Thursday, March 30, 2006

Crack o' friggin dawn

Drug my butt outta bed at 5:00 this morning to drive down to the tidal basin in DC. Rumor had it that today would be the start of the peak bloom for the Cherry Blossoms. Couple that with a good weather forecast and no winds, and you end up with a decent photo op.

What a madhouse! By the time I got there (at 5:30), about half of the parking spaces were taken in the paddle boat parking lot. By sunrise, the place was full. I'd guess that there were well over a hundred photographers (with tripods), and at least 4 morning news crews (with lights, vans, cables, satellite antenna, cameras, and pretty people with fancy hair), and some random large groups of high school aged kids (some was kinda weird).

I spent a fair amount of time when I first arrived wandering around looking for prime real estate. What made things more challenging was the bigass ugly grey box that the park service (I assume) decided to leave dead-center in front of the Jefferson Memorial:

(Click the photo for the for the full sized version. Note, this is ugly pre-dawn light and an unprocessed image taken specifically as a "look how ugly that thing is" image. Don't judge my maad photo skillz by this shot please.)

I'm guessing it's part of a stage; some piece of the Cherry Blossom Festival. Whatever it was, it made for some crappy photo opportunities. Here's hoping it gets moved before the peak bloom is over. (HEY PARK SERVICE...YOU LISTENING?)

Anyway. I managed to find an OK spot with foreground branches that would mostly obscure the grey monolith. I set up the tripod and waited for the good light.

Unfortunately, the cloudless sky didn't have much interesting color as the sun rose. I snapped away anyway with the film, digital and 3D cameras, occasionally turning my lens on my fellow photographers.

I browsed throught the digital shots I captured, and did some quicky-processing to this one. Hopefully, with a little more time invested, the final version will be a bit nicer. But here's a teaser:

(Click the photo blah blah blah).

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Beat

I had the chance to see The English Beat play in Annapolis last weekend. Before heading out to the event, I gave a call to the venu, the Ram's Head Tavern, to ask if they allowed cameras. They said it was up to the performer, and that The Beat was cool with it (no flash, however). Cool! So I took my camera, and my two fastest, bestest lenses and took shots from the crowd all night. (The Ram's Head is a seated, dinner-theater esque place, so shooting from our seats was pretty easy/fruitful).

The lighting was tough (as it is at most concerts). The lead singer, Dave Wakeling, (the only original member still in the band, I think) was well lit most of the night, but the other members of the band were usually hidden in shadows.

For the photo-nerds, I was shooting my 20D at ISO 3200 and f/2.8 all night. Even at that, I could have used more shutter speed, as a few of the shots are blurred. Post processing was mainly just cropping and resizing. I'm also trying to learn dodging and burning, so there was some occasional burning going on, to fade some stuff into the background. Anyway, take a look and let me know what you think.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Photo props

This past weekend, Ben (of fame) and I entered a local photography show and contest. At the time that we dropped off our submissions (3 hours before the cut-off), there were about 250 photos. By the time the show opened, I'd estimate (roughly) that there were probably 350-400 photos.

The photos were categorized by subject: Senic, Nature, Animals, B&W, Portrait, Photojournalism, and Digitally enhanced. I entered 5 photos (the max). Two in Nature, two in Animals, one in Digitally Enhanced. Ben entered 4 (not sure exactly which categories).

When I went to the show on Sunday, I was pretty impressed to see that Ben managed to pull out a first-place win in the "Nature" category (complete with blue ribbon) for his fantastic flower photo:

I was also pretty stunned to see that I managed a third-place finish in "Animals" for my heron shot:

So, modesty be damned, I guess what I'm saying is "yay for us".

Monday, March 13, 2006


The Cellar's Image of the Day site (or thread?) accepted another (found) photo I submitted. See it here. It's a creepy photo; part of a story about urban coyotes.

Not long ago, I saw a squashed something in the median of the Dulles Toll Road, just north of the airport. The creature had to be a coyote. It was distinctly different looking than any other squashed dog I'd seen. Plus it was a long way away from any suburban neighborhoods, so I doubt it was some family's pet Rover. I'd had the good intentions to stop and take it's picture, but never got around to it.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

New links

So I have about a dozen posts queued up, pissing and moaning about life in general (does anybody really need two traffic tickets in 3 weeks? No? Relly? I didn't think so. (Coming soon: "We put the 'Rant' back in Rant-o-Riffic!")...


Thought I'd take a detour from the complaining (online, at least) and point out a few links I've added.

DT moved his blog, and didn't bother to tell anybody. Guess he assumed his friends would be bright enough to figure it out. Well, at least one of us weren't. That'll teach him. (Also, thanks to DT for pointing out the vast amount of data that gives you. I had totally forgotten).

Lee has moved/reincarnated his blog...a little less covert-ly.

Last but not least, some character named fatbob29r has surfaced on a couple of blogs I read. I had no idea until I put 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 and came up with 16 that it's an old biking buddy from the area, since moved to Atlanta, then on to TEXAS (everything is bigger in Texas...even the font). I'm pretty psyched to see he's started blogging, since it's far too difficult for me to actually just compose a damn email to catch up with the guy. Man, I suck.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Still on the subject of biking...

This past Tuesday, I tagged along on the regular TNS ride run by the DT/Spearman/Stoner crew. This week promised a larger group, and a group of really strong riders. That should have been my first warning sign.

We met at the usual spot in Arlington, headed east to DC and (as far as I knew) a nice bar with heat and beer and pizza in Georgetown. To my dismay, we rode right past the bar, and then down to the K street underground. We met a couple of other guys there, then started peadling out on a path I'd never even seen before (evidently the "Capital Crescent Trail"). I asked one of the other riders what the plan was, since we were now pedaling away from the beery salvation of the bar. He said he thought the ride was going to head up to Bethesda, then over through Chevy Chase, pick up Rock Creek Parkway, and pedal back down into Georgetown, ending at the bar we'd first discussed. I gave him the ol' "hahaha that's a good one ohshityou'renotkiddingaboutridingallthef*waytobethesdaandbackareyou" look. Since it was dark, thankfully, he missed the horrified look on my face. I told him nothing personal, but if I all of a sudden wasn't around anymore, it simply meant that I turned my ass around and pedaled for home. I could manage the Arlington to Georgetown ride without too much trouble. An Arlington-to-Georgetown-to-Bethesda-to-Chevy Chase-to-Rock Creek Park-to-Georgetown-eventually-back-to-Arlington ride might be a bit beyond my endurance levels right now.

So the ride headed north. The stronger riders tearing-ass into the lead. DT being kind enough to hang back and keep me company. He and I pedaled steadliy onward, me never sure where I was gonna run outta gas and turn around.

Despite the trail feeling like a neverending mountain climb all the way out of DC (mainly due to the optical illusion created by me forgetting my perscription glasses, an ever so slightly uphill path, and a the circle-of-lighted-salvation-in-the-darkness provided by my helmet light, I felt surprisingly good with each passing pedal stroke. We managed (well...*I* "managed", there was little question DT would be able to pull off the whole ride) to make it all the way up into Bethesda and the halfway point, where the rest of the riders were waiting for us.

Once we regrouped, a few photos were snapped and we headed out on our return journey.

Thankfully, the road ride down Rock Creek Parkway is mostly downhill heading back to G'town. And not too heavy with traffic. We would have made great time, had there not been 3 flats in rapid succession, costing us over an hour of stand-around-in-the-cold -and-watch-other-guys-fix-flats time. Two flats were on "Spearman's Own Experimental Tire and Wheel Set", which proved a bitch to fix. After a fair amount of fighting with the hardware, he got rolling well enough to get us all on the road again. A few short miles later, we finally pull into the bar for well deserved beers and warmness and pizza.

Beers flowed. Pizzas arrived. Smack-talk ensued. After a couple of hours, the crowd begins to disperse as riders headed for home in waves. The last group to go was Spearman, DT and me. After all the pedaling done so far, we still have to ride back out to Arlington...5 or 6 miles distant. And by this point, my headlight is long dead.

The ride home is uneventful (thankfully). Rides home usually seem to pass pretty quickly for me. One of the benefits of a few beers at the midpoint, I guess. There's just a very fine line between "uneventful, quick ride home" and "shitfaced, powersliding into home plate on a bike". I'm still learning where that line is.

So, when all was said and done, we rode somewhere between 36 and 38.x miles. Probably my longest road ride since doing the 63 mile "Tour de Cure" a few years back. I was happy that my legs and lungs held up as well as they did. The next day, I felt pretty good, too. Guess there's hope for me and this "biking" thing yet.

Slack. Biking. Probe.

I've actually been doing some cool stuff lately, but I've just been too damn lazy to write about it. So I'll try to condense into a single catch-up post...

Last weekend I went camping/biking with a bunch of friends I rarely see anymore. We hit Green Ridge State Forest in MD. The camping was chilly, and the biking kicked my ass; but it was a great weekend none the less.

Green Ridge has a 12 mile (mostly) singletrak bike loop with a few "easy out" escapes for thos who burn out before completing the full loop. I don't know how much climbing there is in total, but it's a hell of a lot more than I'm used to at Wakefield. A couple of friends and I decided to do a short night ride after we arrived on Friday. Temps were just about 19 degrees. The other two guys are in far better riding shape than I, and were nice enough to go easy on me. We did about 6 miles total, including about 2 miles on fireroads to and from the trailhead.

On Saturday, try as I might, my friends wouldn't let me bag out of the longer planned ride. I'm glad they didn't. We added one more rider (a guy recovering from a torn/dislocated/busted-up shoulder) to our group. With temps in the 50s, it was a perfect day for riding. Despite feeling like the shorter ride the night before nearly killed me, I felt surprisingly good once on the trail in the warmth and sunlight. Busted-shoulder-guy and I managed 9-10 miles, including about 3 on fireroads. The two other guys did the full loop.

Sunday, we woke up to snow falling. Most folks decided to break camp early and head for home. I packed all my junk into the truck (where it still sits, for the record), hopped in line with a caravan of vehicles heading east, and drove for home.

I'll end Part One here. Look for Part Two, comig soon to a theater near you.