Daily Doggo: On the Hunt

I see this look a lot when we’re on walkies. She really loves to hunt the chipmunks that infest the national forest. Shot with the Sony A7Sii and the CZJ 135mm f/3.5 and exported straight out of camera.

The last few outings I carried the Sony A7Sii with a triplet of Carl Zeiss Jena (CZJ) lenses in m bag — the 35mm f/2.4 Flektogon, the 50mm f/1.8 Pancolar, and the 135mm f/3.5 Sonnar. These are all Zeiss designs copied by the East Germans after WWII.

The build quality of my samples is good, perhaps not up to West German Zeiss builds, but they all cost a fraction of the western glass. I find them very good optically and they produce lovely images with a quality much different than modern glass.

The Girl loves our walks in the national forest. If we do not get out early, I have to watch her carefully because she can overheat even at 7,000ft. The insolation heats her up even if the air temperature is about 80ºF. I always carry water and we take a break mid-hike so she can rest a couple of minutes and drink.

I see this look a lot. This particular fallen tree often harbors chipmunks and I think they tease her.

She is a happy dog. That makes me a happy man. I am grateful and life is good!

AAR: Field Day 2024

Local site for Field Day operations.

Setup

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) hosts an annual radio event called Field Day. The objective is to get away from the home station, setup a station somewhere portable, and practice a field activation. There are lots of things to learn by operating portable and the lessons learned are valuable when the time comes to serve during events that need radio support or during emergencies. Although Field Day is not a contest per se, it is contest-like in that points are offered for contacts and bonus activities.

My friend Greg planned our expedition for weeks. We made a scouting run of the dry lake (above) a few weeks ago and it looked like a pretty good spot. It is relatively flat, far enough but not too far from the highway, and there is room for several stations.

My plan was to use my Elecraft KX3 with its panadapter and amplifier as my primary station. Given that Greg wanted me to run the VHF/UHF net (that we always do for Field Day), I also decided to take my Yaesu FT-857D because it is all band and all mode.

But, work kept delaying my preparations for camping. I also needed to replace the camper’s battery box because the lid of the original was lost during my trip home in early May. So, although I planned to leave Thursday afternoon, it was Friday morning before I finished the loadout and headed out.

Travel to Site

The north end of a southbound semi-truck. We were waiting to pass construction on southbound US395 on the way to Field Day 2024 camp.
Travel to the dry lake was relatively uneventful. I got away from the house around 1000h local and drove south on US395. I bypassed the bulk of the construction in Gardnerville by taking a small detour. The US395 construction near Holcomb Junction could not be circumvented, however. But, I was lucky and the delay was only a few minutes.

The access road from the state highway to the dry lake was slow. The road is rough from OHVs running hard on it. There are lots of loose rocks that are kicked out by those vehicles. There is also some rutting of the road from storm and snow runoff. I was often running a couple miles an hour and some stretches allowed a little more speed without beating up the camper or the rig. I think travel from the highway to the site required about 45 minutes or so.

When I arrived on site, both Greg/Subrina and Tim had their camps and stations set up.

Camp

I had no trouble getting camp setup and ready to support Sera and me. I have setup my camper so many times that it is nearly routine. The playa bed was relatively level although I did drop the tongue a half a foot to level the camper forward to aft. It was level enough laterally. However, I found myself stressed and in a hurry because of my late arrival. I really wanted to be setting up my station on Friday and not setting up camp.

Greg came over when he saw me putting up the EZ-Up. It is possible to set one up solo, but it is much easier with two people. I staked out the tie-downs carefully as well. The wind does blow on Nevada afternoons and has been known to fold up shelters (and tents… and awnings).

By the time I had camp setup, I was pretty much done, physically and mentally. So I elected to deploy my station Saturday morning and sat in my chair in the shade to collect my thoughts and relax.

Greg and Subrina graciously asked us to supper. Because I was not completely prepared for this outing, I had nothing to contribute — not even dessert.

This was 2024 FD camp at Desert Creek Dry Lake.

Station

Greg was working his station, an Icom 7000, in his radio trailer.
My plan was to deploy the Chameleon MPAS 2.0 in the vertical configuration for my primary station antenna. I would use the Yaesu FT-857D for my Saturday operation and the KX3/PX3/KXPA100 for Saturday night and Sunday morning operations.

I got out the MPAS pack and started laying out the components on my work table. Unfortunately, the spike was missing. Tim, who had wandered over to watch my deployment said “I have a piece of 3/8-inch all-thread. I also have a three-foot 3/8-inch by 24 extension if you want to get the feed point off the ground.”

We drove over to his camp, retrieved the parts, and returned to my camp to complete the antenna deployment. We found the all-thread to be too flimsy to support the MPAS. Greg suggested he had a light fence post that might provide stability, so he and Tim walked over the Greg’s camp.

Tim returned with three posts, which was an excellent idea because we fabricated a tripod using the three light-duty posts and a heavy zip tie. This provided excellent stability of the antenna system and the feedpoint was about five feet above ground level.

I also had a speaker-wire doublet that I built that I considered deploying for a second antenna. However, after working so hard to deploy the MPAS antenna, I elected to use just one antenna.

The sun was bright when I made this capture of Tim at his camp.
I was also going to deploy a roll-up J-Pole for VHF/UHF operation, but Tim suggested I just use the mobile antenna of my 4Runner. I took that suggestion. After working so hard on the MPAS, simplicity was the expedient.

I setup the Yaesu FT-857D and the LDG YT-100 matching unit on my worktable. I elected to use my 30Ah Bioenno LFP battery for power into a West Mountain Radio distribution block. I was unsure how much energy I might need so I added a PowerFilm 60w foldable solar panel to the mix into a Genasun GV-10 Lithium charge controller. I did no meter the power.

I chose the FT-857D for my Saturday outdoor operation because it includes the 2m and 70cm bands. Greg tasked me with net control duty for the local net we run at the beginning of Field Day. This affords the local operators a chance to get started with a set of contacts without the hassle of trying to break the initial pile-ups that occur on the bands.

A Microsoft Surface Go 2 has been my radio computer (and travel work computer) for a couple of years. It is a relatively low power computer, but it also does not use a lot of energy. This attribute, plus the fact that it has adequate power to run radio software, makes it an excellent computer for field work.

I ran an extension cable from the antenna in my 4Runner to the VHF/UHF output of my FT-857D.

This was followed by a little testing. I had an operational station for the start of Field Day 2024.

Operations

I started operation at 1100h local by calling on the designated frequency (VHF). Two of four known operators responded. This resulted in a trip by Greg to Fred’s camp to help him get his station sorted. After a few minutes, we had three of four planned operators all on the same frequency. The remainder had elected to camp outside the dry lake basin and could not be heard.

I ran the net on the designated frequencies with one flub — I forgot to pass control to the next operator on my list to make their contacts. Fortunately, I had my smarter brother Greg to remind me of my error. The net ran smoothly after that.

After the net closed, I puttered for a few hours playing search-and-pounce on running stations. Outside of our little group, I made only one or two contacts on phone; the remainder were all CW mode (Morse Code).

I had to move the shade tarp from the east side of my shelter to the west. The direct sun was too hot. The temperature was fine with the shade from the shelter (and tarp).

By sundown I had a few dozen contacts. I was not working that hard, but really enjoying being away from the house, the cooler weather (at altitude), and the sound of the radio. When we met for the evening break, we all had about the same number of contacts by straw poll.

I returned to camp, moved the antenna connection indoors, and connected it to the Elecraft KXPA100 amplifier for my KX3/PX3 station. I had a little setup to do before I was ready to run indoors, but that did not take long.

After getting The Girl out for a break (and feeding her), I sat down at the radio and worked stations I could hear. I probably worked until about 2200h local before retiring for the night.

As is usual for me, I woke about 0500h when night turned into twilight. I turned on the radio and made a coffee while listening to the background noise of the HF bands. I also stepped outside to look around and enjoy the cool morning air before returning to the station and working more operators.

I shut down about 1100h, satisfied with my 140 contacts.

Fred, KG7VNG, setting up his station Saturday morning.

Conclusion

I spent the remainder of Sunday with my friends and relaxing in the shade at my camp. Fred tore his station down, packed up, and headed home. He had work Monday. I offered help to Greg and Tim with tearing down their stations, but both had the chores handled. We are all experienced field operators.

I put away the FT-857D station and stowed it in the 4Runner. As I write, I cannot remember if I put away the Elecraft KX3 station or not. I think that I did, knowing that I would be up and wanting to break camp Monday morning.

Monday morning I rose, made a coffee, and stepped outside the camper to enjoy the morning air. I was treated to a beautiful alpenglow on a nearby mountain, this caused me to make a photograph. I decided to get out the DJI Mini and see if the batteries had any charge. Once again, I brought the tool but had not prepared it before leaving home.

Of course, none of the batteries carried a full charge. But I was able to fly a circuit around the dry lake and make a few aerial images.

I finished my coffee and made another. Sera and I walked to the other camps to see if anyone needed help. All were good.

Alpenglow on the mountain south of the ARRL Field Day campsite. The moon is also in the frame. Shot with my iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Things Learned

  • Sometimes stuff happens. In this case, the stuff was me being busy with other things than preparing for the 2024 Field Day expedition. This resulted in a delay of my planned departure and then the compression that comes from being late. It added unnecessary stress to my life and my setup.
  • Always check your equipment before leaving home. I had alternatives, but it is better to have a complete antenna system from the start.
  • Always have a backup plan. I had several other antennas I could deploy in the back of the 4Runner. I always carry spares.
  • Always carry spare parts and supplies. You might not need them, but another operator in your group could have a failure or be missing a critical piece of equipment for operations. Be prepared to help out other operators in your group.
  • Be prepared to offer physical assistance to other operators in your group. Some equipment is much, much easier to deploy with a second set of hands. Sometimes an additional brain is of use as well as all of us can get locked in a loop when trying to solve a problem.
  • The addition of a tarp to extend the shade of the EZ-Up was necessary. The sun was too bright to readily read the SG2 screen and direct sun provided a lot of unwanted heat. A second tarp would be a good addition so that one could be setup on west and east sides of the EZ-Up. However, I would leave the north and south facings open for air flow on summer outings.
  • From an operational standpoint, I had fun. I did not burn up the ether trying to make a lot of contacts. I am not sure that I want to do that, as I operate a radio for fun and for practice should I need to run a radio. I operate portable (a lot) because I want to get out of the house and because there is so much noise at my house. But, I think maybe I should be a little more serious during one of these outings and keep my butt in the chair and run frequencies. It would be good practice to push the operation a little harder.

It was a good Field Day outing. I had fun playing radio. I learned a few things, as I generally do on a field deployment. I enjoyed my friends. My dog and I had a blast. Everyone was safe and seemed happy to be in the field together.

I am grateful. Life is good.

This is an aerial view of our Dry Lake camp. I captured this early Monday morning with the DJI Mini 4 drone.

Daily Image: Penstemon with CZJ 135mm f/3.5 Sonnar

I have a thing for vintage glass, especially that glass that exhibits character. This sprig of Penstemon I found on walkies in the National Forest finally gave me a decent capture with the Sony A7Sii and a Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm f/3.5 Sonnar wide open, SOOC.

Monday morning, The Girl and I were out fairly early for us. I made coffee and had some water, but I had a blood draw scheduled (late for me), so there was no food. Without the distraction of food and knowing that I had a hard stop of a return by 1030h, we headed out an hour earlier than normal. A new-to-me CZJ 135mm f/3.5 Sonnar had arrived a few days earlier and I had it out several times before. But Monday morning the Penstemon finally gave me a decent image with a darker background.

The CZJ Sonnar produces a nice background, particularly in the 135mm focal length and shot wide open. I find the Sony A7Sii very forgiving to a wide range of light with an electronic shutter that goes all the way down to 1/8000th of a second.

We kept moving because of my appointment, but paused now and again for me to make an image and to sip a bit of water. At the turn-around point in our loop, I get out the liter bottle and her bowl and gave her a good drink. After that short break, we were off again to return to the rig and get on with the day.

I have a number of vintage lenses that produce nice images. None of them produce perfect images; but all exhibit a quality that I find interesting. If I want a near perfect image, I have lots of Fujinon glass that con do it. But I find myself enjoying the less than perfect rendering of many of these vintage lenses more pleasing than the more clinical look of modern glass.

We made it home before 1030h. I had plenty of time for a shower, to make sure The Girl had enough water and that she cooled down, and a buffer to head off for my blood draw. Then I was able to go get some lunch and was plenty hungry.

I need to work more with this Sonnar, the 35mm f/2.8 Flektogon, and a couple of Tessar formula normal lenses in my collection.

It was a good day. We camped out in the house tolerating the heat, but the swampy kept the living room cool enough. I am grateful. Life is good.

A Man Called Otto

In general, I do not care for the iPhone’s image processing. The images look cooked to me. However, sometimes it is the camera I have in hand. Such was the case when the sun broke below the clouds during a shower at the Summit Lake research station. So, I made the capture, cooked or not.

Last night it was too hot to be outdoors and too hot in my workroom. So, I made a gin and tonic (light) and sat on the sofa. The Girl discovered I was on the sofa and came in to be close. I am good with that.

I started Netflix and put in my AirPods (the Apple TV now recognizes them) and set them to noise cancel mode. The swampy in the living room is pretty noisy. So are all the fans running in the house.

I decided to watch A Man Called Otto. Tom Hanks is a favorite actor and I have enjoyed his dramatic work. I was unprepared for the impact of the story, though.

Otto is a late middle-aged engineer who is retired after a company merger and is a widow. The plot does not reveal much at the beginning and I will produce no spoilers here. The movie is listed as a dramatic comedy, but I did not find much funny in it.

What I found was an immediate connection to the Otto character, not so much for the stereotypical fastidiousness of an engineer, but for the depth of grief for his beloved life.

The poignancy of his recollections of time spent together hit me over and over. Sometimes the hits were light; others were body blows. I was startled at my emotional reaction to these vignettes and paused the movie several times to reflect, grieve a little, and collect myself.

The experience reminded me that my own grief remains alive and well, thank you very much. It is not that I have not processed my grief; nor has it not be healed (at least to the extent that such grief can ever be healed). It is simply that I find myself still missing Wife and all the times and places we shared together.

Like Otto, I still find myself reminded of a time and place where we were together doing things. All the time building a life together, finding multiple houses and making homes of them, taking care of the kids and enjoying most of that process, traveling (mostly to see family) and all the stories that come from that, and just spending the morning together sharing breakfast and solving the world’s problems at the table over coffee (for me) and tea (for her).

Many times those memories raise some longing, nostalgia, and melancholy. These emotions are often mixed with joy and a laugh at the circumstance. It is a powerful, poignant cocktail of emotions, all right. No one will ever say she was a saint; but neither am I. But it was a good life together and she remains loved and definitely missed.

The movie reminded me of something my friend Jim told me after Wife died…

It sucks. It’ll always suck. But in time it will suck less…

I took him at his word more that 11-years ago. With time, I found he was right. And it still sucks, even if the suck is less.

You are missed, Old Girl. You will always be missed.

The Girl looked up over her shoulder at me several times during the movie. She even rose up to nuzzle me a few times, her whiskers stiff and tickly. It is her way of giving kisses. Unlike many dogs, she knows the difference between a lick (social wash or sign of submission) and a kiss of affection. She is my best buddy, my constant companion, and the love of my life. She reads me and responds.

I’ll take the pain. I am grateful. Life is still good.

Daily Image: South End

I cannot count the number of times I have seen the south end of a northbound dog. Shot with the Sony A7Sii and the CZJ 135mm f/3.5 Sonnar at about f/4.

While hiking in the Sierra yesterday, The Girl was on the lookout for chipmunks. I do not know if Alvin called, but she gave a merry chase.

And what did I get? Well, once again I got the south end of a northbound dog. So, I made the capture.

This frame is basically straight out of camera. The only post processing done was to resize the image and export to JPEG.

It was a good hike. I had a good laugh at The Girl. Life is good.

Daily Image: CZJ 135mm f/3.5 Test

Test shot with CZJ 135mm f/3.5 Sonnar and the Sony A7Sii. SOOC shot wide open.

A new-to-me Carl Zeiss Jena (CZJ) 135mm f/3.5 Sonnar medium telephoto lens arrived a couple of days ago. It was listed as excellent condition and CLA’d1. It sat on the table for a couple of days, but I decided to mount it on the Sony A7Sii and shoot it this morning. I might take it along on walkies as well.

The focus is a bit stiff and grabby, although not grinding as if the helicoid grease was hardened. It might just be the sample. It might be the age. Or it might need a little better cleaning.

The lens looks good, no obvious flaws. There is the usual minor internal dust and a few cleaning marks on the front element. Neither of these are of concern, although if I open it up to clean and relubricate the helicoid I will clean up the dust (of course).

I have a fondness for the Sonnar design. Lenses based on this old Zeiss optical formula generally produce very nice images, with out of focus areas smooth and a slight softening of the image toward the edge.

This is one of the things I prefer from legacy glass — the images do not have that clinical sharpness common to modern glass (and the computer designs), but have a certain character. There is nothing wrong with the former for the proper application. But for my images, which I shoot for art and fun, I like the character and quirky quality that some legacy lenses provide.

I think this is a keeper.

1CLA = Clean, Lubricate, Adjust.

Remainders 06 July 2024

The area we hike in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest was burned a few years ago. The forest is recovering, but the evidence of fire remains. Shot with Sony A7Sii and CZJ 35mm f/2.4 Flektogon at f/5.6.

Well, I wonder where the Interwebs will take me this week…

  • I thought that I lost my 6-inch crescent wrench. I found a list of best adjustable wrenches in an article on Popular Mechanics.
  • Given I want to use my drone to capture aerial imagery on my project sites, I need to earn my UAV pilot’s license. This course looks like a good place to start.
  • Training videos for the DJI Mini 4 Pro are here.
  • John Free was an American photographer and teacher. He died earlier this year. But, his work bears review and he left some good words on YouTube.
  • Vertx makes and sells some interesting looking gear.
  • The Eagles remain one of my all-time favorite bands. I never collected their recordings. I have all of them in my HD Tracks shopping cart at the moment. There will be a sale (I hope) this weekend and I will buy them to update my music file.

Sera Drinks

At the turn-around point of our normal summer hike, I pause, remove my pack, and give The Girl a drink. Shot with the Sony A7Sii and the CZJ 35mm f/2.4 Flektogon at about f/8.

Given the hot weather we are experiencing1, we are hiking up above 7,000 ft in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. I found a place there where there is ample room to park the 4Runner and we can hike off of the Kings Canyon trail up a fire road into the forest. A few other folks hike up that way, but not very many and most days we do not encounter other hikers.

The initial climb-out is steep and this old man is huffing and puffing by the time I complete that climb. The Girl runs out and back encouraging me to hurry up.

The remainder of the hike has a couple of climbs, but more moderate. It is good for me. I like it.

If we get out early enough, she does not overheat. However, if the sun is high, then I watch her. I always have water and a bowl. If she needs water, then we stop and I give her some (and usually take a sip myself).

The turn-around is a bit more than a mile from the rig. I sometimes go a little farther and that adds some elevation. But we always stop where we turn around and I doff the pack and water her.

I am liking this milsurp Molle II Patrol Pack. It is big enough but not too big. I have work to do on organization, but will get to it. I also think I need to trip the stiffener just a little — the pack bends slightly in the middle. I think the stiffener is just a smidge too long.

We were out early today. She did not overheat. But she still wanted, and I gave, water.

I am grateful. Life is good.

1It is very hot for Carson right now. Afternoon temperature is running over 100ºF and it is not cooling off in the evening as is normal.

Daily Doggo: Posing Sera

Sera posed nicely for me Tuesday morning. Shot with the Sony A7Sii and the CZJ 35mm f/2.4 Flektogon at about f/4. No post processing; resize only.

On our way back from the trail’s terminus, we decided to explore a granite outcrop. I wondered if there might be a photograph in the jumble of textures.

Well, there was no joy from the rocks, but Sera posed for me. So I made the capture.

Daily Image: Mountain Flower

Shot with Sony A7Sii and a Carl Zeiss Jena 35mm f/2.4 Flektogon at f/4. Raw conversion in DX0 Photolab directly to JPG without modification.

I took The Girl up to our favorite place in the National Forest to walk this morning. It is too hot for her after 0900h, more from the direct sun on her body than the ambient temperature. So, rather than stress her out at Silver Saddle Ranch, we seek elevation and cooler temperatures as well as the shade from the pine trees.

I decided that I have to bring a camera with me. The iPhone makes acceptable images for a number of uses. But I prefer a purpose-built tool that has more control over the image and has better lenses. So I brought the Sony A7Sii with a Carl Zeiss Jena 35mm f/2.4 Flektogon mounted to it. I brought only the one lens so as to avoid the what lens do I choose for this image loop I sometimes fall into.

So, I had a 35mm focal length lens. I had a lens that has character, something a lot of modern glass lacks. So I made images as we walked. Out of the lot, I picked this one as the one I liked the best. It is not perfect and I can do better. I will shoot another tomorrow and see if I can get a better composition.

Edit: I am told the flower is penstemon.