Sublime Light Landscape Photography: Blog http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog en-us (C) Sublime Light Landscape Photography (Sublime Light Landscape Photography) Sun, 10 Dec 2017 16:17:00 GMT Sun, 10 Dec 2017 16:17:00 GMT http://www.sublimelightlp.com/img/s/v-5/u855691192-o911177382-50.jpg Sublime Light Landscape Photography: Blog http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog 115 120 Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Please sign the Petition to Oppose Oil Drilling http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/arctic-national-wildlife-refuge-please-sign-the-petition-to-oppose-oil-drilling  

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

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) alaska arctic national wildlife refuge drilling oil oil drilling http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/arctic-national-wildlife-refuge-please-sign-the-petition-to-oppose-oil-drilling Sun, 10 Dec 2017 16:04:40 GMT
Home Network Protection: Sophos XG http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/home-network-protection-sophos-xg  

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

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) cybersecurity edge firewall firewalls home network protection malware network protection pc security sophos xg http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/home-network-protection-sophos-xg Fri, 08 Dec 2017 19:54:37 GMT
Purcell Mountain Aerials: Panoramas http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/purcell-mountain-aerials-panoramas  

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 Purcell Mountains - British Columbia 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

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial british columbia bugaboos canada purcell mountains http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/purcell-mountain-aerials-panoramas Thu, 07 Dec 2017 16:27:19 GMT
Purcell Mountains Aerial Paintings: Processing Finished and Posted http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/purcell-mountains-aerial-paintings-processing-finished-and-posted  

I also finished processing paintings of my aerial photos of the Purcell Mountains taken this past summer.  I've posted some of my favorites here.  You can find the rest in the Purcell Mountains - British Columbia - Paintings Gallery.

 

 

I used Topaz Simplify.  The only slider used was "Simplify Size", which was set to 0.25.  

 

I hope that you like them.

 

Jeff

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial british columbia bugaboos canada paintings purcell mountains topaz simplify http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/purcell-mountains-aerial-paintings-processing-finished-and-posted Sat, 02 Dec 2017 22:03:04 GMT
Purcell Mountains Aerials: Processing Finished and Posted http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/11/purcell-mountains-aerials-processing-finished-and-posted  

I finally finished processing my aerial photos of the Purcell Mountains taken this past summer.  I've posted some of my favorites here.  You can find the rest in the Purcell Mountains, BC Gallery.

 

 

These aerials were challenging to process.  Many (not all) had an unattractive purplish color cast, probably as a result of two things:

  1. The circular polarizer not always being correctly rotated (hard to do on a bucking airplane with constantly changing direction, holding the camera steady with a 100 mph wind)
  2. Underexposure.  I've read that underexposure on some Nikon cameras can result in a purple color cast.  It reminded me of the occasional nasty purple cast of Velvia film, for those of you who saw that with Velvia 

 

 

So, I did some learning.


First, I trialed Capture One Pro as a raw converter and photo processing program.  I'll have to say I'm impressed.  I consider myself very knowledgeable in Lightroom, but I could not replicate in Lightroom the very high quality of Capture One Pro's color, the noise reduction, and the sharpening....and I tried and tried.  The noise reduction was even better than DxO Optics Pro, which was my standard up to this point.  My conclusion was, for the Nikon D800E, that Capture One Pro is a much better raw converter, hands-down...maybe even the best.   Kudos to Phase One.  It was a tough call on whether to purchase Capture One Pro.  A 1-year subscription to Capture One Pro is $180, paid in advance, while a 1-year subscription to Lightroom and Photoshop combined is $120.  I was not able to find a discount for the Capture One Pro subscription.  If you find one, tell me about it.  Capture One Pro is very good, but it is not a good value.  In the end, I felt the price was worth it, for now.   Barely.

 

 

Second, I dived deeper into Photoshop.  The basic approach was to:

  1. Use Select Color Range to select localized areas of purple (e.g. purple on near slopes, then a 2nd later selection for distant mountains,...)
  2. Manually add purple areas to or remove non-purple areas from the Selected Color Range
  3. Create a "New Layer via Copy" with the Selected Color Range
  4. Apply one or more of the following adjustments: Selective Color, Layers, or Hue/Saturation.  In Selective Color, I would choose Blues and Aquas and decrease the level of Magenta.  In Layers, I would increase the minimum levels for the Red and the Blue channels.  In Hue/Saturation, I would decrease the saturation of Blues and Cyans.  

Some photos had as many as 5 or 6 Photoshop layers, but 2 or 3 was more common.  The flattened Photoshop file was then finalized in Lightroom.  If I felt there was still too much purple, I would either move the purple hue slider toward blue, and/or decrease the purple saturation to the color matched, to the best of my somewhat fuzzy recollection, the actual colors that I saw that day.

 

 

In the end, I liked the final result.  I processed about 200 of the 800 photos taken on that flight.  I did not process the other 600 because many were of the same scene (there is a lot of overlap in what I did process), and the whole procedure took too much time.  

 

 

Again, you can find more in the Purcell Mountains, BC Gallery.

 

Hope you like them.

 

Jeff

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial british columbia bugaboos canada capture one pro phase one purcell mountains http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/11/purcell-mountains-aerials-processing-finished-and-posted Mon, 13 Nov 2017 20:50:34 GMT
Killarney Provincial Park: Ontario's Gem http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/11/killarney-provincial-park-ontarios-gem  

After a long hiatus, and a couple of trips, I've finally gotten around to writing a blog post.

 

Kathy and I traveled to Michigan in late September to early October to visit family.  I "leveraged" (management consulting-speak) that trip to get over to Killarney Provincial Park for a 3-day whirlwind hiking and photography trip.  Killarney is located on the northeast side of Lake Huron, and is about an 8-hour drive from Detroit.  It was, simply, outstanding.  Killarney contains some of the oldest mountains on the continent, the La Cloche mountains, which are a striking white quartzite, and which rise to about 1000' above the surrounding landscape.  

 

I was able to take a flight and do some open-window aerial  photography, and walked several trails.  More about that later.   I processed one photo today, and I also abstracted it using Topaz Simplify.

 

 

Hope you like them.

 

Jeff

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial autumn autumn color fall fall color killarney provincial park ontario http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/11/killarney-provincial-park-ontarios-gem Wed, 01 Nov 2017 20:46:02 GMT
How to Secure a Home PC Against Malware: Updated http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/9/how-to-secure-a-home-pc-against-malware-updated This is an update to my previous post, based upon changes in the market and the products.    I removed Malwarebytes v2 and CryptoPrevent v8. I added Microsoft Bitlocker drive encryption and OpenDNS Umbrella Prosumer.  I also added some additional Microsoft Windows 10 hardening actions.

 

There are now 8 Actions to secure a Windows 10 PC from malware, up from 6.  These 8 Actions will make a Windows 10 PC almost unhackable.

 


 

1. Browser (Isolation) Sandbox.  A browser sandbox, properly configured, prevents malware from downloading from your browser to your PC.  The best option for home users, by far, is paid Sandboxie.   Sandboxie needs to patch about one vulnerability per year, compared to hundreds of vulnerabilities per year for Firefox, Chrome, IE11, and Microsoft Edge browsers.   Configure Sandboxie to force Chrome and IE11 to run inside of Sandboxie.  $75 for 5 lifetime Sandboxie licenses

 

2. Antivirus (AV).  I recommend Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus.  It tests comparably to the best AVs tested by AV-Test, AV-Comparatives, MRG Effitas, PC Magazine, and NSS Labs.  However, it easily has the lowest (best) attack surface of any consumer AV, thus making it my AV of choice over other good performers.  Webroot is free if you have an Ally Bank savings account

  • Good Alternatives: Norton Security Deluxe (price varies, ~$40/year/5 PCs), Trend Micro Maximium Security (price varies, ~$40/year/5 PCs)

  • Avoid: Most of the rest.  Especially avoid any Chinese, Russian, or Eastern European AV, which may include hostile government backdoor trojans

  • Interesting Options Not Yet Tried: Cylance Protect (managed, which means the provider configures it).  $60/year/PC

 

3. On-Demand Malware Detection.  I use Sophos HitmanPro (free).  I no longer use Malwarebytes as they have sunset v2, and v3 is not very good.  I also use Norton Power Eraser (also free)  

 

4. Software Restriction Policy / Anti-Executable.  Blue Ridge Networks AppGuard is easily the best option here.  There have not yet been confirmed bypasses of (infections due to) AppGuard.  $30/year/PC

 

5. Operating System Hardening (free).  Microsoft Windows has a lot of native programs, settings, and functions that the average home user does not use nor need, and that make Windows (more) insecure.  I turn most of these off or disable them.  Hardening is a key way to improve email security if you use Microsoft Outlook.  Key hardening items:

  • Accounts: Work from a Standard User account.  Use an Administrator account only for software installations and updates.  Set User Account Control to "Always Notify"

  • App Installation Setting: Only install apps from the Windows Store (after all program installation is finished)
  • Microsoft Office: ActiveX Settings: Disable all controls w/o notification.  Macros: Disable with notification.   Block RTF files

  • Group Policy Objects (GPO): Disable AutoPlay/AutoRun, Desktop Gadgets, 16-Bit Apps, Application Compatibility Engine, Remote Desktop Connections, LLMNR, Remote Shell Access.  Turn off Live Tiles.  Force GPO Refresh

    • GPO can be edited in Windows 10 Pro, but not in Windows 10 Home

  • Windows Registry: Disable Windows Script Host, WPad (partial), Elevation for Unsigned Executables.  Mitigate DLL Hijacking.  Block Untrusted Fonts.  Outlook: Block 600 file extensions, Force OST Path, Hide OLE Objects

  • Computer Properties: Enable DEP

  • Windows Features: Disable Powershell 2.0 and SMB v1

  • Windows Firewall: Block Regsvr32.dll outbound

  • Network Adapters: Disable all services except IPv4 

  • DNS Setting: Set to OpenDNS - 208.67.222.222, 208.67.220.220 for the PC's LAN and WLAN adapters 

  • Chronically Vulnerable Programs: Uninstall / never install Skype, Adobe Reader, Java, any Java-based programs, Microsoft Silverlight, and any Bittorrent clients.  If you don't really need it, don't install it

  • PDF Management: Force PDF files to open in Chrome, and force Chrome to run inside of Sandboxie

  • Other Hardening Steps: We have many additional hardening changes, but the ones outlined should be pretty good for most home users

 

6. Encryption.  Use Microsoft Bitlocker (free) to encrypt all data drives

 

7. DNS Security.  Use OpenDNS Umbrella Prosumer ($20 per year / 3 devices) to encrypt and enforce DNS.  This is primarily used for travel computers, to prevent Man-in-the-Middle attacks from compromised wi-fi hotspots

 

8. Patching.  Patch (update) all programs once per month

 


 

Each software program requires a good configuration.  Sandboxie and Blue Ridge Networks AppGuard, in particular, have complex configuration options. 

 

However, these eight actions, in combination, make it almost impossible for your PC to be hacked or to be infected.

 

I’ll cover home network (firewall and router) and Internet of Things (IOT) security in a future post.

 

Jeff

 

PS: Don't buy Lenovo or other Chinese company PCs.  Buy Dell (preferred) or HP,  for which the Chinese government is less likely to be able to install malware at the factory.  In case you've not figured this out, the Chinese are not our friends.  They are our enemies 

   

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) computer cybersecurity endpoint malware pc security http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/9/how-to-secure-a-home-pc-against-malware-updated Tue, 12 Sep 2017 20:13:54 GMT
Purcell Mountain Aerials: Paintings from Photos http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/8/purcell-mountain-aerials-paintings-from-photos I used Topaz Simplify to create a few "paintings" from the Purcell Mountains aerial photos.  The only slider used was "Simplify Size", which was set to 0.25.  To see more paintings from the Purcell Mountains aerial photos, go to our Purcell Mountains - British Columbia - Paintings.

 

 

Jeff

   

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial british columbia bugaboos canada paintings purcell mountains topaz simplify http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/8/purcell-mountain-aerials-paintings-from-photos Wed, 23 Aug 2017 15:45:00 GMT
More Purcell Mountains Aerials http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/8/more-purcell-mountains-aerials  

I've been slowly processing the open-window aerial photography tour photos of the Purcell Mountains.  These were hand-held on a Nikon D800E (no stabilization), shot at ISO 1600 (moderate noise), 1/2000 second shutter speed.  Almost all of them are quite sharp.  1/2000 seems to be my workhorse shutter speed for handheld aerials.  Most were underexposed by 1-2 stops, which was fixed in post-processing.  These settings were a trade-off between sharpness (shutter speed), noise (ISO), and exposure.  I preferred to underexpose while getting a sharp photo with manageable noise.

 

I started to use Capture One Pro for its superior noise reduction, color, and sharpening.  More about that in a subsequent post.   

 

Here are some of the latest processed photos.  Great flight.  See more in our Purcell Mountains - British Columbia Gallery.

 


 


 

 

Jeff

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial british columbia bugaboos canada purcell mountains http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/8/more-purcell-mountains-aerials Fri, 18 Aug 2017 14:06:14 GMT
2017 Canadian Rockies Expedition: Ended Early due to Wildfires and Smoke http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/8/2017-canadian-rockies-expedition-ended-early-due-to-wildfires-and-smoke  

I cut short my 2017 Canadian Rockies expedition due to the wildfires and the smoke, and headed home on August 4.  I had experienced six straight days of moderate to heavy smoke.  See my previous post.  The scores of British Columbia wildfires were not abating.  The weather forecast indicated at least 8-9 days of heat and sun before any significant rains that might wash the smoke out of the air.  I drove ~300 miles north to south; the entire drive was smoky.  There seemed to be no place to go.  Would some days be clear until my planned return on Aug 24?  Probably.  But my best guess was one quarter or fewer of the days.  Meanwhile, my costs to stay in the Canadian Rockies mounted because I was not backpacking.  And, I would have simply expended unnecessary energy and gasoline driving around.  I decided that August probably was not going to be a good month to do photography in the Canadian Rockies.

 

On the positive side, I did get to do a very scenic open-window aerial photography flight of the Purcell Mountains, during which I took 700 frames.  I also did two days day-hiking in Kananaskis Country and a night of astrophotography; both were gorgeous.  In all, I took 1100 frames.

 

It's a very bad wildfire season.  I am concerned for Canada, for the world, and for mankind.

 

Jeff

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial astrophotography banff british columbia bugaboos canada canadian rockies deforestation ecological disaster jasper kananaskis mountains over-population peter lougheed provincial park pine beetle purcell mountains wildfires http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/8/2017-canadian-rockies-expedition-ended-early-due-to-wildfires-and-smoke Mon, 07 Aug 2017 13:05:29 GMT
2017 Canadian Rockies Expedition: Smoky Update http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/8/2017-canadian-rockies-expedition-smoky-update  

Well, yesterday was supposed to be the start of my 4-night Brazeau (Jasper NP) backpacking trip.   I prepared my backpack, drove to the trailhead, and decided not to go.  After all the planning and prep I did for this trip, that decision did not come lightly.  Simple reason: the smoke in the air.  It was moderately smoky at the trailhead, and Jasper had been moderately to heavily smoky for the previous 3 days.  I could "clearly" see the haze obscuring trees only 1/4 mile away.  Mountains ~3 miles away showed no color, just shadows.  

 

Yes, I could have done the backpacking trip.  But for me, carrying a 38 lb (12 lb camera gear) backpack for 50 miles up and down a few thousand feet is worth it only if I have a good chance of coming back with spectacular photos where the beauty of the landscape can be clearly seen.  I'll shoot in foggy or rainy weather, but smoke obscures details and color, the two things I value most in the photos that I take.  August 1 was the only day I could start the Brazeau: the backcountry campground permits sell out months in advance.  I couldn't just wait a day to see if it would get clear.  It was go or no go.

 

It is August 2.  I've not shot any photos since the night of July 28, so 5 days down-time and counting.   The forecast for the next two weeks is for mostly sunny weather and for very little (almost no) rain.  I would normally love such a forecast.  But little rain means low probability that the smoke will be washed from the air.  Unless the wind changes from westerly to northerly, I expect the smoke to continue to blow in from wildfires west of the park.   The high heat and dry conditions means that new wildfires are likely.  From time to time the smoke clears somewhat to a light haze for 1-3 hours, but it is impossible to predict, and it has been rare.  British Columbia has air quality advisories out for most of the province.  This morning my car was coated in soot.

 

Banff National Park called me today to tell me that they cancelled the permit for my 2nd backpacking trip, to Egypt Lake, due to the Verdant Creek wildfire which is only a few miles away from Egypt Lake.  I probably would not have gone on that one anyhow due to the smoke, but now it is fait accompli.  0 for 2.  The road back into the parks from Radium Hot Springs, my current location, is now closed due to that wildfire.

 

I pray for the people and the environment of British Columbia who are struggling with this record wildfire season.

 

To see what this area is like when it is clear, here are three more photos from my aerial photography flight over the Purcell Mountains.  Seems I was lucky to have a clear day when I did the flight on July 25.

 

 

Jeff

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial british bugaboos canada columbia mountains purcell smoke wildfires http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/8/2017-canadian-rockies-expedition-smoky-update Wed, 02 Aug 2017 16:20:41 GMT
Wither Jasper National Park.....Wither Mankind? http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/wither-jasper-national-park-wither-mankind  

As I drove toward Jasper town in Jasper National Park yesterday morning, my heart sank.  About 20-25% of the trees visible from the road are brown / copper in color, and they are dead or dying.  It was not like this at all on that road when Kathy and I visited Jasper NP in 2014.  Banff and Kananaskis are mostly unaffected....right now.  And this is going to get worse, I think.  Much worse.  As Jasper National Park goes, so goes mankind?   Unfortunately, probably "yes", unless we act quickly, and it might already be too late.

 

The culprit is the the mountain pine beetle, which, due to warmer temperatures (global warming, it seems, caused by mankind), is running rampant in the Rocky Mountains in the USA and in Canada.  It only took a year or two for the pine beetles to kill off 20-25% of the trees in Jasper.  What suppresses the pine beetle is extended winter temperatures of -40 F.  That is no longer occurring in the Rocky Mountains, and the ugly results have been tree browning, die-off, wildfires, and deforestation.  The pine beetle is estimated to have already killed 50% of lodgepole pines in the province of British Columbia.  No one has yet been able to effectively control the pine beetle, despite some claims to the contrary.  Those dead trees are infernos waiting to happen, and those dead trees no longer scrub the air of the immense amount of CO2 that humans are pumping into the air.  Those dead trees are contributing to a record wildfire season in British Columbia, which has resulted in smoke in Banff and Jasper at a high level for an extended period.   That the dead trees and the wildfire smoke are impacting, and now, probably will somewhat ruin, my landscape photography expedition is just a small "inconvenience" in the greater scheme of things.   Those trees, and that awe-inspiring beauty, will not recover within my lifetime.  The bigger issue, however, is what this means for mankind. This is, in my lay opinion (albeit a Ph.D in Chemical Engineering), an ecological disaster.  

 

As I type this blog post from Jasper town, I can barely see a ridge line about a mile away due to the smoke, and the sky has an eerie red hue mid-day.  

 

The sad reality, and I've believed this for some time, is that the Earth cannot support, sustainably over millenia (thousands of years), the current world population of 7.5 billion people at anything close to the current standard of living.   Due to CO2 warming, some areas of the Earth are hitting daytime high temperatures of 134 F.  That number is going to move higher.  Plants cannot live sustainably in such an environment, and we need plants for humans to be able to live.  Yes, some might call me a Malthusian, but I will be proven right.  Only morons and fools take the other side of this argument.  We've been "lucky" as a species so far.  My guess, at maximum, is that the Earth can support about 500 Million (M) to maybe 1 billion (B) people, at the current standard of living (some poor, some rich), over many millenia, and only if we are smart about it.  What does this mean for the future? It is not bright.

 

* With 100 M people in the world, people could be free.  With 500 M, 1 B, or 7.5 B people, people can no longer be free....not if we want to persist as a species.  With this many people on the planet, people cannot be free to have all the children that they want.  They cannot be free to drive gasoline-powered cars when and where they wish.   They cannot be free to fly to work and to places like Jasper National Park whenever they wish

* The deforestation and warming will eventually (soon?) cause the world's crops to crash.  People will starve, and nations will likely go to war to attempt (in vain) to feed their people, and so further harming, or even destroying, what is left of the environment

* To get control of population growth and out-of-control resource consumption, there may be an attempt to form one world government.  It's probably the only way to get our current (politically warring) nations to cooperate on survival of the species.  Depopulation, population control, and rationing, and perhaps other, more radical actions, will ensue.   

 

Why has it gotten to the point where we now need to save the planet and humanity?  What is it about us as a species that led to this?  Are we truly any different from a virus or a pine beetle that reproduces until it consumes its food supply (the Earth's environment, in mankind's case)?  So far, the record says "no".  Will enough people agree to change soon enough?  History suggests "no"..  I look askance on our Congress, and our political parties, and left-wing political agendas poorly disguised as news (e.g. CNN, Washington Post, Politico,....all of them trash), and Earth's nations, warring (politically) with each other over power and resources.  I look askance on the Chinese and the Russians and their plans for world domination and for war.  Meanwhile, the world slowly cooks.  Perhaps mankind, in aggregate, is not deserving. 

 

Saving the planet and mankind is going to mean very tough choices for everyone.

 

Food for thought for me.  Food for thought for you.  What will you do?  Will you change?  Fast enough?

 

Jeff

 

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) deforestation ecological disaster over-population pine beetle http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/wither-jasper-national-park-wither-mankind Sun, 30 Jul 2017 20:20:33 GMT
2017 Canadian Rockies Expedition: A Night of Astrophotography http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/2017-canadian-rockies-expedition-a-night-of-astrophotography  

I decided to forego lodging and tenting the night of July 28 to do astrophotography while transitioning from Kananaskis Country to Jasper town in Jasper National Park.   The main reason was that the moon was in the waxing crescent phase, which means that with each successive day for the next 10 or so days, the moon will be getting brighter and will last longer in the night-time sky.  Since I prefer no moon (aka "new moon"), it was time.

 

I was concerned about the smoke (from wildfires elsewhere in British Columbia) in Banff and Jasper national parks: would it impact my astrophotography?  The answer was "not really" because although the smoke was and is thick enough to create a very strong haze during the day, it was not thick enough to scatter light that noticeably at night.

 

I stayed up most of the night.  Although sunset was at 9:45 pm and sunrise was at 6:10 am, it did not really get "dark" until about 11 pm, and I noticed light in the sky (which made the Milky Way much less distinct) as early as 4 am.   By 4 am, even with two extra large coffees, I was knackere,d and so pulled into a nearby campground to take a nap.

 

It was a truly beautiful night.  The Milky Way was very distinct to the "naked eye".  I shot the Bow Glacier, Peyto Lake, Athabasca Glacier, and other points of interest between Bow Lake and the Athabasca Glacier area.  I processed a few photos.  The best compositions will be panoramas that require stitching...I probably won't process those until 2018 or later.

 

 

 

 

The last one is the Athabasca Glacier located at near the boundary of Banff and Jasper National Parks.

 

Hope you like them

 

Jeff 

 

  

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) astrophotography banff canada canadian rockies jasper http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/2017-canadian-rockies-expedition-a-night-of-astrophotography Sun, 30 Jul 2017 19:18:54 GMT
2017 Canadian Rockies Expedition: Kananaskis Country http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/2017-canadian-rockies-expedition-kananaskis-country  

I spent 2 1/2 days in Kananaskis Country.  I think it is prettier and more accessible than Banff National Park.  The trail to Rae Lake was "The Sound of Music" in terms of beauty (That comparison probably dated me.  Ouch).  I also did the trail to Rawson Lake.  And while Banff was shrouded in smoke from nearby wildfires, I was fortunate that the Kananaskis area was mostly smoke-free.  Kananaskis is gorgeous, and in the right light, a sort of electric green.  

 

It was uncharacteristically hot: highs in the mid-80s.  That meant I did only one hike a day, early in the morning.  I can climb 2000' when it is 85 F, but I am really a cold-weather hiker, and these days I often pass on large climbs in hot weather.  Below are two photos that I processed, both from the trail to Rae Lake.

 

 

Hope you like them.

 

Jeff

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) canada canadian rockies kananaskis mountains peter lougheed provincial park http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/2017-canadian-rockies-expedition-kananaskis-country Sun, 30 Jul 2017 19:02:54 GMT
2017 Canadian Rockies Expedition: Aerial Tour of the Purcell Mountains http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/2017-canadian-rockies-aerial-tour-of-the-purcell-mountains  

Day 1 of my 2017 Canadian Rockies tour started off very well: I did a 2-hour open-window aerial photography tour with Kootenay Lake Aviation in Nelson, BC.  We flew over the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park and Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park.  There were two visible forest fires, but luckily the smoke was not widely dispersing, so we were able to go around the fires.   I shot 700 frames in all, albeit many with a lot of overlap.  I assessed about 10 photos: all were sharp.  Looks like a good flight.  Extraordinarily spectacular scenery. 

 

My Airbnb host for the first two nights (Bram in Windermere, BC) kindly let me know of a bald eagle nest 1/2 mile from his house.  I drove over to take a look, and just as I pulled up, "Mom and Dad" flew in with food for the eaglets, dropped it off, had a minor "disagreement", and then left in search of more food.  Pretty cool.

 

I developed two photso from the flight, just as samples:

 

 

 

Hope you like them.

 

Jeff

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial british columbia bugaboos canada purcell mountains http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/2017-canadian-rockies-aerial-tour-of-the-purcell-mountains Wed, 26 Jul 2017 03:19:50 GMT
Terry Heath: Truly Extraordinary http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/terry-heath-truly-extraordinary  

Family caregivers can be unsung heroes.  Their extraordinary labors and sacrifices are known to only themselves and to a few close family members.  I’d like to recognize a truly extraordinary caregiver: my sister, Terry Heath.

 

Terry has been a nurse by profession for about 30 years.  She used to be an emergency room nurse, and now is a Case Manager at a hospital in Jackson, MI.  She also has, for more than a decade, labored long and hard to care for and to keep my Grandmother (who passed this year in her 90's) and my Mother alive. 

 

She has visited, assessed symptoms and sicknesses, arranged for meds, and orchestrated scores of doctor visits and hospital runs.  She has fiercely advocated for family members with hospitals, doctors, nurses, and insurance, nursing, and hospice companies.  She has stayed up all night, lost countless hours of sleep, given tough love to, and held the hands of our ill family members to try to comfort them.   Not 5 times, nor 10 times, nor 50 times, but literally, hundreds of times over the past decade and more.  Hundreds.  Of.  Times.    Imagine that.  This year, in addition to working a full-time job as a Case Manager, she has labored almost full-time in a 2nd, unpaid job to help care for my Mother who is battling stage 4 cancer.  She has made extraordinary sacrifices.   

 

 

Terry exemplifies all that is best about the nursing profession. 


Terry – You are no longer unsung.  The word is out.  You are Truly Extraordinary.  For all that you have done for our parents and grandparents, thank you.

 

Jeff

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) terry heath http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/terry-heath-truly-extraordinary Fri, 21 Jul 2017 15:08:26 GMT
2017 Canadian Rockies Landscape Photography Expedition http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/2017-canadian-rockies-landscape-photography-expedition  

I’m looking forward to a month long Canadian Rockies landscape photography “expedition”, which I have been planning since December, and doing hill-training since April.

 

The basic itinerary:

 

  • Scenic flight of the Purcell Mountains doing open-window aerial photography
  • 3 days day-hiking in Kananaskis Country
  • Backpacking: 4 Trips
    • Brazeau (Jasper NP): 5 days, 4 nights.  Tent
    • Egypt Lake (Banff NP): 4 days, 3 nights.  Tent.
    • Berg Lake (Mt. Robson PP): 4 days, 3 nights.  Tent
    • Tonquin (Jasper NP): 4 days, 3 nights.  ACC Cabin
  • Day-hikes in Jasper NP, and reprovisioning / recuperation days in Jasper town in between backpacking trips
  • 3-4 full nights astrophotography

 

For the first time, prior to one of these expeditions, I’ve done hill training.  I've done up to 2300’, 6.5 miles with a 33 lb backpack in as little as 3 hours.  My biggest day should be 2800’, 13 miles, with a 35 lb backpack.  Now that I am in my mid-50s, my legs were telling I could not just “get up and go” as I have done in the past.  I tend to do photography extensively on the trail, so 13 miles can take 9-12 hours with all the stop-and-go. 

 

 

I did a similar Canadian Rockies expedition in 2014, with Kathy joining me for part of that trip.  This time will simply be different locations, different trails.

 

 

I have done Berg Lake before, but am going back because on my first trip, it rained most of the time and the cloud ceiling was low.  I am hoping for better weather this time.   

 

 

I will be on my own the entire time.  There are risks, as there always are.  Chief risks on my mind are falling, wildfires, lightning strikes, drowning, and grizzlies.  I’ll do my best to manage them.  Last year in Denali was the first year I started taking bear spray and a Delorme emergency personal locator beacon.  I will be doing so again on this trip.    These trips do wear me down physically.  I'll do as much as I can.

 

 

I'm ratcheting down my solo backpacking no-go and bug-out criteria: If there are nearby wildfires or smoke from distant wildfires (shuts down my photography), or forecasted lightning storms or high rains for any given backpacking trip, I won't go or I will bug-out.

 

Right now, the Egypt Lake backcountry is closed due to a nearby wildfire.  It looks to be a challenging summer for landscape photography due to the many British Columbia wildfires.

 

 

If all goes well, I hope to return with hundreds of beautiful photos of Canada’s magnificent landscapes.

 

Wish me Godspeed.

 

Jeff

  

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) astrophotography banff berg lake brazeau canada canadian rockies egypt lake jasper kananaskis mountains mt. robson tonquin http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/2017-canadian-rockies-landscape-photography-expedition Wed, 19 Jul 2017 19:06:45 GMT
Milky Way Rising over Capitol Reef National Park http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/milky-way-rising-over-capitol-reef-national-park  

For our photography jaunt last spring in Utah, we did astrophotography in various locations of Capitol Reef National Park.  This was our final image of of the final night, from a location near the entrance to Capitol Gorge.  It is a 22-frame, 254 megapixel stitch from a 35mm lens.

 

A great way to end an outstanding trip.  Hope you like it.

 

Jeff and Kathy

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) astrophotography capitol reef capitol reef national park desert milky way utah http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/milky-way-rising-over-capitol-reef-national-park Tue, 18 Jul 2017 15:32:11 GMT
Smoking: It's a Hell of a Thing http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/smoking-its-a-hell-of-a-thing  

My parents and my sister smoked almost all of their lives.  I never smoked.  My Father passed away from the complications of lung cancer.  My Mother is now battling her own lung cancer.  I will tell you this: Smoking is a hell of a thing.

 

  • It’s a hell of a thing, as a child, to constantly have bronchitis and respiratory infections due to the smoking
  • It’s a hell of a thing, as a child, to always lay on the floor, or, to retreat to your bedroom, as the only ways to escape the constant thick cloud of smoke in the house, because you cannot breathe due to your allergy to the smoke
  • It’s a hell of a thing, as a child, to reason, plead, and beg, to no avail, with your parents to stop smoking, because you know what the future holds for them if they continue to smoke
  • It’s a hell of a thing that your parents’ constant smoking sickens your fiancée, who later becomes your wife.  It’s a hell of a thing, after visiting your parents with your wife, to have to bag and wash your clothes to remove the stench of the smoke
  • It’s a hell of a thing, as an adult, to reason, plead, and beg for months with your parents to keep their house smoke-free for just the time that you visit them -- for not only your health, but also for your wife’s health, and yet they refuse.  Then, with disappointment and determination, you tell them that you will no longer visit them at their house, but you also say that they are always welcome to visit you at your smoke-free house.  In their anger, they reply that they will never visit you again.  And so, you don’t talk for 20 years
  • It’s a hell of thing, much, much later, to watch your Father and your Mother tethered to an oxygen machine just so they can breathe
  • It’s a hell of a thing when your Father is diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer
  • It’s a hell of a thing to spend days, literally scores of hours, doing clinical research to find the best doctors and the best treatment options for your Father (and later your Mother), for something that was so very avoidable.  And it was all to no avail; he suffered very badly and withered away
  • It’s a hell of a thing to half-carry your 230 lb Father (I’m 180 lb) to bed on the last day of his life, four weeks after your 3rd major knee surgery, because no one else could do it, and then to watch him die that night due to the cancer
  • It’s a hell of a thing when your Mother is diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, and her hip breaks two days later because the lung cancer had already spread to and wasted her hip and leg bones
  • It's a hell of a thing to see your Mother struggle to breathe on a bipap and to struggle to live after hip replacement surgery.  You shed a tear, because you know what it feels like to suffocate to the point of death.  You've done it before
  • It’s a hell of a thing to hold your Mother’s hand in the hospital, to try to comfort her, as she cries out in agony from the unsuccessful hip surgery meant to mitigate the pain of her bone cancer
  • It's a hell of a thing to cancel all your plans, and to relocate to another state for 3 months, to help take care of your stricken Mother. Yet, you had this easy.  Your sister has been doing this for about 8 months
  • It’s a hell of a thing to arrange for and accompany your now wheelchair-bound Mother to scores of radiation and immunotherapy treatments, and to hospital admissions for infections and pneumonia, all of the while watching her weaken
  • It's a hell of a thing to realize that you might also get lung cancer in the future, after spending 20 years in your parents smoke-filled home

 

This is just a small glimpse of what smoking has done to me, and I never smoked.

 

Smoking is legal because this is a free country.  Tell me this: How free was I to not have to go through this?  I don't feel free.  When someone smokes for themself, they are not the only person who pays a steep price.

 

Smoking.  Smoking has plagued me for 55 years.  Smoking is not a hell of a thing.  Smoking is Hell. 

 

If you smoke, and if there is anybody in this world that you love: a son, a daughter, a husband, a wife, a brother or a sister, a parent….then please, stop smoking…..if not for you, then for them.  Nobody should have to go through this.

 

Jeff

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) smoking http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/smoking-its-a-hell-of-a-thing Sat, 15 Jul 2017 16:44:45 GMT
The Promise of Morning at Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/the-promise-of-morning-at-dead-horse-point-state-park-utah I like this photo because it shows the sky transition between morning and night.  There is the beginning of a sunrise on the left, and there is the still-visible Milky Way on the right.  Kathy and I shared this truly gorgeous morning.

 

 

Jeff

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) astrophotography canyon dead horse point dead horse point state park desert milky way utah http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/the-promise-of-morning-at-dead-horse-point-state-park-utah Wed, 12 Jul 2017 12:30:08 GMT