Bad Weather is Good on the Skyline Drive

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Weather Effect

Sometimes you just have to roll with what mother nature gives you.

I have memories from childhood of attempted trips down the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.  I don't think we ever got to drive or see all of it.  Sometimes the weather was bad, or it was closed due to something.  I may be making that up, it's hard to say.  Either way, I've long had a desire to drive the length of the Skyline Drive and see what there is to see. 

While we were in VA in May, we decided to go check out some caverns and take part of the Skyline Drive to get there so we could see the view.  The weather had other plans and it instead gave us a dark and dreary day where it never really stopped raining. 


Since we were driving out of Charlottesville, we got on the south end of the Skyline Drive and started heading north.  The fog wasn't too thick yet, and was beautiful in its own way, but it definitely wasn't the kind of view we were originally hoping for.

We got to one of the fairly early overlooks and could see a bit, but needed to continue on so we could get to the cavern.  We also figured we'd have at least one other chance to drive up the Skyline Drive on our return trip home in a few days, so we didn't have to stop and spend a lot of time during this drive.

I was riding shotgun so I started taking some photos of the road ahead with the LX100.  The fog wasn't quite thick enough to obscure everything at this point.

A break in the fog at one of the overlooks.  We could see it would get heavier as we drove on.

As we continued north the fog did indeed get thicker.  Eventually, we were moving at a crawl and couldn't see much of the road ahead.  We passed overlook after overlook where there was nothing to see, until we passed one in particular where something caught my eye.  We were already somewhat resigned to just continuing on and leaving the Skyline Drive as soon as we could (aside from the north and south entrance, there's only two other major ways on or off the Skyline Drive), but I eventually convinced Emily to turn around and head back to that overlook.  I was worried the fog would lift, or change in some way, and it wouldn't afford the same view.  

Fortunately, the lone dead tree that caught my eye as we drove past that particular overlook still stood out.

I probably spent way too long working out exactly how I wanted to capture it, shooting landscapes, portrait orientation, wide and close or longer and further.  Eventually I was satisfied and we got in the car and continued on.  Before long, the declaration was made that a bathroom was needed.  There aren't a whole lot of those but we pulled in to the first stop that offered one and I went bounding off with my camera again during the brief break.  This was my first time really putting the 11-22 to the test on my M5 outside of some walking around downtown Rochester.  That continues to prove to be a great combination.

At this point, I think we were starting to get hungry and tired of driving through such thick fog.  We took the first exit off the Skyline Drive so that we could take faster, straighter roads that would hopefully be below the fog.  While we visited and drove some and eventually all of the Skyline Drive later in the trip, this first run up the southern third of it is definitely the most memorable for me.

Looking towards the north on Skyline Drive at one of the overlooks.

Color Binoculars augments reality to help the colorblind

Like most colorblind people, a colorblind Microsoft engineer wanted to be able to distinguish colors better and to get an idea of what the rest of the world saw.  To help him do that, he worked with another Microsoft software engineer to create a new app. Called Color Binoculars, the app is iOS only at this point so I haven't really given it a shot yet.  I'll have to dig out my cranky old iPad and see how it works on that so I can update this with my impressions.

Image from Microsoft Blog

Image from Microsoft Blog

The app has selections for the most common types of colorblindness and enhances color differences to help colorblind users differentiate colors.  It's like a digital approach to what the EnChroma glasses are supposed to do.  

For now I wanted to put this out there and get more attention on it in case others might find it useful.  You can find out more about it on the Microsoft Blog.

Short Trip to Seattle

It's my first business trip since Utah and while I'm glad to finally get to see Seattle, it definitely doesn't check the box next to my "Visit Pacific Northwest" goal.

It's a beautiful area, but we only managed to see a few things during our trip.  Pikes Place seems like it would take a whole day to explore, and Boeing's factory makes for a really interesting tour.  Too bad Boeing doens't allow cameras!

Not much to say about this, but I look forward to going back.  I'd love to visit during the fall although it sounds like I'll be back for a wedding next summer.  I may actually drag the tripod along if that's the case and try to take some extra time off to extend the trip.  As is more or less the usual for me, I traveled light during this business trip.

Google releases Color Enhancer plugin for Chrome

According to Google it's a color filter that partially colorblind users can customize and use to improve color perception.  

At least for me, I'm not sure it's doing much, but I am also finding the calibration routine it wants you to go through is fiddly and unreliable for me.  Could my wide gamut displays be messing with it? I don't know, but I'm going to try it on another machine/screen tomorrow.

It may work for some though, and it's a nice idea.  There are similar programs out there designed to enhance color perception of images, and a browser plugin is a logical extension of the concept.  Accessibility options for programs to help colorblind users are not as common as they could be, and the web doesn't always design with the colorblind user in mind either.

Try it out for yourself, maybe it'll be helpful for you!

Color for the Colorblind

Valspar has teamed up with EnChroma to produce this short video.  It shows people supposedly seeing colors for the first time thanks to the EnChroma glasses.  EnChroma has a more technical breakdown of how their glasses work although it's a notch filtering system that purports to help users differentiate colors by blocking wavelengths that the cone's photopigments overlap on. 

Unfortunately the glasses won't work for everyone but they do seem to have the greatest success rate with deuteranomalous and protanomalous users.  I'd love to try them myself some day, videos like this certainly make me wonder what I might be missing.  

I was recently asked by someone with a poor sense of smell and taste how horseradish tasted.  How do you answer that?  If he suddenly regained his taste I'm sure it would be much like if I could suddenly identify and see all colors, some things might make more sense and certain expressions that many take for granted would suddenly have meaning.  My color blindness is certainly not as bad as it gets so I imagine the effect is even more profound for those who are more strongly affected.

For more on the project check out the Valspar Color For All site.

Painting with laser light

Trying new things with lighting, particularly when it comes to painting with light, is an endless source of enjoyment for me.

I've done flashlight and multiple flash exposure of many things in the past but recently I got to make the leap to painting with laser light.  I couldn't find my ancient green laser pointer so I went out and bought a new red one for this.   As is the way with things I quickly found the green one after returning home from the store.  

Having both wound up being a good thing.  The red laser creates an eerie red glow in most cases while the green laser is much brighter overall.  I left the red laser images in color but felt the results from the green laser lent themselves to B&W images (such as the ones above).  Down the road I can use subject color to vary the brightness of the reflected laser light, which gives me more options.

I am trying to get a blue laser to add to my collection so I can take this even further.

Thanks to my friend Rundio for playing along with this experiment.

Why I explored and why I want to start again

Abandoned buildings have always interested me.  The stories they tell, the history hidden within, and the things you can find are all fascinating.

Some of my favorite local places have been torn down or have suffered fires since I last visited and I haven't done much exploring for a couple years now.  A new career (among other things) has gotten in the way but I need to get back to it.

I'm especially glad I've been able to preserve some of the content from my old site.  I will be bringing back more as time goes by, but two of my favorite locations made it here in the initial migration and that was important:

More than anything, one of the reasons preserving those was so important to me was the community that popped up in response to those articles.  I realize I don't owe it to anyone but I never could have imagined the number of comments and the number of people who would reconnect over their past at these places.  It doesn't surprise me anymore, after all those people are a part of the history of those places and those places were a part of their lives, but it still has an effect on me that I can't describe.