14 – vacation

It was time again for our annual family vacation, which was split between glamping in Santa Paula, hanging out at home, and Sea World in San Diego.

For our glamping trip, we stayed at a cabin at a campsite at the edge of Santa Paula, where we had to fight with charcoal briquettes, loud amplified mariachi music, a filming of a commercial at the cabin next door…but otherwise, the kids seemed to enjoy themselves and we got an afternoon of swimming, a hike, and plenty of smores over the grill. Here’s our cabin, which came complete with air conditioning and a pretty big bathroom.

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Our cabin had plenty of visitors which we didn’t mind:

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Yep. Wild peacocks. Fearless and loud in the mornings.

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Mornings were quite nice and peaceful, but mostly because Shannon didn’t have to cook anything and we didn’t need to spend hours to start the fire.

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We got pretty frustrated with the charcoal. Our backup ‘logs’ were also equally useless, so we had to buy a bottle of charcoal starter, which probably helped a little. Anyway, here is Sara playing with some dirt on the picnic table – on the other side of the table was probably our little grill not lighting on fire.

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The campsite also had activities for kids – the kids were mostly interested in the giant pillow, which was basically a bounce house without walls.

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The big kid didn’t mind either.

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The hike was short and there really wasn’t much to see.

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After a few days, were were soooo done with glamping, and we needed to rush home to pick up our newest family member.

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It’s our new conure, Beanie. When Munki (also a conure) died earlier this year, her passing left a pretty big gap. Munki lived to be about fifteen years old…and Beanie is currently just a little over two months old…and we have many years of lessons-learned. For one, Beanie is male, so we don’t have to worry about eggs. Also, Beanie is being handled by all of us. Beanie also likes to eat EVERYTHING. For her entire life, Munki only ate pellets and the occasional green vegetable. Beanie…has eaten just about everything we’ve eaten (with caveats, of course).

After a day of spending time with Beanie, we then spent the day baking in the sun at Sea World in San Diego…thanks to free tickets (my reward for being a former Army Reservist) and Shannon’s craving for a turkey leg. Here we are baking in the sun and eating turkey.

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And here we are waiting for dolphins.

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And finally, the dolphins arrive! We have a trainer and the youngest dolphin in front of us.

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Anyway, that’s about it. A week of PTO has passed and next week, it’s back to work again. This weekend will be like any other weekend, where we’ll attack the parks close to the house…and I’ll constantly be on the lookout for the perfect candid shots of the kids.

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13 – guy trip #3

This year, we couldn’t get all of us to go on the trip, so sans-Greg, we had some flexibility with scheduling and decided to combine our annual Morro Bay race with our guy trip.

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The Morro Bay race is a 6-mile “fun run” on the beach which goes from the Morro rock to the Cayucos Pier and it is commemorated to a good friend’s father, so the race has special meaning to all of us. This year, there were several event photographers covering the event, and lo and behold, free downloads of pictures (hint, hint, Orange County marathon/half-marathon folks). Here’s a picture of me, probably inbetween some Amsterdam trap and Jamiroquai on my playlist:

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This year, I placed first in my division (35-39) and 25th overall! Not bad!

After the Morro Bay weekend, we drove over to Lake Nacimiento and basically hung out in our cabin the entire time. We ate. We drank. We played cards. We BS’ed. We looked at the sky.

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The sky overhead was amazingly dark. During the first night, the Milky Way was amazing, but unfortunately, none of us were sober enough to handle cameras or a tripod safely, so we just stared in awe and were probably pretty loud and annoying at 1:00 AM.

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The second night, I took it easy with the drinks and managed to capture an Iridium flare:

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…and thanks to Iain’s expertise with the sky, I caught my first glimpse of the Andromeda galaxy:

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Can’t see it? Here it is, zoomed in:

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I definitely saw space from a new perspective during the trip, and I can’t blame it all on the scotch or beers!

Anyway, after a very tiring but enjoyable weekend, I came back home…and I felt like I was gone for such a long time. The older I get, the more I realize how my time on earth is so finite and I need to make the most of it…

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12 – aquarium

We took my daughter to the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific for an early birthday celebration today. We used to be members of the Aquarium for several years, but as the kids outgrew it, we decided not to renew, even though membership is tax-deductible.

In any case, here are some snaps from the day. I didn’t bother taking many pictures of the exhibits…but mostly what I found interesting. All pictures SOOC jpeg from the X100s – some pictures taken with the TCL-x100, and some without.

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We had to park at the Pike parking lot because there was some event at the Queen Mary that took up the entire parking structure next to the aquarium. The bridge is interesting because it looks like there’s supposed to be a roller-coaster on it, but there’s not.

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The X100s is AMAZING with low light. The picture above was taken while the room was very dark and there was a short film playing inside the main hall of the Aquarium. Focus was quick when using the AF-assist light.

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Here’s the main hall of the Aquarium – I looked up and found the patterns interesting.

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After the Aquarium, Sara and I explored around the lighthouse while Matty and Shannon went back to grab some food in the van.

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On the way back across the bridge to the parking structure, I noticed that the Long Beach skyline is starting to become more interesting. I don’t remember so many different architectural styles in this area. I also didn’t realize that this area had an outlet shopping center…

The two pictures below were taken at home earlier this week. I had to throw in a selfie too.

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I figured out to set the FN button on the X100s to configure the teleconverter. This is much easier than diving through the menus. I can always set it to the ND filter or ISO when I need those settings.

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11 – randoms

Some recent randoms from the past week or so. All of these are SOOC jpeg – I’m using the in-camera RAW to jpeg conversion to tweak the images using the Fuji film ‘filters’. I really love the rich colors of the Velvia preset, but it can be a bit much for some situations.

We also went to the Greek festival and a Japanese restaurant yesterday, and even though I brought my camera, I was too busy stuffing my face to take pictures!

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GAS got a hold of me last week and I acquired the TCL-X100 teleconverter adapter, which changes the effective focal length from 35mm to 50mm, while still maintaining the same focusing capability and lens speed. So technically, even though the X100s is a fixed focal length camera, by adding the adapter, I have two ‘lenses’ that cover my two most-used FOVs. Also, unlike interchangeable lenses, the sensor is never exposed, so it’s much easier to quickly screw on or unscrew the adapter just to change focal length.

I also got the official Fuji leather case and strap, which, when combined with the Lensmate thumb grip, makes the X100s much easier to hold.

 

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10 – X100s Workarounds

I was a little frustrated with the exposure and focusing of the X100s, so I finally took the time to read online blogs and guidance and learned a few quirks, which required some workarounds.

First workaround: I’m now shooting RAW and processing in-camera as-needed.

Before, I was shooting RAW+jpeg and had different quick settings for ‘standard,’ ‘velvia,’ and ‘B&W with red filter’ – with each one having specific dynamic range settings. Unfortunately, the draw of increased dynamic range came at the cost of strange exposure values and ISO jumping to 800 even on a bright day. so, recommendation was to keep it at DR100 (100% dynamic range) – this resulted in behavior that I typically expected.

The added benefit is that I can edit the RAW in-camera and apply filters afterwards. The picture below was processed with ‘standard’ provia:

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…and the picture below was processed with B&W+red filter:

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Maybe my photographic tastes are maturing…but my preference for grainy B&W is now being surpassed by clean and contrasty B&W.

The downside – RAW files are freaking HUGE.

Second Workaround: stopping down the lens.

I read online that the lens needs to be stopped down a bit to achieve optimum sharpness between 1-7 ft. I guess my years of working with the small image circle of the 4/3 sensor size spoiled me with telecentric lenses that were sharp even wide open. So, I’m shooting f/2.8 indoors when sharpness matters and f/2.0 when exposure requires it. The below picture was shot in a very dim room while we drank smoothies and watched a movie indoors to escape the heat outside, so it was f/2.

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I also tried the in-camera cropping just for s&g’s:

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The focus point was my son’s left eye and glasses – so I think I got focus right where I wanted it.

The picture below was f/2.8:

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Actually, at Internet sizes, the difference between both pictures is negligible. For macro-like shots though, I guess I’ll need to keep it no less than f/4 – this is due to the inherent limitations in the lens design.

Third Workaround: I’m using the rear LCD and the EVF more.

I just sucked it up and decided that the OVF, for my needs, is going to be used primarily for when I’m outside and it’s sunny. The EVF and rear LCD are just fine for composition and exposure management. It is quite nice to have both options – and for this advantage alone, I’d have a very difficult time going back to a camera without similar capability.

 

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