Sunday, December 27, 2009

Where to go with my camera from here

From Christmas Day at my parent's home.

The photo above is one of the best I've done. Out of a hundred frames, if I get one this good, I'm happy. But, it's time to up my game.

Last week I read something on a blog, suggesting a project of daily photographs on a particular theme, subject or concept. After some dithering, I've chosen portraits. One portrait photograph taken each day, of a person not previously seen in the project, and published on Flickr and here, starting January 1st.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Morning

Bird and dressing.

I added mushrooms, green onions, celery and a touch of ginger to Mrs. Cubbison's Cube Stuffing, Herb Seasoned. Just got the bird into the oven. In about 4 hours it will be time to eat.

I am thankfull for all the things we usually cite. In this country there are few who are not. I am also thankfull I was born in a democratic republic where that is more than just a false label. I am thankfull that my parents made sure I knew I was loved and shared their faith with me, but didn't force-feed it to me. I am thankfull I was able to receive a good education that opened my mind instead of closing it.

I'm thinking of, and thankfull for, all of the people I have met in my life; you have all had a part in shaping who I am. I am thankfull for who I am.

Love and gratitude,

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It jist growed that way.

I thought I would pare down the virtual San Joaquin Railway to a
"diminutive elegance", as I declared to my model railroading friends,
recently. Now, three iterations hence, the plan has gotten just as big
as it had been before. The time has come to bow to the inevetable -
it's going to be a big, and, somewhat, complicated operation.
Completely impractical, of course, since it looks to take a month to
cycle through all the operations; my interchange partners may get a
bit impatient.

I'm sure I can explain all of this. Well, probably not. I have so many
industries that I delight in that I could not leave them out. As a
result the SJRY still has Port Costa Brick, Orangekatz Metals, Mother
Mavis' Marvelous Munchies and the Chrono-Synclastic Corporation, to
name only a few. I still have the means to amuse my friends while I
dream up improbable commodities and destinations.

Love, and "Look for the Train",


The Archeoferroequinologist
(parse that one out, if you dare)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Oakland Morning

Oakland Morning, originally uploaded by Stephen Foster.

Morning light is magical. The best reason to rise before the sun is to be here when he rises.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Remembering Loma Prieta

Twenty years ago, this afternoon, I was stopped at a red light when I thought I had been hit from behind by another motorist. The car behind was too far away to be the culprit. At the same time the signal went into flashing mode and my radio station went off the air. Within the next mile I saw two more flashing signals and a broken water main.

I was commuting home through Orinda to Richmond along Camino Pablo and San Pablo Dam Road. I may have learned on the way that it had been an earthquake, in which case I would have fearing what I might see as I came near San Pablo Dam. Otherwise, I did not suspect anything until I came around the ridge into Richmond and saw smoke rising from San Francisco. I spent the rest of the evening glued to the TV and checking in with family and friends.

For most of us in the Bay Area the disaster never rose above the level of inconvenience. I had a day or two off work and never missed out on groceries. My electricity never failed. Perhaps we who have it so easy fail to appreciate the potential severity of such an event. Living in a society with good building codes and emergency services has shielded us from the level of suffering endured by so much of the world in disasters. For perspective; the death and destruction in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina is probably worth more than 50 years of seismic activity in all of California.

Here's hoping you take time to prepare for what is likely coming your way.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Thin Blue Line

I am currently working on a utility construction project in Oakland, California. Police officers are assigned to the worksites for security and traffic control. I have time to talk with them, frequently at length. This is not about the police, but about human nature.

People working in law enforcement are constantly forced into close proximity with the worst of human nature. The natural conclusion one would make, serving in such capacity, would be that these are the worst humans. It is easy to conclude that some people are just incapable of civilized behavior. This conclusion is born out by the frequent use of excretory metaphors by police officers when referring to micreants.

I would like to suggest, instead, the we are, all of us, fully capable of uncivilized behavior. Under the manners and consideration, we are all still savages. Psychological profiles of Hitler's henchmen did not reveal monsters, but men who were quite normal. Any society is capable of committing a holocaust. In Nazi Germany the social permission for the Holocaust was created by the unrelenting anti-semitic rhetoric of the propaganda machine and the expectation by the perpetrators that there would be no accounting.

The evolution of cultural institutions has been, generally, in the direction of peace and stability. That evolution, however, is in the web of habits and obligations of the way we deal with each other, not in the fundimental structures of who we are. It is learned behavior that we are all able to unlearn under the wrong conditions.

Love, and consideration,

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Playing at Playing Trains

This roughly drawn plan is where I indulge my penchant for model railroading. It is a base image used by Train Player, software for animating a line drawing of a track plan.

I expect to never actually build a model railroad; I have so many things I tell myself I want to do - I have to actually pick one as the overriding commitment. I picked photography.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Feet of Clay

I suspect that our disappointments with those we elect to high office stems, in part, from our expectation that they should be better people than ourselves. We use "feet of clay" as a perjorative. Perhaps it is merely acknowledgement of our commonality.

In the biblical book of Genesis, some pretty low people end up as the instruments of God's will. Jacob cheats his brother out of his inheritance, for example, yet goes on to be a patriarch.

We are all to be encouraged by this - we have the example that, as unworthy as we know ourselves to be, we are capable of doing what must be done. In a democracy we hope our leaders do indeed have feet of clay.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dover School Trial

I'm watching NOVA, on PBS, about the case of teaching "Intellegent Design" as biology. I'm having trouble listening to some of the Dover School Board members with any semblence of serenety. It's going to be a long century.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Day 2: North Hollywood to Barstow

We got to Thai Town before anything was open. Breakfast at Denny's Restaurant at Sunset and Van Ness then to Food 4 Less, just down the street.

Somrak was captured by a bookstore right away. All it takes is her native language to keep her captive as much as I by shelves full of books.

Something I noticed.

Now she's content.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mormon Rocks, Cajon Pass

Mormon Rocks, Cajon Pass, originally uploaded by Stephen Foster.

At some point on the trip to Grand Canyon, I do take the camera out. From Hwy 138, west of Cajon, at I-15.

Snow in AZ

A few shots from the cell phone camera, taken last Thursday.
Frame 724 was out the lodge room window.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

If you ever get the opportunity to drive US 89A, in Arizona, between Bitter Springs and Fredonia, do not deny yourself the pleasure. It crosses the Kaibab Plateau with dramatic cliffs at each end.

We drove north (west) past Echo Cliffs, Marble Canyon at Navajo Bridge over the Colorado, Vermilion Cliffs and up the East Kaibab Monocline to the plateau.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

On Our Way Back Home

The Stage Station Motel, Glendale, NV, is a single row of one storey
and looks about 50 plus years old. The room is clean and
well-appointed, what any modern motorist would expect. Glendale
appears to be only about 100 yards long; consisting of the motel, a
mini-mart (also the motel office) and a gas station. We looked in
Mesquite, just inside Nevada, but, fortunately for us, there were no
vacancies. I dislike Casinos and I dislike Casino towns - something
about close proximity to some of the most pathetic behavior in the
human catalogue.

Coming soon, depending on when I conk out, a discussion of geology and
roadside beauty.

The Archeoferroequinologist
(parse that one out, if you dare)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Saying Goodby to Grand Canyon

It has been a wonderful time here at Grand Canyon. The vista just
keeps getting better. The photos will be surfacing slowly as editing
vies for time with accounting and housework.

We're worn out, though. The tree-day meander through Utah and Nevada
is being shelved for a direct return via Barstow and Bakersfield. It
can be done in a single day's driving, for someone of greater
fortitude than myself; two days should do just fine. If I'm smart we
won't spend the night in Mojave or Tehachapi; places where the
railroad dominates the town.

For those of you, dear readers, living in our vicinity, we will see you soon.

The Archeoferroequinologist
(parse that one out, if you dare)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My time, at last.

This afternoon I made it to the rim with the Mamiya C220. Somrak
napped in the room while I followed my own pace. I shot a roll of Fuji
color transparency then part of a roll of Ilford B&W. The last shots
were of rain moving over Bright Angel Canyon with a touch of light on
the nearer rock faces. I may have taken my holday card shot.

The Archeoferroequinologist
(parse that one out, if you dare)

A Find

I found the book I had been seeking since crossing the Colorado River,
"Roadside Geology of Arizona". Also got a lovely geologic map of
eastern GC. Unknowingly, we had climbed the Mogollon Rim into the
Central Highlands province. When we return home I will be making
extensive use of Google Earth. Look at the blog for upcoming postings
of route maps, GEarth photos and our photographs of the trip.

The Archeoferroequinologist
(parse that one out, if you dare)

Still at the Big Gully

This space has been quiet for a while, due to recalcitrant electronics.

Wednesday we drove to Jerome and Meteor Crater.

I risked the wrath of She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed by driving the back roads
from Williams to Jerome. Not her cup of tea traveling the middle of
nowhere. I would do it again on the least provocation. Jerome was as
tourist-ridden as Virginia City and nearly as steep. The State
Historic Park was closed so we did not bother to stop.

To mollify my beloved, we made our way to Meteor Crater by freeway
(I'll save the other back-road for another day) and we arrived just an
hour before closing, which proved to be enough time. For Her, the
claim of having been there suits just fine.

Today is her lazy day. I will take care of laundry, then hang out at
Yavapai Point, lurking in wait of That Special Light.

The Archeoferroequinologist
(parse that one out, if you dare)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Beginning Vacation Blues.

Ever get somewhere special only to be such bad shape from getting there that it's not particularly enjoyable? We did several miles of walking today, but I was miserable for most of it. Part of my problem is a coffee jones that's been building since Barstow - Starbucks may not be as ubiquitous as I thought. Too much coffee early on and a tendency not to drink much water on long drives and I'm dehydrated. As it was, I was feeling dry hand making a lot of pit stops all day. Of course, I still want a cup of good coffee. Now to a bath.

Looking Down Through Time

Mather Point, Grand Canyon: We got out early and walked to the rim. I was not stunned by the view. I expect to take it in more slowly - the details will grow on me. The cameras stayed in the room, except for Somrak's. This time my photography was on demand. After breakfast, water and some rest we'll be out exploring some more.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Grand Canyon

We're here. We got here too late for sightseeing. A glimpse on the way in was already startling. I'm feeling the altitude - I will be walking slowly, but I will be walking.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

National Trails Highway

California Inn, Barstow. Old
Route 66 is now the National Trails Highway. From San Bernardino, Cajon Blvd is cut by I-15. A way around is through Devore. Formerly four lanes, one side is closed, to save on maintenance. The road is discontinuous. A short hop in the freeway to Summit Valley Road, then to Hesperia.

Victorville. Oro Grande. Helendale. Lenwood. Barstow. I don't think those names are in the song about the California Trip. We took our time, including wandering through the twists and turns of a housing subdivision. Still not much photography - I still want to see before I shoot.

I am particularly fond of the desert. I think it is the openness that appeals to me. Perhaps it is the geologist in me that delights in seeing the underlying structure of the land.

Starting up Cajon Pass

We're in San Bernardino filling up the gas tank. We got off the San Bernardino Freeway (I-10) at Mt. Vernon Ave., old Route 66. We will get our kicks, as much as possible in the freeway age, to the Colorado River.

Crack of Dawn

Denny's Restaurant at Sunset and Van Ness, Hollywood, CA.

Well, not the crack of dawn, it's 9 am. After yesterdays rush, I'm glad for a little slowdown. The shops in Thai Town, just a few blocks away open at 10. Food Max is also on the itinerary for some produce.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Jacuzzi in the Bedroom

Super 8 Motel, North Hollywood.

There is a jacuzzi in the bedroom. I chose the room because it was the only non-smoking room still available.

We are a dilatory pair. I was so tired last night that I elected to "worry about it tomorrow". As things typically work out with us an intended 9 am departure was nearly noon. Obviously, Big Sur will have to wait for another time. Hotels and campsites at the coast are scarce or pricey this weekend. Just to be sure we reserved in LA.

This time of year the Coast Route is deserving of a liesurely transit. Hillsides are covered with blooming mustard, poppies and lupine, often in close proximity. And where they are absent, the grass an almost luminous green.

On this leg we made only necessity stops. I knew the camera would stay out of sight. Because I knew I would not be making any photos I looked at everything differently. Sometimes I get so caught up in the idea that I'm a photographer that I think I have to get everything I see. Then I forget to see the thing for getting the photo. Sometimes one must put the camera down and just look; even if it's at 65mph.

Today was all freeway. Tomorrow I expect to go much slower. After Thai Town and a temple we'll head east to San Bernardino. After we get off at Cajon Blvd I hope to stay off untill time to cross the Colorado River into Arizona. Saturday will be, I hope, a day punctuated with numerous stops to look closely.

Good night all. Tune in tomorrow for more.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Disorganized Departure

Work is done. All the timesheets and expense reports are submitted - it's all our time, now. OK, what's next?

Empty truck of work tools and supplies. Load camping gear. How many changes of jeans do I need? How many changes of underwear? What bills need to be paid before we leave. Do we go grocery shopping tonight or tomorrow. Do I transport the view camera in it's big box or the photo-backpack? Remember to pack long underwear. Do I leave the 35mm cameras at home? How about the laptop? Books. Shampoo? Dental floss. Am I going to forget my toothbrush again? I think I've had to buy a new toothbrush everytime we've left home. Charging plugs for two cell phones and two digital cameras, well, that's not so bad. Did I already mention shampoo? Gas bottles, small ones, this time. Fruit. Shaver charging plug (that makes 5). Video camera plug (6). Eton emergency radio. Aspirin. Check the first-aid kit. Fire extinguisher....

...Oh, Lord....

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

More; on Less

Sometimes, perhaps lacking the influence of coffee, the train of thought ends up in the wrong terminal. In the previous post the point missed is that most of the entries here are made frome my cell phone. Perhaps the title should have been "Tiny Keyboard is the Soul of Wit.

I'm sure I qualify for brevity, but the wit may not always make it to the page.

Arthritis as The Soul of Wit

I've always been more concise on the page than in the air; just ask my mother or wife. The real task has been to say something worthwhile bofore I tired of writing. Now that arthritis has taken hold of my hands I'm more inclined to brevity.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Into the Empty Quarter

One of the places my wife and I disagree is tourism. The biggest conflict comes over the population of where we happen to be.

Somrak is from Thailand; a place sufficiently packed with humanity to make some parts of California's urban interstices seem like wilderness. She grew up in the "country", but had lived most of her life, by the time I met her, in Bangkok; as tightly populated a town as seems possible. As a result, I think, she has a very different take on crowds.

A few years ago we drove to San Diego County by way of the back side of the Sierras. We went through Panamint Valley, where we saw only one other vehicle. She turned to me and said, "there are no trees and no people; are you crazy?" She is nervous when there are no other people around. This could be a problem exploring the American Southwest.

I, however, find the press of humanity sometimes disturbing. I'm the one who revels in empty country. I hope to return from our trip to Grand Canyon by way of Utah and US Hwy 50. I suppose I may have to relent and expect to return by way of Las Vegas on the freeway.

Love, and perigrination,

Monday, April 6, 2009

When Will Vacation Get Here?

I may be acting like a short-timer. Our departure for Grand Canyon is only four days away and I'm having trouble concentrating on work.

Let us consider this the beginning of the travelogue.

The big concern is how much to take. I've answered the personaly most important version of the question: how much photographic equipment? The DSLR is going, along with all the compatable lenses; the medium-format film camera with mostly color film; and the 4x5 view camera with B&W film.

We will be staying at one of the lodges at the Village but will carry camping gear for drives to and from. The tent will likely stay home because it's large, and slow to erect and strike - we'l sleep in the cab of the truck.

Clothing and bedding is always an interesting matter for us. Madam believes in packing big. On my own I might bring a few changes of underwear and wash them out in the tub and drip dry. On my own, of course, I might only bring cameras and food.

Tomorrow: the issue with unpopulated country.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Round-about to the Grand Canyon

I have been obsessing, discreetly, about the pending trip to Grand Canyon. I'm planning all kinds of back-road meanders - I hope Madam has the patience for it.

A preliminary itinerary for the three days towards GC:
San Francisco to LA via Hwy 1, especially Big Sur (I have never been there).
Thai-Town, North Hollywood and a Buddhist temple, or two.
Get our kicks on route 66 - Cajon Pass and National Trails Highway to about Needles.
More 66, in fragments, to Flagstaff then north to the big gully.

I hope to avoid freeways as much as possible. A slow three days with lots of photo opportunities.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Loading for Bear

Madam and I will be heading to Grand Canyon in less than two weeks, in celebration of out 15th anniversary. I, of course, am probably grossly over-packed with cameras. The D200 is going, certainly, but I was in a quandry about how much of my analog equipment would also be along. I seem to have decided - I've ordered 4x5 and 120 film for the Crown Graphic and the Mamiya C220. This all begs the question why I would be going in so many directions at once. The answer may be next year in coming.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Metaphor for Politics

Some people are afraid to take the car out of tha garage.

Some people want to drive it off the cliff.

Some people think we should push the other cars off the road.

Those folks are a few percent of us. Most of us want to use the car to get the kids to school, take care of the neccessities of life and an occasional vacation. We want to keep it well-tuned and running efficiently, making sure the tires and brakes are in good order. Where we differ is in which version of the owner's manual is correct.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cleaning out the Stuff with eBay

I have a mess in my office (actually, my livingroom). The bookshelf is overflowing onto the second computer desk and onto the floor. Quite a lot of what I have is railroad related and I've decided to trim a lot of it down. At the same time I'm drooling over some lovely cameras and lenses on eBay. I've got to support the old camera habit somehow, so I'm selling a lot of the railroad stuff.

Go here for a look.

So far, it's no big bucks, but looks like I'll be covering expenses. It's also rather suspenseful watching the process; better than buying lottery tickets.

and shameless commerce,

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I am the speed of Heaven's breath,
The joy of the headlong pursuit;
I will leap your barriers;
Rush across your boundaries.
Call me not to return;
The birds have not yet been scattered.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

False Snow

False Snow, originally uploaded by Stephen Foster.

This is a bit of a departure for me. I wrenched this one pretty far from it's original form. It was shot on B&W film, but turned out bland - overcast day. I should have shot in color, perhaps, although one can get too much green.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Where does the energy go?

This is a question for all and sundry, but mostly for NPR's Science Friday talk show.

Has anyone performed comprehensive "wellhead-to-pavement" energy and carbon audits for automobiles in conventional, PHEV and straight EV modes? How do they stck up for coal generated electricity and natural gas generated electricity?

I have an impression that a Toyota Rav4 EV powered by the dirtiest coal plant in the US is still cleaner than the same vehicle of conventional gasoline power. Am I anywhere near the mark on this?

Also, what is the impact, per mile, of battery manufacture?

Love and curiosity,

Friday, January 16, 2009

Comment to California Air Resources Board

I posted the following comment on the
California Air Resources
Board web site (links below):

Comment 15 for phev09 (45 Day).

First Name: Stephen
Last Name: Foster
File (i.e., Attachment):

Subject: Limit Regulation of PHEV Aftermarket Industry
I ask that the Air Resources Board limit
regulation of the PHEV Aftermarket industry
to protect the spirit of innovation currently
in flower.

I drive much more than average for my work
in construction. For one, such as myself,
to have access to clean transportation would
be of great benefit to the effort to reduce
pollution by green-house gasses. I am very
interested in the development of PHEV
technology for light truck applications.

I am concerned that this nascent industry may
be adversely impacted by injudicious regulation.
We need as many new ideas to have a chance to
face the test of the real world as can be
imagined. Ill effects from poor design or
process will be limited due to the small number
of units made. Time for stricter regulation
for test procedures and parts certification
would be more appropriate later, when a few
designs are beginning to dominate the

I urge the Air Resources Board to exercise
restraint in its efforts; the benefits to
society from these emerging technologies
is of great value to society; and the
impacts to a young industry may be to our

Thank you,
Stephen H. Foster
Concord, California

CalCars article on ARB hearing

Air Resources Board Agenda

Scroll to Day 2. Comments can be made
from the agenda page.

Friday, January 2, 2009

How I use the light meter

My default setting for automatic cameras is "A-Auto" for aperture preferred automatic exposure. That permits rapid response to unfolding opportunities. When I'm taking my time, however, I use manual exposure and spot-metering.

My Nikon D200 has a 2 degree spot meter setting. For this image (the first of the new year) I metered two locations, as shown by the two circles. The subject was low contrast because of cloud cover. I wanted to place the contrast at the trike about midway between the high and low lights. The darker shadow to the right was to fall where it might. Alternately pointing the meter spot at the two locations, I adjusted the shutter speed (aperture was wide open for that lens to keep ISO low) so that the exposure bar, in the viewfinder, indicated the same distance above and below the midpoint.

This is my simplified version of the Zone System, developed by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer.

For further study, I will be looking into a reputed 12 stop dynamic range for film; compared to the ZS's use of a 10 stop range. Pentax's 1 degree Spot Meter uses 12 stops marked on the dial.

Reading list

I just finished reading Jay Winik's April 1865, the month that saved America. Harper Collins, 2001.

Among other things, Winik conveys a view of the fragility that was our republic before the Civil War. He sees us as having become a nation, instead of a political construct, in that conflict.

Next up is George B. Dyson, Darwin among the machines, the evolution of global intelligence. 1997, Perseus Books.

Love and lines of words,

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