Silver Saddle Ranch

I love walking the Silver Saddle Ranch open space area. It’s jointly managed by Carson City and BLM.

Since nearly being carried away by mosquitoes at the Riverview Park, The Girl and I have spent our morning walks to south on the Silver Saddle Ranch open space area. The ranch is still a working ranch with cattle and hayfields. I often meet the ranch manager while walking as he tends the irrigation system.

The capture is my morning view of the ranch compound. At one time this was a bustling ranch with a number of ranch hands all working from this area. It is nothing of what it once was, but remains a reminder of Nevada heritage. I am thankful that it is maintained as a place where I can spend time outdoors with The Girl.

It is also a place where I see many wild animals. There are mostly birds (and I do enjoy the raptors), but we see other species as well.

I shot this image with the Fujifilm X-H1 and the marvelous Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 macro lens that was built by Tokina, otherwise knows as the “Bokina.”

Fujinon XF 35mm F/2 Lens

This compact Fujinon 35mm f/2 is one of my favorite lenses.

I bought the Fujinon XF 35mm f/2 WR lens some time ago. I don’t recall exactly when I purchased the lens, but it was sometime after I bought my X-T1. As Fujifilm released their compact series of lenses, they received very good reviews. They are fast. They are compact. They are well-made (mostly metal and glass with plastic where it makes sense). They are weather resistant (like the X-T1).

There are plenty of very technical, pixel-peeping, jargon-filled reviews on the Interwebs. I think those reviews are interesting, but then I am an engineer and I like technical analysis. My short review is not like those. That is all done and I can add nothing significant to that content.

What I can do is share some of my experience with this particular lens on the X-T1. I carry it a lot (hence all the dust). It complements the small form-factor of the X-T1 well. It is excellent optically. It focuses accurately (for the most part) and quickly. It is also very quiet.

I found this on morning walkies Sunday and had to have an image.
A number of the images on my weblog were made with the Fuji 35/2. Some of my favorite images (think the pepsis wasp) were made with this lens. Some of the characteristics of this lens that I like are:

  • It will focus to about a foot, which is close enough to work as a light macro lens.
  • It has good contrast.
  • It is small and light.
  • It is fast enough to provide separation between the subject and the background.
  • The out of focus portions of the image are quite pleasing.

There is only one thing that I don’t think this lens does very well. It will sometimes miss focus, especially when close in. That is a limitation of the system and not a fault of the lens. The Fujinon 35/2 is not a true macro lens. The focusing sensors will sometimes target the background behind a close subject. When I miss this in review I am disappointed when I return to the computer and begin working on the image.

The solution is to check focus in the field after making the capture. The alternative is to use manual focus (which the X-T1 does very well) with the split screen and focus peaking.

The split-screen capability of the X-T1 operates by presenting a small portion of the center of the image, enlarged, adjacent to the full frame in the EVF. This is perfect for use with manual focus, either when operating the Fujinon lenses in manual mode or when attaching legacy manual focus lenses to the camera via an adapter. (I have a large collection of legacy glass that can produce beautiful images.)

This boy is the victim of a couple of bad spinal disks. However, in the water, he’s just a dog — his land-gear left behind.
Focus peaking is an algorithm in the camera firmware that detects the sharpness of the image and highlights sharp areas in the EVF. Focus peaking was a feature of my first mirrorless camera (a Sony NEX-5N, that I loved and used a great deal) and was a requirement when I started looking at the Fujifilm Finepix cameras. Fuji knows how to do focus peaking just as well as Sony.

Although my intent is not to review the Fujifilm X-T1, those points are salient because the Fujinon 35/2 works with the camera as a system and this system works well for me. It is a good system.

To sum up, I really like the handling of this lens on the X-T1. With a compact lens and relatively small body, the combination is light, handles very well, produces excellent images, and is a joy to use. The X-T1 and 35/2 fit into a small bag and there is room for extra batteries, extra memory cards, and a couple more of the compact Fujinon lenses. But, those lenses are a topic for another entry.

Does Not Make a Right

I have not yet identified the species of this snake. It looks like a human kill to me. The yellow jackets are feasting (and cleaning up the mess).

A few weeks ago I shared an image and a story about a rattlesnake found dead at a park. A week or so ago The Girl and I were walking the Mexican Ditch Trail on Silver Saddle Ranch when we came across this snake. It looked to me that someone had killed it on the trail and left it.

I cannot tell if it is a rattlesnake or not. It looks like someone took the tail so I am suspicious that it was a rattlesnake.

I am not OK with killing one of these animals on encounter. The Girl and I bypass them and let them contribute their part to the ecosystem. They fill a valuable role.

This is another wrong… and two wrongs do not make a right.

Air Quality

The air quality was abysmal a few days ago. That didn’t stop the geese from flying or me from waking The Girl.

For the last couple of weeks (since I returned home, actually), the air quality here in Carson City and western Nevada has been poor. On several days we were warned by NOAA to check AirNow for air quality conditions and listen to what they said.

Late last week I gave up my strength training because I felt so bad. This weekend I did not go outdoors much at all. I finally gave in early in the week and started taking shorter walks. The Girl was about to go stir crazy and was, therefore, making me crazy. So I gave in and began walking again, trying to make the outings shorter to reduce my exposure to the smoke.

The day I made this image was not the worst. The geese flew anyway. The Girl and I walked a couple of miles out by the Carson River and then returned home.

The air was much better this morning. We made the walk out to Mexican Dam and back to the staging area. The air was much better and I really enjoyed the walk.

The Pepsis wasps were out working one of the milkweed plants. They patiently permitted me to make photographs of them. The Girl rested nearby in the shade.

I’m looking forward to having the fires out. It’s a little selfish, I know, but I will also be happy for those affected by the fires. I know they will be relieved to have them under control and then out.

The Writing Discipline

I found this on morning walkies Sunday and had to have an image.

About a week ago I met Judy M. while walking The Girl out at Riverside Park on the Carson River. I think Judy is about where I was a few years ago after Wife died and I was in the process of discovering what I was to be without her in my life. It was a turbulent time of reflection and introspection during which I ended my engagement with my previous employer, sold my house, put my things into storage, and went on a long wander.

That wander took me many places where I spent time with family, friends, and loved ones. It was necessary for me to take the time to process my loss. It was good to connect with people I love. I cherish that time.

In any event, I think Judy will be an interesting read and encourage you, the reader, to visit her weblog and encourage her to continue posting. I am going to follow her.

Her sharing with me her weblog reminded me that I have not been exercising the writing discipline on my own site for some time. I see that it was early in July when I posted last. To be fair, I was traveling to see family and friends for a couple of weeks. I spent my time and energy on that exercise and that is a good thing. Unfortunately, it meant that I did not have time and energy to spend writing on my own weblog.

I know that I shared before an intention to write here regularly. I find it difficult, though, when I break the habit (or discipline) of writing regularly here to restart that work. I have many things to do and they will take priority if I let them.

That said, I still have the desire and intention of posting here on this site regularly. I suppose that means I need to set a regular reminder in my calendar that posting day is coming so you better get writing and then dig down and do that work.

I make no promise, although I have the intention of writing regularly. I think it is an important part of what I do and I also think I still have plenty of words left in me. Stop laughing…

While walking The Girl this morning we came upon these large wasps working the flowering plants along the path. I think this specimen was nearly 50mm long. The striking contrast between the black body and orange wings caught my eye. So, I made a few captures with the Fuji X-T1 and the Fuji 35mm f/2 lens. Of all the captures, this one I like the best.

I did give them some space. They did not seem particularly aggressive, but the orange wings looked like a warning to me. “Danger, Ruminator!”

When we returned home, I made some lunch (green salad with some ham, turkey, Jack cheese, avocado, and a Roma tomato) and relaxed a little. Then I looked up the wasp. I think it is a Tarantula Hunter, or Pepsis wasp. It was consuming nectar from a milkweed plant, along with a couple of butterflies.

Wrong!

No, I did not kill this snake. I found it at Grimes Point when I stopped for lunch.
On my way east, I stopped at Grimes Point for a break and to make a sandwich. As I sat under the shelter munching a sandwich, drinking a bit of Diet Mellow Yellow, and snacking on some potato chips, I played with the chipmunks begging for bits of my lunch. One of them nearly took a bite of chip from my hand, then shied off. I noticed him creeping up on something a dozen feet away, very carefully. I noticed his attention was focused on a snake. A piece of rebar lay atop the dead animal, the implement of its destruction.

It looked like a Great Basin Rattlesnake to me. Its head was destroyed and the rattles were taken, I suppose as a trophy or souvenir.

This made me a little sad. Yes, rattlesnakes can be dangerous. They do not generally bite unless injured or cornered. They serve a function in the desert ecosystem. They are beautiful animals.

The snake was there because of the rodent population, I’m sure. It was just doing what rattlesnakes do — hunt food. They are where the food is.

It would have been easy to move the snake away from the picnic area without killing it. I would have either left it alone or moved it. They can easily be encouraged to move along without risk. It just takes a long stick and some patience.

There is something wrong with killing an animal needlessly. I have no issue with pest control, hunting for meat, or caring for livestock. But the wanton destruction of this animal was unnecessary and wrong.

What a shame.

Rocks on Driftwood

I found these stones stacked on a piece of driftwood on the Pacific Coast of Oregon.

A couple of years ago I drove up to Washington state to visit some friends and wander around. On my way home, I drove through the Olympic Peninsula, spending a few days working my way back south. I camped some and I stayed in hotels.

As I drove one morning, I came upon a bit of state beach on a cool, foggy morning. The Girl and I wandered down the path to the beach, enjoying the cool, moist sea air. Once on the beach, we found a lot of driftwood piled up from recent storms. I supposed we wandered around the beach for an hour, interacting with some fishermen working the surf and making photographs.

On the way back to the rig, I came on this group of stones that someone stacked on a log. In many ways, it is a stock image. I have seen many similar captures. But there was something about being there on that Pacific beach, finding something that someone else left behind. The image was not staged. The fog provided a wonderful background.

So, I made the capture. It was a good day.

A Pair of Bald Eagles

On walkies near the Carson River, the Girl and I found a pair of bald eagles sitting in a cottonwood tree. It made our day, or at least mine.
I posted this image a few days ago on my Instagram account. I mentioned before that I am disenfranchised with IG of late because of FB’s decision to change to timeline from a chronological order to some algorithmically-driven monstrosity that does not permit me to track my follows. Urgh… OK, I need to end that rant…

The last couple of months were viciously busy with deadline-driven project work. It started before Christmas and has not let up yet. I have a couple more projects in front of me and then I may get a respite. This is not a complaint; I am deeply appreciative of the work. It is an explanation for why this part of my life is quiet — there is simply not enough energy to do the work and to keep up with my personal projects (that are important to me and that provide satisfaction). So my writing and my photography are operating at a low level for now until I finish the paying work.

That does not mean that my daily outings with the Girl stopped or that my carry of a camera has not gone on. In fact, the Girl and I walk at least once each day and on many days we take a second, shorter walk at a nearby doggie-park. I usually carry a camera along with me, either the tiny Olympus OMD E-M10 or now a Sony A7R if I am in a full-frame mood.

I remain a photographic experimentalist, preferring to use vintage or odd lenses on my cameras. I have some solid, modern glass for my Fuji and my Nikons, but those systems are generally reserved for when I need that type of image or am on some kind of project. But, I digress… it is not the equipment that I really care about. The equipment is just a set of tools I use to capture what I see.

On Friday I delayed walkies, partly because Young Son and I went to breakfast and partly because I was working on project work. But we finally drove over to Riverview Park about 1100 hours. I know I can get about a 3.5-mile walk there and it is near the Carson River. Although the river area is much prettier during the warm months, winter still offers the sound of flowing water and an opportunity to see wildlife.

It is this area where I saw my first Kestrel, my first Harrier, and my first Rough-Legged Hawk. I often see flickers, jays, and woodpeckers as well. So I love watching for birds, bunnies, and the occasionally coyote. There are reasons why I prefer walking the Carson River Corridor and not in-town.

As the Girl and I made our way along the path, we were greeted by many other walkers, both two- and four-legged. The Girl loves human interaction and tolerates most canines. She is a different dog than when she came to live with me.

We broke off from the main circuit around Riverview Park and headed north towards Empire Golf Course. As we turned the corner, I noticed a large raptor in a cottonwood tree. It was a bald eagle! Then I saw the second a few feet from the first. It was a pair!

I saw another pair in the area a year or two ago, about this time of year. They were perched in a small tree in the ephemeral wetland in Riverview Park. So I knew that bald eagles are seen in the area. But I was still surprised and delighted to find two of them on my morning walk. It made my day.

Fortunately, I had the Sony A7R with me and an old Vivitar 70-210mm manual-focus zoom lens. I spent a few minutes making captures of the eagles and talking to them while the Girl did doggie things. The eagles just watched us, more interested in the Girl than in me.

We walked on, me marveling at the encounter and the Girl continuing her doggie-things.

I expected them to be gone when we returned. But the pair was still there, still watching. So I made a few more captures, interacted with another walker (who did not see the birds), and we made our way home.

It was a good day. It was a good walk. I am blessed and the visitation of the bald eagles reinforced that for me once again.

Bestech Warwolf

This is my Bestech Warwolf fresh from the hone and strop. It’s a good blade at the price point.

I recently purchased a Bestech Warwolf from an offering on Massdrop. Yes, Massdrop feeds my accumulation disposition. But I generally buy only items that I’m really interested in and are at a favorable price. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I was tempted by a couple of the Bestech knives over the last six months.

My first Bestech is the Swordfish. I’ll have to make a couple of photographs of it and post them, along with some comments, later. It’s on my list of things to do…

The Swordfish is about a half-inch longer than the Warwolf. I’d call the Warwolf a 3-1/2-inch blade. This is a very comfortable length for me to pocket carry and the Warwolf carries a bit better than the Swordfish. So the Warwolf is often carried.

The blade is D2 tool steel. This is a good steel for knives, not the best, but far from the worst. It’s strong and tough and holds an edge reasonable well. It’s also a carbon steel and requires some care (a little oil regularly).

The Bestech Warwolf has an interesting blade shape. The cutting edge is fairly standard, but the spine of the blade has an interesting shape that I really like.
The scales are G10. I love G10 for scales. It is warm, reasonably grippy, tough, and looks good. The frame is also steel and is chamfered so there are no sharp edges. The scales are fit well to the frame. The lockup is solid and relatively easy to release one-handed. The blade deploys via a flipper. The blade is fitted on a bearing that is very smooth and the blade is smooth in the frame but there is not detectable play. A really nice feature is a detent when the blade is closed that prevents it from falling open when handled.

These knives are part of Bestech’s value line. The MSRP is in the $65 range, but they can be bought for about $40. That is an excellent value. As much as I love my Kershaw Blurs, I think this blade is a step up from them. It has much of the character of a more expensive blade but at an excellent price point.

They are Chinese made. When I learned this, I was surprised. It made me recall the stigma of Japanese-produced goods when I was a child. The reputation is that Chinese-made goods are of inferior quality. That is not my experience with Bestech knives.

My only issue with my instance was a small error in the factory grind. I found a small area just toward the tip of the blade that was not as sharp as the remainder of the edge. The fix was relatively easy — I put the blade in my KME sharpener and rebeveled the forward portion of the edge. (I also sharpened the remaining edge to be consistent with my fix.) I’m not completely satisfied with my result and will probably adjust the bevel on my next honing session for this blade. But I now have a very sharp Warwolf with nearly a mirror edge.

I would recommend a Bestech knife without reservation. They are a very good blade at the price point. I expect there will be another Bestech knife in my collection before too many months pass.

Roses, Panasonic G3 and Fujian 50mm f/1.4

Roses with the Panasonic G3 and a Fujian 50mm f/1.4 video camera lens.

The Girl and I love morning walkies. It is partly a ritual, partly exercise, and mostly fun. We have a few favorite routes — some are here in town and others require a short drive. All of them present opportunities to be outdoors, places to walk off-lead, and stimulation from a variety of sources.

Once off-lead, the Girl loves to roam out a bit, sniffing and hunting ground squirrels. She never ranges far from me, although she is not the brightest bulb in the box. She can become focused and lose track of me. Instead of using her “doggie-sense,” she looks for me. That’s not smart…

But, it doesn’t happen all that often and rarely on our in-town routes. When walking in more rural areas, I’m careful to keep track of her even if I’m looking for something to shoot (with the camera).

One of our in-town routes takes us past the old Carson City lumberyard flume. It’s not a linear park, where doggies are welcome, and a wetland. Cattails grow in the drainage ditch (disguised as a wetland) and there is water there most of the year. Blackbirds often frequent the place and I love their calls.

A hedge of rosebushes delineates the boundary between the park and the adjacent open lot. The green is pretty and the small, red and white flowers are visually interesting. There are few squirrel burrows in the hedge, which provides distraction for the Girl.

One morning last fall, I carried the Panasonic G3 with a cheap Fujian 50mm f/1.4 video lens attached. The lens is not very sharp wide open, but has a nice bokeh and is sharp enough when stopped down to f/2.8 or f/4. The color and background attracted my eye this morning, so I made a few captures while the Girl sniffed about.

We then continued walkies, where I found a few bees on the volunteer sunflowers downstream from this site.

It was a good day. Life is good.