Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Photo Excursion to Vermont Seeking Fall Foliage

FIRST - as to my search for Fall colors, I came up short. Emerson explains:

The shows of day, the dewy morning, the rainbow, mountains,
orchards in blossom, stars, moonlight, shadows in still
water, and the like, if too eagerly hunted, become shows merely, and
mock us with their unreality. Go out of the house to see the moon,
and 't is mere tinsel; it will not please as when its light shines upon
your necessary journey. The beauty that shimmers in the yellow
afternoons of October, who ever could clutch it? Go forth to find it,
and it is gone: 't is only a mirage as you look from the windows of
 From Emerson, Nature

Yet - I'm happy to report that with the overall wide assortment of pictures I did take, my experience as a whole was very positive. Yes, the Fall colors were less than expected due to a dry summer, but I did manage to get a few nice shots of Autumn's colors. Yet, I'll say that the colors were only slightly better than what I could see here in Virginia. The pleasant surprise for me was that I managed to take some really nice photos of people and places.

Using a polarizing filter, helped me bring out the colors in this photo of a horse just after sunrise, and in the landscape photo just below it. Compare those two with the final photo below which I took here in Virginia, also with a polarizer. The Virginia colors are not as vivid.

Horse at sunrise using polarizing filter.
Polarizer used in this photo taken in northern Vermont.

Taken here at home, after I returned from Vermont.
If you would like to learn more about using a polarizer, see my blog post on the The 5 Essential Filters You Must Have in Your Camera Bag.

I hope you liked reading about this photo excursion. the lesson here is that you do not always get the pictures you hope for, however you might get some very good unexpected ones instead.  See the collection of Vermont pictures here.

Thanks for reading this blog.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Vermont Pictures

My plan is to return to Vermont in the winter and capture some of the state's character when it is snowing.

See pictures of the trip here

Look outside. Do you see the trees? Look inside. Do you see the trees?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Trip to Vermont

In planning my trip, I am using the fall foliage forecaster (which shows an animation of the changing colors), brochures from the state tourism bureau, and Appalachian Trail maps.

Link to the forecaster

What I like about Vermont is that it is a mountainous and narrow state which allows a lot of flexibility in "chasing the colors."  I can travel north or south to get different mixes of color, and I can ascend or descend in altitude to do the same.  Anyway-- that's what I am hoping for.

Here is one super-helpful brochure I got, which shows the most scenic and interesting highways and byways to explore in the process.

I also bought some maps of the Appalachian Trail where it crosses through Vermont, and I mapped out all the points where there is highway access, so I hope to do some hiking on the AT and get some photos there as well.  Here is an example:

More to follow once I get to Vermont.  Watch for updates.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Stuff I Did Not Need on the El Camino

When I got home, I unpacked and set these items aside.  Here's a photo of stuff I didn't need to take with me.

I'll explain from top left to right. 

Water purification tablets. You are not camping. There are plenty of public drinking fountains along the way and I simply filled my water bottle from these. The city water is fine. I mainly used a water bottle called "Bobble" which has a changeable charcoal filter. This takes away the chlorine in any city water. I'll fill this, and repour into my small drinking bottle which hung from my belt loop.  Often I did not even filter my water using the "Bobble."  Unfiltered, it did not taste as good, but it was perfectly fine. 

Extra Large Trash bag. I brought two, and only needed one, which I used to put my pack into when I checked it as luggage coming home on the return flight.

Titanium Spork.  There are plenty of plastic eating utensils all along the way. Don't bring your own.

Little metal clips. I thought I would use these to keep my rain pants in place over my boots.  My rain pants were fine without the clips.  Next time, I would not even bring rain pants. I would bring gaiters.

Neck lanyard.  I thought I would hang my passport case around my neck. Geez.  I kept my passport and credential in a front pocket of my shorts the entire time.  At night I slept with my shorts in the bottom of my sleeping bag. 

Tupperware container.  I had thought I might need to store food in it, or protect my documents and camera inside the shower.  Instead, I used zip lock bags for food storage, like high fiber cereal or cheese.  To protect camera gear, I secured my stuff in a locker when showering, or I hung it just outside the shower with my towel in the private locked stall. In pensions this is a non-issue.  Tupperware forces you to use space in your pack, so you are better off without it.

Nylon parachute cord rope, 10 feet.  Wherever I went there were available proper clothes lines. You don't need to bring your own clothesline. 

Big flexible twister tie.  I brought two, thinking I'd hang my pack or other gear from them.  When I needed to hang my pack in a closet or from my bunk I used the steel S hook I brought.  I only used one of these flexible twister ties to seal the garbage bag with my backpack inside and attach a luggage tag.  Two of these twisty things is overkill. One is handy and very light, so okay, but not two.

Toilet paper.  I brought a whole roll, without the tube inside it.  You're not camping, and there are restrooms everywhere.  Besides, I was constipated most of the time (dehydration and not enough fiber).  Every albergue bathroom and every public bathroom I used was well maintained and clean, better than many public bathrooms here in The States.

S - Hook. I brought two of these with me but only needed one. I only have one backpack.  It was super handy and I used it all the time, even in hotels to hang my pack from the closet rail.  You only need one of these. They are stainless steel and light to carry. 

Safety pins.  Someone posted in the forum how great it was to have these for hanging socks to dry. Not needed by me. I should have brought a set of small clothespins. They are much better.  I ended up using the clothespins that I could scrounge on the clothesline.  For my backpack, I had created a web of criss-crossed bungee cord and I lashed damp socks and my wet pack towel under net of cord so it could dry as I walked. I never eneded up using safety pins, except one time when I ran short of clothespins on the line at the albergue.

Suction cup hooks.  I thought I'd use them in the show to hang my stuff.  The idea was in a shower, I could stick one of these to the wall and hang my stuff from it.  I never needed these.

Compass.  You don't need it because the El Camino curves in so many directions it doesn't matter which "compass direction" you are facing.  You could not orient yourself anyway because you don't have, nor do you need, a map.  I generally like to carry a compass when I am hiking as a "security blanket" thing, but I never looked at it on the El Camino.  I also have a cute tiny compass built into my key-ring thermometer.  Even with this, I often looked at the thermometer to see how hot it was, but I never looked at the compass.  Bottom line - you don't need a compass.  The guidebooks are fine, and the yellow arrows point the way.

Big sunglasses case. This case is to hold my sunglasses.  But I always wore my sunglasses, and when I took them off, they hung around my neck on one of those cords that attached to the back of the sunglasses. So I kept my regular glasses (much smaller) in the big sunglasses case, stuffed away in my pack the whole time.  This was a waste of space.  I could have kept my regular glasses safe in my pack somewhere without using the big case. 

Pants legs.  I had brought with me a pair of quick-dry pants with the zip off legs.  On day two, I zipped off the legs and used the pants as shorts only, and I never put the leg sections back on this trip.  I never wore pants, but always wore shorts.  I also had with me another pair of shorts which I changed back and forth and that was perfect. Two pairs of shorts is all I needed. 

Silk sleeping bag liner.  Never used it.  The albergues have clean disposable sheets and pillowcases, and I slept in or on my sleeping bag on top of the clean sheets.  I can't imagine sleeping in the silk liner only, or using the liner inside my sleeping bag.  That's for camping in cold weather when you need another 5 degrees of warmth inside your sleeping bag.

Polyfill Insulated Vest.  This nicely compressed into a pocket of its own, and was small and light weight.  Yet, I did not need it.  I had also brought a cotton sweatshirt for the one chilly night on the mountain at Orisson.  I wore this in the evening.  Then, the next day I left it on the table in Roncesvalles. I brought home the polyfill vest because it is high quality and expensive, but I did not need it on the El Camino.  

Camera C-Clamp and Cell Phone Clamp.  I brought these two items so I could attach my camera or my cell phone to my hiking pole to take a picture of myself, and to keep the keep the camera stable.  Did not need these devices at all. I took only a few pictures of myself by having someone else snap the photo, or by doing a selfie. No big deal.  For telephoto shots with my camera, I stabilized the camera by leaning it on my hiking pole for each shot. Unless you are bringing your really good DSLR, you don't need a tripod or any special attachments.  Results? I am pleased with my photos of the trip, and in any case my pictures are not going to be professional grade without using high quality camera, lenses, and larger internal sensor size. So why worry?  I feel like I got some really fantastic photos, but even the best tripod would not have made them better.

Long sleeve shirt. I brought this quick-dry long sleeve shirt thinking I might need it for warmth or sunburn protection.  The days were hot, however, and I only wore a thin quick dry T-shirt every day. For sunburn protection I completely lathered up every morning, covered every inch of exposed skin with SPF 30. I did fine, and even ran out of lotion (I had brought 2 tubes of 1 ounce (28 gm) each).  I bought another small tube (3 oz.) in a grocery store. Besides my two T-shirts, I brought a nicer dressier quick-dry short sleeve safari style shirt. I wore this at night after my shower while my T-shirts dried on the clothes line. In summer you don't need a long sleeve shirt at all. If I was cold I could always put on my poncho.  I actually saw someone do this in Orisson on the one chilly night.  "Smart," I thought. 

Rain jacket. This is the top part of my Frogg Toggs rain suit. I never used it.  Instead, I used a thin blue plastic poncho. The poncho was cooler, lighter in weight, smaller in size to pack, easier to dry than a rain jacket would be, and the poncho fit easily over my head, body and my small pack. I used the Frogg Toggs rain pants, however, and they were essential to keep my socks and boots dry.  Even those I will replace next time with gaiters. 

Glove liners.  I wasn't sure how cold it would be crossing the Pyrenees during the last week in May, so I brought these liners from my good ski gloves.  In addition, I brought a pair of cheap fleece gloves to go over these liners. Once in Orisson, I realized I would not need gloves, I packed away the liners in the bottom of my pack and I left the fleece gloves there on the table, thinking the owner probably could use them in the winter.  The liners are very light in weight and I had planned all along to fleece gloves in France and bring home the expensive ski-glove liners.  At the end of May, your hands will not get so cold that you need gloves. I would not bring them next time.

All of the above observations are based upon my two week trip from end of May through early June, specifically hiking from SJPP to Logrono.  So you would have to take that into consideration when planning your own trip.

Well, thanks for checking out my blog, and be sure to look at my pictures in the El Camino Album here.

Thanks, and Buen Camino!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Walk link test created from my phone
Click here

This link works.  Manually created in Blogger from my phone.  A pain.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

2016 Come & Play Richmond Symphony Orchestra

It was an honor to play flute with the Richmond Symphony this weekend (along with 720 other guest musicians of all ages). Each Year RSO invites amateurs and students at various levels to play with the orchestra.

We're given sheet music (8 pieces) to practice about 4 weeks before the concert. So I made a video of me working on one piece and intercut it with video of the actual performance.

My challenge as a barely intermediate flutist is rhythms. So for one section I wrote out phonetically above the notes - DAH- Ha-ta-Tah... DAH- Hata-Tah... and so on.

There are triplets mixed with double eighth notes, and some slurred parts of triplets, so this was my challenge with this cover of Star Wars theme.

Here's the video of my pre-concert practice with clips from the concert inserted:

Here is the full performance of that Star Wars piece:

A big thank you to the conductors: Chia-Hsuan Lin, Erin R. Freeman, and Steven Smith. This experience of rehearsal and performance with a real symphony orchestra was life changing, not to mention motivating.

Thank you to the sponsors as well and all the staff!

AND - thanks for your indulgence.