Welcome to the Sublime Light Landscape Photography Blog!

Our musings about landscape photography, outdoor travel, hiking, gear, technology, politics, and other topics we find interesting

Grizzly Sow Nursing Cubs: Denali 2016

April 10, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

 

I've posted once already about my 2016 trip to Denali.  The rain was epic.  I took about 2700 frames.  My best guess is that there was "sun" shining in maybe 50 frames.  Nonetheless, I loved it.  And, I have a return trip planned out for this year.

 

As a lone camper and hiker, I feel it prudent to take a lot of care, and I mean a LOT of care, hiking alone in grizzly country.  Such was Denali.  I saw about 40 grizzly over 11 days.  I spent a fair amount of my hiking time evading grizzlies.  I yell a lot so they know I'm around.  The most common scenario was to see them come over a ridge, and head toward me, not yet knowing I was there.  They can cover ground very fast, certainly faster than me.  I retreated to the road several times to get on one of the hiker buses because the grizzlies were getting too close.

 

I photographed (handheld, 100mm) this sow nursing her cubs after such a retreat to a bus.  The sow came over a ridge with her cubs and headed for me.  She did not seem to know that I was there.  I walked left.  She and her cubs headed left.  I headed right.  They headed right.  I figured a retreat was in order about that time. 

 

 

The 2nd photo is the first photo at 100%.  The 3rd photo shows her claws quite nicely.  No thank you:)

 

Jeff

 

P.S.  If you are wondering....no, I won't take photos of grizzlies from the tundra while hiking alone.  Very dangerous.  I'm too busy walking the other way.

  


We Support Donald Trump

April 03, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

 

Our household supports Donald Trump.  We support him on immigration.  We support him on trade.  We support him on defense.  We support him on North Korea and China.  We support him on the corporate tax cut to keep more companies in America that provide jobs for Americans.  We support him in pushing back hard against the liberal agenda that would ultimately destroy our country and way of life. 

 

We don't support his communication style.  But, it seems to be part of the entire package required to get the country moving in a better direction.  

 

Enough said.

 

Jeff

   


2018 Southwest Desert Trip

March 22, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

 

Kathy and I recently returned from a 12-day landscape photography trip to the southwestern USA deserts.  This was one of the most spectacular and fun trips of our lives.  Below is the first photo that I took on that trip.....then, it just got better from there.  More later.

 

 

Jeff 

   


Shhhh....Don't Tell Anyone

March 11, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

 

I live in Chapel Hill (part of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Triangle metroplex) which is in the center of North Carolina (NC).  Central NC is a very high quality-of-life, pleasant place to live.  It's subtly pretty, with all of the greenery and towering pine trees.  However, Central NC is not known as an aspirational landscape photography location (no snarky comments, please, it just isn't).  My landscape photography takes me at least a couple of hundred miles away (the Appalachian Mountains), and usually much further.  Most of my recent trips have been to Canada, or to the USA parts north or west.

 

Yet, there IS a hidden gem of a photography location in Central NC, one that I'm willing to bet of which most people in the Triangle are not aware.  It is the 60,000 acre Sandhills Game Land nature preserve outside of Southern Pines, about an hour from the Triangle.   Sandhills Game Land is a unique environment of small hills, sandy ground, grasses, ferns, and pines.  I have been aware of the area for a while, and decided to check it out in October of 2017.  I spent one full night doing astrophotography, and one full day doing daylight landscape photography, driving around on and hiking the many dirt and two-track roads that bisect the area.  Brady Beck, currently the Southern Piedmont Management biologist for the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, kindly met with me to provide some guidance on the roads and on which areas might be most productive for photography.

 

I took about 60 compositions in two days of shooting.  Below are the first three that I have processed.  I'll try to get the rest up on my website before the end of 2018.

 

Kolor stitching | 6 pictures | Size: 17033 x 9420 | Lens: Standard | RMS: 2.35 | FOV: 178.31 x 72.87 ~ 31.50 | Projection: Mercator | Color: LDR |

 

It was enjoyable.  Not spectacular, but enjoyable.  Pretty in its own way.  And,....close to home.  Shhh....don't tell anyone....

 

Jeff

 

  


Our 2017-2018 Landscape Photography Destinations: Update

March 01, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

 

In early March of 2017, I wrote a post outlining our 2017-2018 destination plan for landscape photography.  Life and fate, it seemed, intervened.  Shortly after that post, two of of our extended family members became very ill.  Kathy and I contributed in numerous ways, including spending almost 6 months out of state helping to take care of these two family members.  Their need for our help was more important than our desire to be out in beautiful places.  It was a very difficult year for us, but it was even a more difficult year for our extended families.

 

I was able to do some landscape photography in 2017, however, including Montana's Lolo National Forest in February, a trip to the Canadian Rockies: Purcell Mountains and Kananaskis Country that was cut short by the unprecedented wildfire season, a short trip for fall color to Killarney Provincial Park in Ontario, and a couple of autumn days in the North Carolina Sandhills Game Lands (photo gallery forthcoming).  In all, however, I spent only about 14 days doing landscape photography.  

 

 

What is on the list for 2018?  We have scheduled a couple of trips, and have more that are speculative and that are currently being considered.

 

Scheduled Destinations

 

Speculative Destinations

 

Plus, I purchased a 45 MP Nikon D850 camera which will be my new main camera moving forward, with my current 36 MP Nikon D800E now being a backup camera.

 

 

We are very fortunate to be able to travel this way.  I hope that 2018 is a better year for everyone.

 

Jeff 

 

 

 


Capitol Reef National Park: Simply Sublime

February 22, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

 

I finally finished processing photos from our 2016 trip to Capitol Reef National Park, the last stop in our Utah tour that included Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, and Snow Canyon & Dead Horse Point State Parks.  Capitol Reef was our favorite.

 

The reasons are simple: uncrowded and extremely scenic.  Nothing like the crowds of Grand Canyon or Zion National Park.  When we go on landscape photography trips, the last thing we want is to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other people.  We like to get away.  You can (still) do that at Capitol Reef.  At night, doing astrophotography, we ran into just one other person just one time.  Plus the red rocks...if you like reds, the complete red pallette is waiting for you at Capitol Reef.  We spent 4-5 days there and just "scratched the surface."  Fantastic.

 

Here are some of my favorite photos from Capitol Reef 

 

 

You can find more in our Capitol Reef National Park Photo Gallery and Painting Gallery.

 

Jeff 

 

   


What's Is "In" a Spectacular Landscape Photo?

February 14, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

 

I enjoy seeing and being in beautiful places.  I use photos to remind me of the majesty and grandeur of the places I've been.  I strive to make those photos spectacular.  It is worth asking, then, "What is "in" a spectacular landscape photo"?

 

The photo below is from the first day on my 4-day Routeburn Great Walk in New Zealand in 2011.  It's a nice photo.  Pretty mountains.  Interesting lines.  Not "spectacular", however, at my first glance.  

 

 

Glances can be deceiving.  If you look closely, in the edited photo below, you can see the Routeburn Trail, and 3 separate hiking parties, each outlined in red ovals.

 

 

A close up of the lower-left hiker reveals a lot of detail.  This was shot with on a 40 megapixel Pentax 645D with a 45-85mm zoon lens at 85mm.   That camera system could produce wickedly sharp photos.

 

 

Blue backpack, tan trousers, purple socks.  Purple socks??  Yikes.

 

Sometimes, people are "in" a spectacular landscape photo.  The people, who are just small specks upon the landscape, serve to demonstrate just how immense and majestic the landscape is.  Have you seen the hikers in any of my other photos?  

 

Jeff

  


Killarney Provincial Park: Aerials

January 30, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

 

As mentioned in a previous post, I toured Killarney Provincial Park in Ontario last October (2017) for 3 very quick days to score some fall color photos.  Killarney is located on the northeast side of Lake Huron, and is about an 8-hour drive from Detroit, MI.  It was, simply, outstanding.  Killarney has a very unique, small, quartzite mountain range.

 

I did some hiking and I was able to take an aerial photography flight with a friend out of the Gore Bay-Manitoulin Airport on Manitoulin Island. It was a quick 30 minute flight to get over Killarney.  Once we did, the colors were just beautiful...just about peak color.   

 

 

Robby Colwell and the good folks at Gore Bay-Manitoulin Airport were very helpful and provided the very finest in Canadian hospitality.  Great day.  

 

 

I processed 6 out of about 700 photos taken from the flight which are now in the Killarney Provincial Park Gallery.  I also did several hikes, shooting about 300 more frames.  I'll process more of the Killarney photos later this year.....I'm way behind on processing, still working on my 2016 trips to Utah, Denali NP, and Ontario.  

 

 

I also was very fortunate to see the northern lights for the first time while camping at Killarney.  Gorgeous park and very productive for just 3 days.  I'll have to go back.  

 

Jeff

 

 


Kananaskis Country Photos Finished and Posted

January 23, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

 

I finished processing the photos from my 3 days in Kananaskis Country (Alberta) in the summer of 2017.  You can find the Kananaskis photos here and the paintings here.  Beautiful, beautiful area.    Here are some of my favorites:

 

Kolor stitching | 8 pictures | Size: 28965 x 8177 | Lens: Standard | RMS: 2.12 | FOV: 221.75 x 54.77 ~ 11.66 | Projection: Cylindrical | Color: LDR |

 

 

 

Jeff 

  


How to Batch Rename Large Numbers of Files Using Powershell

January 20, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

 

Zenfolio, my website hosting company, does not have the capability to randomly sort images within a gallery.  I felt that randomly sorting images would create a much better presentation.  I did not want to install new software on my workstation, so I searched the web for native functionality within Microsoft Windows 10 to batch-rename files, specifically, to prepend random numbers to the existing file names.  I did not find the exact method I wanted, but I was able to infer a method.


It's pretty simple. 

 

1. On your desktop (or other location of your choosing), create a folder to house the photo files that will be renamed.  Example: C:\Users\Jeff\Desktop\Test

2. Copy your photo files to the "Test" folder.  I suggest using copies of the images rather than moving the files, so that you can create a different random order in the future

3. Open Powershell

4. Change the Powershell directory to the "Test" folder.  This is VERY important.  Otherwise you will likely rename every file that resides under your user name.  Example: Type "cd c:\Users\Jeff\Desktop\Test", then press Enter

5. Type "Get-ChildItem | rename-item -NewName { ((get-random  -minimum 1000 –maximum 9997 ).tostring()) + ”__” + $_.Name }", then press Enter.  This will rename every file within the Test folder.  It prepends a random number between 1000 and 9997, followed by "__".  Example: 4562__Photo Name

6. After uploading the renamed photos to a Zenfolio gallery, sort by File Name

 

That's it.

 

Jeff

 


Sublimelightlp.com: Major Changes Now Completed

January 12, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

 

I used the beginning of 2018 to finish the overhaul of the Sublime Light Landscape Photography website.  In December, I made major changes focused on landscape "paintings".  The 2018 changes reorganized "photos".  The changes:

 

  1. Structure: There are now four high level galleries.  The Favorite Photos gallery also serves as the home page.
  2. I organized the Photo Galleries to be by Country - State/Province - Park, where applicable.  I think that this will be a more intuitive way to find locations of interest
  3. I "randomized" the order of presentation of the photos in all galleries.  I did this to make the presentation (hopefully) more interesting
  4. I consolidated my previous two favorite photo galleries down to one Favorite Photos gallery with my favorite ~15% of photos

 

SONY DSC

 

I like the result.  Hope you do as well.  

 

Jeff

 

 

 


Major Changes to Sublime Light Landscape Photography: Paintings Galleries

December 18, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

 

I recently made four major changes to the Sublime Light Landscape Photography website:

 

  1. I created a comprehensive Paintings Galleries with "paintings" created by Topaz Simplify for all of my photos, which total about 6,000.  I have found that I like the paintings just as much as the photos, and in some cases, more
  2. I organized the Paintings Galleries to be by Country - State/Province - Park, where applicable.  I think that this will be a more intuitive way to find locations of interest.  I've only photographed 4 countries: the USA, Canada, New Zealand, and the Bahamas, but  I have photographed them extensively
  3. I "randomized" the order of presentation of the photos in all of the Paintings galleries.  I did this to make the presentation (hopefully) more interesting.  Zenfolio, my photo hosting vendor, does not provide the capability to randomize photo order, so I developed a method for randomizing photos using a Windows Powershell command
  4. I created a Favorite Paintings Gallery with my favorite ~10% of paintings

 

 

In the next few months, I plan to reorganize the Photo Galleries to use 'Country - State/Province - Park' as well, and I will also implement photo randomization in those galleries.  That will break the links in my blog, so I will have to make the changes slowly and to rebuild the blog as I go.  

 

For the creation of paintings from Topaz Simplify, I ran batch actions (programs) in Photoshop.  So, other than starting the batches, I really did not work that hard to create the paintings.  It took about 10 days, round-the-clock, for the batch programs to run, at about 40% CPU usage on my Puget Genesis I Workstation (highly recommended) for most of that time.  I'm not looking forward to my next electric bill.

 

 

I will write a future post about what I learned about how Topaz Simplify works, and about my Powershell randomization command.

 

Please give the Favorite Paintings Gallery and the Paintings Galleries a look.  

 

Jeff

 

 

 

 


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Please sign the Petition to Oppose Oil Drilling

December 10, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

 

The recent Senate Tax bill has a provision in it to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).  Please join me in signing the petition to Congress that opposes drilling in ANWR.   You can find the online petition here:  No Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge!.  Signing it takes about 15 seconds.

 

I'm a life-long Republican.  I agree with most of the Republican agenda.  But I don't agree with this.  There are very few wild and pristine places left.  We need to leave those places alone if we are to survive as a species.  It IS in our best interests, but a lot of people don't understand that yet.

 

Thank you

 

Jeff

 

 


Home Network Protection: Sophos XG

December 08, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

 

Up until 2015, I used a consumer router as my home gateway (device that connects computers and devices to the internet).  Then I started investigating what would be good network security for the home network.  I didn’t like what I found.

 

The dirty little secret is that consumer routers used as gateways are laughably easy to hack, even when configured properly.    See links 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, as examples, or search “router easily hacked” or “router insecurity” online.  It’s not just one brand…. it’s all of them.  Enterprise-grade routers are not much better.  See links 7 and 8 as examples.  With routers, it’s not enough to configure them securely and to patch them regularly, which almost nobody does.  Router firmware, by its nature, is riddled with exploitable bugs.  If your router is infected, your devices (PCs, tablets,…) might become infected, and your bank account and other critical information can be stolen.

 

For personal reasons, I needed something better.  Way better.  I also wanted something that could protect every device in the home.  That meant a firewall of some type after the cable modem.

 

Sophos XG running in a Polywell custom-built computer. Front view

Sophos XG running in a Polywell custom-built computer. Rear view

 

After much searching, I decided to try an enterprise-grade UTM (Unified Threat Management, or, a "firewall") software, Sophos UTM, which has since been replaced by Sophos XG, which is what I currently run.  Sophos has kindly made this Sophos XG software FREE for home users.  Wow!

 

Sophos XG has achieved test results that are among the best enterprise UTMs/firewalls.  In a recent NSS Labs test, it blocked 95% of attacks, and placed 3rd in security effectiveness, behind ForcePoint and Cisco.  However, neither ForcePoint nor Cisco offer free firewall software to home users.

 

Sophos XG Security Effectiveness vs. the Competition. From NSS Labs, 2017

 

I did this work primarily because I figured that an enterprise-grade UTM, highly maintained, would be much more difficult to hack than a consumer-grade router.  But doing this work is not for the uncommitted:

 

  • First, you need a low-power computer with at least 2 ethernet connections (aka, NICs) from acceptable manufacturers (Intel, NOT Realtek).   I currently use a custom-specified $1300 fanless Polywell mini-ITX computer with 6 ethernet connections, so it effectively does double duty as a 2nd (non-wireless) router.   I over-specified the Polywell computer in case I want to use it in the future as a desktop computer.  You can do just fine with ~ $800 (dual Intel NIC card instead of quad, lower processor, 8GB RAM) configuration.  Some people have builds costing as little as $300.  I chose Polywell because they offered the most configuration options.  However, Polywell's customer support is, well, not very good.  They appear to be a commodity builder.  Another option I might suggest is AVADirect, which may offer more hand-holding.  A  couple of tips:
    • Get a fanless build.  No noise.  Mini-ITX systems often have noisy fans.  I love the silence
    • Not all NICs will work.  My build has one I219V NIC that Sophos XG does not recognize; I knew this before I ordered.  Check Sophos’ compatible hardware list before specifying and buying your computer.  For the H270N motherboard in my build, you will have to add at least one Intel NIC card due to the I219V compatibility
  • Second, you have to download the Sophos XG software, write it to an ISO image, and then load it onto your Firewall PC.  That will require a monitor, keyboard, and external CD drive for the installation, and VGA, DVI, or HDMI cables.
  • Third, you have to learn how to configure Sophos XG.  To quantify the complexity of an enterprise firewall configuration, I have over 200 screenshots of my Sophos XG configuration as a reference that I can go back to and look at for troubleshooting and for history
  • Finally, if Sophos XG stops offering its software free to home users, my investment in the Polywell computer may no longer be useful.  There is a small risk here, but still a risk

 

Polywell Configuration for Sophos XG. Fanless Build

 

I did all of this work without a background in networking nor in network security, so it took 2-3 days just to get most of my devices connected to the internet, because I had to learn as I went along.  Also, enterprise-grade firewalls are not as friendly as routers to internet-of-things devices like Rokus, Apple TVs, Amazon Echos, Sonos speakers, security cameras, SmartThings smart home controller, and so on.  That means figuring out workable firewall rules not just for PCs, but for all the devices in the home.

 

Sophos XG Home Screen

 

I’ve been running Sophos XG for almost two years now.  It has blocked numerous exploits and malware.  It has also shown all sorts of (blocked) attempts to hack into the devices in my home (China is easily the worst offender).  I’m glad I use Sophos XG, and after I conquered the learning curve, it does not take much time to maintain.  I’ve also developed an understanding on why it is so valuable, and what to look for in a good home gateway (firewall, UTM, router) device.

 

Sophos XG Example Report Page

 

Below is my required feature list.  Sophos XG offers everything on my list

 

Malware Defense

  1. Ability to scan encrypted (e.g. HTTPS) browser connections for malware.  That means installing a Sophos XG HTTPS certificate into your computers, tablets, and similar devices to scan encrypted links for malware
  2. Email protection, including the ability to scan email and block specific file type attachments in email
  3. Intrusion protection (system), or IPS
  4. Ability to prevent malware propagation on the network through firewall rules and detection
  5. Ability to isolate devices from the internet while allowing communications on the home network
  6. Ability to isolate devices on the home network from each other, so that if one device is infected, it cannot infect other devices
  7. Ability to force-drop outbound connections to specified adversarial countries and hacker havens like China, Brazil, Ukraine, and Russia
  8. Blocking of known malware-serving URLs

 

Configuration / Administration

  1. Customizable firewall rules by device and by device class
  2. The ability to force and maintain (DHCP) device IP addresses so I can run reports and see if any devices are potentially hacked or compromised
  3. Notifications of specific events such as internet down and malware blocked
  4. Automated updates and security patches
  5. Decent reporting

 

Network Access

  1. VPN-in capability to remotely access home network devices while traveling

 

In a future post, I’ll outline some consumer alternatives to Sophos XG and how many of my required feature list they fill (hint: not that many).

 

I’d like to thanks Sophos for making such a powerful tool available for free to home users willing to put in the time to learn network security.

 

Jeff


Purcell Mountain Aerials: Panoramas

December 07, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

 

As I've indicated in the past, making panoramas from aerial photos is very difficult.  Even if a long straight or a slow turn is planned and well-executed in the airplane, I often see severe alignment problems in post-processing, or, the creation of unreal landscape landmarks as the software tries to stitch photos taken from different locations.  Sometimes I can manually fix them, sometimes I cannot.  My success rate is about 40-50%.

 

I was able to create just a few panoramas from my Purcell Mountains flight.  Below are the ones that I like the best.  The panoramas are mixed in with all the photos in the BC-Purcell Mountains gallery.  

 

Kolor stitching | 3 pictures | Size: 13382 x 6037 | Lens: Standard | RMS: 3.53 | FOV: 165.74 x 65.02 ~ 7.38 | Projection: Cylindrical | Color: LDR |

Kolor stitching | 3 pictures | Size: 13256 x 6394 | Lens: Standard | RMS: 2.97 | FOV: 90.91 x 36.49 ~ -20.69 | Projection: Cylindrical | Color: LDR |

Kolor stitching | 7 pictures | Size: 24749 x 5730 | Lens: Standard | RMS: 7.26 | FOV: 230.02 x 49.03 ~ -7.15 | Projection: Cylindrical | Color: LDR |

Kolor stitching | 5 pictures | Size: 12609 x 5384 | Lens: Standard | RMS: 3.56 | FOV: 72.23 x 29.23 ~ -9.81 | Projection: Cylindrical | Color: LDR |

 

Kolor stitching | 3 pictures | Size: 12737 x 5641 | Lens: Standard | RMS: 3.20 | FOV: 0.53 x 0.24 ~ 3.35 | Projection: Cylindrical | Color: LDR |

Kolor stitching | 4 pictures | Size: 11107 x 5330 | Lens: Standard | RMS: 3.71 | FOV: 61.73 x 27.56 ~ -12.74 | Projection: Cylindrical | Color: LDR |

I hope that you like them.

 

Jeff