A Summer of Photography with the Canon 1DX Mark II

Well, summer is over this week officially. And so is Sitecore Symposium and MVP Summit 2016 and the mad rush that goes with delivering multiple enterprise software releases and producing content for events like that.

Likewise drawing to a close is my first season with the Canon 1DX Mark II. I can unequivocally say this is the best DSLR I have ever used. It requires a firm knowledge of how to use its features, but it pretty much does everything I want. It is a worthy upgrade from the 1D Mark IV; skipping a generation seems to have been a good ROI especially as I bought the 1D Mark IV late-cycle. I’ve mostly focused at landscape and aviation action with the EF 200-400mm with 1.4x teleconverter and EF70-200mm 2.8L lenses.

To learn the camera, I focused on interesting scenes from around Lake Washington:

Interesting Lake Shots #8

See more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rdonovan/albums/72157668138083295/with/26291311203/ 

To get better at action photography, I decided to photograph my wife’s Washington Dulles->Seattle flight, as the approach path to Sea-Tac Runway 16 would take it right over the house:

Intercepting United 389 #5

See more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rdonovan/albums/72157670122946550/with/28371395245/

One of the funnier moments was the Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Park-to-Park Swim, where people swim from Matthews Beach Park to Denny Park. The morning of the event I woke up to yellow buoys drifting in the lake. It seems as if they ALL got loose, creating quite a bit of chaos for the event organizers and the police. After rounding them up, the boat towing the buoys broke down…and had to be subsequently rescued by the Seattle Police.

Buoys on the Loose #32

See more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rdonovan/albums/72157672888371252/with/29660947052/

To experiment more with optical filters and Lightroom post-processing filters, I decided to take advantage of the fact the sun sets within my field of view during early September. First, a semi-cloudy sunset:

Sunsets September 2016 #1-1

See more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rdonovan/albums/72157672843964940/with/29145970524/

And, then a perfectly cloudless sunset. I think I actually prefer the contrast the clouds add!

September Sunsets 2016 #1-26

See more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rdonovan/albums/72157673965154446/with/29774144985/

I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoyed taking and processing them…

Advertisements

An Almost 50-year Old Bentley and the RROC Fall Tour

Driving 1,200 miles in a week in a British car that rolled off the production line ~49 years ago may seem like a crazy thing to do. But it’s not considering the car – a 1966 Bentley T1 – and the event, which was the Fall Tour of the Rolls-Royce Owner’s club – held throughout British Columbia in late September 2015.

Meet SBX2479, a 1966 Bentley T1 I purchased in spring of 2013 while rejoining the ranks of classic Rolls-Royce/Bentley owners after a hiatus of several years. I’ve been an enthusiast of these cars since the mid-1990s. After a disastrous flirtation with a 1967 Jaguar S-Type, I ended up with a 1979 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II, which provided tens-of-thousands of miles of trouble-free enjoyment (after having rejected the first 16 examples I looked at, the first of which was coincidentally another 1967 Bentley T1.

16872510536_983e3130eb_o

Representing less than 1% of Silver Shadows produced, a proper North American-specification Left Hand Drive (LHD) T1 is a very rare car. My own estimates suggest there may be only a dozen LHD original series 1965-67 examples around the continent. These early cars, although quirkier in some ways than later examples, feature the beautiful wood-trimmed interior and full engine power output that was missing on later emission gear equipped cars.

Now, for the event itself. The Rolls-Royce Owners Club is a wonderful organization. Some of their national events are driving tours, which combine great company, interesting sightseeing, and some good exercise for one’s motorcars. This event, hosted by the BC Region, was no exception.

I drove up early to join the Fall Meet between the BC and Pacific Northwest regions of the club, which was held the day before the national tour. The meet consists of several contests of absurd driving skills coupled with other fun and games (such as faux sword fighting).

22117324188_ccf78fc196_k

Although the event was wrapped early due to persistent rain, the Northwest Region was this year’s victor, resulting in next year’s meet being hosted in Washington state versus British Columbia. Participants moving onto the national tour then spent the next day getting from Abbotsford to North Vancouver for check-in and the opening reception.

For the RROC Tour itself, each day started with a briefing and was followed by an alternating course of driving and sightseeing. Most (though not all) days also had an evening event.

22316644201_ce47a766f3_k

On the first day, the initial stop was the British Columbia Museum of Anthropology. Here we had a chance to get a local immersion in the history of the indigenous peoples of British Columbia and see many amazing First Nations and Chinese artifacts.

22308881935_af214bd5db_k

22308840485_617a204abf_k

For lunch, we stopped at the Salmon House in North Vancouver, which was opened especially for the RROC tour participants. The weather cooperated and we were treated to a magnificent panorama of the Vancouver area – along with some extremely delicious Northwest cuisine.

22119888438_8dc49f5c86_k

After lunch, we headed up to the Capilano suspension bridge and requisite nature park. The bridge is definitely not for those afraid of heights – and several participants took a pass. After that, several of us headed to the optional waypoint of Cleveland Dam to see it prior to heading to a Chinese dinner nearby.

22309720295_168220942c_k

The second day of touring started with a drive up to Whistler. En-route, the group stopped at the Britannia Mine, which at the peak of production was one of the world’s largest volume producers of copper. Once arriving in Whistler, everyone had a few hours to spend on their own until an evening dinner event.

22156069790_eb74037c71_k

Day three began with a trip to Shannon Falls on the way to Fort Langley in Surrey, British Columbia.

22354806501_b6e50f2835_k

Once at Fort Langley, the group got to learn about the history of the first major Hudson Bay Company trading post in the British Columbia region as well as see re-creations of life from several hundred years ago.

22318307936_abdec323c5_k

The evening wrapped with a lovely time at the Vancouver Club, after a quick shot across the water from North Vancouver to downtown Vancouver on the Seabus.

22331700852_61abe65fd6_k

Day 4 saw the group off to Vancouver Island. Our first stop was the Cowichan Cultural Center, just south of Nanimo, British Columbia. Here the group was treated to a guided tour of local tribal legends, a delicious salmon lunch, and an amazing performance of tribal dancing. They day concluded with some time to see Victoria and a reception at a club members home, featuring the guest appearance of John Lennon’s Rolls-Royce Phantom V.

22331773592_a808c446da_k

Day 5 began with a trip to the Royal BC Museum in Victoria. The featured exhibit was “Gold Rush – El Dorado in BC” which offered many unique insights into the history of gold mining within the province. The afternoon saw the group end up at Hatley House, which is probably best known for its appearances in the X-Men movies. Besides being a popular film venue, Hatley House is also the home of Royal Roads University. Prior to that, it served as a military training facility after being purchased by the government from the Hatley family. The day concluded with a lovely BBQ at another member’s home just outside of Victoria.

22355947291_e0e48e3364_k

Day 6 – the final day – saw the longest day of driving yet. We took a long, circular route spanning Cowichan Bay, Lake Cowichan, converted logging roads down to Port Renfrew, then up to Sooke, and finally back to Victoria. Day 6 also included a Trivia challenge, where tour participants were supposed to find highly obscure facts at the various destinations along the way. The tour concluded with a closing dinner at the club of the University of Victoria.

Cars on the tour ranged in age from a 1926 Bentley 3-liter (whose top was last seen in the 1950s) to 2010-era Bentley Continental GTCs, Azures, and Brooklands models. And just about everything in between was represented. Thanks to excellent logistics, mechanical support was available for the handful of issues that arose. People came from as far away as Pennsylvania, with several participants bringing their cars from as far away as Missouri and San Diego.

The social activities are fantastic; I know I made several new friends as well as reconnected with people i have not seen since the late 1990s when I was far more heavily engaged in enthusiast events. For those that have not done an event such as this, it’s absolutely worth it on all fronts – socially, driving, and sightseeing. And my hat is off to the RROC and our BC Region hosts in particular for absolutely flawless logistics and support. I can’t wait until the next event…

How the only surviving Hamilton Metalplane just happened to float by…

Mid-Summer 2013 #9 by rdonovan
Mid-Summer 2013 #9, a photo by rdonovan on Flickr.

Back in July, in between meetings, I just happened to note a rather curious site. A plane. But rather than flying past, it was sailing north on Lake Washington on barge. Luckily I had my 400m lens on the camera and was able to capture it as it floated past. I then started some research…and quite an interesting story developed!

I found the plane from its registration number NC-879H. It turns out it is a 1929 Hamilton H-47 Metalplane (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilton_H-47). It was one of the first all metal aircraft ever made. These aircraft helped Northwest Airlines start commercial air service as well as pioneered air mail delivery within North America. This particular example is the only flyable H-47 still around. This particular aircraft was originally sold to the Ontario Provincial Air Service as a floatplane as CF-OAJ. After cycling through several owners, it was lying unused in Alaksa by 1947. In 1951, Northwest Airlines Captain Harry McKee and a band of volunteers backed by the airline itself acquired the aircraft, took it to Minneapolis, and began restoring it – a process which was never completed. Jack Lysdale bought the aircraft in 1972 and restored it to fully airworthy condition, where it flew until 1978 and was subsequently placed in storage again. The aircraft was sold at the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction in early 2010 to Pole Pass Airways and is flown by Seattle property developer Howard S. Wright. During recent years, it has made several airshow appearances including Oshkosh in 2010. Now, under Pole Pass’s ownership – the aircraft is being restored to its original floatplane status and being matched with a pair of vintage Edo floats at Kenmore Air (which explained its journey up Lake Washington by barge).

It will be exciting to see this aircraft back in its original form gracing the skies of the Pacific Northwest.

My Take: Adobe Creative Cloud, Office 365, Software Subscriptions, and Old Photos

OK, so I am taking the plunge. Sometime before the expiration of the July 31st cut-off for the CS6 migration promotion, I’ll be switching to Creative Cloud. Why? Feature-value.

I have been playing with an evaluation of Lightroom 5 (which coincidentally is the only product still available on a perpetual license). I’m sold. And now I want what’s coming in Photoshop CC. Why? I’ll let you be the judge.

Let’s start with a photo I took in 2006 when I was much more of a novice (though to be fair, I’m still a novice) in DSLR photography:

Image

It’s a nice photo. But it could be oh, so much sharper. Maybe, something like this – tweaked with the new filters in Lightroom 5:

Image

Now, I can’t wait to play with the even better features in Photoshop CC. I have a lot of good photos from my early days when I didn’t know what I was doing (and shooting only in JPEG with lower quality lenses and a much older body). The software has the potential to breathe new life into a lot of old “good” photos and make them “great” photos. The value is there. Sign me up. Especially while the CS6 promotion is in effect.

That said, the outcry over the subscription licensing is amazing. I have two perspectives on this. The first is from an industry direction. This is the wave of the future. Creative Cloud and Office 365 are the most mainstream examples. The trend started with lower end consumer services like ad-free versions of popular services as well as large enterprise Line-of-Business applications like Salesforce. Now “professional” and “mainstream” applications are filling in from the middle.

The pace of innovation in the technology industry no longer allows for multi-year ship cycles, but instead demands near real-time delivery. And the licensing models have to change as a consequence. Outside of the consumer mainstream, most organizations were paying for perpetual licenses and maintenance. The reality is that subscriptions are comparable – they just look different. And in some cases they are more cost effective. The biggest downside (and upside) is that you are turning a CapEx into an OpEx.

As a case in point, if you bought every Adobe Creative Suite upgrade + Lightroom upgrade the day it came out (e.g you’re committed to innovation, generally like me) – you are paying about the same per year as if you are signing up for Creative Cloud. You are just paying a big lump every year to year and a half, instead of every month. It feels different. But at the end of the day, it’s about a wash.

That being said, whenever you change how something works, there is the process of change management. This is where Adobe made a very polarizing move by forcing people to switch – and in a very short time. So far the bet appears to be paying off based on their recent financial results. Time will tell.

It could have been done with a lot more grace, however. Microsoft, who can do no right in people’s eyes no matter what seemingly, has done a much better job with Office 365. They have perpetuated their old business models. So there is no culture shock. If you want to keep doing things the way you have always done them, that’s great. But they have introduced substantial incremental value with Office 365. To-date, depending on the option, you get things like:

  • Office for iOS
  • Varying levels of Web/cloud features (e.g. – Skydrive storage, Web applications)
  • Cost/benefit of cloud infrastructure vs. running on-premise (the real benefit varies by organization/user)
  • Multiple desktop OS support (e.g. – you can be Web, Windows, or Mac or some combo)
  • Multiple device support (which is a huge first for Microsoft)
  • And more coming seemingly all the time…

This was a much better way to manage the change – as adoption is taking off and nobody is screaming much (yet).

In closing? I’m excited about breathing new life into a bunch of old photos, absolutely resolute that subscription models are the wave of the future, and convinced that the key to doing it right is having an elegant transition like Microsoft versus an electroshock like Adobe.

PS – In-Flight WiFi really rocks. Written over Montana at 34,000 feet on United 675.

Dubai – remarks

And that is the tallest building in the world. Live in Dubai – captured on my iPhone as we drove through the city. My remarks:

  • The architecture is more amazing than anything I have ever seen. Anywhere. Period.
  • The country is run like a company – that is the philosophy. Everything is about renewal and efficiency – with an incredible air of competitiveness. Nothing lest than the best will suffice.
  • It’s very liberal for an Islamic nation (e.g. – women can be uncovered, there are bars & nightclubs) – but values are strictly upheld and observed (e.g. – Ramadan, Internet censorship of inappropriate content).
  • Almost everyone is an immigrant. And it’s all about business. It is one of the most pro-business places I have been.
I hope I have the opportunity to go back! (And, at some point I’ll do a Flickr gallery of the iPhone posts.)

Instagram & Customs Hell

I have broken down and joined Instagram. Look for me on there under ryan_donovan. My first picture? My Continental Express flight to Newark…right next to my fiancee’s flight to Vancouver. Next to each other but separated by the glass of the secure pre-clearance area of US Customs within a Canadian airport.

And speaking of customs…I almost missed my flight. The computers were down. They had no way to let anyone through. So, processing is supposed to begin at 5AM; it was closed until 6:15 when computers were restored. All of the 6AM flights were over an hour late. And the line extended to hundres. Luckily I was early – or I would have missed my flight as they departed at 6:45 (once the flight crew got through) pretty much regardless if folks were there nor not. This in my mind is a huge weakness that should be remediated – otherwise if something really bad happened – the nation’s commerce would potentially suffer as much of a hit as it did around 9/11.

As it was I made my connection and landed in Vegas later (second Instagram photo).

All is well that ends well – and I have a fun, addictive new hobby. But no thanks to a huge liability in the nation’s border system.

 

 

 

Hot Dog!!!

One of the rarest of rare photographs – the elusive dachshund known as Otto. Otto personifies why I don’t like to photograph living things. They move. And are very hard to compose. Otto in particular is extremely camera shy – even of camera phones. If he sees a camera, he bolts. I finally managed to capture him catatonic on the patio on a hot day with my iPhone. The only reason I managed to do this is that he was sound asleep and had no idea I was there… 😉