JHP Newsletter - 2015, No. 4, 12 December
Greetings from Lake Mead near Las Vegas, NV. The last several months have been interesting, as in the apocryphal Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times." This is a long, text-heavy Newsletter, so there is a short summary at the bottom if you'd like a TLDR version.
I've put off this Newsletter because I wasn't sure how to share my frustrations about growing old and dealing with health issues. And I've also been working on a special project that I had hoped to have completed by now, so you'll have to wait to hear about that until next time.
The getting-old part starts back in April of this year when I got a new eyeglass prescription for bifocals because my previous single-vision prescription was no longer working for me for reading or computing. I actually got one pair with progressive lenses for general use and a second pair of single-vision computer glasses so I could look straight at the computer. The progressives weren't bad for things straight ahead of me, but the correction to the sides was significantly worse than not wearing glasses at all and would be terrible for nature photography where I have to be able to have my whole field of vision to spot animals out of the corner of my eye or evaluate compositions. And, the frames I got for the computer glasses weren't tall enough so I was constantly shifting my head to get the screen and keyboard in focus. I took both pairs back and got regular bifocals and a different set of frames for the computer glasses. Those glasses didn't catch up to me until July. The computer prescription was way too strong because my actual monitor is about 30 inches away and the standard distance for computer prescriptions is 20-26 inches. So, my eyes were under much more strain with the glasses than without. I went to get another prescription so that both the close-vision part of the bifocals and the single-vision computer lenses would work. Those glasses caught up to me in August and are finally working.
The first part of my health issues came to a head while kayaking in June at Lac Le Jeune. My left knee, in which I tore my lateral meniscus in February 2012, had gotten stressed and aggravated this spring while driving around South Africa in the right-drive car with not enough foot room to extend my left leg out straight in front of me. I had to have my left foot pulled up below my right knee most of the time and that put extra strain on my left knee. Add to that lots of sitting, and my knee wasn't doing very good by the time I got back to the states in April. Sitting in the kayak placed similar, but even more stress on the knee, and it was always an uncomfortable, and sometimes quite painful, effort to straighten out my leg in the kayak so I could get out. It was so bad a few times that I had to use my paddle as a cane/crutch to help me limp up the beach after getting out.
I also fairly quickly got buyer's remorse because my Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125 kayak started to deform in the heat while baking in the sun on the top of Jan's Jeep. I learned that rotomolded polyethylene kayaks are prone to that, so I started to look into thermoform kayaks that won't deform. In August, I tried out a Delta Kayaks Delta 12.10, a thermoform kayak, at the Portland Kayak Company, and absolutely loved it. So now I'm the proud owner of yet another new boat.
Travel: Pacific Northwest Waterfalls
After leaving BC at the end of June, Jan and I started our summer in the Pacific Northwest. It was one of the driest summers on record there and the wildflowers we had hoped to photograph weren't doing very well so we turned our attention to the many waterfalls. We started by spending almost all of July in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest of northern Washington.
1 sec, f8, ISO 100
2 sec, f9.5, ISO 100
I started to work on a special project while there, so I wasn't doing as much photography as I normally would have. I was hoping to be able to tell you about the project by now, but I still have some work to do on it so stay tuned.
In early August we moved to the central and then southern Cascades in Washington.
0.5 sec, f11, ISO 100
3 sec, f9.5, ISO 100
In mid August, we moved down to Oregon and that's when I bought my Delta 12.10 kayak. I was so excited when I took it out for the first time (below left), that I forgot to put on my personal flotation device. :) We also photographed some waterfalls and I continued to work on my special project.
on Trillium Lake with Mt. Hood in the background
0.3 sec, f8, ISO 100
LBW polarizer, 1 sec, f11, ISO 100
3 sec, f8, ISO 100
Travel: Wyoming Retreat
I took a short break at the beginning of September to concentrate on the special project while staying in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area along the northern border of Wyoming. I was able to go out on the water first thing in the morning (below) and then concentrate on office work for the rest of the day. Kayaking didn't bother my knee and I had a wonderful time!
Travel: Solar-Electric System
In the middle of September, I installed a solar-electric system in a friend's RV in central Colorado. While crimping a lug onto one of the heavy-gauge wires, I smashed my left thumb with a hammer just about as hard as I could. I knocked my left thumbnail practically all of the way off (it was only hanging on by one corner near the nail bed), and went to the ER to get some stitches in the opposite corner to hold the nail in place while my thumb healed. I didn't break anything, but my thumb was pretty useless after that and it was a challenge to finish the solar-electric installation with only one opposable thumb. Fortunately my friend is quite handy, and his two opposable thumbs were very useful.
Ordinarily, I would not have had my thumb anywhere near the crimper after the first few hits to keep the lug from coming off while I finished crimping it, so I'm not sure why I still had it in the vicinity on the last really hard hit. I was also wearing my rather new-to-me bifocals, and I must have changed my head position between the two last hammer hits so that I was suddenly looking through the bifocal lens, or under it, on the last hit which made the crimper appear to change position. That's my story and I'm sticking to it! Anyways, I wore my computer glasses for the rest of the installation so I wouldn't have to deal with the screwy bifocals. Getting old is for the birds!
I installed a new house battery bank, along with the solar charge controller and semi-whole-house inverter, in their largely unused TV cabinet. The image below left shows the lower battery box with twelve (12) 100Ah 3.3VDC LiFePO4 (lithium ion) batteries. A second battery box sits on top of the lower one and encloses an additional twelve (12) cells to provide 600Ah at 12VDC. The solar charge controller is mounted on the wall to the left and the inverter is on the floor at the bottom. The image below-right shows the 870W of solar panels on the roof: two (2) 135W panels in the foreground and six (6) 100W panels beyond.
(600Ah from 24 100Ah 3.3V LiFePO4 cells)
(870W: 2x 135W panels, 6x 100W panels)
Travel: Colorado Fall Color
After I finished the solar-electric installation, I went to the San Juans of southwestern Colorodo for a few days at the end of September to photograph fall color in my favorite location before chasing fall color in a new location. I was a little early for peak color, but still had some good opportunities. It was a challenge to operate my camera equipment with one-and-a-half hands.
0.3, 0.7, & 1.5 sec; f8; ISO 100
1/15 sec, f9.5, ISO 100
Travel: Eastern Sierra Fall Color
I met up with Jan at the end of September near Lee Vining, CA, to photograph fall color in the Eastern Sierra. There were some patches of fall color starting, but I was still way early and wished I was back in Colorado where the fall color was really happening. After about a week near Lee Vining, we moved down to Bishop for the rest of October. I was still working on my special project and didn't shoot very much. Plus, the fall color didn't really grab me for the most part. While there were some nice patches of color, most of it was surrounded by blah sagebrush and bare rock.
0.7 sec, f8, ISO 100
3 sec, f16, ISO 50
1/45 sec, f8, ISO 100
1/8 sec, f11, ISO 100
Travel: Two Things In Las Vegas
The first thing in Las Vegas was planned. Because my knee was giving me so much trouble earlier in the year, I scheduled knee surgery to have my damaged lateral meniscus repaired. Surgery was on November 18th. It was an outpatient affair and I left the facility w/o a brace or crutches. I didn't have much pain and I could feel that the knee was moving freely and was no longer binding up on the pieces of my meniscus that weren't where they were supposed to be (below left). The edges of the meniscus are supposed to be smooth (below right).
I started physical therapy two days after surgery, and that started a downward tend in my recovery. My knee started to swell up and it became painful to put weight on my left leg. When I got my sutures out a week after the surgery, the doc recommended that I get off the pain meds and onto strong doses of ibuprofen to take the swelling down. That brought the swelling down and stopped the pain too! My morale was also boosted!
Now, a little more than three weeks after surgery, my knee is doing about as good as it was before surgery. There's no pain and it's great not have the knee get bound up on the damaged meniscus. However, my range of motion isn't quite what it was before surgery and it's no where near what it was before my injury. I'm still doing physical therapy, so we'll see what I end up with after that's all done.
The second thing in Las Vegas was not planned. We had moved into a long-term stay hotel the day before my knee surgery so I could recuperate somewhere easier on my knee than in my RV. About two weeks after surgery, someone broke into my Jeep and stole practically all of my camera gear and some other valuables including backup hard drives. So, after filing a police report, we moved back into our RVs and checked out of the hotel. My knee was doing pretty good by that point, and it was probably good that I got into an environment that would work my knee some more.
Fortunately, most of my camera gear was insured, so what could have been a devastating loss was just a big inconvenience. However, I had only insured items that cost more than about $250, and all of the "inexpensive" stuff that was stolen still added up to more than $5000. So, I'll be rebuilding my camera setup slowly and will not replace all of it. Anyways, it's kind of nice to have a fresh slate to build a camera setup the way I'd like it instead of having some pieces of gear that I don't use much or am not particularly happy with.
It would have been nice if the thieves had stolen my gear after the Canon 1D X Mk II started shipping so I wouldn't have to sell outdated gear to move up to the latest-and-greatest. I plan to only buy one 1D X now and hopefully the 1D X Mk II will be shipping by the time I really need a second body for active shooting and not just as a backup.
Based on what I'll be shooting next, which is landscapes, my initial purchase was: one Canon EOS 1D X (bundled with a Lexar Professional 1066x 128GB CF card and two spare batteries), an EF 24‑70mm II (to replace my 24‑105), a TS‑E 17mm, a TS‑E 24mm II, an 82mm B+W XS‑Pro circular polarizer, a Canon Angle Finder C, a Gitzo GT3542XLS tripod, a Really Right Stuff BH‑55 Pro ball head and replacement feet for the 100‑400 II and 600 IS II, a Kirk L‑bracket for the 1D X, and an f‑stop Satori EXP with a Large Pro ICU and a Small Pro ICU. I also got a used TS‑E 90mm in like-new condition. I don't really need the Small Pro ICU now, and definitely don't need the replacement feet yet, but ordered them now to save on shipping. I'll be ordering a lot more stuff as soon as the insurance check clears. I'll talk more about the changes in my setup next time.
Travel: The Short Summary
Getting old is for the birds! I broke down and got bifocals for the first time earlier this year, and I had a hard time getting a prescription and frames that would work for me. While getting used to the bifocals that finally had a good prescription in them, I smashed my left thumb about as hard as I could with a hammer while installing a solar-electric system in a friend's RV in September. My thumb's still not back to normal!
I had knee surgery in November to fix the damage done when I tore my lateral meniscus about three years ago. My knee's doing pretty good now, but while staying at a long-term-stay hotel to recuperate, someone stole practically all of my camera gear out of my Jeep. Fortunately most of it was insured, and now I'm rebuilding my setup.
I've also been spending most of my time since July on a special project that's taking longer than I thought to complete, so stay tuned for more on that.
Take care and happy shooting.
James Hager Photography :: www.jameshagerphoto.com