Thursday, August 27, 2015

Sidney Aquarium

After lunch at Muse Winery, the aquarium in Sidney was nearby. This is quite a small aquarium and Shelley and I had been there before, but I was happy to have a chance to visit and get a few photos.

Jellyfish are interesting to watch and the tanks are often lit to highlight their inhabitants. If I remember correctly this is a lions mane jelly

jellyfish

Some of them are very transparent.

jellyfish

Grunt sculpins are funny looking fish. They use their spiny fins to crawl across the bottom.

sculpin

I forget what kind of shrimp this was.

shrimp

A colorful anemone. As kids we liked to poke them to make them withdraw all their tentacles and contract into a ball.

anemone

A curious fish.

fish

When we first got there the giant pacific octopus was sleeping in a corner, as usual. But later he came out to show off for us. Fascinating creatures.

giant pacific octopus

Despite the challenges of dirty glass, dim lighting, and other people, it's still easier than actually shooting underwater! (And the new Nikon D7200 does a great job in the dim light.)

See all 11 photos as a slideshow or overview

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Victoria

It's been a few years since we've been in Victoria so it was nice to wander around. If you're lucky you'll see some otters or seals in the harbour. These are river otters, perhaps a family group since there were two smaller presumably younger ones.

otters

Victoria in the summer seems full of flowers.

rose

It was hazy, probably from the forest fires, but we did get a few views of Mt. Baker in the distance (another one we've climbed).

Mt. Baker at sunset

We had some nice meals - Il Terrazo, Oak Bay Hotel, Muse Winery, Spinnaker, Rebar - lots of good places in and around Victoria.

We went for lunch at Muse Winery, sampled some of their wines, and wandered their vineyards where the grapes were ripening. (We sampled some of the grapes too - interesting how they varied in sweetness and flavor.)

vineyard grapes

After supper at Spinnakers we had a sunset walk along the water.

sunset

See all 25 photos as a slideshow or overview

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Victoria Reflections

In Victoria, we ended up staying at the Coast Victoria Hotel, as part of a package with the Clipper (the ferry from Seattle). This seemed like the best way to get a decent hotel price in busy Victoria.

Staying on the water, and a little way from downtown, we got lots of chances to walk along the shore, so I indulged my fascination with the infinite variety of reflections :-) The colorful boats and houseboats provided much of the color.

reflections

deep green

waves

reflections

reflections

As usual with my abstract photos, these are a bit more heavily processed (in Lightroom) but only to increase brightness and contrast etc., not really altering the images.

See all 24 photos as a slideshow or overview

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Seattle Aquarium

The morning after the conference we fit in a quick visit to the Seattle Aquarium before catching the Clipper (ferry) to Victoria to visit my sisters. (one lives there and the other was visiting)

We had a few minutes to wait before it opened and there was a fountain ...

waterfall

I like the bright orange beak and eyes of the black oystercatchers.

black oystercatcher

And it's always fascinating to watch the jellyfish. (As long as you're not in the water with the nasty ones!)

jellyfish

Part of the reason I like aquariums it that there are so many bizarre and wonderful creatures, like these cuttlefish.

cuttlefish

See all 9 photos as a slideshow or overview

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cross Country

last views of the Tetons

After leaving Jackson, Wyoming we drove east, getting our last views of the Tetons from the west side. The first day we ended up in Boise, Idaho. As usual, we avoided the interstates, making for a bit longer journey, but a much more pleasant one (IMO). There was a forest fire just south of Boise and the smoke made for a colorful sunset.

Boise urban sunset

Driving north-west from Boise we encountered another forest fire.

Oregon Hwy 26 fire

At first we thought we'd pass by it, but we got closer and closer till we ran into a road block where they weren't letting traffic through. After a short delay they let us through, even though the fire was burning right beside the road. We saw on the news that they closed the highway later in the day.

Oregon Hwy 26 fire

This was with a telephoto lens, but the fire had burned right up to the roadside in places.

We had planned to camp that night, but there was a huge windstorm going on so we ended up staying at the River Lodge on the Columbia River. It was too windy to pleasantly walk around outside, but from the hotel lounge and restaurant we could watch the waves crashing into the shore.

Columbia River

All the smoke and dust in the air made for a colorful sunset.

Columbia River sunset

The next day we drove along the north side of the Columbia River (the interstate is on the south side). There are a number of wineries along the way but we didn't stop since we had too much driving to do. We got good views of Mt. Hood (which we had climbed quite a few years ago).

Mt. Hood over Columbia River

We turned north from the Columbia River and drove through beautiful forested mountains past Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier, although cloudy skies prevented good views of them. We're now within striking distance of Seattle where I have a computer conference for a few days.

See all 25 photos as a slideshow or overview

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Jackson Paragliding Part 2

My second day of paragliding went better - we got in two flights and both my launches and landings were reasonable. I was all ready to write a much more positive blog post. But the third day wasn't quite so good.

Grand Teton
Grand Teton from the top of the tram

It's often hard to spot other gliders when you're in the air, especially if they are below you and you're trying to pick them out of the scenery. I knew Shelley was ahead of me but I lost track of her until I was coming in to land and I saw her carrying her glider from the next field over!? When I landed one of the local pilots, "Bones", said "Someone landed in the golf course. I was going to land beside them to make sure they were ok, but they did a perfect landing." I said, "That would be my wife." He reassured us that people screw up all the time, and that one time he'd landed right beside one of the houses. It turned out she actually landed in the construction site next door, and a truck had to stop to let her land!

I thought my landing had been ok, but we both got chewed out by one of the tandem pilots - me for turning too close to the ground. There is a wide range of "bedside manners" amongst instructors and tandem pilots. I certainly realize we're not doing things the best way, but the misjudgements are not intentional and I'm not sure getting chewed out really helps. Some advice or tips would be a lot more useful. Did I mention it's hard being a beginner again? I can see why a lot of people stop tackling new things as they get older. Especially physical skills, which I think are like languages - a lot easier to learn when you're younger. 

After two flights we thought we were done for the day, but earlier we had inquired about the possibility of a tandem "cross country" flight. When we checked they said we could go right now. So we changed back into our flying clothes and jumped back on the tram. Unfortunately, conditions didn't turn out to be very good and we got only a slightly longer flight than our solo ones. Nevertheless we got some good tips and instruction, and it was interesting to see how an experienced pilot flew. (And I got a chance to take more photos since someone else was piloting.)

Shelley on tandem flight
Shelley on tandem flight

Shelley on tandem flight
Shelley on tandem flight, launch is the peak to the right

Our third morning when we got up I was pretty sure we wouldn't by flying. There was heavy cloud and it was sprinkling rain. But we got ready and headed up to Teton Village. You never know what the weather is going to do. The tourist tandems were going up and the theory was that the weather would improve. It then proceeded to rain on the tram ride and continued up top. There was a brief lull and several of the tandems launched, but then the rain returned and everyone scurried to shelter with their gliders. 
Even the tandem pilots were grumbling.

But finally it cleared for long enough to fly. There was pretty much no wind but we did forward launches and got away successfully.

flying over the golf course

It stayed cloudy but the rain stayed away so we headed back up for a second flight. When we are with an instructor or guide Shelley likes me to go first to see what conditions are like. But when we're on our own she prefers to go first so I can make sure she gets away ok. So Shelley took off first, no wind, so a forward launch which she did nicely. I went to follow right behind her, but made a classic newbie mistake. I ran down the hill, thought I was launched, sat back in the harness (too soon) and then dipped down. The bottom of my harness dragged on the ground and I ended up back on my feet. I had a split second to decide whether to try to run or to abort. I was getting close to the drop off and I didn't know what my glider was doing so I pulled the brakes and aborted. Better safe than sorry.

It took awhile to get my glider and all the lines disentangled from the rocky ground and trudge back up the slope kicking myself all the way. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I know better than that! I tried another forward launch but didn’t even get the glider up. Then I realized the nearby tandem pilots weren't even attempting to take off. A glance at the windsock told me why - the wind was blowing pretty much straight sideways across the slope. (You need to launch into the wind.) I sat down and waited. Eventually there was a lull and the tandems got away. I waited for another lull and tried to follow but as soon as I did the wind blew across again and my wing went down. There was another solo pilot trying to launch and he also failed a couple of times. I waited a bit but it wasn’t getting any better. Frustrated, I packed up and rode the tram down, kicking myself even more because I'd had a chance to launch with Shelley and I'd screwed it up.

Later, Shelley said, “At least you don't have a bunch of scrapes and bruises like me.” Which is true, despite my screw ups I've managed to escape without a scratch, so far always landing on my feet, without face planting or being dragged. But as I told her, I did have bruises, they were just on my ego! Which is probably good for me - at work I'm the most experienced programmer, the boss, and the owner. Needless to say, I don't get chewed out much and it's pretty much within my comfort zone.

Jackson Hole Paragliding does a steady tandem business. The first tram at 8:15 would often hold 14 tandem pilots and their passengers. (Plus a handful of solo pilots.) After that it slowed down, but if conditions were good they might give 70 flights in a day. The quick tram ride up to the top and the landing zone near the base of the tram makes for quick turnaround. Most of the tandem pilots were quite welcoming and helpful, but they were doing their job, and to a certain extent solo pilots were a nuisance, especially novices like us. We tried not to get in their way.

tandems prep to launch
tandems prep to launch

Our last day was calm and clear skies. I thought for sure we'd get in a flight or two before we hit the road. But it turned out the wind was blowing the wrong direction and only P4's could launch off the back side. (We're P2's.) So that was the end of our Jackson Hole paragliding. We enjoyed flying here and the tram certainly made it easy. But because we could only fly first thing in the morning, we didn't get any thermals and all the flights were short and simple. At the stage we're at, it's all good experience, but not quite as satisfying as the longer flights we got in BC.

See all 16 photos as a slideshow or overview

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Day 1 Jackson Hole Paragliding

Jackson Hole is a beautiful place to fly and it's great getting whisked up 4000 ft on the tram. As beginners we were flying early in the day before conditions got rougher, which meant fairly short "sled ride" flights, but still fantastic to be flying.

Shelley prepping to launch

I can't say the same for my launches. Despite the relatively mellow conditions I had terrible launches. I get nervous and rush my turn around and don't control the glider well. And I really really hate doing such a crappy job. My second launch was slightly better but still not good. I got off first try both launches, but it wasn't pretty. I know I need practice, but I also know I do a lot better on our training hill with no one watching and no nerves. It's not so much that I'm nervous about the flying, it's that I'm worried about screwing up the launch and the more pressure I put on myself, the worse I do.

Shelley flying (highlighted)

And then my first landing was awful as well. I misjudged my altitude, thought I could clear a barbed wire fence, realized I couldn't, flared at the last minute and came within a few feet of plastering myself on the fence, which would not have been fun. As it is my glider came down on the far side of the fence. Luckily no damage done. And the second landing was much better.

Teton Village, Jackson Hole

Of course, Shelley, who claims to be much more nervous, did just fine on both launches and landings. That's awesome, but it just makes me kick myself more!


So it was great to be flying, but hopefully I'll do better with my launches!