Saturday, September 29, 2007

Moving beyond Picasa

Picasa, the free photo editing program from the kind (yet sometimes somewhat misguided) folks at Google is the tool I use to improve many of the photos posted here on the blog. It is quick and easy to use to edit the framing of the picture (or 'cropping' in the vernacular), remove unwanted haze, brighten up or darken the overall picture, etc. It's that last feature that I use a lot; many of my pictures seem too dark when viewed on the screen, so I lighten them up in Picasa before posting. The weakness of Picasa as compared to more sophisticated (yet pricey - there's always a trade-off) tools like Photoshop is that it lightens the entire image. Every now and then, I have an image that I'd like to lighten only part of.

Consider this picture that I shot at Vinton County:

I want to lighten up the instrument panel, but I don't want to wash out the nice blue sky. Tonight I decided to see if I could doi just that using a very complex, yet still free, photo editing package called The GIMP. Here's the result:

Can you see the difference? It's actually too light now, which comes from having done the editing on my ancient beater PC which has an old worn out monitor on it. The monitor is perennially too dark and not very useful for that kind of work, but the concept seems sound. You can also see what looks like a high water line on the struts; that comes from having the image magnified beyond the confines of the small-ish 17" screen of the monitor.

The clock, having finally made the inarguable case that it is, in fact, Co-pilot Egg's bedtime, and thus taking my side in the eternal "whose turn is it to use the good computer" battle, I took another quick shot at it. I didn't take a lot of time in making the selection absolutely perfect, mostly because my bedtime isn't all that far removed from Egg's. You can see the sloppiness in where I selected the region to lighten if you click for the larger version and look closely at the left edge of the second strut from the right:

The original:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pre-Gathering of Mustangs and Legends

Well, because of an unfortunate work commitment, I am going to be unable to attend The Gathering of Mustangs & Legends, billed as "A Once in a Lifetime Aviation Celebration." It's this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Rickenbacker Air Force Base, which is an easy 20 minute drive from my house. Over 100 P-51s are expected, along with an airshow that will rival those that they have at Oshkosh every year. In fact, in one big respect this airshow will exceed the Oshkosh standard: the Air Force Thunderbirds will be performing. But, I won't be there.

That said, my friend Arnett Howard, a local professional musician, pilot, and history buff has spent quite a bit of time recently researching the history of the Tuskegee Airmen and their three year period of being based at Rickenbacker (nee Lockbourne) AFB. He has put together a nice photo display which will be included in the exhibit showing the history of the air base. Even though my weekend is fully committed to work, I was able to get away from the office today to help Arnett deliver his display to the base and help set it up.

There were a handful of airplanes already there, so I at least got to see a dozen or so of the 100+ Mustangs that will be flying in. Also, Arnett is friends with one of the airshow performers, and it just happens to be a performer that I've known about and seen perform many times. Her name is Patty Wagstaff, and although she doesn't know it, our history goes way back.

Early in her scholastic career, Co-pilot Egg attended a school that had woefully obsolete ideas concerning what females can and cannot do in modern society. To combat the gender-typing that the school seemed to feel appropriate in imbuing in my child, I used Ms. Wagstaff as a counter example. Egg saw Patty perform at the 2004 Dayton Airshow, and came away suitably impressed. Even back when we had the Tampico, steep banks and pushovers that would lift her against the seat belt were called "Wagstaffs" or 'P-Wags."

Earlier this year, Egg and I flew to Burke-Lakefront, where they have a "Women in Aviation" museum set up in the terminal. Part of their collection is a Patty Wagstaff display, including one of her flight suits. I asked Egg to pose in front of the display for a picture. You may remember the somewhat disappointing result, and what I said about it at the time:

Grrr, she's going to pay for that. I'm going to do exactly what I had hoped to do with that picture, which is to get Patty to autograph it. That'll learn her!

Well, that's exactly what I did! In addition to getting the picture (and my hat, only the 2nd autograph I've asked for in my entire life, despite having had the opportunities of asking such luminaries as Chuck Yeager, Jack Nicklaus, and George "Norm" Wendt. The only other autograph I've requested and received was from Leo Loudenslager) autographed ("To Erika, Let's Go Flying. Patty Wagstaff"), we spent a few minutes talking about flying, kids, and flying with kids. I shared with her the story of using her as a positive example for Egg as to what women can do in today's world, and she told me that that was a very gratifying thing to hear.

So, without further bloviating, here's what you really want to see: the pictures I took today. As always, click on the picture to see a larger version:

Patty's other plane. Everyone should have (access to) at least one P-51!

Ugh! Forgot to suck in the gut!!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Indian Summer

Are you still allowed to say Indian Summer? Who knows anymore. If we're going to have to live this politically correct lifestyle, I wish they'd publish a guide book. Anyway, it's past mid-September and we still have summer-like weather, so I'm going to call it Indian Summer. Clear sky, no wind, and a nice 80-some degrees. This is perfect flying weather, and if you need further evidence of that, you'd have only needed to see the crowd at Urbana for breakfast this morning. Rick was headed in the same direction, so I handed him my camera to take a few shots along the way:

The light wasn't terrific, but I think they turned out well enough. After he took a few shots for me, I forged on ahead with the hopes of reserving a place to sit and eat. I dialed in the AWOS and heard a report of winds from due east at 3 knots, so assumed a landing on runway 2. While still a few miles out, I dialed in the Unicom and heard that the prevailing traffic was using 20, rather than 2. I didn't figure a wind of 3 knots was worth an argument with those that had arrived before me, so I set up to enter a left downwind to 20. The slight tailwind on landing extended my flare a wee bit, and I had to use a little more brake than usual to make the first turn-off, but the landing itself was ok.

After breakfast, I again used runway 20 and continued on to the west for my ultimate destination of Darke Co./Versailles. I had packed my Beretta NEOS .22 plinking pistol in case my brother was in the mood to do a little shooting on his range, but before heading up to his farm I decided to take a walk along the Greenville Creek:

It's been pretty drought-like this summer, so the water level is very low. These guys did a lot more walking than they did boating:

They had apparently brought along sufficient quantities of a fermented, hop-based brew to keep their moods buoyant, if not their boats, so they seemed to be enjoying their walk.

As I walked across the bridge on Mill Rd., I noticed that some local type had taken a distinct dislike to the 'O' on this sign:

Just across the bridge, I found this John Deere parked off to the side in a most photogenic manner:

Mill Rd. dead ends into Hahn Rd., and a little bit down Hahn Rd. you come to a very old cemetery:

Walking back towards my brother's place, I saw a lot of little butterflies. They all seemed kind of busy, but this one held still long enough for me to take his picture:

Having matriculated in the Engineering College, I never had the benefit of any botany classes. I have no idea what kind of tree this is, but it caught me eye:

The soybean fields are host to a lot more than soybean plants:

My brother set up his range and I unpacked my NEOS:

We each had a couple of targets to shoot at. I made the mistake of choosing the barrel to the right of my brother's, so had the distraction of being periodically sprayed with spent brass:

From 25', I managed to hit my target a few times:

I found one of my spent bullets; there's not much left of them after hitting that thick steel:

When we were done with the pistols at the 25' range, we pulled back to 425' and got out his .17 rifle:

The targets seem pretty small from 425':

At 425' I didn't expect to hit a damned thing, but I actually hit 6 out of 6:

The flight back was a bit choppier, but even at 3500' it turned out that some of the more over-achieving bugs were still out and about: