Monday, April 20, 2015

My Claim To Fame

My one small footnote in the history books of Lenoir North Carolina:

I am likely the only person in history to drive a Google Bike thru the hallways of the Broyhill Civic Center.  I have proof:
Picture taken by Brendyl Smith
I hope someone is writing this down...

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Avian Landlords 0x03

In the bushes right outside my living room window, a pair of cardinals have made a nest.  I have started capturing their progress, and posted the photos here.  You can see the rest of the series by clicking this link:  Avian Landlords.

Today proved to be more interesting.  Yesterday, being the first day, the parents did not return to the nest the entire time the camera was set up.  Today they seem to be getting used to the camera as I saw both the mother and (briefly) the father.

The first shots were of the chicks sleeping in the nest.

This was the brief shot I got of the father (you can see some of his red feathers at the very top of the nest).  He likes to stay on the sides, and out of the nest.  He also doesn't stick around very long, so he is rather camera shy.

When the chicks are not sleeping, they have their beaks open, waiting for food (I presume - I am not an ornithologist)
This may be a shot of a feeding,  but I am not sure.  You can see mama's beak hovering over one of the chicks.
This is mama, sitting on the nest.   I assume its for warmth, but it is raining today, so I also think she is spending some of her time sheltering the chicks from the cold rain.
One last shot of mama hanging out on the nest.
Finally, thanks to #AutoAwesome, you can get a time-lapse-esque feel og the activity on the nest today.
I hope to have more photos of the chicks up in the next day or two, so stay tuned!

Avian Landlords 0x02: The Setup

In the bushes right outside my living room window, a pair of cardinals have made a nest.  A couple days ago their eggs hatched and two chicks now inhabit the nest.

I have started taking photos of the nest, in an attempt to capture the growth of the chicks.

Since I have a lot of photographer friends, I figure a post on my setup would be interesting.

I am using a Sony A6000 camera with a 55-210mm lens, on a tripod.  I set the focus to manual to ensure the focus is on the nest, and not the plethora of leaves and the flowers between the nest and the lens, and have it on Aperture Priority Mode, and am letting the camera decide the rest of the settings.

I have the camera sticking out the window, on a tripod, pointing down into the bushes.

The A6000 has a really cool remote control feature, which allows me to take photos from an app on my phone.  This allows me to be other places in the house and still monitor the nest so I can take photos at the right times.  So far I have set the camera up for over an hour at a time and this allows me to do other things at the same time - for example, todays crop of shots was taken while playing Skip-Bo with the kids at the kitchen table.
Not having to watch the nest directly also means that I am not causing as much stress to the birds, even tho I have a camera pointed at them for hours at a time.  I think this is going to allow for more natural shots.  Already the mother is getting used to the setup and is coming back to the nest when the camera is present, but I am not.

This setup is allowing me to get shots like this one.

Post processing is simply the Auto Adjust feature in Picasa, then uploading.

You can keep track of the progress of the chicks by following this blog, using the label Avian Landlords (<-- i.e. click that link).

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Avian Landlords 0x01

In the bushes right outside my living room window, a pair of cardinals have made a nest.  A couple days ago their eggs hatched and two chicks now inhabit the nest.

Watching them grow should prove interesting.  Here are some pics of the siblings (Check the #AutoAwesome'd animation at the end):

I hope to take more pics over the coming days so stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I Am A (Trivia) Champion!

On Saturday night I became a champion.

No foolin'!  I have proof:

What am I champion of?  Geocaching Trivia, of course. (My sister always accused me of being a smart ass - its finally paid off!)

The event was the first anniversary of the fantastic series of events called "It's All Just Trivia", the brain child and labour of love for a pair of Carolina geocachers hoosiersunshine and Failed Apparatus.

As a special treat, frequent winners of past events, Team La Villa, hosted the event, and let hoosier and failed-app enjoy playing the trivia game they spend so much time planning and hosting.

After much begging and bribery, they finally let me join their team, along with Rock Kat, Maingray, and Ninja Chipmunk.

Our team name was the obvious and accurate "I Got 99 Problems But Hosting Trivia Ain't One."  We also won "Best Team Name" for that one.

We started off poorly, as the first two categories of trivia were on South Carolina caches, which none of us were experts on (most of us being from North Carolina, and the one sole South Carolina resident is actually a hoosier - I'll leave which one that is as an exercise for the reader).  However by the third round we found our stride, and lead the charge to a strong but close finish (we beat the next closest team by only a few points.)

They already have many more trivia events planned for the next year (bookmark list, Facebook), and likely even more to come, so if you find yourself in the South, you should keep an eye out for what is always an awesomely fun time at an It's All Just Trivial event.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Han Shot First: Lego Edition

One of the biggest controversies to ever reach geekdom is the changing of the Mos Eisley scene in Star Wars Episode IV.  George Lucas changed the scene where Han Solo faced off against the bounty hunter known as Greedo in the 1997 Special Edition re-release.  Ever since there has been a mystery about the events of that epic encounter.

This is my response:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hiking A Fire Road

I have not been on a proper adventure since I got back from Nevada almost 3 weeks ago.

That trip was amazing, but I have not had a chance to decompress since then.  I've realized recently that being an introvert means I need some alone time after a super-intense social activity, and I had not had the chance to get that, so I was feeling an abnormal amount of stress - for no real reason other then my brain works that way.

What I really needed was to head off by myself, and spend some time exploring the world - preferably in the mountains (which, fortunately, is an easy thing to do in these parts).

So after Church this morning, I loaded my gear, and Bailey The Wonder Puppy into the Geovan of Destiny, and headed off to hike an old fire road near Old Fort NC.

The road is used by rangers to access the deeper parts of Pisgah National Forest, which is a woodland that takes up a large swath of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  This particular road winds its way along a ridge line.  When its not in use by the rangers, it makes a great hiking trail.

It also provides some stunning views, which I took every opportunity to enjoy.
The above photo was taken with my DSLR using the remote control app on my smart phone.  Isn't technology wonderful?

Also wonderful is the in-camera panorama setting.   I just need to keep the shutter pressed down, and move the camera in an arc, and magic happens:
You can see the trail I was hiking on the left.

I hiked about 2.5 miles down the road, grabbing some geocaches as I went along (I found 10 in total). On the way back I took some more photos with my camera.  Since I was alone, and nature wasn't super photogenic (spring had barely reached the mountains) I used Bailey as a model.  I'd let her wander ahead, then call her back and take photos of her running (note: its great having a model that works for jerky).
As I was coming back, I heard a train running thru the valley below.  The train must have been passing by for almost a half hour.  However by the time I got to a place where I could see the track, it was disappearing into the trees.
Spring has hit the foothills where I live, and life is starting to bloom (I've even mowed the lawn once, and it needs another one), but its barely begun in the mountains.  These flowers were the few bits of new growth I saw.
After the 5 mile hike, I started to drive home.  However as I was navigating the really slow, windy roads, I realized that I was not really relishing hitting the highway. So I took the long way round and stuck with side roads all the way home.  It took an extra hour (I may have detoured a bit here and there), but the long slow drive whilst listening to some great driving tunes, really picked up my spirits.

This adventure was just what the doctor ordered, which makes this a very good day.