Category Archives: photography

Shooting Up (Photo Gear)

BLOG-arrowed-#4446-(susan-on-south-kaibab-trail)

It’s hard to see, but I’ve circled my Nikon 1 V2 camera that was attached to my CamelBak strap while I hiked the Grand Canyon.

When I started my research for my South to North Rim crossing of the Grand Canyon, naturally I was as concerned about the photographic end of it as I was the hike. I wanted to snap those iconic pics of the Big Ditch as much as I wanted to successfully trek across it.

The first question, of course, was which camera to use besides my trusty iPhone 7 Plus. I didn’t think the iPhone would have the image quality I needed to do a great job capturing the beauty of the Grand Canyon. But I wasn’t about to carry the camera that does have great IQ, my beloved Nikon D610, which is way too heavy and too valuable to risk dropping it to its possible death.

BLOG-arrowed-#4507-(v2-front-tethered)

The Nikon 1 V2 is hanging from its Peak Design Cuff tether. Arrowed is the Peak Design Capture, which held the V2 when not in use.

So I decided to buy a used Nikon 1 V2 mirrorless camera . . . even though I have an even-older Nikon 1 V1. I liked that the V2 has a built-in flash, better image quality, and better build. And it’s a great size for hiking. I added a Nikon 1 6.7-13mm wide-angle lens and was hopeful I’d be getting amazing shots. By the way, Sony seems to be producing the best mirrorless cameras these days. Hikers really like them.

The next question was how to best tote the V2 and keep it out of the way when I was hiking with my trekking poles. I experimented with a small camera bag, but it was too awkward on my CamelBak Sundowner 22. Fortunately, I already owned the answer: The Peak Design Capture. This handy device allows you to securely clip a camera (using an included quick-release plate) to straps and belts. One push of a button frees the camera for easy use. I practiced with it before the crossing and felt it would do the trick.

BLOG-arrowed-#4508-(v2-on-capture-clip)

A close-up of my CamelBak’s tethering system: “A” points to the oval link attached to the strap and the Cuff (“B”). “C” is the V2 on the Capture.

Of course, being a mom with a mantra of “better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it” (as my sons well know!), I wanted to tether the camera to the CamelBak strap just in case it slipped out of my hands. I didn’t want the V2 to tumble down into an abyss, never to be seen again.

BLOG link and tether horizontal

An Indigo Marble camera strap tether

My first step was to see what Amazon had to offer. The Indigo Marble camera strap tether looked interesting, so I ordered it. Unfortunately, the rope on the one I received was defective, so I sent it back. But seeing what the metal carabiner was like made me realize that I could come up with my own tether setup that would be sturdier. A mere buck or so bought me a 3/16-inch quick link (it twists open and closed) at Home Depot. I added a Peak Design Cuff wrist strap and voila! My homemade tethering system was born. And it worked great! The V2 was secure both on and off the clip.

Looking at my hundreds of photos, I was pleased with the performance of both the V2 and the iPhone 7 Plus. Both helped me capture and remember an epic experience. With a bigger sensor, the V2’s photos are more detailed and will look better in larger sizes. But the iPhone definitely has a terrific camera that’s always handy.

fb-#6500-(distance-alan-mike-on-skt)

Some of the trillion steps on the South Kaibab Trail descent. (Snapped with the V2)

Pics like this one will look great in the Grand Canyon photobook I intend to make . . . one of these days!

One-Word Wednesday

I’m back shooting disc golf now that my thumb joint feels better. Here C.J. tees off.

I’m back shooting disc golf now that my thumb joint feels better. Here C.J. tees off during yesterday’s Southwest Handicap Mini at Community Park.

Return!

The Mister putts.

The Mister putts.

Eric tests the wind direction.

Eric tests the wind direction.

My baby boy sails in a par putt.

My baby boy sails in a par putt.

Making Good On a Promise

C.J. is ready to blow out the candle on his mini pizookie at BJ's.

C.J. is ready to blow out the candle on his mini pizookie during lunch at BJ’s.

Every so often, my ever-lovin’ though sometimes ornery younger son will look at me and say, “Remember my birthday last year? I still can’t believe we didn’t go to Dave and Buster’s.” Then cue the fake sigh.

As I cue my own real sigh, I must admit that I do feel bad about last year, even though C.J. and the rest of the Core 4 seemed to have a great time at Tilt Studio. Which is why I had promised him an eventual trip to D&B. Yesterday I fulfilled it.

The guys walk towards their world of fun.

The guys walk towards their world of fun.

Yep, my newly minted 19-year-old got to spend his birthday with his big brother and Ricky, Jared, and RJ at Dave and Buster’s in Houston. The Mister and I went along to act as chauffeur and ATM. Plus we always enjoy watching the guys have a great time. Which they did!

Sharpshooter!

Sharpshooter!

Most of their $20 Power Cards were wasted spent on a couple of basketball games that they played numerous times. All five of them love to hoop it up.

Lotsa tix

It’s a handful.

One of the best parts for them, besides trash talking each other, was racking up tickets. Once all the money was gone, it was time to see how much they had earned.

As a veteran mom, I knew that most of the prizes were going to be lame and cost lots of tickets. D&B, after all, is just Chuck E. Cheese’s with better food and games and without the rat. But the guys still enjoyed checking out the store and picking out their rewards (except for Jared, who is saving up his winnings).

Jared, Ricky, C.J., RJ, and Jake pose with Bumblebee.

Jared, Ricky, C.J., RJ, and Jake pose with Bumblebee.

As we were walking out of D&B, C.J. said, “You know, last year’s place was okay. But Dave and Buster’s was a lot more fun!”

Glad you had a birthday that’s as wonderful as you are, my sweet son!

Giving Thanks to Our War Heroes

The flag panel partially obstructs the Remembrance Tower.

The flag panel partially obstructs the Remembrance Tower.

Ever since last September when I saw that an unusual-looking building had been finished in our nearby Memorial Park, I’ve wanted to check it out.

Yesterday being part of Memorial Day weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity to drive over with the Mister and finally view the Sugar Land Veterans Memorial.

The Mister is dwarfed by the Remembrance Tower.

The Mister is dwarfed by the Remembrance Tower.

There’s a much-bigger, better-known Memorial Park in Houston, but that doesn’t make our smaller version any less meaningful. Especially now that there’s a true memorial along the mile-long, crushed-granite path that surrounds a manmade lake.

The Army insignia

The Army symbol

The memorial is guarded by a concrete flag panel, which serves as a gateway to the 50-foot, pentagonal tower. Each wall features a branch of the military, with its insignia in the nearby sidewalk.

While the outside of the tower looks impressive, it’s what’s inside that truly matters. The entrance is on the lakeside, away from the potential hustle and bustle of the walking path. I was equally jarred by the imposing quiet and the names etched into four of the five panels (none from the U.S. Coast Guard), those from our small community who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country.

#7832-(marine-names)U.S. Marine Corps

#2397-(army-names)U.S. Army

#2399-(navy-names)U.S. Navy

#2400-(air-force-names)U.S. Air Force

I silently prayed for these brave men and their families, as I hoped that our Veterans Memorial never fills up with names.

Every time I pass by the stark flag and building, I’ll always remember that freedom is not free.

One-Word Wednesday

The Mister, Jake, Josh, real mom Cindy, girlfriend Claire, and real dad Charles surround Chase after he graduated from Rice University last Saturday.

The Mister, Jake, Josh, real mom Cindy, girlfriend Claire, and real dad Charles surround our “third son,” Chase, after he graduated from Rice University last Saturday.

Proud!

The bros: Jake, Chase, and Josh

The leaning bros: Jake, Chase, and Josh

One-Word Wednesday

The boys and the Mister gave me lovely plants and a Chipotle gift card for Mother’s Day.

The boys and the Mister gave me lovely plants and a Chipotle gift card for Mother’s Day.

Mom!

Love my guys!

We saw “The Amazing Spiderman 2” and ate lunch at BJ’s. Love my guys!

Another Milestone Achieved

Why we’re in the Alamodome

Why we’re in the Alamodome

Something about “Pomp and Circumstance” makes me cry. Could be because of what it signifies.

You might think that after watching two emotional high school graduations that my eyes wouldn’t tear up when hearing that standard ceremonial march. But you would be very wrong.

Jake shows off his class ring Green Lantern style.

Jake shows off his class ring in Green Lantern style.

Of course, this time there was much more at stake, because it was Jake’s commencement ceremony from the University of Texas at San Antonio. After four years that seemed to be over in a minute and a half, my older son was set to graduate last Saturday afternoon in the immense Alamodome.

As I waited with the Mister and C.J. for about two hours (which did not fly by) before the start of the festivities, I reminisced about how far my beloved chubby, blue-eyed baby had come. I thought about when we got his acceptance letter from UTSA, orientation, and that painful moment when we moved him into his dorm. Talk about your emotional rides!

Jake seems to enjoy talking to a college official.

Jake seems to enjoy talking to a college official.

Even within a sea of graduates (Jake’s College of Business seniors joined those from the College of Architecture, which included his former roommate Ben, and the College of Public Policy), my eyes were focused only on my son. Watching him walk across the stage to accept his faux diploma (he has to wait a month or so for the real thing) was a moment of immense emotion for me. I couldn’t be prouder of Jake!

The smoke from indoor fireworks and streamers rain down on the graduates.

The smoke from indoor fireworks and streamers rain down on the graduates.

Plus our family added its third alma mater (after my University of Illinois and the Mister’s University of Houston). Go, Roadrunners!! We appreciate and value Jake’s college education.

We’re glad C.J. has long arms!

We’re glad C.J. has long arms!

Once Jake finally found us outside and we snapped a few photos, it was time to move on . . . literally in many ways (well, after we had spent about 20 minutes trying to get out of the parking lot). After dinner at Pei Wei, we put all of the graduate’s possessions in our cars and made the three-hour trek back to Sugar Land where we finally ended our long day’s journey into night and then into day again (we started at 9 a.m. Saturday and returned at 12:15 a.m. Sunday). Everyone was exhausted.

Definitely!

Definitely!

Now Jake gets to relax for a couple weeks before he becomes a working man. How will he handle the transition from school to the real world? All he has to do is remember the fortune he got!

The Math-Impaired Makes a Difference

I found this in a dusty storage bin in a closet when I was looking for photos.

I found this in a dusty storage bin in a closet when I was looking for photos.

A funny thing happened to me several weeks ago: I gained another Houston half marathon finish.

Despite my obsessive running record keeping, I had managed to overlook it, because I thought the first half marathon (which I completed) was in 2003, not 2002. But my buddy Jack Lippincott found it for me again (records are kept online). And now I have to fix and update a bunch of blog posts that are all one race off.

Obviously, basic math is not my strong suit. I knew that 2014 was the 13th edition of Houston’s premier half marathon, the trusty companion to the Chevron Houston marathon. And I also knew that I had missed three of those 13 races. Yet somehow in my mind 13 minus 3 equaled 9.

Sigh!

Medals weren’t given out for the first three races, which weren’t sponsored by Aramco.

Medals weren’t given out for the first three races, which weren’t sponsored by Aramco.

So how did all of this come about?

I have been gently nagging the marathon’s race director, Brant Kotch (also known as my butterfly expert), the last few years to allow certain half marathon entrants to have an auto-in to the event, just like their marathon counterparts, instead of trying their luck with the lottery. Runners who have completed five to nine official Houston marathons (and that includes yours truly) are guaranteed marathon registration for the first month that it’s open (those with 10 or more, formerly called veterans but now are considered legacy runners, have until November 1 to register). But even though more finish the half marathon, we had no guarantee we’d be able to enter unless we met certain time goals that are waaaaay too fast for me.

When Brant boldly asked for suggestions to improve our already-excellent event on Facebook, I, of course, pushed once again for the half marathon guarantee. He said the marathon committee just needed a volunteer to help with the program.

Put me in, coach!

So, of course, I enlisted and attended a meeting with Jack and Arlen Isham, who are in charge of the marathon legacies, at the marathon office near Memorial Park to get more details. Quite honestly, all I wanted was for at least those of us with nine half marathon finishes to be guaranteed registration (not very selfless of me, I realize). But I was willing to advocate for those with 10-plus, figuring I only had one more to go to reach that status.

Lo and behold, the marathon committee was many steps ahead of me (not that hard to do, of course). They wanted to start a legacy program equal to the marathon’s! That means that runners who have finished from five to nine Houston half marathons have that same almost one-month guaranteed entry. Those with 10 or more (yep, that’s me!) can take their time plus get a special shirt and participate in a prerace group photo. What’s not to like?!?

My first “child”

My first “child”

When I was writing about the Houston-area running scene with my monthly magazine “Human-Powered Sports,” I learned that one person can make a difference, especially if he or she knows the right person to contact. It really is who you know. I was able to convince former councilman and avid runner Jim Greenwood to push the city to install a stoplight at the first entrance to Memorial Park. I also persuaded former Houston Parks Department head Don Olson to close the Picnic Loop at the park during certain hours so cyclists could ride without fear of getting hit by a car.

You know what they say about that old squeaky wheel? Consider me greased once again! Thanks to Brant and the marathon committee for showing that they care about the half marathoners, too.

Living Large

Big Sam up ahead!

Big Sam up ahead!

When we drive to visit our beloved baby boy at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, one landmark along Hwy. 45 lets us know that we’re almost there: The big, white statue of Sam Houston.

Every time we pass Big Sam, I say to the Mister, “That’s on my Sam Houston bucket list. I want to see the statue up close and personal.”

Our final chance to check out Texas’ former president (chiseled concrete version, of course) was last Saturday when we made our last trip of C.J.’s freshman year to pick up most of his assorted knickknacks, paddy whacks, and gaming systems and haul them home. C.J. will follow with the rest of his stuff, which should easily fit in his Ford Fusion, when he’s done with finals Wednesday.

It’s a tiny visitor center.

It’s a tiny visitor center.

Once we were back on the road after lunch at the Farmhouse Café and warm goodbye hugs, it was obvious that the Mister either was up to something or missed the turn to get on the interstate (both of which are equally likely).

Happily, he had listened to me (it does happen on occasion) and was headed for Big Sam!

Sam gets a-head. This could be for photo ops.

Sam gets a-head. This is on the ground for photo ops.

It seems ironic that the visitor center, gift shop, and grounds are so small, given that Super Sam is 67 feet tall (plus another 10 feet for the base). But the statue is bound to dwarf most large parks.

We snuck up on Sam from behind.

We snuck up on Sam from behind.

David Adickes sculpted and donated the mammoth monument in October of 1994. It took about two years to complete.

Look up!

Look up!

The dapper giant really is breathtaking, especially on a cloudless day. You can’t help but be impressed by its magnitude and Adickes’ skill.

Lots of helpful info

Lots of helpful info

It’s also nice that there’s a handy plaque listing Sam Houston’s many accomplishments for those of us who haven’t taken Texas history at least twice (fourth and seventh grades for our sons, as well as in college).

I’m glad I was able to cross another item off my Sam Houston bucket list. More importantly?

The Mister was a tad grumpy having to look into the sun.

The Mister was a tad grumpy having to look into the sun.

The Mister and I snapped a selfie with Big Sam! Smile, Sammy!!

Springing Along

Brown-eyed Susans (like me!) are abundant.

Brown-eyed Susans (like me!) are abundant.

Now that we’ve finally bid a not-so-fond farewell to winter, the wildflowers in our neighboring master-planned community are flourishing.

Two of my favorite wildflowers

Two of my most-loved wildflowers

I’m happy to report that small patches of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush continue to thrive.

Bzzzzzzz!

Bzzzzzzz!

Which means that the little buzzers are sticking around. Which is fine as long as they’re not sticking me!

Indian blankets mix with pink evening primrose.

Indian blankets mix with other blossoms.

Finally showing their lovely orange-yellow blooms are Indian blankets, another favorite wildflower of mine. It always seems like there are no two alike.

The poppies mingle with the pink evening primrose and the red phlox.

A couple poppies mingle with pink evening primrose and red phlox.

New to the scenery are orange and red poppies. They’ve dotted the landscape before, but now they’re out in copious amounts.

Even more poppies

Poppies are plentiful.

Every week it seems like there’s something different to see, which makes me look forward to my exercise even more.

Who knows what this weekend will bring. I can’t wait to find out!