Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Marina, Pine Cay part 3

If you've navigated yourself  around in this blog very much you  know that we like to start out each post with a good sunrise image if we can.  It's not a sure thing that we'll even have a fresh one to show you when we publish a post.  Sometimes we get a string of overcast cloudy days, and that pretty much puts a damper on the sunrises.  And the opposite is true, as well.   Clear skies make for boring sunrises.  We need just the right combination of clouds.  And of course we have to be conscious at dawn, with a camera in hand.  Recently we've been experimenting with time lapse photography as a way of trying to liven this blog up a little. This is a recent one, taken before I got all of the kinks worked out on our new DIY camera slide:

I'm starting to think that I prefer my sunrises with the time lapse animation.  That was taken with a GoPro set to take a photo every five seconds.  I wanted to slip that in early, before I go back to my other latest obsession du jour, the aerial photos.   Please tell me if and when this starts feeling like being forced to watch old vacation movies. And now back to our story...

The time to leave finally arrived. We didn't want to trade Pine Cay for Providenciales.  We never do. No matter whether we stay for two days or two weeks, it always feels like we just need one more day.   And then we'll be ready to go. For some reason tomorrow always seems like the best day to leave Pine Cay.

We did accomplish most of what we intended to do on this trip. We spent some time at  Meridian Club catching up with long time friends on the staff.   We managed to get a little beach walking in, although one of us was tied to a kite for most of it. And we drove around in an electric cart looking for excuses to take photos. This visit was pretty kite intensive, and I guess that's to be expected. Our first outing with a new technique.  I know I was excited about finding another  way to improve this blog.   And now we've learned a lot about hanging cameras from kites. We plan to blend aerial images into the blog  from time to time. We don't intend for it to turn into something about kites.  So I guess I'm saying my immediate obsession with learning the technique has settled back down to a comfortable idle. Attention spans will wax and wane and toys will come and go.  Our photographs are just for laughs while finding things to know. Our cameras ride on air and tide, we seek new ways to do it. And with that bit of worthless...... wit, I think I'll get back to it.

I called this post "The Marina" but that's mostly because it sort of fits in with the previous two posts.  We took the kite from one end of this little 800 acre island to the other, literally. Did you know that New York City's Central Park is just slightly bigger than Pine Cay?  I don't think the views of the two locations have much in common, though.  Looking outward in any direction from Pine Cay will give you a view worthy of a photo. We were at the marina looking across to the north where you can  sneak a flats boat in at high tide. That's got to be an interesting  spot to anyone interested in going after bonefish.

We wanted to try to get some aerial photos of the little Pine Cay marina  and I was searching for a spot to put the kite up.  We're finding that there are different tricks involved in getting the images we want.  There's a lot of info on the internet if you search out KAP or Kite Aerial Photography.  And it does get a little more complicated than some other techniques.  Factors include the angle  and orientation of the camera on the pendulum rig (that's what the KAP people call it; a pendulum rig), the height of the kite, the wind direction, the cloud cover and the position of the sun.  Even the time of day has a bearing on how this all works.  I've seen some great images taken when the sun was low and accentuating the shadows of things like bicycles. For the kinds of images we were trying to get on Pine Cay we thought the mid day sun would be best. Still experimenting seems to be a recurring phrase in our life down here. I decided to try putting the kite up from the most upwind dock I could  get to.   There's really not a lot of choices out here, anyhow.  There are only two docks.  See that bracket in the corner holding the floating T-dock to the end?  I thought that intersection looked like a good spot.

This is what it looks like to the GoPro camera as I rig up the kite stuff. Notice the difference in color saturation?  The photo above is very close to the actual colors.  This next one is not nearly blue enough.  I typically don't take time to try to tune, twist or tweak the turquoise. Being somewhat chromatically challenged (color blind) I've learned not to mess around with colors.  What looks good to me can look pretty garish to an average viewer.  So usually I just crop  the photos around the subject and maybe see if the contrast and sharpness can be improved.  Sometimes I play with noise and jitter reducing settings, but if it doesn't make an appreciable difference I try to minimize how much processing gets applied.  I've found it to very much be camera specific.  And I've found that despite  some camera marketing hype, the number of megapixels in the sensor is not always the determining factor for the photo quality.  With the little ruggedized pocket point-and-shoot cameras we mostly use, it's all about lens size, quality, and available light.

As the angles change the camera does start picking the actual color up a little better. I haven't yet worked out why the colors on some GoPro images are truer than on others.   The cleats on this dock make for a very nice place to secure a kite line.  As you can see, it frees up both of my shadow's hands to work on the camera mount's shadow.  And before you make fun of my pedicure, I want to say that I'm doing pretty good here with toenails lately.  I've had a full set for most of the past year or so.  I was down to around 6.7 at one time.  Wearing shoes seems to help.

I tweaked the dangle to an angle that I thought might work. I pay out string and play this thing and watch it twist and jerk. The GoPro blinks and lets me think I've maybe got it right.  It's lots of fun, the camera runs while I just fly the kite.

La Gringa is under that straw hat in this next photo.  Dooley the Devious is in the shade of La Gringa and the straw hat. Clever. He's picked up a few tricks from talking to the local potcakes, I think. They live for shade. I'm  the guy with his back to end of the dock, at the very bottom of his string.  Sounds kinda ominous written like that, doesn't it?

If you looked at the photo of the kite above my shoulder in the previous post you could probably tell that this thing pulls almost straight up sometimes. You can see the shadow of it on the dock in this photo, too.  The wind was from my back, coming over the water.  I discovered that this boundary where it hits structures again makes it unstable.  I think the best way to get these aerials will  prove be from a boat a few hundred feet upwind.  We'll give that a try when we come back with the new camera.  Just when we thought we had it all figured out, we realized that some of the images we want can only be taken from a boat.  But that's okay.  We're going to have some fun with that.   Meanwhile, I'll show you some of what we got while still learning the ins and outs of rookie mistakes.

In this next one you can maybe see La Gringa over on the next dock, talking to Preacher before he took off in his boat, Cay Lime. I was busy letting string out and using the cleat to control it.

Every now and then the camera gets a lucky shot where the horizon bisects the lens horizontally and minimizes  the wide angle fisheye distortion.  I took one of those and corrected it to make the horizon flat.  I also tried my hand at letting the photo software choose the saturation for the colors.  How does that look?

This next one was taken a few seconds later.  You can still see Preacher's boat in the distance as he headed back to Providenciales.  This  one is uncorrected for either fish-eye effect or color saturation. 

This is just more of the same.  I'm uploading a few more of these images than I normally would have because we've heard from a number of people who are interested in the aerials.  This one gets a big more of a look at the shoreline.

With the camera taking another shot every five seconds, we ended up with hundreds of  photos like these. We brought the kite back down twice to change the angle of the camera.  I think we're finally starting to get the hang of it, yuk yuk.

Preacher came back to pick us up for the trip home.  Sometimes, the next best thing  to having a boat in the water is to have a friend with a boat in the water.  In some regards it might even be better. Preacher's usually up for a boat trip, too, which really works out well. The Meridian Club runs boats back and forth to Leeward several times a day, and we could have gotten a ride back with them.  But we'd rather ride with Preacher.  This way, if we happen to see something interesting along the way we know we can go over and take a look.   This is looking out toward Grouper Hole as we left the marina on the way back to Providenciales.  That open water to the right is the dangerous little illusion called Devil's Cut.

This is the same view, a little closer.   And without the back of Preacher's head in the way.  I stuck the camera under the canvas.

This is with the camera pointed directly at Devil's Cut.   I can see how someone might think they could zip right through that gap at high tide.   High tide hides the rocks from view until you get right up close.  We posted a pretty good photo taken right at Devil's Cut early in this blog. If you want to see what those rocks look like from close up, please check out the third photo in this post.

The safe way out of here is the path to the left, over what's called Grouper Hole.  It's a deep spot where the tidal current has scoured the sand right down to exposed rock.  We lost quite a bit of fishing tackle there until we finally smartened up and realized we could only fish it at slack tide. After clearing the small cay this is the view looking back at Devil's Cut and Pine Cay in the distance.  It was one of those times when we wanted to just turn the boat around and go back. There are more photos of this area and a mid winter cookout Preacher did for us at another post called Just One of Those Days.

Most of you probably already know this, but if you click on these photos you'll typically see a better version with more detail. And Esc returns to this version.  I hope.

I know that you've already read about the thrill of riding with Preacher when he's showing off what he can do in a boat. If this post is the first you've read you might not know about it.  I get these urges in my head to tell you Preacher stories.  He's accumulated a lot of them growing up here over the past 65 years.

He's quite well known for lots of things with driving boats the best one. For time and time again he's shown ability to test one. You already knew that's what this was about, right?  I'll not say anything more about it this time around. I know you can see the photo, tell who's driving, and fill in the rest of the narrative yourself by now.

While we were zipping along home I couldn't help but notice how much has changed with this boat since Hurricane Hanna remodeled it.  It's been simplified back to a boat's basic components.  Those holes used to be for the ignition key, microphone holder, jack plate switch, and trim tab control.  I thought we needed all that stuff.  Preacher doesn't seem to need any of it.  The boat does just fine without it.  The boat is hundreds of pounds lighter, and runs a lot faster and shallower.   Interesting things to think about, should we ever be tempted to load another boat up with a lot of gadgets.  For example, when we owned this boat we had a salt water washdown pump. With a hose, and nozzle, and valve.  And wiring, and a circuit breaker.  And shock mounts, and hose clamps.   Preacher?  He's got a plastic bucket with a piece of line on it..  Works just as well, and never fails.  The local guys here tend to put their money into the engine, and don't worry so much about things like extra electronics.   They don't need depth sounders and GPS chart plotters to know where they are....

Hey, did I ever tell you about using clouds to find islands?  Okay, let me explain it to you.....

Calm down, I'm kidding! But I did find a photo from this very trip that has the clouds, a small island, shallow water, and a squall all in one view.  And that's all I'm going to say about any of that.   In this post, anyhow. I bet you're thankful that I'm willing to accept the concept of  a picture being worth a thousand words right about now.

We scooted  into Leeward Going Through without much delay, and went past Sherlock Walkin's  marina at a distance.

This is another example of a business that has never completely recovered from the one-two storm punch of Hanna and Ike. It's moved on, but it's not the same as it was before September of '08.  Seems to be a common thread around here.

We noticed a nice little motor yacht tied up in Leeward.  I don't know if you can make out the name on the side, but it's the M/Y Milk and Honey.  Sweet looking boat. I looked it up and find that it's available for charter. That's a totally academic observation, by the way.  We couldn't pick up a day's fuel bill for this puppy.  Did you ever wonder what the inside of one of these boats looks like?  Check it out.

Preacher is now keeping Cay Lime tied up at Frederick's new place on the canal in Leeward.  This means we get a little tour of the canals every time we go for a ride with him.  I was wondering what  our old boat Twisted Sheets would look like snugged up to one of these docks.  On the way to Freddie's place we spotted a similar sized catamaran tied up in just such a situation.  Looks to me like Twisted Sheets would fit in here just fine. There are times when we wonder if we shouldn't have built on a canal instead of a hillside.  They each have definite advantages, and challenges.  And the water always looks bluer on the other side of the island..

We made it back to Freddie's without any complications.  We climbed off the bow onto the rocks, and after we unloaded all our  luggage, kites, dog, and stuff from the Pine Cay weekend, he tossed an anchor off the stern and left the boat in a Med mooring kind of setup. Easy to do with no current or wind trying to complicate life.

That photo is going to be the end of my report on our latest Pine Cay visit.  We felt that we needed a break, and it was a great opportunity to experiment with the kites and cameras. I learned enough about what works and what doesn't to make some changes in the aerial photo setup.  I've already built a new reel although we haven't had an opportunity to try it out yet.   The weather is going through this seasonal change thing it typically does this time of year.   We move from the dry windy part of the winter into the  spring and summer growing season. .   We start seeing a lot more birds, for example, as several species come to the islands to nest this time of year.  And we see a lot more clouds and thunderstorms moving through.  This should work well for our attempts at getting sunrise and sunset photos.  Clouds are a valuable ingredient for photogenic sunsets.

And  the warming ocean and unsettled weather typically generate some real humdingers when it comes to electrical storms. I haven't managed to get any great lightning photos yet, but we continue to look for opportunities.  It's been difficult to get the camera, the weather, and the light to all cooperate.   We were sitting outside having a meal just a few nights ago during another power outage.  We were treated to a great lightning storm practically overhead.   I wasn't able to get a useful photo of lightning.  By the time I see the flash and push the shutter button, it's too late.  Man, that stuff is fast, isn't it?

I tried for awhile, but finally gave up.  I did manage to get a photo of Dooley the Deranged, who was also out with us enjoying the electrical storm.   Although I don't know how much of it he actually saw from under La Gringa's chair.   He probably didn't even notice the lightning and thunder.

That dog takes on a whole new lack of personality when he hears thunder.  He'll even wake up shaking and shivering if I quietly read something about a storm. I'm not too sure I like him standing under the chair like that. What if he actually knows something??

We like to end these posts with a nice sunset photo when we have one.  I started this one out talking about sunrises and time lapse, and I mentioned this slide contraption I've been tinkering with.  And I think I finally got it working.  It has a six speed Tamiya gearbox, and I made a drive shaft with three different diameters to wind up a string at different speeds.  So I guess I can say it's set up more or less like an 18 speed bicycle.

We haven't been blessed with any really stupendous sunsets since I got it working smoothly.  And smoothly is the operative term here. I went through several prototypes. But I think it's finally there.   The sunsets I've tried it with haven't been all that colorful for the past two days, so I thought I'd substitute a sunrise time lapse with slide as the best result I've gotten so far. I think we're improving.

If you really, really wanted a sunset instead of a sunrise here at the end, there might be some way to play it backwards.   But I'll leave that to you application geeks to figure out.  I just do hardware.


Anonymous said...

Oh SOOOOOOO cool! Loved the time lapse thingies. Also I think you are being a bit harsh on poor little Dooley making him have stoned eyes like that....still chuckling to myself!!! Now I will go back and read the whole blog now I hve raved on enoiugh. Cheers from the "ex Pilbara...which is Western Australia" dweller, now living in New South Wales Australia, Jan O

satbeachbill said...

Nice work with the slider. Looks like something outof Hollywood!

Anonymous said...

thanks. I've been trying to get a good sunset with it, but so far haven't found the right spot. I'm about to modify two old cheapo tripods we have and using those as sawhorses. That might do it. Fun project.

Anonymous said...

I modified the tripods and tried a sunset time lapse last night, alas, it was overcast and all I got was a bunch of ominous gray clouds roiling past a moving cactus. Cactii? interesting to us in a photographic dissection kind of way, but not all that photogenic. The juxtaposition of the near field, midfield, and far field subjects has a whole lot to do with how these turn out, we're discovering.

I think the new sunset spot is going to work out okay, now we just need a nice sunset sequence to try it out on.

Brazz said...

Gringo - Your appreciation for the world around you keeps old cynics returning. The potential for seriously great photography is in your hands.
Luck is also involved. You may be interested in this, shot locally.

PS. Dooleys eyes remind me of daughter#2 with chocolate OD...

Anonymous said...

Thanks Brazz, that comment was very much appreciated, especially right after I was out scrambling around on the rocks in my underwear setting up another time lapse in the darkness before dawn this morning.

That video of the full moon is outstanding. I wonder how many times that took to get right. I looked up the camera and lens setup he used on Amazon,because we like Canon. The ID MkIV , that 500mm lens, and converter come to over $15,000. Our camera, DIY slider and the C-cells to run it altogether are worth less than his $ 450 teleconverter. Ouch.

We'd love access to equipment like that, but we'd have to start charging you guys to subscribe or something similar if we were going to get THAT serious about it.

Hmm.. there's a thought. Cloud sourcing. Would a few thousand people pay a dollar a year each to subscribe to a blog?

We could put the big sailboat back in the water and concentrate on improving this blog with two of us doing it full time. We could let the readers vote on where we sail to next.

Brazz said...

Not about the gear - more about the appreciation of our world.

That guy has his priorities, and i love him for it.

You have yours, love you guys for that!

Cannot really say more..

Anonymous said...

Understood. And the truth is that his camera setup wouldn't last a month in our world. We're limited to waterproof, dustproof, and Dooleyproof. Small list.

We're about to head out and try to get some good aerials of the reef and beach at Malcolm Roads. The wind is from the east today, and strong enough for the kite to lift a camera up and out over the ocean. If we time it right for mid day, we might get some interesting stuff. You just never know until you try.

Brazz said...

How big can i smile!!

Anonymous said...

Love the Pine Cay aerials! -Chris