settled in colorado / new lens

Still photos from last fall. We arrived in Colorado, where my mother in law lives, and stayed there for the night; an added benefit of going there is we were able to pod up with her and Sophie got to spend some time with her mom. The next day, we moved into the empty house we were watching, and met the dog and cat we were taking care of. The house was nice; spacious, big yard, nice kitchen. There was an amount of smoke, but the park right next to the house was usually tolerable, and really quite nice in terms of a big open space to have easy access to.

I got a new lens this week, the Mitakon 50mm f/0.95. It’s a superspeed lens that has a very large aperture, allowing a lot of light in. I think it’s probably on the level of the first 1.0 noctilux in terms of bokeh and sharpness (having shot not at all with the leica lens, and not much with this one yet). It took me several hours over the last few days to get the lens calibrated; there’s an adjustment for the rangefinder coupling that’s done with shims, and there’s also a somewhat fiddly adjustment to get it to go to infinity; after a lot of messing around, it’s finally dialed in. I might do a video about the adjustment, as much to record it for myself as for, like, the rest of the world. I’m definitely going to do some more thorough review of the lens, because it’s new and shiny and I’ll definitely have opinions after a month with it.

this week has been long and tiring. I need a three day weekend. But no. The work will continue until morale improves.

I don’t know what was said in the moment before this photo was taken, but it’s priceless.

Posted on 2021-03-26 08:28:02Z GMT

over the sierras, past the great basin, into more smoke

So, mid September, the opportunity fell in our laps to get out of the Bay for a bit, just when it was looking like the smoke was going to hang around for another month at least. Looking back, we were absurdly cautious. We drove, so no airports; food from drive throughs wherever possible, so no sharing air; we were house and dog sitting for some friends who were taking a rafting trip down the colorado for a month, so we had a place all to ourselves. I talked about the trip a bit before but these are all new photos at least on the blog.

Even with all that, the trip out was something else. I don’t know what your memories of last fall were, but mine will be of the whole western united states on fire. Not a few brush fires here and there; columns of smoke that could be seen hundreds of miles away. Pyrocumulus clouds bursting with drama. Air filters inside, and KN95 masks to walk the dog. Real end times feelings.

The route we took was out I-80, through Salt Lake. Because of the time of day we always leave, we always get to the Bonneville salt flats at night, and don’t get to see much of them. This trip, on the way back, we timed it so we got there at midday. It was early November, but there will be salt flat pictures up here eventually. I just have to go and find them.

There are 10 more pictures but I don’t think I have any more words tonight. Enjoy.

Posted on 2021-03-23 06:56:56Z GMT

Tahoe, last september

Last fall, in the middle of the smoky season, (which was simultaneously 6 months and three lifetimes ago), we had a long weekend around my birthday and took a road trip to Tahoe. This wasn’t a normal road trip with, like, roadside stops for ice cream and the worlds largest ball of string; this was strictly drive to an AirBnB with a key code and stay there; we made a grocery run once there, and sat on a rather nice deck for most of the trip. There was also some smoke there, which wasn’t great, but at least there was different things, thinly visible behind everything.

I am woefully behind on posting, I guess? The timeliness of the posts is totally in my own head, though, and not a product of an actual need to get the photos out. No reason to rush, or to need to be timely. It’s my web site, and I’ll do what I want.

A job listing popped up recently, for a staff photographer at the Chronicle. It’d be a dream job for me, but of course, it’s the sort of thing you’re supposed to work up to, after time at a smaller daily, or working as a stringer. I’ve done none of that, having refused to take a really shitty work for hire contract almost 15 years ago, and failed subsequently to find steady photo work after the 2008 financial crisis, I landed on a backup plan to the backup plan, which turned out to be pretty OK money wise but not super fulfilling otherwise. Hence the blog, the side projects, everything. I might apply, even though my qualifications are thin; it’d be good for me.

Probably nothing will happen, and I’ll end up doing something completely unexpected in 6 months. We’ll see. At least the top post on here isn’t a pepper grinder any more.

Posted on 2021-03-22 01:15:55Z GMT

I made a pepper grinder

So, as some of my longtime friends know, I’m hard on my personal effects, be they the string of watches I wear, the cameras I carry, my bikes, my tools, my phone, laptops, everything. This extends to the kitchen, where the average life of a glass is about a year. Pots and pans tend to be a little banged up, before I switched to aeropress I was always needing a new glass carafe for my french press coffee. Damn I miss french press sometimes. Anyway.

I’ve also been through a number of pepper grinders, the last of which was both really nice (consistent, ground pepper quickly, needed no batteries) and not so nice (plastic) and broke after only a few months. I took it apart and looked at it, and saw that I could replace all the plastic parts with aluminum, quickly mocked up a design in my head, and bought some material to turn the parts on the lathe. I also did a repair on the plastic, to keep us in fresh ground pepper in the mean time.

Fast forward a month. I’ve got all the tooling I think I need, and I’m in the shower, thinking through the kinda complex design I came up with initially. It had two flanges, a main body, and a cap, and I didn’t know exactly how the shaft that connected the burrs to the top would connect. The flanges would have required cutting a bunch of internal and external threads, and just a lot more work in general. And then, there in the shower, I realize: I can just weld a little threaded rod to the end of the shaft, and then not need all the complicated extra flanges; the cap could just spin on the main body and be held in place with nuts above and below.

So, even if you can’t understand my description, you can kinda see that the second one is a lot simpler. It was simple enough I was confident I could make it. That same day, I started cutting material. I cut the main body out, drilling and then boring out to 1.5” about half way down my work piece. I also cut the little shoulder on the top that the cap rides on. Then, I parted off at the right length, flipped the part with a soda can shim over the finished surface, and started boring the bottom.

Innuendo aside, it was a pretty straightforward process. I had to cut a succession of steps, one to hold the outside of the steel burrs I had, and one to hold the little adjuster bar that was from the bottom of the old mill. In the middle of all this, I ordered a better boring bar from littlemachineshop.com (which I love, because they always have good quality import tools), which made the second side and the cap a lot easier.

Then, a minor disaster: I wanted to hurry up and finish, so I was rushing through cutting the cap out. Got the initial work done, but my parting blade wasn’t cooperating, so I decided to cut it with my band saw and then face it. My parting is pretty bad, I usually have to face the parts after anyway. Facing means making a cut perpendicular to the axis of rotation, on the end of the spinning part, often to clean up a cut made some other way.

So I take it out of the lathe, put it in the vice, and start cutting it with the saw. The band saw is balky and doesn’t like the 2” round. Rushing, not getting things in position, etc. Also, at this point, it’s midnight, so I’m tired and making dumb mistakes. The blade pops out, I put it back in, keep sawing. finally, the part comes off.

I take it back over to the lathe and start to cut. It’s really rough; almost immediately, the part snags, and because I’m only holding the thin side, it’s ripped out of the jaws, and ends up in the chip tray (the metal that comes off from machining operations is called chips; the chip tray collects some of them; much of machining is dealing with chips). The part is bent, ruined. I give up for the night.

The next day, on lunch, I start cutting on a new lid. I have just enough material, and at least the drilling parts of the work only take maybe 20 minutes. That evening, I get the boring and parting done, flip it, carefully true it up, and face it off without incident.

Then, finally, I was ready to assemble it. I was a little surprised that it went together on the first try. Everything fit; all my measurements had been within tolerance, and after a quick washing, I loaded it up with pepper. Works great, doubles as a bludgeon. Very tough.

The next day (today, the day I’m writing this, I looked at the simple nut on the top, and decided it would be better if it were a bigger sort of knob (the technical term is “thumb nut”), that could be operated without tools. So I went back down to the lathe and made one in about 25 miuntes. And that’s the grinder we have now. Hopefully I won’t break this one, but if I do, I can fix it.

Posted on 2021-03-13 21:06:12Z GMT

just a walk around the block

So, I was having a cigar, screwing around on twitter, and I tweeted:

And well, I was sitting there and I realized that there was nothing stopping me from going on a little walk right then and there, so I did. Grabbed my camera and went on a little stroll. My left ankle and knee complained most of the way, but overall I’m really glad I went somewhere and did something. Vaccination and a bit more personal freedom and leeway can’t come soon enough.

In other news, I launched the bag website recently, to almost no fanfare at all. I don’t really know what to do to drum up customers… not my area really. I should talk to other people that make niche goods maybe.

Anyway. There are a lot of RVs parked in the hood now. I hope they’re OK, whoever might be living in them. Going to push publish and go to sleep.

Posted on 2021-02-21 10:36:52Z GMT