Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dry December

This December might be one of those history-making months,

weather-wise - very dry so far.  I did manage to get out to the reservoir yesterday and made a few shots with my new gimbal setup.  It's a breeze to set up ad use, after all these years I now really see the attraction.  Ease of Use is probably the biggest attraction-- being able to move the lens around with one finger and just let go of the camera when it's where I want it; no knobs or levers to tighten ad fiddle with.  Nice.

These were taken from across the reservoir, at f/1600, f/4.8 ISO 1000


And a quick snap of the setup: 


Sunday, December 07, 2014

Strangest damn thing.....

On the way to breakfast this morning, we were traveling south

on Broadway, the sun was up (around 30-40°) and the sky about .3 scattered.  Kyri and I both were looking south south east at an interesting cloud.  We both independently thought the weird cloud was the result of our sunglasses and the tinted windshield, but ......  not the case!  Kyri pulled the car over and I was able to get out to take a few shots; this is what we saw:

 I've never seen anything like this, but I hope I do again - so I can take some more pictures.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Camera Features

Metering Modes

OK - here's some dramatic (but accurate) shots showing the difference between Matrix Metering and Spot Metering on the same subject, same light.  (I like to use spot metering for this type of shot, where there's a vast difference in light falling on different parts of the picture).  
The first shot is using Matrix metering mode, the second, Spot mode:
Matrix Metering  


Spot metering off the sky reflected in the water.
  

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A few shots from the new camera:

I am sure enjoying having a camera again, and trying to get back in the habit of having a camera with me all the time, everywhere.  Here's a few examples of what I've been doing with my new equipment, from around the house and down the South Platte river:




Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Camera!

As you might know (or not), since June.....

I have been without a camera - I have a Nikon D300 that suffered an unfortunate accident, and I replaced it with a rebuilt camera from the local shop.  It lasted about seven months and decided to not recognize any lens attached to it.  Time for a new clickerbox.  

After a lot of research, I settled on the Nikon D7100 for a lot of reasons - it's a DX camera, 24Mp sensor and also has a 1.3 Crop mode - like getting 1.3 X whatever lens length you have.  And it does video, etc. etc.  In short, I really really like this camera.  It produces some stunning results.  

It's interesting to think back many (about 30) years, to one of our first PC-compatible computers; an Epson Equity XT.  It had a 20Mb (yes, twenty megabytes) and we really thought it was hot stuff.  This camera turns out a 29 Mb RAW file.  Wow.  Even a Fine quality JPEG from this beast is 17Mb.  

I wish you could see the photographs this camera turns out, but there's no way I could post that big a photo, and viewing at 72 dpi is not really representative of the photo.  

Here's a front and back shot of the 7100 taken with my iPhone:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Final (I hope) mods to the Espresso Machine

OK, the last two modifications to the espresso machine

are done.  I hope.  I removed the Gaggia steam wand with the crappy panarello on it and replaced the wand with a steam wand from a Rancilio Sylvia.  Much  better.  And, I ordered another portafilter to permanently attach the pressure gauge to.  Hopefully that will do it for a while.  I can't think of any more mods I could do right now.  
Here's a frame grab from a short video I did of the new steam wand



















And the permanent pressure gauge equipped portafilter:

Friday, August 08, 2014

Espresso Machine, continued

More additions to the Coffee Bar

Since the last post, I've been doing some additions/updates to the espresso setup; notably, I invested in a real grinder that does consistent, fine, non-clumpy espresso grinds, another Gaggia product, the MD40.  The main complaint people have about this grinder is cosmetic--it slips and slides around on the counter top.  Well, yes...but- the grinder is made to slip into the Gaggia shelf which holds the Gaggia Classic, or Baby, or Twin and the MD40, so it has no feet.  Since the shelf would raise the Classic up too far to fit under my cupboards, I wouldn't be able to use it.  Simple fix- a $4 set of rubber feet from the hardware store; problem solved.  I also invested in a decent tamper and a tamping mat.  Here's a shot of the grinder in its proper place with the mat and tamper in front: 


Next on the list was a portafilter pressure gauge.  It screws on the bottom of the portafilter where the spouts normally screw on.  It's got a rubber gasket and a little filter screen - seems to be working fine. The pressure with the machine heated up properly is 10.2 bar on the gauge, which should work out to be 9.2 bar without the gauge and with a load of coffee in the portafilter.  Just right, no more adjusting required.   Nicer than homemade, but of course more expensive.
Next on the list is to replace the Gaggia Pannarello milk frothing wand, and replace it with this steam wand that originally was made for a Rancilio Sylvia V2.  Found a New Old Stock one on the Bay.  

Ok, that should bring everything up to date.....no, hang on - I decided to learn how to bake biscotti as well.  Came out just right-almond and vanilla-yum!

That should do it for a bit.  I'll post again after I install the new steam wand.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Yet another addition, Part 3

All right!  First off, I drove to Kaladi Brothers and had them grind me some espresso coffee.  When I got home, I plugged in the machine, let it heat up, and pulled a few shots - with both the "pressurized filter" and the normal.

However..... like everybody says, way too much pressure.  So, time for the first modification; reduce the brew pressure by adjusting the OPV.

Really, a five minute job - the longest part was putting the top back on and dealing with the little rubber grommet at the front of the machine.  Here's the OPV, with my fingers in the way, removing the overflow tube, preparatory to unscrewing the top of the OPV with a 17mm socket wrench:
























Once the top of the valve is removed, the adjustment is made by turning the actual innards of the valve 270ยบ counter-clockwise, with a 5mm Allen Wrench {or, Alien Wrench as I call it}.  Here's a shot of the valve without the overflow tube:




After you have turned the inside adjuster 3/4 turn to the left, put everything back together, and put the top of the machine back on.  All done.



Did it make a difference?   Oh, yeah!


Yet another addiction, Part 2

OK, finished up the lawn mowing operation this morning, just in time for the Fedex truck driver to meet me in the front yard with the box containing my Gaggia Classic.

Shipping - you could hardly ask for more; the factory box was packaged in another sturdy cardboard box, which was in turn packaged suspended (in hard foam corner braces) in another sturdy cardboard box.  Nice!  No visible shipping damage whatsoever.

The machine comes with standard baskets, and pressurized baskets, as well as a "coffee pod" basket for making coffee from pods (think teabags).  Also included, the portafilter of course, a plastic tamper, plastic coffee scoop, power cord and extensive instructions in Italian, French, German, and Spanish.  All the stainless steel surfaces are covered in sticky film, to avoid scratching.  Nice.

First things first:  Get some espresso ground coffee, a proper tamper (that plastic thing has got to go) and I should be on my way.  I know, I know, you're supposed to grind your own coffee just before pulling the shot..... I'm "between grinders at the moment" --read broke.  Maybe in a couple months; my cellphone needs replaced first, still need to get the Harley running, etc. etc.

.....It's pretty!
Click on the pictures for larger views.                                    Stay Tuned!


Saturday, July 05, 2014

Yet another addiction

I've long been a fan of espresso, French press coffee, vacuum-pot coffee, Chemex-pot coffee -- you get the picture.

Time to clean off some counter space, I have a new machine coming...

This is a Gaggia Classic, simple machine but since it's a Gaggia, enough advanced/commercial features to make it well worth the price, and reliable enough to last a few years with regular cleaning and TLC.

I was looking at some offerings from the "RUB" brand (Rich Urban Barista wannabe's) {dare I say Breville?} but the reviews are too mixed.  People who have had their machines for less than six months are falling over themselves saying what a great machine they are, but there are lots and lots of really bad reviews from people who have had theirs for more than six months.  At any rate, we'll see what happens.  Now, if I could find a decent grinder I'd be a happy guy.  By the way, free two-day shipping doesn't mean much when you order late in the afternoon on the 3rd of July -- I won't get it until Tuesday the 8th anyway.  Oh, well-gives me more time to clear a spot in the kitchen.  It will probably just fit under the cabinetry in the kitchen - at least I hope so, otherwise it will find a home on top of the clothes dryer in the laundry room.  No bueno.

....more to come - stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Grill/Smoker Mods, part 3

Continuing along with what mods I can afford and cobble up in the garage (why, oh why didn't I buy that MIG welder from Craigslist?) with the tools and such that I have.

The fire basket is done:  Expanded metal isn't as cheap as I remember it used to be.  So many things in life I remember differently than they are now.  At any rate, this basket will hold a whole whoop of charcoal and/or wood chunks.

























The first iteration of a tuner plate; gas welded up in the garage.  there are four removable plates, and the angled plate is welded to a fifth.  Before I go farther with this, I'm going to take it out, and turn the lower grill and ash tray over.  It seals up much better than the straight plates.  If I still want to use the plates like this, I'll have to weld some triangular pieces onto the slanted plate to seal it up better.  The upside down bottom tray won't need that at all.  The down side of the upside down tray is that there aren't any holes in it; but if it works better for heat distribution I'll figure out a way to get some holes in it.  I may have to cut them with a torch; it's very thick metal to drill a 3/4 or 1-inch hole through with a battery hand drill.  We'll see.  The temperature on the firebox end was still quite hot compared to the far end of things in today's test, but the overall temperature inside the grill was double what it was with no mods at all.  If I can get the temperature to stay more even across the whole grill, then I can start adjusting the temp.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Grill/Smoker Modifications, continuing


First mod done, installed a pair of thermometers to get the temperature just above the grill level.  Next, build a fire basket ($79 for a pre-made basket!), and do some testing with the ash catcher for the grill upside down to act as a smoke diffusion/tuner plate.  Slow but fun playing.


Monday, June 02, 2014

Grilling and Smoking, continued...

     I just couldn't have all the equipment on the back porch and not do something with it.  I had a chunk of beef in the freezer from some unknown place - don't remember even what cut it was, I just remember it was tough like a boot.  So I assumed that slow heat smoking couldn't do it any harm.  

I'm finding things out about the equipment, from the internet and Youtube® dealing with sealing things up, moving the exhaust to a different part of the grilling surface, changing the way the firebox operates - lots of information, all of which looks good.  

This smoker has a few of the problems everyone is concerned about, others have been modified by the previous owner, so I'm at least halfway to having a much better working smoker than the factory stock situation.  

1.  Fire in the hole! - or in the firebox... Note to self, no more foil, modify/make a new charcoal grate:

 Still looks good, but as it turns out, not enough air...


And here we go.  
In actuality, things turned out ok, but I need a lot more heat from the firebox, generating a clear blue smoke rather than the white creosote-bitter smoke.  Lots to learn, and practice.  I'm happy with my results so far.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Grilling, ho!

     Well, the outdoor kitchen is coming together.  Gas grill, charcoal grill, and smoker.  What else would I need?  Got the hickory chunks soaking, we'll try a bit of smoked beef this afternoon.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Change Your Life - Get a Dog!

We've been looking for a dog to adopt for quite some time, and quite by accident, 

Kyri was looking for something on Craigslist, and happened upon a picture of a (Aussie?)Shepherd/Collie mix up for rescue/adoption from a service called Rez Dawg Rescue, Inc. out of Boulder, Colorado.   http://www.rezdawgrescue.org/  

Long story short, we've found our companion.  Timber had been in a kill shelter in Gallup, NM, and was rescued by the Rez Dawg people in early April.  He was being fostered at a home in Denver, so we were able to arrange a visit in our home in just a couple days; and we hit it off right away.  He seems to be about two years old, happy as a puppy, and eager to please.  

The Shepherd/Collie mix characteristics are going to keep us hopping, I guess, but we need somebody to keep us up and running.  He's very smart, and of course is happy to invent his own jobs if you don't give him a job and keep him engaged.  He thinks he's a lap-dog, so we have a few territorial disputes over who gets to sit where.  The living room chairs are (barely) wide enough for a person and a four-foot, so that's OK.  The office chair in my radio shack, not so much.  He would really like to make friends with our cats.  For their part, they're happy to touch noses occasionally, but are still a bit wary.  All in all, Timber's a great addition to the family.

Taking his 'rightful place' in Kyri's chair

Going for the winsome look.......
Get him outside and he's a happy puppy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Home made Hot Sauce


I love hot sauce!  No habanero, no scorpion peppers, no ghost peppers, good old-fashioned sauce.   I want it hot, but i want to be able to taste the ingredients, like salsa.  I found a recipe for homemade sauce a couple months ago and I'm now on my second batch.  It comes out somewhere between Tabasco® Chipotle and Cholula®.  I use half and half white and cider vinegar for a little different background taste.  If you want to try this, I sincerely recommend that you use fresh spices, it makes a lot of difference. None of those canned powdered whatevers that should have been removed from your cupboard back in 2009!  I get all my spices at the Savory Spice Shop,     http://www.savoryspiceshop.com

One more note:  wash your hands a couple or three times after making the sauce and before touching any part of your face....  just sayin'.
In a blender or food processor, combine:
1/2 tsp leaf Cilantro (not ground)
1/2 tsp leaf Mexican Oregano (also not ground)
4 whole (seeded) smoked dried Serrano chiles
1 Tbsp granulated onion
1 tsp granulated garlic
2 Tbsp ground New Mexico mild red chiles
1/2 tsp sea salt
... You'll probably have to seed the dried chiles yourself - be patient, and thorough. You'll like the sauce much better without the seeds.

Grind to a powder, transfer dry ingredients to an intermediate jar or bowl unless you have a wide-mouth bottle like this one to mix and refrigerate in: --------->>
Add:
1/2 cup vinegar (half and half white and cider)
Use some of the vinegar to clean out the blender/processor, you want every last bit of the ingredients in the bottle.

Bottle and refrigerate.  I have no idea how long this might keep in the refrigerator, that would depend on your fridge's temperature, etc. I use it too fast to pay any attention.  I have had a bottle last as long as a month.....because I used it that fast.


Wednesday, April 09, 2014


Better Safe Than .......

 I always have had the outlook that if the whole situation goes up the flue, I'd rather be prepared than not.  Starting as far back as I can remember, Dad and Mom always had the capability of packing up and "headin' fer the hills' at the drop of a hat.  I think it was the desire to get up into good fishing territory that spurred them to be prepared.  That and having grown up and lived through the depression.  I was in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts too, and we always had quick access to our 'camping stuff' back then as well.  Light, warmth, communication, food, shelter, and protection -- the basics.  I'm getting closer.
  
 

There's no lack of goodies out there, but I'm trying to do this as cheaply as I can without a lot of compromise in quality.  I already have a bunch of stuff, now I'm fiddling with it, trying to make it lighter weight, more compact sized, and so on.  Fun - and it may very well be useful, the way things seem to be going.

No, there's no picture of my weaponry - none of anybody's business until they're looking at the business end of it.  Let's just say that I can make life a distressing and hurtful place for somebody who wants to be obnoxious.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Differing views

This morning in the park (twenty degrees and windy -brrr) I found a few oak leaves floating in the shade; here are some different views - different light by moving my camera position six feet...



Saturday, March 15, 2014

Saturday Morning Miscellanea

As I usually do, I had my camera with me when I was walking at the park this morning; the sun was just hitting the tops of the trees, and there was a pair of wood ducks sitting on the bridge railing, discussing possible nesting sites (I think).  Couldn't resist. 
1/800 at f/3.5, iso 800
1/160 at f/3.5, iso 800

1/200 at f/3.5, iso 800

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ice In Transition

The ice on the lake this morning seems to be confused: 

The water level came up last night with snow and rain, then things froze before the water level fell during the night.  This is what resulted. 

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Parts & Pieces

Just a quick snap of my D300 with the Pocket Wizard MiniTT1 and AC3 zone controller.  Also, the power cable from the camera keeps the MiniTT1 powered on without using the TT1's 2450 coin cell, which is a bit hard to find at the local grocery.  
I'm really having a lot of fun with all this Pocket Wizard stuff.  

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Ow, that was bright!

The camera has grabbed me again; i've got so many hobbies that sometimes I lose track (was going to say focus, but that might be too much) of one or more of them for a while.  I got interested again in flash pictures, and particularly remote flash.  

By remote flash, I am talking about rf(radio-triggered) flash vs. the excellent CLS™ {Creative Lighting System} already built into all the Nikon cameras and Speedlights that operates via infrared light, and thus is limited to line-of-sight applications.  I love the Nikon CLS system - it's very versatile, does absolutely everything--but it's hard to use outside in really bright sunlight, and of course if you want to place a flash somewhere that's completely hidden from the camera, you can't access it via CLS.  

So, I went on the search for some Pocket Wizard units.  I found a couple items used, in local camera stores or on eBay, and purchased the rest from Pocket Wizard® dealers, notably B&H Photo.  

Wow!  Fun stuff.  Now I'm having to give myself a refresher course in portrait photography, and fill-flash in general, because with the Nikon system it's brainless.  Oh well, always something to learn.  

So far I have a MiniTT1 and two FlexTT5s for Nikon, 
an AC-3 zone controller and a PlusIII for some special 
fiddling using relaying.  
The PW stuff has been fun to learn, and I may be on the track with some of the things I've tried in the past month or so.  My first project was the Kerosene Lantern in the Barn shot [published in the blog on February 2nd] using one remote flash 
hidden out of sight in the barn, gelled with a full cut CTO gel to make its light nice and warm.  
Lots of nice comments on that shot, so I guess it's all right.  I think I could have done better, but I feel that way about most things I do....  



Kyri teaches at Arapahoe Community College, 
and the  College asked her to turn in a head shot
(I'm assuming for the course catalog or an ID-card
so I had another thing to try.  This is the shot  she 
eventually picked; it was done with two flashes, 
a sofrbox, and a warm-surfaced reflector.  More fun!

I suppose I'll be adding some more pictures to the blog, taken with off-camera flash and the PW units from time to time as I discover more things to do with them.  I will say that it's a blast to be able to trigger a flash a hundred or so feet away from inside a building.  All sorts of possibilities.  More tk.

Life Passages

A few days back, on February 20th, our little house lion, Glory, stepped from this life into the Summerland.  We found Glory nineteen years ago, as a still-wet newborn kitten, under a shed near where Kyri was living at the time.  His momma was nowhere to be found, so we scooped him up and rushed to the emergency animal clinic, where we were told he probably wouldn't last out the day, certainly not the week.  But, the vet told us, if we were determined to try, he would give us some kitten formula to try, but he said we most likely couldn't get him to eat.

Kyri cuddled and fed the little squirt every few minutes for a couple days, starting with a hypodermic syringe, then a doll's baby bottle, and so on.  He became attached to her, and her other cat Oliver, and "Uncle Oliver" showed him the ropes, how to clean himself, where to poop, and so on.  This was quite a relief to Kyri, who had been bathing him in the bathroom sink.

So, the little guy who was supposed to die at a few hours old lived almost nineteen years.  In human years, he would have been 119 years old this coming August.  I guess he was supposed to come to us.  He was never sick a day in his life, and was a wonderful companion; he spent most of his afternoons sleeping on my shoulder, and curled up with Kyri every night, keeping her neck warm.  He was bright and cheerful for so many years, only in the last eighteen months or so losing a good portion of his eyesight from cataracts, and his hearing faded pretty badly, which made him a little jumpy and grumpy and easy to startle.  He was only in mild discomfort the last day and a half of his whole life, but his digestion pretty much shut down, and he couldn't stand up very well the last few hours, so we knew it was time.

We held and cuddled and warmed his little body through the first hours of his life, and at the end, we held him in our arms as he took his last few breaths on this plane.  Thanks so much to Caring Pathways, who sent out one of their mobile vets to assist him on his way.  We laid him to rest in a nice sunny spot in the garden, with a catnip sock, wrapped in his favorite blanket.  

Blessed Be, little guy.  See you down the road.

I have hundreds of shots of Glory, this is one from a year ago.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Playing with Remote Flash

A couple weeks ago I picked up a used Pocket Wizard FlexTT5® for the Nikon from my local camera store, after reading lots of literature about Pocket Wizard™products.  PW radios for the Nikon allow you to use iTTL (thru-the-lens metering) for any number of remote flashes.  Then a few days later I bid on and won the companion MiniTT1®, and started playing.  For me, the results have been impressive, and I've been having a ball.

This shot is a good example.  I wanted a winter shot with the kerosene lantern to 'look like' the only light source in the barn, but by itself it doesn't cast enough light to properly expose the rest of the stall.  So, MiniTT1® on the camera, FlexTT5® under an SB-900 Nikon flash, on a small tripod behind the wall in a corner, gelled to match the really warm light from the lantern.
Nikon D300
28mm f/1.4 lens
1/30th second at f/8, ISO 400
Nikon SB-900 flash, full-cut CTO gel
...Lantern: W.T. Kirkman #2 Cold Blast