Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Interagency Avalanche Response Training

As a member of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group I participated in an Interagency Avalanche Training event in Hatcher Pass this weekend.  The training was two full days the first of which was spent refreshing skills and the second was spent responding to mock scenarios.  A lot of work went into putting on a this event and I am glad I was able to participate.  There were about 75 people involved each day with representation from AMRG, Nordic Ski Patrol, MATSAR, Alaska State Parks, and others.  Here is a link to a video from the training.

Sunrise on Saturday morning

Recent nearby avalanches

Beautiful sunny weather

Mock scenario zones

Team members ready to respond

A quick trip to the Cross cabin

Here are some photos from a quick trip to the Cross family cabin.  Molly and I borrowed a snowmachine from Dad and were joined by our friends Marta and Jerry.  The temperatures were right around freezing and the snow off trail was too wet and heavy to travel easily on.  We stayed at the cabin just a few hours, but long enough to enjoy the peace and quite and sit around a warm fire.  This spring we plan to make the roof repairs and have the place back in working order.

Jerry's "Muffpot" in which he warmed his lunch

Fuel trouble on the trail

Snowshoeing around the lake

The cabin and Back Lake

Taking a break on the trail

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sunrise Photo and Camera Comparisons

Remember when I talked about trying to take photos of the same sunset (or sunrise!) on different camera settings? If you have any Facebook friends in the Anchorage area, you probably already know that we had a particularly lovely sunrise yesterday morning (or at least it seemed that way, can't say I've seen a proper sunrise in a while - between all the stormy weather and the fact that my office is on the north side of the building). But, I had the chance to do some experimenting this morning from home! Except I used two cameras on auto rather than the same camera on different settings. And I didn't realize I was doing an experiment at the time - I just picked the DSLR camera because I could, and let's face it, it's also the best, and I used my iPhone 5 because it's the only camera I own from which I can post photos directly to Facebook. Because what else matters, really?

I didn't actually post directly to Facebook from my phone because I though it was such a lovely scene that it deserved the justice of 12 megapixels (hahahaha - I know, you're thinking "my Windows phone has more megapixels than that...like 4 times more!" Whatever, it's the optics and the lens (and the photographer) that matter more than the megapixels once you get to a certain threshold, or at least that's what I'll keep telling myself).

So here they are, stitched and edited in Windows Live Photo Gallery (I know, I know, you're laughing again,  I don't have Photoshop, but it just goes to show, there are inexpensive ways to waste spend time on photography). I tried to edit these so they looked the closest to what the colors looked like in real life. But that's trick business because do you remember it a certain way because that's how it was or because that's how it's now burned into your memory from the photos?

Here is the best photo with the DSLR (four images stitched together, no editing on the colors/exposure):

Here is the same image with "auto adjust" in my fancy program (I tend to think this one was the closest to reality):

This one is my iPhone panorama with no editing (colors are much warmer than the DSLR photos):

Here is the iPhone image with auto adjust in Windows again:

And since that one seemed a little too blue, I manually adjusted the colors, exposure, and shadows and came up with what I thought was closer to the scene in real life:

I still think the closest likeness is probably the DSLR image with auto adjust. But like I said, now I'm not so sure what it looked like in real life. And, colors and lighting change so quickly during a sunrise and sunset that each photo won't necessarily look like the ones before and after. What do you think?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Favorite Photos from 2013

Caribou in Denali National Park
My friend Patrick just blogged about his favorite photos from 2013 and it inspired me to look back at my year in photos too. Unsurprisingly, many of my favorites are from my trip to Denali National Park in September.

Like Patrick, I strive to focus on the composition of my photos and edit with the goal of presenting the colors as they were in reality when I took the photo. I'm not big on over-saturated photos where the colors are unrealistic.  I like to capture nature the way I viewed it. However, I do rely on 'tweaking' the colors in a lot of my images, especially sunset or cloudy day photos. Ever tried taking a sunset photo with a point-and-shoot camera on auto mode and then on sunset mode? The colors turn out completely different! I've found reality seems to be somewhere in the middle. That's what I try to get to when I adjust the colors in my images.

These are my favorite landscapes I took in 2013. All were taken with my DSLR (various lenses) except the Mile High Pass photo which was taken with our point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix.

Denali in the morning light

Mile High Pass in Eagle River

Birch in Denali in morning light
And here are my favorite people photos from 2013. The lighting isn't great in all of these, but it's the expressions on the little ones that make these worth looking at.

Ryan, Max, and Adam in San Francisco
Baby L - 5 months old
Baby L - 6 weeks old
Baby G - 13 months old

Sunday, January 12, 2014

New Carpet

With our new carpet finally installed upstairs, we can once again unpack - oh the joy! If we never move again I will be very happy.

The new carpet looks and feels great, even though we went with the cheapest pad available and Lowes' stock carpet. In our last house we bought a nice pad and higher-end carpet for the bedrooms, but I thought it was total overkill. It was so squishy and soft I could have slept right on the floor. But I don't sleep on the floor; I have a bed. I knew I'd be perfectly happy with the not-so-squishy pad this time (and I am). The old carpet was a little worn out so this stuff feels a million times better and best of all, it's cat-dander-free!

We priced carpet at two places and at both they tried to convince us to buy a nice pad with a water/stain resistant coating. I know that sounds like a good idea, but we never eat or drink (anything except water) in our bedrooms and we don't have pets, so why would we need stain resistant flooring??

I know I'll be happy when all our stuff is unpacked (again...), but I did really like the feel of the upstairs when all the rooms were empty - SO MUCH SPACE, so little clutter. It's amazing how much stuff you can jam into one washer and dryer closet (and two bathrooms). Now the fun of putting it all back begins!

Friday, January 10, 2014

New Flooring

One of the reasons we decided to buy this condo (as opposed to some other homes we viewed) was because we thought it was time for a break from home improvement projects. They can be frustrating expensive divorce-material fun and all, but we wanted to spend our free time doing other things (fun things for Ryan, dissertation-writing for me). Built in 2005, this place is still in very nice shape and wouldn't require much upkeep. Unfortunately I overlooked one little thing: the previous residents had cats. And I'm allergic.

After five months of sniffles and approximately 5,647 boxes of tissues, I decided that unless I wanted to spend our entire tenure in this condo feeling yucky (and risking developing asthma), the carpet had to go.

Never really having been a fan of [off] white carpet in a dining area, I was all to happy to replace the living/dining area carpet with laminate flooring. In the bedrooms we're having new carpet put in that's almost identical to what was there (economy won-out over any exciting colors).

Before we left on our trip we ripped up the carpet and Ryan, his dad, and my brother installed the new laminate downstairs. With all that help it only took two days to install (the trim still isn't back in place, but that detail doesn't keep us from using most of our space). The new flooring is good stuff and I'm really happy with it.

In the few days since we got back from our trip I have felt so much better - I can already tell most of the cat dander is gone. I can now remember what it was like before I had to blow my nose every two minutes. We've also washed the walls in the bedrooms just for good measure and are having the heating vents cleaned next week. I look forward to many years of waking up able to breath through my nose!

We just have to get through this last furniture/stuff shuffle when the carpet installers get here at the unholy hour of 7:00 tomorrow morning (a Saturday!). Today I learned just how much stuff will fit into our washer/dryer closet: