Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Park City Halloween Dog Parade

The annual Park City Halloween Dog Parade is definitely one of my can't miss events. Unfortunately for Jasper, it is also the one time of the year we get to decorate the dog.  This year he went as a football player.
Our lovely dog walker, Julie, volunteers to tak Jasper so I can take photographs.  This becomes quite a challenge once we get into the crowd and a few people give him dog biscuits.  To Jasper, that means all people, people's hands, and pockets are potential suppliers.
These photos are in the order I ran across them.  Some are dogs and some are little kids.  Before they start the dog parade at 5:00, the kids get two hours of Trick or Treating at the stores on Main Street,

Just as a clarification, Park City's idea of a dog parade is quite humorous. There are thousands of people and hundreds of dogs on Main Street, and not the tiniest glimmer of coordination, direction, or a parade.  It is more of a poorly named block party with dogs and costumes.
We ran across our neighbor, Nurse Hannah.  She had done quite well on the candy gathering. Jasper loves Hannah, even without candy.
Hannah, with her parents Monty and Sally.  I would normally leave it to you to figure out which is which, but Monty is the one with the long hair, on the left.  Notice Sally's birthday present, a new Canon DSLR.  Someone to go shoot with!
Almost all of the kids were in costume and a lot of the adults dressed up. This was one of the numerous bizarre combinations of parent and child.
A very clever costume combining Lance Armstrong and Pinocchio.
My favorite dog costume was this incredible little ewok from Star Wars, escorted by Princess Leia.
Does he look like an ewok or what?
Our builder, Rob Schumacher and his dog Elvis.  Rob is the one in the hat.
Not sure what it was supposed to be, but this was one of the oddest looking dogs on the street.  I hope that it's normally not the color shown here, top or bottom.
The Sherlock Holmes costume was good.  I especially like it since he is almost on point.  It's almost like he is saying "the answer is over there!"
One of our April Mountain neighbors moved across town a few years ago.  She was dressed as a clown with completely matching dogs.  They looked great and the costumes were stylishly form fitting (versus Jasper's football helmet that either turned sideways or dropped down to cover his eyes).
And we end with my favorite little boy.  He was dressed as a fireman and his completely loving, tolerant dog was dressed as the fire engine.  The boy was enjoying the events, but you could tell it was complete sensory overload.  Dogs.  Costumes.  Dogs in costumes.  Thousands of people, walking every which way. If he was like every other kid, he was also on a sugar buzz.
Once again, this is in my top 5 for what makes Park City such a cool place to live.  Where else does 20-30% of a town's population come out for a dog parade?

Sandy in Maryland

My mom lives in Crownsville, Maryland in an area that is full of old oak, walnut, and hickory trees.  When the wind blows hard, trees or huge branches come down and crush the powerlines, all of which are above ground.  Mom seems to lose power for 3-7 days in almost every major event.

Sandy was actually nice to my mom.  Looking at Baltimore Gas and Electric's outage web page, 345,000 customers lost power.  By some miracle, my mom wasn't among them.  Yeah!

Credit to BG&E. On Wednesday afternoon, only 36 hours after the storm ripped through, they have repaired service for over 300,000 of those customers.  Pretty impressive!

An updateSix hours later, now midnight in Maryland, and they are down to 20,000 customers left.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dropbox for Sharing

We all have become addicted to our digital devices: PCs, tablets, smart phones...  One of the challenges is sharing information between people or between your own devices. I have a suggestion: Dropbox.  It's free and it's very simple.
  • I have a PC, an iPad and an iPhone.  There isn't a ton of data that I really want available on all three, but the amount seems to be growing.  Documents. Letters. Photos.  All I have to do is drop a file in my Dropbox and it is suddenly available on all three devices. Change it from one and it changes at all three.
  • Sharing things between people can be painful.  How many times have you had to send multiple emails because the photos you wanted to send were "too big"?  Ever had problems saving a photo that came to you in an email? Just put all the things you want to share in a Dropbox folder and then decide who you want to have access to it.  You can also allow others to put things in your shared folder.
I've been using it happily for over a year.  If you go to Dropbox's web site, you can sign up and get 2 GB  of storage for free. However, if you click my referral link here, you get a bonus extra 500 MB and I do too.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween Party 2012

Julie and I got invited to a great Halloween party so we had to put some thought into our costumes. Julie suggested Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. As you can see, she got to be the wolf.
She got her face painted by the woman who does faces at Park City's Sunday Silly Market.  She added ears, a tail, leggings, gloves and a furry little sweater. 
Of course, that left me as the frightened and vulnerable Red. It's amazing how easy it is to find a "Plus Size" costume and size 13 womens shoes out on the Internet. Most people at the party found my hairy cleavage and furry legs a bit disconcerting.
This is Diane, the party's hostess.  She is loading up on the little test tube shots she was handing out to people as they arrived. She throws a GREAT party.
Jim Covaleski was in town on his way home from Seattle.  He managed to quickly find a costume and join in the fun.
From the left, Cindy and Jim Lea and Stephen and Alison Pierce.
Don't you hate it when you show up at a party and find yourself wearing the same dress as another woman?  What are the odds of this happening?  No, it was not planned.
Julie, Jim and the Benson's (Loris as Cat Woman and Bill as Iron Man).  Bill swears the ripped look is conditioning from his mountain biking.
There was a costume contest.  Mario, who I think was the Queen of England, got first and Julie got second.
I took this shot of Julie and gave her some more aggressive wolf eyes.
Halloween is definitely one of the best holidays of the year.  Everyone gets to go a bit wild if they want to.  The most notable trend for this year was pirates, lots of pirates.  I guess this makes sense.  You can't go around dressed as a witch or a wolf any other day of the year, but a pirate?  You can always be a pirate!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Moving from fall to winter

It was fun walking around with my camera, seeing the collection of interesting things that happen when fall and winter collide.  Our neighbors little scooter has probably seen one of it's last runs for the year.  Time to hibernate.
My favorite was a pair of pumpkins that someone left on the hilltop behind our house.  No idea why they were left where almost no one will see them.  It certainly leaves you with the thought of a cold, cold Halloween.
You get some snow, but you still have some warm weather.  This creates an incredible amount of ankle deep slush.
Meanwhile, some areas look like they have just jumped straight to winter.
You can see the slopes have a white coating, but only about 8 inches.  Not even enough to cover the grass, much less the rocks and logs.
Last night the temperatures dropped to 13 and today's high barely got to freezing.  That means that the ski resorts have their first opportunity to make snow, and make it they did. Looking around, it appears that Park City and Deer Valley were each running about 50 snow blowers.
The guard rail near Empire Pass was coated with frosting, carefully applied. You have to double-click on the image to see how smooth it was.
The road to Guardsman Pass never gets plowed and it will close for the winter sometime soon.  Today it was packed with snow and a bit slippery.  As I started up the hill to Big Cottonwood Canyon, I saw a pair of cars blocking the road.  Looks like there was a bit less traction than they were counting on.  I turned around and called it a day, slowly of course.
Powder Mountain, a small ski area an hour north of here, ended up with a three day snowfall total of 42".  That's HUGE for October.  Actually, that's huge any month. Now it looks like we will give fall one last chance.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Jasper helps shovel snow

If you have followed my blog, you have probably seen Jasper jumping for joy while chasing the snow from the snow blower. Another of his happiest moments is sitting below the deck when we shovel snow.  Julie was up above doing the shoveling and I was down with him.
I'm not sure why he likes attacking the snow, but he goes at it with great energy.
We had 6 or 8 inches from this snow, so each shovel load pushed off is substantial.
He jumps up to try and meet the snow half way, chomping as much of it as possible.
And every once in a while, the snow "wins" and kicks his butt. Thankfully he lands in the soft snow. I caught this picture just before he landed with a thud.
Yesterday was a more scenic and restful day.  We only had an inch or two and it was already melting a bit.  For that, he just wanted someone to throw his Frisbee.
As he approaches nine years old, I am still amazed at how snow is such a great motivator and energizer.  When it snows, I can't find a better word than "joyous".

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mom Go Blue!

Julie and I went up to Royal Oak, Michigan to celebrate her mom's 80th birthday and to catch a Michigan football game.  The trip was a lot of fun and everything went splendidly.

Friday was Joan's birthday so we went out for a nice dinner with one of her best friends, Mary Ellen (left) and her significant other Al.
Joan is doing great for 80.  She's still driving everywhere and zips around with an energy level that would be admired in most 50 year olds. The only downside is that she appears to be shrinking, or Julie is growing and I hadn't noticed that.
21 years of marriage and still in love.
Saturday brought the Michigan - Michigan State football game.  As always, we joined Julie's cousin Kathleen and her husband Bill.  It threatened to rain all day, but never leaked a drop.  Below you can see the spread Kathleen prepared.  As best I can tell, it could have supported a large number of the 113,000 fans in attendance.
Michigan manages to pack the fans in every game, but the place was rocking for a big rivalry game with no obvious favorite.
We have seen some unbelievably exciting games over the years.  This one wasn't pretty, but it was an adrenaline rush.  Michigan marched down the field and kicked a field goal with 5 seconds left to win by 2.  I don't think they would normally rush the field after beating a 5-2 unranked opponent, but it turns out that this was Michigan's 900th football victory.
On Sunday we went out to a great little restaurant with Julie's Uncle Tom and Aunt Marie.  Although we have a lot of great restaurants in Park City, I would love to see one of these open near us.  They have both savory and sweet crepes and they are to die for!
We left Michigan on Monday. It was sunny and 70+ degrees.  The weather for the next three days was supposed to be in the mid-70s.  Back in Park City, here is what we have.  It is nice to think about skiing, but I could use some Indian Summer.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Choosing a new DSLR

You may have read my blog article about Superzoom cameras and my recommendation of the FZ200 from Panasonic.  While these are great cameras, there are a lot of people who want the power and control of a Digital SLR.

First, do you go with Nikon or Canon?  I am a happy Nikon user but the truth is, they are about equal.  Once you pick one and buy some lenses, that generally drives your upgrades for many years to come because the lenses are not interchangeable. I will get around to making a set of Canon recommendations, but let's start with a Nikon system. Remember, there are lots of alternatives and an equal number of opinions from "experts". Here is my opinion:

First, the camera body.  Right now Nikon is selling the following DSLR bodies: D3200, D5100, D7000, D300s, D600, D800 and D4.  They range in price from $500 to $6,000.  If you are looking for a good DSLR  without overdoing it, I would go with the D7000.  Why?  The D3200 and D5100 are nice cameras, but they are missing a number of features that make a bigger camera worthwhile.  If you don't care about those features, I would suggest saving money, weight and complexity and go with a Superzoom.  The D7000 runs around $1000 for the body, about $700 less than the next model up, the D300s.  I love my D300 but it is built with 4 year old technology and desperately needs to be updated by Nikon. The other models are more expensive and would be hard for a beginner to justify unless you just won the lottery and simply don't care.

For lenses, you want to be able to cover a wide angle view through a fairly long zoom.  To grab that market, the lens manufacturers have come out with lenses that cover an amazingly broad range. Nikon has an 18-200 and even an 18-300 lens.  While it is nice to have one lens that does everything for you, these lenses sacrifice quality and sharpness, which is one of the big reasons you are buying a DSLR.  I suggest finding a pair of lenses that covers most or all of your needs, at least as you get going.
  • Nikon 18-105 zoom.  This is one of Nikon's kit lenses, which means you can buy it with the body and save some money.  This is the lens you will probably use 80% of the time.  Portraits.  Parties. Landscapes.
  • Nikon 55-300 zoom.  This gives you the ability to zoom in tight on things that are further away.  Make sure you get the VR version of this lens (see link below).  Nikon currently sells three different 55-300 zooms. Argh!
Many people get the body and lenses but forget about all the things required to use the camera and protect it. My recommended shopping list:
Some optional stuff
Let me know if you have questions or feedback.  I would love to keep updating this list as better things become available.

The Apple Ipad Mini

Been thinking about a new tablet computer?  Waiting for Apple's new iPad Mini announcement to take a look?  Don't even bother.  Less features and functions than the "real" iPad.  No innovation whatsoever.  And the $250 expected price?  Nope.  It starts at $329 or $459 if you want cellular connectivity. 

I would seriously consider either Amazon's Kindle Fire HD or Google's Nexus 7 if you want a smaller tablet.

As a current iPad owner, I think today's announcement was a real dud.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My mom, a new photography pro

My mom has been doing a good bit of photography over the past few years. Seems to run in the family. She recently submitted two photos to a local exhibit and both were accepted.  One was a sunrise taken out here in Utah's Antelope Island. The other is the newborn fawn you see below.  Two for two is very impressive!
 At the exhibit, someone bought this framed photo, taking mom from amateur photographer status to pro retailer photographer.  Way to go mom!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

April Mountain Visions

I have slowly been taking my hobby of photography and moving towards creating an interesting business.  A year or so ago, I picked a name for my business and grabbed the Internet domain.  Now I have taken the first step and put together a web site with some of my better photos.  Lot work to be done, but please stop by and take a look.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Choosing a new camera? Steve's recommendation

There are so many cameras available today: compacts, superzooms, and SLRs, ranging from under $100 to over $6000.  The choices are complicated because it is so difficult to sort through all the marketing hype, with every camera company making up different terms for the same functions.  I am writing a fairly complete article to help people decide which camera is best for them but in researching the newest cameras, I came across one I just had to share.

I know a lot of us have bought compacts that easily fit in your pocket. These were great, but they are being replaced with the rapidly improving cameras on cell phones.  Personally, I don't see any reason to carry both.

The question is what to get for more serious photo opportunities. You're going on a vacation.  Your kid is playing soccer or acting in a play. You scored tickets to a big sporting event.  In these cases, you want something that can:
  • Work well in low light
  • Zoom in on distant subjects and still give a clean picture
  • Take a rapid series of photos
  • Record movies in HD
To accomplish this, some people go buy an entry level Digital SLR. They quickly learn that these cameras, with their requisite lenses, are big, heavy and expensive.  When I travel, more than half my carry-on baggage is always camera gear.

A possible solution:  the Superzoom.  Canon, Sony, Panasonic, and Nikon all make decent cameras in this category, but I was just blown away by Panasonic's newest: the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200. It does everything well in a nice, tight package.  Some people will get caught up in the fact that it "only" does 12M pixels. The mega-pixel war is one of the biggest mistakes of "more = better" that I have seen.  The DSLR I have been using for the past few years (Nikon D300s) is a 12MP camera and is completely sufficient for printing pictures up to 18 inches.

I won't duplicate all the marketing detail, but here are the things I care most about:
  • 24x optical zoom
  • f/2.8 lens throughout the entire zoom range.  This is extremely unusual and very valuable for both low light (school play) and portraits (soft, faded background)
  • Up to 12 frames per second
  • Shoots both RAW and JPG format pictures.  RAW is what advanced photographers use to capture more color depth and detail from each photo.This is normally only found on DSLRs.
  • Excellent movie capabilites
At the time I am writing this, it costs $550.  Not your cheap $150 compact, but a great deal compared to an expensive DSLR and lenses.

You can read the details about the FZ200 (and even order it) from here.

I you want to compare some of the better competitors, you can check out the  Canon PowerShot SX50 and the Sony DSC-HX200V. I think the Panasonic is the hands down winner, with the Sony in second place.

I like to pass along good solutions when I find them. Feel free to post questions if you have them.