Gear Drop

Gear Drop

Last Saturday I was in Reno to have coffee with Jimmy and we walked the river area in downtown Reno. On warm weekends, there are always plenty of people about and some of them make interesting subjects for photography. The play of light on this young woman and her bright orange bag caught my attention.

Dessert

Strawberries and Ice Cream

This afternoon I stopped by the Farmer’s Market before heading home. Tuesday evening is FM day in Minden. I bought some fresh peaches, some fresh strawberries, and a couple of ears of fresh corn. After supper I worked up the strawberries while watching the last bit of XWP.

Now I have dessert. It doesn’t get much better than this. Mom’s strawberry pie might be better and I’d drive a thousand miles to have some. But this is pretty-damned-good.

The lens is a new-to-me Konica Hexanon 57mm f1.2 shot wide open under my desk lamp. It’s not bad for a 50-year old lens.

Crissy Field

Wife and Pier at Crissy FieldLast fall Wife completed the first phase of her stem cell transplant. She was released from the medical facility the evening of 31 October 2012. I picked her up that evening, not expecting her to be released until the following morning. Because I had reserved the hotel room for a couple of nights, we elected to stay in San Francisco for her to recover and to spend a little time in the city.

The next morning I took her to one of my favorite diners in San Francisco, Rocco’s. We enjoyed our breakfast (although finding parking was a bitch), then puttered around there enjoying this huge mural on the side of one of the buildings.

We drove down toward China Basin and then north along the bay, enjoying the sights and the cool morning air. When we came up on the old Army Air Base, Crissy Field, we stopped to putter around there a bit. Wife didn’t have much strength or stamina, but she was determined to enjoy her freedom. She told me she felt like she had just been released from prison. I can certainly understand that after spending a month in the hematology unit at UCSF. She went through a lot to get to the point she was and it showed.

She wasn’t strong enough to wander as far as I wanted. So, she sat on the bulkhead next to the pier, posing for an image before I walked on down a ways to see what there was to see. I returned a few minutes later, retrieved her, and we moved along. She wanted to see and was determined to make the best of her time.

We ended up in the Warming House, which now houses a coffee bar and gift shop. She loved gift shops and I have a few things she collected in the Warming House of Crissy Field.

She was tired, so I packed her into the car and we left on our driving tour of San Francisco. We landed at several other locations about the city that day. Perhaps I’ll tell those stories as well… and share some of the images. Portions of the story were told on my old weblog and I’m going to do my best to get those in here as well.

I miss you, Girl, a lot. Life will never be the same.

Jimmy’s Camera

Jimmy's Camera

I recently read a weblog post (on 500px) about contemplative photography. Much of my photography would be classified as contemplative photography simply because my eyes are drawn to certain types of subjects.

While sharing a late afternoon with a friend (and the Girl, of course), he went into the coffee haus for a few minutes for drink refills. He left his camera on the table. The Konica Hexanon 35-70/3.5 that was mounted on my Sony NEX-5N has a “macro” setting. (N.B. it seems every lens has a “macro setting” anymore, whether they are truly macro lenses or not.) I slipped the lens into what I would call close-focusing model and framed the shot.

If what I read in Kimberly’s weblog entry applies, I would call what I do contemplative photography. I allowed my eyes to wander about the scene until something caught my attention. The camera, such a big part of my life, was the catcher. So, I made the image.

Later, thinking on what transpired, I realized that the camera and Jimmy’s friendship, have become a central feature of my life. In my old weblog (which I hope to archive here on this host eventually) I wrote about meeting Jimmy when I responded to a Craigslist listing about vintage lenses. I had just bought my Sony NEX-5N and had learned about the adapters that would permit mounting manual focus lenses on a digital camera. This was something new to me and something I found interesting for multiple reasons.

I emailed and we struck up a conversation that grew into a deep friendship. Wife was in the middle of her treatment and I needed an outlet. My Girl, my camera, and my friendship with Jimmy became that outlet.

Now I test lenses for Jimmy and buy a few interesting things from him. It’s part of his business to buy and sell vintage glass. I’m totally OK with that and have no problem doing business with a friend. I love to play with lenses and my NEX and I learn something nearly every time I try something different. I learn something nearly every time Jimmy and I meed for coffee. Plus I find going to Reno a couple of times a month is good for me. I am enjoying the river area of town and all the different folks I see there.

Pierced OneThat gives me opportunity to practice street photography. I love to watch people (Wife’s favorite pass time was people-watching), only I prefer to watch them with a camera. The informal portrait is one of my favorite shots. I especially love to catch people when they reveal something of themselves in an expression, or a pose, or an elocution when they are talking about something. These things fascinate me about our non-verbal communication and the images, when I do it right, say something.

Two-years ago I thought I was done with photography. I had a Canon PowerShot G11 that I used to capture snapshots. I was not using my Nikon D100 and all that expensive glass. It was just too much to carry around without purpose. So, I sold it all and tried to make do with the G11. Even with some auxiliary glass of good quality, I just couldn’t get the image quality I like.

I started using my iPhone more and more. The image quality from my iPhone, while not quite as good as the G11, was good enough and I always have my iPhone with me. I was about done with cameras.

On a lark and having seen the Sony display at the local Best Buy, I decided to try one more time. I bought a Sony NEX-5N with the kit zoom and added the 55-210/(slow) telephoto zoom. As I learned more about the Sony mirrorless design, I realized that I had had a serendipity. The combination of APS-C sensor size and focus-peaking came together for me and I got the IQ I wanted, especially when I returned to my love of prime lenses.

The zooms are just alright. They aren’t anything special, but they work reasonably well in good light. Where this camera shines is with the better primes (I only have a couple of the good primes) and vintage glass. The IQ of the sensor is very good at ISO 800 and quite usable at 1600. I’ll have a lot more to write about this, but that’s another story.

My family, my work and the social support there, my dog, my friend Jimmy, photography, and music were orchestrated by God to see me through the dark times of 2012 and 2013. I can see some of that now, in hindsight. I could not see it then.

The real story here is all about Jimmy’s Camera. I believe this is one of God’s small acts where a gentle nudge (a serendipity) put me in a place to revisit one of the things I love to do — photography. It was that “chance” encounter on Craigslist that led me to a revisitation of something I thought was lost and a good friend at a time when I needed both.

Saturday Geocaching

Rocky HillThe Girl and I rose early Saturday morning, although I didn’t sleep very well Friday night. I was up several times, woken by my dreams. They weren’t nightmares, but they were evidence I’m still processing my life changes.

Regardless, I woke early and fed my Girl. Then I gathered up a few things and we headed out. I stopped at McD’s for a couple of breakfast burritos, a coffee, and three of their oatmeal cookies. Wife got me started on these. They are fresh-baked, soft, and quite good — especially with coffee. We drove to the east side of Carson City and I ran the 4Runner part way up the hill, found a wide spot in the trail, and stopped to enjoy the morning light and my breakfast.

The Girl was anxious to get out of the 4Runner and do doggie things. She ran from bush to bush, peed, pooped, and chased lizards while I fixed my burritos and ate them. The morning light was gorgeous and the overlook of Carson City was really fun. Although a half-mile away, I could hear the clank of steel plates as the inmates at the prison worked out.

I finished my burritos and put the Girl back in the car and we proceeded up the trail another quarter mile. The trail is only moderately rough, requiring me to work my way through a few rocks but nothing too challenging. Along the way I saw a couple of dogs running, then a hiker. I stopped to let them pass. One of the dogs approached the 4Runner and put a paw on the Girl’s door.

She barked and growled. “Leave it!” I commanded… she whirled about and jumped to the back seat, her hackles raised but obedient. The dogs and hiker passed.

We were able to drive to within about 500 feet of the first geocache. I parked the 4Runner and got out. The Girl hopped out and started sniffing about, looking for the marks of the other dogs. I got out my gear and we started off in the direction the GPSr pointed.

The cache was easy to find. There’s not much danger of it being muggled at this location. I signed the log and poked about to see if there was anything interesting in the loot. There wasn’t. So I restored the cache to its (nearly nonexistent) hide and sat on the rocks. I pulled my camera out and kept an eye on the Girl to be sure she didn’t range out too far.

The morning light made for a few interesting images of Carson City. I sat on the rocks enjoying the morning light and air, listening as the Girl ranged around. After a bit she joined me on the rocks, over-watching the surrounding area.

Satisfied, we made our way back to the car to share the cookies. The Girl likes oatmeal cookies too, although I save the raisins for myself.

After the cookies, we headed back down the trail. I drove out to the Carson Armory to stop in and see my friends there, but we were too early. So we stopped at a nearby historical marker, logged the geocache hidden there, and returned home.

I had time to take care of the front yard and spray the locust sprouts in the backyard before lunch. I also managed to get my bills paid and make a mail run before my friend from Reno called.

The Girl and I had a bit of a nap, then headed for Reno for a late afternoon coffee/tea with our friend. Later we found ourselves at A Controlled Burn, one of the events leading up to Burning Man, but that’s another story for another time. We’ll see if I have time to tell it.

LaTeX?

Apparently, WordPress has a \LaTeX interface for producing mathematics and math-like symbols. If it does, then this is something I’ve wanted in my weblog for a long time.

Alright, it works. The background is white and the foreground is black (duh), so it doesn’t quite work with my current color scheme, but it will do. At least I can now produce a decent-looking equation.

Shelob’s Lair

I got secure shell (SSH) working on my new host. One of the advantages of using a linux server/host is that the ssh protocol is supported. That means I can setup a virtual drive that connects to my website via secure ftp (sftp) and treat my host as an extension of my Mac’s (BSD unix) filesystem.

I like this… I like this a lot!

So, I was able to copy an (old) archive of my “professional” web site (Shelob’s Lair) to my host. The domain name already points to a subdirectory on my new hosting site. So now, Shelob’s Lair is once again live.

This is a good thing. Now if I can recover my edits from the last version I have locally. I’m still praying my old host comes through with my data. I’m not holding my breath.

WP Fancy Zoom

HThis is one of the images from the Girl’s and my roams. We often wander by the Home Depot and they sometimes have interesting things, at least to me. One of the items missing from this implementation of Random Ruminations was the image popup. I prefer that a clicked thumbnail image “pop” to a new window, which can then be dismissed. Why this doesn’t happen with WordPress out of the box, I don’t understand.

However, with a bit of Google work, I found WP Fancy Zoom, a plug-in that makes the images work the way I want them to.

Now back to my chores.

26 Weeks

Wife and GirlThis morning marks 26 weeks since Wife died. That’s half of a year. I miss you girl. I miss having you around, hearing your voice, hearing you putter around the house, even hearing your God-awful reality shows. I miss your voice and your touch. My life is much poorer now.

Yet I press on. I weep less now than I did a couple months ago. That’s not because I forgot you, but because I am healing. Your memory is never far from mind. You were the biggest part of my life and the last couple years of your life, while hard, were still good right up to the end. I am thankful for that time, even the hard part.

My life changes. After nearly two years spent taking care of Wife, I’m relearning how to live. It takes time and energy. It’s a process of discovering what I still like to do… and what I no longer like to do.

My work is improving. A couple of projects came up the last couple of weeks that were actually interesting. The little flood studies I’ve been tasked with of late might be important to the client (and they get my full attention), but they are more task than interesting. I know it sounds arrogant, but those projects do not need an engineer with my experience and skills; they need someone a lot less expensive. But they bring in income to cover part of my pay — that is they pay some of the bills. So, I do them. The client deserves my best, so I do my best to give it.

I need a big hydraulics or hydrologic problem to challenge me. I need a problem that I can sink my mental teeth into, one that requires me to obtain and analyze data, to figure out the relation between variables, and then permits me to propose a solution. A research project would be nice… a thick, juicy, mental steak. I think I’m ready for something like that. I pray one comes along, soon.

I permitted myself a few weeks not working on the house. I had a marketing trip to Texas and drove my Girl and I out there. That was a good trip. It refreshed my soul a bit. It gave me a lot of outside time. It gave me time with friends. The following weekends I spent outdoors chasing geocaches. The Girl and I got a lot of sun, air, and exercise. We saw a lot of places around here and I had an opportunity to make a few images. This is good.

Now it’s time to get back to clearing the garage of things I no longer need or care about. I want to be able to park my 4Runner in the garage when winter comes. It’s time to sell the bike and the Bimmer. I only need one car and vehicles are expensive. I’ll bank the cash and hold it for something else that will be useful.

Today I’ll work in the garage a bit. Perhaps I’ll haul a load of things over to FISH to support that local ministry. They sell donated items and feed people. This is a good thing. Wife approved them. In the afternoon I think I’ll drive to Reno for coffee/tea with a friend. Maybe the Girl and I will capture a couple of geocaches along the way. We could at least snag a couple of park-and-grabs.

Sunday morning the Girl and I will drive out to Virginia City for doggie class. I think we’ll leave extra early and hunt a few geocaches out there. We should have time to find four or five before class. We’ll enjoy class, hopefully eat BBQ for lunch, then drive home so I can finish my weekend chores. Laundry needs to be done and the house needs to be reprovisioned. I’ll also need to rest after the weekend and before the work week begins.

That is my life now. During the downtime between activities I’ll spend some time writing in my journal. That is where I process things and where I’ll continue to do the grief work and the life work that I hope and pray leads me to some answers about what is next. There might come a time when I just have to decide. However, that time is not now. Maybe it’s in six months or a year. Like my dad used to say, “we’ll see…”

In the meantime, I mark the weeks since Wife’s death. I remember her. I celebrate her life and the things we shared together that made it good. I miss her and that’s a good thing. It’s a reflection on the quality of what we had.