Photo Lesson: Mysteries of the Histogram Unraveled

What secrets are hidden in the digital histogram?
What secrets are hidden in the digital histogram?

One of the pillars upon which good photography rests is proper or optimum exposure. Without it, an otherwise outstanding photograph falls short or may be completely ruined.

If you don’t know much about histograms, and don’t want to know much about them but want to improve your digital photography here’s the condensed version of this post: Histograms show the distribution of brightness values in a photo. Check the histograms after every shot and adjust your exposure to keep the graph within the left and right borders like the histogram above. If you want a better of understanding of histograms then read on…

RVing to the Stars

The starry nights were amazing. We were camped at 9400', miles and miles from the nearest city lights. The Milky Way was clearly visible. Plus, we were there during the Perseid meteor shower. We slept under the stars and set the alarm for 2 AM. Over the next hour we saw dozens and dozens of shooting stars.
The starry nights were amazing. We were camped at 9400′, miles and miles from the nearest city lights. The Milky Way was clearly visible. Plus, we were there during the Perseid meteor shower. We slept under the stars and set the alarm for 2 AM. Over the next hour we saw dozens and dozens of shooting stars. (Click image to enlarge.)

One thing I think is sometimes overlooked when talking about the adventure of RVing is that sometimes an RVing destination is a jumping off point for another kind of adventure. For example, I recently returned from a wilderness adventure into the high Sierra back country of the the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. The area I visited was in the Hoover Wilderness just north of Yosemite National Park. This trip took me to elevations above 10,000’, 20 miles from the nearest road–an area that as a younger man I backpacked to but in recent years have gone in via “four hoofed RV”… READ MORE

How to Photograph Fireworks

I often like fireworks photos where they spill out of the frame.
I often like fireworks photos where they spill out of the frame.

I wish I had posted this a week or so ago in order to give you a little more of an opportunity to soak it all in, but better a little late than never. Right? There’s still a day till the 4th.

Fireworks are intensely hot explosions but photos of fireworks can be pretty cool. How’s that for some clever word play? OK, forget that… I’ve had a glass of wine…

I probably didn't leave the shutter open very long for this shot.
I probably didn’t leave the shutter open very long for this shot.

Seriously, getting good photos of fireworks requires both knowing how as well as good luck. I can help with the first part. READ MORE…

Mission Accomplished

Charlene at Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort
Charlene at Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort on my very first shakeout cruise.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago… well, maybe sometime in 2011-2012, I got this idea to buy an RV, spend 6 to 12 months traveling the country, then selling it. I spent quite a long time learning about RVs, deciding what kind to buy, and finally in October, 2013 I took the plunge and bought a 30′ Class C Coachmen Freelander motorhome. It was about 7 months from the time I took Charlene home until I set out on what was to be an 18 month sojourn around the states and easily the greatest adventure of my life. READ MORE…

Bullseye!

The kind of bullseye you never want to hit--or have hit you--a chip in your windshield. This one was really small, just 1/4" across. If not attended to promptly, over time little chips and cracks can spread, eventually necessitating windshield replacement.

Bullseye
Pronunciation: /ˈbo͝olzī/
The center of a target in sports such as archery, shooting, and darts.

Well, that’s one of a number of definitions. In any kind of target practice the bullseye comes first. Next you aim and take your shot. Usually it’s regarded as a good thing to hit the bullseye. There’s another kind of bullseye where the order is reversed: the shot is taken first and the bullseye appears second. Not always such a good thing. Case in point: driving down the road a pebble got tossed at my windshield by a car in front of me. It made a small chip in my window surrounded by little cracks. Turns out this kind of damage is called, you guessed it, a bullseye. Here, you don’t hit the target. It hits you! Like I said, not such a good kind of bullseye. I’m not totally sure if the damage to my windshield would best be considered a bullseye or star damage. It may be a hybrid. I think it’s just a technical distinction with each being treated the same way. If you’re headed to Alaska, another area famous for windshields getting cracked, or just curious about a way to potentially save hundreds dollars… READ MORE…

Malfunctioning RV Holding Tank Sensor Probes and Potential Fixes

Here are three KIB Enterprise MP5 holding tank probes. On the left is what they look like delivered. The nuts need to be loose in order to press the other end into a 3/8" hole in the tank. In the center I've tightened the nuts a little bit and you can see how the rubber grommet is beginning to compress as it would once inside the tank and the inner nut tightened. After insertion and tightening the first nut, the electrical connector is placed over the threaded post and then the second nut holds it to the assembly. On the right you can see the probe is merely an assembly of five simple parts: a grommet, a stainless steel screw, a washer and two nuts.
Here are three KIB Enterprise MP5 holding tank probes. On the left is what they look like delivered. The nuts need to be loose in order to press the other end into a 3/8″ hole in the tank. In the center I’ve tightened the nuts a little bit and you can see how the rubber grommet is beginning to compress as it would once inside the tank and the inner nut tightened. After insertion and tightening the first nut, the electrical connector is placed over the threaded post and then the second nut holds it to the assembly. On the right you can see the probe is merely an assembly of five simple parts: a grommet, a stainless steel screw, a washer and two nuts.

I was recently faced with what may be the most ubiquitous problem in the world of RVing: a malfunctioning holding tank sensor system that incorrectly reports the fill level of the tanks. There are already a great many posts online about the subject with all kinds of suggested remedies. These include methods that attempt to clean the sensor probes by placing various solutions into the holding tanks, to rinsing wands that in some cases can be inserted into the tanks, to replacing the existing system with a new one of the same or different kind, etc. In my search for solutions I haven’t, however, come across information about locating replacement OEM sensor probes or installing them, and it took a bit of doing for me to locate some probes and information about installing them correctly. Sharing information on these latter two aspects of the problem is what motivated me to make this post. READ MORE…

Sorry Burt, it’s over between us!

A.K.A Home Made Lip Balm

My lip balm vs. Burt's Beeswax. I think mine's mo bettuh.
My lip balm vs. Burt’s Beeswax. I think mine’s mo bettuh.

This is my blog, created to regale you with tales of my RVing adventures. So, what does lip balm have to do with RVing? you ask. Everything… nothing. Depends on your point of view. For me, RVing means going to beautiful places in nature. Sometimes it’s cold and windy up in the mountains and my lips tend to get dry and chapped. Sometimes it’s hot and dry in the desert and, well, my lips tend to get dry and chapped. Either way, I’m a balm-aholic. I never leave home without it. READ MORE…

Photo Lesson: HDR… What’s That About?

You may have heard of it. Possibly seen the letters on your camera or smart phone screen: HDR. What does that mean? What does it do? Why should you care? Glad you asked. What follows is a simplified, lay explanation of HDR but it should suffice for our purposes. I’m also including some photos so you can see for yourself. READ MORE…

The HDR image at the bottom right combines the best of the other three.
The HDR image at the bottom right combines the best of the other three. Click to enlarge into a new web browser window.

Sunset Over San Francisco

Sunset over San Francisco Bay & Mt. Tam
Mount Tamalpais to the west, across the San Francisco Bay as seen from the Berkeley Hills, January 17 or 18, 2013. This isn’t the most spectacular shot from that night, but it’s still one of my favorites. Click on it to enlarge.

I always try to include at least one really nice photo as a lead-in to my posts so as to catch the eye and raise interest in reading further. Today, I’m using one of my favorites of the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ll tell you why I chose this particular photo for this post but first I think you might find the back-story of its making of interest.

One of my customers, a business in Marin County, CA is a gift store that has sold some of my note cards. (If you don’t already know I make a line of fine-art note cards with my awesome-if-I-do-say-so-myself flower photos.) The proprietress asked me if I’d consider making some cards for her with “local color”, shots of the bay area. I decided I’d try at least one.

To make the image for this card I thought I would go up to the top of the east bay hills at sunset and shoot a silhouette of Mt. Tamalpais across the San Francisco Bay to the west, then composite-in a sunset I liked that I’d photographed some years ago in Death Valley. That was my plan, anyway, because we don’t get that many spectacular sunsets around here. When I arrived at the top of the hills to shoot my the mountain silhouette, however, what I just happened to stumble upon that evening was one of the most amazing, if not the most amazing sunset I’d ever seen. When I say that I’m including all the sunsets of my life, not just those in the Bay Area. I was beside myself with excitement, literally jumping up and down with glee. The lead shot for this post is one that resulted from my shooting that night. So, no need to do any photo compositing or image enhancement after all.

This shot reveals why I wrote that this was the most spectacular sunset I've seen in all my years. In the murky, dark, horizontal strip it's possible to make out the Golden Gate Bridge as well as Alcatraz.
This shot reveals why I wrote that this was the most spectacular sunset I’ve seen in all my years. In the murky, dark, horizontal strip it’s possible to make out the Golden Gate Bridge as well as Alcatraz.

Now, as to the reason I chose it for this post, it’s because I thought it quite appropriate—as the sun set over the San Francisco Bay Area that night, so it has recently set on my year and a half adventure of traveling America in my motorhome. That adventure is now behind me, which isn’t to say that I won’t have other RVing adventures in the future—I’m already contemplating the purchase of a 5th wheel RV, but that won’t be until at least next spring or summer, if at all.

As year end approaches and we plan our holiday get-togethers with family and friends and our farewells to 2015, let me take this opportunity to wish to you and yours greetings of the season and a happy and healthy 2016.

Meanwhile, should you have any additional, last minute shopping to do via Amazon.com or any shopping with Amazon in the future, please bookmark and use this link. I’ll get a little credit when you do and it won’t cost you anything more. Thanks. (My Amazon link is always available via the navigation menu at the top of all pages on the blog.)

Passion Flower
One of my flower note-card shots. Passion flowers like this one grow on vines, and there are about 10 varieties growing within walking distance of my apartment in Berkeley, CA. One right next door produces an edible fruit, a yellow banana passion fruit which reminds me in taste of a grapefruit. They are just amazing flowers. I mean, look at it. Wow!

The Saga of the Mysterious Check Engine Light

 Your check engine light may look like any one of these, or something else.
Your check engine light may look like any one of these, or something else.

Many of us have seen it and if you’re like me you’ve been puzzled by it–the Check Engine light on the dashboard of your car or RV. Normally, it illuminates with many other lights when you first turning on the ignition, and then it disappears along with most of the others when the engine begins to run. What does it mean, though, when you’re driving merrily along your way and the Check Engine light comes on? Well, it could mean one of many things or point to more than one item that requires attention. The engine has a lot of parts and components, mechanical and electronic. Just which of these things are you supposed to check? Is it something urgent? Should you pull over and turn the engine off, or is it OK to continue driving? READ MORE…

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