I’ve posted a few times about my experience with the drag racing at Pacific Raceway. One of the things that I particularly was fascinated by was the surface of the strip itself. I mentioned before the machines that they used for conditioning this surface to ensure that there was maximum traction between the tires and ground. Periodically, the staff would come on to the track to take samples and measurements to understand exactly how it was performing. What photos don’t show you, but video can, is just how anything on the surface would stick. Only when you heard people walking along the track could you get the sound of their shoes sticking to the ground. Here is a video to explain what I mean.
We came upon a few filming crews while we were in the Maasai Mara. There were professional photographers but more of the video teams. National Geographic had a crew out working and there were others filming too. You would sometimes find vehicles that were scouting crews for the filming. The thing I found funny was that they often had signs saying that they were filming crews and not to follow them. I might never have paid attention to them until I knew that they were filming crews and might well have good intel about where animals were!
Modified vehicles which allow the camera operator to sit outside the vehicle and shoot looked like just the sort of thing I would like to have. They weren’t always in use, though. I did see one operator sitting inside the vehicle with his feet up while checking stuff on his phone. Looking at the very pricey lenses attached to the camera rigs was almost as fun as looking at the animals. Nat Geo also had a vehicle with a gimbal mount out on the front of the vehicle. It would have been fun to see that in use!
One thing that occurred to me as I watched these teams at work was the volume of material that they would collect that would be culled down to make a TV show. Sure, this would be a vast amount of data to store and sort but how different this must be from the days of wet film. Those crews shooting things like the early Big Cat Diaries must have been carrying a ton of stock and then had to manage all of it through processing and cataloging. That must have been a very time consuming and expensive proposition.
Nice evenings during the summer mean balloon flights over Woodinville and the surrounding area. I was driving home one evening and, as I came up I-405, I could see a balloon that looked like it might be close to home. Rather than turn towards the house, I headed for one of the nearby fields that has been a landing zone for balloons before (and that have made it into posts on here). When I got there, the balloon was close but was tracking slightly west of the field so no way it was going to make it in. It was heading towards the town so I decided to drive towards the south side of the town to see where it might end up.
I was coming around the south side on the road that skirts the town and the traffic had come to a halt. This was because everyone was watching the balloon low overhead. I actually took a shot through the sunroof of the car as it came low over me. I looped around the roundabout but didn’t take the south exit because the crew seemed to be heading that way and I didn’t need to crowd things.
I went around to the next road and looked back across the fields as the balloon continued on its way. It wasn’t touching down so I guess the area was not ideal. I figured I might head a little further south and see if it came even further. I took the road to Redmond and pulled off at one of the field entrances. Sure enough, they were still drifting south but looked like they might finally be getting close to landing. I didn’t shoot much video, but I did get a little to emphasize the way the balloon was drifting through the trees. As I watched it, the ground crew pulled up and started honking at me. They were incredibly rude. As soon as I saw them arrive, I was getting out of the way. Not my fault that they were struggling to catch their balloon, but they behaved like everyone should just get out of their way. I did anyway but, if you are reading this balloon crew, don’t be assholes to bystanders if you are struggling to recover your balloon and its passengers.
I was listening to an episode of The Infinite Monkey Cage that was discussing wasps versus bees. As part of the conversation, one of the contributors mentioned that wasps like sweet things early in the season when they are feeding their young but, later in the year, they are only feeding themselves and they want protein (or the other way around if I have remembered incorrectly). I didn’t know anything about this before but then, shortly afterwards, we were sitting out on the deck after dinner and a wasp landed on a plate and then flew off with a chunk of chicken. This chunk was almost as big as it was.
A week later, we were back out on the deck and, with dinner done, a wasp came back to check out the leftovers. This time I was ready with my phone. Sure enough, it landed on my plate, checked out a piece of corn and then homed in on some chicken. A few bites later, it had extracted its meal and got airborne and away. I had my video proof, so I was happy. It came back for a second piece a little while later, so I guess it was storing food for later.
Once Russia went to war with Ukraine, the ability of Russian cargo operators to continue their US business went away. Volga Dnepr had been providing a bunch of service for Boeing operations at Everett bringing in outsize airframe parts. With them out of the picture, Boeing had to find an alternative. Antonov Design Bureau designed the AN-124 originally and it has an in house airline, Antonov Airlines. They seem to have picked up a bunch of work that Volga Dnepr previously had. Despite the enthusiasm for various people calling them Russians, they are definitely Ukrainian!
They have been in and out of Paine Field pretty frequently over the last few months. I have got shots of them at different times with the aircraft carrying various messages about cities in Ukraine. Having got shots at different times, I also started shooting some video. Here are some of the shots along with a video of one of the departures.
Nancy and I were walking along the shore on Lopez Island one Sunday on a trail alongside some marshy areas. We were discussing whether the water was connected to the sea all of the time or only at high tide when I noticed something moving in the shallow water. When I looked closer, I realized that, not only was it a crab, but that there were tons of them. The water was full of them, and they were pretty aggravated.
It didn’t seem to matter what size they were; they were all picking fights with each other. Some of these were brief hit and run type efforts but others seemed to be engaged in battles that were going on for a while. Most were in the water but occasionally they would come out onto the land. One walked right up to my shoe. Spaces under rocks or wood seemed like prime spots with smaller crabs trying to get under there while the larger inhabitants fended them off. It was hilarious to watch once you could see that they were there. I could have spent ages watching them but that wasn’t the purpose of visiting the island, so I left them to their battles.
At the end of my recent visit to Pittsburgh, I wrapped up my meetings and had lunch prior to heading to the airport. I did have about 90 minutes spare and was able to slot in a visit that I had thought about before going but that had slipped my mind for much of the visit when I was tied up with work stuff. This was to check out one of the incline railways that Pittsburgh has. Originally, there were twenty of these funicular railways on the hills surrounding Pittsburgh but now just two remain.
I chose to try the Duquesne Incline. My Uber driver told me that this was the better one as the view from the top covered the downtown better, but I won’t claim this was an informed choice on my part. However, I will take being lucky any time. The incline was built in the late 1800s to get workers from the industrial lands along the rivers to their homes up on the hills overlooking the city. There are two cars on individual tracks (not all funiculars are configured this way) with a cable connecting them after passing through the equipment room at the top of the hill. The weight of the cars counterbalances to a reasonable extent so the power required is only what is necessary to overcome any weight differential and the friction of the system.
At the top of the hill, you can walk down under the station to see the machinery at work. The sheaves reminded me of a visit many years ago to the Cable Car Barn in San Francisco. This is on a smaller scale, of course. Watching the cars heading up and down the grade was pretty cool and the viewing deck at the top provided a great view across the city. This is all part of the Pittsburgh transit system so you can use the Incline as a connection to your bus journey if you want. If you find yourself in Pittsburgh and have a little time, do check out either the Duquesne Incline or the Monongahela Incline. They are quite something.
While the CAF Reliant was refueling at Arlington, the unmistakable sound of a Huey could be made out. Snohomish County operates a Huey so my initial thought was this might be it. As it flew towards us, I realized it was one of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources Hueys that are used for firefighting operations. It flew low over the field and passed where we were. Then I got a lot more interested as it turned towards us. It was coming in for fuel and I was by the fuel tanks!
They turned in nice and close to us and I was able to get a bunch of shots. After shutting down, I chatted to some of the team and they explained they were heading north to relieve another helicopter that was up at a local firefighting base. With them preparing to depart, I figured I would try and get some video along with stills. I thought I had set up one camera on the ground to get the take off sequence but it turns out I had not hit the right button sequence and I ended up missing the majority of the departure. Oh well. I did still get to shoot the stills I was after.
As we were walking through Brandon Park, we saw this gull on the grass by the path. I don’t know for sure what it was up to, but I wondered whether its steps were designed to sound like rain falling to worms beneath the surface to encourage them to come up and then get eaten. Maybe it is something else but, whatever it is, it was pretty funny to watch. Needless to say, I thought it was worth getting some video.
I did a little filming on a bike ride with an old GoPro Hero 5 of mine. The current generation of action cameras has all sorts of clever tech built in which can deal with rotation of the camera and stabilizing the image. The Hero 5 doesn’t have any of that and I ended up spending a lot of time stabilizing the images in post processing to try and get something usable out of it. I was surprised how badly it came out and started thinking about an upgrade to incorporate all of the newer capabilities. It was at this point that I got a little silly. I had seen videos before about the Insta360 cameras and had found them intriguing but not so much that I wanted to get one. Now I was looking for a new camera, the capabilities that they have seemed like it could be a good step forward.
For those that haven’t seen one, the Insta360 in its current X3 form has two cameras on opposite sides of the body with fisheye lenses with over 180 degrees of coverage. The sensors are 5.7K resolution and the camera can stitch the two outputs together to give spherical coverage. It also has a stick on which you can mount it which the camera will recognize the location of and take both images to effectively remove the stick from the video. With the high resolution of the original files, you can then use their software – either on your phone or using the desktop app – to pan and zoom around the original files and generate video output of whatever you want.
What this means is that you don’t have to frame a shot when you are shooting. The only thing you have to do is have the camera in the right place. You can worry about where it is pointing later on which is great when you are already doing something else. The removal of the stick is very impressive, only slightly undermined but the fact your hand that is holding it now looks a little odd. Also, if the shadow of the stick is in shot, the software doesn’t know to do anything about that! (As an aside, there is a mode where you only shoot with one side like a normal action camera if you want.)
What is the downside to all of this? Big files! You are shooting a lot of data on two cameras simultaneously so you can fill up cards fast. You do also have to then review each clip and pick your angles for the shots, but you would have had to do that beforehand otherwise so no great loss. Other than that, not a lot to complain about. I have tried it on a few occasions so far. The length of the stick makes it seem like you have a drone flying above you if you put it up there. A cool result. I took it out on a bike ride to see how things came out and I have a short video below that shows you the result. No great cinematography here but an introduction to what can be done. Remember that each shot is only moving the camera around and the panning and zooming is all done back at home. Amazing tech!