Monday, January 28, 2013

The Chrysta Rae Photography Scavenger Hunt: Holiday Edition

During the last two months of 2012 I jumped once more unto the breach -  and participated in the   +Chrysta Rae's Photography Scavenger Hunt  on Google Plus.

The hunt works like this: we are given a list of 10 categories to shoot, and a set time to shoot them (normally 30 days, but this hunt was 60 days). One photo per category is submitted, and then they are judged by a panel of four expert photographers. The submissions are kept a secret until the judging takes place, then they are all released in what is known as the "reveal".

Previous hunts I had a lot of found shots - that is shots I found while walking around.  This time most of my shots were staged, and most were taken on the same 3 square feet of desk space in my man cave. I learned a ton about my camera (Canon S100), and my editing software (GIMP).   I think this is the strongest hunt for me yet, so I had high hopes for success.  However, this hunt brings out some of the best photographers on Google Plus, and well, me, together for a jolly good time and some stiff competition, so really it was like Arnold from Growin' Pains going toe to toe with Mike Tyson in the ring (but without the bloodshed).

The following are my submissions for the holiday edition of the +Chrysta Rae's Photography Scavenger Hunt :

Category: Tradition  Canadian Remembrance Day was my theme for this one. This is the Google Calendar app on a Nexus 7 tablet, with a poppy placed on top.  This was one of my simpler staged shots.

See the rest of the submissions for this category here.

Category: Holiday Dessert A little something for Santa.  He works hard and deserves a snack.  See the rest of the category here.

Category: Holiday Song  "Santa Got Run Over By A Reindeer" done with Star Wars Lego minifigs.  I had to do arts and crafts for this one.  This is my most elaborate composite shots to date. See the rest of the category here.

Category: Candy Cane  This was the first idea that came to my delusional brain when I saw this category.  I built this in a light box, and used wire to keep the Lego minifigs upright.  Note: Candy Canes get *really* sticky after a few minutes.  I received an honorable mention for this photo.

 See the rest of the category here.

Category: Mistletoe  Indiana Jones and a female Lego minifig having a spontaneous romantic moment.  I received an honorable mention by one judge and a second place prize by another for this one. See the rest of the category here.

Category: Snowflake  Not my best shot, in my opinion, but I did learn a lot about transparency masks, backgrounds, and layers in GIMP. From that perspective I am happy with it.  From an overall aesthetics not so much. See the rest of the category here.

Category: Santa  This is a selfy I took on a whim during the Lenoir Santa Claus parade (more pics here).  I didn't think much of it until a week later when I started playing around in GIMP and realized it would make a good entry. See the rest of the category here.

Category: Ribbon  My daughter, Abigail.  We got a bunch of ribbon and laid it over her, and let her play with it.  We tried various positions but this one was her laying on our couch.  We tickled her belly to get an amused expression on her face.  She loved every minute of it.  See the rest of the category here.

Category: Ornament  I already had a shot in place for this category, but I was  playing around with Christmas lights in my lightbox when I grabbed this shot.  It was better than my other ornament shot so I kept this one. See the rest of the category here.

Category: Glitter  Glitter is evil. See the rest of the category here.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Sunday In Hickory

After church today I got into the Geovan of Destiny with my trusty dog Bailey and headed over to Hickory NC to grab some caches.

My adventures took me to Glen Hilton Park, a place where I had cached before, but there have been some new ones published by a local cacher with a reputation for quality hides that I wanted to check out.

After clearing the park I decided to take a walk around the campus of Lenoir-Rhyne University while completing a 6 stage multi-cache.

You never know what one will find when one goes out caching, and today was no exception.  The art above was on the side of a drainage culvert.  The image below was on an old wall hidden deep in the back woods of Glen Hilton Park:

As I was at GZ searching for the second cache of the day, I got a call from my son (via my wife) to give me some news about a milestone with my sons potty training.  I captures the moment so you all can share the excitement:

One of the caches had a crisp 100 dollar bill as a log book.  I of course immediately grabbed it and ran signed the log and put it back.  It was actually just the back of a piece of paper from a novelty pad.

This beast guarding LRU was one of the stops on the 6 stage multi-cache.

This guy was hanging out at the edge of a garden.  When I saw him my first thought was this Monty Python sketch.

Ye olde ginormous saxaphone outside the music building at LRU.

I found 8 caches today (including 2 I had DNFd previously),  0 DNFs, and many new things discovered.  All in all a very satisfying day of geocaching.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Killing Time

My wife is into quilting in a big way. So when she heard there was a quilting show in Statesville (a town about an hour away from us), she was keen to go.

We waited until after Abigails morning nap, partly to avoid a cranky baby, and partly to let some of the ice melt off of the roads.

You see, the night before we experienced what southerners call a major winter weather event (and what us northerners call mildly annoying weather) in the form of a 1/10th of an inch of ice and sleet. This made the roads virtually unpassable until the temps rose above freezing.

We made it to the quilt show around 1pm.  My wife took Abigail inside to get her quilt on, leaving Zeke and myself with a couple hours to kill.  There is only one thing to do in such a situation - hit the closest park with a geocache.

Which is exactly what we did.

The following is a blow by blow replay of our time at Lakewood park in Statesville NC.

When one is in the company of a toddler and in a park with playground equipment it is vital to do the geocaching first. Once he hits the play sets you'll lose his attention for caching pretty much immediately. So we headed off first to grab the cache.

The park was full of the most friendly ducks I have ever seen.  The moment they saw us they walked right up to us.  Apparently they are used to being fed by humans.
We stopped to take some pictures.

Parts of the pond were iced over.  Zeke wanted to walk on the ice.  Despite being proud of his instincts to explore frozen things, I had to explain that walking on frozen ponds is a bad idea. Despite having Canadian blood in his veins, his exposure to winter conditions is very limited.  He'll get there eventually.
Once we got to the playground Zeke didn't want to climb on the equipment.  Instead he spent most of his time picking up chunks of ice and tossing them into the pond.

After a while we decided to go for a wander - that lasted about 30ft until Zeke discovered a really nice mud puddle.  He got soaked from head to toe - as it should be.

Once most of the mud puddle was transfered to Zeke's clothes, we moved on.  Zeke tried to push down this tree.  He was unsuccessful.

He then tried to move this piece of lumber from the creek that feeds the ponds.  It was a lot of work but he finally managed to move it to higher ground.  I am not sure why he had to move it, but he insisted it be done.  He must have some latent lumberjack genes in his DNA.

After the massive cleanup effort was complete we headed back to the van to get a change of clothes.  Finally dry we headed off to pick up mommy and Abigail, and then headed home.

All in all, a great way to kill some time.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hollywild At Night

Sorry for bringing Christmas back. (really - this stuff should be put in a box until next December).

Late 2012 I went to visit Hollywild, which is a drive-thru outdoor animal preseve near Spartanburg SC.

They had put on a night time light show called the Holiday Lights Safari.  Picture acres and acres of lights arranged all holiday-ish.  They also had some animal displays - mainly deer, but also some zebra and holsteins.

I went to visit it after a geocaching event near by.   I took some photos but I forgot to post them until now... oops.

So here ya go, a blast from the end of 2012 - the light display and some deer from Hollywild.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Geocaching Adventures: Lancaster

Last Saturday I headed over to Lancaster South Carolina to meet up with Freekacher (a self described vigilante historian) to do some caching together.  I had met him on Google Plus, and at a couple geocaching events, but I had not had a chance to hit the trails with him until now.

Lancaster is 2 hours and one state away from where I live, so I woke up early and drove through the dark to get to Lancaster.  We cached the day away, then I drove back home in the dark.  In between was a very interesting day of geocaching.

It is often said that one of the great things about visiting Europe is all the history that can still be seen and visited - something that the Americas does not have.  Europe does indeed have a lot of history, however if you look hard enough there is plenty of history to explore in America, and it comes in surprising places.

The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road. Aka the Great Indian
Warrior Trading Path.
Case in point:  After we had our underground adventures we headed over to Landford Canal State Park. As you may suspect one of the features of the park is a canal from the 1800s, that was used for trade and commerce.

What you may not expect is that crossing this canal is a stone bridge that was part of the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road.  This road was the most heavily travelled road in Colonial America.  It ran from the Great Lakes to Augusta Georgia.  It was built on old indian trade and warrior paths.  Just imagine the history that this road represents, and here it sits, basically unheralded aside from a simple historical marker, in an out of the way state park.

After we left the park we visited an old cemetery that had graves from the Revolutionary War, one of the most defining events in US history.

We then visited a stone marker that defines the state line between North and South Carolina, a hotly contested border (due to discrepancies in the way the King of England described the border when it was first laid out and the way the early settlers marked the border). In places it is off by miles.

As you can see, the place is full of history if you take the time to look for it.

We finished off the afternoon in Andrew Jackson State Park, where we found several caches, and ran into a new cacher family.  We ended up sharing the trails with these new cachers and found a couple caches with them.

We finished the day by having supper with two other cachers, HoosierSunshine and FailedApparatus.  As an apres-dinner activity we did a nearby night cache.  After that we piled into our respective vehicles and went our separate ways.

It was a fantastic day of unexpected history, interesting nature, and food shared with the company of new friends.  It is hard to imagine better ways to spend a day.

I'll leave you with a few more pics of the day, starting with another shot of Landsford Canal:

An old building on a hill in Landsford State Park.

Old grave markers from the Revolutionary War.

This is a rather unique grave stone.

There is a fungus among us.

Evidence of Beavers - a fine and noble creature, and the symbol of my homeland, Canada.  Beavers always give a dam.

Freekacher signing the night cache log.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Underworld of Lancaster

They say geocaching takes you to places you'd never discover on your own... they ain't kidding.

On Saturday I explored two (count em!) tunnels in the never-ending quest to find tupperware in unique and interesting places.  These places were in Lancaster South Carolina.

I had company, for my guide for the day was Freekacher, the vigilante historian, and awesome dude from South Carolina.

They may have paved paradise to put up a parking lot, but they first put in tunnels to keep the creeks flowing underneath them.  This is something I never really realized, and it is likely these structures exist under a lot of parking lots, unseen by the world above.

The first tunnel was about 4' in diameter, and 200' or so to the cache.  It is a tight squeeze for a 6'2", 300lbs dude, but I managed to duck walk myself to GZ, which was mercifully at a storm drain so I could stand fully upright, and sign the log. All the while trying to avoid the small river of water flowing at my feet through the concrete tube.

The second tunnel was in some ways easier, and in others more intense.  The tunnel is wider: 7' in diameter. No duck walking was required. However the creek that runs through it is deeper - up to a foot in places.

The tunnel is also much longer as it runs the entire length of an old K-Mart parking lot - about a quarter mile underground, and the cache is at the far end.  The cache is rated a 5/5, the most difficult of all cache ratings.

So armed with flashlights, cameras, and rubber boots we enter the tunnel and start the long trek through the darkness.  At several points along the way exist passages to the surface for storm drains (rather interesting to see from the other side).  There are also a few side tunnels, only 2' in diameter or so, that branch off.  Most of the time you are left in the dark with only the sloshing of water over your boots, and a thin ray of light from your flashlight as you wade through the murky darkness.

Eventually we arrive at the cache.  It is a simple bison tube (as these things tend to be).  The log signed we kept going until we reached the end of the tunnel at the far side and stood in the middle of the creek, in broad daylight.  Another grand adventure completed, we head back to the car over land.

If you have never done tunnel caching, I highly reccomend it.  It is a unique experience, and one you won't soon forget.  I'll leave you with some more pics from both tunnels, starting with Yours Truly at the first cache.

The underside of a storm drain.

Peering into the murky depths

Tar melted into the tunnel from the hot summer heat.

Freekacher taking a victory pose after conquering the second tunnel.