Category Archives: photography

Upgraded to Pixel 3 … I Just Had to Do It

I’ve had a Pixel Android phone for a couple of years.  However, I started noticing that my battery was not lasting that long on a charge.  It wouldn’t last a whole day at the office, on a full charge.  I would have to do a charge at around 3 pm.  Now I probably could have taken it into a cell phone repair place, buy a new battery, and have them install it, but I heard a lot of good things about the camera.  Then, Black Friday came around, along with all the discounts, so I decided to buy myself an early Christmas present.

I was contemplating, when I had to replace my phone, I might go with an iPhone.  One of my requirements, was I didn’t want a huge phone. The current iPhones were a bit large, and oddly enough, the one that would fit more comfortably in my hand, and not too bulky, would be the Pixel 3.

I have to hand it to Google and GoogleFi … they make the transition so easy.  The Pixel 3 also features an eSIM, which meant I didn’t have to transfer my SIM card over.  All I had to do was log in to GoogleFi, do some USB to USB transfer, and voila.

Probably the most difficult part of this transition was for work related apps.  In order to access email, and other resources on my phone, I had to import some certificates, which took more of an ordeal than it really had to.  It basically meant a couple of visits to IT, with them pushing down a certificate to me.

Now on with the phone .. It’s clean, very responsive, and thankfully, wireless charging is back.  The Pixel stand, the wireless charging stand, is so cool.  The only gripe I have, is that you can’t say “OK Google”, and have Google Assistant work.  I have to actually unlock the phone, touch the Google Assistant icon, and then bark my orders.

I’m sure you have seen the annoying commercials on TV, for the camera on Pixel 3.  The “flash” commercial, or the night vision camera, which allows you to take pictures in low light, without the flash.  I’ve gotta say, it does take excellent pictures.  Here are some samples I took at night, or at dusk.

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Not a bad camera, eh?

Sunsets are Cool in Autumn

I can definitely tell the change in season, from summer to fall, not because of the turning of the leaves, and yes, there is the temperature thing … but the sunsets and sunrises are spectacular.  It makes bad amateur photographers, like me, look good.

Some of these were edited with Lightroom, but the first one was not … it was so stark, I left it by itself.  Sunsets are awesome here.

New Toy – Micro 4/3 Mirrorless Camera

Ok, maybe you should call me a boy with toys … If anyone knows me well, I like technology, whether it comes to network equipment, bikes, if it’s high tech, I’m into it.  I’ve always like taking photos, so why not have photography as one of those hobbies.  Actually, I did dabble with photography back in high school, and a little bit in college, but that was way back before the digital age.

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I’ve always liked smaller, compact cameras, and when I looked at DSLR cameras, they were all fairly big.  Then, I started researching about the concept of 4/3 format mirrorless cameras.  The whole concept of the SLR, where you have a mirror that reflects off to the viewfinder, means you need to have physical space to allow this.  Since everything is digital, there is no need for a mirror anymore.  However, the DSLR still is huge.  I then read that with the micro 4/3 format, the size of the sensor (which actually replaces the surface area of the old film) is smaller, as well as the lenses.  When compared to the old lenses of SLR’s, the focal length is actually doubled.  For example, a 25 mm lense would be analogous to a 50 mm SLR lens.  When I read this, it’s a no brainer … smaller camera body, smaller lens, I’m in for it.

I think what pushed me over the edge was the Amazon deal of the day offers on Facebook.  Curse you Amazon … you keep making me spend money … but it’s all good.

Now just because I have this really cool camera, does not mean I take good pictures.  I try, but at least it enhances the chances of a better picture.

Now these were all taken with some of the pre-canned settings … all I have to start playing around, using raw settings, combined with Lightroom.

You may be wondering, how do I take these pictures, while being on the bike?  Well, it’s amazing how compact this camera can fit in my camelbak!

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Otherwise, I have my commuter bike, and can fit it in my bag, along with stuffing my change of clothes in the same bag as well.

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If I don’t ride my commuter bike, then it’s either the camelbak, or a light back pack.

Idiot Move Demands a Go Pro Upgrade

I was always jealous of how other cyclists videos look much better than mine.  Their videos always looked smoother, and it didn’t shake too much.  So I decided to Velcro the camera tightly to my handlebar stem.

For the most part, it was pretty successful.  It looked a lot smoother than most of my previous videos, especially those that were on tough terrain.

Then, I took the camera on my Jamison Creek ride, and all was fine, until I descended Hwy 9, then veered a little too close to the rumble strip, and it knocked my camera off.  It took me a while to retrieve my camera (and lucky it landed on the shoulder, and no one ran over it).  After retrieving it, I remounted it on my stem, but later when I descended Pierce, it fell again.  This time, the back broke.

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Ah damn. So much for that camera. I guess it is as good a time as any for an upgrade.

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So off I went to Best Buy, and getting the Go Pro Hero 3 White. I like whole small it got, and has wifi and has do many different types of mounts. Can’t wait to try it out.

Cold and Foggy Weekend of Riding

I felt heavy, like I’ve got a lead weight in my belly … I think it’s because I was sick last weekend, and I haven’t been out riding in over a week.  I needed to get out, no matter how cold or dreary it would be outside.

Michael, Richard, Ron, Cliff, Brentley, George at Pig Farm Hill

Saturday, went out to Orinda, and did a ride with Richard.  We had a pretty good turnout.  However, it was a really foggy day.  Ground was all wet, and descending with fog became a bit of a challenge.  Couldn’t decide if I should leave my glasses on or take them off … I decided to take them off on the descents.

A lot of the hills were rollies, and they just did me in.  Sure, I would start off fine, but I could only sustain that pace for so long … eventually I get passed left and right.

Overall, a good right, mixing in rolling hills, and stretches of flat smooth road, which meant pacelining, and taking pulls.

Sunday, Ramon and I rode out to meet Michael in Woodside at Robert’s Market.  Basically, a good 17 miles of flat out to Woodside, then climb King’s Mountain.  It was foggy today too.  This time, I came prepared, bringing lights, and blinkers just about everywhere.

I felt good going out, and I just figured Ramon was just letting me lead out.  I guess I was going out with a bit more brisk pace than usual.  Maybe it was that scrambled egg bagel breakfast that I made for breakfast?

Foggy ascent

Apparently, I went out a bit too fast … as once we started climbing Kings, I was distanced almost from the get go.  No worries, I’m used to it.  I can clearly tell I’m out of shape, as I’m climbing a lot slower than the last time I climbed Kings.  But you know what it means when I’m climbing slow … more pics!

About 2/3 the way up, the sun started to peep through.  I tried to take pictures to capture that, but it fails in comparison to the real scene.  You’ll just have to imagine it.

Sun breaking through the trees and the mist

Sun awaits us up ahead

If only I had the eye of a photographer.  Somehow, the creative mind just completely alluded me.

Favorite Shots of 2009

Bikeforums has a thread on favorite photos of 2009, and that got me thinking of compiling the top 10 photos I took of 2009.  Of course, most of them will involve cycling, so sorry if you were expecting some scenic shots … cycling is my life.

Anyhow, in no particular order, here they are:

Overlooking San Francisco from Twin Peaks

One of the many climbs on Hwy 1 on Tour of California 2009.

Fargo Street.  That’s a 33% grade …. steepest climb in LA.

From the helicopter pad at Chantry Flats, overlooking the San Gabriel Valley


Golden Gate Bridge from the Sausalito side (or North side).  Manacing cloud coverage.

June Lake

Top of Patterson Pass, with a view of the Windmill Farm

Top of Mt. Hamilton.  Blanket of clouds hovering over San Jose.

Trying to keep warm

Ninja Wrecking Crew

So there you have it … my year in pictures.  Funny how it all revolves around cycling?

Tioga Pass is open … really it is open

Now why would I have to re-iterate this? Well, you’ll have to go back to our Eastern Sierra road trip. There was an odd late-spring storm, that did a bit of white dusting on the mountains. We checked the Caltrans Road Conditions site, and it mentioned Tioga Pass being closed near Strawberry. We were going to use Sonora Pass (Hwy 108) as an alternative, and before we left Mountain View, we checked the road conditions site, and it didn’t mention Sonora Pass being closed. Well, by the time we got passed Oakdale, the sign says Sonora Pass is closed. What???? Oh, now we’re screwed. Well, we ended up taking a 2 hour detour, only to find out Tioga Pass opened up. I talked to the hotel clerk when we got to Bishop, and she said they opened Tioga Pass around 1:30 PM. That’s about the time we chose our detour!

So on our way home from Eastern Sierra, and after taking a detour through June Lake, we took Tioga Pass back home. This had to be one of the most scenic ways back home.

We drove through Yosemite just at the right time. Just enough to drop some snow, but not heavy enough to prevent driving through this gorgeous part of the country, and of California.



And we haven’t even gotten to the actual entrance to the park. The entrance of Tioga Pass is way up at 9900 foot elevation. I thought the picture of the cabin, with a big snow patch on one side of the building is cool.

… and of course, a shot of one of many meadows …

Eastern Sierra Survival Report

Here’s my ESD report.

It all started out okay … carpooled with Chris (ygduf), en route to registering the day before (Friday), with hopes of Chris and I starting at 4 am. We figured the best way is to cut through via Yosemite on Tioga Pass (hwy 120), then a straight shot down Hwy 395 into Bishop. With our estimates, with a departure time of 12 noon from Mountain View, we should get there by 7 pm. Well, we found out before leaving, Tioga Pass was closed. No problem … we can try cutting through Sonora Pass. However, that was closed too, but we only found that out after we were on Hwy 120, looking for Sonora Pass. Now we’re f&*#$%).

After talking to Marco, they are going via Hwy 50, to S. Lake Tahoe, then south on Hwy 395 into Bishop. Damn, damn, damn, damn!!! That is going to add a lot of extra time to our commute. So we proceeded north on Hwy 49, through a myriad of little towns, switchbacks, which also meant the average speed was reduced greatly.

By the time we got to S. Lake Tahoe, it was already around 7 pm, and we knew we wouldn’t make it in time. Then, we see a sign saying Hwy 120 Tioga Pass, open … WTF!!!! How could it be open, when we were on the other side, and it was closed! That was a big waste of an extra 2-3 hour detour. We ended up getting to Bishop around 9:30 pm, but then the real adventure starts.

We found out there would be no 4 am start, as Planet Ultra is re-designing the route. For concerns of safety, they decided to take us further south, to avoid the expected storms up north, and more importantly, to avoid us getting snowed upon. Okay, remember this point … avoid getting snowed upon! The new mass start time was 5 am, so that gave us 1 extra hour of sleep time.

The air temp was comfortable … approximately 50 degrees, and some even left their jacket in the hotel. This was to be an out and back, back to the lunch stop, which was at the start. With that in mind, we figure we could leave our lights in the hotel, and if needed, pick them up there. So goretex jacket, rain pants, plastic bags … all go back to the hotel.

It all started out fine, and as expected, with Marco and Ruth out there, they lead a fast pace out the gate. I’m not about to spend everything I have to keep up with them (especially with the thinner air at high altitude), so I stayed near the back. It was a nice first 25 miles. Sadly, I saw Chris get the flat, but he seemed to be okay, so onwards I go. I waited for him at the first rest stop, as I felt that the right thing to do.

We continued on, from Big Pine, and then onto Death Valley Road. I could tell we would be in for a long climb, as I could see the road lead up through the canyon. Chris went on ahead, as I laid back, slowly grinding away on my climb. I happen to see a really dark cloud looming in the distance, but no sense worrying about that now. About 5 miles in, I start to sense rain drops, so I stop, and put on rain slick. At this point, we’re at about 5500 feet and I start to feel a little light headed. Uh oh, bad sign. This could be either lack of sleep, lack of food (only a clif bar), or thinner air due to altitude … but could be a combination of all three. I get down to my lowest gear and try to sustain at least a 50 rpm cadence, but even that was a struggle. The grade itself isn’t that bad … maybe 5-8%, but it is long.

The rain is continuing to drop on my head, and suddenly, the drops sound harder, and low and behold, it’s hail. I’m riding through a hail storm. Okay, time to HTFU, and just concentrate. All along, I am continuing to hydrate myself, so I have liquids going into my system. My head is still light headed at this point and not getting any better. My body is starting to feel the effects of cold, but I need to press on. I start seeing some people pass me, and I end up stopping many times. Each time I stop, I have to look back and see if I’m the last one out there. Then, I see people come down the hill. My first thought is, wow, they are really strong, to come back so quickly. Then, I see more people, and the more I see coming down, the more I think people are making a U-turn, and not making it over the top.

Temperature is dropping the more I climb. Then, the rain, and hail, looks a little different. It is snowing!!!! It is not sticking but I am cold, I am wet, and now it is snowing. I have little motivation at this point, and I notice I am not even at 40 miles yet! If I do decide to make a U-turn, it will have to be after 40 miles, and I am not about to turn back until that point. I pass 40 miles, and I am 50-50 on the fence on whether or not to make a U-turn. I see a couple of riders, that just passed me not long ago, jesture to me “no mas”. At about 7750 feet elevation, I decided to throw in the towel … make a U-turn … I don’t care if I didn’t make it to the end, I’ve had enough.

Head down the hill, and I am freezing, I am shaking, but feel I can still keep control of my bike. I pass one SAG wagon coming uphill, and they are loading bunch of bikes … uh oh … I am not giving in, I am making it back to the start. Then, another SAG wagon comes up, stops next to me, and urges me to SAG it in. I think Terry, the SAG driver, sees I am shivering, and freezing, and coaxes me to SAG it in. It is 36 degrees out here, and if I continue down at 30-40 mph down the hill, it’ll probably dip down to the teens with the wind chill factor. Okay, I SAG it in, and thaw out in the nicely heated SAG Wagon.

Terry, from Planet Ultra, was my lifesaver today … she was really insisting on me getting in, so I let her twist my arm long enough. Ah, nice to be inside, wet jacket off, wet shoes off, and being draped in a towel. There’s one thing about suffrage … no matter how strong or how slow you are, everybody empathizes with you. It’s a tight bond, and cameraderie that is hard to explain, and you just had to be there.

When we got to the bottom, it was nice and sunny, around 60-ish degrees. Talk about microclimates and the elements!

Damn, one more failed double century. I just don’t think it was in the cards for me this year. I think this time, it wasn’t due to lack of electrolytes, but the weather, rain, cold, snow, and altitude made it a bad combination for me. I just did not handle the altitude and thinner air well at all. I’ll have to try again next year … it’s beautiful terrain, and it was a shame we couldn’t do June Lake.

On our way back, we decided to check out June Lake Loop, which is what we could have been doing. It’s kind of ironic, that the reason why they re-routed us was to take us to someplace where the elements wouldn’t be that bad, and to avoid the snow. Funny how things turn out.

So this is what we missed:

Now that is a big rock!

I’m so out of shape …

… ever since the Tour of California, I haven’t really been putting on the miles. Most mileage I’ve had since then is probably 30-40 miles, and none of it is really challenging. I guess those two weeks off turned me into a slug. I’ve started to feel myself gaining weight, but I am not about to weigh myself … I might commit hari kari.

So I decided to take advantage of some of the daylight while we have it, took off from the house at 5 pm (I should be able to complete Montebello and back before dark). Just in case I am too slow, I decided to carry my small blinkers (not my big heavy Niterider HID). It’s lucky that I did bring it, because as I got back, I did need those blinkers.

I knew I was going to be slow, but I made a mistake … went out too aggressive at the bottom of the hill. I guess all this time off really slowed me down. By the time I got to the top, almost 1 hour had passed by. Ugh … I was averaging about 52-55 minutes, but now it’s 60 minutes.

I made another mistake … the day before, I worked out in the gym for the first time in a while … and yes, worked out too hard. The very next morning, my mid-section on my back was a little sore. That is not a good thing to have when on a bike. So that meant skipping my morning commute. I was tired of getting everything prepared the first thing at 4:45 am anyways, so it was okay for me to skip riding in.

This is the problem I’ve always had … with the thought in my mind that I am out of shape, I try to make it up too quickly … Doh! Feel like slapping myself silly … I should know better than that. What can I say .. I’m one of those idiotic cyclists mentioned in ME’s blog

Now I did stop to take a few pictures while on my way up to the top, but I cannot, with conscience, attribute the time to the few times I stopped to take a few pictures. Besides, most of the pictures were while I was coming down the hill.

Taking pictures with a compact camera near dusk is tricky. Your eye sees a beautiful shot, but then when you take it, it has a much different appearance. I had to crop the hell out of the above shot, and needed to “photoshop” the hell out of this. I used Gimp (open source, non-paying application, similar to photoshop), and had to darken this quite a bit, and turn the contrast way up. Still, the photo doesn’t do justice to the beauty out there just before sunset.

I’ve always liked taking pictures with the sun in the background, with a dark foreground accentuating the fact that the sun is going down. This is still not quite what I had in mind, but hey, ya gotta start somewhere.

More pics here.

Replacing my Camera

In case you didn’t read it, I did a big boo boo with my camera last week while on the Tour of California. First of all, I think I dropped it one too many times, and the LCD display was not as clear anymore. One side of the LCD display would appear much darker than the other, and since it didn’t have an external viewfinder, taking pictures was a little difficult to see exactly what I was taking. Plus, it was raining while I was taking pictures, so some water may have gotten inside.

I think I inadvertently, or maybe subconsciously, left it in the hotel in Modesto. I still had my Blackberry, but I had some problems with the internal MicroSD card being recognized by my Blackberry, so I had no internal storage for pictures. So I thought when I took a picture with my Blackberry, I could offload it by sending it to Facebook or to my email account. For some reason, the quality of those pics were really poor. I attribute it to lack of available flash memory, so I gave up trying to take pictures with it on the tour.

After coming back, I decided to try futzing with the memory issue again. So I the 4 GB MicroSD card again, but still it didn’t recognize it. So finally, I do the Microsoft thing … turn it off, turn it back on, and still nothing. Next, turn off the phone, take out the battery, put the battery back in, turn it on, and whaddayaknow … it works now. Damn … and I could have used this to take pictures the last few days of the tour, especially the last day for Cole Grade. I guess it’s Murphy’s Law at work.

I also replaced my digital compact camera, got a Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS … ya know, the one Maria Sharapova advertises. Was it the technical specs of the camera or Maria that sold it to me? hmmm.

I was torn on this one … it does have a good aperture range, f2.8-4.9, but the focal length is not as high as I would like … 6.2-18 mm. I saw some others where the focal length went up to 28 or even 32 mm, but the aperture was f3.5-5.6 … so I decided to go with the better aperture, and faster lense.

I’ll be able to test it out today on my Mellow Ride. I didn’t feel like killing myself, since I haven’t been on a ride in over 2 weeks. No Gladiator for this guy this weekend.