Saturday, April 30, 2016

My Short Career As A Russian General

This is my first ever submission to Self Portrait Sunday, an ongoing series of events in The Art Of Self Portraiture community on Google Plus.

Monday, April 25, 2016

First Attempts At Twilight Light Painting

I was watching an online class on KelbyOne called Under The Milkway with Dave Black.  It is about light painting landscapes.  The idea is that you can take long exposure shots at night to get stars in your photo.  This sort of shot normally leaves the foreground in shadow.  By the clever applications of light via flashlights (or whatever lights you like), you can illuminate (or paint with light) the foreground without blowing out the background, leading to some dramatic shots.

I was up the mountains last night trying for some sunset shot, which were a total bust because of a lack of clouds. I decided to take advantage of the cloudless night and try my hand at star photography - something I had never really attempted before.  While I was at it I decided to try my hand at light painting.

This is the result.
Now that I know what I am doing, I am going to start looking for some more interesting foregrounds to do some more light painting.

Ah, its good to have goals.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Spring Break: A Miniature Land, Long Ago And Far, Far Away

When last we spoke, my family and I were in the middle of a visit to Miniature Land in Legoland, Florida as part of a Spring Break vacation.

A whole section of Miniature Land is the Star Wars section, where many scenes from every movie (except the current one) are laid out in a sort of geek based space-opera paradise.

They based the Endor scenes in the woods running along the edges of the pathways where the main displays lived, which made for some great backdrops.
The Battle of Naboo from Episode I: George Lucas' Acid Trip
A wider view of the same scene.

Another scene from Endor.
The Battle of Hoth. One of the more epic scenes.
You have never seen a more wretched hive of scum and villiany at 47:1 scale.
Catch you next time!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Spring Break: Miniature Land

It would not be a trip to Legoland without seeing a lot of lego models.  I mean, seriously.

So when we were at Legoland for Spring Break, we spend quite a bit of time checking out Miniature Land, the land of, well, miniatures.

Miniature Land was broken up into logical scenes - the highlights of London, New York City, Las Vegas were there, as well as themed sections like racing, NASA, and pirates. Here Abigail is looking over the Tower of London.

(There was also a whole section from a certain galaxy long ago and far far away, but I am getting ahead of myself.)
Some of the miniatures were animated, tho a lot of it was very simplistic cheesy animation, like this dolphin, that "jumped out of the water" in a loop.
Some of the animations were activated by buttons the kids could press.  Most of these squirted water at something.  These elephants were aimed to shoot the water back at the kids - take that button presser! (not pictured: the laughter of freshly dampened children.)
The Space Shuttle model was pretty cool. Every 10 minutes the shuttle would "launch" in a puff of smoke.

10 minutes is a long time for kids to wait, so luckily around the corner was a button activated drag race.
The Las Vegas scene included the iconic sign, and much to my amusement, billboards.  They seemed to tone down the hookers tho (which I think its an educational opportunity missed, but my wife doesn't agree).
The final scene from Miniature Land is a full scale naval battle scene.  The defenders on the hill exchanged shots from the ships in the harbour - lots of sounds, puffs of "smoke" (water mist) from the canons, splashes of water where the shells missed (Lego soldiers have crappy aim, it seems), and ships that sailed around.  It was quite involved and impressive.
So thats a flavour of Miniature Land from this galaxy. There was that other galaxy I mentioned, but that deserves its own post, so stay tuned.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Spring Break: Legoland

Day two of our Spring Break vacation found us waking up in a hotel near Savannah GA.  We piled in the Geovan of Destiny and headed south towards Florida.  Our goal:  The grandparents (Pake and Grandma) RV park where we would spend the week.

Or is it?

Wifey and I had a plan... a nefariously awesome plan... to add a unique adventure to the vacation.  However we waited until we arrived at the Floridian border, and the visitor center (free OJ baby!) to inform the kids.

Our nefarious plan?  Legoland!

So off we drove, like mad brick loving fools, in a safe and controlled manner, to eat up the 120 miles between us and the brick lovin' world of Lego.

We arrived just after lunch, and immediately set to work doing the important things, like playing with Lego, shopping for Lego, playing with Lego, and going on rides.  Lots of rides.  Like, 4 rides at least!
Legoland is actually incredibly well designed for doing a theme park with kids. There were lots of rides to go on, some for the older kids, (6-12) some for the younger.  However they co-located the younger kid rides with the older kid rides which made it handy for, say Zeke and Daddy to go on a roller coaster, and Abigail and Mommy to go on a train ride, and still meet up just outside when done.

They also have play areas with Lego in them for the kids at many of the rides. So if one had a long wait, you could drop the kids off in the play area, while the parents lined up for the (sometimes 15-20) minute wait.  Once the parents get closer to the front, they pick up the kids.  This means the kids patience is only tested for 3-5 minutes, which is less of an eternity for the toddler set.

The place was also strewn about with characters made out of Lego, like these lecherous drunk looking monks (well, what would *you* put in a theme park for kids?!?):
Zeke was, of course, thrilled to hang out with Kai from Ninjago.
So about those rides.  It turns out, much to my surprise, that Zeke loves roller coasters, so we made plans to hit all of the roller coasters in the park.  This was great as there was more fun to be had, but this was bad because as we were waiting for the second roller coaster, Legoland closed all the rides due to lightening in the area (something about legal issues of deep frying park guests as they crest the top of the roller coaster - some people have no sense of adventure).

Luckily we actually planned on spending two days in the park, so we spent the rest of the afternoon doing the non-ride things, and made plans to be at the park first thing in the morning to beat the crowds and get in all the rides.

So as a result, this was us early the next morning:
(Not pictured: us.  We did go on this ride, but the photo is more of a "use your imagination" type deal).

The lines were really short at the beginning, so we were able to quickly ride many of the rides several times without waiting - yay for early risers!

We spent the rest of the day going on rides, and checking out Miniature Land, where they have a lot of models.  However since that is picture heavy, those will be in follow up posts.

For now, its time to go shopping in the gift shop!
So that is the Lego-est of lands.  Stay tuned for scenes from Miniature Land, and that time our kids realized a life-long dream.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

An Evening With Corb Lund

Much to my annoyance it is rather rare lately for me to take in some live music.  Its even rarer for me to catch a Canadian performer, since North Carolina is not on everyones tour schedule.

So when future music legend, and self professed cow afficianado, Corb Lund, came to Asheville, I jumped at the chance.

So last night my wifey and I found ourselves in a little (120ish seats) theatre in downtown Asheville, sitting front row, to see a great concert by Corb Lund, and the Hurtin' Albertans.

If you don't live in Canada, and have not heard of Corb Lund, you are not alone (If you are in Canada, and haven't heard of Corb Lund, I can't help you - perhaps you should try paying closer attention to your awesome country).  He is a country performer, who sings about the typical country things, like horses, cows,  and more esoteric things like history, bad cows (I know what you are thinking and that there are no downside to cows, but they are actually complex, emotional beasts - kinda like Emo kids, but taste better on the grill), murder, soldiery things, smuggling, and getting stuck in the mud.  (Check out his stuff here.)  Its quite the mix of quirky humour and dark broody stuff.  A great mix, really.  I'm not normally a fan of country, but I can dig Corb.  Corb is good, and wise, and musical.

It was a fantastic concert - great sound, great seats, awesome songs - he even took requests.  I did take time out from being immersed in the concert to take some photos.

This is the second time I've seen Corb, and both times were excellent.  I highly recommend you check him out if you get the chance.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Spring Break: Tybee Lighthouse

When last we left off on my tales of Spring Break vacation we had just left downtown Savannah Georgia, having successfully tracked down a magnificent bridge. We were headed off to find a beach to explore.

To limit the suspense, let me start off by saying, we found the beach!  After nap times in the car, during which I geocached a bit around the beach area while the kids slumbered, drooling up their car seats, and generally being quiet and unconsciously adorable, we headed off to the beach.

The beach in question, located about 30 minutes east of Savannah, is called Tybee beach. Tybee beach is located beside Tybee Lighthouse, all located on an island known as (wait for it...) Tybee Island.

It actually ended up being quite a nice beach. Clean sand, nice surf, and few crowds.  It met Abigails approval, so we stayed to play for a few hours.
On the northern edge of the beach was a large rocky stretch of rocks, which made for a nice place to explore for daddy while the kids played in the sand.
When I got back to the family, I found that even my wife was getting into the spirit of playing on the beach.
The kids certainly had.
So we played for a couple hours until dark (which was around 6:30PM), then we headed back to the hotel to get some food, and rest up, for tomorrow we would leave Savannah and head south to Yankee Retirement Village - I mean, Florida.

Oh, about that lighthouse... it looked like this (lit up for dramatic effect)
So that was our day in Savannah.  At this point you may be doing the calendar math and realizing that there is a whole week of Spring Break, and so far I've just covered one day.  So you may wonder whether I have more tales to tell (probably) during that week, and if you'll read about them in future posts (probably), and should you make plans to return to this blog in the near future to catch up on them (yes!).

See you soon.  

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Spring Break: Downtown Savannah

This story starts where the first in this series of Spring Break adventures left off, in Savannah GA.

The family and I had just left Bonaventure Cemetery, and were headed towards the beach, a short 30 minutes drive away.  A drive that would take us 3.5 hours to complete.

Why?  Cause... squirrel.

The squirrel in this case was a bridge we noticed in the distance.  It was a pretty bridge, but it was off over yonder, past the city.  So we decided to track it down and get a good view, so when the map said to head east to the coast, we headed west to track down the bridge.

Why?  Cause:  curious.

So as we drove we quickly ended up in downtown Savannah.  As is inevitable travelling with wifey's and small kids, the need for a potty break soon arose.  So we decided to make a lunch stop, found a place to park, and hunted down a restaurant.

They served wings.  Win!

After lunch we decided to continue our bridge hunt on foot.  So we walked around.  Along the way we ran across a horse drawn carriage that offered tours.  The lady who was operating the carriage gave us a good deal on a ride, so we took it.  30 minutes later, and our heads full of newfound history of Savannah, we were no closer to finding our bridge.

So we headed closer to the river.  When I saw this, I figured we were getting close.
We had arrived at the banks of the Savannah River.  Across the river was South Carolina.  To get there required a trip on a ferry. This ferry to be precise.
However we did not need to take it, for over our shoulder yielded this view:
Hey look, a bridge!  We found it!

Victorious in our quest, we stopped to take in the sights and sounds of the waterfront.  I noticed these tug boats steaming up river, which seemed relatively scenic, as well as industrially nautic.
So content in a mission accomplished, we ran back to the Geovan of Destiny thru the mean streets of Savannah, Georgia...
... after all, we have a beach to explore.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Spring Break: Bonaventure

Spring break.  It is now a thing I have to care about.

My kids have been in pre-school for years, but I could always yank em out whenever I wanted for road trips (which was often, cause road trips!). However Zeke has entered the official school system as a kindergartener, so I am now subject to the whims of bureaucrats as to when the kids can go on road trips, which in the spring is limited to a time known as Spring Break.

So now I care about Spring Break like some kind of normal person.  Such is my life - so might as well make the best of it.

So we did.

We decided to spend our Spring Break by heading down to Florida and hanging with the grandparents (who are snow-birding down there, like normal people).  Along the way we'll see mermaids, manatees, visit a land of magical interconnected bricks, and other super fun things.  But first, we'll stop off in the old city of Savannah Georgia and check out the scenery.

Our first stop in Savannah was the picturesque Bonaventure Cemetery.  This cemetery is, according to the claim in the brochure, the most photographed cemetery in the country. It was also the "garden" in the movie Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil.  It is chocked full of interesting headstones, monuments, all set in some amazing landscaping.  The boulevards are lined with Live Oak and Magnolia trees covered in hanging moss, which is highlighted by azaleas.  They look like this:
Some of the grave markers tower into the trees.
As you can see, the mix is quite pleasant to be in. Fortunately we arrived first thing in the morning so we beat a lot of the crowds. The problem with visiting popular areas during Spring Break is that everyone else is also travelling and visiting things, so its best to get out of the hotel quickly.  Tourists tend to show up after lunch. It pays to be a morning person when traveling, because you get to explore amazing areas, and be in amazing scenery, all alone, like this place:
(not pictured:  annoying flock of tourists in a "tour group" who are on a tight schedule, and have no time to display courtesy for the photographers who were there first, damnit!  Get out of my shot! *shakes fist*... oh sorry, is this thing still on?)

The contrast of the stone markers and the landscaping really gives the cemetery a nice vibe, and one gets the sense of walking through history.
To quote Bill & Ted: "...most of the world looked like the cover of the Led Zeppelin album, Houses of the Holy... There were many steps and columns. It was most tranquil."

Bill & Ted had a point.  This place was tranquil. I ended up taking hundreds of shots, way more than can be shared here (you'll see some more after I am finished using them for my mentorship in the Arcanum - stay tuned).
One of the most famous graves is Gracie. Gracie had a short tragic life (that is a Google Search away if you want to read about it), but she has a lifelike semi-cool, semi-creepy tombstone. It is customary to bring Gracie gifts of pennies, toys, or trinkets.  It was customary to rub her nose for luck, but that was rubbing off her nose so they put an annoying fence around the statue (this is why we can't have nice things).
The rumor also goes that the site is haunted (but of course it is!), but thats hogwash (I presume - I didn't see no ghost, and if I did, I know who to call).

We spent several hours walking around Bonaventure, and the kids stayed interested the wholemost of the time. - we could likely have easily stayed a few more hours if we were sans-kids (but we weren't, so we didn't).  However before we left Zeke and I took a bike ride around the place (cause thats how we roll).

So that was our first stop in Savannah.  We have most of a day to go in the area, not to mention a whole Spring Break in Florida to talk about, so stay tuned for some more Adventures in BabysittingSpring Breaking

Monday, April 04, 2016


I like to think this fellows eulogy included the line "well, that was Harsh!"