Bird’s Bath

One of the best entertainment purchases we have made in recent years was the birdbath that sits on our back patio… in a strategic spot for photo shooting from inside our house through the patio door and windows.  Here are my most recent captures, taken on Monday morning.  The bird taking the bath certainly had a good time while the second bird just sat and observed it all.  These birds are such a hoot to watch!

First, there were three.
I took a quick pic while I was slowly moving in closer…

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Then, there were just two…

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Then, it was big splashy bath time… water went everywhere!

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All clean.

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What a nice way to start off a Monday!  😀

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New Laptop

It’s been coming on for a while, and despite my best efforts to wish it away, my old Compaq laptop finally became a total “floptop” by coming apart at the hinges… quite literally.  It’s also noteworthy to mention that the casing actually broke before my laptop hard drive crashed this time.  I really didn’t feel like spending almost $100 to attempt a repair job on the hinges, especially if it didn’t work for some reason, so my husband and I spent a good part of Saturday shopping for a new laptop for me.

I purchased a Hewlett-Packard Pavilion Entertainment Notebook, dv6 series from Ultimate Electronics, and it has some very nice features for the money.  It also has a nice, sleek look to it, too.  See the You Tube video at the end.

I could not find my exact laptop online, but this is the same laptop before adding the Blu-ray drive.  Ultimate Electronics is a new store in our area, and I was pleased with the price I paid, only $619 (on sale before tax) with all of the features below.

  • AMD Turion II Dual Core Mobile Processor P540 (2.4 GHz, 2MB L2Cache)
  • 15.6″ Diagonal High Definition HP BrightView LED Display (1366 x 768)
  • 640GB (5400 RPM) Hard Drive
  • 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM (2 Dimm)
  • 802.11 b/g/n WLAN
  • Blu-ray ROM with LightScribe SuperMulti DVD+R/RW Double Layer
  • 6 Cell 55WHr Lithium-ion Battery
  • AMD M880G with ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250 Graphics with 128MB Display Cache Memory
  • 5-in-1 Digital Media Reader
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
  • HP TrueVision Webcam
  • HP MediaSmart
  • Fingerprint Reader

After looking at several stores both online and in our city, I could not find another 15.6″ laptop to compare in features and price with this one.  I could not buy a larger one because it would not fit in my trusty LowePro camera bag for travel.

The Media Smart Tools from HP seem fine so far, and I actually like the Netflix interface.   I will stick with iTunes for most of my media needs, though.  The 16×9 aspect ratio is going to take a little getting used to when editing photos, but hopefully that won’t take long, especially since the touch pad now has a multi-touch feature.  The laptop seems to take a bit longer to boot up than my old Compaq, but it’s still not prohibitively long.  The only other slightly negative thing I have noticed so far is the touch pad, which can either work fine or become a bit laggy at times.  I need to look a bit further into that one.   The touch pad has some new features, and it is quite possible that its new owner needs a little training.  😉

(HP’s customer support page for this model dv6-3132nr can be found here.)

On the positive side, there are many things that I really like about the laptop, including the fingerprint reader.  I have already programmed it for my most frequent logins, and it is a great time-saving feature.  I will get spoiled rather quickly to that little feature alone.  Having 640GB of storage space in my primary computer is also going to be a great thing, since my photo and music libraries continue to grow every year.  The HD (LED) display is another welcome upgrade and will be great for photo editing and viewing, not to mention watching an occasional Blu-ray movie just for fun, either on the laptop or on a TV via the HDMI out.  (Yes, it’s back to Wal-Mart soon for yet another HDMI cable, but it’s worth it.) I chose the champagne color with an etched design on the lid and on either side of the touchpad, which is a really nice change from the plain brushed steel or black that I have had in the past.  It just looks classy.  Windows 7 is great.  And last but not least, the new webcam has clear pictures and sounds, as compared to my previous webcam.

Guess it’s time to get back to reinstalling programs and transferring files.  Seems I’m either doing this for myself or someone else at least twice a year now.  That’s ok.  I don’t mind a bit.  I’m always grateful for the little blessings that come my way, and I’m really grateful that I’m not working to recover from a crashed hard drive this time!

Below is a promotional You Tube video for the dv6 series.  I don’t have the touchscreen add-on, but I’m sure that would be nice to have at times, too.  I’m fine to just keep my fingerprints on the keyboard and not that beautiful display.

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Fair Fotos – Long Exposure Night Shots

For the first time, I had the opportunity to take my camera gear and tripod to the fair this year to try some long-exposure night shots.  My husband accompanied me and helped to get things set up and keep from getting trampled by people near the carnival rides that I wanted to shoot.  It would have been tragic for someone to run into the camera and tripod there at night, and I highly recommend having someone accompany you for that very reason if you ever attempt these type of photos.

Just for the record, I shot at 100 ISO, used my Tokina wide-angle lens that I absolutely love and used my remote.  Certainly these shots can be attempted with other lenses, but the wide-angle lens helped to capture more of the field of view without having to back up further and possibly have more people and objects in the viewfinder.  I also used the lens hood for it, too.  For this first time out, I kept my UV filter on the lens, knowing that it would probably impact the photos a bit (flares), but given that the midway was so crowded with younger kids and teenagers who were not necessarily watching out for someone like me with a camera, I was honestly a little afraid of taking it off and risking something happening to the lens, even with my “lookout” on the watch.

I was quite pleased with a few of the shots overall, but it was also a good learning opportunity.  I quickly learned that to get a pleasing image, I needed to do more than just randomly open and shut the bulb manually with the remote.  I needed to watch the pattern of the ride very closely to attempt to capture a full light pattern.  It was also difficult this time out to find a position with no obstructions of some kind in the field of view.  In a less crowded and obstructed midway, I might could have done a better job at finding more suitable locations to shoot from.

Ferris Wheel @ 5 seconds… (was mostly still at the time)…

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Ferris Wheel @ 11 seconds… (was running a bit faster)…

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Orbiter ride @ 10 seconds…

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Ferris Wheel again, different angle @ 13 seconds –
Really liked the patterns in the center of this one…

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Back to Orbiter ride, different angle @ 2 seconds –
Obviously needed a little more time,
but I liked the ride worker in the foreground…

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Another ride (I forgot the name) @ 8 seconds –
Pattern was very random but managed to catch one circle pattern…

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Same ride @ 5 seconds –
More symmetrical pattern near end of ride cycle…

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Orbiter again, much better angle with the sign @ 6 seconds –
This is my favorite shot of that ride, and the smaller Tornado ride
is also seen in motion toward the bottom left of the Orbiter…

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Below are good examples of the need to watch the ride pattern.  I took several shots of the Eclipse ride throughout its life cycle, and caught some bonus shots of the Ferris Wheel in the background at various stages, too.  I like this series of photos that start with the spinning Eclipse and stationary Ferris Wheel, then work their way to the stationary Eclipse and the spinning Ferris Wheel.

Eclipse @ 6 seconds – half ride pattern/revolution…

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Eclipse @ 12 seconds – full pattern/revolution…

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Eclipse again with spinning Ferris Wheel @ 8 seconds –
One full pattern/revolution on Eclipse near lower/slower end of ride cycle…

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Eclipse @ 11 seconds near end of ride cycle…

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Eclipse stationary with spinning Ferris Wheel @ 9 seconds…

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The Hammer @ 8 seconds – one full revolution…

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The Hammer @ 4 seconds – half revolution…

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We had a truly great time taking the photos as a small part of our evening at the fair, and I suspect that I will give it a try in future years as well, as long as the weather cooperates as well as it did this year.  We had several people stop by to chat and ask about how to take these photos, and we even showed some of the photos in the viewfinder to a few of them.  I love visiting with people, and it’s even more fun to talk photography… lots of fun, for sure!

I’m ready to set out again sometime soon for my next long-exposure night shoot… just need to decide on my next target!  It’s just such great fun, and people love to see the results!

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Fair Fotos – Animals

I had the better part of one full afternoon at our fair this year all alone with my camera, which was a treat for me.  And the day ended well, too, since my husband met me there after work for dinner and to attend a free concert.

Unfortunately, I picked an afternoon when the big barns were empty, as it was the day between competitions.  I was so looking forward to taking more cute goat pictures, but it was not meant to be.  The only animals on exhibit  for competition were the rabbits, so I spent some time in that area taking pictures.  Here are just a few of the photos I took.  They are such adorable little creatures one and all!

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This last bunny just cracked me up.  I won’t even speculate why he was trying to hide under his red water cup.

I then headed over to the Children’s Barnyard for a few quick photos… and to pet a few cute animals, of course!

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Look at the bird on the right… happy dance maybe?

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Finally, there were these cute little guys.  I’m not a big fan of dressing up animals, but these geese seemed happy as… clams?  Their owner took them walking around the fairgrounds at various times during the fair, so they got plenty of attention.  I was pretty amazed at how well they were trained, too, although one did peck at my knee when I got a little too close.  No harm… no fowl. 😉

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I also took some long-exposure shots after dark in the carnival area, and I’ll share those in my next post!

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NASA Turns 52

One of the reasons that I am partial to all things NASA is the fact that we are the same age and “grew up” together.   Others in my generation hold this same respect for them as well, especially respect for the earliest pioneers of the space program.  Hearing about our beloved Apollo astronauts and their missions was a regular part of my childhood and early teen years, and each mission was a very big deal.  Indeed, the first moon landing was literally a world-wide event.

Those younger than I am probably do not hold this same level of awe with NASA because NASA has done its job so well over the years.  They have come to expect all the perfection the agency and its fine people produce.  While that is a good thing in its own way, I feel a bit sorry for everyone that did not experience NASA’s growing up process and the many achievements as they happened, including all of the moon mission firsts.

I have adopted NASA lore as a bit of a hobby over the past couple of years because I don’t want to forget all of those wonderful experiences and learn even more about them today.  It is quite fascinating, too.  Some movies have done a good job about NASA’s early days, some more than others.  I love “The Right Stuff” in particular.  It walks the fine line of history, drama, heartbreak and lots of humor, mixed with some great musical scores, and I highly recommend it to anyone, especially today on NASA’s 52nd birthday.

Here is a great clip from “The Right Stuff” of astronaut Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn, one of my favorite actors of all time) being recruited to the astronaut program by two recruiters (Jeff Goldblum, Harry Shearer) who are having some “issues” on the aircraft carrier while approaching Shepard about the space program.  I just love this movie!

Like many others, I’m a pretty disappointed (if not downright frustrated) in the way things are shaping up for NASA these days.  But, we’ll keep hoping that the dream does not die for lack of interest.  At least I can say that I was around and witnessed (via television) some of the greatest achievements that the human race has ever accomplished.  I just hope that my grand kids will someday be able to say that, too… if I have grand kids someday… another dream!

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