Rain forevermore

Good thing my house is set up for indoor days right now and still kind of recovering.  By the end of this storm I should be good to go again.  I’m not missing anything, even skiing, by staying home this week.  I just hope my friend’s baby isn’t born in this, Seattle has had more snow than ever and I don’t know if I can get up there in it?  I was planning on driving, Portland looks flooded.

I’ve been making this “Like Water for Chocolate” quilt for the baby.  All my womanly knowledge, including a ton of patience while I seam rip mistakes.  Making these is the only old lady thing I really do, to me they’re like a big puzzle or math problem to figure out.  It helps me concentrate, the second I make a mistake I stop.  Not great for my back, I can only sit in a chair an hour a day at most.

One thing I need to do is get my body ready for a baby schedule.  When I was pregnant, my body naturally adjusted to my boys eating & sleeping schedule.  Right now my body schedule is leisurely waking up to rain.  It’s kind of in hibernation mode 🙂  I don’t want to go up to Seattle to be a guest, I want to be Mary Poppins!!  Haha.

In other artistry endeavors, I donated a panorama photo I did with my drone to Berkeley Yacht Club (BYC).  It turned out really well on canvas, I figured it should go there because I got the whole marina.  It was kind of an accident, I was showing someone else how to use their new drone and did a few things with mine.  I stitched it together in Lightroom, down to the ripples.

29352237_10214447373285604_6892938181404100388_o

There was someone at BYC saying I should sell them, at first I was flattered.  I did the unfortunate mistake of saying how much the print cost me – it was a Xmas special for $30.  The woman looked really excited for me and said I could sell them for $40!!  I know she meant well, it’s just that if I sold 5 of them my profit would be around $10…maybe.  Is that worth the price of poker??  Sadly, no.

I’m beginning to see more & more that there’s a reason it’s called a “starving artist.”  You have to have a lot of time to get the shots, or sew, then there’s the matter of actually selling it.  When my boys went off to college I was looking up seamstress salaries, starting & ending was $20k.  I might make more with a tin can at the freeway exit?  Tax free.

I did just post something about my drone company (GrandView Services) on LinkedIn and got some hits from someone who works at Facebook, 3DR, Ford.  One of my big clients was Ford GoBike, it’s all swallowed into Cal Engineering & Geology now and really starting to catch on.  For years I was doing it by myself, but to take it to the next level we hired someone.  There’s some saying about innovators burning out, then the next person takes it & runs with it.  That would be me, I started it from absolute scratch and now that it’s a press of a button and catching on, I’m out.

Maybe I’ll go back to it?  I was just showing someone some stuff I did years ago, turns out he does commercials in this area and had outdated info on drones.  The landslide job sites are hard for me…one, no bathrooms.  Another is no cell coverage and since they’re my drones I’m not quick to fly it 10′ off the ground and have it crash or lose it.  There’s a difference between flying your own drone and using the company drone.  I read this saying about chartering that was pretty funny, “Fly it like you stole it.”

Not sure if I connected the dots on this blog post?  That’s OK, that’s the way my fuzzy brain works.

 

Camera Ready

The problem with getting older and being a half-ass photographer is that to keep up you have to upgrade your equipment every few years.  I upgraded a few months ago to a Sony a7ii with a 28-70mm lens.  It was a package deal from Mike’s camera last November, it’s replacing a Sony Nex5 I’ve been using for the past 5 or so years.  I bought both cameras from Mike’s, there are a lot of advantages to still buying from a camera store – one is the classes and ongoing support for the camera.

I bought a nice camera for my son once from Best Buy as a graduation present, the guy practically spit into the lens to clean it as we watched in horror.

Last night I went to a Sony seminar at Mike’s to learn a little more about the camera.  I’m very familiar with cameras, not above going to find out what new features I might be missing and a few tips.  One of them being that I’ve been cleaning the sensors wrong, I’ve been laying the camera down flat and blowing into it so the dust can just go right back in.  It’s little tips like that I go for.  I’ve taken many photography classes, it’s amazing how much I forget and how obsolete my college classes are.

IMG_2357
Darkroom class 1997??

My first camera was a Pentax K-1000 my parents gave me for my 16th birthday in 1978 (photos above are from Manhattan Beach, 1978).  Sadly, between my boys that camera has been lost 😦  I used that camera up until my youngest was crawling around in 1998, then I switched to my first digital camera that was about $1,000 with 500k of memory.  You had to anticipate the shot, once you held down the shutter it was almost a minute before the camera actually took the picture.  By that time my boys were on swim team,  I switched the slide shows to all digital for swim team and Junior League those years.  I still have pictures of every kid in Walnut Creek, now 25 year olds.  I remember someone saying they thought digital would never catch on, there’s always a naysayer.  I was all over it!

This only shows pics, the songs were copyrighted:

Then I got an ill-fated job with the Contra Costa Times as a contracted out photographer and bought a Minolta something or other.  Honestly, I didn’t do much research on it, I took the advice from a guy at our office who is really into cameras.  I had to cancel a job at 5am due to spending the night in the emergency room with my husband, who severed something in his knee the night before playing volleyball.  It was a 3 day shoot, luckily I was not the main photographer, but I had a babysitter lined up all weekend for it.  Not surprisingly, I never got a call back for work again.  I also quit Junior League, he was down for months with surgery and couldn’t drive.

IMG_2358

Quitting Junior League was interesting, not sure if they knew why I had to quit but not one person called to see if I needed help or if we were OK? I petitioned to become a sustainer, that was a no.  When I bought my Sony Nex5 I was in that class at Mike’s camera coincidentally with a woman who was a big sustainer, she recognized my name.  She thanked me that night on upgrading JL to all digital, gave me all the credit for making them cutting edge in technology at that time.  That was nice, especially because the end seemed so, “Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.”

Then came the iPhone cameras which gave photography a whole new twist, making virtually everyone a photographer.  Somewhere in that time we got a Cannon Rebel digital, replacing a film Cannon my husband had.  When the cameras on the iPhones got decent, you have a camera with you at all times.  I have no problem whipping out my iPhone for pictures, it’s so convenient.  People who know nothing about photography starting getting awesome shots, those selfies look better than posed shots a lot of times.  With FB and Instagram photography blew up (good & bad, kind of killed writing & photography for a living in general).

Below is Golden Gate with my iPhone, Hawaii sunset w/ Sony Nex5 & looking out from Manhattan Beach Pier Marine lab with the new Sony:

I still like to have a nice camera though, and a drone for fun.  I was using the drones for work before we hired two 25 year olds to replace me.  Now I use it for fun, it’s a whole new world in photography and technology that’s fun for me.

10980177_10205439768221107_7541428873786583819_o
3D with images on the left to practice AutoDesk Recap 360, a few hundred images.

This one is with the drone, about 800 pictures I did years ago when drones still crashed & flew away.  The drone technology has advanced to just pressing the button, instead of crossing your fingers as your pre-flight routine.

Not sure if I’m losing my “eye” as  I age or if people are just so damn good at it now!  On my Instagram (@hellereng) I’ve had several known photographers follow me and I’m super flattered.

Glad there are still some actual camera stores around, many are gone.  Camera and book stores used to be my favorite places to go and browse around, I miss that.  Amazon is bringing the books stores back, after they made a clean sweep to make sure there are no Barnes & Noble competition (Which is fine by me, B&N wiped out small books stores first).  Time marches on, still trying to stay cutting edge if at all possible.

The Featured image is of Lou Silva & Rob Ryan from a volleyball tournament in Manhattan Beach when we were teens in 1978.  They have both passed on, can’t believe I got this shot.

Stranger Danger

Usually I don’t talk to many people when I travel.  I wouldn’t call this traveling right now, I’ve been here a bunch to see my son with a little bit of a routine going when I’m here…  Walk the dog, grab whatever my son needs while I’m here, lunch, piano, then latte.  The dog will keep anyone at bay, she looks like a huntress ready to pounce.  I don’t worry about my son living alone with this dog around.  He’s getting a roommate, which will help him not be so lonely out here.

I found this music store that has a practice room I can rent by the hour for the price of a parking spot in Walnut Creek.  Last time I was here for an extended period I was able to go there every day.  When I finished practicing, I found a coffee shop a few blocks away on my phone map.  I kind of remembered the neighborhood wasn’t great, the coffee shop was cute though so I went there again yesterday.

After I got my latte I cracked open my Kindle to read the New Yorker and some guy asked me what book I was reading?  I looked up and told him the New Yorker, then he started a conversation with me about where else besides Amazon can you download books?  I told him Amazon owns Kindle and I just download from the store.  I wasn’t being rude, I was being friendly too.

He was probably mid-20’s?  I had noticed someone sitting outside with his dog when I walked in making sure to avoid him.  After I got my drink and started reading I forgot about the guy I avoided outside.  Inside he was friendly, thought he was a student.  He was blonde, very skinny, from Wisconson originally.  He wasn’t high, I didn’t feel threatened at all.  Just seemed like a lonely traveler to me so I engaged.  A few years ago my husband traveled through Europe alone and said the hardest part of the trip was he had no one to talk to.  I thought about that when I was talking to this guy.

He wasn’t a student, he was kind of a nomad.  We started talking about the meth problem in these states here when I told him about Ms. meth’s wild ride I had in Bisbee over the summer where I was REALLY scared because she was a wild card.  We were on a night hike when we ran into this girl who had been dumped by her boyfriend to walk home.  She used my cell (so they had my phone number), then proceeded to hold this hiking group hostage.  We gave her a ride “home” after walking her back to the car, first I wanted us to be dropped off at the restaurant and she said, “No!”  I said, “I’ve had enough of you, they’re dropping us off first.”  My reasoning was more that I didn’t want us four good samaritans to drive into a meth house, the whole experience made me feel like we were being set up.  I didn’t feel safe until she was gone, instead of sounding scared though, I came off as a bitch.

Then the guy at the coffee shop started telling me his experiences, how most people are good, how to talk down a meth head, when it clicked he was the guy outside I had slithered by because he had creeped me out.  He was telling me about how when he hitch hikes people seem nice until they pull up into a gas station a few miles later then want him to pay for gas.  He couch surfs a lot, told me there’s an actual website or app for it, when people get too high he’s able to talk them down without too much trouble.

As he was talking about his nomadic life, my mind started in on an exit plan wondering if I had given him any info on me?  My name is unusual, easy to find.  Nope, hadn’t exchanged names.  I wasn’t too scared though, he really did seem like a friendly guy who was just passing through.  Still, I don’t know how I look to others (like a target?).  I had my camera backpack with a nice purse sporting my Nordstrom Trunk clothes.  I dress just enough to have a cab driver in Bali charge $60 instead of $6.  Plus, I was in a really bad part of town.

As I was wondering how I was going to get out of there without being followed the few blocks to my son’s car, I got a txt from my cousins that saved the day.  He backed off when I said I was meeting cousins, then said goodbye and wandered off with his dog.  I waited a little while before I took off myself.

He wasn’t who I had to worry about, I still had to walk through this neighborhood to get to my car.  There were one room apartments, just a door with a room like a closet with bars on every window.  Boy did I feel like an idiot for walking through there, no one was on the streets the first few times I did it.  This time, people were out and looking at me.  I chose my route wisely, not physically walking by anyone that saw me.  A car slowed down when I quickly turned that corner to duck around, making him have to back up if he was slowing down for me.  What goes on in my mind when I’m totally freaked??  I just thought of how stupid I was for carrying around this camera, looking totally out of place and that I’d be lucky if someone didn’t just mug me right there because I was screaming for it.  I took the stuff out of the car with me so that the car wouldn’t be broken into.  In the Bay Area, anything you leave in a car is going to have a broken window when you get back.  Where I was walking, it would be much easier to just give me a good shove and take it then go through the trouble of breaking a window.

I made it back to the car in front of the music store.  When I told my son about it, he confirmed I was in the worst part of town.  Won’t be going to that coffee shop again!!

For the most part, I feel pretty safe everywhere I go…mostly because I don’t usually put myself in those types of situations.  There have only been a few, “Oh shit!!” moments.  I don’t think I was in danger at all talking to that guy – we had a guy follow us in Taipai my uncle was being friendly with, who I’m convinced was a nomad cannibal.  Actually, most of those moments have been traveling with my friendly uncle where I have to be the bitch.  This was the first time I was solo and scared, no one to blame but myself.

One more day here, then off to lala land.

Now I’m really choking

Smoke in Walnut Creek on the worst day from my drone

After the first rain…

 

 

That smoke finally nailed me!!  Been down for days with chills and no voice.  It didn’t help that we haven’t changed our heater filter downstairs forever, I forgot we had a heater down there until our son moved back in.  They’ve been running it non-stop, it’s like I have legionaires or something??  Maybe it’s just a flu, it sure seems like the smoke.

I was out WAY too much in it without a mask.  The first day I was walking a reservoir a few miles when I saw the smoke as I came around.  It looked like the fire was in Walnut Creek or Concord there was that much smoke.  When I got home to google, I couldn’t find anything local.  It was from that Paradise fire about 150 miles away.

The next day we had a sail out on my boat.  Most of the people who show up for it are seniors, the smoke was really bad once I went through the tunnel and saw the San Francisco Bay.  We all met at my dock, I gave them the option to call it for health reasons but everyone wanted to still go for it.  There was no wind, we ended up motoring the whole way without any physical exertion.  Still, we got to Sam’s in Tiberon to be told we had to sit inside for the health of the staff.  That was about 5 hours in the smoke for me, all because I couldn’t call it.

We took one more walk around the reservoir before it got really bad.  By then, everyone was wearing masks.  That was the last day I was out until it rained to clear out some of the smoke.

On Saturday night there was a party I had RSVP’d to, but I felt like crap.  We made it for the dinner part, then left early because of a knot in my chest and my heart actually hurt. I finally called Kaiser on Sunday, they had me come in.  It’s the first time I’ve ever gone in for a flu type symptom, usually I figure if I want to get sick I go into a hospital.  I don’t know anything about smoke inhalation or not changing a filter.  The kind of a bitch of a nurse assured me it wasn’t the smoke?  That was like the manager at the restaurant I got food poisoning from lettuce telling me it wasn’t their lettuce that got me sick.  Whatever.

They gave me an inhaler, that untightened the knot in my chest.  A little surprised the Dr. didn’t use a stethoscope to check for… I don’t know?? Pneumonia??  The inhaler did help though.

Now I’m just weak and my  husband is down for the count.  I’m a few days ahead of him, just feel weak now with no voice.  Selfishly, I wanted to just lay in bed for this to be over with – I’m never sick.  I also never watch daytime TV, it totally caters to people laying in bed.  There’s a plethora of illnesses we might  not even know we have unless we go to the Dr. and ask for that specific drug.  With all the internet searches and the TV, it’s all an ad for drugs.  I’m guilty of jumping to the google, legionnaire conclusion.

It’s one thing to be in a warm house (with a new filter).  I can’t imagine what they’re doing in Paradise now that the town is leveled.  I totally disagree with that nurse, the illnesses from that smoke is about to kick in.  There’s the long term affects of us all smoking a cartoon a day of cigs in smoke, the first wave is going to be the illnesses it caused right away.  Who would have thought this would ever happen?

If this isn’t coherent, it’s because I’m not coherent yet.

Didn’t mean a fire storm!!

My last post was titled “Calm before the Storm,” meaning the holidays.  This week NorCal has been socked in with fires and smoke.  That Paradise fire affected almost all of NorCal, even hundreds of miles away.  It’s the worst fire in California history, the death toll keeps rising.

We’ve just been nailed with fires all year, then come the mudslides.  Last year my in-laws house in Ojai was in jeopardy, firefighters were able to save Ojai Valley before it jumped father down.

All summer I drove through a ton of smoke on I-5, driving through a controlled fire right on the freeway guided by CHP.  When we filmed this clip, we didn’t know it was controlled yet & understandably freaked out.

Now this Paradise fire, which is truly devastating in so many ways.  My friend made a trip up with supplies yesterday in a campaign on FB.  The request was for mainly gift cards, blankets, hygiene supplies.  It was interesting, I shared her post and asked if anyone wanted to drop off with me I would get the items to her in Modesto – I didn’t get one response?  The day before I asked if there was a donation station in Walnut Creek and got maybe 2 responses.  At first I thought everyone blocks me on FB and was a little pissed.  Now I think that FB blocks “non-sponsored” fundraisers, a Go Fund Me would have made my feed.

Regardless, we went out and got a bunch of GC’s in $25 to $50 increments from Walmart and Target for her to deliver.  I had some warm blankets, bought a bunch of trial size hand sanitizer .  Looking for useful camping supplies in the garage I found a propane heater I used to use for golfing on cold mornings, so I threw that in with some propane bottles.  Other than that, I didn’t want to out-guess what supplies would be more useful than just GC’s.

I first noticed the air quality last Friday when I took a group out on the boat, mostly seniors.  We stood at the dock wondering if it should be a no-go, everyone voted to go for it.  Besides some short outings, I’ve been indoors ever since with a sore throat and teary eyes.  OK, that’s nothing compared to being homeless in Paradise, it’s just to say how bad the air quality is here.  A few days of a sore throat is nothing.

This picture & the cover are from the start of the bad air quality last Friday, then some drone footage of Walnut Creek from yesterday.
IMG_2015

 

If I’m right about FB blocking me on the newsfeed, that’s a whole other blog.  I could very well be persona non-grata in Walnut Creek, or everyone is just “over” FB.  If that’s the case, my prediction of FB is it’s going to go out as fast as it came in.

The best way to donate is through the American Red Cross disaster.  This is linked to their txt donation instructions. 

 

 

Drone Shots

Forgot how much I like flying the drone when it comes back and mission accomplished.  They asked me to take some pictures of a regatta that was a few miles out, I haven’t practiced launching (or landing) from a boat so I had to do it on land.  There are a ton of FAA restrictions that limit me from great footage, one is line of sight.  I’ve never put my drone out that far, there’s just no way you can see it.  The other thing was wind, there was a warning the entire time to bring it back that I ignored since it wasn’t losing altitude.

After 20 years of volunteering, I usually don’t volunteer work stuff.  Suzie Ormon has a quote I love, “Free work leads to more free work.”  It’s led me to pay people right away for services, it’s their time and equipment.  If I lose a drone, it’s $1k right away.  For work, there’s a rental fee included just for that purpose.  I’ve lost 2 drones to trees, one was a freebie job in Costa Rica and suddenly everyone was a drone expert without ever flying one.

When I found out how far out the regatta was and the winds, I figured I might have to kiss the drone goodbye.  The first battery my timing was way off on the downwind turn for  the spinnakers to go up, I just wasn’t out there in time.  I had a 20mph headwind making it slow going (maybe 10 minutes) to get out there about a mile then get oriented to where the boats were.  The good news was that it had that 20mph tailwind when the battery warning came on or I would have been screwed.  It landed right where I launched it.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0026.JPG

The second race I was able to time a little better to get the drone out about 1.5 miles out for there downwind with spinnakers.  My Mavic pro has about 20 min of battery using 10 min in that headwind just to get out there, 5 min of shots, then the remaining battery getting back.  If I would have known how far out it was I might have declined doing it at all.  Usually, the races are closer to the marina which would have made for some great shots and given me a lot more time shooting them.  The worst that could have happened is the drone would drop in the water, no injuries, just the loss of my drone 😦

It all went well and I actually learned a lot without the huge expense of losing it.  I have to decide how much volunteer work I want to do with the drone though while other people are getting paid.  I don’t mind doing my own shots for fun and practice, the liability of volunteering for drone shots thinking it’s going to lead to paid work is too great.  So far, none of my volunteer work has lead to $$.

One of the women last night who found out I droned it said that I should put the pictures on their art wall.  They put art exhibits up from time to time for purchase.  I have to admit, was totally flattered by that.  This morning, as I do the math, it’s going to cost me about $500 to get some prints together for something like that.

My huge project this week has been actually quilting waves on a quilt I’ve been working on all month.  I couldn’t get it finished before the housekeepers came, I told her to just leave it on the dining room table since I have it all lined up.  Instead of saying how beautiful it was, she mentioned that I have free time.  That bummed me out on a few levels, you mean I’m not an artist??  I just have free time I don’t know what to do with and delusions of grandeur??  (OK – that’s not what she meant, I’m just adding that for dramatic purposes).  It definitely smacked me with reality, people look at me as a housewife with free time whose time and talents are not valuable.

That’s one of the reasons I always support my friends artistic endeavors (and pay them for it).  I know how long things take to make and the expense involved.

One of my first photography jobs right out of college was still shots for a commercial starring Tommy Lasorda.  I drove to the park in O.C. and got some great shots using a film camera.  I had a little pouch on my keychain where I put my lunch money, probably $10 max (mid-80’s).  I left it on a picnic table with my camera bag and someone stole the money…all day, no lunch.  I gave the rolls to the productions company before I left for them to develop, they turned out great!!  When I sent them an invoice, they said there must have been a miss-understanding?  This was a trial or an intern shoot, not a paid shoot, that somehow included them keeping all the work and negatives.  I couldn’t even put the shots in my portfolio.  After that job, I had to get a “real” one and couldn’t afford to “work” anymore.

Just some things consider if you’re an artist or someone about to ask a favor of a friend.