Saturday, November 29, 2014

Upgrading my camera

It had been in the plans for a while now, for me to get a new camera and give my Nikon AW110 Point and Shoot to Martha for her use.

I thought I had narrowed it down to a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS35 with a 20X Optical Zoom and the standard features I'd found good to have for pictures destined for this blog.  So Martha went and picked one up for me at Costco but when she got it home we found issues.

Someone had pilfered the charger unit and cable, the picture count on the camera was in the 500s and the pictures I took as test pictures came out slightly blurry!  Very disappointing but at least Costco took it back with no arguments.

My thoughts then turned to researching perhaps a more "capable" camera and settled on a Sony A5000 camera.  It had great reviews, had all the features I wanted and some nice to have stuff as well.  Here's the online reviews that basically sold me on this particular system camera:  LINK1 and LINK2.

Sony A5000

Note: the second link actually recommended the A5000's predecessor, the Sony NEX-5T but it proved impossible to find locally and the differences involved features that were not important to me; differences such as more pictures per second in continuous mode: 10 to 4, a digital viewfinder, touchscreen controls.

Finally BestBuy had the A5000 bundled with a 16GB SD Memory Card, a travel case and a 55-210mm Telephoto lens!  The price for all of this was the same as just the camera and a 16-50mm lens for the NEX-5T!

I dithered all of Black Friday, being the tightwad that I am, debating whether to splurge on the camera bundle or just buy the camera....a difference of $150 you see.  Finally, Martha just said to go whole hog and go get it.  Probably got tired of my mumbling and such all day.

Here's the first few pictures I took once I got the camera home Black Friday evening:

 My oldest son Patrick and I, I took the photo using my iPhone with 
the remote shutter control app installed.  You connect to the camera via it's WiFi 
access point and can now be part of the picture.

 My loving wife, Martha...aka SWMBO

The camera's LCD monitor flips up 180 degrees to facilitate
the shooting of "selfies".  That's my son Miles making a face and 
my father-in-law Richard G joining in on the fun.

This feature will allow me to shot low angle shots of my motorcycles
without having to lay down on the ground! :)

Today, Saturday, I rode out early to meet up with two other Uralisti for a short ride in the foothills to the west of Metro Denver to give the new camera a workout.

We wandered towards Idaho Springs using back roads, enjoying the clear skies and blazing sunlight.  The lighting was so bright it caused most things to look "flat" but I must say, the camera did well in the intelligent auto mode I set it at and proved easy to use.

 We only found limited amounts of snow in the foothills, where there was snow
it was compacted and icy, making for interesting riding conditions.

 We ended up near the town of Central City, parking our rigs at
a small overlooking hill and chatting for a while.

Everyone had stuff to do in the afternoon so we split up shortly after we finished talking about farkling our rigs and catching up on each other's activities.  Tim L and Dan K, my fellow Uralisti, rode off through Central City and I lingered a bit for pictures.

 A train display in Central City

I rode on through Central City, Black Hawk, both of them Casino Towns and took CO 119 towards the town of Golden.  Once there, I took a brief detour up 19th Street and rode part of the way up Lookout Mountain.

 The view from the first overlook point on Lookout Mountain Road

 As a compare and contrast, the above picture of the Denver skyline was taken at max zoom
using the Sony 55-210 mm lens.  Then, cropped and tweaked using my normal tools.

The above shot was with my old Panasonic Lumix ZS8 camera, at 16X zoom,
cropped and tweaked with similar settings as the first skyline shot.

I must say, the two skyline shots highlight how the larger APS-C sensor in the Sony A5000 camera does better in capturing detail over the smaller and older sensor in the Panasonic.

Another note, I barely had to do any post-shoot tweaking of the jpg photos created by the A5000, whereas previous experience with my Panasonic and Nikon point and shoot cameras usually involved more tweaking!  

I shot in the RAW + JPG file format but didn't use the RAW files at all, the JPG files created by the Sony were just fine.

So, initial impressions of the Sony A5000 are very favorable!  Not to say the Nikon AW110 is not a good camera, I like it a lot and it's much tougher and durable than the Sony!   We'll see how the Sony does in colder and more inclement weather in the coming Winter season.

The A5000 also has "apps" you can download from Sony, a couple of which might intrigue me enough later on to get me to pay and download them.  More on that later but you can see the apps here:  LINK.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mid-November Colorado Sunset

I was sitting in the living room, relaxing after work and I got a text from my loving wife Martha stating there was clear viewing conditions of the front range mountains.

I looked at the clock , saw I had plenty of time to position Scarlett, my 2014 URAL Patrol Sidecar Rig in a known good spot for sunset pictures.

Minutes later I was geared up and riding towards the church parking SE of the intersection of Smoky Hill Road and Orchard Road.  It's the same spot where I recently posed Stewie, Martha's Genuine Buddy Scooter 125.

Once the lighting conditions were just right, I started taking pictures.  The angles required me to basically lay on my stomach to get the shot I wanted.  I must have been quite the sight as a lady in a car pulled up close to me asking me if I was alright.  :)

In sequence then.....the shots that came out best.  I hope you like them.

Pikes Peak in the distance

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday Uraling in Snowy Neighborhoods

Yesterday, it snowed lightly most of the day here in the Metro Denver area but I was stuck inside doing work.

This morning however, no work to be done and the sun was out in force, showing us that uniquely blue sky that we get to enjoy here in Colorado, since we're about a mile closer to the sun than the rest of the country.

I headed out to the usual neighborhoods near my home, noting how the main roads were quite rideable on three wheels though there was the sporadic slipping of the pusher tire where snow remained thick enough.

A nice view of snow-covered Mount Evans
from East Sand Creek Road

The Front Range Mountains
from Rockinghorse Parkway

From the Saddle Rock Golf Course
using my old Panasonic Lumix ZS5

Same viewpoint but with the Nikon Camera and it's
lesser zoom capability

Scarlett and I started riding with temperatures around 5°F and the cold was not really a factor.  By the time we were headed home, temperatures had soared into the teens, the snow on the main roads was gone leaving behind wet roads.  

I was wearing so many layers that I was actually starting to get too warm!  Got home, cleared the driveway and sidewalks of snow with the snow blower and now sit warmly ensconced in my house writing this.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Uraling in the Cold

We're having a cold snap crossing the state since Monday, today we woke to temperatures at around 1°F and we had perhaps a couple of inches of snow on the ground.  Yay!

I bundled up and left the house hoping to catch sunrise pictures.  Alas, while there was plenty of snow on the roads, the mountains were not visible and the sun was blocked by gray clouds.  It felt like we were inside a frosted over glass globe you know?

Today is our wedding anniversary, can you believe Martha has put up with me for over 19 years?  I should put her in for sainthood!

As I was due to work at the data center in Highlands Ranch, I left the house a bit early and swung by the grocery store to pick up flowers for Martha.  I delivered them in person, while riding Scarlett of course.

Martha liked them a lot and proceeded to drag me around the admin offices, showing off her flowers.

It was 0°F when I left the high school and proceeded towards the SW portion of the Metro Denver area where the data center is located.  Road conditions on the main arteries were not bad, some snow but the channels left by cars showed clear road.

The city streets were clogged with cars, so I rode on E-470 and made it to work with no issues and in good time.

Work went well, racking some equipment for an upcoming migration from old to new server.

We were done by 2PM.  I went to the parking lot and started Scarlett after several cranking attempts by the electric starter.  I am still running 20W50 so not surprising, made a mental note to pack the small jump starter kit, just in case.

Warming up Scarlett

Once the engine caught, I finished donning my riding gear.  One of the two snap buttons that hold the breath mask onto my Skidoo Snow Helmet failed, so I had to ride home with minor fogging issues, but no problems overall.

Got home with no issues, used the snow blower to clear the driveway and the cul-de-sac's sidewalks.

Temperatures had soared to 4°F by the time I left Highlands Ranch so I didn't have to tuck my boots' toes close to the the engine jugs as I had to do in the morning!

I used summer gloves while riding today, I think I'll switch to medium weight gloves for the next ride.  My palms and fingers were warm enough with the heater control at 50%, but the outside portions of my hands felt slightly cold.  The Kolpin grip covers are working pretty good, I wish they were a little shorter but otherwise, no complaints, and they sure keep the cold air from my hands!

Oh, and my Bell Cyclometer?  Apparently it doesn't like cold weather, it refused to work to show my speed.  Oh well, I guess the designers didn't expect some fool to be out using their cyclometer in such cold weather?
Update: a new battery on the sender unit of the cyclometer did the trick, now its sending data, at least at 14°F anyways.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day, 2014

Today is November 11, 2014 and once again the nation takes time to pause and remember its Veterans; both alive and dead, for their service and sacrifices.

To those who served and have left active duty, Martha and I extend our sincerest appreciation.

To those who still man the ramparts in our country's armed forces, we also send our thanks and wish you all Godspeed and a safe return home to your loved ones.

I rode today in what RichardM would consider a balmy 17°F (-8ÂșC), with a very light snow falling on us here in the Metro Denver area to Fort Logan National Cemetery this morning.

Warmly bundled up in layers and with the new Kolpin Grip Covers, I didn't feel the cold at all except when I would remove gloves to take pictures.  I was riding Scarlett, my 2014 Ural Patrol and the wet-looking streets were of no consequence.  The streets were clear, for the most part, and the snow flakes were simply blown about by the light winds across their surfaces.

Once at Fort Logan National Cemetery, I parked by Section 44 and paid a visit to SSGT Brian Joiner.  He was the son of a co-worker friend of mine.  Brian passed away while serving in the US Air Force.  Bryan is about as personal a connection I have to the thousands buried at Fort Logan.  I share, with the remainder, the satisfaction and honor to have been able to serve my country.

 In the center of the picture, Brian's tombstone.

 Part of Section 44

 At one of the small ponds within the cemetery, there were
flocks of geese both in the ponds and flying overhead this cold day

 A little bit of Fall Color hangs on...

 I think of this flag pole as the Main Post's flag pole, 
from when this cemetery was previously an active Army post.

On previous Veteran's Days there would have been more flags
lining the main avenue into the cemetery; perhaps I was just too early.

Temperatures are supposed to continue to drop for the rest of today, with the weather-guessers calling for small amounts of snow tomorrow.  

I arrived home safely, gazing in satisfaction at "the colors" that flew from my home.  Martha and I have both served with and met great leaders and great soldiers, and wish all Veterans everywhere the very best of days.

To those who remember a veteran  who gave his or her all, we share in your sorrow even as we honor their sacrifice.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Stewie Sunset

A fine clear and sunny day here in Colorado where the temperatures reached the mid-60s!  We're definitely in an Indian Summer kind of weather pattern.

I was running an errand on Stewie, Martha's Genuine Buddy 125 Scooter.  I try to exercise Stewie when the riding to be done is just local to the neighborhood.

As I left the library where I was picking up a book for Martha, the sun was setting and I headed over to a local church's parking lot that has a nice view of the mountains.

As Colorado sunsets go, it wasn't the best one I've experienced but for today, it'll do.  Hope you got some riding in!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Farkles for Scarlett

Just a posting to describe some of the recent farkling I've been doing to Scarlett, my 2014 URAL Patrol Sidecar Rig, to personalize her for me.

Oxford Heated grips, previously used on my Valencia, my 2011 URAL Patrol, transferred from her to Scarlett when I traded in Valencia.  Randy, the dealer, wanted to make Valencia as stock as possible for her eventual sale.

A Bell 300 Cyclometer, to tell me how fast I am actually going when the speedo needle on Scarlett starts doing the usual windshield wiper dance at speeds above an indicated 50MPH.  It's also got a built-in thermometer.  I had been using it on Brigitta, my '87 R80 when her original speedometer failed, but now that it's been replaced by one from a different airhead, I can re-purpose it.

As on my previous rigs, and also retrieved from Valencia, a cheapo ATV tachometer to help me somewhat know what RPMs the engine is running at.  Not exactly accurate but it works for me.


I replaced the stock sealed beam headlight that Scarlett came with with this one I bought on amazon for $39 including shipping.  It's got what I believe is a better reflector design inside the headlight and allows me to use replaceable H4 bulbs readily available from any auto parts store.


Now that Winter is near, I've put on the National Cycle Plexistar Windshield to keep the cold air off me and my hands while riding.  I had bought it used for Valencia, after the Alaska trip, and through much experimentation and later actually reading the manual for it, got it mounted right.    I had, because the previous owner had, the support mounts reversed!  Oh well, live and learn.

I am expecting, a delivery in a couple of days of new ATV grip covers from Kolpin.  They will replace my aging and rather ratty looking Quadboss Grip covers that I originally bought for Maria, my 2004 BMW R1150RT and which I've used on all my motorcycles when the weather is cold enough and heated grips and heavy gloves alone don't cut it.

Finally, the cordura saddlebags I bought from a local purveyor of Horse Tack and Gear, is mounted fulltime on Scarlett.  I use it to carry rain pants and FroggTogg jacket on the left side bag and a camp chair and small covers on the right.  I had always resisted this before as they're not lockable but my Alaska trip and just experience has taught me that most folks don't mess with your stuff when you leave the rig parked.  Will I leave valuable stuff locked up in the trunk still?  You bet.

The saddlebags as they were mounted on Valencia

Finally, I have Heidenau K37 Tires inbound.  I will probably mount them by the end of the year as there's still "meat" on the Duro HF 308 tires that are stock from URAL.  I am estimating maybe 2000 Km more remain on the pusher tire so must get some more riding in before then!

Bring it on Winter....bring it on!

20NOV14: Update: The Bell Cyclometer sending unit's battery couldn't take the cold temperatures sadly, a brand new battery drained down in less than three days.  Have reverted to older Vetta cyclometer with wired sensor.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Uraling along the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway

A long day in the saddle today, glorious weather mind you, but still a long day in the saddle.

The idea started out as an exploration of forest roads in the area near Red Cliff, Colorado.  Some email discussions with Dana W., a fellow Uralista who lives near Vail, CO changed the objectives for me a bit and while a new trail was explored, it was more riding on grounds I'd covered before.

I left shortly after 7:00 AM and by 8:45 Scarlett and I were crossing the Continental Divide using the Eisenhower Tunnel while slabbing it on I-70 west bound.

By 9:30AM, I had turned off I-70 and had arrived at the small mountain town of Minturn.  Shortly after leaving town, I came upon a sign showing the way to Tigiwon Road, one of the roads I'd picked for exploring and recommended as a nice ride by Dana.

Upwards Scarlett and I rode, the forest road was strewn with rocks and boulders but not the worst road I've ever ridden.  The pace was slow as I was stuck behind this pickup truck with hunters slowly making their way up the trail.

Finally, the truck keeps going up as we reach the Tigiwon Community House and I parked to check out the view of the Gore Range.

 A slightly disappointing view of the Gore Mountain Range

The view from a logging trail near the Tigiwon Community House.
I ran into more hunters at the end of this logging trail so it was time
to leave this forest road before I was mistaken for elk!

Continuing on US24 Southbound,  you climb on curvy mountain roads with some nice views of forested hillsides and mountain tops.  All the leaves on the Aspen trees are gone, leaving pale ghostly tree trunks and branches standing amid the more numerous pine trees.

Soon enough, one arrives at the bridge near the small town of Red Cliff, which spans over the Eagle River.

It is at the town of Red Cliff where one can get on the road to Shrine Pass.  I have ridden this road before and today would not ride all the way to the summit.  Instead, the idea was to see if I could get a good look at Mount Holy Cross.  This particular fourteneer was made famous by the sighting and photographing of what appeared to be a giant cross on the side of the mountain peak:

source Denver Public Library

Shrine Pass Road was not as rough as the conditions on Tigiwon Road but it had it's moments.  There were long stretches of snow covered road, boulder and gravel sections and as the day warmed up, mud where there had been small amounts of snow.

I did detour down an interesting side trail where I found even more snow!  The trail led further up and up and after one sharp hairpin turn I almost tipped the rig over on its left side due to the camber of the road!  Close call but I kept my wits and got the rig stopped and back on its wheels.  This incident "took the wind out of my sails" you might say and I decided to turn around back to the main forest road.

The snow and camber of the road made things a bit dicey on the way back
to the main forest road; I had to engage 2WD to maintain a straight course.

Finally back on the main forest road, it was two turns later and I saw this great view of not only Mount Holy Cross but also other peaks which are part of the Sawatch Range of Mountains.

 Mt Holy Cross is on the right of the set of mountain peaks

 Just before the Mount of the Holy Cross Overlook parking lot.

Once I got to the overlook's parking lot, I walked for perhaps five minutes in the sometimes snow-covered walking trail and reached the wooden platform where one can observe the distant Mount of the Holy Cross.

 Some nearby pine trees frame one's view of the distant peaks.
The above picture is at 16x Zoom

Bracing the camera on the banister, I got this shot of the 
peak at 32X Zoom using digital enhancement.  Can you see 
the area where the snow might form a cross under the right conditions?

The overlook is 7.5 miles from Red Cliff and so I turned Scarlett around and headed back into town.  From there I continued on US24 and soon enough I was passing by the remnants of Camp Hale where the famed 10th Mountain Division trained during World War II.  Not much remains, except a small valley where the division was house.  More details and pics from my first visit to Camp Hale here:  LINK.

Along US 24, south of Tennessee Pass

Continuing on US24, one soon arrives near Leadville, the country's second highest incorporated municipality.  I took the turn to put me now northbound on Colorado State Road 91 and was soon approaching the large mining operation near Fremont Pass.

Just before Fremont Pass

North of Fremont pass, there's a couple of areas which are quite scenic.  The first one is a water reservoir surround by mountain peaks, one of my favorite spots to stop and take pictures when I am in the area.

Just a little bit further on, heading North on CO 91, there's this spot where one just has to stop for a quick picture:

This would be the last picture of the day, the rest of the afternoon was spent riding back towards I-70 and using it to speedily, well at URAL speed anyways, make our way back to the Denver Metro Area and home.  I made it home shortly after 5:00 PM, ten hours of mostly riding and almost 300 miles covered.  A good day of riding!