Soccer!!!

I know very little about soccer (although that doesn’t keep me from pretending I do).  This past weekend my eldest grandson played his first organized soccer game.  He is 78 years old and was enrolled in the soccer for 8 to 11 year-olds which made him on the very early end of the age and size spectrum. This did not seem to put him at a disadvantage however.

He played a little less than half the game and I have to applaud the coach for using him when he had many other older, more experienced players to use (I suppose that one of the objectives here is to let the new young players get that needed experience for the future).

I used the Nikon D500 along with the Nikkor AF-S VR 200-400mm F/4 long zoom and the pair coupled excellently.  It is the first time I used this pair on a sports event and I still need a little experience to use it best.  While wildlife and birds in flight may require some skill, that ball can mover a lot faster than a bird!

Myles did well in this first experience and I can’t say enough about his success and how it should really reinforce his enjoyment of the sport.  Meanwhile the rest of the family will be learning more about the sport.

He listened closely to his coach and reacted quickly to the instructions he received.  I do feel that more experienced on the field will enable him to better understand what his positioning should be and when he should ‘abandon’ his assigned placement to help in the attack and defense.  There were times in this game when he was trying so hard to follow his instructions that he was unable to be involved in the heat of the game (but he certainly did his share).

Well done Myles Kennedy Manson!

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New Hummingbird Inhabitants

We’ve had a hummingbird feeder up for a few months now and just recently it has been visited by some new ‘neighbors.’

I have not mastered the art of mixing up the right ‘juice’ but they apparently don’t dislike it (they keep coming back).

I didn’t a very good job taking their pictures and most of these shots were all over-exposed, so they required some post-processing to make them as presentable as they are.  They don’t really meet my standards, so I will continue trying to get better images of them if they continue to return.

I used the Nikon D500 (a DX sensor) with my 300mm f/2.8 along with a 2X teleconverter.  early in the morning I had the ISO turned way up because it was fairly dark (26,500), but the hummingbirds didn’t arrive until the sun was brighter so the images were over exposed.

Connie thinks she has seen a pair of them, so they may very likely have made a nest and plan on having a family (which makes it likely they will return.  We shall see.

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The 2017 Solar Eclipse from Frederick, Maryland

I stayed in Maryland for the eclipse even though the path of totality was not all that far away.  Our percentage of coverage was about 80% (as you will see in the images below).  The Baader OD5 filter material provided a very clear image but creates has no color.  Different filter material apparently allow different wavelengths (colors) of the image.

Because the photographic systems were not on tracking tripod heads, I had to continuously repoint the lenses to capture the sun.  These images represent the 70 total images I captured (but are too repetitive to post here).  The resolution of my system allowed capturing the sunspots, but I chose not to risk damage to my equipment and used an older lens to record the event.  The camera was the Nikon D810 (in DX mode) with the Nikkor AF 300mm f/2.8 telephoto lens this arrangement allows an effective 450mm of ‘extension.’  The smaller camera in the image below is the Nikon 1 – J5 (employing the Nikon CX sensor which provides a crop factor of X2.7) with a 70-300mm f/4.5 – 5.6 aperture.  The N1J5 was used for a time lapse but was not successful due battery discharge, missed focus, camera overheating, and repointing.

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The Baader filter material can be seen on the smaller camera/lens.  The filter used in the larger camera/lens is not seen since the filter mount in the large lens is inside the lens (see the image below).  A concern with this internal filter is that the filter (as you can see on the smaller lens) is very reflective, and the reflectivity inside the larger lens means that the energy (reflected light) stays inside the larger lens and results in lens heating.  No effects were experienced on the older larger lens however, so there was little risk.

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Here is the (very poor and limited) time-lapse of the eclipse from the same location.  It lasts only 7 seconds in its compressed form:

 

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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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