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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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


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.


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).


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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How to seal a half-full chip bag

I have a tendency to be sensitive about stale chips (I’m putting it mildly and being kind) and the way a lot of folks try to seal their chip bags, so I decided to post a tutorial that will help anyone interested in sealing a half-full bag of chips (of any kind) to keep their chips as fresh as possible.


  1. First, look at your open bag and get an idea on how full it is and where the center of the bag is (there may be a center stripe on the bag such as this one.  There are also some creases on this bag because it has been sealed before, but ignore those for now.





2. Now, grasp the top of the bag right in the middle.









3. Next, find a point on the right side about the same distance down as the measure from the center to the side (that will be about a 45 degree diagonal, but it looks a little steeper in this view), and bend that 45 degree corner down (away from you in this view).  Crease it in that position to make it stay.




4. Do the same thing on the other side


(this one looks a lot more like 45 degrees).







5.  Now let’s turn the bag around so you can see the result of what we have been doing and why it is going to make a good seal.


As you can now see, we have aligned the open edge (what was the extreme top) of the bag into a single line.  Right now we could seal the bag with a single long clamp below my thumb.  But such a ‘clamp’ is not very available or strong.  So we are going to make that line shorter to make it easier to seal with a shorter clamp.







6.  Fold the point (under my thumb in the above photo) of the folded bag down half of the way to the folded edge so that the point is in line with the folded edge.




7.  Fold it again about half way down (the weird gray blob on the left is me trying to obscure the brand name on the bag).









8.  Finally, put your clip on the folded bag (there’s that blob again).  Your bag is now fairly well sealed.  If you are using a binder clip like the one I used, you can also fold the ‘levers’ down to add some extra (slight) pressure and further improve the seal.  The reason it is so well sealed is because we have collected all the open end of the bag into one small area where we can clamp it in one small space.

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Another Visit to Colonial Williamsburg

Over the past weekend we went to visit Colonial Williamsburg, VA.  We spent both evenings in the Revolutionary City while attending a courtroom drama of the trial of a pirate and the next night on a ghost tour.

We ate lunch at Chownings Tavern and were entertained by one of their troubadours.  The song played by this fellow was “Don’t wake me ’til the coffee’s boiling.”  After lunch we visited the shops, displays and presentations.


We watched the noon parade of the drumand bugle corps (see above), and stopped inot at least a couple of the shops (I was looking for both a salt-glazed pint mug and a simple feather for my Balmoral cap).

Later in the evening, before the pirate trial, we walked around the city (in the dark) and I got some interesting night shots.  The streets are so crowded during the daytime, the night environment is particularly attractive to the photographer.

Before we joined the trial we spent some time reviewing photos and planning the rest of the evening.  Connie’s sister (Brenda) and her husband (Mike) were with us and we were glad they could come along.


The pirate trial was quite interesting if not only because we sat at the left hand of the Governor (although we were not allowed to take photos of the proceedings).  The trial was held in the House of Burgesses in the capital building, shown below.


The interior of the House of Burgesses was really beautifully finished.

The trial was to decide the fate of a follower of Edward Teach (Blackbeard).  The follower was Blackbeard’s first mate and was accused of by reason of apprehending him with a warehouse full of stolen goods that were reconciled against missing articles of a number of ships that had been taken.


The room ended up being filled with we (the landed gentry), the jury, and the, public.  Once the trial commenced, the prosecuting attorney, at the direction of the governor, proceeded to call three different witnesses: (1) a Royal Navy Officer, Blackbeard’s wife, and another pirate that was already scheduled to be tried.


The cast that presented the trial was available for conversation and photos after the trial.  The prosecuting attorney on the far left, a witness second from the left, another witness (another pirate who was later tried and hanged) third from the left, another witness (a lieutenant of the royal navy) fourth from the left, the Governor fifth from the left and finally, (nearly out of sight due to others of the audience) the accused pirate on the far right, who actually never got hanged even though convicted.


We also had a wonderful dinner on Sunday evening at The Kings Arms.  The meals at the Kings Arms are not cheap, but they are particularly elegant (or at least they are marketed as being elegant – actually they are relatively mediocre meals with fancy 18th century names and touches also common to the 18th century).


After dinner and some more touring, we joined the “Ghosts Amongst Us” tour and visited three building in the Colonial district.  The tour took us to the Wythe house where we learned of the wife of Sir Peyton Skipwith.  His newlywed wife, Ann, supposedly committed suicide after seeing her sister with her new husband in a passionate embrace.  After the Wythe house visit, we were led to the Governor’s Palace where we learned of a  mother who ended up burning down the palace as a result of learning of the death of her son(s) during the revolution.  The palace had been in use as a hospital, and when the mother/nurse started the fire, all the patients escaped while she died in the inferno.

The “Ghosts Amongst Us” ‘tour’ was relatively interesting although could have been made more interesting with more stops and shorter ‘acts.’

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Aboard the Kalmar Nyckel

Saturday, October 29th, 2016 I ventured aboard the reproduction of the Swedish ship Kalmar Nyckel.  I spent two and a half hours aboard and enjoyed every minute of it.


Brief History: The original Kalmar Nyckel was one of America’s pioneering colonial ships, a Mayflower of the Delaware Valley, yet her remarkable story has never been widely told.

The original Kalmar Nyckel served as Governor Peter Minuit’s flagship for the 1638 expedition that founded the colony of New Sweden, establishing the first permanent European settlement in the Delaware Valley, Fort Christina, in present-day Wilmington, Delaware.  She would make a total of four roundtrip crossings of the Atlantic, more than any other documented ship of the American colonial era.

The original ship — a new type of gun-armed merchant vessel called a Dutch Pinnace  was built by the Dutch in Amsterdam in about the year 1625.  She was purchased in 1629 by a Swedish consortium to serve as an auxiliary warship for the Swedish navy, which she did until her decommissioning in 1651  except for the years from 1637 to 1644 when she sailed the Atlantic for the New Sweden Company.  An exceptional ship with a long and remarkable career, she was sold to a private merchant after being decommissioned from the navy.  No completely definitive records have been uncovered as of yet, but Kalmar Nyckel was probably resold to the Dutch navy as an escort vessel and sunk in the North Sea while fighting for the Dutch in a war against the English in 1652.


So yesterday I went for a sail and although ‘crowded’ with tourists, I was able to get a few good shots of the operations aboard the ship.

A small portion of the ‘crew’ is a paid contingent of the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation and the balance of the ‘crew’ is a volunteer cadre that has served her for several if not many years.

The included images of the individuals that are wearing the blue jackets and shirts are the crew.  The volunteers are intermingled with the paid staff.

They climb the shrouds like monkeys and deftly manage and operate the ship with aplomb.  They speak their own sailor’s language and rattle it off like they were born aboard the vessel.  They don’t swear like sailors, but beyond that they are sailors indeed.


(Ignore the staccato auto-weapons fire noises – that was a couple USN sailors along side in a Boston Whaler with machine guns attached.)


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