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“Wait, isn’t that…?”

May 12, 2016, 1:01 PM

Imagine my surprise to sit down at my computer this morning to check Facebook, and be greeted by this image from ABC affiliate WJLA:

DAY 15 OF RAIN: ARK NEARLY COMPLETE

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A few more thoughts about “Scott’s House”…

April 24, 2016, 8:05 PM

Today, I released the “Scott’s House” set in Photography, which covers the visit that Elyse and I made to the former home of Scott Alan Bauer back in March.  While the photo set gave a somewhat dry presentation of what Elyse and I found in the house, the preparation of that set raised a lot of questions that I will likely never get answers to, mostly revolving around the mystery of what exactly happened to this family.

From what I could tell, the house, in its final form, was home to only one person: Scott Bauer himself.  Only the master bedroom contained a bed, one bedroom had no furniture in it to speak of, and the third bedroom had clearly been converted to an office at some point.  In the bedroom-turned-office, some of the paperwork made me think that this home, leading up to its abandonment in late 2002, was not as happy as it once was.  One of the documents was a statement from Howard County social services regarding past due child support.  So it would appear that a divorce had occurred, and things had not been going well since.  Likewise, on an MVA notice, Bauer had insurance and emissions violations regarding his truck.  Makes me wonder if he had major financial problems in his final years at the house.

In any case, what caused Bauer to ultimately abandon the house and all of his belongings, as well as what happened to him afterward, remains a mystery.

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Exploring an abandoned house…

March 20, 2016, 7:21 PM

This past Thursday, Elyse and I explored an abandoned house in the Elkridge area of Howard County.  This was my first “real” venture into urban exploration, and also the first “operational” photo shoot with the new Nikon SLR.  I have had at least a casual interest in urban exploration for a long time, but never did a full-on exploration before.  The closest things to urban exploration that I had done prior to this were visiting the buildings on Afton Mountain on several different occasions (but not penetrating them very much, if at all, on any of these occasions), and also that relatively brief visit to Lorton Reformatory last year.  Elyse, on the other hand, has a good bit of experience over a number of years with urban exploration.  So I was in good hands here.  After all, Elyse clearly looked and acted like she knew what she was doing in Lorton, while I was more the clueless sidekick, as I didn’t know what I was doing, and was more or less unprepared for that one.

This time, I was ready.  I had a headlamp like Elyse had at Lorton along with a few other flashlights, plus, remembering the strong smell of mold at Afton Mountain, I brought a respirator that I used to carry in my backpack to protests back in my activism days, but never used in that context.  I also brought some rubber gloves so that I wouldn’t have to actually touch anything with my bare hands.  I didn’t know what had been growing on anything at that house, so the gloves gave me more freedom to actually touch things that I wouldn’t otherwise be willing to do.

We had to do a short, but mostly uphill, hike to get to the house, and here it is:

The house.

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Testing out a new camera…

February 28, 2016, 2:44 PM

So I finally got a new camera, with its arriving at the beginning of this month.  I got a Nikon D5300, and got a zoom lens along with it, as well as a new camera bag (i.e. I’m not going to use Big Mavica‘s old bag anymore).  I didn’t test a D5300 when I tested a whole bunch of cameras with Elyse, because it wasn’t available.  But I tested a number of different models around it.  While this one did everything that most SLRs do, this one also had a fliparound screen like the D5500 that I tested, but being an earlier model, didn’t have the price tag of the D5500.  It also had built-in GPS, which I find extremely useful, and that none of the cameras that I tested earlier had.

In case you weren’t aware, I contribute quite a bit to Panoramio.  You know how you see photos in Google Earth and Google Maps?  Panoramio is how a lot of those photos make their way in there.  You upload photos, and then you tag the location on a map.  The problem comes when I’m shooting a lot of photos in an area that I may not be very familiar with.  I’m talking about things like my trip to Richmond in 2013, various trips to Chicago, High Rock, and the like.  In those cases, the way I would typically shoot photos would be to take whatever photos with my real camera, and then grab my cell phone and take a quick reference shot.  The reason for this was that the phone had GPS, but my real camera didn’t.  That worked well enough, but it created extra work both onsite and in post-production.  Onsite, I had to take an extra photo with a different camera, and ensure that GPS had gotten a lock on the position.  Then in post-production, I had to coordinate the two photos, reading the tag on one photo in order to manually place the photo that’s actually getting published in the right spot.  If it sounds like a pain, it’s because it is.  Now that my real camera has GPS on it as well, everything has a location tag on it, which makes my life that much easier.

Also, since it’s come up before, a point of clarification: just because the camera has onboard GPS does not mean that the camera will give you directions.  GPS is a network of satellites operated by the United States government that provides location and time information to users with a GPS receiver.  It is not inherently a navigation system, though the way most people talk about it, you would think that it was.  Just thought I’d put that out there.

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Getting a “big boy” camera…

January 20, 2016, 1:44 PM

Last Thursday was a lot of fun.  I got together with Elyse, with the intent of getting some sample material to evaluate for the future purchase of a new camera.  This new camera will be a digital SLR, as I am quite confident that I have outgrown the “prosumer” level of camera that I have operated on since Big Mavica in 2002.  I discovered that in 2014 when I photographed Brighton Dam and Triadelphia Reservoir with a borrowed Nikon Coolpix P510.  The photos with that camera came out well enough, but other than a few extra pixels because of the higher resolution on that camera, I didn’t get any better features than my existing camera.

But first, after Elyse and I got together, we had lunch at Jimmy John’s.  I had a sandwich, and Elyse just had one of the day-old rolls that they sell:

Elyse eats one of the day-old rolls.

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I feel like I was shooting the photos for those motivational posters…

October 25, 2015, 11:12 PM

This past Thursday, I went up to High Rock, which is a rock outcropping on South Mountain in Pen Mar, Maryland, in Washington County near the Pennsylvania border.  It reminds me a little bit of both Humpback Rock in Virginia, and the Aqueduct Bridge stub in DC.  Like Humpback Rock, it’s high on a mountaintop, however, unlike Humpback Rock, you can drive up to it and park right next to it, rather than parking down below and then hiking a mile straight uphill.  Like the Aqueduct Bridge, it’s covered in graffiti and a popular overlook point, but unlike the Aqueduct Bridge, it’s a natural feature rather than manmade.  I went up there with the intent of scouting out the location for a potential future set for the Photography section on Schumin Web.  I knew it had a view, but I wasn’t so sure about it.  I arrived just before 5:00 PM, and stayed for about an hour and a half.  While there, I let my curiosity lead the way, as I checked things out at the site and just kind of followed what I found interesting.  I don’t know which intrigued me more: the formation itself, the view, or the graffiti.

So here’s what some of the take from this outing looked like:

View from High Rock facing approximately north, towards Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. The bit of stone in the foreground is actually manmade. As much as I can tell, this is some of what remains of an observatory that once stood at this site.
View from High Rock facing approximately north, towards Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.  The bit of stone in the foreground is actually manmade.  As much as I can tell, this is some of what remains of an observatory that once stood at this site.

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“He offered her the world…”

October 14, 2015, 11:50 PM

I’m always surprised to see how some of my photos are used.  I recently got a membership with Pixsy, which skims the Internet for potentially infringing photo usages, and then allows the user to go after infringing users to get them to pay for their usage.  One photo that surprised me as a frequent candidate for infringements was this one from 2003:

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While hunting for a photo…

August 29, 2015, 9:29 PM

Yesterday, I was hunting through my archives to find a photo to show a friend.  My photo archives are arranged by subject and by date.  If I took a bunch of photos in a single day, then all of those photos typically go into a folder marked with the general subject of the photos and the date.  One-off photos usually get dated, marked with their subject, and get put in a folder with all of the one-off shots for the month.  The photo that I was looking for depicted a bus sign after the normal text for that route had changed.  So I knew what it was, and knew what the photo looked like.  I also knew that the photo was a one-off, since I took the photo at Glenmont on the way home from work.  However, I didn’t remember exactly when I took it.  I had an approximate range for when I took it, but didn’t quite know.  So that meant that I needed to hunt.

First of all, I was successful in finding the photo.  Here it is, dated September 24, 2012:

Route Y5, destination MedStar Montgomery Medical Center

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“I am always so thrilled when people realize how much better a place can look with just a few simple changes!”

October 12, 2014, 12:07 PM

This past week, I finally finished the work that I’d been doing at my house for the past two months.  The way I figured, since there was a period of time while the various processes related to onboarding at the new job were still coming together, I might as well take the time to finish a few things on my to-do list.  It’s funny, however, what inspires a person to decorate.  Back in July or so, my friend Suzie described my house as “a hot mess”.  I thought about that over the next week or so, and came to the conclusion that she was right.  And I admit – it was looking a little bit too “lived in” at the time, with a lot of unfinished business all over the place.  The closets were not being used to their full potential, I had a pile of stuff on the counter between the kitchen and the living room, the table was full of junk, and there were things in visible locations when they should have been in closets.

I started out on August 5, doing what I called the “demolition” phase.  This was where I cleaned out the closets and determined what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to get rid of.  It’s amazing how much junk can fit in a one-bedroom apartment.  I ended up getting rid of a ton of stuff.  I had long-outdated information about the 2008 Democratic National Convention from the Unconventional Action consulta that occurred in January 2008.  I had the banner from the black bloc at the National Equality March from October 2009.  I had an expired bottle of generic Solarcaine from the time when I got sunburned at Splash Down Waterpark in June 2008.  I also had a carton of fabric softener from 2007 that I had never opened, where all the liquid had been absorbed by the carton itself, leaving a blob of whatever solids were in the softener at the bottom.  No, seriously.  Take a look:

Yeah, I believe that the light parts of the carton were supposed to be white...  The blob of fabric softener solids in the bottom of the carton.

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Back to Cumberland…

October 11, 2014, 7:56 PM

On October 2, exactly a year and a half after my first road trip to Cumberland (where I produced a photography set), I was back out that way again.  The purpose of this trip was to explore the downtown area a little bit more deeply, make some photo spheres, and check out a few things that I had missed the last time I was out there for one reason or another.

I had two planned stops on the way out.  The first was at the westbound South Mountain rest area and welcome center on Interstate 70.  Besides its being a logical spot to take a break, I wanted to get some photo spheres while there, plus I wanted to get updated photos of something that really bothered me on the last trip to Cumberland.  In the Journal entry for the April 2013 trip, I discussed an errant apostrophe on the signage directing motorists to parking, where “RV” was pluralized using an apostrophe.  The rule of thumb when it comes to pluralization in English, by the way, is that an apostrophe is never used to form a plural.  Ever.  I filed a request about this with SHA, which became case #SR-0198410, in early May of this year, to get it fixed, referencing the photo from 2013.  I heard back from SHA a few days later, where they promised that they would have the apostrophes removed by the end of the month.  When I was through that area again in mid-June, I swung by the eastbound rest area (opposite side) to check to see if they kept their promise.  They did, as they scraped the apostrophe off of the sign.  This left a somewhat inelegant result:

The apostrophe is gone, though there was still some odd spacing, but I could live with this.

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Categories: Cumberland, Photography

Google Camera is my new favorite toy…

September 6, 2014, 12:38 PM

I recently went on a trip down to Stuarts Draft to see my parents and sister, as well as my sister’s friend Vickey, and I came armed with a new app for my Android device: Google Camera.  If you’ve never used it before, Google Camera is a camera app that will function as a regular camera plus do a few other things.  Besides shooting regular still photos and videos, it will also do a lens blur effect, it helps in shooting panoramic photos, and it also shoots “photo spheres”, also called “spherical panoramas”.  That last one is what I took for a spin on this trip.  Those are the ones that I can post on Panoramio, and I believe that they go in as Street View (but don’t quote me on that just yet, because they haven’t fully propagated to Google Maps/Earth as of this writing).

Shooting them is surprisingly easy.  Here’s a screenshot of the app in action, taking a photo sphere at my place:

Google Camera app in action

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So I found an app that lets you take stereo photos…

July 16, 2014, 10:24 PM

Last night, I found an app called 3D Camera for my Android phone.  The idea behind the app is that you take two photos a few inches apart from each other, you line them up, and then the app makes a stereo image for you to look at.  Depending on how you shoot them, they can come out as either crossview or parallel.  I tested it out late last night on a Wheelock 7002T, and came up with this:

Wheelock 7002T, taken on top of my computer
(By the way, I strongly recommend clicking each of the images on this entry to view them at full size in the lightbox)

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Acceptance testing on a waterproof camera enclosure…

July 5, 2014, 9:33 PM

First of all, I had fun at the Outer Banks.  I’m going to leave it at that for now, though, because the whole trip is going to become a photo set for Life and Times, and so it’s going to come out, but the “extended Journal entry” treatment in Life and Times is what will do it the most justice.

That said, in preparation for the trip, I bought a waterproof camera enclosure, with the intention of taking photos in the water.  The idea behind the waterproof camera enclosure was to get Duckie, my Vivitar ViviCam 6200W, out of the picture.  Duckie, to put it nicely, has a very limited operating envelope.  It’s because the ISO is too low, as 200 is as high as it goes.  That means that when you take that camera underwater, you have to hold the camera very still to get clear pictures, unless you want to use the flash (which I don’t always want to do).  It became quite frustrating, and led to a lot of bad photos.  Basically, submerged handheld photos were a no-go under the vast majority of conditions.  It worked well enough outdoors and in daylight on land, but the pictures taken under those conditions have a slight red tinge to them, which is a pain to try to correct.  Plus it has no optical zoom, and the buttons were a bit stiff, with the latter’s making the camera’s use somewhat cumbersome.

Thus I got this to replace Duckie:

The new waterproof camera enclosure with my point-and-shoot camera inside.

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Categories: Cameras, Friends, Swimming

I completely nerded out on Sunday, and it was awesome…

June 24, 2014, 10:21 PM

I went out on a miniature road trip on Sunday, and I had a blast, taking photos of anything that vaguely interested me.  It was more or less spur of the moment, when you consider that for what ended up being a photography trip, I only had my cell phone, and then, I didn’t bring my spare battery along.  Thus it was a bit of a continual battle to keep a sufficient charge on the phone with only the car charger, but somehow, I managed, and the results came out pretty well despite my leaving my real camera at home.  The way this trip came about is that I wanted to go up to and explore Westminster, Maryland.  I’ve been wanting to explore Westminster for a while, ever since my father took an overnight business trip to Westminster a few years ago and I didn’t find out about it until it was too late in the day to go up and visit, because Dad didn’t realize that Westminster was as close to me as it was.  That sucked, because I would have totally gone up if I had known.  I’ll gladly travel an hour or so on relatively short notice to hang out with family.

So early Sunday morning, I just decided to go up and see what there was.  I like doing these sorts of trips, because it’s basically a scouting trip, seeing if there’s anything that I want to explore and photograph in more detail in the future.  Getting to Westminster is pretty easy: turn onto Georgia Avenue (MD 97) and take it all the way to Westminster.  Seriously, it’s that easy.  I got to Westminster just as the sun was coming up.  After a quick drive through the main commercial area along Route 140, I located the downtown area.

The downtown area in Westminster has what I consider an unusual feature: a single-track rail line for the Maryland Midland Railway running diagonally through the main intersection in downtown.  Main Street goes one way, and Liberty Street and Railroad Avenue (both MD 27) go the other way, and the rail line runs diagonally across the intersection.  I would have loved to have seen a train come through here while I was in the area, but unfortunately, I did not get to see that this time.

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Car show!

April 20, 2014, 8:34 PM

On Saturday, April 12, I got together with my friend Matthew, and we went to a car show in the Sterling area.  I’ve always enjoyed a good car show.  I used to go with my father when he would bring his Mustang to car shows in the 1990s.  I met Oliver North at a car show at Wright’s Dairy Rite in Staunton back when he was running for the Senate in 1994, in fact.

Thus I was quite pleased to go to this show with Matthew.  I had been to this show once before, in 2012, and had a lot of fun, but for whatever reason (possibly related to the ongoing site conversion at that time) never really featured all of the neat cars that I saw, save for one.  I’m not about to miss this time, because I saw some really neat cars.  I also remembered what I like when photographing cars.  I like seeing show cars as they might appear while being driven.  Thus I like it when the hood is kept down.  For whatever reason, I’m not that interested in looking at the engine.  And then if it’s a convertible, I love seeing the top down.

That said, this is not the way I like to see a car when it’s on display:

Ford Mustang with the hood way up

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Categories: Events, Matthew, Photography