking the Revolutionary Army across the East River from Brooklyn Heights to Manhattan in the middle of the night. That would have been much easier if this bridge had already been there. The bridge is a remarkablestructure, particularly for its time and the views of the city it provides are equally impressive.

As we got off the bridge, we walked down towards ground zero, aka the World Trade Center site. I had never really been there before September 11 so I didn't really have a sense of how tall the World Trade Center towers were but it is really remarkable when you get there how huge the hole their absense creates. As you walk about Manhattan, you just get used to having tall buildings everywhere but when you walk into the plaza today there is this vast gray sky and nothing to fill it. I was awestruck not just by the enormity of what had happened there almost four years ago but also by the impact this open space has today. I'm sure that once they build the new tower and memorials it will start to get back to normal but for now, it is a powerful place to visit.

After ground zero, we headed back to the hotel where Kate and Zach caught up on some sleep while Leslie and I went to the United Nations. I was psyched to try to get cool pictures of 191 flags all in a row. Boy, was I disappointed when I got there and the only flag that was flying was the UN flag itself and all of the rest of them were locked up in the boxes at the base of the flagpoles. Wah!

We did go on the tour of the facility, getting some good pictures of the General Assembly hall and Security Council chambers. The most interesting thing to me was that they let us take pictures just about anywhere in there. When we visited Washington last year, they were very picky about where we could and couldn't take pictures and even at the NBC tour, cameras were not allowed but here at the UN it was allowed -- even welcomed. Nice.

Funny side note. Leslie was wearing a shirt that says "I'm Glib" on it. A reference to Tom Cruise's national nutty on the Today show. As we walked around today, a lot of people asked what glib was. At the UN, though, people actually knew what it meant.

The hole in the sky

The Brooklyn Bridge

The Statue of Liberty from the Brooklyn Bridge

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Friday, August 19, 2005


Ah the joys of summer vacation. We flew to NYC on Thursday and arrived around 10:00 pm. Given that it was still around 7:00 in our heads, we went for a walk over to Times Square just to see what was going on. The answer is, as usual, a lot. This was Kate and Zach's first time in Manhattan (though they had been there many times in the Spiderman video game) so they were familiar with a lot of the landmarks, just not in person -- or from the ground level.

This morning, we were scheduled for a studio tour at NBC so we got up and headed over to Rockefeller Center. We walked by the Today show studio around 10:00, Kate and Zach had their picture taken with Katie Couric who was standing outside. The studio tour was pretty cool. All of the studios are smaller than you would expect, in particular Studio 8H - where they do Saturday Night Live was really crowded and even more so since they are on summer hiatus and all sorts of extra junk is stored there while they convert their studios to Hi Def. We saw the studio where Brian Williams does NBC Nightly News. Again, smaller than you think but the funny part was the "control room" behind him which is really a 1 minute video loop of the MSNBC control room shot late at night. Next time you're watching, check out the guy on the left in the orange shirt. Someone walks over to him to talk to him every minute on the minute. The magic of television :)

After the tour, we had lunch at the Carnegie Deli. This place makes Claim Jumper look downright stingy. Leslie and I split a pastrami sandwich and it was still way too big for us. It was stacked about 8 inches high with pastrami and cheese. Just nutty.

After lunch we split up. Zach and I walked around Central Park and then to the Central Park zoo. Kate and Leslie went shopping. I took a bunch of pictures at the zoo including the penguins and an extraordinarily huge... but lazy polar bear. Unfortunately, it was pretty cloudy all day so the light wasn't great, but I got a couple of good shots.

We had tickets to see The Lion King on Broadway at 8:00. Fantastic show! We used to watch the Lion King on video all the time when Kate and Zach were little. The costumes and and sets were amazing, particularly scenes like the wildebeast stampede. It was kind of like 'O' in Las Vegas where the stage is as much a part of the performance as the actors.

Here's my one complaint about New York. For a "city that never sleeps", restaurants in any place other than Times Square sure do close early. We were looking for a bite to eat after the show but we didn't want to go to the generic places right by the theater so we started walking back to our hotel at 37th and Lexington. Everything was closed. A couple of years ago, we tried to find a place to eat around midnight in the village and had the same problem. What's up with that? Where do all of these people eat when they're not sleeping?

Oh well. More tomorrow.

The lazy bear

Central Park Penguin

The view from our hotel roof

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Sunday, August 07, 2005

The full album is here.

If you look closely in the full sized version, you can read the pilot's name and see that he is looking my way. It turns out that Lcdr Craig Olson is a local, from Kirkland.

This was with the 600mm. It really captures the speed and was very crisp.

Fat Albert returning home from a jog around Lake Washington.

Blue Angels 2005

This weekend is my annual test of my camera gear. For the past 5 years, I have used the Blue Angels show at Seafair in Seattle as the true test of whether my camera and lenses are fast enough to be able to get good pictures of F/A 18 Hornets zipping by both near and far. For the first time ever, my equipment passed the test with (pardon the pun) flying colors.

You can see some of my favorite photos in this photo album but I'm sure you really want to know all of the detail, so here goes:

After last year, I bought the Canon 20D which has much more buffer space and significantly more shots per second than the Digital Rebel I had before. Then I needed a lens that was crisp enough to be able to take sharp photos even with a fast target but also long enough to be able to take pictures of the pilot's helmets as they zipped past. The Canon 100-400 f/4.0-5.6L IS USM lens did the trick. On Friday, a bunch of us went out on David's boat (er... ship) and took pictures during their practice session. Even with the motion of the boat I was able to get some really nice shots of the planes right over head.

On Saturday, I was able to borrow an absolutely insane lens. The Canon 600mm f/4L IS USM lens is a monster. It weighs nearly 12 pounds and needs one heck of a beefy tripod to be able to swivel around to follow the action. Peyman, Dan and his wife helped Zachary and me tote the equipment to the I90 bridge where we got some great shots as they came in low across the bridge. It was a lot harder to handle than the 100-400 (duh) but the pictures were amazingly sharp. Well, not all of them, but when it wasn't it was usually my fault. It is really tough to line up a lens that big and long with planes coming in at 300+ MPH but I only had about 2 shots of empty blue sky out of over 500 shots.

Finally, today I took the trusty 100-400 down to Boeing Field to watch the pre-show arrangements, take-off and landing. The sucky part is that the planes are behind a chain link fence and there is a barrier about 10 feet in front of the fence so I had to shoot through it from a distance. The nice thing is that at 400mm, you can shoot through the fence pretty reasonably. You can still tell that it is through a fence but it is pretty good. The first and sixth shots in the album are through the fence so you can see for yourself.

My biggest battle was with dust on my sensor. On Friday it was filthy and I had to remove about 6-8 spots from each picture I wanted to keep. I cleaned it on Saturday morning and there were only about 2 spots after that. Clearly, I need to do a better job of cleaning it but I am being very cautious about that. I've ordered some special brushes from Visible Dust to clean it up before my next trip.

Over the three days, I took over 1500 pictures. It is so easy to just let that shutter go and get 5-10 shots in a pass. After a significant amount of pruning and editing I am down to about 120 that I'm keeping. Digital Image Suite 2006 made it so easy to triage and then fix up the ones I liked. Those guys are great!! :)

So I think I am done with this test now. I have about all of the Blue Angels pictures I could want after 6 years of taking pictures there. Next year, I might go to Seattle and take pictures of other parts of town as they fly over. A good shot of the Space Needle or Qwest Field with a blue hornet over it would be pretty sweet.

Unless, of course, I have another lens I need to try out....

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Up, Up and Away!

Leslie told me what my birthday present is for this year. We are all going to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in October! This looks like an amazing trip where we will not only get to watch more than 700 hot air balloons take off at about the same time in a mass ascention but also get to go up in one ourselves and see the sites from above as well.

At night, they have Balloon Glows (or Glowdeos) where they keep the balloons tethered to the ground but fire their burners to light them up. This is followed by fireworks (good thing they're still tethered down...).

Over 700 balloons in all shapes and sizes spread out against a crystal clear desert sky. This should be a great trip with some amazing pictures to show for it.

Woo hoo!