Summer Trip to Newport – Day 2

Date of visit: July 16, 2018

Our first stop was the Oregon Coast Aquarium – really it is the reason we picked Newport as our destination. We seem to remember visiting here years ago when the kids were young; perhaps driving the 95 miles from Manzanita during a week at the coast there. But I had forgotten most of what we had seen. Too bad I wasn’t blogging back in the 1980s!

Since we got to the aquarium early we spent the morning moving from exhibit to exhibit as the handlers and feeders handled and fed the mammals and birds on their regular schedule. The first stop was the sea otters – they were cute and fun but we know they can be real pests. We have friends who own a waterfront vacation spot on the Seattle Sound. Sea otters got in under their house and set up their living arrangements. It took some work to evict them, then they had to build a concrete block foundation to keep them away. It was a MESS.

Next stop was to see the sea lions. I was able to get one or two decent pictures here.

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Sea Lion at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

If I remember correctly, all he animals we saw were injured or orphaned making the aquarium the only viable place for them to live. This was certainly true for Jojo, the brown pelican who had a permanently injured left wing.

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Jojo – the brown pelican at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

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Jojo – the brown pelican at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

What a beautiful bird – I was delighted to see one so close. You can see how they are descended from dinosaurs – it reminds me of  a pterodactyl.

We then wandered through the sea bird aviary. I think the first two pictures are of puffins. Maybe? I’m no birder  but I know what is pretty. Frances and my other birder friends – can you help me out with identifying these guys and gals?

Update July 20, 2018. Frances gave me the lowdown which I’m adding as captions. Thank you Frances! You are a peach – even if you aren’t from Georgia!

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Tufted Puffin at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

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Tufted Puffin at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

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Black Oystercatcher at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

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Pigeon Guillemot at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

The sea life in the aquarium is amazing but it’s difficult to get decent pictures through the thick plexiglass needed to keep the water where it should be. I was able to get a pictures of tide pool life.

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So that’s what I got. Eight pictures from the aquarium and none are of fish.

After lunch we headed down to Yaquina Bay to see the smaller lighthouse.

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Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

From this vantage you can see the intent was for this lighthouse to mark Yaquina Bay – which is now spanned by a US 101 bridge. We enjoyed a small self-guided tour where we learned it was only in operation for three years. Unfortunately, its light was reflected by a fifth order Fresnel lens which wasn’t strong enough to be useful to passing ship traffic. The larger Yaquina Head lighthouse – which I wrote about in my previous post – took over the duties of this smaller one.

The good news is that it escaped demolition.

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Yaquina Bay Lighthouse and newer life saving tower

.What a beautiful bridge – it is representative of quite a few US 101 bridges on the Oregon coast.

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We enjoyed out two tours of Newport landmarks. We headed back to our place for the afternoon to prepare for a night on the town. More on that in my next post.

 

Posted in Foliage and Landscape, Oregon Coast, Travel, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer Trip to Newport – Day 1

Date of visit: July 15, 2018

It was a hot weekend in Portland – up in the mid 90s. Thank goodness we had planned to go to the coast. Back around Christmas we read an article in The Oregonian about things to do in Newport so it has been on our radar for a while. The biggest draw is the Oregon Aquarium – which I’ll cover in the next post. Newport is not the closest coastal city to Portland but it is a nice – non-weekend – drive down Highways 99 and 18 over to US 101 and down the coast through Depoe Bay and Lincoln City.

We stopped for lunch at Tidal Raves in Depoe Bay – which is up on a bluff overlooking the ocean – and we got a treat – whales! There is a pod of whales that stick around the Oregon coast rather than migrating as north and south. That’s a treat for us.

After winding our way down a busy US 101 through Lincoln City we hit our first stop – Yaquina Head and the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Here is a Google Maps view of the area. Yaquina Head is a National Park – so entrance is free if you are senior citizen with a lifetime park pass. Otherwise I think the cost is less that $10 per car.

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Overview of the Newport area

We were blessed with a beautiful calm blue day and could see far down Nye Beach to the south.

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Looking south from Yaquina Head

We could see maybe 3 to 6 whales working the buffet off the coast. They seemed to be setting bubble nets by going in a circle leaving a trail of bubbles – which I think they do to catch their food – then swim through the circle to feed. I tried and tried to get pictures of the whales but most all you could see is big gray humps occasionally breaking the surface. Twice we saw whales blow a bit. The best picture I could get is this extreme zoom on a whale that seems to have one of his pectoral fins out of the water.

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Whale lifting one of its pectoral fins

We were also treated to a flock of brown pelicans skimming the water.

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We took the stairs down to Cobble Beach to get a closer look at the water. Cobble Beach is a young beach – the ocean hasn’t broken the basalt rock down to sand yet – the closer you get to the water’s edge, the smaller the rocks are.

Basalt Rocks at Cobble Beach

The main attraction is the Yaquina Head Lighthouse which has been in operation since the Gilded Age – late 19th century. Before the lighthouse was built, ships moving up the Oregon coast would have to anchor each night because they couldn’t navigate the rugged shore. For this reason, lighthouses are under the Department of Commerce

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Yaquina Head Lighthouse

There are tours every hour – our docent knew his history and walked us through the lighthouse. He was dressed in the uniform of a Lighthouse Keeper – note the embroidered “K” on his jacket lapel. We were applicants for the job of second keeper.

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Back in the day the lamp fuel was refined lard – pig fat. It was stored in three 100 gallon vats.

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The vat room is on the ground floor always had a small fire going in order to keep the lard liquid. It would be carried up to the lamp a few gallons at a time.

It was time to head up the circular stairs attached to the inside walls.

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Circular stairs to the top of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse

I was so excited I forgot I hate heights until I was on the third step. This is an old staircase and we had to ascend in groups of six. After the first group of six make their way to a landing the next group could start.

Eventually we made our way up to the light room. It is now lit by a halogen light rather than pig lard – but it still uses the original 1st order Fresnel Lens which focuses the light so it can be seen 19 miles out to sea.

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First Order Fresnel Lens of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse

After spending a few hours it was time to head a few miles south to our vacation headquarters. Walking back to the car I couldn’t pass up this final view looking up to the Yaquina Head bluff.

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More adventures await; please stay tuned

 

Posted in Travel, Oregon Coast, National Parks | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Grilled Burgers with Special Sauce

Prepared: July 11, 2018

Even though I’ve been working through my camera/lens testing we still need to eat. Hot summer night, let’s grill a couple of burgers – and let’s keep it simple by buying prepared patties. Pre-made patties at the market run the risk of being overworked – mixed in a blender – but our local New Seasons seems to have a light hand.

I’ve been planning on making  some “special sauce” the next I grilled burgers. I want it simple and fast. There are a ton of recipes out there. My go to is usually Serious Eats, but they wanted me to go buy a jar of dill pickles, slice four pieces and then chop that. No thanks – let’s use some jarred relish. I found a quick recipe on the Food Network site that fit the bill. I pulled it together while the grill heated

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I cut the recipe in half.

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Whisk to combine

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I cooked the burgers while Carla prepped the rest of the condiments and cooked some corn on the cob.

Dinner is served.

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The sauce was good; but those fresh veggies really stole the show. We had tons of sauce left over – we’d better cook some burgers again this week.

 

 

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Camera/Lens Testing Update

Pictures Taken: July 10, 2018

If you read through my previous blog post on camera and lens testing you are a hardy soul – that was not a short post – this follow up is for you. If you got through the first 50 or so words and thought “you have GOT to be kidding me” then you may want to skim over this as well.

The short version of the previous post was that I did not get the stellar results I had expected when taking pictures with my Sony A7R3 and Sony 24-105mm lens. After doing some research I came up with a test plan to see what would work better; I primarily used Aperture Priority with different focus area and focus modes – this is because I was following Mark Galer’s YouTube video called  Camera Settings for Shooting Action – Sony Alpha A7RIII and A7III  .

Early in the morning northbound trains rolled through the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge about every 15 minutes. Here is a representative sample of these pictures.

 

When you look closely – try clicking the image to get a bigger view – the numbers and lettering are not as crisp as I was working for. The aperture size of 8 is the maximum to ensure Phase Detect Auto Focus (PDAF) which is the super fast focus mode for moving shots. I couldn’t tell if the blurriness was a factor of the shutter speed or low-ish f-stop; maybe the focal point was far enough way from the lettering and numbering to blur them.

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Aperture Priority. 1/200 sec; f/8; ISO 200; Focal Length 48mm

I also tried a couple with Shutter Priority.

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Shutter Priority. 1/800sec; f4.5; ISO 100

Much better here. The 1/800 second speed is 4 times faster than the first shot; even though the f-stop was a measly 4.5 things were still in focus. Conclusion: even though trains are not speeding through this spot, they are too fast for 1/200 second.

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Aperture Priority. 1/500; f/6.3; ISO 100. Focal Length 41mm

I can’t explain why this picture uses a speed of 1/500 second with a wider aperture than the first sample even though it seems brighter. Regardless, 1/500 second improves the focus of the numbers and letters. Here are two closeups of the BNSF trains showing the small lettering that appears on the black rim at the front of the train; between the wheel set and the yellow/black stripes of the herald; and just behind the grab bar.

First, from the picture taken at 1/200 second.

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You can barely make out the “ET44C4” model number.

Then the picture taken at 1/500 second.

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The model number “ES44C4” is much clearer.

I couldn’t see on this on the small view finder but I knew that I needed to get more speed and tighter f-stop. Before I could do more testing some BNSF physical plant employees came out to put a couple of high railers on the track for some inspection. I didn’t want to be in their way so I headed south. I found a nice country road to get back to Vancouver so I wouldn’t have to hassle with I5.

As I was driving I pondered the question and decided to stop by the Amtrak depot in Vancouver just next to the Columbia River. The bridge was closed to rail traffic so the BNSF southbound I caught was slowing to a stop. Even though I would go past the PDAF limit of f/8 I pushed the f-stop to 13 to find out if contrast auto focus would work.

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Aperture Priority. 1/200 sec f/13; ISO 400. Focal Length 43mm

The number boards were clear and at f/13 lettering on the two leading locomotives were in focus. 1/200 wasn’t good for trains at track speeds; but fine for those coming to a stop.

My last sample of the day is from another Amtrak Cascades heading north; again, coming to a stop at the station.

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Aperture Priority. 1/320; f/16; ISO 800. Focal Length: 80mm

Again; pretty sharp and 1/320 second is fine for the slow movers. Contrast Auto Focus will work for slow speeds, it remains to be seen if it will be okay for faster moving trains.

When I got home I imported the pictures to LightRoom where I could get a better look at them. The overall lesson I took away is I want higher frame rate than I can get in Aperture Priority even with the settings Mark Galer recommended. And I can see how shooting trains is different from soccer players or running dogs. Trains are much longer and wider than people and animals (no duh!). So, what works for small objects may not work from huge subjects like trains. And the trains may be moving much faster than I think; their size may make it seem they are going slower than they are.

I came away with some new test cases.

  1. In order to force the camera to speed up the shutter and raise the ISO to compensate, pick a high value for the ISO Auto Min SS setting. I was using “Faster”. I didn’t need to take train pictures for this. I practiced at home and it didn’t work for me as I had hoped.
  2. Use Shutter Priority Mode as I did with the first Amtrak Cascades. Start with 1/500 second and work from there.
  3. Maybe I just need to bite the bullet and go to Manual Mode. push up the shutter and narrow the focus letting the camera adjust the ISO. Playing with my camera for all of 5 minutes indicates this should work.
    • Have samples of f-stops <= 8 and > 8 to compare PDAF with Contrast Auto Focus.
  4. Use a light meter to dial in the settings. I sure don’t want to spend $200 – $500 for a light meter. I found the well-reviewed Pocket Light Meter app for iOS. After watching a couple of YouTube videos I think I can get this to help.

I used the GoodNotes iOS app to keep track of my test cases. I tried to use 1 page per train but at the end I slapped a bunch on one page. Here is a sample from my GoodNotes notebook. I added the green notes in the evening after working with the images

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Um, yeah; there are 7 pages of this.

I’ve looked at enough trains for a couple of weeks – maybe. But I have my test plan ready to go.

Thanks for following along.

Posted in Photography, Trains | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

New Lens Testing

Photos taken: July 6&7, 2018

I retired – again – a few weeks ago. I joked with my friends that I’ve gone back and forth between working and retirement  so often in the past four years I should just start calling myself “unemployed”. Who knows, maybe retirement will stick this time – certainly retiring in mid summer is a great way to go; we’ve had lovely afternoons on the deck and whiling away the hours. We also had grand kids for a little over a week and that kept us hopping.

I can waste time easier and faster than most anyone I know; however, I find that I’m not at my happiest after a few days of that go by. So, I thought it might be wise to focus on some efforts that I always find time not to do when I’m working – even part time. Even though it’s not New Year I developed a bit of a plan to make sure I stay engaged.

  • Spend 1 hour a day in some physical activity. That’s usually yoga 3 times a week and walking or swimming the other days.
  • Spend 2 hours a day on some creative outlet. These might be a combination of:
    • Reading. I’ve been stuck in a dense history of the Gilded Age for a couple of months now. My reading list is backing up.
    • Improve my photography by taking more pictures, learning about photography and picture post processing.
    • Improve my skills on the guitar. I need to move on from playing along with songs on Spotify and learn more chords, fingering techniques and such.
    • Continue blogging; I definitely love the writing process. I need to work on editing my posts so they aren’t so log. Yeah, right.
    • Keep on with my adventures in cooking.
  • Social interaction. This takes care of itself – with my wife’s help. We have coffee with yoga friends three times a week following our practice. We are blessed with a wide range of friends that we see regularly. I bowl with friends once a week, and try to get to lunch with a couple of buddies once every 2 weeks or so.

These goals will take 3 to 4 hours a day – leaving me plenty time of reading the comics, watching TV, and investigating such things as “is Dawn dish detergent really $.30 a bottle better than Joy?”

I focused on photography these first days of retirement. A nice benefit of the work I was doing was it afforded me the opportunity to indulge in camera gear. I’ve seen plenty of evidence on Flickr and other platforms that I know it’s the person behind the view finder that is responsible for the quality of the picture. Regardless, I’ve been fortunate enough to get a Sony A7R3 and a Sony 24-105 full frame lens to play with. It’s way out of my league – I feel like a Vespa rider climbing onto a Harley Davidson – there is more power than I can make use of and it will take time to learn how to take advantage of its offerings.

When I received the Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G lens on Friday I immediately put it on the camera and took some pictures around the house.

On my deck shooting the green space at 24mm.

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A zoom of 105mm isn’t crazy long; I focused on the wood duck box as I zoomed in.

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Next I went out front to take some closeups of the garden. Carla found some spray to keep the local deer from treating our rose bush like a buffet.

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And a hydrangea

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That lens and camera makes nice images. But the real test will be trains.

NOTE: This next section is for beginning photographers like me – especially those who have just picked up a Sony A7III or Sony A7RIII. I discuss a focus problem I had and the various settings I adjusted in an unsuccessful effort to improve things. [Spoiler alert – I think I came across the solution.]  If this isn’t your cup of tea, scroll on down to the wildlife pictures at the bottom.

I’ve been striving to improve my train photography and have determined to work on it for a while. The train picture I’m proudest of is this one I took in March. The Sony A7R3 is a fantastic tool to track moving subjects – much better than its predecessor the A7R2. I set up my gear Friday night so I could get on the road early Saturday. I set the camera like this:

  • Shutter priority at 1/320 of a second
  • Focus area to “Lock on AF: Flexible Spot M[edium]”
  • Focus mode to “Continuous Autofocus”
  • Drive Mode to “Continuous Shooting Mid” This is 5 shots per second. There is also Hi: 8 frames a second, and Hi+ (which I think should be renamed to “Ludicrous”) at 10 frames a second.

Once I reached the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge – my favorite local train watching spot – I didn’t have long to wait to test things out – a northbound UP showed up just after I parked and got my white balance set.

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Shutter Priority. 1/320 sec at f/4.0. ISO 250. Focal Length 105mm

I was pretty happy with this first take – it wasn’t jump off the page great, but the flag, herald, and numbers looked fairly sharp. [Note: these images are not “out-of-the-camera”; all have all be cropped and processed in LightRoom]

I noticed that in shutter priority, the camera tries to keep a wide aperture and would push the ISO up. For testing purposes, I switched to Manual mode, and bumped up (narrowed) the aperture and let the camera take care of the ISO. This turns out to have been a mistake – as you’ll see if you keep reading.

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Manual Mode. 1/250 sec @ f/10. ISO 320. Focal Length 45mm

I had a burst of pictures; this one is okay but the next few were less sharp – the numbers on the number board weren’t as clear as I would have wished.  It was also a bit dark. The northbound trains are in the shade of the hill on my left – I used LightRoom to bring up the shadows.

I figured if things weren’t sharp, I’d up the f-stop to get more depth of field. I considered upping the shutter speed, but the trains aren’t moving that fast and I wanted to work on one variable at a time. For the next shot, I kept my focal length down and waited for the train to come to me – but it’s soooo hard to wait. This one looked good in the view finder but way, way dark in LightRoom; I had to raise the exposure by 1.85!

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Manual Mode. 1/250sec at f/13. ISO 400. Focal length 33mm.

Finally, a train coming from the north where it would be in direct sun for a bit.

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Manual mode: 1/250sec at f/10. ISO 320. Focal Length 105mm

I think the “Amtrak” on the front should be more clear; and even at f/10 there isn’t a big depth of field.

As I pushed the button to take a continuous series of pictures of this last train, I noticed something.

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Manual Mode. 1/250sec @ f/10. ISO 250. Focal Length 44mm

I took a long burst for this series – 22 shots. The first pictures were in great focus – but too far away for use. As the train passed I noticed that the focal point in the display didn’t track the locomotive like I expected it to once it locked on. It stayed in one place and the train passed through it. In this case those green containers were much sharper than the lead locomotive I was trying to track. WHAT???

If I can’t get an in focus picture with this camera/lens, then I’m doing something wrong – it’s not the equipment. I obviously need to sit down and figure out what I’m doing wrong. Ah, Google. I first searched for “train photography with sony A7RIII” – that turned up nothing; so I replaced “train” with “action” and came across this awesome, fantastic YouTube Camera Settings for Shooting Action – Sony Alpha A7RIII and A7III by Mark Galer “Sony Global Imaging Ambassador.”

I learned some stuff. For all the details, watch the video  where he goes through each setting he tweaks – I’m just going to highlight a few things that stood out for me.

First, he suggests shooting in Aperture Mode and starts with f/5.6. This is counter intuitive. But Mark tells us that when shooting at apertures higher (narrower) than f/8 the continual auto focus stops to work; the camera keeps its focus on the original focal point. This is exactly what I saw in my last photo burst of 22 pictures where the later pictures focal points were on the freight cars behind instead of the lead locomotive. It also explains why my first string of shots was in better focus. I was shooting at f/5.6.

Second, for focus area he picks “Lock-on AF: Expand Flexible Spot” to get better tracking.  I was close here with my “Lock on AF: Flexible Spot M” setting. I’m not sure what “expand flexible spot means.”  I’ll research that later.

Third, he changed a setting I didn’t know existed: “AF Track Sensitivity”. “If you need to be faithful to a particular subject” [e.g. locomotive]  change this from the default of 3(Standard)  to 1(Locked On). The camera will work harder to stick with the subject first focused on. That sounds great!

He also tells us not to be afraid of higher ISOs; one of the strengths of this camera is the ability to block out noise at the higher ranges. His Max setting is 12,800 – like I had already set.

The last high point I picked up is changing another setting I wasn’t aware of – “ISO AUTO Min SS” –  to “Fast” or “Faster”. This is the setting that allows us to use Aperture Priority instead of Shutter Priority. At the “Fast” and “Faster” settings the camera will speed up the shutter speed to diminish motion blur. You can also set the number directly – he suggests 1/1000 for fast moving subjects. I’m going to start working with Fast and Faster.

I like Mark Galer’s approach to teaching; I’ve subscribed to his YouTube channel. There is much more good information in the video. I adjusted my settings based on his video and saved them in one of the three memory banks. I’m going to try to get out this week and try the new settings – I’ll report back.

TL;DR [Too Long; Didn’t Read] If your Sony A7RIII action images are out of focus, watch the Mark Galer video linked above.

Now, back to my day of shooting. At one point between trains, I was reading a manual on my iPhone and flipping camera settings settings when I looked up and a doe and her fawn were no farther than 25 feet away. I tried not to jump as I brought my camera up.

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The fawn was worried about me but wanted to keep up with her mother.

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They took off to my left then circled behind me. When I saw them going the other way, a car was coming down the trail and the fawn bolted back to safety.

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Thanks for making it this far. I have high hopes that my setting changes will result in improved images.

Posted in Personal, Photography, Trains, Wildlife | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Cedar Planked Salmon

Prepared: June 28, 2018

The kids are more “vegetarian-ish” than vegetarian. Fish is on their menu; so we picked up a salmon filet for a nice summer meal on the deck. Now, I imagine everyone with a grill has done cedar planked salmon, so I’ll keep this brief. Most importantly make sure you have a plank that is big enough for you piece of fish. I found some – maybe at Orchard Supply Hardware – that are 15″ long by 7″ wide – longer and wider than many I’ve seen at the grocery store.

At least two hours before cooking I put a plank in a tray of water and weight it down with a measuring cup full of water to keep it submerged.

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Before and after

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We are going for an indirect cook on the gas grill – fast and simple. First I turned all burners to high to heat it up. After 10-15 minutes I scrubbed the grill, turned off the burners in the middle and turned the outer burners to a tad below medium. My target was 350° on the grill hood thermometer. That thermometer is measuring the heat up on the top of the grill rather than down on the grill where the fish is; but it’s a fine indicator for this dish.

I put the salmon filet on the plank, sprinkled just a bit of kosher salt on top then put it over the unlit burners on the grill and close the cover.

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The filet just barely fit diagonally; of course, if the filet was bigger I could have cut it in half.

The USDA calls for an internal temperature of 145°

It cooked in a hurry; in just 12 minutes the cedar plank was smoking and the fish was 115°. I closed the grill and waited another minute and it was a tad over my target – which is lower than USDA – so check often.

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That smoking cedar plank really enhances the flavor. I brought it in to rest while the final dinner preparations were made.

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A chopped salad, crusty french bread, a nice bottle of wine and dinner was served. Serving on the charred plank is a nice presentation – it was cut into portions before I got my camera out.

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Everyone loved it; the 4 year old and 2 year old kids gobbled it up.

A fantastic dinner to end a fantastic day. A few years ago our South African daughter-in-law put some chutney on the side to go with the salmon. Delicious! We’ve used many different flavors – today she bought apple and cranberry.

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We don’t need a long involved recipe here; put a lightly salted salmon filet on a wet cedar plank over indirect heat at 300° – 350° until it reaches your – or the USDA – desired degree of doneness.

Rating: ★★★★★

You can’t beat this for a nice dinner.

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Homemade Hummus

Prepared: June 27, 2018

An entire head of garlic! Really. Our youngest son, daughter-in-law and grand kids are out west for a summer vacation. They are vegetarians; I’m not as you can tell from my recipes. But I wanted to make a healthy, tasty vegetarian dish we can enjoy for a few days. I’ve blogged about our regular hummus make with canned beans and I’ve even made hummus from dried beans before. I wanted something a little different this time and I’ve had this Serious Eats hummus recipe floating around for about a year. The recipe even gets around the step of removing the skin from the beans after cooking – that’s a big time saver. Since I had some Rancho Gordo dried garbanzo beans, the stars were aligned.

I’ve been on a Rancho Gordo bean tear for a few weeks now.

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The first step is to soak with some salt and baking soda overnight.

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Serious Eats tells us that baking soda helps soften the beans. That is just what we want here since we will be blending the beans. It would probably be good for refried beans, by maybe not as good idea if you will be eating your beans whole, from a bowl or plate.

Other than a bit more baking soda, att this point our process looks like a regular bean recipe; cook with some vegetables.

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Only two cloves of garlic here; there is more – so much more – to come.

Everyone into the pool.

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Once this gets to simmering, it smells like a Middle Eastern restaurant. Those garbanzo beans smell sooo good!

While they are simmering we turn our attention to the customized tahini paste.

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Normally when I include a picture of the ingredients (like that above) a head of garlic means “some garlic” Not today – the whole thing is going in.

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J. Kenji López-Alt – the head of Serious Eats – assures us that the lemon juice will remove the sharpness of the raw garlic you’d expect. We put the unpeeled cloves into the blender with the lemon juice and gave it a whirl. Then passed everything through a fine mesh strainer to remove solids. Then we whsk together the tahini paste and cumin with the garlic-lemon juice and add a tad bit of water a bit at a time to get a loose paste.

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We set that aside until the beans finish.

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I tasted them at this point and I was tempted to toss the idea of hummus and just start stuffing garbanzo beans into my mouth. After reserving the liquid and discarding the onion. celery and bay leaves,  The beans, carrot, and garlic cloves get their time in the blender with enough reserved water to cover. I have a nice sturdy, strong Vitamix blender and it had to work to get this blended; although I couldn’t get that nice blender vortex going, I did get them blended into a nice smooth milkshake-like mixture. J. Kenji López-Alt says the key to smooth hummus is blend while the beans are warm. Read the recipe linked above to get the full details on how to accomplish this.

The next step is to transfer the bean mixture to a large bowl.

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It almost looks like butterscotch; it’s much darker than the beans were at the beginning.

We then whisk the saved tahini paste into the beans; it lightens up and voilà – hummus

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The traditional way to serve is to put it into a shallow pasta bowl and drizzle some olive oil and maybe a spritz of paprika on top. After a long flight from the midwest, the kids were hungry and tired so we just put some in small bowls and ate it with pita chips and carrots. Serious Eats is right: neutralizing the garlics with the lemon juice produces hummus with a rich garlic undertone without that sharp bite.

Wow; this is good stuff. It certainly takes longer and is more effort than making from canned beans, but if you have the time, go for this.

Rating: ★★★★

I’m tempted to use a full 5 stars; I wish I could find a half-star to add.

 

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