Racing Season is Upon Us

Although the guy code was in full swing, I needed to break away and work on some other posts or once again I’ll be struggling to get the quota done. Have no worries, I’ll continue to monitor the comments on the guy code post. Moving on, I wanted to officially kickoff the 2011 race season. Although it was a difficult season last year, I have a big goal for this year and so far I am on my planned schedule.  I do not want to jinx myself so I’ll keep that goal a secret for now. After 8 months of rehab on my damaged quad I’m finally back to near full strength and the miles are definitely far ahead of any other year at this time – this includes a weekly 10 mile run in the hills of Jubilee Park. I usually start with the Caterpillar 5K Power Race, but this year they decided to move it into June which effectively removed that from my race schedule. Instead, my first race was the Chase Corporate 3.5 Mile Race held on May 26th in Chicago IL.

Notice anything unusual about this pre-race picture?

Did you detect a certain feeling of coldness?  Maybe a little bundled up for a race that was being held in May?  Turns out this particular day put the whole gloBULL warming fear peddlers into perspective.  The race actually starts near Grant Park which provides a slightly chillier condition thanks to the wind blowing in off of Lake Michigan.  But the conditions this day lead to a feels like temperature of 38 degrees.  Now I definitely prefer colder over hot and humid days for racing, but this was ridiculous.  From the moment I stepped off the bus, I was second guessing my apparel choices.  But the coldness wasn’t the only issue we had to deal with.

Hit the jump to read the rest of the details on the race!

Continue reading Racing Season is Upon Us

Book Recollection: Understanding Exposure 3rd Edition

The timing of this particular recollection should not be much of surprise based on the previous foreshadowing. Yes, it’s another photography book by Bryan Peterson called Understanding Exposure.  As before, this book was actually purchased for Linda and sadly, does not count against the paper buildup.  That downside does not eclipse the benefit of this read.  Like the Understanding Shutter Speed offering, Bryan has an incredible way of presenting a technical topic in an understandable manner.  Per the title, this book was focused on the classic triad of Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO which together deliver an exposure (this would be the good kind, not the perv in the raincoat type).  If you recall, one of the legs of that triad (Shutter Speed) was actually the topic of the first book I read.  To make that book more effective, I recommend reading this first since the shutter book often refers to the “correct exposure” which is thoroughly explained in today’s subject.  As with the Shutter book, this one is full of examples complete with detailed camera settings (again with Nikon so a double bonus for us!).

After reading this book I can safely say I’m pretty much done with the programmable modes on the camera.  I think I can correctly mimic all of those settings plus gain more creative control through the manual mode.  This may take a few minutes more getting the triad correct than the A and S modes, but the satisfaction of being completely responsible for the results of the photo is kind of exciting.  There were a ton of valuable takeaways from this read.  If I had to focus in on just a couple, I would have to go with the different sky meterings to get proper exposure for sunsets, skylines and, surprisingly enough, waterfalls in the woods (the latter being a common theme in our own photo shoots).  The other important tidbit was the focus points for the small apertures (i.e. f/22).  The larger the aperture number (technically the smallest amount based on being inverted) the larger the focus depth is.   Knowing to focus 1/3rd into the scene to maximize depth will come in handy out in the field.  Our photo output has already improved significantly and Linda was able to take some excellent shots at her latest indoor Agility show which is traditionally a tough environment given the low lighting and movement of the dogs.  Apparently others thought the shots were darn good as well based on the number of orders she got for her photo collages.   For those of you into photography, at least take a glance at this  book and admire Bryan’s  awesome shots of tree silhouetted in the sun (pg 26 and 118) and the very nice shot of a Caterpillar Track Type Tractor (pg 124 – possibly a D11) moving coal (of course, I may be a little biased on that shot due to the fine choice of equipment).  Oh, and there is a great  shot of purple flowers fill flashed against the dark cloudy Chicago skyline on page 169.  If there is one room for improvement, I’d suggest giving an outro for the book.  It literally talks about a flash mode (Rear Curtain Sync) and simply ends.  No summary, not words of encouragement no hope you enjoyed, just the final sentence on the sync topic and he’s out of there.  I remember turning past the index and even checking the binding to see if some pages were left out.  It’s as if a topic for another book popped into his head and he wanted to get this one out of the way as soon as possible in order to start on that new concept.  This is just a minor nuisance and the little nuggets gleamed from this read far outweigh this quirk (although that last impression has stayed with me).  Needless to say, this book is a keeper and based on the last two books from Bryan, I’m in the hunt for more offerings from him.

Hit the jump to see read those nuggets!

Continue reading Book Recollection: Understanding Exposure 3rd Edition

Phoadtography Gallery: Maine Trip 2010 Pt 1

This year is quickly coming to a close, but the blog queue is still deep with 2010 photo collections.  I try to keep it fresh and maintain a balance of photos, interesting viewpoints, service complaints/rants and things that make me go huh?  Linda and I were lucky enough to go on some pretty nice trips this year which means our hard drives have been riddled with photos this year.  It is far easier to make comments on things if they are still in short term memory so rather than push this off to next year, let’s go ahead and dump the Phoadtography collection from the Maine trip we took in June.  There are a lot of them so be warned, your browser cache is going to get a workout.  For sanity purposes (yours and mine) this post will actually be a two parter.  For those who don’t know what Phoadtography is please check out my previous post… especially if you are preparing to unleash your fury on how bad some of these shots ended up being.

Starting off this set is every kid’s favorite toys and more importantly, the machines that pay both our salaries.  Guessing due to the stimulus money (that actually got spent on job creating projects), we encountered a lot of construction on our way out and back to Maine.  Most travelers probably cuss the slow downs and stoppages, but in the case of my wife and I the sound of Caterpillar machines in motion is music to our ears.  As mentioned in the introduction Cat machines are always a good target for Phoadtography shots.  This vehicle is one of our articulated trucks that, if I remember correctly, are produced in Waco TX.

Pretty cool machine if I say so myself.  Hit the jump to see the rest of the pictures in this post.

Continue reading Phoadtography Gallery: Maine Trip 2010 Pt 1

Happy New Year from the Eagle’s Nest – Part 1 of 2

Hey, we made it to another year in spite of Nostradamus.  A few quick edits a new edition through the press and they will be good for at least another year of doomsday prophecy.  I hope everyone had a safe and fun Eve and kept the roads dry for the safety of others.  It is another year and true to my previous summary, I am going to continue with this little side project for sometime longer.  Keeping with my new goals (it is still early in the resolution season), today’s topic is more graphic.  Actually, it was so graphic the post was broken into two parts.  Unfortunately, the second part has some images of graphic violence but I think they you will still like them unless you are from PETA and don’t understand that violence in nature exists every day – hunter vs. prey has been around since the world decided plants taste like crap.

On the first day of 2009, I bring you America’s Pride:

American Bald Eagle

While Linda and I were in Davenport, IA over the holidays, we stopped down at the Bettendorf locks to snap a few shots of these majestic birds.  Every winter they migrate down (think that is right) to the Quad Cities area to feed off the Mississippi River.  It is absolutely stunning to witness these birds first hand and not have to look at an injured one through glass or chicken wire.  It is obvious they know they are at the top of the flighted foodchain.  Here is a view from the side that gives a better perspective of the weapon that obviously demands respect wherever they roam.

American Bald Eagle from the side

Since I have a lot of pictures today, I’ll go ahead and let you follow the jump to see the rest of them instead of overwhelming my home page.

Continue reading Happy New Year from the Eagle’s Nest – Part 1 of 2

Resolution through Tattoo

First off, a whopping 6 blog entries all last month (although to be truthful, my last one could have been three).  Definitely dipping below plan, but the good news is I am heading to Vegas next week.  You know what that means…. enough blog fodder to last me the rest of the year 8^).  This Labor Day weekend, we headed down to Springfield for an Agility Dog Show my dogs were competing in.  It was actually being held at the State Fair Grounds along with a huge motorcycle race which was bringing in everyone with a Hog in a 50 mile radius that wasn’t already up in Wisconsin at the big Harley gathering up there.  My parents showed up a little later in the day to watch the dogs run and ended up finding a spot where they were parking to go to the motorcycle race.  Nothing to special there, just the standard honor system for row parking – space, car, car, space providing the ability for each vehicle to leave without being blocked in.

At some point in the day, I went back to my Dad’s vehicle to check if they had left their cell phone in the car.  While I was looking in the car windows, a van pulls up and parks in the space between the double rows of cars (car, car, about 5 ft of space,  newly parked car, about 5ft of space, car , car).  My Dad was parked in the second spot in and wasn’t blocked in at the time since the new van parked behind the first car, but the driver was basically establishing a new row pattern which was surely to be duplicated the rest of the way down (assuming they could actually get turned 90 degrees in the tiny space.  I was somewhat surprised that someone would actually do that so I decided it was appropriate to wait until the individual exited his vehicle so I could question him about this particular decision.  Best case, I could point out the error of his ways, at worst case I would have new material for my blog.  An older man gets out (I’ll go with mid 60’s) with a cigar in his mouth.  I asked him if he was actually going to park there because it would lead to us being blocked in.  He then asked us which car was our and we pointed out the second car in, but it would eventually happen if someone followed his lead…. what followed totally stunned me…

Completely out of the blue the individual replies with “You know, you’re right I am starting a new row and it could block you in. I’ll tell you what, since you’re wearing that shirt (looking towards my Father …. )  he then reaches over and pulls up his right sleeve to reveal a Caterpillar logo tattoo matching the logo on my Father’s shirt which I had given him as present)  … I’ll move my vehicle for you.”  Unbelievable, I was expecting some serious discord and as it turns out, this guy actually retired from Cat (where my brother and I work) and actually worked in the facility in Decatur where my older brother used to work – He even knew my brother.  We exchanged names (his name was Mike), shook hands and pleasantly departed.   Sometimes things work out better than expected and fortunately this is one of those times.  Saved by a tattoo.. now that is definitely a first for me since most of the ink I see these days leans to the aggressive side.  What is the most satisfying is someone liked working for my company so well, they had it permanently displayed on their body.  Just one more example of the strong commitment to the Caterpillar Family.