Wednesday, July 27, 2016

South Beach...


No, we didn't head for the Miami Beach area... there is a South Beach here on San Juan Island.

First things first: before going south on the scoots, we ran into town to get a couple PowerBall tickets; the prize is around a gazillion dollars.  Somebody's gotta win, right?  Then, heading south...




Whales are reported north, moving south.  I suggested we stop at Eagle Cove before going to South Beach... just in case.  Nope.  But, it was a nice ride and pretty scenery, including these plants...




Nice views from the homes in this area, too...


Rolling again...




South Beach is just down the hill.  Nice views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains in the distance.  South Beach has parking and potty facilities...


We parked the scoots and walked to "the beach"...



For my South Padre Island folks, this is what passes for a beach here...


An unusually calm day today - people on stand-up paddleboards and kayaks...


Looking towards the Olympics...


An obligatory selfie...


Looking north...


Heading back to the bikes...


It had been warm enough on the way down that we didn't need coats.  The slight breeze coming off the water reminds you that the water temp here is still in the upper 40s.  We put jackets on to continue our ride...




Heading for our favorite view turn-out on the west side, we passed more bicycles and rental scooters; not always easy to see in the shade...



Some of the road construction is complete - you can tell by the freshly painted yellow center lines.  Some of the roads in this area aren't wide enough to have any kind of a bike lane... or even a white line, apparently.

One of my favorite road views: Haro Strait...


We got off the scoots at the turn-out and took in the view.  We both miss being able to look out the window and see water, even though our RV site is delightful.

Last of our days off.  Well, for this week.


A wildlife kinda morning...


Joan went after breakfast right away this morning.  No, that's not the wildlife part.  She made an egg/potato/cheese/bacon pie (some might call a quiche) that was outstanding... and enough left-overs to take care of me for breakfasts this work week.  Yummy!

One of the deer came to visit this morning, right outside our dinette window...


There are blackberry bushes there, and she was partaking...



That is the windowsill in the bottom of the top two photos.  Close.

A little later, we were sitting outside with Izzy.  A bald eagle came to visit again...


And, of course, the "wildcat" on a leash...



This may be our "summer"... it is supposed to get to 75ยบ today, glorious sunshine.  In the mid-70s the next two days, then the temp drops again.  Well, that's the weasel guess.  Looking at national weather, I see most of the rest of the country is seeing higher than normal temps.  I'll take the mid-70s.  Like I have a choice?


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Getting used to the cameras...


(a post I made on another forum)

Some of you know I was a professional photographer for 32 years, before we retired.  We were early adopters of electronic imaging (digital), including a full digital lab.  With colleagues, I used to joke, "One day, there will be cameras that have three lights that pop out to give you perfect narrow lighting on your subject.  The camera will shoot when the subject has the best expression.  You won't have to know a thing about technique to get good images..."

And, we all laughed.

Since retiring, I shoot most personal photos with a pocketable point & shoot camera with a decent zoom lens.  I go through them about every two years; wear 'em out.  I understand that they are made to a price point and not designed for heavy use.  I wore the last one out earlier this month (lens cover blades bent, focus getting slow, lens movement chunky), so it was time for a new camera.  Joan suggested I take along the Nikon DSLR I bought a couple years ago to see if it had any trade-in value.  I had narrowed (looking at specs online) my choice to a Canon G3x or a Panasonic Lumix ZS100 - two very different cameras.

The G3x has some heft - it feels good in your hand.  It is in no way a pocket camera.  A very capable (25 - 600) zoom lens.  Available with an optional electronic viewfinder (that turned out to be a [i]really[/i] hot deal).  A 1" sensor (bigger than any of the pocket cameras I've had).

The Luix ZS100 is kinda pocketable... a jacket pocket, maybe.  A decent zoom lens (25 - 250), but the smallest camera with a 1" sensor.  And, SO MANY features.  Truly, this camera is beyond amateur capability, or occasional use.  It takes advantage of the 4K video technology to allow you to "post focus" (shoot first, then decide what you want in focus), as well as other amazing abilities such as: the ability to start a photo burst one second [i]before[/i] you press the shutter button!  Yeah, it uses a lot of power for that function, as well as generating some heat.  Somewhere around a gazillion settings including "intelligent automatic" where the camera determines if you are taking a portrait (softer colors), kids (faster shutter speed), sunset (more vivid colors), etc, etc.

I think we are to that stage where the shooter is more of a camera resource manager than a photographer.

Long story even longer: I traded the Nikon and a couple lenses towards the Canon and also bought the Lumix (to replace my worn out Canon pocket camera, an SX700).  That is a lot of different technology to try to learn all at once.  I have taken each camera on the whale watch boats, but don't really have the time to dedicate to photography while at the helm.  I have been using one camera one day, the other the next day.  Very different cameras, but both very capable.

If I were only going to have one... well, tough call.  The Canon G3x is more comfortable to use (fits my hand better) and has a great zoom lens.  The Lumix ZS100 is smaller, with a lot of buttons (and features) on it.  Neither of these are a true point & shoot, although each could be used that way.  Both have a 1" sensor (the chip inside that actually captures the image).

For the amateur who just wants to take an occasional photo, these are over-kill.  For someone who wants some control and input into making an image, either of these would be a good option.  The true point & shoot market is flat - people who just want an occasional photo use their smart phone... camera manufacturers are almost forced into advanced capability so the small cameras are much better than anything available in a phone.

Smile recognition.  Blink detection.  Facial recognition.  Scene detection.  "Intelligent" automatic (Is that an oxymoron?).

It is getting close to the scenario I mentioned at the opening of this post.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Up and at it on a day off...


Well, it was a day off for me.  They were short-handed in the office this morning, so Joan offered to come in for a couple hours, first thing.

We sometimes do breakfast out on Mondays, so we coordinated the timing: I took the Blonde to work, came back to get Izzy some outdoor time...



Pretty backlighting on her, while she keeps the world safe for democracy and from marauding deer (none seen this morning).

A few minutes before Joan was due to get off work, I got us a table at the restaurant and ordered for both of us; the waitress said, "It might be 30 minutes before your food is ready."  They have to let people who might be waiting for the ferry know this information.

"Yep, we're good.  Oh, and wait on her coffee 'till you see her at the table."

It turned out to be a good plan.  Well, as good as a plan can be that involves getting up early on what is supposed to be a day off.  I may try to work in a nap this afternoon... it is a lot of work being a Cat Daddy, a house-husband, and a meal-timing coordinator.

;-)


Sunday, July 24, 2016

TGIF...


Or, maybe I should have titled it: Casual Friday.  Either way, it is our last day of the work week, and our official half-way point in our contracts here.  It may be a Sunday, but it is our Friday.

Joan had a dilemma this morning: she really wanted to wear a particular pair of shorts.  The company uniform is khaki pants or shorts.  These weren't khaki.  While she was pondering, I looked outside and saw these kids...


The cute little fawns.  Surprisingly, they didn't run off when Joan stepped outside to head for work.  Oh, and the shorts...


Blue and white, they go much better with her dark blue company shirt.  We'll see if anyone notices.  I couldn't position her for the photograph with the deer in the background.

Little Izzy wanted to see what was going on with the deer...



She was watching them close from just outside the door of the coach.  She now seems to understand that they are "neighbors" and not something to be stalked.  As long as you don't make sudden moves, they don't bolt off.

An hour or so after Joan went to work, I brought Izzy inside and it was my turn to head out.  A beautiful morning... but, no whale reports before I left the coach.  I picked up a breakfast sandwich at our new company coffee cafe, and went down to prep the boat.  We had a private charter - folks who were flying in by seaplane, going on a trip with us, having a bit of time in Friday Harbor, then flying out late afternoon... nice way to do this.

A half-hour before departure time, I got my first report: humpbacks south of Victoria.  Not nearby, but doable.  A few minutes later, another report: humpbacks in Rosario Strait... closer, and I can give the guests something to look at besides open water.  We have a plan.

The first mate brought them down to the boat a couple minutes before their scheduled boarding time - I like it!  From the accent and the name, I guessed, "Louisiana?"  Yep.  Nice folks, here to see some whales and the sights.  With no Orca sitings this morning, I set out to see the humpbacks.  A view of Mt. Baker as we cruised east...


When I got to where the whales were reported, there were a couple other boats there... and they took off as we got ourselves positioned.  Within a few seconds, we saw the first "blow," and then the whales - 2 humpbacks.

As usual, I was busy at the helm and didn't get any photos... including when one of the humpbacks came up about 20 feet from our boat.  When you're on a 32' boat, you can appreciate the size of these animals - this one looked to be 40 to 50 feet in length.  We watched them go through several dive cycles, including some great views of the flukes.

Then, time to head out, looking for other wildlife and scenery.  Yes, we found seals, and eagles, and bears, oh my!  No, there weren't any bears - I just put that in there to see if you were paying attention.  We took the scenic route back home, through Wasp Passage...




I stopped for a bit to point out our location, and all the different islands (including some in Canada) that we could see from this particular vantage point.  It was a lovely no-jacket kinda day, a nice change of pace from yesterday.

Back at the dock, we visited with our guests for a bit, gave them some restaurant recommendations, and said our good-byes.

Joan had a minor repair project for me when I got back to the office: adjusting the tensioners on 3 of the doors.  And then, I was done for the week... and it was only mid-afternoon.  Izzy was a happy girl, seeing that she would get some leash time this early.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Where'd they go??


The residents (Southern Resident Killer Whales) have not been around much of the summer, until the last couple weeks.  We have been able to find transient whales when the residents haven't been in the area.  Until today.

This is the first day for me this season where there were no reports.  Not just reports that were out of our range.  The residents have gone west out into the Pacific.  Lots of boats out and about today, and no one found transients.

We went south; through Cattle Pass and into Salmon Bank, looking for Minke whales.  Then, on to Hein Bank, where we did find a couple Minkes.  There were quite a few boats in that area looking... a sure sign that there were no Orcas to be found.

We took our guests to see an eagles' nest, with a youngster peeking out.  A nice fly-over by momma Bald Eagle.  And, came across a Golden Eagle - first I've seen one of those this season.  Seals and a Stellar Sea Lion.

I went through a lot of the boss's fuel while we searched.  It certainly wasn't from lack of trying to find them, but the Orcas seem to have taken a break.  Hope it doesn't last long.

I took a camera today, but never got it out of the case.  Busy at the helm.  And, it was cold out in Juan de Fuca... 4 layers kinda cold.  On July 23rd.  On the bright side, the wind that was howling yesterday didn't blow as much today.  Oh, there was some rolling chop on the water, mostly a left-over from yesterday, I think.

Nice guests on the boat.  I think they could tell that we were working hard for them.  Erick was the first mate/naturalist today, and he does a great job on the boat - friendly and enthusiastic.

One more day (tomorrow), and we are at our half-way point for our contracts.  I keep waiting for summer to show up.


Friday, July 22, 2016

There's probably some photos in there...


Two trips today on our Roche Harbor boat.  First trip, we went north into Canadian waters to meet up with J-Pod.  Blissfully quiet as far as other boats.  The whales moved south, eventually passing Roche, in time for us to get our guests back.  Yep, the whales walked us home.

There were whales that were closer (on the southwest side of San Juan Island), but the wind was ugly.  "How ugly?" you ask.  I visited on the radio with a Canadian boat who was with those whales - he described the conditions as "Chunky... very chunky.  I have people puking off both sides of the boat right now."

Yeah, I think I'm going to look elsewhere.  The whales to the north were further away, but the water conditions were much better.  And, as it turned out, a very nice time with the whales.  And, they were heading the right direction!

When I went to check the camera between trips, it said the memory card was full and the battery was about 1/3 above empty.  Checking it, a button got pressed for shooting in 4Kmode, meaning: even though I was shooting stills, the camera thought we were wanting to shoot in movie mode to pull stills out of that.  So... in between shutter button presses, it was recording.  Nothing.  Just filling up the card and running down the battery.

"But, Jim, you used to be a professional photographer," you're thinking.

Yeah, we didn't have this kind of technology back in the olden days.  We just took photos.  ;-)

So, when I get the time, I'll see if there's anything on the card.

We poked our nose out into Haro Strait on the second trip, then got a report of transient Orcas off the east side of Spieden Island.  There were 4 small kids on this second trip, so I wanted to keep the ride as easy (smooth) as possible; plus, the wind had kicked up even more.  The people were delighted to see the transients, and we had time for a tour along Spieden Island where they got to see some of the 4-legged wildlife and eagles.

For now, no photos.  I am nursing a cold (that Joan had last week) and just don't have it in me to learn a new skill.  ;-)


--------------------------

Yeah, it was a lot of wasted 4k video, but I pulled out a few stills.  A dorsal...



A bit late on the bottom photo above, but decent detail.

Our new fast boat Kestral rafted up with SeaHawk...


Before I left for work this morning, little Izzy outside...


Different camera from yesterday.  Crisp images; well, assuming I don't bump the 4K button and fill the card again.