The Frederick, MD High-Wheel Bicycle Race 2017

I went downtown (Frederick, MD) to watch and photograph the 2017 Frederick High-Wheel bicycle race.  I was not disappointed although I could have taken more equipment to get some various shots.

The race started with a warm-up lap, but it wasn’t long before the competition became serious.

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The Warm-up lap…  The little guy in the front is not in the race.

As a special treat I learned that a Swede (Per Olof Kippel) was visiting and racing today.  It turns out that Per had built a lot of the cycle racing today.  His website in Sweden is at standardhighwheels.se

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Per Olof Kippel enjoying himself

I concentrated my photography at the corner of Record Street and W. Church Street so I could get both head-on shots of the ‘peloton’ coming south on Record Street, turning left onto W. Church Street and then disappearing down W. Church St.  There goes Per down W. Church Street…

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There goes Per!

The lead changed a few times (although I don’t know most of the racers).

There was one female racer that I could determine (wearing a Michigan jersey) although it was not apparent that she lead the race at any point.  She should still be lauded for her attempt!

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The competition got heated (as you would expect) with

I didn’t could the laps, but each lap was 0.4 miles.  I’m guessing that there were no more than 10 laps but there could have been more (that would make it a 4 mile race).

Per seemed to really enjoy himself.  I’ll send him a link to this post (and let him know that my Swedish ancestry would be pleased to know that he came to race in Frederick).

Ride, ride, ride!

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Strange Mushrooms in my Backyard

OK, so I’ve been keeping my binoculars out on the dining room table recently because our backyard is slowly becoming a menagerie.  Ever since the dogs are no longer with us, the wild animals seem to like our backyard. This morning there was a devious-looking squirrel perched on top of a fence post, so I fetched the binoc’s and started watching him.  He climbed down off the fence post and went straight to a pile of something in the mulch near the hammock.  He was eating something there in the mulch (in the same area that I had thrown a plum pit a few weeks ago.  I felt the need to go investigate.  When I got out there (and scared Mr. Squirrel away), I found that what he had been eating was bits of a pile of mushrooms, specifically those in figure 1 (below).  These mushrooms don’t look at all strange, in fact it looks sort of familiar, but I’m not going to try them in my food.  I could be unpleasantly surprised!

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Figure 1.  Squirrel food – sort of plain mushrooms

So as I examined these “common” mushrooms I noticed something else a couple feet away (Figure 2, below, still in the mulch, and still not too strange).  I thought to myself,  “hmmm… this is getting interesting” and then I noticed a couple more even stranger growths.  I don’t ever recall our backyard ever having much in the way of mushrooms before and so I decided to go get the camera and maybe even write a blog about them.  We had our yard mulched just a few weeks ago and since that time we had significant rainfall.  I suspect that something was transported in with the mulch and then the rain and warm humid weather prompted it to grow.

I should add that I hadn’t seen the squirrel(s) eating these, so perhaps they weren’t quite so edible!  I’ll be watching the squirrels more in day to come to see if they succumb to these plants.

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Figure 2.  More fairly common mushrooms – at least the right color (I think)

Here’s the third batch of mushrooms that I found (figure 3, below).  Now these are getting relatively strange.  When I first saw this, I thought that a foreign domestic animal had gotten into our yard (it wouldn’t have been the first time) and done its business!  I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite like these and certainly not in our yard.  They almost look like they have been baked (or thrown up), or at least cooked – maybe by the sun recently.  As I recall mushrooms like the dark and NOT the sun, so maybe they react very negatively to the sunlight.  But if that was the case why did they grow here out in the sunlight in the first place?  They still don’t look very appetizing to me cooked or not!

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Figure 3.  These things looked like they have been cooked and are ready to eat (NOT)!

Finally, example number four (figure 4, below).  This thing (singular?) doesn’t look so different in terms of shape, but it certainly was colorful – hmmm…  Maybe it is the plant’s way of attracting ignorant animals that think it looks good to eat.  That could be its way of getting nutrients to grow (by poisoning unscrupulous passers by, or at least distributing the spores via normal life processes).

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Figure 4.  Yummy looking, eh?  Sure try some, see what you think… Can you think?

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Narrow Little Alleys

I love narrow little alleys – the narrower, the better!  And the more outlandish (what is in them for instance) – the better too!  I’m going to post some images of the alleys I photographed in France this past month.  There were some doozies – not the narrowest or most outlandish, but some very good ones regardless.

In Paris we did not visit the old part of town on this trip, so we may have missed the best “narrow little alleys” there, but we did go to the Pere LaChaise cemetery (where Chopin and Morrison – among many others are buried).  They may not be officially classified as “alleys” but they meet my criteria.  And by the way the cemetery is named after Henry VIII’s confessor Father LaChaise.

In Lyon, the second largest city in France, we found a couple (and of course there were many more that I didn’t have time to photograph, or even find).  These were actually in the old part of town (old Lyon) and that part of town was really packed with people (they looked more like locals than tourists).  I try to avoid people in my photos but it was impossible here.

Peruges is a medieval town preserved in its 13th century style and is interrupted from this condition by only the vehicles (modern cars and trucks) that the inhabitants are allowed to have to sustain their existence there.

In Tournon there was a jackpot of alleys.  Here we climbed up through the city to get to the cathedral to hear an organ performance of classical music.

In Les Baux we found a few alleys.  Les Baux is a tiny town that was rebuilt after the fall of the Roman Empire (and is right beside the ruins of a Roman fortress) but it name is associated with aluminum ore – bauxite.  I don’t know if the town was named after the ore or the ore was named after the town – I’ll find out some day.

Finally for this trip, Arles (yes, still in France) provided an interesting alley, but I actually missed most of them because I was in a hurry.

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Selection of a Travel Video Rig

I’m way behind on blog posts!

So I’ll have to catch up somehow…  [Go the bottom of this post to see its continuation.]

I am currently trying to assemble a good still-and-video-kit for our traipse to France in July (so I have a couple months yet), but I want to get ahead of the game.  The first order of business is to decide on whether to use a Nikon or Sony platform.  The Nikon stuff is going to be much better quality-wise, but the Sony stuff is going to be a lot easier to carry and move around.  The Sony stuff might also not be as much of an attraction to thieves (but I’m not sure that should even be an issue).  This image doesn’t really do the size difference justice.  The Nikon is way bigger and heavier.

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The lens on the Sony a6500 in this image is 12mm f/2.8 Zeiss glass (but with the 1.5 crop factor of the smaller sensor, it equates to 18mm focal length.  The lens on the Nikon D810 on the right is a 14-24mm f/2.8 zoom (no crop factor interferes), but it is one heavy piece of glass!  In both cases I have lots of lens options to choose from, but more on teh Nikon side than on the Sony side.  If I’m comfortable with manually focussing, I can put the Nikon lenses (properly called Nikkor) on the Sony with an adapter (I just hate to risk forgetting that I have to manually focus).

There are other pros and cons too though.  The Nikon has better quality primarily because the sensor is large and contains 36 mega pixels of sensor density.  The Sony’s sensor is have the physical size but contains 24 mega pixels of density.  Because of this difference the Nikon requires more storage space for saving these gigantic image files.  At the moment, only the Sony has realtime telemetry and it wold take more ‘hardware’ to telemeter the Nikon (I think – I need to research that some more).

Another major difference is the way the two cameras’ monitors work.  The Sony has a small monitor that tilts (so that one can take low-perspective or high perspective shots) while the Nikon’s monitor does not move at all and is fixed in place on the back panel of the camera.  The monitor of the Sony has a partial touch-screen and can focus by touch and can adjust ISO and some other camera settings too.  The Nikon has no touch-screen controls.  To operate the Nikon in video mode the operator has to set the live-vie control to Video and then only the monitor can be used for scene monitoring (the Sony can do this either with the monitor or the electronic view finder).

Power-wise the Nikon is way ahead of the Sony with long-lasting batteries (and twice that long-lasting with its battery grip in place, but that adds more weight).  the Sony batteries drain really fast, but I have a half dozen of them if I need them.

With regard to video, the Sony can record half an hour of 4K in one stretch, and I don’t think the D810 can record much 4K at all, but that’s another feature that I need to research.  In fact I know how to use the Sony, but I need to study up on the Nikon in general.

Both cameras have HDMI output connections (albeit difference sizes) and both can be used with an external monitor of one sort or another but the Nikon needs more hardware to do that (I think I mentioned that already).

I haven’t tested the Sony in the dark but with an ISO limit of half of that of the D810, I am guessing that the Nikon will do much better in low light levels.

BOTTOM 🙂

I acquired a number of support pieces for the a6500 (SmallRig cage, L-bracket and even a NeeWer 7″ HDMI monitor).  The monitor arrived yesterday and is unacceptable for my planned use (no battery, screen ‘damaged’ (a screen protective film is double over and clamped by the bezel at one of its corners).  The other structural support elements seem to work find but…

Well I’ve decided that I don’t want the Sony a6500 so it is going back to the store for a full refund (it’s less than 30 days old).  I’ve got way too much money invested in cameras and I am going to be paring the ‘collection’ down.  The a6500 did not give me any better feel than the a6300 that it replaced (and which was sold in an online forum to help fund the a6500). So all of the aforementioned support articles are going back to since they don’t fit anything except the a6500.

If the Nikon 7500 (which has a possible ISO of 1,640,000 (!!!!), but it’s a DX sensor not available until June (so there is still some thinking in process).  Either way I’m basically starting from scratch.  At the moment I am planning on using the D810 for the project.

NEXT BOTTOM 🙂

Well the D7500 is apparently not all it’s cracked up to be.  I won’t be buying one anytime soon.  I’m sticking with my D810 for ‘away’ shots/videos and the for the time being with the Sony a5100 for the selfie videos (I’ll worry about integrating the formats later).  The Atomos Ninja Blade should easily work with both of them.  (It does not work well with the Nikon 1 options as their HDMI is not at all clean!)

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Big Cork Vineyards in Rorhesville, MD

On a wonderful afternoon in the middle of February, we decided to check out the Big Cork Vineyards.  The temperature was right around 70F (inching up briefly to 73F where we were).  And apparently a lot of people had the same idea we did.  The winery was crowded.  (Pardon the lens flare.)

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The sun was bright and the air was warm and it was just a gorgeous day.  And Big Cork was ready for the crowds inside and out.  The physical plant houses both the winery, sales and the needs to support a kitchen of sorts (cheese and cold meats are prepared and sold for those who want something to eat with their wine.

The Vineyard is located in the beautifully rolling hills of central Maryland.  The hills around the property are apparently good for the vines and they add to the picturesque perspective of the countryside.

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The tasting bar was packed with groups of tasters being served by several knowlegeable servers.  The cost of the tasting was a bit high at $10 per taster plus tax and payment using a tablet payment tool that requests a tip of 5, 10, or 15% (which was a surprise and adds up fast).  The wines offered for tasting included a 2015 Chardonnay, a 2015 Viognier, a 2014 Meritage, a 2014 Cabernet Franc, a 2014 Nebbiolo, and a 2015 Vidal Blanc.  Prices of the wines on the tasting list ranged from $16 (the Vidal Blanc) to $42 (the Nebbiolo) which seemed a tad high to us, but considering the investment that had to be made

Outside the facility three out of four sides offered outdoor seating and eating/drinking, and on the east side of the building a large patio extends out toward an open field for even more relaxation.  Today there were kite fliers in the field and music (a singer-songwriter was performing with her guitar) on the east side’s covered area.

The winery/vineyard is pet friendly and several dogs (we didn’t count them all) and the dogs all seemed to get along with each other too, although all were outside as would be appropriate.

The crowning glory (in my book anyway) was the winery room that included both wooden casks and steel tanks (aside from all the plumbing and valving for fluid transfer.  All of the wines were touted (during the tasting) as having some of the time in wood and some in steel.  The winery room supported this characteristic.

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Our visit was great (mostly because of the weather) although we did not come home with any wine – maybe next time.

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Gaylord’s National Harbor and ICE Show

So we went to the National Harbor on December 27th to stay for the night and enjoy the ICE show as well as the other interesting environment at the National Harbor.  We ended up riding the Capital Wheel, but more about that later.  The large structure in the center of the image below is the Gaylord Hotel.  As you can see there is a LOT of glass in the building and it presents great views out over the water and the harbor.  This image was taken from the base of the Capital Wheel before we boarded.

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Inside the Gaylord the views were great too.  The entire atrium is decorated for Christmas (and other winter holidays I assume – although I didn’t notice any), and much of the decoration seems to be permanent.

This evening image was of the Gaylord light show that was presented at 7PM 12/27 (probably other nights too).

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The ICE show was cold and colorful! As usual it included the iceslide for all and I think I was the only family member that didn’t slide!

After the ICE show we found some kid’s rides that looked appetizing to the youngsters so we stopped to have hot chocolate and to let the boys and girls ride for awhile.

The next day (we were really tuckered out from the ICE show and the riders, etc.) we ventured out to the National Harbor (good name by the way) and also rode the Wheel.

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The Capital Wheel reminded Connie and I of the London Eye, but on a much smaller scale.

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Pictures from the car were replete with glaring reflections however, so I won’t offend the reader with the resulting images.  Needless to say that we enjoyed our CW ride and after a lunch at the Pier House we headed home to Frederick.  Another long exhausting day.

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Upgrading my Phantom

I’ve finally decided to upgrade my drone.  I have had a Phantom 1, and then a Phantom 2 Vision +, and now a Phantom 4 Pro.  The big change from the last version (the Phantom 3 Pro?) is the larger camera sensor.  It is larger physically and it is larger in pixel count (20MP).  We will see if they provide a better image either in stills or video.  I really was pretty satisfied with the old FC200 that had only 12MP, but the multiple improvements that came a long with the Phantom 4 made the better camera a serious attraction.  The shipping bracket is still on the camera in the image below.

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I’m still debating what monitor to use.  I have the iPhone 6 plus attached to the controller in these two images below, but I probably will want to use something larger.  I’m not sure if Apple or Android is the way to go.

Also in the image below is the multiple battery charger.  It has three sockets, and I charged two of them today.  I was surprised to discover that it charged the batteries serially (one at a time), starting with the strongest battery (the one with the most charge).

dsc_0971a3I have not yet turned the controller on, but I have seen videos of controllers and monitors in action.  For all these controllers can do, there seem to be a small number of switches and controls.  The battery status is much improved too.  It can be charged by the battery charger and you can call up its charge status just as you can on the flight battery itself.

dsc_0973a3The only other image I have here today is of the batteries charging in the charging bank.  I already described the charging sequence, but I need to mention that the charger got extremely hot about halfway through the charge cycle (2 or 3 bars were flashing or lit).  I would guess that the charger got to about 150 – 160 F (based on touch).

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I should note in closing this entry that the two batteries charged in this charge cycle are different.  One is a Phantom 4 battery (with a partially black housing and 5350 mAh capacity) and the other is a Phantom 4 Pro battery (with 5850 mAh capacity).

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