AAR Parks on the Air — K-10387 Joe Crighton SRA

This was my KX2 station setup at K-10387, Joe Crighton State Recreation Area. Shot with iPhone 13 Pro Max.

I was up early Wednesday morning to see Older Son off to work. He leaves the house about 0630h and I like to get up and spend an hour or so with him as he readies himself for the day. I have a cup of coffee and chat with him and DiL. She also gets up to spend time with him before he heads off and her day starts.

DiL runs the Springfield Barnes & Noble, so her hours are variable. She sometimes leaves just after Older Son. And sometimes she leaves much later. That is the nature of retail work. But she always gets up with him and I respect that.

After he leaves I sometimes return to nap for a few more minutes. It all depends on how well I slept the night before. As I age, I find that sometimes I do not sleep as well. I am sure my experience is not unusual.

Fortunately, my work permits me a lot of flexibility. I like that and take advantage of it.

But, Wednesday morning I warmed my cup of coffee and sat at the desk. A hydraulic model I am working on completed late last night and I wanted to review the work and decide what to do next. In reviewing the results, I had good ideas for what needed to be done. So, I got started on it. I worked until my brain rebelled, so I decided it was time to take a break.

DiL had returned to bed, so I got a shower and dressed for my day. That brought Sera out to see what I was doing. I decided I needed a waffle in my face and Sera could tell I was moving with purpose.

So, she went with me. We drove up to the Waffle House and I had sausage and eggs and a pecan waffle. I saved some of my sausage and my hash browns for Sera. She was very excited when I returned to the rig with a treat. 🙂

We drove home and I returned to my hydraulic model. I finished the amendments about noon and started a run. Once the preprocessor finished developing the solution grid and the computational engine started, I knew it would be a few hours before I had any results.

That meant — I had a few hours to play. The weather was gorgeous so I decided to get out and activate a new park. Sera and I headed out, I bought a sandwich and a bottle of water, and we arrived at the park in a few minutes. I got lunch and Sera out and we shared my sandwich and chips. She sniffed around while I deployed an antenna.

It took four or five tries to get a line over a branch. This is a new skill for me and I can tell I need practice judging where to aim to get the line over the branch I want. But the equipment I have is just about right for the light wires that I typically use.

I setup the little Elecraft KX2 with the Tufteln end-fed random wire antenna, connected directly to the radio. I brought a small Bioenno LFP battery, which I connected. I also brought a N3ZN key along as well. It took longer to get the antenna setup than any of the other equipment.

I had a cellular signal, so I was able to spot myself on the POTA website with my iPhone. I also used my iPhone to log contacts with the HAMRS app. I find it easy to log on the iPhone, although I am sometimes a bit fumbly and fat-finger the text.

I have a CQ message stored in the radio, so I set it off to call while I finished getting ready to take calls. And take calls I did. Even running just five watts of power, I worked a pile-up on the 20m band for nearly 45 minutes. When the hole was fished out, I changed to the 17m band, found an open frequency, and started calling. The Reverse Beacon Network picked me up and the POTA scraper respotted my activation at the new frequency.

I worked another pile-up for another half hour or so.

One thing I noticed was that my passband was a little too narrow. I had it set that way during my last activation, probably trying to improve the signal-to-noise ratio or because another operator work working on a nearby frequency. Nonetheless, I could hear a couple of station outside the passband, so I opened it up a bit so I could copy the signals and worked those callers too.

After a couple of hours, I had 32 or 33 contacts in my log, plenty for the activation. The sun was starting to get low in the sky and I still wanted a walk before the day ended. I also needed to attend to the model run and see what needed to be done, if anything.

It did not take long to recover the station and we were off towards home.

When Older Son arrived, we got The Girl out for a good walk. We got home just after the Sun fell below the horizon.

As usual, I learned a few more things.

  • Using an arborist throw kit is a learned skill. I need more practice to get the weight and line over my target branch. It is just practice.
  • I really like the lighter throw weight and the 1.7mm or 1.8mm line that I got on my second buy. The first kit is too heavy for what I do. The lighter kit will be perfect for the light wires I use and is a lot less weight and bulk to carry, should I decide to pack the kit in.
  • I need to work with the Tufteln EFRW antenna more. I could not get a good match on the 30m band (10MHz) with the KX2 and the EFRW antenna connected directly to the radio. This should work. I have an adjustment to make, I think.
  • The little KX2 is a fine radio for this kind of application. It is not as good as the larger KX3, but it is a lot smaller rig.
  • I should have used headphones for the activation. There was enough traffic noise to be distracting and interfere with my ability to copy the calling stations. I do not like to be isolated from the surroundings, however. So I have to get my powered headphones setup to wear while running the radio. They are also active ear protection, so they have microphones to provide situational awareness with control over the balance between communications and environmental sound levels.

All in all, it was a good day. I am grateful. Life is good!

Valves

Valves at Lowes Hardware. Shot with Bronica S2A, Nikkor 75mm f/2.8 at f/4 (or close) on Ilford XP2.

As I write, it is about noon on Wednesday here in Ozark, Missouri. The Sun is shining and the temperature is supposed to get up to about 60ºF this afternoon. I have a modeling running that will need a review in a few hours (it is a long run) so I have some time to do other things.

One of those will be to get The Girl out for a walk. Given that it is sunny, I might actually go somewhere else and make a few photographs. I am still testing some new equipment and learning to use film again.

I am enjoying the Sun and the warmer weather. I heard from the RV shop yesterday and my camper should be done soon, probably by Friday. It will be time to retrieve it and check everything out.

I also want to get in some radio play while the weather is nice. The forecast calls for clouds and rain this weekend, so this seems to be the time to strike. I have my eye on another park that I have not activated and it is not far away. The Girl and I could go over there and play a little.

The image is another from my test roll in the Bronica. I am a civil engineer. Valves are something I know a little about. The cluster of valves (fire outlet I think) caught my eye on a very cloudy, very cold day. So I made the capture.

Now for some outdoor time while the model runs. Life is good.

New Drone for 2024

This is along one of my regular walking paths in Ozark, Missouri. I had the new drone out for a test run and made this capture. I like having the ability to get an aerial image of an area.

Late last year I determined to upgrade my DJI Mini to the newest version, the Mini Pro 4. There are a lot of upgrades to the smallest DJI drone, but the one I wanted the most was an independent controller. I have never liked using my iPhone as the controller and was always concerned I would get a phone call in the middle of a flight. I had no idea what that might do to the controls and I get a log of spam calls.

I had a pretty good chunk of Best Buy store credits from my computer upgrades last year. So I elected to use them against the purchase of the new drone. I got about a ten percent discount as a result.

I like the ability to add aerial shots to my photography and will need to get Part 107 certification so I can legally use my drone on field walks. The imagery will help provide context for the ground shots. This will be a good thing.

The drone flies well, too. Life is good.

Tree in James River — Test Frame Bronica S2A Nikkor-P 75mm f/2.8

Fallen tree on James River. Shot with Bronica S2A and Nikkor-P 75mm f/2.8 at f/4 on Ilford XP2.

I recently acquired a Zenza Bronica S2A medium format camera. It shoots 6x6cm frames and came with a Nikkor-P 75mm f/2.8 lens. I have a lot more to say about the camera but will save it for another day.

I ran a roll of Ilford XP2 through the camera as a test roll before I decided to accept it. The scans came in on Saturday and I started to review them.

What I can say so far is that the camera is working correctly, at least for the test conditions used. The scan of the negative looks good, but a review of the negative with a loupe and good light will tell me more detail than the scan can. Nonetheless, I think this is a keeper.

I am looking forward to spending a lot more time with this camera. I want to shoot some real black and white film, such as Tri-X, FP4+, or HP5+, and then develop the negatives myself. I will figure out the scanning later, but I could use a DSLR to do the scans or dig out my film scanner.

I am grateful. Life is good.

The Complexity of Modern Cameras

The above YouTube video is by a favorite content creator, Alex Kilbee. He is an excellent photographer and a great teacher. It is definitely worth the watch. If you have not watched the video, then I suggest you watch it first. Then the following will make more sense.

Although I think I am a bit older than Kilbee (heh), I grew up with a simple mechanical camera and film. I was young and had little money to spend on equipment, so I made do with what I had… A body, a 50mm lens, and two aftermarket lenses — a 35mm and a 135mm. That was my kit.

I shot semi-pro back in the 90s with a pair of Canon AE-1 bodies and a few lenses. I made a few bucks, helped out some students and bands, and had a blast. Then I moved into the digital realm and got sucked into the quagmire of increasing cost and complexity.

I set my cameras aside nearly 10-years ago and used the iPhone for snapshots. Last year I was so busy I decided to pick up my cameras again so I could do something creative while hiking with my dog. I upgraded the Fuji X-T1 to the X-T5 and was astonished at the increase in quality and complexity, although the latter camera was far more refined than the former. I also picked up a Fuji X100V and found that to be the camera I carried most of the time… because of its simplicity in comparison to the more capable and more complex X-T5.

And therein is the key, I think, to Kilbee’s thesis for the video. I (we) need simplicity to focus on what is important, the image and working the subject. Digital is nice because the incremental cost of shooting is minimal whereas film is a real expense for each frame.

So, now I find myself with three old (but new to me) cameras: A Bronica S2A, a Nikon F2, and a Contax TVS point and shoot. Why? I have two reasons… well, perhaps three reasons.

First, I really like film. I am not shooting for hire or for publication; I am shooting to please myself. It is a creative outlet.

Second, there is a simplicity in the cameras. The point-and-shoot has some settings, but the camera mostly handles everything once you drop the film cassette into it. I find it an easy way of having a film camera handy when something interesting shows up. The Bronica and Nikon are simple, but capable cameras. The Bronica has no metering system — an external meter is required. The Nikon has a metering prism that uses a center-weighted meter. Both require the photographer (me) to set the shutter time and aperture. This is how I learned when I picked up a camera all those decades ago.

Third, I am learning to ignore the complexity of my digital cameras. The X-T5 will do a bagillion things in any number of ways. The X100V will do half a bagillion things in few ways. I find that setting them up for auto-ISO and auto-shutter speed, setting up back-button focus, adding one or two favorite custom settings (film simulations), and then running the aperture to create the depth of field I want is sufficient. I then forget about every other capability of the camera and just run it.

Aside: I run a black diffusion filter on my X100V — the smallest amount of diffusion possible. I find that this filter, coupled with a film simulation (Reggie’s Portra 400 and Tri-X are my favorites), provide a filmic look to the resulting JPGs. The filter also makes the X100V weather resistant, which is a bonus. I also keep the RAW files handy (sometimes) in case I want to experiment with different film simulations after the fact.

Kilbee is absolutely correct about the complexity of modern cameras and how that complexity can interfere with making photographs. It is one reason I am experimenting with film once again. But I also know that I will continue to use my digital cameras because they are capable of great images. I can dumb down the images with appropriate filtration and post processing, although I do not enjoy post processing.

The bottom line is to stop fiddling with all the camera options, pick a few to set up the camera so it works for you, then get busy looking at the world around you and making photographs.

The Waffle House

An iconic American diner, the Waffle House. Shot with my Contax TVS on Kodak Gold 200. Exposure details not recorded.
Some decades ago, probably in the 1980s, my practice of long road trips began. They were mostly associated with traveling from where we lived to visit family in Missouri. However, with time (and age), they have morphed into long travels for a variety of reasons. I still visit my family, but have added to that list old friends. Then there are trips added to visit work sites and just because I want to go.

What I found is the Waffle House. I have eaten breakfast at these places all over that part of the country that the franchise serves. The food is decent. It is not bistro-quality, but the short-order kind of food. I really like the waffles, the batter they use is very good. And I found that pecans in my waffle is an added tasty treat.

There is a Waffle House a few miles north from Ozark, Missouri. I am here visiting with my kids and waiting for the camper to be repaired after the blown tire tore s#*$ up. The parts are in and the camper is in the shop. Before the next leg of my trip, it will be good to have the little house restored. I really prefer sleeping in my own space.

My most recent bout of GAS1 I wished I had brought along a couple of my film cameras. Specifically, I had a Nikon FA kit partly assembled and the Pentax 645 kit was mostly assembled. But, I ran out of time to get everything done before I needed to leave. So, I left my film cameras behind.

This I regretted enough that I bought a Contax TVS point-and-shoot. It is a little Vario-Sonar zoom based 35mm camera that is very good. I wanted the T2 version, but the wannabees have driven up the price of the prime-based Contax that they are no longer reasonable. The TVS is a kind of sleeper that makes solid images at some cost to control. It is a point-and-shoot, after all.

I have always wanted a mechanical Nikon camera. When I was a young man, I wanted a Nikon Photomic. It was a tool of the professional, with prices accordingly. I could not afford one. I can now, so a F2AS joined my inventory along with a couple of lenses that are not in my collection.

I have lusted wanted a Hasselblad 500-series camera for a very long time. They were always out of my price range. I might have been able to buy one four- or five-years ago, but then the prices were driven up because of the Hasselblad reputation, I suppose. I have a couple of the V-mount lenses in my collection. I suppose it is now time to sell them… because…

After substantial research, the Bronica S2A is an acceptable substitute for the 500-series Hasselblad. No, it is not the equivalent. But it is close, close enough. It will provide the 6x6cm experience (and challenges). The Nikkor glass for the camera is quite good. It is a mechanical camera that should run the rest of my life. If it needs repair, it is repairable.

One wandered into my life a few days ago. I still need to introduce it. I will.

So, now at the end of my mental wandering, the image can be explained. I was running a test roll through the Contax TVS and saw this scene. So I turned off the flash and made the capture. I love having access to a Waffle House from Ozark. I am often up early, so I can get out for breakfast at a favorite place. It can be an interesting place to make a few captures as well.

I like it. Life is good.

1Gear Acquisition Syndrome, an affliction of lust that many photographers succumb to that causes an increased load and a reduced bank account.

Daily Image: 23 January 2024 — Books

One of the stacks at Dixon Books in Fayetteville, AR. Shot with Fujifilm X100V 23mm f/2 at f/2.8 using the Tri-X film simulation.

My kids and I took a day trip down to Rogers and Fayetteville, Arkansas on Sunday. Despite the cold, winter day (but not as cold as it has been), we had a blast. We visited a Duluth Trading Company bricks and mortar store. There I bought The Girl a jacket for our cold outings (and to keep some of the rain off). I bought myself some gloves as those I have are insufficient when it gets this cold.

We drove into Fayetteville for a Mediterranean meal and the headed downtown to Dixon Books. I love used book stores and carried a camera inside with me.

Dixon Books is one of those rabbit-warren bookstores that has lots (and lots) of bookshelves and stacks of books with small aisles to traverse the stacks. I love it.

I carried the Fujifilm X100V in my hand and made many captures surreptitiously of other wanderers of the stacks. A couple of those might be worth sharing. I also carried the Nikon F2AS, but decided that it is a bit noisy for that environment. A quite rangefinder was just the trick. (The X100V is nearly silent.)

I did not buy any new books, not having a list with me. But, I hope there will be another (perhaps many) trips back to Fayetteville and the next visit I will have a list with me.

After the bookstore, there was coffee at Doomsday Coffee, just a couple of blocks away.

It was a good day. Life is good.

No Service

If you know, you know… Shot with the Contax TVS using Kodak Gold 200. Exposure data unrecorded.

Not long after I arrived here in Missouri, I made my first trip to Bedford Camera & Video in Springfield. I decided to see what the camera store here was like and whether it would be a good place to buy film and have my processing done.

My first experience was positive. I bought some film for my new-to-me Contax TVS point and shoot camera. It is a premium 35mm point and shoot with a Zeiss Vario-Sonnar zoom lens. The zoom range is not large, just two times. But the focal lengths are useful even if the lens is relatively slow.

The clerk loaded the battery for me (a CR123A) and I loaded a roll of Kodak Gold 200. The camera wound the film onto the take-up spool just fine and announced it was ready to go. I added a few more rolls of 35mm film to my order, checked out, and headed back to the rig.

I paused to make an image of the store front and then The Girl and I headed south towards home. I was hungry and decided to stop for a bit.

The first food I came across was the Burger King on South Campbell. I pulled into the lot and walked inside. There I waited at least five minutes without acknowledgement. None of the workers greeted me. None offered to take my order.

I shook my head and walked back to the rig. Clearly they are not interested in my business. I will not be stopping there again.

We drove south a few more blocks and found a Steak & Shake. I have always liked their food, so I parked and walked into the store. I was greeted fairly quickly and then seated. Although it took a few minutes for one of the staffers to take my order, they got it done. My food was delivered hot and was tasty. I really like the fries at Steak & Shake.

I took some with me, along with a bite of my sandwich, and gave them to The Girl. She was expecting a treat, as usual. And, she got one.

I was satisfied with my outing and determined to shoot the roll of film to complete my testing of the new camera.

A few days alter (yesterday), Older Son and I decided to get out of the house and check some of the pawn shops and thrift stores for film cameras. The first pawn shop we stopped at asked “Do they even develop film anymore?”

“Yes, they do.” I responded.

He suggested we visit the Springfield Trading Depot (STD) because all of the pawn brokers are only dealing in digital cameras now. We thanked him and headed out.

STD (yes, that is the acronym) was interesting enough, but there was nothing there I was interested in. It made an interesting photo opportunity anyway. I still need to download and process those images.

I had finished my roll of film, so we headed to Bedford to drop it off for processing, I bought a few rolls of 120 black and white film, and we headed off to pick up DiL. I wanted an early supper and a trip to Bass Pro to replace her collar. The transmitter finally failed after I repaired the rotary control one time. So, it is time to replace it. She sometimes needs it to stay out of trouble. She remains an impulsive Girl.

We took her into Bass Pro (they are dog friendly) and it is such a HUGE place. There were a lot of people there (and quite a few dogs), but she really behaved well and barked at other dogs only a couple of times.

We got what we came for and were looking at the toys when we heard THE SQUEAK. She knew exactly what she wanted.

We played with that for several minutes, all four of us laughing. So we gathered up a couple of new toys for her and headed to the check out line. She was a very excited Girl.

We stopped at a Korean restaurant on the way home for a bibimpap bowl. I had not had one before and it was very good. Win! While there, I received an email that my film had been processed and my scans were ready to download. Win!

We retrieved DiL’s rig and then stopped at Andy’s Frozen Yogurt for a treat and then on home.

Yes, The Girl got a pup-cup.

When I got home, I downloaded my scans. I have a couple of keepers in the lot. That is not bad.

It was a good day. Life is good.

Daily Doggo: 17 January 2024

The Girl waiting patiently for whatever it was she wanted. Shot with the Fujifilm X-T5 and the Fujinon 35m f/1.4 at about f/2.8.

The Girl posed for me yesterday morning. She wandered into my workroom and asked for some attention. Then laid down in the hall. It was too much to resist.

So, I grabbed the Fujifilm X-T5 from its bag and sat down on the floor with her. She gave me a couple of good frames before I returned to work.

She wanted to go walk. It about about 0F outside. That is just too cold for her. I do not have enough gear for her for this super cold weather. She does not have enough fur to protect her for more than a few minutes.

Ruminating

This is my new MacBook Pro notebook computer. Shot with iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Late last year, I bought two new computers. The MacBook Pro shown in the image was bought just before Apple announced the new models (my bad). It is a 14-inch model with the best processor, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of SSD space. It replaced the aging i7-based MBP that I bought back in 2016. It also replaced an aging i5-based iMac I bought in 2015.

The latter two computers were showing their age, the MBP less so than the iMac. But the MBP was nearing the end of its useful life.

So, I replaced two computers with a single unit. When I return home I will add an external monitor to it for desktop work.

The second machine is an ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 gaming laptop. It replaces the aging desktop tower that I bought several years ago (2015? 2016? earlier?) and upgraded a couple of times. This computer is based on a Ryzen 9, plenty of RAM and SSD, and a solid NVidia RTX display adapter. It will handle the numerical modeling and GIS work chores very well.

In fact, it is handling them very well. Having a strong notebook computer released me from the house for work. I can now prepare and operate my numerical models while traveling.

Now, I left a 15-inch MBP for the 14-inch model and I really (really!) like this change. I find the 14-inch machine to be a perfect size (the Goldilocks size!) for portable work. The 15-inch unit was fine on a tabletop, but always felt too large when operating with a lapdesk or on my lap. I am currently writing with the 14-inch MBP on a lapdesk and it is as close to perfect as I can get.

The smaller screen is not a bother; it works. The computer is big enough that the keyboard does not feel cramped. The new Apple processors are speedy, run cool, and are stingy with battery power. My computer’s battery is currently about 50% and I have been running it for two days since the last charge.

The G14, though, is a power hog. That Ryzen 9 and the NVidia RTX use a lot of power. That machine will run for a couple of hours on a charge. That, however, is good enough. I do not expect to do a lot of work away from mains power.

Aside: I also have a relatively large Lithium-Iron-Phosphate based power bank that can run the G14 (and other things) long enough away from mains power.

The bottom line is that my changes to my computer stable enabled me to leave the house and go mobile over the holidays. I am still able to work and take care of my clients while visiting family and friends. I really like that freedom.

I recently started thinking about my hobbies. It is clear (if you have been watching my weblog), that I picked up my cameras again this summer. Photography is something that has been part of my life for more than 50 years. i was thinking about my first real camera a few days ago — an Argus-Cosina manual SLR. The only thing electric in that camera was an internal averaging meter than ran on a silver oxide cell. The camera was completely mechanical but for that meter and used M42 screw mount lenses (Pentax mount).

In the 1970s, when I started learning about photography, a new friend (photographer) took me under his wing and taught me the basics. I remember being a little envious of his Canon F-1 camera, which was a suitable object of lust.

He taught me Ansel Adams’ Zone System. I still have a scanned copy of my notes from that time. He taught me how to develop my film and how to make a print. I cannot remember his name for the life of me. I wish I did. (Maybe I will, who knows!)

At the time, I wondered about the real applicability of the Zone System to roll-film based cameras, like my Argus. Adams shot mostly sheet film, which he then developed one frame at a time. So, he could tailor his development times (and chemistry) to the exposure he made when he visualized and metered the shot. In other words, he worked each frame one at a time, both in the field and in the darkroom.

That does not work for roll film, unless one dedicates an entire roll to each subject. I do not.

What I finally came to understand was that for me, a user of roll-film cameras, the Zone System is a very useful tool for visualizing a scene and metering the scene so that whatever is important to the frame (highlights, shadows, or both) will have detail for the process (film, digital, print, all or none of the above).

So, I retain my interest in the Zone System for exposure control. It just does not work as Adams used it for field and view cameras and single-frame processing. The use of the Zone System also increased my awareness of the expose-to-the-right (ETTR) emphasis of the digital age.

I retain my interest in amateur radio and continue to work Parks On The Air whenever I can get out. I recently activated Compton Hills SRA a couple of times and there are more new parks in the area. It is just so cold at the moment that it is dangerous to be outdoors for the dog and for me.

I still want to pick up my guitar again. That is the last thing on my list of hobbies that feeds my soul. I intend to do that this year.

I recently listened to Stanley Yates’ arrangement and performance of Mozart’s Fantasy in D-minor. He displayed the score as he performed in the background. I was able to follow the sheet music as he played, which pleased me as it has been years since I looked at notation. This made me want to pick up my guitar and work my fingers again.

I do not do annual resolutions. That has seemed to me to be a trivialization of goal setting for as long as I can remember. It might be a fun social activity, but it is not a useful tool. However, setting goals and intentions are powerful tools.

So, I am setting an intention and a goal to pick up my classical guitar again and do some work. In fact, I have Yates’ playing in the background as I finish this rumination.

It is cold here in southwest Missouri. It will be a good day to stay indoors, as much as I want to get out.

Life is still good.