Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dynamic views

I just read that blogger (the site that I use for blogging) now offers dynamic views of all blogs that are public. This works on this blog therefore. The views are interesting but it often doesn't seem to pickup the images very well in the snapshot icons. I like the sidebar view but you can choose several different layouts from the top popup. I wonder if these views will be customizable because the blog suddenly loses all context.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tallboy ride on smokey Chimney Gulch

Sorry for all the bike related posts. I have had very little time to go through my photographs (work is really busy) and my backlog is long.

Ever since my self built bike was stolen recently, I have been pining for a ridin'. And I need to get back in the saddle as they say. So I decided to a demo program at a local bike shop. In this case I selected Golden Bike Shop mostly because they carry brands I carry and because they treated me well when my Ellsworth frame broke last year. Even though it was far out of warranty they offered me quite a bit off a new Ellsworth frame. Of course for those who know the bike world, you know that the cheapest Ellsworth offers is over $2k. That is how I ended up with a Titus frame which I found online at JensonUSA for a very fair price. Of course that's all in the past now and I need to move on. So I need to find me a new bike. I have been debating myself whether I will build myself another bike from the frame, but for some reason I don't really feel like it right now. So I probably will buy a complete bike and upgrade the components over time when they go out. The latter is pretty quick for me as I do ride my bikes quite hard. Doing a demo program is a good deal here as the bike shops will credit you for the entire cost of the demo when you buy a bike from them. The demo programs are pretty comparable in general. The Golden bike shop's deal is pretty nice. For $150 (which will get refunded if you buy from them) you get to ride six different bikes on 6 different days. So basically 6 rentals for fairly little or nothing in the end.

Today I decided to go high end just to get that out of the way. I rode the Santa Cruz Tallboy in the higher end build. This is a twentyniner full suspension frame that they built up with quite high end components. The twentynine signifies that it uses 29" wheels instead of the standard 26" for mountain bikes. The bike runs $4700 or so as it is a carbon fiber frame. That is many times over what I would ever spend on a bike, so this exercise was purely academic. This is a fun bike that powers over more than what you can on a bike with 26" wheels. Since there is a wildfire near Golden that is making it very smoky here I decided to head a little further north for my test ride and got to the White Ranch trailhead, only to discover that they were using the parkinglot to fly the firefighting helicopters from. Looked pretty cool (sorry forgot to take pictures), but it meant I couldn't ride the trail there. So I decided to head South. When I came by Chimney Gulch I noticed that the wind had shifted more North and that that was surprisingly smoke free now, so I decided to ride it. This is a really nice, fairly technical ride with some good climbing on rocky parts and a lot of hairpins and a fast, fun downhill. The bike handled well but the suspension needed some tuning which I did later that night so that the next morning early I could do another test ride. The trail as captured by my phone's GPS chip is below displayed in Google Earth.

The height profile is here (in red):

As you see a nice slightly over 1 hour ride and nicely very close to my workplace. TO test whether tuning the suspension makes a difference, I rode Apex park with the same bike the next morning, including the excellent Enchanted forest trail. The track is displayed below:

The altitude profile is in blue two images above. This is a shorter trail that can be done in under an hour.

Observations about the bike:
When you tune the suspension, it handles really well. This is a general issue with suspension bikes. If you don't get the suspension tuned for your weight and style, you really cannot judge the bike from demoing it. It handled about as good as my old Titus even though the Tallboy is a far more expensive bike. I can indeed ride some more things that on my old bike were not always ridable simply because of the bigger wheels. The geometry was also very good. I rode down several very tight turns with waterbars that I normally have a hard time making. The bike's weight is very surprising. About the same as my old Titus that only had 26" wheels. Carbon fiber really helps there. Hydraulic brakes are great. They do indeed stop you in your tracks. I didn't like how the levers were setup. After the downhill my fingers were cramping due to the large distance to the levers and the brakes being set so aggressive. Probably an easy fix. Now for the negative points. The bottom bracket shell and consequently the pedals are very low on the frame and you almost sit up straight on this thing. The low pedals make it very easy to constantly hit rocks and waterbars with the pedals, which I found disconcerting with such a big bike. On the 26" bikes I have ridden I rarely hit the same rocks and bars. We'll see if this is a general thing with 29" wheeled bikes. I can imagine that being so because the rear wheel might be pushed back in the frame geometry in order for the rider to not be too high up. Perhaps a large frame would be better for me for this reason. I usually straddle the border between medium and large on these frames.

Here is the bike on the enchanted forest trail. I liked the (for me) patriotic color.
Sant Cruz Tallboy

As an aside I saw the Indian Gulch fire quite clearly from the windy saddle on the CHimney Gulch trail. This is a point where the trail crosses the road up lookout mountain and lots of people were watching the firefighting efforts. Here is a quick iPhone panorama of the fire and the smoke (bigger in the link).
Indian Gulch fire

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sauron moon

This burnt tree (looks like a ponderosa pine) in White Ranch open space reminded me of the tower in the Lord of the Rings movies where the eye of Sauron was perched between two spires. So I framed the moon between them to be perched like the eye of Sauron.

The dark tower
This was assembled from nine images at 55 mm, f/22, 1/15s, ISO 100. Buy a print.

Close to this burnt out hunk, I found some nicely structured dead trees. These were the same as I put on flickr a while ago when I photographed them using my iPhone on a bike ride (the reason I returned here with full photo gear).

Single shot, 70mm, f/16, 1/5s, ISO 100. Buy a print.

9 images at 150mm, f/16, 1.3s, ISO 100. Buy a print.

single image at 150mm, f/16, 1.3s, ISO 100. Buy a print.

9 images at 70mm, f/16, 1/5s, ISO 100. Buy a print.

There is a set of images on smugmug here where you can order large prints. If you're into the social networking thing, check out the set at flickr.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My bike got stolen

This morning I walk outside and notice something is wrong. Some asshole stole my bike from the roof of my car. Forcing open the lock and cutting several ties I use to secure the bike. This is a bike I recently built from parts to replace my previous (also selfbuilt) one that I broke the frame of. This one has a grey Titus bicycles frame with a Marzocchi fork and a Fox Float rear shock. This is what it looks like (larger in the link).


Or here in the snow.

Amazingly, the thieves were incompetent enough to leave the shears they used


Here you can see how they forced open the lock probably by rocking the bike which also bent the rail.


Amazingly, these thieves were so incompetent they actually broke the front fork. You can see one of the pieces of metal here:


This will make the bike unsellable without some major repair (a new fork basically).

The Arvada police department in the person of officer Pena (a mountain biker too apparently) actually came really quickly and took the shears to examine it for prints so perhaps something will come of it.

As a Dutchman of course I have had my bike stolen before, but never one that I was so attached to and that I built myself. This last week I rode it every single day. I'll miss it. These nasty thieves deserve nothing but the worst.

Edit: this is the serial number
Serial number of my bike that got stolen

Friday, March 18, 2011

"Food" industry run amok

And it is apparently buying itself legislation that prohibits anybody from taking a photograph of a "farm". Many states in the US already have absolutely crazy laws that prevent simple free speech that criticise the food industry (the so-called veggie laws) but now they also want to prevent anybody from taking simple pictures of farms even from public roads. Clearly they want to prevent the public from finding out about the abusive practices that some say occur in these highly industrialized places. If you have Netflix, I recommend you stream Food Inc to your TV/computer/iPad/iPhone to learn a little more but that is not as graphic as the video linked to in the New York Times article above. The book that the movie is based on "the Omnivore's dilemma" is better but takes a little longer to read. An instructive rant on the farm photography Stalinist laws is at silber Clearly this is not about the small farms that they make it sound like in the laws but about protecting the grind-them-up-alive operations that "produce" so much of today's "food". Of course the laws are written so that it applies to any food producing entity, not just the factory feedlot operations.

I don't know about you but I think something is deeply wrong when you could get thrown into jail for taking a cell phone picture of a farm next to a road. Note also how diametrically opposed this is to the well known right of photographers to photograph what can be seen from the public road excepting maybe a few national security related places such as certain DOE and DOD installations.

Timelapse of earthquake data

Jeffrey Friedl, well known for his work on Lightroom plugins and who lives in Japan, created a quite revealing timelapse animation of data from accelerometers present everywhere in Japan of a whole week of data of the big quake and many aftershocks. Aftershocks is a bad word for this as many were quite large in their own right. Check it out on his blog.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


My heart goes out to the people in Japan. The devastation caused by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami is just terrible.
The big picture
The frame
Denver Post

Update: This interactive before/after satellite photo comparison on the New York Times' website is gut wrenching. Reminiscent of similar images from Indonesia when a tsunami struck there.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Funny video with a punchline that hinges on camera scene modes that I saw linked on a blog I follow. So I am doing the perpetuating thing.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

False Kiva

False Kiva is an extraordinary and more or less secret place in Canyonlands National Park. It is nestled in the side of a mesa rim in a just absoluteley amazing setting overlooking the White Rim and Green River. I visited this place last October on Hallow's eve. The next day, I was going to do white rim by bike with a group of friends, so I decided to camp in the one campground in the park the night before and do an evening shoot at False Kiva. The interesting thing about this archeological site is that its location is kept more or less secret by the park service. There are no signs and no designated trail. You can find GPS coordinates on the web, but those are basically useless as they are accurate but are simply lead you to the rim of the island in the sky right above the mesa, but no way of knowing or seeing what's below it, if you don't want to plummet to your death. So ignore the GPS coordinates. There are a few photography books that have instructions but the best way to figure out how to get there is to talk to a photographer that has been there. The hike is short and not very technical but there are some exposed spots. You start at a ditch that is not at all where the GPS coordinates would have you go, after a while, you hit the rim and swing around and go down a rocky path to somewhere below the Kiva and cross over on a bench that looks precarious and then climb up again, all the way not seeing where you are going. You just don't see the kiva from anywhere on the trail. Then you go over a hump and suddenly the Kiva lies before you overseeing a breath taking view. It's smaller than you would expect from some of the famous images taken of it.

False Kiva
Buy a print of this image.
Assembled from 2 sets of 15 images at 35 mm, ISO 200, f/16, 1/50s and 1/10 assembled in hugin and stitched in hugin. Exposure blended using enfuse. This image will print wallsize with exquisite detail.

I shot some other viewpoints too of which I liked this vertical view:
False Kiva
Buy a print.
Assembled from 2 exposure sets of 9 images at 35mm, ISO 200, f/16, 1/10s and 1/80s.

A tighter horizontal framing is here:
False Kiva
Buy a print.
Assembled from 2 exposure sets of 12 shots each at 35 mm, ISO 200, f/16, 1/6s and 1/40s.

At the site is a little log book and a some explanation of what the archeologists think the site was used for. It certainly has some of the features of a kiva (the depression in the middle for the smoke blocker and such) but is quite different from other real kivas in the southwest. Regardless of what it meant to the people that lived here, this is a very worthwhile site to visit and it was quite an experience to be there all alone on Halloween. The contrast with the throng of photographers at Mesa Arch the next morning couldn't be greater. I will certainly go back to False Kiva and try different light conditions. This would be interesting in winter with a sun setting more in the frame and perhaps some snow on the rock formations. The sunset was great but I left a little before to make sure I could see my trail back. In my images below you can see that it is golden hour light though and the glow is lovely. A few more clouds would have been great but hey I am not going to complain. This was an absolutely fantastic experience in itself. I headed back to the campground where I met a few of the friends with whom I would hit the rim the next day that had been able to find the site I put my tent up in which was easy as the campground was virtually deserted. They had already prepared some excellent tortellinis and it was a good but very cold night with frost on the tent in the morning. I headed out to take pictures of Mesa Arch the next morning before hopping on the bike. I'll post about both those trips soon as I got some excellent images out of it that have been chomping at the bit on my hard drive.

See more pictures of False Kiva here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lava Lake

Amazing pictures from (again) photographer Olivier Grunwald. This time from the rim of the largest lava lake in the world. Absolutely incredible.