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Taking my photography to the skies…

October 6, 2020, 10:37 AM

I suppose that it was inevitable.  When Elyse and I were out meeting up with someone in Baltimore back in March, they had a drone device that they used for a lot of aerial photography, and they showed it off to us.  I loved that thing, a DJI Mavic Pro 2, and they gave me all of the information about it so that I could do my own research.  I wanted one of those things, but I couldn’t justify a $2,000 price tag for a drone that nice when I had zero experience flying a drone, and didn’t have a good idea about what I wanted to do with it.  So I sat on the idea for a while, occasionally going on Amazon to drool over the drone that I knew I couldn’t justify to myself.  Then I found a somewhat lower-end drone, the DJI Mavic Mini.  A $500 price tag was easier to justify, and that price also told me two things: first, it was expensive enough that it would do what I wanted it to do, but also cheap enough to be a good, accessible starter drone.  I asked the experts on Reddit, and the consensus was that it was a good entry-level drone, and it could do everything that I was looking for it to do.  So I went on Amazon and bought it.

One thing that I got a quick crash course in after I bought this was the regulatory environment for drones.  Basically, you can’t just take this thing anywhere and fly it however you want.  Like the roads, you share the airspace with other users, and as a drone pilot, in the big hierarchy of pilots, you are down where the dog lifts its leg.  And that’s how it should be.  I’m flying an unmanned vehicle, and as such, my feet are firmly on the ground at all times.  If something goes wrong with my aircraft while I’m flying, the worst thing that happens is that I lose my drone, as well as all of the material that’s stored on the card.  I might be unhappy about losing my drone and the photos stored on the card, but no one’s going to die should this thing fail mid-flight.  Compare to a real pilot, who’s actually up in the sky with their aircraft, and if something went wrong there, there is a very real possiblity that someone could be seriously injured or lose their life.  Therefore, I quickly learned that you have to do your homework before flying.  Thankfully, there is a phone app called B4UFLY that will tell you what restrictions are in place in different areas.  Right offhand, I live in the Washington, DC area, and as such, there is a lot of restricted airspace there, because Washington.  In short, don’t even think about flying in DC, and you probably don’t want to fly in the suburbs, either.  Right around my house, I also have restrictions because there’s a small airport (GAI) nearby.  Once you get out of the immediate metro area, though, it’s fairly wide open, though national parks are a blanket no-go.  But outside of that, there’s plenty of stuff to do.

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Stack ’em up?

April 1, 2020, 1:25 AM

So my latest experiments with photography have been with stacking exposures.  For those not familiar, the general idea behind stacked exposures is to take several short exposures instead of one long exposure, and then “stack” them on top of each other in order to simulate a photo with a longer exposure.  It is useful in situations where a true long exposure is impractical, such as when shooting in daylight.  The way it’s done is that you take all of the shots that you intend to stack out in the field, preferably using a tripod and a remote control for the shutter, and then do the stacking at home.

Whenever I test a new technique, I typically will shoot photos of something that I’ve photographed before.  This way, I already know what the photo is supposed to look like, and I know what works as far as angles go.  That eliminates a few variables so that I can just focus on the technique.  In this case, I did two field trips.  One was out to Point of Rocks and along Route 7 in Virginia and ultimately into DC, and the other was to Burnt Mills Dam off of US 29 in Montgomery County.  The Virginia trip was mostly for nighttime shots, and the Burnt Mills trip was for daytime shots.

At Point of Rocks, Elyse went trainspotting at the nearby MARC station while I wandered around with my tripod to photograph some stuff.  My focus was on the Point of Rocks Bridge and the Potomac River running under the bridge.  My focus was mainly on smoothing out the water.

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Meet Woomy…

September 8, 2019, 10:09 AM

In going through what I’ve posted, I’ve realized that I’ve mentioned some things but never fully explained them.  I typically realize this when these things are slated to appear again or are otherwise planned to be referenced, but discover that there has not been a proper introduction.

In this case, meet Woomy, one of Elyse’s “critters”:

Woomy, on our trip to Scranton in October 2018

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Buses, fire trucks, ambulances, trains, and… moo cows?

October 19, 2017, 11:17 PM

This past Saturday, Elyse and I got together with our friend Dave, and we went to the Public Safety Open House held at the new Montgomery County Public Safety Training Academy on Snouffer School Road near Montgomery Village.  Then we went out to Middletown and visited South Mountain Creamery, which is a dairy farm that sells products on site.

The Public Safety Open House event was a lot of fun.  There was a little bit of everything for us to see there.  We started out by looking at a row of Ride On buses.  Apparently, this facility is used to train Ride On operators, because there is, more or less, one or two of each type of bus that Ride On operates located at the facility.  We saw two Gillig hybrids, an Orion VII CNG, a New Flyer C40LF, and two Gillig 30-footers.

Ride On 5822, a New Flyer C40LF.
Ride On 5822, a New Flyer C40LF.  We all commented on how the one panel on the front was so faded.  No idea why.  I speculated at the time that it might be from the diagonal parking at the old Gaithersburg division’s causing sunlight to hit that corner more than others, but after thinking some more about it, while certainly plausible, I don’t know if I’d necessarily go with it now.

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A lovely little road trip to West Virginia and back…

July 23, 2017, 3:53 AM

This past Wednesday, Elyse, Aaron Stone, and I took a little road trip to Jefferson County, West Virginia.  There was some stuff for all of us, as Aaron wanted to see some stuff that Elyse and I had seen before, I wanted to see some stuff that I had spotted in some Instagram pix, plus wanted to get newer photos of some areas where I had been before.

But first, food.  We designed our trip to take us to Sunshine General Store, which is this little hole in the wall restaurant north of Brookeville, at the intersection of Georgia and New Hampshire Avenues.  Their hamburgers are to die for – thick and juicy.  However, you really have to know that they’re there, because at first glance, the place looks abandoned.

After we had our hamburgers, we headed over to Brighton Dam.  The intent was to get some new photos of the dam, but much to my surprise, a dam rehabilitation project was underway, and the park where you got the best views of the dam was closed in order to accommodate the construction work.  The level of Triadelphia Reservoir was much lower as well, presumably because of the dam project, and from the looks of the now-exposed land, it had been lower for quite a while:

Triadelphia Reservoir, with the lower water level.  Compare to the water level in April 2014.
Triadelphia Reservoir, with the lower water level.  Compare to the water level in April 2014.

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So the apartment is clean from top to bottom…

December 28, 2008, 2:09 AM

I just finished giving my apartment a thorough cleaning ahead of my trip to Stuarts Draft for a week. I did the rugs, I did the floors, I dusted, I completely cleaned the kitchen, and I completely cleaned the bathroom. It was a long ordeal, but the place looks great now!

Most bothersome, though, was cleaning the carpets. I had Mom’s shampooer, and I went the whole nine yards. I picked everything up, moved furniture around, and everything. I had my coffee table up-ended and in the kitchen, if that tells you anything. Bedroom, hallway, and then living room. The living room was perhaps the most challenging. First I had to make sure not to shampoo myself into a corner, but also what to do once the carpets were done.

\Determining what to do once the carpets were finished was actually pretty exciting. I grabbed my coat, my hat, my iPod, and my phone, and took to the Sable for a few hours late at night. Makes me glad that gas is cheaper again, because I finally got to explore a bit. It’s time to see what’s beyond Silver Spring. So I took a small late-night road trip. Previously, I’d only been on Georgia Avenue as far as Norbeck Road, which is not all that much further north than my street. Now, I followed Georgia Avenue a long way. I went through Olney, seeing roughly where Montgomery General Hospital is (the Y bus’s northern terminus), and continued, finding out that Georgia Avenue narrows down to two lanes once you clear Olney. Olney also appeared to be a lot smaller than I expected. I expected a larger town, but there you go. And then beyond Olney, Georgia Avenue reminded me a lot of various back roads in Augusta County, Virginia, where I used to live. Lots of curves, and two lanes. For the first time in a long time, I broke out the high beams.

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And the second day of the consulta went equally well.

January 28, 2008, 8:24 PM

The second day of the consulta went just as well as the first. We had a slightly smaller crowd, but it still worked. We couldn’t get into the Frederick Cultural Arts Center right off the bat on Sunday due to the fact that a church had services in there at 11:00, so we started out at the Frederick Coffee Company for the first hour and some. There, we discussed affinity groups, protest tactics, and even “protest fashion”, which was kind of like What Not To Wear: Black Bloc Edition.

Then we went over to an area about a block away from the Arts Center, and had lunch, courtesy of the local Food Not Bombs. There, they had a selection of vegan food, as well as what’s called freegan, meaning it’s stuff that was obtained for free after being cast off by the primary purchaser.

From there, we got into the Arts Center, and prepared for a workshop on police tactics. However, before that got going, while everyone was setting up, Jeff and Maddy had a chance to be wacky with a cart that was in there.

Jeff pushes Maddy around on the cart
First Jeff pushed Maddy…

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Categories: Activism, Frederick

Day one of the “Unconventional Action” consulta went very well!

January 26, 2008, 9:39 PM

Day one of the “Unconventional Action” consulta in Frederick, Maryland went quite well, indeed. The main thrust for the consulta was to prepare for the protests outside the Democratic National Convention in Denver, and the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, as somewhat indicated by the banner inside:

Consulta banner

However, with Denver and St. Paul being out of range for many of us (I have neither the time nor the funds to go), it also worked well for things to apply in that hotbed of activism that’s right in our own backyard – our nation’s capital, Washington DC.

We discussed a lot of stuff, too, mostly related to protest tactics and community organizing. We started with discussion on how to combat gentrification (with handouts!), took a break, and then moved onto discussion about the logistics of the RNC and DNC. Bridges, hotels, locations of various buildings, perimeters, etc. Very interesting stuff. And lots of handouts! I like handouts.

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Categories: Activism, Frederick