Remainders 2013-11-30

Last day of the month. Hmmm…

  • An old favorite band is Mason Proffit.
  • While at the Carson Valley Memorial Hospital for some lab work last week, I came across a few prints posted by Steven Noble. He’s a local photographer and does some really nice work.
  • Only this morning I learned of Saul Leitner. Among the articles I read was this one, which is a poignant personal perspective of an artist and a man.
  • Another bit about Saul Leitner is here.

Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 Reprise

After the unsatisfactory experience of test shooting the Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 manual focus telephoto lens in Nikon mount, I decided that the reputation of the lens was not illuminated (heh) with the particular sample I used. I happen to have a second sample in my stable, but in Olympus OM mount. That’s OK, because I have an Olympus adapter for my Sony NEX-5N handy.

So, I mounted the lens on the tripod and waited for the birds to appear one morning. Of course, with the lens mounted and ready, there were no birds for several days. I finally gave up and shot the empty tree. The first image is the lens shot wide open, f/5.6. (Excuse the beschwitz in the upper right of the images — there was a bit of dust on the sensor.) Although not tack sharp, it’s definitely useable at the aperture.

Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 at f/5.6

The second image is at f/8. It’s much better than wide open. I would not call this tack sharp (again), but it’s quite useable.

Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 at f/8

Although I shot all of the apertures down to f/22, I think one more at f/11 will suffice. Again, it’s a bit sharper than f/8 (not a lot) and completely useable.

Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 at f/11

So, my sample of the Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 in Nikon mount is going to the shop for a check-up. I think it’s a little sick. The Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 is capable of producing solid images and is a bargain at its price point.

My friend Jimmy told me he produced good images from the lens and was surprised by its poor performance. I’d like a 400mm telephoto in my Nikon kit because I like to shoot wildlife and sometimes the 500mm and 800mm lenses are just a bit too much.

One Pair

While walking around Virginia Lake in Reno last Saturday, a number of the waterfowl appeared to pose for me. Of course, they’ve figured out that they can get freebies by playing to the crowd, so they do.

The shot was captured with my Nikon D300 and the Tamron 80-200/3.8 at about 200mm and most likely about f/8.


Prospector Pete

Prospector Pete

On my way to Reno Saturday, I elected to take the old U.S. 395 through Washoe City. There, next to the Chocolate Nugget (sounds nasty, doesn’t it?), resides Prospector Pete. He’s a very patient model and quietly posed for me while I worked the light.

The Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AIS is a great lens. It’s sharp and contrasty throughout its aperture range.

Vivitar Series 1 800mm f/11 Cat

I don’t have a lot of use for an 800mm lens. But, now and again, it’s a useful tool to have when shooting wildlife, especially from long distances. It’s a catadioptric lens, meaning it’s a mirror lens. It’s an unusual piece in that the glass is one solid part. It was unusual and expensive when it was made, so not very many were sold. It’s also a decent piece of glass and can get the job done.

On my crop-sensor Nikon D300, it’s the equivalent of a 1,200mm lens. That’s a lot of reach. I have a Nikon 1.4x extender that I can use (and lose a stop), but there’s not much out there that needs to be shot that can’t be reached with an 1,800mm lens.

I made some minor adjustments to the image, mostly exposure and contrast, and added a bit of sharpening as a final step. Enjoy.

Little Buck

Vivitar 400/5.6 Testing

After comments from my friend Griff, I decided to mount the Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 telephoto on a tripod and shoot a few frames with my Nikon D300. The D300 is a crop-sensor dSLR with an APS-C sensor size and a crop factor of about 1.5. So, the 400/5.6 is equivalent to a 600/5.6 on a full-frame camera. I shot the lens wide open, f/5.6 , stopped down one stops, f/8, and stopped down three stops, f/16. The first frame (follows) is at f/5.6 (wide open). It is not very sharp.

Vivitar 400/5.6 Test III

The next frame is the test shot at f/8. It’s better.

Vivitar 400/5.6 Test II

The final frame is the test shot at f/16. It’s reasonably sharp.

Vivitar 400/5.6 Test I

So, here’s my take-home lesson. The Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 telephoto lens is unacceptably soft wide open. It’s better at f/8 and good at f/16. That means if I need a large aperture because the light is failing, this is not the tool to use. If it’s reasonably bright (where Sunny-16 is good), then the lens is useable at f/16 (maybe f/11) and can produce decent images. But, don’t let your friends shoot one of these wide open. It’s irresponsible photography and will frustrate everyone.

The Long Road Home, Part II

Graveyard ColorWe rose early enough on Thursday, but I just couldn’t get it in gear. I was tired and restless and missed my home routine. I like to rise, make some coffee, and work a bit, read my email, and write. Then I get a shower, make some breakfast, and get started seriously on my day. There’s a walk in there sometime for the Girl and me because we both need the outing.

When traveling though, it just doesn’t work that way. I really want a way to travel where I can cook for myself when I want to. I’d prefer to make a sandwich in the morning for my lunch break, then find a quiet place to stop, enjoy the outdoors, and rest while I eat. I thought about buying a small travel trailer, one just big enough for the Girl and me. I could easily use KOA Kampgrounds as a base of operations while on the road, whether I used their other facilities or not. There is something attractive about having your own place, even when not home. I’ll have to think on this some more.

We got away, finally. I had planned my geocaches along my proposed route. They were downloaded to my iPhone, but saved off-line in case there was not a signal. I figure I can find the geocache without mapping if I can navigate with the iPhone GPS to ground zero, then start looking at likely places. This is working for me and the mapping is great when I have a signal.

We wandered over through Deming, New Mexico, then turned north on US 180 headed for US 191. I think I’ve been through this area one other time, many years ago on my motorcycle. It’s desert, sunny and warm even in October. We enjoyed having the windows down again. There was some traffic along the road, but not too much. The radar detector picked up a couple of working LEOs, but I was legal and didn’t even think about it.

The planned geocache stops were generally in groups of two or three and were 40–50 miles apart. I use the stops as a break from driving, particularly when I begin to tire. The process of getting out of the 4Runner, wandering around for a few minutes, and getting some exercise helps clear my head.

We drove through the Guadalupe Wilderness and stopped at an overlook. I don’t think I got a decent picture of the site. I’m not sure the gear I had with me could do it justice. The location would have been perfect for a field camera, a normal or short telephoto lens, and black and white film with a yellow or red filter. Maybe someday I’ll drive back that way with the required equipment and knowledge to operate it. I think a late afternoon shot with the sun low would be it.

There was no one else at the overlook. The Girl and I had it to ourselves. We enjoyed the quiet outdoors. She took it all in in her inimitable fashion, with wandering around, sniffing, marking, and keeping one eye on me. I catch subtle glances from her, checking to see where I am and what I’m doing. They are quick, usually with her nose to the ground, gathering scent molecules that she processes. I love to watch her work. She fascinates me.

We climbed back into the 4Runner and headed northwest, on our way to the Guadalupe Mountains, Arizona, and Flagstaff for the night.

The drive up to the base of the Guadalupe Mountains was wonderful. The road is decent, there was little traffic, and the afternoon was beautiful. On the other side of the pass, we could see Guadalupe Peak to our right. We found a rest stop/picnic area and stopped. There were a couple of geocaches there and a beautiful site. I made the capture with both cameras (digital and film) and logged the geocache.

On the way down into eastern Arizona I passed an old motel. It was falling apart. I wasn’t going to stop, but thinking about it bit more I decided that if I’m to be a photographer these opportunities cannot be passed. I reversed and went back to shoot a few frames. Before I could stop her, the Girl got a drink from a puddle. I had no idea what that meant, but it was too late to stop her so I forgot about it. She also found a few goat heads and I had to pull them. She doesn’t really like me to remove them, but it’s better than limping about or getting them in her mouth. So, she tolerates me.

We headed on in to Flagstaff and spent the night at the same La Quinta we stayed on the outbound trip. It was not too late when we got there so we had time for a short walk. I think we were both tired and slept well.

I ate breakfast as CoCo’s near the La Quinta. The Girl watched me from the 4Runner, but I was stationed where I could see her (and I suppose she could see me) and there was no pinging. The food was decent and the coffee plentiful.

The young woman working tables looked Native American to me. So, when she paused to refresh my coffee, I asked her “Are you Native American?”



“Yes, how did you know?”

“It’s the shape of your face. I thought I had it.” We chatted a few minutes about the other tribes in the area, the Apache and the Hopi. She explained some of the differences in appearance to me. I enjoyed the conversation.

When I stopped to refuel, I noticed a mesquite spur in the sidewall of one of the tires. That is not a good thing. I must have picked it up at a small cemetery I stopped at along the way. I love to check out rural cemeteries. They have a lot of history and often have a geocache to find. I remember making the turn around and brushing up against a low mesquite bush. That had to be where I picked up the spur.

The local Toyota dealership was no help. So I drove to a Discount Tire nearby. The tire was leaking. So, the pulled it, replaced it with the spare, and remounted the damaged tire on the spare rim so I’d have something if I needed it. The entire process cost me nearly half a day. I knew this meant I would not make it as far as I planned. So I called ahead to a La Quinta on the north side of Las Vegas to stay there. I would drive home Friday.

US 66 WaterhouseWe puttered along the way, listening to music a good part of the time. The Girl likes to curl up in the passengers seat. The window is often down (when not on the super-slab) and she’s within reach. I like to touch her, stroke her head or her side. She’s learned to ask. She’ll reach out with a paw and touch my hand. When I look at her, she gives me that look that says “pet me.” So, I do. We both get something from it.

The Girl is my best friend and my constant companion. She understands me better than most humans, can read my mood and intent, and would rather be with me than anywhere else. We play together, walk together, sleep together, and watch what little TV I watch together. I share some of my food. She’d share her’s if I wanted it. If I go out the door, she’s ready to go too. She pines when we’re separated. So do I.

I don’t own the Girl. She probably owns me. She shares time and space with me and a deep emotional bond. There is a thing about men and dogs, I think. They understand us innately. We can understand them if we take the time. When one does take the time, it’s amazing what happens. It’s like the two species were meant to be together.

Neither of us is perfect. It doesn’t matter.

We spent the night at another La Quinta, this one on the north side of Las Vegas. We walked a bit both evening and morning. We headed home pretty quickly Friday morning. I found a Denny’s where I could park and see her. So, I had some bacon and eggs and had them make a couple of scrambled eggs for the Girl. I had to let them cool a bit, but she likes scrambled eggs. Then we were on the road home.

We stopped to pick up a few geocaches along the way. One location is near the Nevada Test Site and I could hear heavy machine-gun fire off in the distance. I guess it was practice day.

I stopped on the west side of Tonopah to make a couple of images and pick up a geocache (Lonely Mountain, I think). I also needed a bite and the care package one of my friends sent along was the thing. The apples and cheesy crackers were good. While we were standing there, I heard a motorcycle approach. The engine cut out, then restarted, then cut out again. The rider pulled over to the side and parked the machine.

When we finished, the rider was still there, so I reversed and drove up to him. He was a young man, maybe a twenty-something, with dark hair and eyes.

“Would you have some gas I can buy?”

“Nope. I don’t have a spare can with me in the car. Do you have a cell phone? It’s about ten miles to Tonopah.”

“Yes. I thought I could make it from Reno to Tonopah.”

“That’s a long freakin’ way.” I thought about my own long rides and the couple of times I ran out of fuel. As I turned to leave, he had the phone up to his ear. “Do you have a signal?”

Wilson Canyon 1“Yes.” And so we left him to his devices. I was reminded that I should carry a spare bit of fuel in the 4Runner. Even if I carried a one-gallon can, it could help me or someone else along the way. Maybe I should add that to my list of “necessaries” that need to be in the back of the 4Runner when I go out on my long trips. I am expecting more long trips in the future, not less. I think I’ll find myself being something of a nomad sometime in my future. I’ll have a home base, but will range out in search of images and words. We will see.

It was time to make the run home. I had only a couple more geocaches on my list. We stopped to pick them up along the way and then just drove. The Girl settled in beside me for the last push. I had music from the satellites to help me get through. I could feel the draw of home and my own space pulling. So, we drove.

The Long Road Home

Guadalupe PeakI haven’t written about the long trip home from Texas. I started to, but when the Girl sickened, pretty much everything else fell off my radar. The first part of the trip (the outbound leg) was fast and hard. It’s documented here.

The time in Lubbock was well spent. I did what I set out to do — I sat the dissertation defense, met with some potential team members for my firm, and spent time with friends. It was a fast and furious trip and not everything worked out the way I wanted. But that is the nature of life in so many ways. We plan, we work out the details, and then life happens.

Too soon, it was time to head for Dallas for a Monday meeting. The Girl and I drove down Sunday afternoon. We took the longer way, stopping in Post for a bite (nothing special, McDonalds), then proceeding east on US 380. US 380 is a blue-line highway I rode many times when I lived in Texas. It’s a great path through the rolling hill country of northern Texas and passes through a number of small agricultural communities along the way.

The Girl and I stopped now and again to find a geocache. I allowed plenty of time for the trip, so that wasn’t an issue. The day was warm, maybe 80F, and it was good to get out of the 4Runner now and again. As always, she did doggie-things while I searched for the find. Traffic was not heavy (but what there was moved very fast, so I was careful).

It was finally time to just get there, so we moved to the super-slab (IH-20) and motored on in to the hotel. We checked in, I walked her a bit, and we settled in for the night.

I was up early Monday morning, as usual. I made some coffee and started my morning routine. I was ready to go a bit early, so I knew I’d be there on time. I ate breakfast at the adjacent Denny’s. I arranged to sit where I could see the Girl. I don’t like her to bark while she’s waiting for me in the car. (I won’t leave her if the weather is bad, for those who might think otherwise. When I say “bad” I mean either too hot or too cold. I can always grab a biscuit and coffee from McDs or some other fast-food joint.)

We drove to the first appointment. It was downtown (of course). Urgh. I parked in the parking garage, picking a spot where I thought there wouldn’t be a lot of passers-by for the Girl to bark at and under cover in case the sun came out. The weather was moderate, so I wasn’t worried about her getting too hot.

My appointment forgot/mis-scheduled our meeting, so he was late… I mean really late. I should have just gone on, but I wanted to make the meeting. So, I waited. The meeting went fine, but the receptionist came in and told me someone called and reported my dog.

Dallas is a strange place. Every year there are multiple occurrences of people leaving their children or dogs in a locked car (windows up of course) during those 100F days. Someone dies. It’s stupid. That was not the case this day, because the Girl was in an open car (no one is going to try to get into a car with a pit bull in it) and the temperature was only about 65F. But before someone called the police, I elected to close the meeting and move on to the next.

Of course, the Girl was “pinging” me. She will bark her high-pitched bark, then listen for me. Young Son calls that “pinging.” I think that if she’d been quiet, no one would have noticed. I need to figure out how to train her to wait patiently for me, if that’s possible.

The next meeting was a few miles north. We drove up there for that one and my potential partner came outdoors to be with us. He understood my concern with leaving her in the car and it was a beautiful morning. What could be better? He enjoyed the time with us and made over the Girl. I’m never surprised by that. If someone likes dogs, they like them a lot. The Girl responds very well.

I called a friend and potential partner as I left that meeting and arranged to meet for lunch. He found a dog-friendly BBQ place (Shady Oaks BBQ in Fort Worth) and we met. It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed eating outdoors. I was hungry, the Girl got a few nibbles of Texas BBQ, and the fellowship was great.

I need to get back there because there are more folks for me to visit. It will be another time.

The Girl and I made our goodbyes and headed west. We worked our way to Abilene with only a couple of stops for geocaches. It was late enough that I just wanted to get there. I was tired after so many meetings. We puttered around the hotel a bit, getting out to find a few geocaches and some food, then called it a day.

Tuesday morning we headed west again. We passed through Sweetwater, Texas and the wind farm there. I decided to stop for a break in Midland, Texas and a look at my virtual map. I decided to get off the super-slab and drive some of the state highways and farm-market roads.

I did not realize just how bustling the Midland-Odessa area has become. It was crazy with traffic on those secondary highways. There is a lot of heavy truck traffic as materials are being moved to the drill sites. I stopped along the way for a few geocaches, but was reluctant to let the Girl get out with me. It was just too dangerous.

Once we got closer to El Paso, the traffic lessened and it was possible for her to get out with me. The weather was, again, pleasant and we drove windows-down a good part of the afternoon.

We hit El Paso, found the La Quinta there, and called it a day. We walked a bit so the Girl could do her doggie-business, then settled in for the evening. She is such a good traveler.

Better to Light a Candle

CandleMany years ago, Anna Hutto wrote a song entitled It’s Better to Light a Candle (than to curse the dark). I picked up a copy of her CD when she visited Lubbock Bible Church all those years ago. The song was good (as are many of her songs) then and it’s good now, ten- or fifteen-years later. I have this candle that Wife used in Daughter’s wedding. Somehow we ended up with it. It’s been in a box for a long time. I pulled it out during my garage purge, then set it aside. I like candles.

A few weeks ago I was working through a book about grieving for men, The Widower’s Toolbox. One of the suggestions was to burn a candle. So, I found this one, put it on a glass candle plate, and placed it in the center of our dining table. This is the table we spent so much time around the last couple-three years, solving the world’s problems as well as our own. I light the candle, sometimes a couple of times a day and use it as a remembrance of Wife and our joint lives. Somehow the capture seemed obvious to me. It was dark and snowy this morning, as dark and cold as my soul. It was the perfect moment to capture a live flame. I shot the damned thing with my mobile phone. Then I set it aside for processing, but it didn’t really need very much adjustment.

A year ago today was Thanksgiving. I’m remembering that time through my journals as well as my wetware memory. I’ve been in funk this week. It was a year ago Tuesday that Wife’s mid-course PET/CT revealed residual disease. That she might die became real for her this week a year ago. She wasn’t feeling well and the sadness of her imminent death, or the increased likelihood thereof, weighed on her. She slept most of Thanksgiving Day last year. A friend brought us a meal and we shared it, but there wasn’t a lot of joy that day. There was thankfulness, yes, for the years and for each other, but there was also a heaviness over us as we processed the recent news, each in our own way.

My poor Wife was not feeling very well those days. She had good moments and made a real effort to participate in life. But the stress of all the chemotherapy pressed on her. The hard news of her residual disease, the unknown that presented, and the attempts to find a place for her to get radiotherapy to reduce the remaining disease were hard. There’s no telling what the residual disease was doing to her at that time. I suspect her CNS involvement began about this time, but didn’t manifest symptoms until early in December. When those symptoms presented, it was obvious to me though the doctors were dismissive.

I wrote quite a bit in my journal that Thanksgiving day. I processed what I learned from the UCSF medical staff and spent a lot of time reading medical literature. I didn’t like what I read, not because I don’t like facts, but as I worked through the studies of her kind of lymphoma, the impact of recurrent/refractory disease, and the prognosis for those whose disease returned I was dismayed at the probability of a cure. Her attending physician at UCSF told us that with active residual disease, about ten percent get a cure. With the lymphoma knocked down, the probability improved to 60 percent. The probabilities I extracted from the medical literature varied from these, but that is the nature of statistics. Regardless, I didn’t like what I was learning and was dismayed.

I kept it all to myself, leaving Wife to focus only on the tasks before her. It really didn’t matter what the statistics revealed. Every person is an individual and statistics apply only to groups. Furthermore, there was a path before us to walk. I was determined to walk it all the way to the end with Wife, however things turned out. With the retrospect of nearly a year, I would change nothing but the outcome. We did what we were supposed to do. We didn’t give up.

In my journal, I told myself that if Wife died, I’d give this job and this place through 2013 and then think things through again. Now, as I approach the end of 2013, I wonder. I have almost nothing to do at work. It’s making me crazy, drawing pay without work to do. I don’t have enough leave or I’d just head out… somewhere. I have no idea where, just go. I’d take unpaid leave, but we don’t do that at my company.

There are four projects on the horizon for 2014. That means there are probably four more small projects that will happen as well. It’s probably enough to keep me employed here, if I want that. I ask myself, “Do I want that?” but have no answer. I do not know what I want, except to be productive somehow, somewhere.

I think I can hold on until the first of the year. My boss is unwilling to release me. I hope there is work then. If there is, then I’ll give it another six months. Then I’ll review again. After that, I don’t know. But who knows anything about a day out, much less a year?

It’s better to light a candle than to curse the dark. So I’ve heard. I keep a candle lit a good part of the time. I reflect. I remember. I grieve. I’d like to curse the dark, even with a candle lit before me. I’d like to shake my first toward Heaven, but there’s nothing there to be gained either. I’d like to curse God and die, but that would dishonor Wife’s life and her struggle.

What will I do? I have no idea. But I’d sure like someone — or Someone — to tell me.