Getting My Feet Wet, Literally, with Photography

Quite an adventure today. I started off in the backyard with some risky film (only roll I had left) and took a trip to Jefferson National Park where I began experimenting with different settings and running water. My overall goal for the day was to focus properly, capture running water at a complete stop-in-motion, and just shoot the good half of the roll I had messed up fiddling with my camera.

Note: All frames were overexposed (in theory) whether it was due to my new-to-me camera or lack of experience. These uploads are presented without edit for posterity.

My first stop was the side of the road, looking down a man-made divide in the forest due to light poles.

f/8 @ 1/250s

f/5.6 @ 1/250sOn the walk back I saw a speed limit sign and immediately thought, "I can't go...FIFTY-FIVE!" I actually went about 35-45 mph all day, so yeah. Then I found a "Fine Art Gallery" where I met an artist who designs, creates, and paints signs all over the area. He's done the welcome signs for many towns and even municipalities. He told me of a lighthouse his brother built in, wait for it, West Virginia! (There's no ocean in WV, it's the only lighthouse because of that, duh!). I’m definitely going to make a trip to WV just to see this for myself!

f/5.6 @ 1/125sAfter driving for a while, with a couple landscape opportunities along the way, I came upon an access trail for Jefferson National Forest. Of course, you know I had to pull in despite the warnings it wasn’t safe for passenger vehicles. Side-note: I love my Chevy 4x4 :)

Continuing with a different trail I came upon Dry Run Creek. Let me assure you, this was not a dry running creek. This shot was the first that required me to lay down in the snow. Notice how clear the rocks and the leaning tree came out. Nice and sharp even though the picture is ruined by overexposure (remember I said the whole roll shot overexposed?). The second photo here is a close-up of a different section of the creek. It’s so overexposed (and no polarized filter to reduce glare) that I can hardly tell if I got the focus correct or not. I think it’s off a bit.

f/3.5 @ 1/125sf/3.5 @ 1/125s

Thanks to the hiking boots my mother gave me for Christmas I was able to come out without falling or tripping—that and, of course, my wonderfully marvelous equilibrium. ;-) That’s when I found a patch of moss on some rocks. Upon closer inspection I decided this was no ordinary moss and decided to bust out my Vivitar 28mm Wide Angle MC lens and go in—hard.

f/2.8 @ 1/500s

My viewfinder was focused slightly off center due to poor depth of field or zoom, but my objective was to capture both patches of moss with clarity. The lens was not quite as powerful as I would have liked. I narrowed the depth of field so much trying to focus that I lost some detail. In either case, it was probably one of my most interesting shots of the day. The fact the colors came out better than the rest make it one of my favorites. It didn’t turn out that great, edges of the moss are blurry and the stick in the middle as well, but it still came out interesting and that’s what made it fun.

I kept going and found a small country store full of various knick-knacks and homemade crafts that was setup behind this older couple’s home. I got to look around and even befriend a boxer named Harley (such a sweet dog). Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera on me and didn’t get any doggy photos. For shame!

It didn’t take long before I found myself getting hungry so I pulled into a small diner in the middle of nowhere. The cheeseburger was great, slaw and chili a must. But before I could leave I just had to climb in the back of my truck, stand on the toolbox, and shoot a picture of the fog rolling in over the mountain range. Behind the fog you can see, here and there, small peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I lost the settings for this one, possible f/8 @ 1/1000s? No clue!f/8 @ 1/1000s

After shooting all morning and having lunch I decided to head home, but not without a couple landscape opportunities. At home, my border collie whom I adore so much was anxiously awaiting his lunch. So after feeding and walking him it was time to head to the local photo processing center—otherwise known as the local drugstore. That’s when I decided to stop by just one more creek on my way. I got down on the bank and sat down on a huge rock. This, of course, allowed me to slide sideways into the rushing water. Needless to say I was soaking wet above the ankles, but I got my shot.

f/5.6 @ 1/500s

Oh, how I wish these were not overexposed. Perhaps I’ll touch them up and see if I can balance the color and exposure with some image editing software. But for now, this is what I got and what I did with my morning—and the fun-factor made it all worthwhile!


Do you enjoy pictures and photographs as much as I do? What did you do with your morning?


Tweet your best adventure “pix” to me using @arideni – happy shooting!


Getting the Logitech Desktop Microphone 600 to Work

Logitech Desktop Microphone 600A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away there existed uncomplicated analog microphones that simply plugged into a microphone jack similar to headphones. Then came USB headsets. Well, today I’m going over a brief tip to help users of the Logitech Desktop Microphone 600 get their microphone working. Many users have had issues with this mic, some software and some hardware. Apparently the device is now discontinued in favor of a USB microphone and seems to be one of the only desktop mics Logitech still supports on their website. I bought mine earlier in 2013 from Amazon for $15.99 USD. I highly discourage anyone from paying more than that for a simple analog desktop microphone. They are all, quite simply, cheap—regardless of how they work.

There’s a few different issues people have had with this microphone to my knowledge. The first is it simply quits working after a couple of days. Most products have lemons or defects which eventually show up and Logitech is no exception. Another potential issue is that many claim it simply records at a very low volume (I may do another post on how to increase your output volume later on). Finally, the third issue is simply not being able to get it to work. This post is about getting the device to work and I’ll be going over that for Windows 8.1, but be advised that it’s roughly the same process for Windows 7. I have not tested it on other operating systems, but imagine it would be easy to setup for Windows XP or older operating systems (probably without any software tweaks at all).

The first thing you should check is always the simplest—which jack is it plugged into? Some are pink, and the plug on this mic is indeed pink, while the other common color is red. Let’s begin!

Windows 8.1 (and Windows 7)
  1. Open your Control Panel and select Hardware and Sound, then Sound. A dialog will appear—select the tab Recording (see images below).
  2. If you see your device, default name “Microphone,” then proceed to step 4.
  3. If you do not see your microphone device listed, right-click any item on this dialog and select “Show Disabled Devices” and it should appear if my memory serves me correct. If not, check “Show Disconnected Devices.”
  4. Select your microphone device and right-click. Then, select “Properties.”
  5. If your microphone is plugged into the rear, uncheck “Front Jack” and “Monitoring,” if they are checked. Make sure “Microphone Boost” is checked as it helps recording volume.
  6. Now, test your microphone in the appropriate jack and see if it works. One other piece of advice is to be sure you’re plugging the microphone into the proper area on the back of your computer.


Note: If you’re using an audio card, the microphone needs to be plugged into the audio card jack. If you’re using on-board integrated audio, plug it into the proper mic jack of the motherboard. Typically speaking, audio cards are at the bottom of a computer case and the jacks for on-board integrated audio are near the top near the USB, keyboard, and mouse ports.

Did this help? Please leave me some feedback if this article helped you get your device working or if I left anything out. Enjoy!


Giving Thanks for the Harvest

On October 3, 1789 George Washington, President of the United States of America, issued a proclamation stating that Thursday, November 26 would be nationally recognized as Thanksgiving Day—a “day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
So where exactly is the “thanks”-giving portion of this holiday hiding? It would seem many are consumed with sports games and “Black Friday” shopping as much as, if not more than, spending time with their family and loved ones with a banquet fit for a king.

Do you celebrate Thanksgiving Day? What kinds of tradition(s) does your household maintain each year? And last, but not least—what are you thankful for the most?

Me? I’m thankful for being safe and sound with my family after a long and arduous move from the coastal region to the mountains. I’m thankful that, at 4:30AM this morning, the water seems to have been fixed. Maybe we can cook for Thanksgiving after all (now that’s definitely something to be thankful for)!


The Best Time of My Life

IMG00219-20101024-1638“Phew!” I let out a sigh of relief as I turned the corner and entered my English classroom. Still tired from working the night before I picked the first desk I came to and put my head down in blatant disregard. The teacher, a tall specimen, slender and with a neatly trimmed haircut, came into the room and immediately announced his presence with an obnoxious “Good afternoon!” I grudgingly lifted my head and sat up. Who did this guy think he was? How dare he interrupt my moment of unconscious consciousness?

That aside his tone was rather subtle yet encouraging. Yes, yes it was a good afternoon. After all, any day six foot above ground would be better than one six foot below. Well, I’m not quite six foot, but being five foot, four inches above ground still fares well in my book. The instructor began his daily task of checking attendance. As he began going down the list of names my brain went in other directions, drowning out the age-old ritual.

Funny thing about roll call is the fact no one ever really notices whether or not a particular person is absent until they fail to announce their presence. Sure, there’s always an exception: that pretty girl who’s missing from the desk next to you, the teacher’s pet who brings the ever-so-seductive red apple each week. The brain who cries when no homework is assigned. But that kid in the back? The one who doesn’t say much or stand out in any particular way—no one notices when he or she is absent until attendance is taken. Attendance—that nice little reminder that any body with a name is somebody.

I digress. This is an essay about “The Best Time of My Life,” or at least that’s the topic the teacher began to scrawl across the blackboard, his hands dirty with a chalky residue all too familiar to teachers across the globe. “What a bland and dull topic,” I thought to myself. “How amateur. What is this? Seventh grade?”

But it wouldn’t matter what I thought.

“The Best Time of [Your] Life.” That was the topic assigned to the class and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I suppose most people wouldn’t have any qualms over a topic such as this. I’m sure most people have an abundance of memories with family and friends to make for very interesting papers. Not me.

Class was soon dismissed and I found myself in math class doing English assignments because the arithmetic was too easy to retain my attention for any length of time. Math, too, was soon dismissed and I decided to brainstorm in my usual spot within the confines of the campus library. I soon found myself lost in a whirlwind rhapsody of Anthony Hamilton, Tupac, and Maxwell among hundreds of tracks which played through my ear buds. It was then, right there in front of everyone, and yet no one at all, that I found my campground of solace--my place within a place. That zone in which, while you may very well be surrounded by dozens of people you are--at the very core of your being and with every fiber of your person--isolated from the entire universe. There is no one and no thing which could possibly pull you back to reality. You are it—you are everything in a world of nothing.

I began to think about all the different things I had experienced thus far in my life trying desperately to not take into consideration the gross number of things which I had yet to partake of. Would I write about the family vacation to Disney World when I was nine? Or how about the trip I took to Ocracoke Island with my great grandmother when I was seven? Perhaps the time I went to King’s Dominion with my mother and rode the Scooby Doo rollercoaster at five. All that remained were vague memories of flowing, golden yellow ballroom gowns, some cracked seashells, and my mother swearing she would never ride another rollercoaster so long as she lived.

So that brings me to the present.

I am now writing this as I sit here with not only one, but both butt cheeks numbingly stuck to this chair wondering how much battery life is left on my music player and how much lead remains in my pencil. “I think I got it,” I just thought to myself, feeling a bit like Archimedes must have when he discovered buoyancy (the main difference being he was naked in a bathtub and I am not). So you were hoping to read an essay about “The Best Time of My Life”? Well, considering everything I wrote I would have to say you’re holding it in your hands and just finished reading all about it.


One Dreary Wednesday

Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's

It was a dark and dreary night—OK—it was just after lunch and it wasn't dark, but it was dreary. Here, let me start over. "Ahem," clearing my throat.

It was a dreary Wednesday afternoon in English class. I arrived on time, like always, and took my seat. The classroom consisted of about thirty chairs on the classic off-white tile, the cheap kind with gray speckles mixed in so no one notices how unclean the floor really is. The teacher, a wiry middle-aged white man who smoked too much and had a five-o-clock shadow despite the fact it was just after one, came in and went through the typical classroom small talk before beginning his lecture.

Quite the opposite of the typical college stereotype, he spoke with a subtle prose which enlivened the classroom. Every now and then he would throw a word in the air which brought me back down to earth, eagerly anticipating his every word like a Holly Golightly songbird doing Moon River. He began to tell us about our next assignment: "I want each of you to partner up with another and learn a little bit about them. Ask them questions, interview them."

I slowly turned around looking for the young, short-haired girl who sat in my row.

What an interesting way to break the ice and introduce myself, I thought. I would both get to learn a little about this person while at the same time completing my assignment—a surefire winner in my book.

Damn, too late. A husky, dark-haired boy across from me had already seemingly made contact and partnered up. "Oh, well—there's another pretty girl, one with a tattoo, on the other side of the classroom," I thought. I gathered my books and went to the far corner of the room. She, too had partnered up. It seemed as though everyone had a buddy to partner with except for me. Then I noticed a heavyset fellow, dressed in black jeans and matching shirt sitting nearby. He had a nice caramel complexion with braided hair and a nice ball cap. He had a kind, youthful face—the type which if you ever saw his baby pictures you would know it was him instantly.

"Hey man, you got a partner yet?" I asked. "Nope, let's do this," he replied. I introduced myself and extended my hand. "My name's Brandon, what's yours?" "Randal, Randal Sneed."

I picked my chair up and turned it around to face him. Together we formulated an unspoken format for our mock interviews. We would take turns asking questions and offering answers. By the time we finished nearly thirty question-answer combos. I found out that he enjoyed drawing and electronics while he learned that I loved the beautiful colors of autumn. We both love sports cars and super heroes. He loves steak; I love lasagna. We continued for a while, discussing favorite comic book characters and various other hobbies and conversed with the two girls next to us.

Time was suddenly moving at a pace much too fast for my liking.

It was almost time to go so we stood up, shaking hands again and expressing how nice it was to have met one another. I packed up my books and prepared to leave for my next class.

I went into class that day not knowing anyone, having only one objective in mind: pass English 111 with flying colors and unleash my dizzyingly creative writing style on yet another victim. Instead I left with a friend, but not just one—several. In the end, as it turned out, the day no longer appeared quite so dreary after all.


Chocolate and Flowers

It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. The sky was a metallic gray, the clouds maturing for a torrential rain later in the evening. The wind blew calmly providing a peaceful break from an otherwise hectic day. Four o'clock – the best hour, he thought, to run errands. School busses were scarce and most people were still at work, twiddling their thumbs and watching the hands of the clock.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

It would take a total of about twenty minutes for him to reach town. He was a man on a mission – and his mission was one of love. It was their anniversary, you see, and he was determined to do something special for his significant other. He wasn't rich, and neither was she, but they were happy. Happiness is easier to achieve when you're poor. You simply have nothing else to cling onto. He was a man, but he was hopelessly romantic. He held in his mind a mental movie of exactly how his night would go. Of course, he also knew nothing ever worked the way it was intended. Still, somehow, things always seemed to work out for the better.

A fine mist traveled in the air, the ash-colored, pothole-ridden pavement becoming damp and turning black. The road wound as if one were using a steering wheel to trace the curves of a snake, being careful to adhere tightly to the crevices of its spine. He was sure by the time he finished he would be soaked from top to bottom.

He parked at the end of the lot, near the outdoor section. He always parked there because the register in the back of the store was usually open for checkout. Easy in, easy out. He wondered if he was the only one to do that and decided he wasn't, but still felt proud of his genius. A swift walk inside, straight to the candy aisle first. He knew what he needed: a bag of chocolates and a dozen roses. He had a flower vase and a hand-written note with selected poetry already waiting in the car.

Flowers and chocolate - how could any woman resist?

He knew she had never received something quite like it from any of her former lovers. He knew he was different. He felt it inside, from the heart. That was enough to make it different. It was enough to set him apart and show his affection toward her.

Chocolate - the silky, always smooth texture that melts slowly on your tongue. Sweet and delicate, an indulgence humans have come to know all too well. But not just any chocolate would do. Only caramel-filled Dove chocolate would do because inside the foil wrapper of each one a short "promise" message was printed. There were dozens of messages: some about friendship or life, anecdotes about happiness or little inspirations.

He was looking for one such message in particular and he bought an entire bag in hopes of finding that foil wrapper – and then not tearing it in half by accident like he had done before. She had seen the message before, but this would be a definite surprise. He had planned it this way and was intent on making sure it happened. He was pressed for time. He grabbed the bag of chocolates and headed to the flower stand.

The roses were half wilted, sold in tens rather than dozens, but were reasonably priced. His plan changed, he had to improvise. Instead of an entire dozen, he would leave a single rose. Thus he began looking at each one, inspecting the petals to make sure they were open just enough.

He called a friend who was keeping tabs on her for him. She was still not at home – perfect. He purchased the roses and the chocolate, went out the back entrance to the parking lot and started his car. It was going to storm soon—he had to hurry before she got there so there would be no trace of his visit.

It began raining in town so he opted to stay on the back roads instead of racing against time on the interstate. The stoplights were not kind to him. He glanced over at the passenger seat – the bag of chocolates poking out from the plastic shopping bag. He ripped it open and pulled out two chocolates.

The first one he opened carefully, diligently. If he found one, he needed to make sure it was opened perfectly and then resealed so she would never know the difference. It wasn't that he didn't believe in fate, but sometimes even fate needs a guided push by the individual. He read the message inside:

"Take a deep breath," he read the message aloud. The car behind him started honking their horn. The light had turned green and he needed to be moving before the weather got worse. He took a deep breath, inhaled it, and cherished the taste of the chocolate. It was a moment of bliss in a panicked state. He had to get home, go through forty chocolates hoping he got the one foil wrapper he was looking for, and then have the manual dexterity to not rip it in half.

Another red light.

He opened the second chocolate and, remembering what the last message had said, took a deep breath.

True love is a bond that lasts forever.

Amazed and bewildered, he couldn't believe he had found the wrapper so easily. It wasn't the first one, but it wasn't a disappointment, either. He was thrilled for the wrapper, or rather the message, held sentimental value to the both of them. It made him think of the first time he had seen the message. It was a wrapper, just like the one he now held, which she had found one afternoon while he was at work. She took a picture with her phone and sent it to him. The picture was blurry and grainy, but the message came across clear.

He was there now. He pulled into the driveway and made his way inside with his bag of goodies. The second phase of his plan was to get the vase, get the note, and leave them where she would find them. It was the perfect setup. He made the bed and pulled the sheets back on her side. It was a quarter after five and she would be home at any minute. He had to hurry.

He pruned the roses in the kitchen, picked the best one, and placed it on top of the envelope next to the chocolate. On the front of the folded note, he left directions for her:

Open me.

And all he had to do was take a deep breath.


I have what you've been looking for

How would you describe the human spirit? Kind and compassionate, tender and caring. Proud and tenacious, strong and free-willed. These are some of my thoughts.

However, more and more throughout our daily lives the "asshole" makes an appearance. Rude and obnoxious, cold and mean-spirited. Arrogant and selfish, insecure and, yes, still free-willed. Call me cynical, but the trend is apparent throughout modern society.

I believe there is a reason for everything. There are no coincidences. Maybe the rich, extravagant lifestyles of our cultural icons are merely compensation for something lacking in their personal lives. Perhaps those lonely souls who spend countless hours in fantasy video game worlds have finally found a way to escape. Maybe, just maybe, we're all just looking for something.

What are you looking for?

As for me? I think I've found it at Brampton Lane, :)


Understanding Cold Hands & Warm Hearts

One of the biggest issues with people are their emotions. Either too much or not enough, emotions seem to provide the necessary drive to make it through the daily stresses of life. What emotions do you feel at present? And when you first awoke today? How are they different and why?

“Cold hands, warm heart.”

For one who may be cold on the outside may surely be warm on the inside.

It was 3:30 in the morning when the alarm on my phone sounded, a little ditty resembling an electric piano began playing. I desperately struggled to dismiss the alarm, but it was too late-my baby had woke up next to me. We kissed and exchanged those three little words in quiet whispers. I felt at peace.

"Cold hands mean a warm heart," she said, taking my hand into hers. Several weeks earlier we sat on the couch, looking one another in the eyes as if trying to peer into the depths of our very souls. She folded one leg underneath her, my legs outstretched in front of me as if I were buckled in an automobile. "What? Oh, yeah," I said, a little off guard.

The significance of that phrase never left my thoughts and here I was again, nearly 3:30 AM and the temperature having dropped rapidly, curious whose hands were cold despite the complete and utter warmth we enjoyed.

Chill bumps began to surface among our entire bodies despite the closeness we endured. Every hair on our arms standing on end, gleaming in the pale moonlight. The warmth began to change. It began to seep into the very essence of our souls -- we were one in our hearts and minds, if only for a moment, if only forevermore.


Not-So-Happy Birthday to Me

Still celebrating birthdays? Whether young or old, birthdays are special--a celebration of the day you were brought into the world. Still, as we get older do we celebrate less the gift of life?

This is something I'm currently struggling with. Today at 11:52 I turn 25 years old. Wow-big whoop, huh? Do you remember what your 25th was like? What emotions do you recall coming to surface?

“It's a little sad.”

25, single, with no house to call my own. Pretty decent financially without major rent, etc. from living in the city, but how can I get my life to move fast-forward without losing precious time?

It's tough, and I have to think to myself, "Can I be happy with nothing to my name except a family?" And then I have to ask, "Would it be enough for 'her'?"


Coincidence? I don't believe in coincidence.

Ever exclaimed, "What a coincidence!" or heard that sissy version, "What a co-inky-dink!" and became speechless? I have.

Whether you were dreaming of Chinese food only to find a voicemail from your spouse asking what kind of take-out you would like for supper or your birth date shows up as a customer's order number, we have all experienced them at one point or another in our lives. Those completely unrelated events which come together at the same time. Coincidences.
“I don't believe in coincidence.”
Cymatics is the study of sound and vibration in visual form. A pinch of salt, for example, on a surface affected by various audible frequencies can be manipulated to form patterns. These patterns represent an emerging trend of expression and have become an art form over the last decade.

Alva Noto is a musician who practices the use of cymatics as an artistic medium. Noto creates music through the use of electronic transmissions--a fax modem or telephonic beeps and clicks, etc. He uses mathematical logic to add rhythm & blues or hip-hop grooves to his music. Think of it as the industrial metal of the Euro electronica outfit, perfectly choreographed. Quoting Noto:
“It is such a complex matter we live within, it is impossible to track logic and decision making really, so therefore each choice can actually only be seen as coincidence.”
I take this to mean that the patterns in life we cannot explain, we label as "coincidence." Quite simply because we have no other explanation. I could go all religious, and I will, and state that God works in wondrous ways. I could also say I am a victim of comic culture, stealing the lines from Batman (loosely quoted): I don't believe in coincidence.

Do you?