Saturday, January 30, 2010

Over the edge.

There just may be a point where the photography thing can go too far. Especially in a grocery store produce department. More especially, when asking to photograph another woman's fruit. I mean, she did have nice tangerines.

Perhaps I should back up and fill in a couple of blanks.

The kids are coming by with Ryan later today. After that, we're off to Katie's sister's place. Today is Katie's parents' 53rd anniversary. That's a whole lot of apostrophes in two sentences, isn't it? A supper gathering is planned. We're doing a late lunch for the kids and taking food to the supper party. This all dictated a trip to the grocery store. We chose to go somewhat late last night. So far so good. Per usual, I stuck the G11 in a pocket.

Once at the store, we went looking for cookies for the lunch. Getting to the bakery entails a trip through the edge of the produce department. Did you know there are a lot of colors, shapes, and patterns in this land of fruits and veggies? It's a kind of paradise for an aspiring photographer.

Some so called expert wrote in a book that one has to not be afraid to look strange in front of other people to get truly great photos. Ok. I can buy that. I'm pretty secure in my own skin, anyway. The banana display caught my eye. I pulled out the G11. I'm okay with being the only person taking pictures of produce. Did you know it's harder than it looks to get a good photo of bananas in a store?

I hate using the built in flash. The other flash unit was at home. Anyway, if possible, I try to get pictures with no flash. I tried opening the aperature as much as possible. With the focal length I wanted the widest it would open was f/4.0. So I tried cranking up the ISO. I changed the white balance. All to no avail. I couldn't get more than a slightly dark photo. Photoshop Elements wouldn't do much for it, either. I added the camera raw plug-in but it only works on the Nikon. The G11 is listed on the camera application but so far it won't upload the raw photos. Eventually I could probably fix the photo, but it's not worth the effort. Anyway, it's not about the banana photo. It's about the story. Here's the photo just for a grin. Amongst such innocence doth trouble begin.

As I'm reviewing the result of my latest effort in the LCD screen, a middle aged woman is approaching. She's giving me this look that says she thinks I'm strange. I mean strange to the ultimate degree. It's ok. Like I say, I'm secure about it. I'm willing to look strange for the sake of the art. As she gets closer it's apparent that she wants to pick out some bananas, so I step aside. It does little to put her mind at ease. The woman reminds me of holding a treat out towards somebody else's dog. The dog wants the treat but doesn't quite have the courage for a frontal approach. It approaches at an angle, ready to bolt at the first sign of aggression.

This woman obviously wanted to shop for bananas. She came around, careful to keep the display between us. I stepped farther back. Slowly she inched forward, keeping a wary eye on me the whole time. Finally, she got up the nerve to say something to me.

"That's a new one", she says. "I've never seen anyone taking pictures of fruit before."

It sounds like a reasonable statement. However, you didn't see her face. There was this dubious and slightly frightened look. Imagine her saying that she'd heard there were people who wore their underwear on their head. Until now, though, she'd never seen anybody actually doing it. Now that she'd seen it, in the produce department, no less, there was a mix of pity, revulsion, and fear in her expression. Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

I should have just wandered off to find Katie. Instead, I open my mouth and start expounding on the beauty of the colors, the repeating patterns, the way the stickers make these little contrasting spots all over at random intervals, and so on. She's shrinking back more and more. The woman glances to each side as if searching for possible weapons. You'd think, from looking at her, that I had actually taken underwear off my head and shaken them at her. The poor woman quickly walked away, deciding, apparently, that her appetite for bananas had been spoiled. I shrugged and went to find Katie.

Telling Katie the story, I expected us to have a laugh together. The corners of her mouth were lifted, but her eyes looked a lot like the other woman's. I guess that's why us photographers are such an elite and lonely lot. People just don't understand true artists.

The story would have ended there except for the fact that I've never learned to be shy.

Once we finally finished loading our basket ( I thought it would never end ) we went to find a check-out line. Whom do you think we happen to see right off as we start looking for a short line? You guessed it. The woman from the produce department. Now there's a stocky man with her. In her basket I spy a small box of tangerines. They looked nothing like bananas. The smalll orange globes were quite pretty. Lacy netting adorned the top of the sweet looking tangerines, gently holding them nicely in place. I make eye contact with the woman. Despite her previous suspicion of my character, she can't break the gaze between us. I smile as charmingly as I can. Then I did it. I opened my mouth while waving my Canon at her.

"Hi, again! Could I photograph your tangerines?"

It's probably a good thing that she wasn't wearing her underwear on her head because I think she might have soiled them.

You know, there's some things you just shouldn't ask out loud in a grocery store. Even if you're me.

Miles and smiles,


Friday, January 29, 2010

Conchscooter made me do it!

Conchscooter left a comment on my last post that he wanted me to go out and take more photos. I think it was because he didn't want me writing such long posts. More pictures, less text. Ok, here's a post with mostly photos. Just to set the record straight, Conch told me to do something I already wanted to do so I'm not doing it because of him!

Spent an afternoon last Saturday with the kids and the new baby. I couldn't pry Ryan away from Katie so I had to content myself with practicing with the Nikon. That, and cooking for everybody to make up for them putting up with us. Here's some candid shots.

I took advantage of the light from a small table lamp. No flash. I used an f/5.6 aperature and cranked the ISO up to 200. Ryan's asleep against Katie. He spent a couple of hours like this. The golden light casts a sort of "angelic" glow to Ryan's face. I thought it was pretty cool, even if we are looking up his nostrils!

They say when you are taking a photo of someone you should try to keep them from doing the obviously posed thing. Experts tell you to share a joke, make the subject laugh, and so on. So I asked Katie to let me hold the baby. Here's her reaction. At least it's truly a candid shot! For this one I bounced a flash off the ceiling.

This was a totally spontaneous moment. This is Russ, Ryan's daddy. Our son in law. Katie finally gave up the baby. Even new grandmothers have to eventually use the room down the hall. By now everybody's used to me with a camera around. Funny how quickly the family comes to accept an eccentric member. As a matter of fact, Russ was telling a professional photographer at the hospital that their services wouldn't be needed. That we already have a photographer in the family. I wonder who that could be? Anyway, I saw this expression and was able to quietly capture it. I bounced a flash, again, but had turned down the intensity.

As you can see, Katie reclaimed Ryan. Katie's mother and father called then stopped by. This was their first look at Ryan. The baby's not quite three days old. I like the photo because both of them are looking at Ryan. Their gaze pulls your eyes to the baby, who is the main subject. Studying composition has been interesting. I'm finally starting to understand the specifics of what makes a picture draw your eye or not. Barely.

This is Katie's mother taking her own photos. There's too much space between the person on the right and Katie with Ryan on the left. However, the bright blue of greatgrandma's top draws your eye, then the camera lense angle draws your eye to the left where the baby is. Not a great photo but at least I know why! Besides, I had to give both of Katie's parents equal time here.

There were already two dogs and two cats in the kids' family. I wanted to include the dogs, at least. Okay, they weren't be ignored, so I had no choice but to give in and take their pictures. I like the advice I read to get in close and focus on the eyes. You can even see the two little light spots in the Pom's eyes from the bounced flash. That's my daughter behind the Pom. I could have taken her out with photoshop but it seemed wrong to do to my firstborn.

I think this one's missing the attention the most. The subdued flash went with her look. Just enough light bounced back to make her coat look alive and glowing without washing it out. Sometimes you get lucky. How do I know she's pouting and not just looking like all golden retrievers? This might be a clue.

Yep, she's pouting! The part of her you can't see is hanging out, but she's got her head stuck under the end of the coffee table. She's right at my feet. I'm sitting next to Katie and Ryan. Yes, Katie still has Ryan. It might sound like I'm upset about that. I know Katie's going to look at this so I'm just ribbing her a bit.

I saved my favorite photo for last. While sitting beside Katie, who was holding Ryan, something startled Ryan as he was waking up. Fortunately, I was able to quickly capture the look.

Who would have thought you could see a look like this from a baby not even three days old? He must have finally gotten a good look at his grandfather! Hey, kid, we're both new at this thing.

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Brake time!

Time to shake off the new baby euphoria and get back to work.

I had a meeting in Portland. Afterwards I cruised by Lloyd Center Mall. I like to park the bike inside the parking structure. Seems more protected that way, for some reason. There's a place near Barnes and Noble that's not really motorcycle parking but where Security never bothers a motorcycle that happens to land there. Riding up Halsey Street, I was greeted by this.

Seriously. True story. What's the military term? NSTIW, I believe. "No s**t, there I was!"

Not only did I avoid trouble, but my skill level was so high I saw it early enough to get stopped and take a photo while it was happening.

All right, so I admit to coming back and taking a photo of a different car. Despite my jesting, this was a real life situation. The kind riders encounter all the time. It seemed a great illustration of what we had talked about earlier.

What's the difference between one year's experience repeated several times over and having several years' progressive experience?

Let's use this scenario to break it down a bit more. We'll look at other situations down the road as I see things that are applicable. Remember how I said we would look at the three levels in situations? This is a good case to use as an illustration.

The worst of the winter weather is past. A rider deems it safe, or comfortable enough, to pull the bike out of hibernation. What a rider also needs to be aware of is that their skills have been in hibernation as well. We humans are interesting creatures. There are two kinds of storage space available in our brains. Most of the space is dedicated to what you might call deep storage. This is where things go that aren't needed too often. Think of this space as the back of a filing cabinet drawer.

Some space is dedicated to storing things that are needed often and quickly. This is like the front of the top drawer. Unfortunately, the space available here is much smaller, and thus more limited, than the deep storage space. If something in this space ends up not being used for a while, it's moved elsewhere to make room for new things. Motor skills, or what you might call "mind-muscle connections" are examples of things that get shuffled between these file drawers. Often used connections are kept readily accessible while less frequently used ones get filed deeper. Which means it takes the brain a bit longer to find and put them on the table. That can be a bad thing if we need them RIGHT NOW!

It's a good thing for a rider to go out and encourage the brain to move important motor skills back to the quickly accessible storage space. In this case, to go out and re-establish the mind-muscle connections involved in smooth braking. Simply put, to practice in a parking lot or someplace where it's safe to do so. It's important to be smooth when braking. It's also important to be able to stop quickly.

I've talked to many riders who practice quick stops. Once or twice. They get up a little speed, pick a braking marker, then do the squeeze and press thing. Since their skills are a bit rusty to start with, and might not have been at a high level in the first place, the first couple of attempts are pretty rough.

"Oooh, that was scary!"

No more attempts are made. A rider figures that's good enough and they will just deal with it when the time comes. After all, they know the basics of brake application in their heads. For far too many riders, that is the extent of the quick stop practice.

This is what I call Level One. It's a well populated level, unfortunately. These riders might be lucky enough to go a whole riding season and not have a close call. The question always remains, though. What if? Some have to answer that question without quite being prepared. Ouch!

Remember that "mind-muscle" connection that's supposed to go into the front of the file drawer? Guess what? This ain't no magical drawer. If we didn't put it there, we aren't going to find it there. Putting it another way, I had a training sergeant who told me,

"You won't rise to the occasion, you'll default to your level of training."

When we face that "moment" the only thing our brains will be able to pull out of the drawer is what we have put in there. Oh sure, we might think we know how to brake on an intellectual level and we'll think of what we need to do in order to stop quickly and correctly when the time comes.

I've studied what happens to humans under stress. Actually been there several times, too! You know the kind of high adrenaline situations I'm talking about. When every orifice in our body wants to pucker. When we will never fall off the bike because we have the seat's fabric tucked tightly up you know where. I'm here to tell you that there's not much intellectual activity going on. That's why our responses are called "reactions".

Another way to look at it is to say we react with whatever our habit is. Which makes the secret easy to figure out. Make sure the habit there to fall back on is the correct thing. You knew it would come back to this, didn't you? The answer is practice. Lot's of it.

What really needs to happen is repeated quick stops. That one went well? Good. Do it again. And again. And again. The muscle actions involved need to literally become second nature. They should happen without too much thinking about it going on. I'm not going to go into the specific actual application of the brakes. This is more about strategy.

I do want to mention one quick thing, though. If we do slide the rear tire, and avoid falling down or a high side, does the sliding tire matter? Definitely. The net result will be longer stopping distance. It might only make a difference of three, four, or five feet. Take a look at the photo above. Notice how Elvira's sidestand is at the 15 foot mark. Now look at this photo.

Look where the leading edge of Elvira's front tire is. It's at the 19 foot mark, just four feet farther forward. Just four feet? No big deal? What if the car's bumper were at the 15 foot mark? Where would that put the front wheel of our bike? On a small car that puts it somewhere in the back seat. Yes, every foot counts. Which is why repeated practice and developing the proper mind-muscle connection is so critical.

The good news is that a lot of riders come to our more advanced classes to practice these kind of skills. At the least, they do it on their own. That's wonderful. That's highly commendable. However, it's still only

Level Two.

The next level adds another component to the physical skills. Our definition of an expert rider is

"A rider who uses excellent judgement to avoid using expert skills."

Expert skills are wonderful and, in fact, necessary. By themselves, however, expert skills aren't really enough to keep riders out of trouble. The really great news is that developing these mental skills is more a matter of effort than the passage of time. Many riders go year after year and don't pick up the proper mental skills. A motorcyclist with a short riding season can still work on and develop great mental skills. The key is to carry them over year to year and build on them as we get more saddle time.

Riders who I would call truly experienced and successful have great mental skills. This is how they reach the highest level.

Level Three.

Here is where the skill of getting critical information early does so much to help a rider take care of themself on the streets. I plan to write much more about this skill in coming posts but this one is getting long already. So let's look at it specifically in the context of our opening scenario.

I stated that a rider should be able to stop a motorcycle in no more than 79 feet at 40 mph on a non-abs bike. So let's say that we're 80 feet from the car that pulled out in front of us. Due to our repeated practice we can stop the bike quickly and safely in 75 feet. Score? Not quite.

There's this little thing called reaction time. At 40 mph we're covering 58.66 feet per second. Let's just call it 60 feet per second. If it takes us a half second to react and start braking, which is actually pretty quick, we've covered an additional 30 feet. Suddenly we find that if we can physically stop the bike in 75 feet, we actually need 105 feet to pull off a successful stop. If it takes us a bit longer to react, if we were distracted, or whatever, that distance will vary considerably. Does your head hurt, yet? Is there a better strategy?

Actually, there is. Take a look at the opening photo again. One measure of our success might be how soon we saw the car pulling out in order to have the quickest reaction time possible and get stopped. What if we were to take another look and see if we could be even more prepared, car or no car? Take a look at this photo.

I took this photo before the car pulled out. I don't see a hazard. Or do I? Remember when I introduced this series I stated that key to success is to think like a motorcyclist? Let's do that and see what we find.

Firstly, I know I'm riding in an area with a lot of congestion. It's a major shopping mall in a city of over half a million people. Cars darting in and out of multiple places. Thinking like a motorcyclist, I know I have less protection than if I were in a car. I know it's trickier to stop the bike quickly than it is in a car. I know quick reactions are essential. So I'm covering the clutch and brake levers.

I know it's critical to get information early so I'm aggressively scanning my surroundings. Once I see something I have it on my radar and can track it. However, I find that there's a place I can't see. To my right is a parking structure. I can see into it when I look that way. Cars have to enter and exit this structure someplace. I see the big box truck coming up on my right. I can't see around the front of it. What I do see, however, gives me an early clue to what's there.

Notice how the truck is parked in a painted box sort of parking place? You can see the white lines on the roadside. Now I see there's no parking space immediately in front of the truck. Looking farther ahead, I see the orange cone at the left rear of the big food service truck. It's a little compressed due to my zoom lense, but there's a long space of plain black roadway between the two trucks. Why do you suppose that is?

Probably because that's a way in and out of the parking structure, I figure. An intersection. Since I can't see for sure, but make an educated guess, I'm taking preventative measures. I slow down and move slightly left in my lane. Which means I can see the driveway sooner and any car coming out can see me sooner. I don't count on them seeing me, but I make sure I see them as early as possible.

Sure enough, a car pulls out but it's not even a close call for me. I made use of all the available clues and prepared accordingly. I call the top skills level three, for simplicity, but I personally want my skills at Warp Factor 9!

Again, a rider can get these skills independent of time in the saddle. Riding time will only help hone these skills by putting them into practice. First and foremost is the mindset to acquire mental strategies.

Success secret #2: Physical skills are necessary. Don't rely on them. Get critical information as early as possible. This includes clues, not just the hazard itself.

I know a lot of you are already a Level 3. I figure it never hurts to review. There might be a new way of looking at things that helps put it all in perspective. Whatever your skill level I hope this is useful information.

More to come later.

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Meet Ryan.

I'd like to introduce Ryan Daniel Morris, all 6 pounds and 15 ounces of him. Ryan made his entrance to the outside world at 5:27 PM last evening. Mother and baby are doing fine.

Don't know much about his personality, as yet, but he seems to be fairly mellow and as curious about the world as a guy less than 24 hours old can be. This isn't the "sweetest" baby photo a grandfather could lead off with. For some reason it's the photo that appeals to me the most. It's like Ryan is torn between wanting to go back to sleep and keeping an eye on what I'm doing with the camera.

As babies do, Ryan finally succumbed to the Sandman's persuasion. Nothing like Mama's warm lap and Homer Simpson to conk a baby out!

Anyway, since I mentioned the coming event several times, I figured I'd put a few photos up and do a bit of showing off. There's a photo floating around of me holding Ryan, but I'm sparing you my face. The baby's cuter!

The birthing center room was a hard place to take photographs in. There are some weirdly yellowish colored incandescent lights in the room. Any adjustments I did to the white balance made everything turn towards the cold side of the color spectrum. In other words, it all came out looking blue. I shot in raw so eventually I can go back and do some fancy editing. To complicate the exposure issue, one whole wall of the room is open glass and the sun was streaming in. I ended up spot metering on Ryan while letting the window light overexpose. Like the photo below.

Mostly we were busy fussing over the baby so I was content getting a few decent shots with the G11. I probably could have done a bit more with a bounce flash, but decided to let it go for now. These are enough for memories. I'm hoping for a lot of time to concentrate on baby pictures coming up! My daugher's going back to work in 6 weeks and Katie will be watching Ryan a few days a week. Okay, me, too! How fun.

I know everybody says this, but you do forget how small these things are. Our baby is turning 22 in a few months. It's been a bit since we held a new one. The hands and arms remember what to do without any trouble. What an awesome experience holding Ryan for the first time!

We've already had to make a couple of prints for Katie to show around. That's a sweet advantage of digital photography. No line or waiting on Computer 2!

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Show and tell.

I want to thank Bobskoot for his excellent comment in my last post. Your comment is quite informative and very useful at the stage where I find myself. For years and years I have shared my riding skills and knowledge with any riders who would listen. I'm very grateful that the folks here are so generous with doing the same for me photographically speaking. Like iron sharpens iron, so the face of one human sharpens the other. So says the proverb.

Bobskoot, first off, this is for you.

You are a fountain of knowledge. I'm at that point where I am trying to master exposure the first time. I would hate, for example, to have returned from Phoenix only to find my photos did not turn out well. That has happened to me in my previous photographic life. Some things happen so seldom, or only once, that it has to be good right off the bat. In this case, I'm pleased to say that almost every single photo turned out good. At least to my standards. Which are getting higher, by the way.

I think I've already found that f /8 is proving to be a great setting. Looking back on my pictures from Arizona, I find I shot with that setting a lot on the G11. With the Nikon I use the AV priority, do what you suggested and get a reading, and sometimes go into manual mode with a few tweaks. It's knowing what to tweak and how much that is the hard part. Which is one reason why I value your comment so much. Especially with using the flash for fill.

Thus I wanted to share a few photos and ask for feedback on improvement or tips. I would really appreciate honesty, you all. Blowing smoke for the sake of "feeling good" isn't my style. All of these are exactly how they came out of the G11. There has been no touchup of any sort.

For the photo of the fountain, it was on the way back to my room after Lucky dropped me off. Probably 8:30 PM. These were all shot in aperature priority. What I tweaked was the ISO in order to get the desired shutter speeds. I know that sounds like I actually know what I'm doing. Believe me, it is still hit and miss.

Aperature was f / 8, but I had to crank the ISO to 1600. Luckily, the noise seems to be okay at that ISO level. The goal was to get a shutter speed slow enough to smooth out the water but allow me to hold the camera in my arms. I seem to have this thing about proving I can do these water shots, lately. I think it was Bobskoot who shared how to make myself into a human tripod. It worked this time. With the higher ISO, and locked into place, I was able to shoot the fountain at 1/6 second handheld.

Shot at f / 8, ISO 80, shutter of 1/100 second.

This was the view from my balcony. Late afternoon magical sunshine. I've read that one should put the horizon at the lower third or upper third depending on how interesting the sky is. Here the sky was interesting, plus, going any lower with the camera would have included the balcony railing. There's a bit of dark along the top of the photo. That is the lower edge of the curtain, it seems. Normally I would crop that out, but I am trying to be credible by saying there has been no touchup performed. Consider the dark strip documentation which otherwise would have been cropped out.

f /4.5 ISO 80, shutter 1/60 second.

This was tougher. The water was such a pretty blue that I wanted to preserve the color. So I spot metered on the water close to me which left the sky overexposed. With spot metering the camera told me to use a wider aperature. I probably should have tightened the aperature just a bit. I could use feedback on this one.

f /3.2, ISO 1600, shutter 1/5 second.

This is a couple of the guys from our company sitting around a firepit. In this case I cranked open the aperature to let in more light and to keep the depth of field more shallow. As it was, I had to dial the ISO up in order to get a shutter speed where I could hold the camera still while getting a decent exposure. It might not be a great photo, per se, but this is something I would not even had a clue how to do a year ago. Again, I would normally have done some judicious cropping but I left it as it came out of the camera for credibility.

f/4.5, ISO 1600, 1/640 second.

I chose the aperature and the G11 did the rest. I thought the photo has a sort of neat quality to it.

f/ 8, ISO 800, 1/8 second.

Interestingly, this is one where I wanted a smaller aperature but couldn't get it out of the G11. It wouldn't let me dial in anything smaller than f/8. I wanted to focus farther down the row between the moving sidewalks and "tell more of a story" so to speak. It would have been nice to be able to see more of the depth of field. This is where the Nikon with the other lenses would have done nicely. Although, it was sure nice to simply tuck the Canon into a pants pocket.

I was able to get by with just a backpack for the two days. For its size and portability, the G11 is one awesome little camera. Thanks for reminding me of the built-in ND filter, by the way, Bobskoot. I'd forgotten about it. I have a screw on filter for the Nikon.

Yes, the ultimate answer is to shoot in raw. Which means I have to learn more about Photoshop to process the pictures properly. It never ends, does it?

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A friend in Phoenix.

The Phoenix trip is now a part of history. For some reason I'm feeling pretty crummy this evening. I don't think there's a connection with the trip. This post is going to be relatively short and then I'm crashing.

Mostly I want to offer a public thanks to Lucky. He is a Prince Among Men!

Sunday evening found me in Phoenix. Lucky and I had made tentative plans to go find some trouble once I blew into town. We made connections by telephone and set a plan. Our group was booked into the Phoenix Grand Resort. This is an absolutely beautiful place. Needless to say, the G11 got a workout. To my surprise, almost all my photos turned out really nicely. I'll share a few later.

Lucky went well above and beyond what I would consider to be an offer of friendship. Phoenix is a very large city in the area it covers. I was at the resort with no wheels, having taken a cab from the airport. Lucky came and picked me up at the resort. Then he played tour guide in showing me some of the area. We traveled on some roads that comprised his ride to work. It's always interesting to read in a person's blog about their commute. Especially about roads that are troublesome. Once you travel them yourself you can really relate to their writing.

We ended up at a place called the Red Devil Italian Restaurant. With a name like that, how can two troublemakers go wrong? We certainly felt right at home!

I entrusted my gastronomic soul to the pizza maestro. This is what we ended up with. Sort of a house special. Lucky took over the G11 and snapped the photo for us. That's my elbow in the top left corner of the frame. This pizza was quite good. None of the ingredients took over center stage. Rather, they all worked as a team to provide an excellent blend of tastes. The crust may have had a touch of sourdough in it. It was slightly crispy where it should have been and had a great texture all the way through.

All too soon we were full. It would have been nice to enjoy the taste of the pizza longer but there is only so much storage space. Things always taste better when eaten in good company, don't they? Lucky and I made a valiant effort but there was still pizza left. Here the extra pieces are snugly packed in preparation for a visit to Lucky's house. In the interest of equal time, I included Lucky's elbow in the photo. Now both of us are represented in the official record!

After the meal we saw some more of the city at night. Lucky actually delivered me back to the resort, which I greatly appreciate. Safe and sound, I might add.

I'm amazed how we can build such relationships with others that we very seldom see in person. This was actually only the second time we had met face to face. Once in Oregon and now in Arizona. Lucky and I were together for hours. It wasn't that we were chatterboxes, but we also never lacked for conversation. Lucky's a very intelligent guy with a great sense of humor. Taking the opportunity to spend some time with him was very rewarding. Thanks, Lucky, for the friendship and effort extended on my behalf.

Here's a photo I took that sort of wrap things up. I notice there's a similar photo in the slideshow for the resort's website. I didn't know that when I took the photo as I just now looked up their site to link it here. I think my picture is better.

If you look at the tower just right, you can almost see a face with a somewhat toothy grin. This grin's for you, Lucky!

Miles and smiles,


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Holding pattern.

I'm in one of those holding patterns today. I should be making the most of the day. As it is, I'm scheduled to fly to Phoenix tomorrow so I'm resting my arms. Ok, bad joke. Funny how the trip looms on our minds, though. It's like I'm drifting through today waiting for tomorrow. This Phoenix trip is crazy. I'll arrive tomorrow in the late afternoon. We have a regional meeting that starts at 7:15 AM Monday morning. By 12:30 I will be on a shuttle to the airport, arriving back in Portland late Monday afternoon. Last time we had one of these meetings we went to Orlando, Florida for a few days. This one's a condensed version. Sign of the times.

The timing for the trip isn't the best. My daughter is ready to pop any time. I talked with her this morning and she's in her own holding pattern. The meeting in Arizona is mandatory. I hate the conflict. The ending of the story is yet to be written.

In the meantime, I've been playing with the G11. The experts say we should only show our very best photos to others. That way it will boost everyone's opinion of our skill level. I guess I'm not too worried about that right now. The discovery process is still too young. It's been a lot of fun learning to see colors, light, patterns, and whatever in different ways. Learning how the camera controls work is only the very beginning. The "why" and "what", and "when" takes a lot of time and practice.

The good news is that experimenting with a camera is a lot safer than doing it on a bike. When we get a bad result with the camera, we merely hit the "delete" button. Riders should experiment on a bike, but carefully. It would be all too easy for us to be the one deleted. Not good.

One of the skills I'm working on is getting the proper white balance setting for the ambient lighting. Check out the photographer's term. Ambient. Am I getting skilled, or what? There are ways to sort of cheat the system and add some extra warmth to the scene. Sometimes the exactly correct setting makes the scene look colder. Interesting how that works, isn't it? Old stuff to some of you, new and fascinating to me!

Anyway, probably for my own gratification more than yours, I'm posting some photos taken around a mall. Malls make great places for roadies like me to catch up on business. There's enough background noise and activity so that we really don't disturb others while making phone calls, for instance. Food and restrooms are conveniently at hand. Those of us who like to "people watch" find plenty to keep us entertained.

So here's a few photos and some short comments.

I'm going to start buying apples instead of bananas. They should hold up better in a tank bag. Not to mention being useful for tailgaters! This is a store next to the mall. I cheated. Sorry.

Women's clothing is taking on a whole new fascination for me. The pastel colors are so appealing as photographic subjects.
Even without actual women in them.

Store displays are starting to get my attention. It's a world of pattern and color I never really paid much mind to before.

This little dude is patiently waiting for his mother and trying to look cool. Check out the foot up on the tray of the stroller.

Even cool little dudes have their limits, it seems. "Hey, Mom, are we about done here? I'm going to start timing you on one of these calendars."

Another store display. Hey, somebody goes to the trouble to make it look nice. The least I can do is to take a picture of it. The shutter speed was a bit slower than I could hold perfectly still, it seems. I didn't notice it until now, but the colors are still neat.

She looks a little bored at the moment. Seconds later:

I would have liked to hear what was actually being said. Although probably not on the receiving end. Things look a bit "venomous". She wasn't aware that her picture was being taken. That's a great advantage of the Canon's swivel screen. I can set the G11 down on a table and flip the screen so that I can see it. With a little shimming up or down, and being able to operate without a flash, it's easy to reach over and discreetly push the shutter button. Hmmm, do I see a career as a private investigator coming up? I don't care what they say, though, I'm not looking in bedroom windows. I'll hire an assistant nicknamed Reep for that!

Mine was not the only camera being used. There's something devious to me in taking a picture of someone else taking a picture. This is a covert photo of an overt snapshot.

I threw this in because it's my daughter's favorite store. That's a lot of yellow! If I had used the corresponding white balance adjustment, the whole yellow glow would have been lost. So I fudged a bit.

I'm playing with framing and composition. I like milk, too! Anyway, I thought it was kind of neat how the framing draws your eye to the milk display. Especially the grocery rows on the right. The lighting in the cooler adds a bit of a prize for getting to the subject. Not a great photo, per se, merely an exercise.

Again, nothing spectacular just a different way of looking at the coffee on display. I like the way the color goes from warmer to cooler as you look down the picture. Lighting is taking on a whole new magic of its own.

Lastly, this photo comes with a cute story.

This is another exercise in white balance settings. I was able to offset the effects of several different light sources. The exterior lighting coming in the front entry, the florescents of the mall, and the tungsten from the Starbucks nearby. I thought this one came out pretty accurate for color. I happened to chose the gear at the table as a random subject.

Most people walk by and avoid eye contact. That's pretty much standard for people anymore. Some people had this look like they wondered what the heck I was doing and why. You can see in their eyes that they think you're a bit off. It's probably true, and I'm totally okay with that.

One white-haired, petite old woman, though, had an entirely different reaction. She actually stopped beside me as I was framing a photo. I was taking several shots at different settings. Like I said, this was a practice exercise.

The woman stood beside me while I captured my shot. Then, very sweetly and sincerely, asked me if I would like her to take a picture so I could be in it, too. Bless her heart.

I guess that she figured if I was interested enough to take a photo I might find it desirable to be in the picture, too. Her offer was politely declined along with an explanation of the purpose for the pictures. She was so sweet it was the least I could do. Gotta love her!

Miles and smiles,


Friday, January 15, 2010

Back to work.

As I'm riding for work I'm often thinking about the blog and our blogging community. Troubadour made a comment in this post that he could see how a motorcycle blog could easily turn into a photography blog. That pretty much sums up what I've done here lately. Which is fine. However, riding is my first love ( aside from Katie, that is ) and it's about time to get back to work. There's a lot of ground to cover ( figuratively and literally ) in the next few months.

Life seems to get really busy without my even trying, especially when I have so many diverse interests. I feel a lot like this gal. The G11 was sitting on the table with the flip-screen set so I could see it. I was playing with shutter speeds in between making some phone calls and drinking coffee. Yes, this is actually a gal, and not a guy. I bought her coffee, by the way. Whatever our thoughts on war might be, those who serve when called upon should be acknowledged. That's my thought, anyway.

What I really should have been doing lately is getting back into harness and putting some actual motorcycle content here. It's been too easy to throw a few photos out and call it good. All work and no play isn't ideal, either. There should be some of both to stay balanced.

A while back a promise was made by me to somebody who asked a question. A promise is a promise and I haven't forgotten. It's time to honor my word.

The question was this:

When talking about riders who have several year's experience, versus those who have one year's experience repeated several times over, how does one go about getting that deeper experience?

The one who posed the question has a short riding season each year. It's a good question. The plan is to explore that road more thoroughly.

Elvira's still on the road. We're having fun together despite the winter weather. This was her posing for me as we had time to enjoy some farm country on the way home the other day.

We'll start out with a overview here. Then, as Elvira and I travel, we'll take photos of various situations we encounter. We'll share those and explore in more detail some skills and strategies that are essential to successful riding. The plan is to sort of present it in layers. For example, we'll look at a particular situation. Then we'll talk about what might be expected from someone at Level 1. What would level 2 look like? Lastly, what would a very experienced and skilled rider do at Level 3, the highest one?

I hope it all works out and proves to be of value.

Here is an opening statement. The biggest factor isn't the passage of time. Yes, seat time is extremely valuable in building experience. As you can tell from the statement regarding a rider having one year's experience repeated ten times over, time by itself isn't enough. The critical difference?


As we work with new instructors, for example, we often encourage them to start out where they mean to end up. No, they don't have the experience of time in the saddle, yet. On the other hand, they can start to think like an experienced instructor. They can decide to strive for excellence, even though still new. They can decide to think like a motorcycle instructor. As opposed to just being an instructor in general. That part might be harder to understand.

Think of it this way. There are a lot of instructors out there. Or call them teachers, if you will. Many are very good in their own field. As an example, think of an elementary school instructor. While possibly being quite effective at teaching young children to read and write, they won't automatically excel at teaching nervous new motorcycle students.

There's a unique set of skills and reference points inherent to the two different pursuits. So what does that mean to us as motorcyclists? You can probably already picture where we're headed.

I recently took photos of two different wood piles. Here's the first one.

Most cut up wood is either piled or stacked on the ground. That's the way pretty much everyone does it. Think of these wood stackers as car drivers. We're all car drivers. Most riders were car drivers long before they were riders. Most people still drive more than they ride. Nothing wrong with that. It's the norm, so to speak. Now check out this next wood pile.

This is certainly a different approach! Yes, the wood is still neatly stacked. However, I'd say it's safe to say that very few wood stackers would have thought to do it this way. It required thinking differently than the rest of the herd, so to speak. I find it very refreshing, by the way. This is the kind of thing a successful rider needs to do, as well.

Driving and riding are both forms of transportation. Both are a means of getting us from one place to another. Internal combustion motors putting power to rubber tires which move us along. Riding, however, demands a unique viewpoint. Much like that expressed by the one who stacked the wood on top of the tree trunk.

Success secret #1: A successful rider must start thinking like a motorcyclist, not a car driver.

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Einstein had a theory about time. Something about a person in an airplane moving at great speed and somebody on the ground. The watch of one moves faster than the other. So each experiences time at a different rate. I'm not sure of the exact theory and I'm too lazy to go look it up right now.

However, I can tell you that there's a difference between how bananas age on my motorcycle compared to those sitting on a table at home. Take a look.

This is an absolutely true story. The banana on the left came from the bunch on the right. At the time I snagged it, the banana looked as fresh as the others. So why does it look so much different?

It spent two days with me on the motorcycle, tucked into the tank bag. I had intended the banana to be a snack. Due to circumstances, it got overlooked and went uneaten. So I brought it back into the house. Notice how much worse it now looks than the others.

Was it evidence of Einstein's theory, whatever that is? Did the banana age faster due to being subjected to high speeds for a certain length of time? Was the aging due to stress related fear from being a passenger with me? The aging probably isn't weather related, though that may be a factor. The tank bag came into the house overnight and thus did the banana. It hasn't been overly cold around here lately. Somewhere around 40 degrees ( f ) before wind chill is factored in.

I'm not sure of the exact reason but it's pretty obvious the time on the bike was pretty hard on the poor banana!

Speaking of 40 degrees, I heard this morning on the radio that iguanas in Florida are shutting down in the trees due to the low temperature. It seems that when the temperature gets below 40 the lizards go into suspended animation. Then they fall off the tree limbs onto the ground.

Since I like Conchscooter, I wanted to pass along the warning. People pick up the iguanas that are on the ground. However, when the lizards get warmed up a bit, they suddenly come back to life and aren't too cheerful about the experience. So, Conch, don't do like the guy I heard about.

According to the news report, some guy started piling the iguanas into the back of his station wagon. When they warmed up in the car, the guy suddenly had a pack of angry lizards interfering with his driving! ( Just in case you thought one might fit nicely into the saddlebag of the Triumph, or something. )

Miles and smiles,


Saturday, January 09, 2010

Kodak moments that got away.

Thanks to the insidious ( the seductive definition applies ) influence of you all I'm now running around with at least the G11 in my pocket. Trying to document my life and find some art in the process. It's interesting how some of the most priceless moments aren't easily captured. They sneak up on you so quickly that they're done and over before you can get the camera out. Since I'm not going to live my whole life through a viewfinder some of the moments are going to have to live on as mental pictures only.

Such was the case yesterday. By the way, the photos are just some odd ones captured by the G11 in a parking lot. They're thrown in gratuitously to emphasize that the stories are motorcycle related if not directly about riding. The photos aren't worked over at all. However they came out of the camera is how they are. I did take one with the white balance set to "cloudy". It seems to add just a bit of warmth. The photos are taken in color but look pretty much black and white due to the subject and the day. I'm not saying they're good photos. Consider them filler in the meat loaf.

Yesterday I stopped at Lancaster Mall in Salem. That's where Elvira was parked in the photo I posted last night. The reason I stopped was to visit the Shutterbug store in the mall. Why didn't you people tell me that "fast" lenses were available for low light situations? I had to find out by reading a book. Some friends. :)

The manager at Shutterbug is pretty good about sharing information with me. I've spent a fair bit of money there so we both get what we want. I was looking at a 50mm f/1.4 lense. Didn't buy it, just checking it out. After looking at the lense I strolled down the mall corridor headed back to the bike. I'm still wearing the 'Stich, jacket unzipped, and carrying my helmet in my hand. One of the stores in the mall is Victoria's Secret.

As you know, the posters in the storefront windows tend to draw a guy's attention. The current series of posters are done in grayscale. As a budding photographer, I was interested in the photographic techniques used. I know, it's like saying we buy Playboy for the articles. I only plead that our recent blog posts validate my statement about grayscale and black & white. I'm pretty sure I wasn't drooling or walking along with my tongue hanging out. My pace was a steady, if not fast, walk. I was merely observing the composition and shading. Ok, the subject matter is interesting, too. Happy?

Having come to the end of the window displays, I shifted my gaze back to mall traffic. Right into the eyes of an older woman coming at me from the opposite direction. Her expression was a Kodak moment that got away.

She was tall; taller than me. Which helped her in looking down on me. The woman was lean with sharp features. The image put me in mind of a starving bird of prey. Gray hair was pulled tightly back into a bun at the back of her head. Clothing was neutral colored grays and brown. Skirt and blouse. Nylons dark enough to be black. Her face held a frown. The frown looked like it had lived on her face for a decade and was content to stay there. The cold eyes and frown were aimed squarely at me. She'd seen me looking at the posters. I must be a low life.

Meeting her gaze, I summoned my best boyish grin. Full of fun and mischief.

"Wanna go shopping in there with me?", I asked.

She made a gesture that looked like pulling an imaginary shawl tighter around her shoulders. Body armor against the pervert, I guess. The temperature of her stare and frown dropped several more degrees. I could almost feel the chill as she moved against the wall and walked on by. I continued out to Elvira, watching over my shoulder for Security as I went.

Speaking of chill, I just broke out into a cold sweat thinking of something? What if she had said "yes"? Shudder. Do they sell leather whips in there?

Some moments come because my reputation precedes me. Sometimes it works to my advantage, sometimes not.

As I mentioned last night, there was rain off and on yesterday. The temperature hovered near 40 ( f ). Between the rain, the wind chill, and a hundred and fifty miles on the bike, I was pretty chilled when I got home late last night. Yes, I had a week off between Christmas and New Year's. No, I didn't get the bike wired for electrics. Heck, it's nearly Spring. Why bother now?

Katie was sitting at the kitchen table looking at recipes when I came in the back door. I took off my helmet and offered a greeting.

"I have hypothermia. You're going to have to do your heroic duty and save me." ( I'm leaving out the more graphic part. You know the standard operating procedure: bare skin for heat transfer thing ).

Her look was another of those uncaptured Kodak moments.

"Yeah, right. Mr. "think nothing of riding two hundred miles in below freezing temperatures" suddenly has hypothermia when it's well above freezing? Give me a break."

I guess even Florence Nightengale had her limits.

So I played with Photoshop and posted the photos until bedtime!

Miles and smiles,