Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Out of the Blue

I took this image a couple of years ago in Las Vegas. I really like it, but I know I could have made a better image. I got wrapped up in a boring job with no creativity and no real free time to work on my own projects. So I just went through the motions in planing the photograph.

Since that time, things have changed. New job. New town. New year. New opportunities. Renewed focus.

My main goal this year is to improve my photography on a variety of levels. To that end, I've been doing a lot of research into digital photography. I basically have to relearn everything I know about photography and how it applies to DSLRs. Understanding how the camera functions is really important to me, and all the math I've had to absorb has given me an Excedrin headache No. 10. However, I've really enjoyed that headache because I have a better understanding of what is involved in the whole process. I got the same headaches reading Ansell Adams' Practical Zone System.

Fortunately, the web offers a huge amount of very bad information and a few real gems when it comes to the latest photographic techniques.

There are a lot of blogs, websites and photo forums, that I've read in order to catch up to the current photographic techniques. One of my favorites is Trey Ratcliff's Stuck in Customs. I've read his site for a few weeks and I've tried to figure out what techniques he used to create the images.

His photographs are amazing, but not really the style I'm personally interested in developing. I can't quite place my finger on the path I want my photographic style to follow. I'm still feeling my way through the process. But, I've got a good grasp on the technology to begin work.

One of the things I'm going to have to develop is social networking skills. Honestly, I'm not a big fan of social "computer" networks or whatever they're called. I'd much rater talk to a person face to face.

But the Internet has changed the world. We now talk to people through computers. But, to me that's a good thing. It allows me to interact with people on a worldwide level. This is another skill I'm going to have to learn. The opportunity to have feedback and criticism from anywhere is an opportunity I'd have to be a complete moron to pass up.

Which brings me to the conclusion of this post. To get a handle on social networking I've joined Flickr.com. I uploaded a few photos from the past just to kind of fill out my account.

Today when I logged back in, I had a Flickr comment on the photo I posted in this entry from Trey Ratcliff. It's not really ironic, but I consider it a strange coincidence, that I've spent a lot of time studying his photography style and he somehow stumbles across one of my photographs.

That really pushed me to get out and shoot. It's odd that a simple comment like "Cool shot - I dig it!" can bolster a person's sense of motivation.


Sunday, January 27, 2008


I had an opportunity to shoot the storytellers at the Second Annual Pike Piddler's Storytelling festival in Troy, Alabama, on Jan. 26, 2008. My mother is heavily involved in historical preservation and spreading that idea to the community. She came up with the idea for a local storytelling festival three years ago, and recruited me to do the photography for their future promotional material. The event was held on the main campus of Troy University in the Trojan Center Theater. I really hate shooting events in theaters because the lighting is so bad. You just have to deal with it as best you can.

Still, I was lucky enough to hear four of the nation's best storytellers. The photo above is of Donald Davis, nationally know as the Dean of Storytelling. Other "tellers" included Andy Offutt Irwin, Shiela Kay Adams and Alabama native, 90-year-old Kathryn Tucker Windham.

I was really hoping to get more out of this excursion than just shots of the storytellers, well telling stories. There's really not much backstage stuff with the storytellers, all of the set-up is done by festival volunteers. They just get picked up at the hotel and come tell their stories. When they get done, they sit in a reserved seat and listen to everybody else tell their stories. Between sessions, they go eat or visit with the people attending the festival.

Overall, it's extremely boring to shoot, but exceptionally entertaining to be a part of.

Where I was hoping to really get some good HDR shots was of the university and the Pioneer Museum of Alabama. Unfortunately, it was one of those days where the sky is completely gray with no breaks in the clouds. So I packed it in and hoped today would offer a better opportunity. It didn't.

I've been battling a cold, so I took some medicine after lunch and it pretty much put me asleep for three hours. When I woke up there wasn't a cloud in the sky. I really need a partly cloudy day to complete the HDR shots I have planned. Until that happens, I'll be patient as death.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Colony: Skiffs

I've referenced Skiffs heavily in my early notes on Creating the Colony. So I decided to log into Second Life and make a crude model of a one-man skiff. The screenshot above is of my Second Life avatar, Aireanna Nishi, at Abbott's Aerodrome with the crude skiff. I may eventually make it into a working aircraft and add a flight script to it, but most likely not. Linden Scripting Language gives me a headache.

Skiffs are the standard long-distance crafts in The Colony. They employ Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) technology in order to lift off and land on space restricted landing areas. Once in flight, the lift fans rotate 90-degrees in order to provide forward propulsion for the aircraft. This provided a great boost in airspeed over rotor driven aircraft, enabling faster travel. This is a great benefit because the Seek were able to build skyports with a very tight aircraft recovery area, launch rescue efforts quickly and land expeditions in the most remote locations.

Beginning in C303 skiffs were built with a Shimmerwood frame and skin. Catherine Li, a botanist that arrived with the Sixth Expedition, developed a molding technique for Shimmerwood that allowed it to be hardened in shaped forms. This was a major development in production for The Colony. in C500, nearly every vehicle produced uses the technology she developed. The technology has been adapted into manufacturing techniques across The Colony.

A skiff is actually the common term referring to a range of small boats. Initially, the Seek called them Aero-lifts, but the term Skiff replaced that name in the popular lexicon around C88.

Up until about C200 Skiffs were restricted to rescue operations. However, with the arrival of the fourth expedition, the Seek had cannibalized enough navigation and guidance parts from Expedition Transports that they were able to construct a small fleet of skiffs with 1, 2 and 4 seat models. The majority of the 4-seat models were eventually converted to 1-seat cargo skiffs to supply research centers and outposts.

From C287-351, the Seek constructed more than 400 skiffs. Of those domestic models, 183 were lost on Seek expeditions. More advanced skiffs arrived with the Seventh Expedition in C350 and the domestically produced skiffs were sold to the general public.

Many bands of Seek also recovered numerous domestic skiffs lost by earlier expeditions. The Skiffs were used for transport to the site the expedition would launch. Many expeditions never returned and the skiff were never recovered.

Pax has recovered seven skiffs and Madelyn recovered another three during her exploration of the Fractured Dismals and Sierra Hackles. The two of them have access to the largest private fleet of skiffs in The Colony. Madelyn's mechanical skills ensured that the skiffs are kept in good mechanical working order and Pax' connections have enabled them to upgrade the skiff's electronics with the latest technology from the Ninth Expedition. Obtaining the electronics from two Expedition Transports from the Tenth Expedition is a major objective for Pax' band of Seek in C500.

Many civilians are involved in the development of recreation model skiffs. These skiffs are based on Ultralight technology from Earth and are fixed-wing, cloth aircraft with a single turbine to provide lift and propulsion.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008


There are some websites and discussion groups that I find invaluable for reference, discussion and debate. I've broken the links into various categories for the convenience of readers.

General Photography

HDR Imaging
Flickr HDR Group: There is some good information in this discussion group. The only problem is you have to sort through a lot of what I call idiot posts. People need to learn to read threads before they post a very basic question. Overall though, there are 18,000+ members of this group and they produce a lot of very good
HDR images and discussions. Like any message board, there are some very good photographers that post regularly. I like to read through this group every couple of days or so.

Stuck In Customs HDR Tutorial: Trey Ratcliff's images are amazing. The link is to his
HDR tutorial. Anyone interested in HDR imaging should read this site thoroughly and appreciate his impressive images.

Night Photography
Cambridge in Colour: This is one of the best photography sites I've read in a long time. Sean T.
McHugh's website should probably be categorized under General Photography, but most of the work on his sight is Night Photography related. But, his tutorials and techniques section is by far some of the best information I've seen on the web for digital photographers. The tutorials delve into the mathematics and inner workings of how a digital camera functions. I hate math and it gave me a headache trying to learn to understand it, but it was a headache well worth having.

Lost America: Troy
Paiva is an exception night photographer. His works center around ghost towns and abandoned structures in the southwest United States. There's not a lot of information on his techniques, but the images are great. It's worth an occasional look to see his new photographs.

The Nocturnes: This is kind of a catch all site for night photography. There are very informative articles and photographs published frequently. I don't reference this sight as much as I once did. The photographers that maintain the website are based in San Francisco and hold yearly workshops.

Sports Photography
Sports Shooter: I did sports photography for so long that I'm trying to get away from it. Even though I'm no longer a member of this website, I read the forums frequently. Some of the best sports photographers in the nation are members of this website. It's filled with resources ranging from a photographer's forum and informative articles to a database of sports arena's in the U.S. I highly recommend this site to anyone interested in sports photography.


Monday, January 21, 2008

HDR Headaches

I decided to try a foray into High Dynamic Range Imaging, or HDR imaging, recently. The Wikipedia reference explains the whole process.

In a nutshell, a DSLR's sensor can only capture a portion of the range of light in a scene. By bracketing exposures, the photographer can capture the majority of the range of light in teh field of view. By using applications that combine and tonal map the bracketed images into a single image with the range of all three.

In all, it's a fairly simple process that can result in a wide range of results. A Flickr.com HDR group I read had two recent threads on this particular subject: Thread 1, Thread 2. As you can see from the images in the posts, people have their own interpretations of what an image should look like. Honestly, some of the images I didn't care for and others I really liked.

The point is, HDR photography is pretty subjective because so many manipulations can be applied when generating the HDR image and then in post processing is Photoshop. Incidently, Photoshop is where most of the work on the image occurs.

This tutorial has been really helpful. But there is definitely a well developed skill and high degree of experience and knowledge required to produce these photographs. I'm beginning to get a handle on it, but I need a lot better understanding of the, dare I say this, mathematics behind the process. I've got a lot of reading to do on Sean T. McHugh's website. He has an exceptional series of tutorials on digital photography; it'll take me a month to digest everything he has in those tutorials. However, most of his photographs are done with neutral density filters and are not HDR images. Still, understanding the mathematics will be helpful.

I'd like to learn to produce quality HDR images like the ones referenced in Wikipedia (Photo 1, Photo 2, Photo 3).

After about 20 attempts at producing a good HDR image, I came up with the one above. It's five photos bracketed at 1 stop increments. The correct exposure was 1.5 seconds at f:8. The big glowing blur is the moon. My initial thought was that I could use Photoshop to mask the HDR image and reveal the correctly exposed moon from an additional image in the sequence. But, the long exposures on the negative side of the bracket produced too much of a burned out highlight.

I spent a few more days reading and studying the actual mathematics behind HDR imaging. That has given me a lot more insight into the whole process. I'll post up some more images soon. I still don't have much daylight after I get off work, so the majority of my shooting is limited to the weekends right now.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Colony: Minor Settlements

There are five minor settlements scattered across The Colony. The Balefire Refuge is the smallest, with a year-round population of a little more than 400. During the peak fishing season, from early spring to late fall, the population increases to around 1,300. Westershore, or Paxton, is the largest of the minor settlements. It supports a population near 3,000.

Minor Settlements:

Balefire Refuge: The Refuge lies about 150 miles from the eastern shores of the Hennashores. It is nearly centered in the lake north to south. The Balefire Refuge lies on a set of three islands that are believed to be the remnants of a volcanic plug, similar to Devil's Tower. The Balefire Refuge is the largest, central island in the small chain. The islands were discovered by 3rd Seek Hadrian Simmons in C210 after the arrival of the 4th Expedition. That expedition carried equipment and materials that allowed Simmons to build a ship capable of withstanding the rough waters of the Hennashores. Simmons discovered the waters around the Balefire Refuge were rich with fish and established a fishing village on the central island in C214. The central island is protected on the east side by Sentinel Key, a small island that effectively acts as a seawall to protect vessels in the bay. In 218 the number of vessels on the water increased to a point that a lighthouse was needed for nautical reference. Construction began on a red brick lighthouse on the westernmost key in C219 and was completed in C223. The structure is 150 feet tall with two black brick bands near the top. It is equipped with a first order Fresnel lens. Simmons named the lighthouse Pharos after the Lighthouse of Alexandria on Earth. The small island eventually came to be called Alexandria Key. By C228, the fishing village had grown to a point that it became a town and was named the Balefire Refuge. The island it rests on holds the same name. The Refuge town is the home to about 2,000 people involved in the fishing industry. It was built on the buttes 150 feet above the waterline. At water level there are slips to berth 50 fishing vessels and two supply/passenger ships. An open-air elevator carries people up to the town and back down again. On the north side of the island a 450-foot rope bridge connects The Refuge to Alexandria Key and the Pharos Lighthouse.

Westershore (Paxton): Westershore is the youngest settlement in The Colony and its history will be detailed in the short story Madelyn's Task. Pax planned the settlement and established the first industries, an alligator, bivalve and swamp deer farming. Once the industries were estableshed, Pax opened the area to settlers and in C492 gave 16-year-old Madelyn Nakamura the task of overseeing construction in the settlement and to enact his plan to established a working city government with fire and police services and tax structure. When Madelyn finished the task in 495 the Westershore had an elected government, 24-hour police and fire protection, a public library and medical facility with and emergency skiff landing pad, a public trading grounds, a Skyport with three pads capable of landing any size skiff up to and Expedition Transport, a commercial dock with a gantry crane, a passenger dock and a gondola lift up to a mountain skiing and fishing resort. Westershore industries include a small ship building company, two alligator farms, a swamp deer farm, bivalve processing plant and dozens of bivalve farms scattered throughout the Roddermarsh. Smaller industries include several ski shops, lake and swamp sports fishing outfitters and a riverfront commercial district. The commercial district includes a variety of businesses ranging from a hardware and pharmacy to hotels, bars and strip clubs. To support the fishing industry, the town maintains the Westershore Lighthouse near the docks and Rogue's Point Lighthouse on the edge of Pilferer's Bay. The Seek maintains a large guild hall here. 57 Seek operate out of this guild hall comprising seven Bands. In 498 C! Television opened a beureau. The town also supports it own research center, the Roddermarsh Research Center. The center researches the Roddermarsh and surrounding area. Because of its remoteness, Westershore is a popular tourist destination. Skiing and fishing are the main tourist attractions. Another popular attraction is the Westershore National Park. It includes the cabin Pax lived in when he was exploring the Roddermarsh and surrounding areas, a museum, walking trails, small zoo and petting zoo. The Lost Seek, The Colony's only national monument, is in the town's municipal complex at the center of the trading grounds. The town also has a rapidly growing artist's colony. Some of the best music and art is created in Westershore. Though the town is officially chartered as Westershore, it's more commonly referred to as Paxton.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Colony: Major Settlements

The Colony's population centers consist of five major settlements, five minor settlements and 10 research centers, seven being minor research centers. Landfall commons was the first settlement founded in C0. Additional settlements were founded in C100, C200, C300 and C400. The Seek begin building research centers in C75 and continued building them through C481. Many of the research centers were dismantled and recycled once their purpose was served (See The Colony: Construction Techniques for additional information). Dozens of outposts were also built and recycled between C0-500. Currently the Seek maintains no outposts. However individual Seek Bands maintain dozens of seasonal outposts for continued exploration of remote areas. Most of these outposts are on the fringes of The Billowing Cordillera.

The Seek maintains three 5,000-foot plus research centers in C500. Those three centers are in some of the furtherest reaches of the valley. Those centers are reachable by graveled roads connected to the main road system. The centers also have a skyport capable of accepting cargo and transportation skiffs for resupply.

Another seven remote research centers less than 500 square feet are also maintained in exceptionally remote areas of the valley. These centers can only be reached by skiff or foot. They have a landing pad that can recover a 4-seat skiff. They are resupplied by a 4-seat skiff that has been reconfigured to carry a limited amount of cargo.

Major Settlements:
Fringefield: The Seek completed basic construction on the Beta Site in C97. The project was carried out haphazardly over a 20 year period, primarily because the Colonial Directive required the Seek to explore a tremendous amount of territory in the first 100 years. Fringefield is an agricultural community that supports about 6,000 people. The town's name was derived because it lay on the fringes of the agricultural fields. Until C206, it remained solely agricultural based. In C206 Hadrian Simmons constructed a dock and built the first sailing ship capable of navigating the rough waters of the Hennashores. He launched the Columbus in C210 and discovered three islands about 150 miles offshore. After discovery of the islands, the Seek commissioned three more ships, the Coronado, De Soto and Magellan, and Simmons established Simmons Shipbuilding Company. Fringefield has been the major shipbuilding operation in The Colony since that time. After Simmons death in C263, the Columbus was decommissioned, refurbished and the Seek created the first national park in Fringefield.

Hollowgrove: The Seek made a drastic change to the Colonial Accord in the formation of this settlement. The third settlement was supposed to support mining operations, but a discovery by Jonathan Cardwell in C236 drastically changed construction techniques in The Colony. Cardwell discovered a plant hollow plant, similar to bamboo, that grew to diameters of 3-feet. The plants grew to 20 feet in warmer months and completely withered to the ground and died in the fall. Cardwell discovered that by harvesting the plants and superheating them, they could be formed into hollow columns with the tensil strength of steel. This opened construction options the Seek would not have available until the 9th Expedition (Using packed earth cylenders for wall construction. This opened the possibility of building earthship buildings). This colony was founded in C237 and was fully established in C241. The plant was named Shimmerwood because it has a faint bioluminescence. In C500 Hollowgrove has a population of about 3,000. It's primary function remains the production of Shimmerwood. The plants no longer grow randomly. They have been cultivated into groves and genetically engineered to meet specific construction techniques. The city is the primary producer of construction materials. It also houses The Colony's first museum, which chronicles the pioneering of Shimmerwood development and environmentally sound construction practices.

Landfall Commons: The Landfall Commons is the first and largest city in The Colony. It is the home of 13,000 people and supports The Colony's central transportation infrastructure. The monorail hub runs a freight and passenger line to each of the other four cities in The Colony. It also houses the only landing sites for incoming Expedition Transports. The Skyport also runs 10 Transportation Skiffs daily and had another five skiffs in reserve. It also has landing fields and support facilities for small, private skiffs. The Landfall Commons also has a lake port with docks and slips to support 15 transport/passenger vessels and 300 fishing and private vessels. The city also houses all government buildings, a 377 year old public university, and a wide variety of private corporations ranging from software development and Internet/television media to food processing and manufacturing plants. The Seek's Main Guild Hall is also in the Landfall Commons. Originally the city was referred to the Alpha Site in C0 and at some point became called Landfall. By C75 the name of the settlement had become the Landfall Commons. In C500, the city is most commonly referred to as The Commons.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Colony: Geographic Features

January 23, 2008, Index Update

I've transcribed most of my notes on geographical features and have them listed here. I still have a few details to add to round out the major geographical locations. However, this index will continue to expand when the supplemental stories are being written. Also, I'm going to try and get a map posted on Flickr, I'll probably have to divide it into sections because I drew it off on 11x17 paper and there is a lot of detail in it.

I haven't posted a map of The Colony yet, but I hope to have one up soon. For a point of reference, The Colony lies in a valley 12,000 miles north to south and 600 miles at the widest point. It is surrounded by two mountain ranges on the east and west and has a 450 mile lake east to west and 400 miles north to south at it's widest point, the easternmost shores. The lake forms a rough triangle with the point being on the eastern shore.

This geographical reference is written with the lake, the Hennashores, being the central geographical feature. All other geographical features will be described in relation to the Hennashores. I've divided Geographic Features into two sections, Settlements and Geographic Features.

(Initial Note: The early Seek explorers often named plants and animals after similar species on earth. Those early names stuck and are used in most references in The Colony stories and reference works. As later expeditions arrived, scientists reclassified the species by genus and species names for the new species. ...

I'm also working on a detailed timeline for The Colony. The initial Expedition's arrival is defined as C0. The 10th and final Expedition arrives in C500, when The Colony stories begin. An Expedition arrives every 50 years. Pax is born in the year C470.)

(Additional note: The transportation infrastructure,, roads and railways, etc.

Because this is an ongoing reference work for The Colony, any references not added to the index yet will be highlighted in red. Any unnamed features will be referred to by a common name (i.e. glacier, river, lake, road, etc.) and highlighted in blue.

Geographic Features:

Barren Path, The: An infrequently maintained dirt road on the south Hennashores coast connecting Overlook Narrows Research Center to Plantation Point, a small farming settlement, and the main road system. There is no record of a project to build this road in the Seek Annals. It was most likely constructed by Bands of Seek exploring the area. The road is seldom traveled on foot or by transportation. The research center is primarily supported by ship or skiff. The road was once well traveled, but with the arrival of the Seventh Expedition and it's cargo of additional small skiffs, the road became largely unnecessary. The Seek surveys and repairs the road every five years because the Hounding Champaign is a popular destination for hunters who usually base their camps around the research center. Most of them arrive in Plantation Point by ship or skiff and take vehicles to the research center because the Seek doesn't allow civilian skiffs to land at research centers , except in emergencies.

Billowing Cordillera, The: This is a vast mountain range on the west of the valley The Colony lies in. The majority of the mountains rise above 28,000 feet, are extremely steep and treacherous to travel. Photos made by the First Expedition from orbit show vast plains and forests on the other side of the Cordillera. Pax has searched for a pass for years and at least seven other bands of Seek based in Westershore launch regular expeditions to find a pass. A pass through the mountains is needed because the skiffs currently employed by The Colony have a ceiling of 12,000 feet. The Expedition Transports are landing-only vehicles. Once on the ground the transports are recycled.

Bitter March, The: The Bitter March is a 300 mile unpaved road running along the Biting Cascade. It connects Hollowgrove to the Bloodstrand Pike. It was named the Bitter March because construction was started in winter C236. A crew in Hollowgrove began working southward and a second crew began working northward from the Bloodstrand Pike. They worked through an exceptionally harsh winter and completed the 300 mile road in the late fall, meeting in the middle. The road is looked upon as a monumental error for the Seek. Building a road from the Bloodstrand Pike on the north shore of the Shallowbight would have been far more efficient, shortening the travel distance from 900 miles to 250, and required far less work. However, at the time the decision was made to build the road, the land between Hollowgrove and Landfall Commons was largely unexplored. Exploration efforts had been focused toward the south and west and not the north. Completion of the monorail between Landfall Commons and Hollowgrove in C258 made the Bitter March obsolete. In C500 the Seek no longer maintains the road. However, some scattered farmers along the road keep portions of it in good condition.

Biting Cascade, The: The Biting Cascade is 320 miles of rapids that feeds the Hennashores from the north. It is formed by the confluence of the Distant Course from the west and the Frigid Run from the northeast. The water is exceptionally cold and extremely difficult to traverse. Farming communities along the river use the fast current to generate electricity through small turbine stations.

Bloodstrand Pike: This is a 600 mile road running along the north coast of the Hennashores. It connects Landfall Commons with the Pyre Thickets Research Center in the Brackenwood. The majority of the road is gravel and passes through dozens of farms and Cabbot's Landing on the opposite shore of the Shallowbight from Landfall Commons and Winterhaven on the edge of the Brackenwood. Seek passing along its path named it Bloodstrand Pike because the road was on the cost of a lake turned red by algae in the summer. Construction began in C0 and was completed in C9. Three arched bridges span the delta of the Biting Cascade to reach Winterhaven.

Crystal Peak: This peak was named by Adrian Hemmler's expedition in 218 because it was the only snowcapped peak during the summer in that part of the Billowing Cordillera. This section of the Cordilleras only reach about 12,000 feet on average. The mountain is on the western shore of Hemmler's Cove and the Tibari Gate flows along its south slope. The Crystal Pinnacle Resort is located 7500 feet up the 12,000 foot mountain. The resort is connected to Westershore by a two-car gondola system that can carry 10 passengers per car.

Crystal Pinnacle: This is a mountain fishing and skiing resort Pax established to support Westershore. Pax and Madelyn began initial development in C490. It was during the course of this project that Pax decided to entrust Madelyn to guide the settlement of Westershore. While Madelyn was working at Westershore, Pax was overseeing the Crystal Pinnacle project. The resort is reachable by small skiff or gondola lift from Westershore. It rests 7,500 feet up Crystal Peak and is an earthship style resort with 150 guest rooms, gift shops, two four-star restaurants, a nightclub, ski shops and fishing outfitters. The resort lies on the western shores of a 450-acre lake, Placid Heights. The majority of the resort's staff live in small cabins near the lodge. The resort is incorporated, but Pax controls 51 percent of the stock. Madelyn owns 5 percent and the resort's employees control about 3 percent of the stock. Most of the money used to build the resort was from sale of land in the Wisp Mire and from his interests in alligator, bivalve and swamp deer farming in Westershore. Pax laid claim to the entire mountain through Seek exploration rewards and has only opened up a very small portion of it to settlement. Currently, only empolyes of the resort can purchase property on the mountain. During winter the resort focuses on the skiing industry. It has seven slopes as well as a snowboard park. The remainder of the year, tourists are attracted to the 450 acre lake for swimming and fishing. It is the destination for the rich and famous of The Colony, which is the major reason C! Television established a bureau in Westershore.

Dismal Run, The: A river running through the Fractured Dismals. A large island splits the river and the southern fork is called the Southfork Floe. The river rejoins to feed the Turbulent Fury.

Distant Course, The: Distant Course is formed by the confluence of River1 and River2 in the Billowing Cordillera. It flows through the middle of the Sierra Hackles and joins with the Frigid Run to form the Biting Cascade. It's a relatively flat, slow flowing river approximately 1/2 mile wide. It is easily passable upstream and downstream. Pax attempted to find a passage through the Billowing Cordillera in C488 by following the Distant Course and River1, but was unable to find a way through the Cordillera at its source.

Fractured Dismals: A low mountain range bordering the south of the plateau the Sierra Hackles rest on. The mountains are extremely rocky and very little vegetation grows there. It runs along the north edge of the Pyre Thickets and Brackenwood. A river runs through the central portion of the Dismals. The Dismal Run splits into a Southfork and rejoins 120 miles later to feed The Turbulent Fury. Pax explored The Dismal Run and northern part of the range in C481-482. Madelyn explored the Southfork as part of her explorations of the Sierra Hackles in C495.

Hemmler's Cove: Adrian Hemmler was the captain of the Coronado and a charge of Hadrian Simmons. Her mission was to map the coastline of the Hennashores. Her expedition launched from Fringefield in C217 and sailed to the Overwatch Narrows Research Center. She mapped the the coast in a counter-clockwise motion from there back to Landfall Commons. Her expedition wasn't equipped to explore the marshlands of the Tangled Narrows and the Wisp Mire, so she left them unexplored. The expedition moved quickly until it passed the bogs and there was solid ground to explore in a cove buffeted by a southern swamp and northern mountains. Her crew realized they had reached the westernmost reach of the Hennashores, they named it Hemmler's Cove. In the next 20 months, she went on to name Rogue's Point, Pilferer's Sound and the Shallowbight and explore 75-100 miles inland along the coast. The Coronado resupplied in the early winter of 219 in Landfall Commons. The maps her expedition made were instrumental in the Seek's Exploration plans for the next 100 years. The maps gave Pax reference points for exploring the marshlands she could not map and all other Seek ignored. She set sail for the Balefire Refuge after resupplying, but the Coronado was lost in a storm two days later. No survivors were ever found. Seek Bands have launched countless expeditions to find the vessel, but no trace of it has ever been found.

Hennashores: The Hennashores are a massive lake on the southern end of the valley. The name is derived from the rust-colored algae that flourish in the summer months, turning the entire lake a deep red color. The lake is 450 miles east to west and 400 miles north to south at it's widest point, the easternmost shores. The average depth is about 325 feet. The lake forms a rough triangle with the point being on the western shore.The lake is fed from the north by the Biting Cascade and drains in the south through The Tangled Narrows. The westernmost shore is feed by a river, the Tibari Gate. The lake is believed to be formed by a massive volcanic eruption. That supposition is supported by the existence of the Balefire Refuge. However, there has been no scientific inquiry conducted. That responsibility lies with the scientists on the 10th Expedition.

Hounding Champaign, The: The Hounding Champaign is a vast plain south of the Hennashores. Scattered stands of trees dot the plains that are heavily populated by grazing animals and predators. It also is home to countless covies of gamebirds. The early Seek used hounds brought from Earth as bird dogs to flush out the birds. So it became known as The Hounding Champaign.

Hundred Bridge Road: This 200-mile road connects Fringefield to Plantation Point and runs along the south shore of the Hennashores. Originally it was called the Field Road. As the Seek began to dig irrigation canals in C102 it became called the Bridge Road. The Seek dug canals every two miles for the length of the road. When the canal projects were complete in C122 100 bridges had been built over the canals. Shortly after, the name was changed to Hundred Bridge Road. In C500, some of the canals have been extended to nearly 250 miles into the Hounding Champaign by farmers. Many canals have been interconnected to allow for faster travel in small boats.

Pilferer's Sound: This is an extremely deep bay on the northwestern banks of the Hennashores. Adrian Hemmler named it Pilferer's Sound in 218 because her sailors fishing off deck kept losing their bait. During Pax' expedition into the Fractured Dismals he spent some time exploring Pilferer's Sound and discovered that it was a fertile ground for a crustacean similar to crabs. This bay is the winter destination of Westershore's crab fishing fleet.

Pointless Rush, The: This river is formed by the confluence of the waters of the Tangled Narrows. Once the river reaches the softer soil of the Hounding Champaign is begins cutting a deep canyon along the fringes of the Billowing Cordillera. The Rush is a series of Class 5 rapids and is almost impassable. The walls of Shivers Canyon are 1500 feet high.

Roddermarsh: The bayous of the Wisp Mire bordering on Hemmler's Cove. Pax mapped and explored the bayous in C479 and C480. Pax and his mentor, Alexander Gray, built a cabin on the northern edge of the bayou in C479. The cabin is part of the Westershore National Park.

Rogue's Beacon: This lighthouse is maintained by the incorporated town of Westershore. It was built to allow for safer navigation in the rough waters around the point. The construction began in C492 and was completed in C494 as part of Madelyn's development of Westershore.

Rogue's Point: The southern point on the west shore of Pilferer's Sound.

Shallowbight: The Shallowbight is a large bay on the northeastern end of the Hennashores. The water depth is about 35 feet on average. The name stems from the fact that the water in the bay is much shallower than anywhere else in the Hennashores. Landfall Commons is built on the shores of the Shallowbight.

Shimmerwood National Park: This is a 20,000 square mile stand of wild Shimmerwood plants. It became a national forest in C238 and The Colony's second national park in C287. The Shimmerwood Research Center is located on the Frigid Run that lies on the edge of the park. The park's center is based in a 4-story earthship style hotel built into the side of an 80 foot hill in the forest. The hotel is named the Shimmerwood National Park Hotel and Visitor's Center. The first floor of the hotel contains the visitor's center, two conference rooms, three restaurants, the Seek park guild hall, tour agencies and a variety of gift and souvenir shops. The second through fourth floors consists of 250 motel rooms. The hotel overlooks 75 miles of the Shimmerwood to the south. Construction on the hotel began in 284 and was completed in C286. There are more than 300 miles of walking trails through the Shimmerwood that begin at the hotel. No overnight camping is allowed in the park without a Seek permit. The national park is also a no fly zone. No skiff over-flights of the park are allowed.

Shimmerwood Pike: This road was built in C283 to provide access to the construction site for the Shimmerwood National Park Hotel and Visitor's Center. It is a paved road with no public access. Visitors to the national park must take shuttles that depart from Hollowgrove every 90 minutes from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily.

Shimmering Road: This road was built in C243 to allow for construction of the Shimmerwood Research Center. The road is paved but public access is not allowed. Private shuttles allow access to the center for scientists and Seek. The center is primarily supplied by cargo truck. The center has a skyport that is seldom used because of the no-fly restrictions in place over Shimmerwood National Park.

Shivers Canyon: This is a 1500 foot deep canyon in the Hounding Champaign running along the base of the Billowing Cordillera. The canyon was formed by the Pointless Rush, a series of class 5 rapids that drain the Hennashores in the south. The canyon was aptly named because the walls are so steep very little sunlight reaches the bottom. The waters are extremely cold and the temperature at the bottom of the canyon is always in the 40 degree range. The river eventually cuts through the Billowing Cordillera and into the south. The fact the river cuts through the seemingly impassable mountain range is a mystery. Current theory is that the river runs along a fault line where two colliding plates form the Cordillera's. Because of the remoteness and inaccessibility of this occurrence, it's unlikely a scientific expedition will be launched.

Southfork Floe: The southern fork of the Dismal Run. It rejoins the Dismal Run to feed the Turbulent Fury.

Sierra Hackles: The Sierra Hackles are a haunting place. There are thousands of 1000-2500-foot and lava plugs that run along the edge of the Billowing Cordillera from just north of Pilferer's Sound to nearly 600 miles northward. The bases of the volcanic pillars are littered with boulders and loose stone. It is hypothesized that this was once a large plateau with heavy volcanic activity. And that over time the volcanic activity ceased for some reason and wind and water erosion removed the softer rocks and soil. It is an extremely inhospitable place with very little animal and plant life. Madelyn Nakamura is the only Seek to extensively explore any portion of the Sierra Hackles. Her hauntingly beautiful photographs and researched documentaries of the Sierra Hackles and its unique wildlife have earned her great credibility among the Seek. Her beauty and charm have also made her a very popular personality with C! Television producers. C! Television plans to air an on-location documentary of her explorations in early C501. The documentary was filmed during the summer of C500 and is in post production at the Westershore bureau. The Seek has charged her with leading a geographical team consisting of scientists from the 10th Expedition to the Sierra Hackles in the spring of C501. C! Television will document the expedition.

Tangled Narrows: This is a complex delta that drains the Hennashore in the south. Pax extensively mapped the Narrows and catalogued the wildlife in the delta during the late summer and fall of C483. His discoveries opened up the delta to more extensive research. The Overwatch Narrows research center was created as a farming and animal domestication research outpost, so little exploration into the Narrows was ever made by the center. The center did however, make heavy contributions to the fishing industry through research on the Hennashores.

Tibari Gate: This river was originally named Hemmler's Terminus, but was renamed after Pax' first attempt to find a pass through the Billowing Cordillera in C484. The history of the Tibari Gate and Tibari Safehold will be told in Jha'Kel's Travels.

Tibari Safehold: A unique forest that borders the Tibari Gate. The history of the Tibari Gate and Tibari Safehold will be told in Jha'Kel's Travels.

Tradegrounds: A small valley on the western edge of the Tibari Gate at the base of The Billowing Cordillera.

Turbulent Fury: This 250-foot waterfall feeds Pilferer's Sound from the Dismal Run flowing through the Fractured Dismals. It was named by William Masters, a 13-year-old charge of Adrian Hemmler. He told her "There is no name that can describe the turbulent fury of those waters." When Hemmler's expedition reached Landfall Commons in C219, Master's was charged with archiving the ship's log at the Seek Guild Hall. He was the only person on Hemmler's expedition to survive the year.

Whispering Grove: This forest of Shimmerwood plants was a wild stand until C40. Jonathan Cardwell's Band of Seek began to experiment with cultivating the plants. Since that time the plants have been genetically engineered to meet specific construction needs and organized into groves, similar to orchards on Earth.

Wisp Mire, The: The Wisp Mire is a 40,000 square mile bayou on the furtherest, southwestern banks of the Hennashores. The origin of the name is credited to early sailors around C80. They named the firefly-like insects wisps. In the summer, the entire mire is aglow with the tiny insects. Pax explored the Roddermarsh portion of the Mire in C479-80 and explored the coastal region in C483. He continued his exploration in C486-487. However, the majority of the Mire remains largely unexplored. However, some of the Seek bands based in Westershore in C500 have began to make expeditions into the area and are concentrating less and less on the seemingly impossible task of finding a pass through the Billowing Cordillera.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Jan. 12, 2008: Time Lapse Experiment #001

I've been reading up on time lapse photography lately and decided I'd give it a try. I found an interesting little application called Gawker that lets you use the built-in camera on a Mac to make time lapse movies.

I had played around with it a little bit. So I decided to try it in a practical situation when I went back to Magnolia Cemetery on my first photography excursion for this blog.

It was a little difficult to align the camera and get the composition I wanted. While I was setting the app up to record, my laptop shifted on the stone wall I set it on, so I had to realign it again after I started recording. That's why you see part of my head and an awkward shift in camera positioning at the start of the movie. The timing on the video isn't as fast as I wanted. I shot at 10 second intervals with three frames per second. I maybe should have gone for five second intervals on the photos. The sequence was shot over a 20 minute period.

There's no way to set the exposure manually, so the movie jumps all over the place with exposure values. I'm not sure how Gawker determines exposures. The exposure on the foreground objects seems consistent, so I think it exposed for the object closest to the camera. The statues have almost the same exposure throughout the series, but the sky jumps all over the place. Manual exposure on Gawker would be a good addition.

I may do a few more time lapse photos with my laptop and Gawker. But, I'm going to shift to primarily using my Canon 10D and process the photos through iMovie so I can add sound and captioning. My first planned time lapse project is to shoot the Butler County Courthouse just after 5 p.m. on a work day. The courthouse is in the center of a round-about, so I should get some nice traffic and hopefully it's still dark enough to get the cars with the lights on.

If that doesn't work out, I'm going to try a time lapse series around the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce. There's an overpass for a train there and the traffic is usually pretty high. If that fails, I'll move out to the interstate and try that. That location is always full of traffic.

(011308 Note: I did some math on the number of frames I'd have to shoot to do a traffic sequence. I need a whole lot more frames than I thought I would to keep a smooth flow in the traffic. I think I can realistically pull off a 30 second clip. I'm going to try it this week on a day I can get off at 5 p.m. exactly. Overall though, it's going to be more realistic to focus on other time lapse projects. I don't want to frag my camera's mirror on time lapse experiments.)


Jan. 12, 2008: Magnolia Cemetery

I had scouted an old cemetery in Greenville a few months ago. In the back part of Magnolia Cemetery, there are a lot of older graves with monuments, statues and pillars on them. I'd wanted to shoot when there was some rather dramatic cloud cover. Ideally at sunset.

There were a lot of altocumulus clouds today, so I decided to make a trip to the cemetery. I spent about an hour making reference photos. I like to keep a file on interesting places. The lighting was high and hard, not making for great shooting circumstances.

Just as I started to leave, some really nice clouds begin to align behind one of the statues. I set up my gear on a tripod and waited. After about 20 minutes of waiting I took the photograph above.

The cloud cover held most of the afternoon and I headed back to the cemetery near dusk, hoping I would get a beautiful sunset. Unfortunately, the cloud cover had just about passed through and I didn't get the image I wanted. I'll just have to wait until I get another good, cloudy day near sunset.

The image below just doesn't have the dramatic quality I wanted.


Open Source

Open Source software can be a very valuable resource for photographers or artists and graphic artists. While the open source software may not have all of the functions or features of their commercial counterparts. They still can be a very valuable resource for the "starving artist."

Open Source and Free Use Software

AbiWord: Microsoft Word clone.
Celestia: 3D
Planetarium software.
DAZ 3D: A free 3D Modeling application.
FreeCiv: A top notch clone of Sid Mayer's Civilization game.
InkScape: An Adobe Illustrator clone.
Gawker: An
OSX application that lets you make time lapse movies with a Mac's built in camera.
GIMP: A very good
Photoshop Clone.
Mozilla Firefox: Great open source web browser.
Seashore: Another
Photoshop Clone.
Planetarium software.
Warzone 2100 Resurrection Project: One of the greatest games ever made.


Night Photography

Night photography has always interested me. Through a camera, night can be transformed into a beautifully foreboding place. The Nocturnes and Lost America offer some excellent examples of night photography.

Night Photography


Photography DIY Projects

I had intended to write several Do It Yourself projects in 2008, but I never got around it. This year, I'm going to be more conscious of writing some DIY tutorials.

2009 DIY Tutorials
January 15, 2009: Hotshoe mounted Level
February 15, 2009: A Makeshift Camera Support when Tripods aren't allowed
March, 15, 2009: Making a snoot from a yardsale sign


This is a chronological listing of all my 2009 Photography posts.


2008 Archive
Excursions Notes


Time Lapse

I recently decided to try my hand at time lapse photography. My Mac laptop came with all of the software I'd need to put all the images into a movie. I've seen some very beautifully done time lapse photos on YouTube.com.

This page will archive all of my experiments with time lapse photography.

Jan. 12, 2008: Experiment #001: Cemetery at Dusk


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Modern Praetorian

As I've gotten older, I've come to enjoy history a lot more than I did when I was in school. In particular, the ancient Greeks and the Roman Empire. The drawing above is done with a Uni-Ball fine point pen and shaded with 2H and 4H pencils.

It's based on the Praetorian Guard down to the armor, lorica segmentata, and sword, gladius.

There were nine cohorts of Praetorian, one less than a full legion, and were made up of the most elite soldiers recruited from across the empire. They were assigned as the emperor's personal guard. In the early days of the empire, they were a stabilizing force in Rome.

However, the Praetorian, in the later empire, were one of the most powerful political influences in Rome. They were responsible for the assassination of at least 11 emperors and served their own agenda. Constantine I disbanded the Praetorian, destroyed the Castra Praetoria and scattered the solders across the empire.

While watching Gladiator, I wondered what the Praetorian would be like today. That really started the whole project. After finishing off the drawing, I scanned it into Photoshop and drew in a caption box freehand. After that I added another layer with the blood spatter. Finally, I imported it into Comic Life and added the text.

The text took me a couple of days of rewriting and editing to get it down to something I though a late Roman Empire Praetorian would have thought in modern times. It reads:

There is a primal memory in all of us that was once Rome. It lingers within our minds, just beyond the fireflies in the twilight of reason. For most, it is a shadow of a thought, a whisper in a dream. For the chosen, it is a waymarker on the road to rekindled glory.

To see Rome restored, I will commit every sin, incite unimagined atrocities and revel in my grim work until torrents of blood cascade across the soul of the world.

That is what Rome requires.
My brothers and I will see it done.



January 3, 2008: Modern Praetorian
March 9, 2008: Modern Praetorian Redux
July 31, 2008: Chelsea in Electric Blue
August 6, 2008: Shading Practice: Motoko
August 21, 2008: Chooser of the Slain
August 24, 2008: New Retro-Style Cartoons
September 25, 2008: Life as a Wallbanger: The Brats


Creating "The Colony"

Originally, I called this project Tradewinds because it was based on British Colonial expansion and the East India Trading Company. After putting a lot of thought into the stories, my ideas really diverged from that concept and I changed the name of the collection of stories to "The Colony."

Even though I've put a lot of thought into this project and made a lot of notes and drafts, there's still a lot of work to do to really make the world come alive. This page links all of my posts on "The Colony" in chronological order.

Creating "The Colony"
Jan. 2, 2008: Map Development
Jan. 15, 2008: Geographical Index*
Jan. 16, 2008: The Settlements*
Jan. 17, 2008: The Minor Settlements*
Jan. 23, 2008: Skiffs

* Works in progress

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Colony Development: Jan. 2, 2008

I got home today and my cable was out. I passed two Brighthouse trucks working on the lines on my way home, so I figured there was an outage. While I was waiting for the cable to come back up, I read over my drafts for McAllister's Diary and decided that I needed a lot more geographical detail in the story to make The Colony come alive.

So I broke out some tabloid paper and started working on what I'd call super-detailing the map from my notebook. I just about tripled the amount of detail on the map. While I was implementing the detail, I put a lot of consideration into why roads, monorails, outposts, villages, towns and even lighthouses would be where I placed them on the map.

While watching West Virginia put a beatdown on Oklahoma, I used an online thesaurus and dictionary to research names (during commercial breaks) for the details I added. I wanted names reminiscent of some mythological world ... the Sierra Hackles and the Henna Shores, Balefire Refuge, the Distant Course and Biting Cascade, the Frozen Quay and the Shallowbight.

I also added in a lot of research centers and scientific posts. I want the names of these facilities to contrast with the mythological sounding names. I'm not sure how I'm going to implement this just yet. I need to put a lot more though into this.

Overall, though, I'm really pleased with the work I put into this project tonight. This will push back working on McAllister's Diary for a few days. I really want to add a lot of detail to that story to make the world and characters in the datafeeds come alive. The extra effort will make a huge difference in the quality of the story.


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Colony

Tradewinds (After a lot of thought, I changed the name of the Tradewinds stories to The Colony on Jan. 2, 2008) was originally a single short story about the colonization of another planet. The story centered around an explorer named Pax. I wanted to create a believable world, so the story got a little bigger and the world became richer than I initially imagined.

So I decided to write a few really short, short stories about some of Pax' supporting characters. I'm still in the rough draft stages of the supplemental stories, but I hope to post one of the stories and a map of the colony near the end of January 2008.

The supplemental stories are:

McAllister's Diary: This is a story interwoven with entries in the diary of a doctoral biologist named Keegan McAllister. She's on one of the last expedition ships from Earth. As a project leader she awakes three months before reaching the colony to review data transmissions from Pax and decide on team objectives. Pax began making the transmissions when he was seven, so she has 23 years of data to review. She watches Pax grow up in the transmissions and comes to realize that when she arrives, he will be two years older than her. Pax' apprentice, Madelyn, also makes an appearance in the data transmission entries.

Madelyn's Task: Madelyn is an orphan adopted by the Seek (the guild of explorers in The Colony). At the age of 13 she was assigned as Pax' apprentice. She's not an explorer or even a mediocre woodsman. She's a grease monkey, construction worker and architect all rolled into one. At the age of 16, Pax tasks her with overseeing the construction of a settlement being built on land he owns on the edge of the explored world. She spends three years on this project before moving on as a full-fledged member of the seek. McAllister's ship arrives five years later, making her 24 when the Tradewinds story begins. Jha'Kel, a friend of Pax makes his first appearance in this story.

Jha'Kel's Travels: Jha'Kel is an indigenous sentient from a race of primates living on in the giant hardwood forests near the settlement in Madelyn's Task. Jha'Kel's species is similar to primates, I'm thinking chimpanzees. His species lives in crude huts made in trees and uses crude tools, fire and has a very simple written language. Their technological development is on the edge of an agrarian society. They have some cultivation skills that are in the early development stages. On a whole, they are a very inquisitive species with a highly developed bartering system. They used that to their advantage when trading with humans. Jha'Kel decides to travel to the first human settlement to find his fortune. He is the exact opposite of Pax. He moves toward civilization while Pax moves away from it. While moving toward the center of the human civilization, Jha'Kel observes and learns much about human cultivation techniques. He eventually decide to go home, but makes a bargain with Madelyn for land in the settlement she is overseeing. He opens the settlement's first retail business; selling exotic plants, flowers and fruits from the woods he calls home.

(010208 Note: Pax taught this species sign language and developed a crude audio translator. Most well traveled traders know the sign language. Also, Jha'Kel and Madelyn met several times on trading expeditions Pax made.)

(010408 Note: Jha'Kel's species is called Tibari. That name just popped into my head. The river leading into their homeland is called the Tibari Gate and the hardwood forest they inhabit is called the Tabari Safehold.)