All posts by James Holroyd

Found Photos, er, found again

I found an estate sale full of cameras quite by accident a few years ago.  They belonged to a man named Gerald Shepardson, who lived in Stillwater and was quite a camera collector and photographer.  I bought some cameras and lenses, and ended up getting a sweet deal on some old film.  The box contained some exposed film as well.

Recently, having finally had the time and motivation (and being too sick with this awful cold/virus/flu thing to go out and fall off my dirt bike on the ice), I set up my darkroom in the new house.  It isn’t perfect, but it’s serviceable.  In need of some film to develop, I scoured the fridge, and looked in the many old cameras I have lying around.  A Canon Rebel 2000 yielded an underexposed role of Pan F plus (50 iso, looks like it was exposed at around 400 iso for most of the roll), and the fridge surrendered a ziploc baggie full of film from the estate sale.  I figured now it was time to figure out what was on all those rolls of exposed film.  I was intrigued because there were 5 rolls of 120 film and a couple of cans of 35mm, so I made the room dark and got to work.

First roll of 120:  Nada.  No film.  Just the paper backing tape rolled around the spool and secured with scotch tape.  Damn.

Second: same.  Damn…and so on.

“Well, let’s see what the 35mm has to offer,” I muttered to myself.  I am talking to inanimate objects and myself more these days.  Talking to yourself is a sign of impending mental collapse, according to the old HHGTG infocom game.   Either that, or I’m really fond of my old tractor.

At this point, I wasn’t very optimistic.  The metal on the cans was pretty rusty, indicating that the film (if there was any) had seen a significant amount of moisture during its life.  The first roll gave up what didn’t even feel like film at first.  It felt a bit like not-very-sticky packing tape, but I managed to get it unrolled and put on the spool and in the can.  Setting it soaking in some 68-degree water, I again flipped the lights off and started to investigate the last can of 35mm.  Nothing.  Empty.

“Oh well,” I thought to myself, “at least there’s one roll of actual film.  I just hope it’s been exposed.”  The writing on the cans was mostly illegible, but one word was obvious: “TEST,” written on the empty can.  I wondered if the test had worked, and whether the other roll would have anything on it at all.  It had sounded pretty crunchy as it was letting go of decades of rolled-upedness .  Doubts aplenty.

After a 10 minute soak, for no real reason other than that it sounded like a good idea at the time (also, I needed an excuse to go make a cup of tea.  I am English, after all.)  I proceeded to mix up a batch of HC110 dilution B (1:31) at 68 degrees eff.  Pouring the developer in, I figured I’d just develop it “a good long time, like 15 minutes or so, with constant agitation.”  Normally, developing film is a pretty scientific process based on the recommendations of the film manufacturer.  Nowadays, the Internet has revolutionized the sharing of information around film, so in many ways the accessibility and ease of home developing has never been higher.  The Massive Dev Chart contains pretty much anything you’d want to know about developing anything with anything, and it now comes in an iPhone app (with a convenient timer and, get this, a display mode that makes your iPhone safe to use in a darkroom without fogging your film.  How cool is that?)  For this, though, I didn’t have much to go by.  I didn’t know what kind of film it was, how it had been exposed, or anything.  I seemed to remember using 8 minutes for my previous experiment with found film, and finding that a bit underdeveloped.  Further research indicated that you should develop longer for older film.  With typical development times being between 4 and 8 minutes, I figured a factor of 2-3 would be a good bet.

So 15 minutes it was, and 15 minutes it took.  Stop, fix, wash, and soon I was looking at a roll of film that could be 20, 30, 40 years old:

I carefully hung it up in my film drying cabinet (actually a zip up clothes hanger closet thingy I got from Wal-Mart) on specially-designed film holders (actually wooden pants hangers also from Wal-Mart), I decided to do some printing.  I hadn’t done prints in 2 years or so, and had given up because I couldn’t hold the very large spiders at bay long enough in the basement to do a good job.  One had actually dropped onto my head while I was developing a print, and that had pretty much ended it for me in that basement.  I don’t squick easy, but that took me past wanting to be down there a whole bunch.  The new house is much nicer than the old in that regard.

Today, I rearranged the office enough to get my scanner hooked up, and scanned the negatives.  Results are mixed- judge for yourself.  Much is unusable, but there’s enough image there to make for a cool effect that says a lot about the ravages of time.  Captured images peek through the areas where time and moisture have conspired to erase them.  Here’s my favorite:

On the whole, I’m happy with how everything turned out.  I got usable images against some pretty steep odds (like not having any film at all.)  I could have wished for something with a little more human interest, or maybe some identifiable cars or something that would help pin down the date the pictures were taken.  About all I can tell is that the roll was shot in winter, and that they had a lot of snow that year.  But they are cool.  Not as Gerald probably originally intended them, but interesting nonetheless.

There are two more rolls of 120 color print film in the fridge.  I think I’ll unroll them in the darkroom to see if they actually contain film.  At this point, I’m not going to hope for much.

DCTC track day – Ducati Minneapolis

Fun was had by all. I rode a bit, helped some nice
folks new to the track with their lines, and worked corners a bit.
Nice mellow day. Pictures are in this gallery.
As always, I have these in mongo huge resolution if you want ‘em.
Just shoot me an email. While editing these pictures, I was
fairly impressed at how many people were getting their wheels off
the ground… Have a closer look through this gallery- there
are quite a few like this one:

These were taken mostly at the corner
at the end of the back straight. Since they patched the
pavement, it got a little bumpier. I didn’t realize how bumpy
until I saw these pictures. The SV moves around a little
through here, but I just figured it was bumps, not actual
wheels-leaving-ground. I find it more than a little magical
that motorcycles work at all on the flat, let alone when you do
things like this to them.

Get your chainsaws ready! It’s almost Zombie season opener!*

Okay, so while I’m burploading megabytes more only-relevant-to-me personal content up onto Flickr today, I switch over to Facebook and notice that somebody is asking about the axe trend.  As in “an axe, at a bar, wtfmaynard?”

I cannot touch this one for two reasons:

1.  Bikesnobnyc has already done it far more deftly than I could ever hope to:

http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/2010/09/axe-me-no-questions-and-ill-tell-you-no.html

2.  I have not personally viewed anybody carrying an axe in public in a not-normally-appropriate way.  This is stated with a caveat that I live in Stillwater, which hosts the rather excellent Lumberjack Days, at which time it is entirely possible to see all manner of wood-splintering accessories being toted about.  Non-ironically.

Oh, he’s a lumberjack and he’s okay…

Of course, this is tautological in that, living in Stillwater, I am assuming that anybody carrying an axe intends to use it as an axe and not as a form of irony or as part of a trend.  Such are the many risks of living out in the boonies.  That and potentially being more than 5 miles from a Starbucks.

Regardless, during my reply, I inadvertently stumbled across a Really Great Idea.

My reasoning went thusly:

Hipsters ride fixies.  Hipsters are taking to carrying axes (apparently).  Therefore the thought of a fixie with an axe carrier is quite amusing, in a LATFH sense.

Taking this one step further, it would be funny to carry a broadsword with you on a cyclocross bike.  This is a variation on a sport I’ve intended to invent for a long time now: Running with Swords.  Cyclocross with swords would be even more epic.  Probably more efficient from a miles traveled per calorie expended standpoint, as well.

What comes next?  Next is probably a dirtbike… what’s appropriate for that?  A chainsaw, of course!

That’s when it hit me.  What do you use a chainsaw for?  SLAYING THE UNDEAD!!!

Aaaash!

Where do you find the undead?  AT ZOMBIE PUB CRAWLS!!!

That’s only 6 days away… not much time to get your anti-undead weaponry ready.  We’re gonna need to organize.  We’re going to need a lot of supplies.  Get your butt down to S-Mart and stock up on chainsaws and ammunition,  Make sure the Oldsmobile is tuned up and running well.  We’re gonna tell those zombies to “Come get some” because that’s what Ash would do. *

* This post is intended as humor.  Don’t go out and do anything to, at, or threateningly close to the no doubt very nice, uh, people at the Zombie Pub Crawl.  I do think it would be hilarious if somebody dressed up as Ash and went on the crawl with the zombies.  Wait, that looks suspiciously like Bruce Cambell in the ZPC poster…  Maybe they want Ash to join them so they can devour his flesh…

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, watch these movies:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Evil_Dead_(franchise)

The rules of bicycle design

This will be short.  I may expand it in the future.  In fact, I only have one item right now.

Car companies should not ever ever ever try to design bicycles. Nope.  Stoppit.  Smack whoever came up with this idea.  Auto guys have NO idea how simple and complicated bicycles are.   Inevitably, they try to fix something that doesn’t need fixing, add too much, and the result is stunning in its mediocrity.

No, the word “mediocrity” implies that it actually fits on a continuum of goodness.  Inevitably, the result in these cases is somewhat like going up to somebody, asking for directions, and hearing “fish sticks appalloosa” as a response.  Doesn’t even belong on the scale for directions (which goes from “situational/emotional topography” to “ex military precision” without passing through any of the food groups or domesticated animals on its way.  Don’t worry about the first bit, I’ll explain that in a later post the next time somebody gives me situational/emotional directions and I feel like ranting about something.)

Particularly car companies that are pretty good at designing cars.  The results are always horrendously overpriced and abysmal.  If Hyundai did a bicycle, they’d probably actually do pretty a good job… less arrogance, lower expectations….

Wait, they did?

Hyundai bike thing.  $212. Not overpriced.

Never mind.  At least it’s cheap.  On to the cool car companies:

Cases in point:

Mercedes bike.  Never thought I’d see something that makes a Brompton look sexy.  Note the almost complete lack of trail (“But ve haff rake, is that not vhat you need for ze good handlingk?”).  1699 Euros.  The stylists were on an extended coffee break when this thing was whisked through ID for approval.  The guy who signed off on it was actually the janitor.  The scene was half Good Will Hunting, half Rain Man, but with no math.

Porsche Bike – Clearly their stylists spent more time on the wheels than their FEA guys (curved spokes FEEL stronger.)  In a fit of pique, the FEA guys then swiss-cheesed the hell out of the billet pieces holding the frame and swingarm together.  To get back at them, the stylists stole the boot off the shock so it would only last two weeks but would look more “technical.”  The project manager for this excresence is still in a mental asylum somewhere outside Hanover.  $10,612 in 2001 dollars.  PT Barnum is still counting his money somewhere.

There is one exception to this, the Ferrari/Colnago collabo bike.  It gets away by being only horrendously overpriced.  But it’s definitely not abysmal.  Clearly, the Colnago guys put the Ferrari guys in their place right quick.  “You-a… you choose-a the colorway.  We do the rest, yes?  Maybe you design the stand?  For the store, in Milan?”

Ferrari by Colnago, the lone exception.  $12k plus.

Update :

Never mind.  It’s so horrible I can’t look…

(and people get mad at Ducati for building a muscle cruiser… sheesh!)

I just realized that I completely let BMW off the hook in this post.  While we’re on this rant, we might as well take a look at what our Bavarian friends have cooked up in the two-wheeled human-powered realm.  Shall we?

Not bad, actually.BMW – Exhibit A. $995.00

Actually not so bad.  I’ts got a bit of the Chris Bangle thing going on in places, but it’s at least trying.  It’s only when you realize that you’re paying for $1000 for roundels and Alivio componentry that things begin to smell a bit sauerkraut-y.    You could get a nice bike for $1000, probably with 105 or Rival.

Let’s see what else Ze Germans have on offer…

BMW – Hmm.  Not bad.

I’ll leave it at that… at least till I find something new to add.

Another 30

Today was day 2 of my second official #30daysofbiking. This time around, I’m doing at least 10 miles a day. With longer rides on the weekend, I’m hoping for about 500 miles or so in the month.  We’ll see how it goes.  I’m starting stronger than last time by a long shot.   Some of those early rides were pretty dire, and the rides the day after that were even more pathetic.  But I got through, and I can safely say that I rode more days than I didn’t over the last 6 months or so.  That’s got to count for something on the old health-o-meter, right?

As I think back on the previous #30 (which turned into 105), I find myself thinking about the power of the social network.  It was a chance encounter with a post by somebody I hadn’t seen since high school that piqued my curiosity and got me back on my bike again for so much of the summer.  What a cool coincidence, and what a cool time we live in that this sort of thing can and does happen.  Before #30daysofbiking, I didn’t really even follow twitter much, and didn’t really get what the big deal was about.   Now I get it.

The funny thing is, this isn’t the first time that this has happened to me.  Nearly 5 years ago, I found Crossfit, and I can safely say it’s changed my life for the better.  This was an early example of the power of social media and open-source thinking to change lives.  I much prefer Crossfit’s approach (free, social, interactive) to Tony Horton’s expensive, overly-produced P90x and their variants.

Think about how you stay informed these days.  I still listen to the radio (MPR, contributing member, thankyouverymuch), and I occasionally turn on the TV, but most of my information is delivered to me on my terms, in little previews that I can explore in greater depth if I choose, when it’s convenient for me.  I have the whole internet in  my pocket *ALL THE TIME.*  Such connectivity was science fiction 10 years ago.  Now it’s like breathing.

Now that the technology is here, look at how fast we’re learning to use it.  Read your facebook feed and see how much news has crept in, and how much other information is improving the signal to noise ratio (provided you are good at hiding apps like FarmVille and Mafia Wars. )  Links to Pandora, news sites, and other media are the next wave of connectedness.   Say what you like about Jobs and Zuckerberg and the like, those guys at least have a vision for a future where you can do more and see more and stay more connected with people who matter to you.

Sure, there are problems, and there’s abuse, but that’s nothing new.  The  Ponzi schemers and patent medicine hucksters from the past are no different than the phishing, 419 scamming scumbags we have to deal with today.  Set up a system and a small but visible minority of the population will try to take advantage of it in not-nice ways.  Doesn’t mean that the system isn’t worthwhile.

Think about the rate of change in the last 5 years, then think about what’s going to happen to news, marketing, sales, and politics over the next 5 years.  What will top Old Spice Guy?  You can bet there are legions of very smart people working on that right now.

More importantly, when will we reach the next tipping point, and what will that be?  What’s after the iPhone generation?

#30daysofbiking firing up again for September

After a couple of weeks off for travel, Sturgis, and other miscellaneous work duties, I’m getting back in the saddle for another 30.  I’m hoping to do 300 miles in the month.

Go here for more info:

http://30daysofbiking.com/bike/

I highly recommend that you join us on this!  It’s a refreshing, fun, and rewarding way to reconnect with your two-wheeled past.  Why do I say past?  Well, I used to ride a lot, back in grad school.  Yearly pilgrimages to Moab, mountain bike races, and a longish but doable commute got quite a few miles on my legs.  Moving to California in 2000 probably put me at the most miles I’ve ever done in a single year, though I’ve never kept much track of the actual miles ridden.

But work, life, and kids sort of intervened.  I’d still pick up the occasional issue of a bike magazine, and go for a spin once in a while, but it always felt harder than I remember, and I never managed to stick with it.  I’d go to watch the bike race in downtown Stillwater, and feel vaguely bad about myself that I had this tremendous love for bikes, but hadn’t made actually riding them that often a priority.   My actions weren’t in line with my core values.

When I saw a Facebook posting (thanks Bob Amaden!) alluding to #30daysofbiking I perked up and paid attention.  I got to the party a little late (April 16th) , but made up for it by not stopping until work-related travel absolutely forced me to.  It ended up being 105 days straight of more than 5 miles on the bike.  The longest ride was a nice hilly 56-miler down to Afton and other places in the St. Croix river valley.

If you’re anything like I was, you used to ride more than you do now.  Maybe you didn’t, but you probably bought a bike at some point, and when that bike was shiny and new you put on more miles than you do now.   Well, that can be fixed in short order, and you won’t believe how quickly it takes to feel that wonderful feeling of motoring under your own power again.  The small triumphs of hills conquered without downshifting (or the fixie equivalent: motoring up hills seated with higher gearing than you used at the start of the season), and the sureness of knowing that you are indeed fitter than you were the week before are still there waiting for you.  The mellow relaxation of a post-ride endorphine high is still just as pleasant.

Think about it this way:  your life is probably a lot more complicated than it was when you last put on any serious miles.  You need those miles now more than ever to put everything into perspective.

I’m looking forward to a nice way to round out the summer.  It’s already feeling a little chillier out there (in the 50’s the other night made it wonderfully brisk.)  Soon all the rides will be in the dark, and there will be some weather to worry about.   Bring it on, I say!

Life got busy there…

Nothing like a month of bouncing back and forth across the continent to put your “I”m going to ride my bicycle every day” thing on hold for a while.

First, I got to go down to Grand Junction, Colorado and ride with the motorcycle press and talk about the new 2011 Victorys.  It was a hoot, and well worth the 1200 miles of interstate it took to get there.  Got to see some friends (though not all of them… bummer!) in Boulder on the way down, which broke the trip up nicely.

The area we were in (Gateway Canyon) is being turned into a resort by its owner, John Hendricks, the founder of Discovery Channel.  He’s got a bunch of land, and is quickly building a very nice conference center/resort in the middle of the desert.  It’s beautiful.  Everything is built very well- so much so that I half expected to see velociraptors running around the grounds.

http://www.gatewaycanyons.com/

The riding through the canyons was most satisfactory.  Roads were in good condition, and nicely twisty without being ridiculously technical.  Perfect for my Vision, which allowed lots of fun at extralegal velocities without sacrificing comfort.  Why we don’t market the bike as a sport-tourer, I don’t know.

I took the following photo gear:

Olympus E-P1 with 17mm F/2.8 lens.   This lives around my neck while I ride, and allows rolling photography.  I try to keep this to a minimum, and only on straight roads.  I tend to take this photo a lot:

From the “what the F@#* is that rolling down the road?” file:

And a couple of entries in the “Classy things seen at gas stations” contest:

Finally…

See, I told you I take that photo a lot.

Nikon D300 with

-Sigma 24-70 F/2.8 lens.  This used to be my standard carry lens, until it died.  Again.  About 3 months after being allegedly repaired (thankfully under warranty) by Sigma USA.  Now it’s out of warranty, and it’s got the same mechanical problem with the zoom and focus mechanism.  Do not buy one of these.  They die, in short order.  Mine is about 15 months old now.   I’ll see what it costs to get repaired, then probably sell it.  Don’t trust it any more.

-Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 –  I like this lens a lot.  The image quality is good, but sometimes it won’t… quite… focus… at all.  Not sure if this is technique or the lens itself.  When it works, it’s great, as it works out to about a 50mm lens on an FX body like the D300.

-Nikkor 50mm f/1.8- Love this lens.  It’s a $100 plastic bodied cheap POS that takes images far far better than what you would expect.  Magic things happen when you put this baby on the camera… and it’s cheap!!!  Did I mention it didn’t cost much?

-Tamron 11-18.  I use this for most of my architectural stuff, and in close quarters at rallies and the like to document cool motorcycles.  As long as you keep the camera relatively level, and don’t mind a bit of lateral color fringing in the corners, it works great.  I’ve looked at sample images of other wide angles in this class, and they all seem to get a bit funky in the corners.

-Samyang 8mm fisheye.  I love this lens for making stuff look exaggerated.  It’s great for self portraits (at 8mm, almost everything is in focus all the time), and for making cars and bikes look funky.  Good fun.  Not technically a very good lens, I still love it for the wow  factor you get with it:

After the press thing, we rode with a bunch of journalists through the rockies and up to Sturgis.  Epicness happened, including about 20 miles of twisty dirt road (we were all on Visions, Cross Countrys, and Cross Roads, not dirt bikes).  Much fun was had.  Twisty roads aplenty, savvy?

Sturgis was the usual.  I didn’t stick around long- worked my day in the store then headed home.  Two young kids at home, missed my wife, etc.  Plus, fun things are happening at work.

…and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Day 90 of #30daysofbiking

Woohoo! Today was day 90 of riding at least 5 miles per day.

I’ve seen a lot. Bugs, rain, dark, light. One flat, one loose crankarm, one seriously creaking crankset, a couple of broken spokes, and a couple of different configurations of fixie.

I’m slated to travel for about 2 weeks at the end of July/early August. By motorcycle. Which means bringing a bicycle will be difficult. I’m tempted to rig up a carrier (the motorcycle is a Vision, which has more than enough capability to carry a bicycle) and bring the fixie. Something about rolling through Sturgis like that appeals to me.

Ducati Minneapolis Track Day – photos and video

Here’s the

gallery

Lots of fun was had by all.  There was some great riding being done out there, and it was cool to see people learn their tracks and bikes as the day progressed.  I had a couple of brain-fart moments, though nothing serious.  I even got the back sliding a couple of times, which felt really cool because it was on purpose.  When it’s not on purpose, it’s a pucker-inducer.  When you try to do it and succeed, it’s a thrill.

Gus and Eric did some one-on-one with people, which appeared to really help.  The riders got smoother and more confident as the day progressed.

Ducatis are beautiful machines.  It’s nice being on the track with them- they just please visually and aurally.  I love the old school look of the 998, the newer 999 (a design that has really grown on me) and the newer 1098s and 848s.  My friend Shannon brought his brand new 848, and can be seen scraping knee in a few of the shots.  What an awesome bike.

Want!

Maybe my wife will take a hint from his wife, who got him the bike for his 40th birthday.  How about it, honey?  The kids can get loans for college if they need them… :)

I took some video with the GoPro from aboard my humble SV.  I have found the camera likes the PNY SD cards (Class 4) better than the Class 6 Transcend cards.  Weird.  Whatever works.  Here’s the first video.  I have another that I still have to edit.