Monday, August 31, 2009

Week 8: A Night Hike August 22nd

The myth of the methodical planning outdoors-man (or woman!) is false. At least in my case. While I occasionally make a well thought plan, getting up at 6 am for a nice long hike, a well packed bag, correct food items, cooking gear, a partner, more likely its something that happens like this weekend.

Its 530 pm, and my casual checking of the forecast shows dark masses of greens and yellows and reds moving across the radar. I have procrastinated all day, and like usual miscalculated; missing the 10 previous hours of dry weather.

But occasionally something strikes in my head. And all of a sudden, task in hand, and im in motion for the first time today.

My new backpack is a Millet Ura Lite. It is described as a ultralight one day pack, its even listed under the "small volume" section of my outdoor retailing sites. My theory is that if i am carrying as much stuff as fits in my huge backpacking pack, then i dont want to be there in the first place.

I stuff a tiny sleeping bag, my bivy sack, a half sleeping pad, and some camera gear in the pack. Ill pick up 4 Snickers bars, a liter of water, and some nuts at a gas station later on. Just enough for a bad night out. Any more and the hiking becomes miserable.

Driving out past Frederick the skies just open up.

Sitting in my car at the AT parking lot the rain just beats down. I get some practice with a new panoramic toy.

However one of the redeeming qualities of a rainy afternoon.... if you get lucky and things start to clear, you get a spectacular sunset with just enough clouds to make things pretty. And today i got lucky.

With the sun setting, one may think i had a desire to get going up the trail before getting too dark. But I know the trail well, the hiking is easy, and i have 3 headlamps in my pack. Plus the sun through the clouds is looking great and I cant help sticking around for a few pictures.

The Veggie VW

Some sky

Some more pretty sky

This looks the Jerry Bruckhiemer's Touchstone Pictures logo

The Appalachian Trail bridge as it crosses Route 70

The sun sets and its time to start hiking. I take one last shot of me looking rather grumpy... but i prefer serious.

The hike up to Annapolis Rock is about 2.2 miles, and familiar. My load is pretty light, and the hike is enjoyable, despite being past twilight i refrain from using my headlight. There is as close-ness to the trail you develop when trucking through at night that you miss during the day.

The top of Annapolis Rock is relatively flat, and I find a perch just a few feet from the edge. The weather alternates between a clear night with clouds moving quickly over the ridges with views to the sky and down to the valley, to a fog so think i can barely see my hands.

Took a couple of long exposures between weather breaks and generally just lost myself at the top for an hour or two.

Trees and clouds

Vistas and me and a headlamp

A tree a little light, some clouds and a plane

I lay out my bivy sack and sleeping bag, find a nice spot close to but not on the edge. The frogs sound like a pneumatic hammer, the fog is really encased now, and realize that I already go everything out of this hike that I wanted... a few hours of solitude and self reliance. A calm I can never find in the hectic life of the city.

So I pack up and 40 minutes later, after any equally enjoyable hike down, im back in my car and driving home. Even NPR feels harsh and abrasive on the radio so I turn it off and drive home in silence.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Week 7: The North/Luskin Wedding August 15th

Anyone who thinks a wedding may not count as an adventure is gravely mistaken.

People I have never met that need mingling with... someone important's boyfriend to chit chat with .... how to take nice pictures but not be THAT guy with the camera... do I eat too much? have too much to drink? why am i being so quiet?

Well that's usually how it goes. But luckily this time it was not the case.

We got to the Eastern shore early to help set up. This mostly consisted of moving a few things and then helping Bella plant peach pits in the backyard.

Eliza and Bella going for an evening walk the day before.

And the heavy lifting that needing doing to set up.
The centerpiece at every-ones' seat.

We loved seeing Paige and Alex and their family the night before the wedding and were so glad to have been invited to this part of the celebration - it felt like we were a part of it, and not just guests. After helping out we retire to my mom's cabin, only a mile away from the North farm. Life at my moms is like taking a moment out of time. Chestertown is not that far away from civilization and my moms house is not that far away from town. But it feels so peaceful there. Good meals, good company , and beautiful surroundings make for a restorative visit.

My mothers loom

The next morning after a wonderful breakfast down in Easton with Eliza's grandmother we arrive back at the farm.

Rule 1 for a nice wedding. Have it somewhere beautiful. This sounds silly, but a rented ballroom in a place with no beauty and no history to the family just doesnt cut it. The farm definitely qualifies. The provenance of the once tree lined driveway turned into the perfect wedding aisle is hard to beat. Flowers, the outdoor setting and the vegetable garden only add to the ambiance.

A 360 of the farm turned autumn

Cliche i know, but I can not resist taking pictures of flowers under nice light

More flowers

Rule 2: A happy couple. Ok this may sound redundant. OF course they are happy right? They are getting married. But so often you see the struggles of putting a wedding together overcomes the happiness of the event itself.

For those of you who havent met Paige and Alex.. this clearly would not be the case, but I couldnt get over how giddy and calm and happy these two were.

Alex could not wipe this grin of his face all day long

The happy bride

Rule 3: Keep it simple! A 20 minute ceremony. No conviction was sacrificed. No sincerity overlooked. It was just 20 minutes instead of 2 hours. Everyone was grateful.

The first poem reading of the day. Well read by Paige's friend Gaby

The dads looking over a new common son

Let the after party begin

The after wedding tent

Only Paige North can make this face... and we love her for it.

A little night painting with a headlamp... notice Bella's interpretative dance on the right.

The tent from the vegetable garden

The night ended with some dancing of course. And i didnt even mind! Amazing what state of mind can do.

The boat ride the next day on the Sultana an 18th century (replica) schooner that has a home port in Chestertown. Despite only going a mile downstream, still a neat experience. They even lit off a canon, which you feel more than hear. Rapidly expanding gas is scary.

Hard for me to convey how enjoyable this was. Not only a happy event for two our closest friends, but done in a way that I am sure everyone involved will remember.

And just to finish up my favorite pictures from the day.

The picture perfect Aisle of Pines (no pun intended)

And saving the best for last , in pano form with a little dabbling with the colors.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Week 6: An Impromptu Sail August 9th

With a weekend ending more quickly than I had anticipated, heat and lack of motivation conspired to finish a week without a true adventure. Eliza tries to tempt me with a hike, or a climb. Nothing works and I despaired of losing precious adventure momentum.

An old friend of Elizas' calls up to go on a sail with him and some friends. I dilly dally as what was i to expect? A bunch of people i dont know... making small talk, on a dinky sailboat, in the midafternoon heat of a sweltering August day in Baltimore. I love an adventure, but from my spot on the couch i couldnt see in the making.

Eliza did manage to drag me out.

The view from the tunnel under HarborView

And the 30 foot sailboat we were about to embark on. Looks like more than enough room for 3 people.

Sort of unexpectedly we end up spending the day with Jeff (the boats' owner) and 8 others! 11 people on a 33 foot boat is pretty interesting. Looks like i was right about the dinky bit!

I hope i dont sounds like a snob, but people go sailing for two reasons in my opinion. There are the pleasure cruisers. Out on the water to gab and drink and be merry. And those who delight in piloting an elegant machine with nothing more than the wind to carry you.

Clearly my beliefs are aligned in one camp, however not to say that the other is invalid, just not as aligned with the way i like to enjoy my days. Still I managed to have a great time in both aspects.

Strangely i have never considered the water as i am so drawn to the mountains. But i can see the same purposefulness, and self reliance required by true sailing that I see in the mountains. Going to consider taking some lessons in the neat future

Eliza with clouds on the way out of the harbor.

We pass under the Key bridge and head North for some swimming

Jeff with his "harem"

On the way back after much non-progress with light winds, we go back to motoring as an approaching storm almost catches up with us.

Marissa braves the storm on the way home

A quick pano of the Port of Baltimore on the way back in. Moving boat, and moving water, makes for difficult pano stitching.

Maybe not quite the ragged all out adventure i perhaps i had in mind when i cam up with this idea. But as far as being outside of the norm of my own experience. This one definitely counts.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Week 5: Siggraph 09 August 3-7th

I don't often talk about what I do for a living. Amazing since i both talk rather expansively, and I spend an inordinate amount of my time awake performing functions related to my work.

To "do for a living" is in itself a funny statement. Taken literally it is quite a more serious statement than often considered. Do people often define themselves, and in fact, live through their jobs? I doubt it.

As i embark on my typical soapbox rant I will try and keep brief, as so much cool stuff happened in New Orleans that I don't want to waste space with my measly ideas.

A fairly conservative estimate puts about 100 thousand hours of work time in a lifetime. That is 35 continuous years! I don't know about you but if something is taking up that much of my time, not only must i enjoy it, but it must be fulfilling in a more complete way than just providing the means by which i enjoy the rest of my "real life" In fact for me ,unless my job is meaningful I quickly tire and become bored. Not that meaningful always means for a greater benefit to society, but can be personal growth, or challenge, or dedication.

Now 3D scanning (my occupation) may not sound glamorous. And I dont want to sound all holier than thou. But my job is great for me.

I work at a good position along the continuum of a technology. 3d scanning has been around in the workplace and out of the laboratory for some time, and is now just living up to its promise. We are out doing real, amazing jobs for the first time, and at the same time new improvements to the technology are happening every day. Growing my knowledge as the field has grown is a pretty neat thing for a kid so recently out of college.

The applications are wide ranging and I often find myself working on an airplane in the morning and a medical prosthetic after lunch.

Lately I have taken on a role helping to fit a new technology into what we do on a day to day basis. The software by Dimensional Imaging allows simple digital cameras to turn into 3D scanners. The technique is called passive stereo photo-grammetry and the instant (1/10000 second) capture time, and huge (22 MP) color are enticing in a host of applications.

Which gets me back to this weeks' adventure...

Helping DI3D has brought us to New Orleans for Siggraph 09. Siggraph is a technology conference I have dreamed of going to for years. Hosting all the major 3D software providers, hardware providers, and the service housing putting these amazing tools to work.

The booth

I had the pleasure of working with 3 of the guys from Scotland, Dug, Ewan, and Colin, as well as my own boss Michael Raphael, and the every savvy Spike Milligan. A more formidable team in the 3D scanning business would be hard to find.

Being on the Exhibitors floor was a little disconcerting, as I had expected Siggraph to show the technology of 5 years in the future and instead all I saw was the technology of today. Unfortunately manning the booth kept me out of the talks where the things 5 years in the future WERE being discussed.

Also many noted that Siggraph was much smaller than it has been in years past. This is not surprising considering the fate of the worlds economy. However compared to the host of other shows I have been to this year, with their myriad of other industries, Siggraph was by far the healthiest.

A final rare treat I got to briefly meet the wife of what amounts to my idol in the 3D world... Paul Debevec has basically invented most of the fields I work in. From image based modeling, to HDRI to 3D model relighting he continues to amaze me and is a person to keep watching.

New Orleans itself is a strange town. A bit two-faced we enjoyed amazing food in the arts District and a metropolitan downtown with friendly and interesting folks. However ever present was the knowledge that not more than a mile away total destruction and mass evacuation had afflicted much of the city.

This was very clearly a city that was trying very hard to come back.

And also was very clear that it had not done so 100%

Michael and myself enjoying some of the international cuisine at Cafe du Monde. A caloric deluge of fried beignets and chicory.

The other side of New Orleans. A street corner in the middle of the Upper 9th Ward. a 10 x 20 block neighborhood all but annihilated by Katrina. Though hard to tell here you can see the juxtaposition. 3 states exist, the destroyed but not yet demolished house, the shiny new buildings (on stilts mostly) being erected by the brave, and the tall grass the only remaining evidence of past houses.

Sorry for all the writing and lack of pictures... better next week I promise!