Another short from our 2019 road trip. This time we’re wondering through Times Square on our way to the Schoenfeld Theater… on Broadway.
One more snippet from our 2019 road trip vacation to New York.
Where are we this time? And is Nikki in trouble? Watch and find out.
Dropping the second snippet from our 2019 road trip vacation to New York.
Where are we? Please take less than one minute from your day to watch and find out. Your comments, likes, and subscriptions are all welcome. TIA.
I am dropping a short series of snippets in to Youtube from our 2019 road trip vacation to New York, where among other things we went up the Empire State building, visited Lady Liberty, rode the NY subway, took in a Broadway show and met my friend from high school, that I had not seen in over 20 years, in Central Park.
Here’s the first New York Minute.
Enjoy, and if you like, comment. Subscribe. Like.
You know the deal.
For the last month my home computer has randomly frozen up. Everything seems to be working OK but the screens just go blank. Everything else was OK. I just couldn’t see anything. Very odd.
Browsing and basic daily use, no problem. I leave my machine on for days, even weeks at a time. This issue only happened when I asked the machine do something graphically intensive, like motion tracking drone footage or rendering 3D. I figured it may be a graphics card issue, probably drivers. Many times, I tweaked and tried again, recreating the same video sequences at least a dozen times and rebooting just as many.
Anyone that has spent time working with a customer service team over the phone to resolve issues is all too familiar with being told there is nothing wrong. Usually after several frustrating hours of checking the basics you already checked before calling them. I chose not to follow this path.
Being an old hand at computers, I didn’t worry, just persevered. In my head I blamed Windows, or Adobe software updates, and waited for bug fix and compatibility releases to come along. Many did. None resolved the issue.
I did notice that this only happened on the oldest of my machines – a fact I put down to this 8 year old machine starting to show its age. Like me.
Bite The Bullet
Today I decided enough was enough. Saving every five minutes was not proving practical, and reboots take time. A lot of time. I’ve been fighting this for too long. So I put my tech head on (I used to build and fix computers for money, ironically) and started going through error logs and troubleshooting and reboots and uninstalling drivers and… well, all the usual stuff. Everything an I.T. guy would normally do. After several head scratching hours I gave up. I could find no clear reason for this. Plan B.
Until I could figure this out I needed a machine I could rely on. I went downstairs to the living room and tried to reconfigure that machine as my main unit. For a couple practical reasons, that didn’t work. So, an hour later, I was back upstairs reconnecting monitors and cables.
I was quite… fraught, by now.
The Fix Is In
As I reconnected cables, one of the video connectors didn’t seem to sit properly. I thought a daughter board may have moved, which could cause the issue. I decided to check the graphics card was still properly seated on the motherboard. Sometimes thermal creep (it’s not a band, it’s a thing, look it up) causes things to move and weird things happen. I popped the side off the computer. And saw the two fans on the graphic card weren’t turning.
I had not noticed their silence, as these friction less fans had not made a noise in more than four years – my computer is almost completely silent. Puzzled, I blew them out with compressed air and started them turning with a flick. All good, they kept running. They weren’t seized.
Then I noticed a drooping cable had somehow come to rest on the dual fans, stopping them turning. A simple cause, with a simple fix: A cable tie. Another blast of compressed air, and I put the side back on.
I am pleased to report everything is working as it should. No further blank screens (yet). I recreated one of those test video sequences and piled on some extra effects just for good measure, and the system stayed stable. I was finally able to complete the project and export. Excellent.
I believe the graphics card was intermittently overheating when tasked with heavy GPU processing, and like a good graphics card should, it turned itself off before it burned out. Hence, blank screens. This explains the intermittent issue. It happened only when working with graphics apps configured to exclusively use the GPU. And why the rest of the computer continued to chug along happily, even though the screens were blank. Only GPU graphics were affected. Well, those and my sanity.
I will spend tonight stress testing the card to see if it holds up, and whether any permanent damage has been done. Along the way I’m starting to clear the backlog of personal video projects I’ve put off due to this. So far, I’m three projects in and not a problem. Fingers crossed it stays that way.
Why is a self proclaimed tech guy confessing to not fixing this sooner?
Because I know many others go through similar issues, and those issues are often blamed on faulty software. First, I want those people to know: You are not alone. Computers are hard. I’ve been doing this for centuries, and was still caught out by what, in 20/20 hindsight, should have been obvious.
I also want you to know that sometimes it really isn’t the software. Those customer service teams may be right. Sometimes it really is an ID 10T issue.
January 1st 2020 was spent working through some of my photos from 2019. It brought smiles as I looked back at some amazing memories of the things we did.
Including the trip to New York. It was a whistle-stop tour. We did many things including visiting Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, Bubba Gump at Times Square, taking in a Broadway show, and much more. We also missed many things on our list, and for those will have to go back sometime.
One unplanned experience happened while walking through Central Park. A troupe of street performers appeared from nowhere and started breakdancing right in front of us. A crowd gathered. We found ourselves in the front row of a sizeable audience. They were very slick and very good at what they do, working the crowd, and treating us to quite a show.
As part of the show they leaped over a young boy from the audience, while flirting with his mother and making jokes. They had a good schtick, very entertaining. There was much laughter.
The finale saw crowd participation as they pulled people into the centre of the circle and lined them up, ready to be barrel jumped by the smallest member of the team. At this point, they joked about his size and passed around their baseball caps for donations, saying it would cover the medical bills if this trick went wrong. A nice touch.
Setting up the shot
I did not want to miss this, especially as I threw $20 into the hat myself. Knowing what was coming I used the warm up time to set up for the shot I had in mind: A multiple exposure freezing the audience but showing the jumper in motion.
Putting the camera into high speed continuous mode I focused on the jumpees (go with it) and locked focus by dropping to manual. That stops the camera ‘helpfully’ trying to refocus when the button is pressed, and missing, because everything is moving so fast. It also stops the camera hunting focus for that split second when you press, which as any parent of an active child can confirm is more than enough to make the difference between getting a shot and missing a magic moment.
I set my aperture to give a sufficient depth of field to catch the main scene sharply while blurring the backround a little, to fix attention on the action and not the crowd. I set shutter speed low to freeze the crowd but blur the jumper, since nothing kills an action shot like freezing it totally.
I was ready. I waited.
The moment of truth
He starts his run. Hold breath, lock stance, aim, click and hold…
Seven shots per second. It took one second from leaving the ground to landing. Seven shots.
I nailed the launch, and the landing, perfectly. Credit to the jumper, he nailed them too. The jumpees didn’t get a single hair ruffled and all went home with smiles. No medical bills were incurred.
The audience cheered and applauded. We enjoyed this performance so much we let them keep the money. The troupe thanked everybody, picked up their gear and left, with a parting announcement they would be back in two hours. They make a pretty good living during the summer, it seems.
The crowd went on their way, as did we. Within two minutes it was just another empty park with random couples walking around with nothing to show that this had ever happened.
To say that this was not a scheduled shot, I’m pleased it came out so well. I was in tourist mode so only had tourist gear: One camera, one lens. No lights, flashes, or grip. I made it work. All those seven shots needed was a little post processing in Adobe Lightoom, then stacking and masking in Photoshop.
I love being able to do things like this. 🙂
We near the end of 2019. It has been a busy year for me, with visits to New York, several State Parks, some filmmaking, and of course, work. Lots of work. 2020 looks set to be hectic as well.
Taking a few days out to be with friends and family, I’m also working through the backlog of photos I’ve accumulated this year. I think I got some diamonds in there, including some neat Winter landscapes and crashing waves coming off Lake Erie during a storm surge. I hope you will agree.
I’ve added some of them to the Gyst Photo Shop for visitors to browse and buy, and will be adding more over the holidays as I work through them. I also revamped the interface and the shopping cart to make the site more intuitive and easier to navigate. I even added some new product options to give visitors more choices. We now offer everything from digital downloads to framed metal prints for your wall. Something for everyone.
While I was at it, I succumbed to the Holiday Spirit and created a 15% discount across the board, valid from now until January 3rd 2020. Enter code ‘Gystmas2019‘ during checkout to make your wallet happy. You’re welcome.
Please check out the site. Leave a comment below, or at the site. All feedback is appreciated. And of course, if you choose to buy any images we will be duly grateful. Remember to enjoy your discount!
Signing off for 2019. There are presents to deliver and family to visit. See you in 2020.
The first snows of Winter 2019 hit us here today in the Niagara region. As usual, many drivers have forgotten how to drive. The news is filled with crash reports and warnings of imminent death at every turn. Ah, Winter. How you were missed. Not.
On the slow and steady drive home I had a couple of minor skids. Ease off the gas, steer out of them. Nothing to raise an eyebrow over. Correct the skid and drive on, that’s the way.
At one point as I drive the weary miles home over unlit back roads almost obscured by falling snow, with the darkness pierced only by my headlights, I had my annual flashback to a road trip three decades ago and three thousand miles away. It made me grin, as usual. I thought it might be fun to share the story. To my recollection, every word is true and accurate. So here we go.
I’m late twenties. Flat of stomach and strong of arm. Married to a different woman, with five dependent kids and a dog. In another country on another continent, and instead of a sleek modern Toyota I’m driving on the left behind the wheel of a beat up 1978 Ford Cortina that has seen better days. Don’t judge me, it was all we could afford. The suspension was shot and when I drove though puddles my feet got wet. Still, it was the family car and we loved it.
My sister’s offspring asked me for a ride to a job interview. In London. Three hours away on a good day. On a Saturday. So of course, being a good uncle, we left the kids in the hands of a babysitter, and nephew and I set off with my then wife ‘down South’. No Google Maps or Siri, my friends. This was old school navigation. “I know that area, we’ll find it when we get there”. And find it we did.
The snow started about two hours into the journey. Light, but persistent. It got heavier as the day wore on. By the time the interview was over, the planned sightseeing drive around London was clearly going to be a non-starter. The snow was coming down thick and fast. Cars were already hitting ditches, trees, and each other. So were the drivers. Time to get out of there.
I affectionately call the drive back the world’s longest skid. With 180 miles (around 300 kilometers) of highway ahead of us, I turned onto the On ramp and hit the M1 highway heading back North. One hour in we were still making headway, but slowly. Traffic was light as drivers hopped on and off between exits on the way home. It thinned noticeably by the time the rush hour was over. And it was dark.
With little traffic there were no tracks to follow and we slowed further because the road was no longer visible beneath a blanket of white. Two hours in, only us and the snow ploughs (this is an English story so that’s how I’m spelling it) were left. We tucked in behind one of these for the next hour, and followed it off the highway to a service station for warmth and a washroom.
Leicester Forest East service station is about half way home for us. We joined the huddled mass of misery for a cuppa tea and some chips. The stale and overcooked chips only added to the misery. Some people had decided to stay for the night, and I couldn’t blame them. It was not nice out there. But I was flat of stomach and strong of arm and feared nothing, so I led my intrepid band back to the car ready to face the rest of the journey. Remember, we had kids waiting for us. So… as it is my frequent want to say, onward.
The first challenge was finding the car. In the fifteen minutes or so we were inside getting warm the car had quite literally disappeared. Only snowy mounds occupied the parking lot and we had a few more minutes of fun wiping snow off random vehicles until we found the right one.
Once in the car, laughing at the excitement of it all, we faced the second challenge. Getting out of the lot. The snow was deep and undisturbed. I slapped a Queen cassette into the deck, cranked the volume, and our hardy band sang out loud as I played silly buggers fishtailing and wheel spinning our way back on to the highway. Off we went again. The snow was only up to the hub caps.
That was around the time that the heater stopped working. Bugger.
Without heat the car got very cold very quickly. Worse, the windscreen started to fog and then iced up. The wipers could not clear the windscreen and I was forced to manually wind the windows down (Ford Cortina) and stick my head out the window into the face of the oncoming blizzard if I wanted to have any chance of moving forward and eventually getting home.
It’s lonely up North
We were the only vehicle on the road for the next two hours. Not even a plough. My only guide was the metal central divide. I made my own tracks in the ever deepening snow and tried to stay somewhere in the middle. Being alone in this three lane highway really helped. We kept singing, me through frozen lips and icy eyeballs but still not giving in. She threatened me with divorce. I told her I was changing my will. My nephew said he didn’t want the job. We laughed. And sang. And drove on.
The snow was by this time drifting and the car was close to being beached. And still it came down. But you know, we were happy. Everyone was comfortable and felt safe because I was flat of stomach and strong of arm, and even though the heater wasn’t working and the wipers were jammed and things were starting to fall off the car, we knew we would get home safe through the dark and the snow.
And we did. Eight and a half hours after setting off back on the three hour 180 mile (300 kilometer) journey we dropped off the majestic M1 and drove the remaining mile to our house with snow-softened smiles. Albeit smiles that were frozen to our faces. At least in my case.
More tea, followed by tales of our adventure around a roaring coal fire as we laughed and sang and farted and curled up, seven of us to a couch. And then the dog jumped up, too. Happy days.
The next day the TV news was full of warnings of death and destruction and hypothermia along with advisories not to leave the house unless you absolutely had to.
The country came to a standstill and was snowbound for the next seven days until this winter storm started to pass. Some people actually took snow days, which aren’t real things in the North of England. Ask me some time about the twins first day at school. But that’s another story.
It would be weeks until things finally returned to normal. I got the heater replaced as a priority. Returned to work. Nephew didn’t get that job because of the weekly commute, but he did get another one based on that interview. So the trip was a success. And an adventure. And a memory.
A memory that the snow I drive through on my way home tonight made me smile about. And laugh. Perhaps I’ll load my iPhone with Queen songs to sing on the way in tomorrow. Because I know I won’t be taking a snow day.
Even though I now have fully functional power windows, I may even wind them down and stick my head out as I sing, just for old times sake.
I survived a stroke, three years ago this week. Recovery has been a bumpy road, but one I happily (if a little unsteadily) walk. Or jog. No complaints. Not one. That is not this story.
This is a story of Adventure. With a capital ‘A’. Even before the stroke I tried to live each day as though it were my last. Even more so since. I drag my long suffering wife around with me to enjoy all kinds of new adventures. Mile after mile after mile… hiking trails, driving around Manhattan, swimming in waterfalls. In one case leaping out of a perfectly good plane at 13,000 feet. We’ve done a lot.
When a text box notification popped up on Facebook this week telling me it was three years since my stroke, I thought ‘This isn’t enough. There should be… more.’ I went to work.
As a thanks to my beautiful wife for her support, love, and patience; and as a memory to keep us warm in our dotages, I made the video montage below. It is a labour of love, with some of my favourite photos from this year cut to a song close to my heart. Each photo tells a story, each gives a smile.
Technically, the workflow was quite a mini project. From Camera to Lightroom, Photoshop, After Effects, and Premiere Pro, I created something special, personal, for us. From scratch. No templates. This was all developed by hand, created from a fully grown idea I threw onto an empty canvas.
As a sidebar, 3D spacial calculations are not easy things to juggle around in your head. Worth it. I learned some tricks and overcame some hurdles, and now I have my own flexible template I can adjust to any length song and any number of photos – that makes me very happy. Let’s talk Future.
It’s been a busy Summer. Next year’s will be too. And the one after that. For as long as we go.
As we wind our way slowly closer to decrepitude, senility, and eventual death, I declare once more that I will not go without a smile, and a laugh into the stormy face of life’s challenges. I will fight every step until death takes me, and then I will grin, look him in the eye and say “Hey, boney. Double or quits?”
And why not? None of us will get out of this alive. Let’s face it: Life is fatal. It’s what we do on the journey, and how we face those challenges, that define us.
This video is a nice bookend to our yearly adventures, with enough memories to bring back the highlights. As age takes it’s toll and memory and physical abilities fade, we can look back with smiles.
I plan to keep making one of these each year, for as long as I am able, and for as long as this fine and wonderful woman will walk that path with me. I figure we have another ten or twenty years if I can get her to put up with me. By then we will have quite the library of adventures to look back upon.
This video is my Labour of Love. But she was there every step of the way. I would have it no other way.
Together, we will go hand in hand into the future. Whatever it may hold, we will enjoy the adventure.
I know a lot of people, many of them photographers. I’ve lost count of the times a conversation went along the lines of “I couldn’t take the photo because <insert perfectly valid reason here>”.
I understand the frustration. Been there. Done that. There is always a reason to not take the photo. But on the other hand, there is always a reason to take it. It may be the only chance to get that particular memory. You, or circumstance, may never pass that way again.
“Someone was always in the way”
To me, better an imperfect photo than no photo at all. First day at school. Elderly parents. Military postings. Pets. Photo albums are as full of bad photos as they are of empty pages stared at wistfully where a photo should be. Take the photo. Missed memories, never captured, fade or are forgotten.
“Those pylons and power lines killed that sunrise for me”
Purists and perfectionists are driven to ‘get it right in camera’, and I respect that. They can wait for hours to press the shutter button on a landscape. I’ve heard tales of a return home without a single image. They drove, hiked, carried gear and… nothing. They didn’t take the photo. I think that’s nuts.
“Beautiful setting, except for that dumpster”
Beyond that, it isn’t always possible to get it right in camera. It just isn’t. See Tin Man. Also, I want to say that photography is as much art as science. Even the legendary Ansel Adams (look him up if you need to) acknowledged that. In the darkroom he would dodge and burn and create multiple exposure composites until he got the image he wanted. He pushed the boundaries of the art using the technology of his time. He experimented. He always took the shot. Not all of them came out as intended, but he always took the shot. His secret? He only released the good stuff.
“Beautiful couple, but he had a lamp post growing out of his head”.
Good or bad, I plan all my shots. Not just for composition, balance, light, etc., but edits. If I see something I want to shoot and it’s clear this will be my best (or only) chance, I scan the scene to work out what edits will be needed. And I take the shot.
This lets me shoot for the image I see in my head, not what is in front of me. That allows a lot of freedom. In this scenario, there are no dumpsters. I see no power lines or extraneous people. Just a clean, final image I can be happy with.
In short: For gathering an imperfect memory, there are cameras.
For everything else, there is Photoshop.
I’m going to cite a couple of actual, real-world examples, starting with Tin Man here.
My wife is a big fan of the Wizard of Oz. On one of our regular exploration trips around the region we passed a unique photo opportunity as we drove by a farm. They had lovingly recreated the woodcutter complete with axe, standing guard just behind a chicken wire fence. The operative word here is ‘fence’. No amount of waiting was going to remove that fence. Photoshop was.
Tin Man was on my wife’s side. I backed up, pulled alongside, and told her to take the photo on her cell. She did. Never even left the car. And on we drove. Memory stored. It’s that simple.
Back home, I spent 15 minutes in Photoshop with the Clone Stamp, Patch, Healing Brush and a couple other tools to remove the fence. Done. An image that couldn’t ever have been ‘get it right in camera’ was made. The original looked good. It looks better now. We think so, and hey, it’s our memory.
Here is another example that shows that you don’t always have to wait for a perfect moment.
I loved the time of day and framing of this shot. This, I thought, is ideal for a stock photo. So I walked over to check it out. When I got in position, another photographer was already there. We exchanged pleasantries and he told me he had been waiting for the man on the bridge to leave for over ten minutes. That man showed no signs of leaving. He was clearly taking a moment to enjoy the view. This was beginning to frustrate my temporary companion, who kindly pointed out with a poorly-concealed smirk that I was casting a shadow across the water; clearly, I was new at this.
I smiled politely, framed my shot, and took the photo. Smiling again, I left. Ten seconds.
In Photoshop, over a coffee, I used the same tools used on Tin Man to remove two lampposts, the man, their reflections, my own shadow, and (in case you missed it) the overhead moon.
The resulting final image is cleaner, more pleasing to the eye, and served my needs perfectly. It’s on the Adobe Stock web site now, earning money. I smile once more when I imagine my camera companion still waiting impatiently by the bridge, in rapidly fading light, for that man on the bridge to move, long after I had returned home and finished my edits. I got some Photoshop practice today and had fun doing it. I don’t smirk at others. But I am still smiling.
The Photo Finish
What does this all mean? Some think editing photos at all is cheating. That it is impure, degrades photography and the creative arts. I respect their views. I do not fully share them.
Creativity goes beyond the click of the camera. If you shoot JPG the camera makes it’s own image optimizations to every shot you take. You can’t turn that off. RAW shooters like myself get images into the computer and heavily edit to taste: White balance. Exposure. Contrast. Saturation. Dodge and Burn. Light leaks, vignettes, Instagram looks… Nothing. Nothing, is ‘straight out of camera’.
Photoshop or any other editing tool are simply practical creative ways to get the results you need, without having to hang around a bridge for several hours having a thoroughly miserable time. You can take out (or add) whatever you don’t want. Fix things, if they need to be fixed. Get the shot.
How deep you go down that rabbit hole is limited only by patience and available time, and at least for me, the satisfaction when it is done often far exceeds the joy of getting even a great photo. I didn’t just point and click. I made this. The world is now as it should be. I made that happen.
Photos are tricky. Some are great. Some terrible. Not every shot can be saved, nor should they be. You can’t always shoot to a plan. Sometimes, a quick snap will always stay a quick snap. That’s fine.
Whatever the situation at the very least you will have have that memory to share. Even if you can’t fix it, whether it’s blurry, or someone jumped into the photograph thinking it was funny… don’t let perfection get in the way.
An image doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be.
The important thing to remember, in every circumstance, is this: Take the shot, already.