Friday, May 30, 2008

Up the Hill

And to top off my already wonderful day, I was able to get in a bike ride today. Weather was warm, and the winds were mostly calm... I figured I'd go climb Lookout Mountain, and check out a new route I found to get to the approach. My previous route had me going through some pretty busy roads. Turns out this new route is MUCH better. I also had the chance to put new batteries in my Heart Rate(HR) strap, and cadence sensor. This would be my first ride in CO where I could actually see my HR after a good ride.

Overall, I think I'm still not in very great shape. It wasn't hard for me to push my HR up there, so I decided to try and cap myself at 180. No need to kill myself. Also found out that my conductivity still drops as skin temp and moisture decrease. I got some erroneous readings while descending, which has been typical of the technology ever since I started using it. I also think it might partly have to do with fit. The strap seems a little big for my narrow skinny self. Oh well.

For those of you interested in the details of the ride, you can get 'em over at Motionbased. Hopefully by the end of the summer I should be in good shape. This coming monday marks the start of my bike commuting to work. It's going to take me to long to get to work from home (I'd have to leave about 2 hours earlier) so I'll be driving about 1/3 - 1/2 way, parking at a park-n-ride bus stop and cycling in the rest of the way, leaving about 20-25 miles to work. So getting in upwards of 50 miles at least 3 times a week should add up eventually I figure.

White kucklin' the Yoke

I had the privilege this morning of taking a ride with a friend of mine up in a cessna 172s. I certainly wasn't going to turn down that offer. What a great experience. I met him early in the morning, and was able to assist him with some of his pre-flight checks. Its pretty cool to see everything you're supposed to go through before you take off. Everything from checking flight surface function, to manually rolling the plane back and forth looking for bald patches on the wheel.
Since it was just him and I, I was assigned co-pilot duties and helped with the in-flight type checks too. There are checks for taking off, cruising, landing, and all that jazz. It was very eye opening.

From First Flight

The above picture is of us right before take off, ready to go... Throttle up! I have to admit, I was anticipating what I would think of the whole experience from the moment I woke up this morning. Though, interestingly, my expected reaction was not how I really reacted. I figured I'd "geek out" over all the dials, guages, knobs, and other stuff to play with, and would probably sit there with a smile on my face for the whole trip. Instead, I was overwhelmed. There were a few things I could figure out, altimeter, heading, "Plane level thingy." But much of the rest was a mystery. Okay, yes, I know what the radios and all that stuff where, but I was at a loss for being able to explain what any of the read-outs and buttons meant. The performance of my pilot was excellent. He demonstrated mastery of all the knobs and buttons, and communicated well with the ground/flight operations staff.

From First Flight

Eventually, I was offered a chance to take a hold of the flight controls and fly around. You can see from the photo above, I had a solid death grip on the yoke. Talk about a rush! Its deffinately a little more difficult than driving a car... There's this whole 3rd dimension you have to deal with. I have no clue how I did, relative to any sort of measure, but we didn't crash! :) I haven't learned to Tao of flying in my first run thats for sure. I kept telling myself to relax, but it wasn't working. Since this was all VFR flying (visual) there's plenty to do, namely keep an eye out for all other aircraft. No radar on this little guy. I was flying southbound right along the start of the mountains. Plenty of winds there to knock the plane around. My pilot told me to just go with it, and proceeded to demonstrate the maneuverability of the aircraft by pushing the yoke down, giving us a -1.5 G fall. I would have loved to see my face when he did that. Oh well. Speaking of maneuver's we also preformed some power on, and power off stalls (not while I was flying it, of course). That was fun, and very informational. He was able to explain what has happening, and going on, and how to fix it.

All in all, a great experience, and I'd definitely go up again, given the opportunity. If you are wondering if Flight School is in my future, well, if I could afford it, and had enough free time, yeah, I think it would be cool. I still have more interest in flying a helicopter though. That might change though, if I ever have the chance to go up in one. Closest I get is my little electric RC helicopter.

From First Flight

On the way home from the airport, I happened to notice this "test sign." Just thought it was funny, and figured I would share. You can see a few more photos that were snapped (with comments) during my flight time here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Review: Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers

I've recently been following many different blogs of various photography gurus in hopes to become better at taking wonderful photos of all the various places I'm lucky enough to visit. Several of the blogs I read often from published professional photographers. One such blog is the photoblog 2.0, by Herold Davis. I've recently got a copy of his most recent book, and found it very useful... Here's my review of it, also posted on

Being fairly new to the arena of digital photography, beyond point and shoot cameras, I often found myself underwhelmed with a lot of the pictures I have been taking. I understood what all of the settings on my camera did, and what their effects on the resulting image where, but things just weren't coming together for me. This book has helped me understand that digital photography, really is a process. From choosing the scene, and exposing for the portions that are important, all the way to loading the RAW image into processing software to put on the “finishing touches.” While it doesn't teach you how to go out and shoot an award winning photo, it does give you the knowledge you need to correctly use your camera and computer as a tool to create that photo.

Each Chapter of Mr. Davis' book reads very well, and provides interesting dialog that doesn't seem to speak over my head. It's written in a clear concise manner that goes into just enough detail to help you understand why each step is important. I'm sure that each chapter in this book could probably be a book on its own. There are times that I found myself wishing to know more about a particular topic in the book, but adding such content to it would probably take away from the flow as a whole. The many sidebars in the book give you that extra bit of information you may be looking for, or just urge you to do more research on your own.

In my opinion, the best part of this book is all the wonderful examples that Mr. Davis provides in his discussion. For every concept, idea, and method that is discussed in the book there is at least one, if not multiple images detailing the application of each. Each image has an explanation of why the particular setting in discussion was chosen, along with all of the other settings used to compose each image. Simply browsing through the images and their narrative alone is inspirational and fun.

I often found myself reading this book with my camera on one side of me, playing with each setting as I read about them, and a book about my particular camera on the other side. I would often take breaks between each chapter to explore the ramifications of changing each setting on my camera and learning how it affects different outcomes.

All in all, I would say this book is aimed at people exactly like myself. New to photography as something more than just a point and shoot for the family scrap book, and eager to learn more. It contains just enough detail to help you understand what's going on inside the little box without boring you, and provides real life examples the illustrate them. It provides a window into the mind of a professional photographer willing to share important informational details into what makes a picture good.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Easing into things?

So those of you who have known me for a while, have probably figured out that when I decide to do something, I usually don't start out to small, and work my way up. At least not too much. Well, this past Thursday was no different. Our office had a small, inter-department run / race. Some how I was cajoled into participating on a team with my fellow Information Security comrades. I figured, I used to run in Highschool and College, and I remembered that I was pretty decent at it (especially the 400m). I shouldn't have to much of a problem pushing myself through a 7.5k (4.65 miles) run. I realized I haven't run anything serious since 1998, but I've been biking... granted not much since I moved, but hey... I know how to suffer... I could do it.

Well, Here's me after the 1st of 3 laps around the 1.55 mile loop. The first .75 miles seemed pretty good, but I suddenly hit a wall. I was keeping up with others until then. This is a classic stunt of mine. Those of you who had the joy of riding bikes with me can probably figure out that this is a common practice of mine. I wasn't feeling too great here in the photo, but at least my head was up and I was looking where I was going.

Coming around on the second lap... Not looking so good, and feeling worse. My eyes are fixed in the ground in front of me... but the fact that both feet are off the ground at the same time shows I was still actually running. Actually, I was just trying to make it look good for the camera, and barely succeeding. Uhhhgggg, one more lap to go.

So I did actually finish, and here's a photo of my team... the other two guys carried our team well, and are great motivators. I'd run with them again any day... well, I'll run behind them again at least. Overall though, I was happy with what I did. I was aiming for 10 minute miles as a goal, and I was just slightly over. The trick now is to keep running. The problem is that I currently can barely move. I can't say I ever remember having delayed onset muscle soreness this bad. Going to try and get out for a bike ride tomorrow to see if I can flush anything out of my legs.

So have I learned anything? Probably not. I knew I would hurt afterwards (not this much though). Will I try to ease into something in the future? Maybe, but doubtful. I stopped learning new tricks a while ago, but I fear my aging body my demand I treat it better. I guess the thing now though, is keep up with some kind of running / jogging so all this pain doesn't go to waste. I have some nice trails (with massive hills) just down the street that lots of people exercise on. I suppose I should too. Just as soon as I can comfortable stand up again.

In retrospect of the whole thing though, it was certianly worth it. The feeling you get after a run (commonly refered to as a runners high) was something I had long forgotten, and certainly welcomed back. For those of you out there thinking about exersizing to get into shape, stop thinking and go do! You'll be better for it.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

5 years ago

It's hard to believe that its been 5 years now since my son was born, in some ways. In other ways it seems like it should have been 10 years ago. Being a dad is probably the most difficult job I've ever had, and ever will have, but the fun times I have with my family seems to offset even the most difficult things. Happy 5th Birthday son.

The day after I returned home to Denver from Antarctica, and Chile, we decided to goto the local zoo. I turned out to be a great day, and I had some fun material to use as subjects during the last day of rental of the Canon L series lens I took down south with me. One of the exhibits was a Lorikeet aviary, where you could hand feed them some fruity, sugary syrup. It smelt good enough that I wanted to eat it, though I didn't. Overall, we had a great day, and I took lots of pictures, some of them good. Some of them not so good. I've decided that taking pictures of animals at zoos isn't my favorite thing. There's something inherently wrong with a picture of an animal with a brick wall in the background. I guess that's where photographic creativity has to come into play.

Spring time in Colorado has so far been fun. The wildlife is coming out, namely the birds. We've had a pair of Kestrels (above) hanging around our yard, as well as a bunch of Jays. Its cool that these guys sit around in our trees long enough for me to get a shot of them. The shot above was taken with my 100-300mm lens, fully extended to 300mm. Had to crank the ISO up to get shutter speed fast enough to eliminate camera shake, though I was satisified with how it came out. The birds also been leaving dead rodent carcases around our yard too, which I find quite amusing.

It's nice to see such a brown dry place turn green. I don't know how long it will stay green, but it has me looking forward to summer hiking and biking. Hopefully I can get myself back into enough shape to handle a 50 mile round trip bike commute to work. Here's to hoping. I feel like I've slipped so much since I've moved. I can't believe I was racing my back last year plus a month, this time.