Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Another Form of Distancing

Castillo San Cristobal, part of the San Juan National Historic Site in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Much is made these days of the idea of “social distancing,” a term I abhor because there ain’t nothing “social” about it.  I understand and support the idea of maintaining space, but I can’t help but wish that “they” had come up with a better term for it!

Kathy & I were having a conversation recently where – one of our frequent subjects – we talked about the fact that there is way too much information available these days – that there is a big difference between information and facts.  And she mentioned that there needs to be some term for the idea of maintaining “virtual distancing” from all the crap that circulates in the media and on the Internet.

Social Distancing, of course, means that my chances of getting cooties from someone decreases dramatically if they are outside my imaginary 6-foot personal space.  By a similar token, if some virtual boogieman – real or imagined – is outside my zone of relevance, it’s importance to me means very little.  We as a society pay way too much attention to people, voices and noise that have little or no direct influence on us.  Because it is out there we feel some sense of obligation, and we never take the time to think about whether or not it is useful, helpful or relevant.

Case in point: our upcoming presidential election.  We now know who the candidates are for each respective party.  I now know who I’m going to vote for.  Until I get my ballot in the mail, I don’t need to follow every analysis and every story relating to who vs. who or what vs. what or he said/she said.  And you can be assured there will be plenty of it – it’s been going on for months and will really get started today (although I would love to see a head to head debate between Ms. Harris and Trumpty Dumpty, which of course will never happen).  Send me my ballot and let me vote.  Beyond that I have no influence, I have no emotional investment.  I’ll do my civic duty as a responsible citizen and live with the results when I read them the next day.

Castillo San Cristobal, part of the San Juan National Historic Site in San Juan, Puerto Rico

I’m liking the concept of Virtual Distancing even more than Social Distancing.  Social Distancing is pretty easy – stay away from people!  Virtual distancing isn’t any harder, as long as we pay attention to who and what is trying to get our attention.  While the most effective form of distancing means staying completely away from people,  their ideas and their opinions, that just isn’t practical.  But just like we cast a wary eye on that person behind us in line at the grocery store, we need to approach our media consumption with the same level of caution and skepticism.  And turn it off when it makes sense to do so.

Castillo San Cristobal, part of the San Juan National Historic Site in San Juan, Puerto Rico


An Attempt at Night Photography

Comet NEOWISE viewed from Neck Road near Huntersville, North Carolina

If there is something you really want to do, don’t avoid doing it just because things you can’t control make it uncomfortable.  Go! (Me)

We had been waiting for a clear evening to try and see the Comet NEOWISE and finally got it on Sunday.  Unfortunately, our neighbors are afraid of the dark and we have way too many lights around to see the sky.  We had pre-scouted a place out in the country for just such an occasion, and ventured out there after dark on Sunday.

The comet was harder to spot than I thought it would be, but we finally did locate it with binoculars.  I tried to make a decent photograph of it, but between not being able to focus and using a too-long shutter speed for the focal length of my lens, I got mostly junk.  The in-focus shots are sharp but have long star trails, and the out of focus shots have blurry lines.

Most night photography how-tos suggest using a wide-angle lens, but I was using a longer lens because I knew that with a wide-angle lens the comet would be even less visible than it was with the telephoto.

The first shot was taken at 55mm for about 10 seconds, and even it has some blur.  The second one was taken at 200mm, but I made a rookie mistake by using a 12 second exposure when it should have been about 5 seconds or less.  Oh well, it was an interesting outing with or without photos and satisfied my desire to just see the comet.  My philosophy is that there are other people taking night photos far better than mine, so I don’t need to make my own, just look at theirs instead!

One of my sharper blurry shots of Comet NEOWISE

Hangin’ In While Hangin’ Out

Cook Forest State Park in Pennsylvania

My grandfather, a wise man who taught me a lot, always said that we should never complain about birthdays or haircuts.  He didn’t have much hair, so birthdays were a big deal. 😉  My brother and I have carried on the birthday tradition, although we both have much more hair than he did. 🙂

To steal a statistic from Monte – today is my 22,647th day on this planet.

Cupola on a barn near Greenford, Ohio

Celebrating doesn’t have to be a big deal, and this year is no exception.  I’m looking forward to a quiet afternoon with family – as quiet as an afternoon with a 4 1/2 year old can be! – and a nice easy dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, takeout from our favorite Italian restaurant.  With wine!

Hops plants growing in a field near Greenford, Ohio

Kathy and I have been watching the developments in other parts of our country and can’t help but wonder what the outlook for travel will be over the next few months and longer.  We just had a nice road trip to visit a number of our closest friends and family members and are privileged to have our closest family right here in Charlotte with us.

Sunset over Lake Erie from Avon Lake, Ohio

We look forward to our next adventure, but in the meantime we are thankful to have family, friends and memories to carry us through.

Intersection on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois

Some People

Roof of the Riviera Building in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Kathy & I were sitting on a park bench this afternoon and a woman waddles up slurping an ice cream cone and sits down beside me.  Insert your best stupid person voice here: “Don’t worry, I don’t have the virus, no one in my family has the virus.”  I was speechless.  Of course you don’t think of the right comeback until hours later, but what I should have said was, “funny, but I think maybe I do.”  Instead we stood up and walked away.  There really wouldn’t have been anything I could have said.

(NOT) The Big City

Blacksville, South Carolina

I’ve never been to New York City.  I know it’s a really big city but have no concept of how truly huge it is.  Many of us who live in Charlotte like to think Charlotte is a big city, but it’s it’s just a small town with lots of people. An article in yesterday’s New York Times had a comment that underscored that point for me.

Pete Wells, the Times’ restaurant critic, was writing in “Restaurant Dining Is Back, if You Can Find a Table” about how restaurants responded to being able to open for outdoor seating. He indicated that the new rules went into effect on a Monday, and that by noon on that Tuesday 4100 restaurants had received approval for outdoor dining. 4100 restaurants! North Carolina probably doesn’t have that many restaurants in the entire state if you exclude fast food.  Amazing!

Blacksville, SC is another one of those “along the way” places we passed through.  This old store is across the street from the train station, which now houses the town library and will likely be the subject of another post. 🙂

So Now We Have Covid-19 Waivers

Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

Yesterday I received an email from our neighborhood HOA which contained a waiver that anyone using the pool or the clubhouse must sign.  They are also supposedly working on some kind of disclaimer to state that the HOA bears no responsibility for anyone who gets sick.  They paid an attorney to create these documents.  Wouldn’t have been easier, less expensive and no less effective to just say, “Hey look, y’all know about this virus thing, right?  It’s up to you to not do stupid stuff and your own responsibility for anything that happens if you do.  Got it?  Good.”

I was reminded of the above photo from our visit to Nova Scotia in 2013.  A simple warning seemed sufficient for the people there.  Canadians aren’t that much smarter than we are, are they?  Maybe they are.

Fujifilm X-T4 First Impressions

Comparison of Fujifilm X-T4 and X-T1

There are numerous reviews already on the interwebs about the recently-introduced X-T4, but I thought it might be beneficial to at least one person (probably only me) to summarize my first impressions based on my own user experience and my own preferences in a somewhat (hopefully) cogent blog post.

My very first impression when I pulled the camera out of the box was “wow, this thing is a brick!”  While small in comparison to full-sized SLRs, the X-T4 on my scale weighs in at 21.8oz/618g vs. 16oz/455g for the X-T1.  Both cameras with battery and card but no lens.  That’s no small difference – about 36% by my calculation.  But it’s not really heavy, as cameras go.  The word I use to describe the X-T4 is that it feels “solid.”

Comparison of Fujifilm X-T4 and X-T1

When I downsized from the full-size Canon 5D Mark III to the X-T1 and the X-E2, I initially had a hard time adjusting to the smaller bodies, to the point where I purchased the accessory grips for both of them, and I would occasionally keep the L-brackets on them when walking around.  I gradually got to the point where I was comfortable with the bodies without the grips, although it took me a while before I started leaving the grips at home.  The X-T4 recaptures a bit of that “mass” with nicely designed grips on the right side, front and back.  I’ll probably still add a Lensmate thumb rest, as that has sort of become “standard equipment” for me.  I like the extra stability that the thumb rest provides.

Comparison of Fujifilm X-T4 and X-T1

I was initially excited about what I thought would be the ability to save multiple custom settings.  But unless I’m missing something – which is certainly possible – it doesn’t save everything for a particular situation.  As an example, I would like to set up a “Tripod” setting that locks in a low ISO, sets a 2-second delay and turns off image stabilization, among other things.  I would also like to set an “outdoor” setting with a lower Auto ISO range, and an “indoor” setting with a higher Auto ISO range.  But I can’t seem to get everything in each setting to “stick.”  I need to mess with it some more but it just may not be possible.  Not a big deal, but a small disappointment after I initially thought I could do that.  Although I didn’t buy the camera for that function, it would be nice to have.

Physically, the X-T4 has some very small but very important improvements.  Locks on the diopter knob, as well as the shutter speed and ISO dials.  Almost all of the buttons are customizable, with almost all functions able to be assigned to a button.  I have assigned a button to control image stabilization, one to turn the 2-second self-timer on and one as a depth of preview button.  In addition to manual controls and the ‘A’ setting for aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation, there is a ‘C’ setting that allows you to control those same functions with one of the control wheels, so I can adjust (for example) aperture and exposure compensation using the wheels, keeping my eye on the viewfinder.  That’s a new-for-me feature and one I think I will find useful.  Dual card slots are not a big deal for me, but it will be nice to start out with two cards in the camera instead of just one.  This camera takes big files – in excess of 50MB each – so cards will fill a lot faster!  I’ll need to keep using the camera in specific situations to figure out things like the HDR burst mode, nuances in the metering & focusing options and other things.  All in good time!

Comparison of Fujifilm X-T4 and X-T1

One of the downsides I have heard others mention is the new, fully articulating screen.  I know there will be situations where I’ll miss the tilting screen on the X-T1, but I think there will a lot more times when I’ll appreciate the flexibility of the articulating screen.  Also, I generally use only the viewfinder for shooting, so having the ability to turn the screen around completely will be nice.

I haven’t spent a lot of time pixel-peeping, but initially I have to say that image quality appears to be very good.  I haven’t had any extreme exposure situations and I’m still messing with Lightroom settings, but except for the addition of a bunch of new film simulations (which I love), it seems like most of my other workflow remains intact.  So far I have mostly been shooting with the also-new 16-80 f4 lens, although for last evening’s sunset photos I used the 55-200, also with good results.  I’m going to love shooting with my non-stabilized prime lenses using the new IBIS.

Comparison of Fujifilm X-T4 and X-T1

I think that’s it for now.  Once I have a few thousand photos under my belt I may have some more useful thoughts, but for now I just need to keep using the camera and solve any problems or challenges that come along.  If anyone has any questions I’d be happy to answer them to the extent I am able.

Comparison of Fujifilm X-T4 and X-T1

A New Kid On The Block

My New Fujifilm X-T4

Kathy’s birthday is coming up soon, so of course I did the sensible thing and bought her a camera.  I think she’s going to let me use it. 😉  Actually, I did buy a new camera, but it’s for me.  For her birthday I think we’ll plan to go somewhere fun for me to use it.

When I migrated from Canon cameras to Fuji cameras in 2015, I bought the X-T1, followed by a “backup” X-E2.  When it was all said and done, I had a pretty enviable collection of lenses, both zooms and primes.  The whole kit weighed a fraction of what my literal suitcase of Canon gear weighed, the Fuji cameras and lenses are excellent and I paid for most of the Fuji stuff for what I sold the Canon stuff for.  Wins all around!

Now, 5 years later the camera technology has improved, to the point where when Fuji announced the X-T4 I knew it was time for an upgrade.  The X-T1 & X-E2 are still excellent cameras.  In fact, my youngest son is going to embark on his own photography journey with the bodies and two of my lenses.  So they will go to a good home, and by keeping them “in the family” maybe I can borrow them back at some point! 😉 Not really, but I wrote that for his benefit….

I had looked seriously at the X-T3 when it came out, and it is an excellent camera.  I actually rented one to try out about a year ago.  The timing wasn’t right, I felt like I still needed a second body and it was going to require different batteries, memory cards, etc., and at the time I didn’t feel like it was the right thing to do.  But after all the travel we’ve been doing the last year or so, the more I realized that I was just carrying too much stuff.  I’ve always said – jokingly – that the more lenses I carried with me the more likely it was that I had the wrong one on the camera.  So the idea of having to choose from 2 camera bodies and 8 lenses – or heaven forbid carry all of it with me! – seemed like things were getting out of hand.

Backing up a bit – several years ago we went from a 2003 Acura to a 2016 Honda.  While we thought the Acura was a pretty sophisticated car, the 13 year difference with the Honda was astounding.  The years do (usually) mean an improvement in technology, engineering and performance.  Same thing holds true for cameras , even though in this case we’re talking about a difference of only 5 years!  At the time I am typing this I haven’t even turned the camera on, but reading through the manual (YES, I did!) I am amazed at the improvement in just the custom settings alone.  I can’t wait to see what the photos look like.

I’ll write about my initial impressions once I have had a chance to take it for a spin and see what it will do.  But for now suffice it to say that the X-T4 is a pretty fine looking piece of equipment, I like the silver look instead of the all black of my X-T1, and I can’t wait to see how it performs in real life.  Stay tuned for more thoughts and many more photos!

Celebrating Our 2-Year “Retirement-versary!”

Sunset from Morton Overlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

I realized this morning that today is the date of our retirement 2 years ago…time flies when you’re having fun!  It’s amazing to realize that it has been two years. We’ve been very glad that we over-reached a bit on our travel through the first 21 or so months, since we’ve been making up for it the last few months.

The photo is from 2006, recently processed in Lightroom using more “modern” tools.