Thursday, February 19, 2015

Taming the Raging Lake

Wakatipu is pretty frequently angry. Like, really angry.

On this particular evening, the wind was blowing so hard that opening the car door was a calculated risk, much less balancing a camera out in the elements for any extended period of time.

However, I could tell from the living room that the light was going to be Worth It, and for once, I could visualize the photo I wanted to make, so off we went to brave the full force of the southerly. And goddamn it, this is why I've invested in robust camera gear.

Nice place to dip yer toes

Fortunately, if you keep the shutter open long enough, and hang onto the camera+tripod reeeeeeeeaaaaal tight, you can turn chaos into peace. Not sure if there's a lesson to be learned from that. Well, it wasn't meant as such. Anyhow.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Galactic Plane

I don't think I'll ever tire of craning my neck up under clear dark skies and contemplating our place, or lack thereof, in the universe. Or multiverse. Or hologram. Whatever you fancy.

Gas, dust, and pine

This photo came from a special spot in Glenbrook at Lake Tahoe, on a particularly perfect summer night. Light courtesy of the ol' pocket supercomputer.

Speaking of cool space stuff: I think if I had "it" to do all over again, I'd be somehow involved with the Solar Dynamics Observatory, in part because telling people you're a heliophysicist would be pretty rad, but mostly because of stuff like this: SDO goodness (youtube).


Monday, February 16, 2015

Hawaii: All Good Things

On the last day of our short trip to Maui last year, we found ourselves some beach somewhere that looked like it was good for beachy things.

If I recall, it was something of a matter of low-hanging fruit, because I was smashed from the Haleakala mission and we had probably just gorged ourselves on lunch, but hey, beaches are kind of for recuperating anyway. On any other day, I would have suggested (or assented to) some 5-mile jungle scramble to some deserted patch of sand, but this was simply not the day for shenanigans like that.

Ethel has not spent a lot of time in the ocean (and neither have I, for that matter), and the camera catches all indiscretions and mistakes.

Murphy gets worked

I do admit to being a little leery of the ocean in general. Lakes I'm good with, especially cold freshwater lakes that tend not to be home to anything capable of eating me. The ocean, on the other hand, is this vast expanse of predatory unknown, so I'm a little less cool with it. But on a blazing hot day, well, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Enjoy the view

Our trip had reached its end, and I definitely won't complain about getting whisked away from winter to a tropical paradise for Not as Many Days as I Would Have Liked, so instead I'll continue my run of sharing photos from airplanes with this, which was surprisingly hard to line up just right:

Take me home, glowing oracle

'Til next time, Hawaii.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hawaii: The Beast

Our trip to Hawaii was woefully short (#firstworldproblem), and we only had two full days on the island. I elected to squander half of one of those days by gallivanting off on a rental bike. Sounds innocuous!

I had traveled with practically nothing, but some of the items I had brought included my bike shoes and pedals and a kit. I had also taken the leap of faith of renting a real road bike (!), not a beach cruiser, from a shop not too far from where we were staying. There's lots of good riding to do on Maui, but there's a looming giant that caught my eye.

She beckons as dark fades

That gentle-looking bump is not really that gentle: it rises from sea level to 10,000', and it's the longest paved climb in the world. It starts in the town of Paia and, well, climbs into the sky. There are much more interesting rides to do on Maui, but I was intrigued by the opportunity to climb for so long.

The rest of the work crew was woefully hung over (or still up) when I dragged Murphy out of the hotel room and set our rental car towards the behemoth. She saw me off in Paia and had the morning to explore all things Maui, and I just...pedaled.

This thing on?

Several of the seven of you will roll your eyes, but you'll have to believe me when I tell you that I was really out of shape. Like, really out of shape; I think I'd been on the bike roughly every other month for the year prior. Both fortunately and unfortunately, there's nothing really difficult about this climb; it's a remarkably constant gradient, and it's safe, and there's nowhere to get lost. As such, it might even be considered a little bit boring; you just have to grind away at it.


I mounted a GoPro with the intention of making a timelapse of the descent. I got greedy, though, and thought it'd survive the climb, which it didn't. Ironically, it lasted for just long enough of the climb that it would have lasted the entire descent had I not been so optimistic about its battery life. Live and learn.

Still pretty (repeat ad nauseam)

The cool thing about the climb is that you get to experience roughly 5 distinct climactic zones. As such, the view changes, which is awesome, and the consistency of the grade means that out-of-shape hacks can plug along without too much trouble.

There's not really too much else to say about the climb except that it's a lot cooler up top (hint: doesn't feel like Hawaii at 10,000') and that it took me a stitch over 4 hours. 4 hours of climbing affords one lots of time to do math with the elevation signs, and I'm pleased to say that I paced it pretty well. There are LOTS of switchbacks, and many different exposures to the prevailing wind, but aside from that, man, you just keep pedaling.

Much climb

Murphy met me at the top, and she was a welcome sight. I didn't hang out for too long as it was brisk, but that's just when it got interesting, anyway.

The descent down Haleakala back to Paia is UNREAL. I descended balls out for an hour and twelve minutes, railing corners, braking late, screaming along straights, and passing a few of the slower tourist cars. It was amazing. I think the longest sustained descent I'd ever done was more like 20 or 25 minutes, so this is just in another league. And fortunately, the road design and weather conspired to make it videogame-like instead of terrifying-Alps-descent-like. It was a roller coaster constructed just for me and I loved every last hands-quivering second of it.

Once reunited at the bottom (I beat Murphy down handily), I destroyed some food in Paia and we continued on with our day. Further, here are Murphy's photos from the morning, including some sweet ones from the summit and crater. Well done!

Green and steep


Thin ribbon

The bigger volcano



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hawaii: The Art of Flight

As long as I was pulling a fast one on Murphy, I decided to up the ante a bit more. Next stop: paragliding! Ethel had done it a couple times before, but I never had, and it's for very good reason: nope, not terrified. Worried about getting sucked into a new obsession...

Having heard the virtues of flight extolled by various figures in my life, and recognizing paragliding as a fairly organic and low barrier to entry approach, I've spent years plugging my ears and covering my eyes and pretending like it didn't exist.

Goddamn it, flight is rad.

We rocked up to Proflyght, owned by Grant's friend Paul, did all the safety stuff, and then endured the most dangerous part of the day: the van ride several thousand feet up the decomposing switchback road.

Run towards the edge

My pilot was a friendly dude named Chris. I promised him I'd run like hell at launch (probably the second most dangerous part of the day). Liftoff was effortless and freeing, and we settled in to the glorious equilibrium that is stable flight.

Sled ride

Unfortunately, conditions were pretty calm, so our trip was bound to be short. Chris did, however, ask if I was comfortable with having a little fun, to which I responded that he was free to operate however he chose. The next 45 seconds are shared below.


Landing was easy and without any awkward piles of man-on-man action. We let the adrenaline wear off, said our thanks and goodbyes, and then went for what is quite possibly the best sushi I've ever had in Makawao.

Caution indeed

Pretty awesome morning; thanks guys!


Monday, December 22, 2014

Hawaii: Jetlagged Dawn

Stepping back into the time machine from our quick trip to Hawaii last year...

It's no secret than many top-notch landscape photos are made either very early or very late. Like, OMG, either way, it's probably going to conflict with a decent night's sleep. As such, a few hours of jetlag/time zone difference is usually an elegant tool to get oneself awake at those unfriendly hours for some photo time.

So when I awoke at 4am or whatever on our first morning in Maui, instead of forcing myself back to sleep, I just scurried out with my camera and tripod. This part of Maui was so busy during the day with the whole tourist thing that having the opportunity for some peace and quiet was pretty golden.

Resorts still provide light (distant light is Molokai)

Silky ocean (Molokai again in distance)

Lanai awakens

Scourge of the high seas

I have to admit that I rather enjoyed just experiencing the night giving way to day. Light rose, activity increased, tide encroached, runners ran, artificial lights blinked out (finally), Murphy appeared, and I got hungry.

Tide approaches

Neon rock

And here's another photo for the purposes of some foreshadowing. That mountain in the back doesn't look that big as it's not steep, but it rises 10,000' from the sea. It's Haleakala and it's massive.

The behemoth looms

So more on that later.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Hawaii: Escaping Winter

OK, we're stepping into the time machine for a few posts. Yay for backlog! Next stop...February. Yikes.

It's not often I get to pull a fast one on Murphy. So when we got word at work that we were taking a company trip to Hawaii and we were allowed to bring our partners, it took every last bit of restraint for me to keep my trap shut and figure out what it was going to take to keep this secret.

The travel arrangements are the easy part. It's much much harder to avoid slip-ups in casual conversation, and harder yet to ask workmates to be mindful of what they're talking about if Ethel's around.

Long story short, she got the designated dates off work, I wouldn't even give up what our mode of transportation was but did offer some packing tips, and when we arrived at Rory's house the morning of the flight, I handed her a boarding pass to Maui. Fun stuff.

Murphy's Law, pun intended, however, made sure that it wouldn't be easy, as about the only winter storm we had last year threatened to keep us from our flight in Sacramento. After some tense moments over Donner Pass, we were cleared for takeoff, both literally and figuratively.

Rain is much nicer from behind a window

Next stop...not winter!

I've opined at length about my love for photoing during flights, so I'll stay off the soapbox. What I do notice is that the lighter I've packed, the more likely I am to have the camera out, and that held true here. My packing list for a 4-day trip to Hawaii is something like boardshorts-flipflops-sunnies-camera. And bike shoes and pedals, but more on that another day.

Creating new photo accessories

Sun halo!

Sun halos are awesome, by the way, and you can read more about them here.

Climbing higher

I'd be totally OK with making a side job out of in-flight photography.

Upon arrival in Maui, our first order of business was waiting an hour to get our five rental cars, followed by a descent into the maelstrom that is Costco. After stocking up on stuff to eat and drink in our condos, we finally traversed the island and got up to a whole lot of nothing.

Complaining about the length of the travel day or the chilly weather in the tropics are both pretty #firstworldproblems-ish, but the evening didn't hold much more for us than a big pile of tacos and a couple beers. And a couple obligatory dips in the ocean.


Past Detritus