Tag Archives: postaday

Bottling lightning

Lightning strikes
Image credit: Rob Ross (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
The last few days in my land have been marked by brief, yet intense summer storms. The lightning that laced the orange sky was so frequent as the storm receded that both Mme. Ross and I tried to get pictures of them, but our efforts were met with very different levels of success. Mme. Ross has a consumer-grade DSLR camera to work with, while I have my iPhone, and I think that might have had something to do with the speed of her success. I held the camera still and snapped hundreds of photos as electricity zipped across the sky, calmly trying to track the explosions of ancient wars across the whole my view, only being able to catch a quarter of that view at a time and so hoping that I was not shooting a dark section while another was lighting up.

Lightning is quick. The whole thing occurs in the fraction of a second, so if you’re not close enough to be struck, then by the time you see it it’s already gone, and that’s the challenge in capturing it. As the arc is formed between the sky and ground, the air column in its path is transformed into a plasma — the electrons stripped from the oxygen molecules, making that column a conductor. The light of the arc begins travelling toward your eyes at the speed of light. The heat of the arc causes the air around it to explode thunderously. As the light travels in a wave toward the sensor of a camera, the options for capturing a pretty picture of a lightning strike come down to quick timing.

With fancy cameras it’s a very attainable thing but when you’re shooting with an iPhone you enter the realm of probability. Hundreds of shots, I think, are likely to yield at least one good photo. Because as I noted while going through those shots, deleting all the lookalikes as I went, when you’re too late you mostly come up with phantoms: large fields of diffusing purple light. Less frequently you get the arc in its full brilliance and it washes out the camera sensor because in all reality, it’s only an iPhone. Fancy phone, ho-hum camera (in the grand scheme of cameras, I mean.)

Like any wave, you have to time it just right.

In hundreds of shots, I got two hum-dingers. It was so worth it.

Lightning strikes
Image credit: Rob Ross (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Looking for something to do with that fancy-schmancy camera and/or phone? Check out the Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge.

Haiku Today 2016.07.04 —

DSC02887
(Image credit: Lyn Gateley)

 freedom rings
promises of life
autonomous

 


 

So here we are again: the 4th of July.

I’m starting to find that the older I get, the more I question the validity of the holidays we gather around. If you’ve been around you might be well aware that every holiday has its holdouts.

Its detractors.

Its naysayers. 

It’s hard to discuss a holiday without at least cracking open thought-boxes filled with hypocrisies and ironies that we pick up regarding these things as we ride out life — the unspeakable-in-polite-company stuff that rains on the parade. They’re easy to suppress, but hard not to think about.

Autonomy is a good one for Independence Day. It is, after all, about freedom . . . of a sort. And it’s an election year no less.

Cha-ching, jackpot.

I don’t talk politics if I can avoid it, except with Mme. Ross. And co-workers, when I’m sure it’s not going to be an issue. I hate it when others bring it up and say something that either makes them look bad or something that I disagree with. Usually that’s something that happens concurrently. So I’m not talking politics here either, but it seems that down the road we get to vote. 

If you believe in that kind of thing. Autonomy for the win!!

. . . right?

You know what I can get behind, though? Running. I can get behind running. This morning I took up my second ever race, and my first in a few years — a non-competitive 5k walk/run to help the Bismarck Cancer Center Foundation. That’s a little ironic in a way, because they focus on chemo and radiation therapies, which I sincerely hope can eventually become a thing of the past. But I figure, the human race sometimes makes baby steps instead of huge strides. It probably depends on who’s footing the bill, and I doubt that 600 runners are going to crack the cancer problem, know what I mean?

Man, I’ve been down so long — cue the B. B. King music here — I’ve been down so long, because of this injury to my feet last Spring. And while it really didn’t start there, I have to wonder why I ever had this crazy idea I could try to get into parkour in the first place. There’s no gyms, no trainers, no clubs around here to speak of where I could train. But we have to start somewhere, right? And I think this is where my running got off track.

To me, running is a different kind of freedom. You can take things and run with them, and that includes yourself. Then sometimes we stop to breathe, reflect, and we figure we might stick around for a little bit before continuing on. Before we know it, we’re stuck in the mud with a whole new set of habits, and getting back on that track well might be a lot harder that we originally reckoned. Sometimes we hit a downward trend long before we see it as such, and that’s unfortunate — but not impossible to reverse.

So after changing my diet and exercise regime to try and get myself to the point where I could do pull-ups, I found myself not only failing to make progress, but trending toward both lower levels of fitness and toward weight gain. Double negative. Then I step hard on a rock with one foot, the same day that I’m pretty sure I overtrained both my Achilles’, and failed to recognize the need for anti-inflammatory medication despite the fact that I hobbled for weeks.

It’s been kind of a hard aspect of the past year, not to mention the insult of a (literally) shrinking wardrobe and building on the failure to train for pull-ups, which I think is just ridiculous. I can push a 1,016 pound sheet of half-inch-thick steel through a shear, yet I couldn’t pull up 170 to 230 pounds from a dead hang.

Life continues to be a head-scratcher, even when we thing we’ve gotten most of it figured out. But that’s why I can get behind running. It’s a simple thing that most people are born to be able to do. It helps keep my head in the game. It guides me toward healthy priorities. Most of all, I think it’s presenting me a reason to look forward to holidays because it turns out that there are races in town that are organized around major holidays: the Turkey Trot, the Santa Run, Ribfest . . . 

Now I can definitely get behind that. That’s legit.


Phillipi
(Image credit: Leonora (Ellie) Enking)

 worlds breathe,
civilizations
find their place —
there’s no use fighting
what always passes.

 


Need an idea? check out today’s Daily Post prompt.

Header image by Felix (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Haiku Today 2015.10.13 —

spinning
(Image credit: Arend Vermazeren)

Earth and I:
lives in parallel,
always spinning

 


I was thinking the other day about this species of tension that people tend to have, between addictions and unmotivated desires; by “people,” of course, I refer to myself. 

But maybe you get what I’m talking about.

There’s stuff I need to do. Things I badly want to get done. Finish the playhouse. Cut back the hedges. Get ready for cold weather. The list is long but the spirit’s not willing. Earlier in the year I had all this motivation and made things happen, but now I feel like my priorities have shifted without observing the courtesy of giving any notice whatsoever. I started to blog again. Started to knit again. Started getting sucked into this fantastic game called Cities: Skylines for hours at a time. Is it the changing of the weather, I wonder? Or did I make the mistake of switching gears too soon? My hands do these things as though they have a mind of their own while the other work languishes.

As the days grow shorter, I find myself spinning more than anything, in the rush to prepare for the coming season. Too much to do, and plenty of time too . . . 

. . . but not nearly enough motivation. 

Spinning around...
(Image credit: Danbo’s World)

Haiku Today 2015.10.08 —

Mist hanging on the trees
(Image credit: Ib Aarmo)

a splendid rise
through obscuring mists —
undefeated

 


 
Have you ever noticed that sometimes there’s a stigmatic backlash whenever the concept of fairness comes up?

This bears mentioning, because in society we have concepts of fairness that are upheld by legislation, regardless: equal opportunity employment, fairness in the workplace, in medicine, in real estate, etc. Whether or not it works is not the issue though, but how sometimes the response to a complaint that something is unfair is that “life is not fair”. Stop being a baby. Suck it up. 

The anticipation of such a backlash can be an obstacle to change, right?

And sometimes, when I feel as though I’ve been treated unfairly, I begin to question myself and my own motivation for feeling that way; maybe I’m missing something. The information I have might be incomplete. Or perhaps I’m just frustrated that something isn’t going my way. 

What’s more is that the farther in the past these things are, the more perspective we gain from their passing from view. We wouldn’t be where we are now if that didn’t happen — so does that change the spin of fairness we ascribe to that event? 

Besides, not getting a fair shake isn’t the worst of life’s evils — things like natural disasters, poverty, famine, perpetual war . . . 

. . . not to mention clowns. 


 
Unfair | The One-Minute Writer

Wicked Witch | The Daily Post

Haiku Today 2015.10.06 —

Mirror to the sky
(Image credit: Alosh Bennett)

my island, home —
mediocre seas
make it grand

 


 
When we used to live near the Capitol in Bismarck, I might have said that the most beautiful place in the neighborhood was the Capitol grounds. The expansive green lawn populated with statues of local heroes and gardens of native flora. The running path I often used. It was a park and a public space where I would go to fly my RC helicopter or play on the lawn with Mme. Ross and Little Miss Laney. 

But when we moved to our new home it was a little different. It’s not that the neighborhood is unsightly in any way, but I just wouldn’t describe any part of it as particularly beautiful. There are really nice houses marked as heritage homes by the historical society and there’s a nice running path behind the high school that never fails to please the eye, but to me there is no place like home; it’s my island. My home base. 

Just like the house I grew up in. Every day started and ended at home, with my family –more or less. 

And though you can’t change the past, you can always change the future because you never know the shape of it until it’s too late to do anything about it. So I make it a priority to make my home everything I had and more. Because it’s not about the bay window in the kitchen and the front and back decks, the swimming pool, the real wood-burning fireplace, the shrubs and trees and the chain link fence. It’s not about the dutch door at the top of the basement stairs or the piano in the basement, unloved and forgotten. 

A family’s home is about family life, and as such my home is a work-in-progress canvas upon which I impose my art. I’m proud of it, and of the work Mme. Ross and I put into shaping it into the most beautiful place in the neighborhood. 

There’s no place like home — after all, that’s where I keep my treasure. 

🙂
 


 

Our House | The Daily Post

Local Beauty | The One-Minute Writer

Haiku Today 2015.10.05 —

Mirror
(Image credit: Moyan Brenn)

fragments of truth,
crashing reflections
never break

 


 

It’s kind of a no-brainer to say that a blog is a personal space, and that as such it should reflect the personality and values of its contributor(s). Rob’s Surf Report is no exception, but it’s been a strange, random sort of evolution. 

I started the blog with the intention of learning and writing about surfing, but life never seems to push me in the right direction when it comes to that. But after rebooting — after months of community interaction, forming the writing habit, spending actual time in considering my desires and goals as they related to my blogging, I decided to stick with the name and to change the philosophy because Rob’s Surf Report had become a different sort of beast. It was more about riding out the waves of day-to -day life, of dealing with the ups and downs, and of finding the takeaway in that daily practice. 

In a way this blog betrays that mid-course change as you might find in some dark corners the vestiges of my original (misguided) intent. But what the blog has become, hopefully, mirrors what I think is my greatest strength (since good looks don’t last forever:) my capacity for reflection, and making connections. For throwing stones, watching the ripples radiate, and then bringing the picture back together in a different light. 

I’m trying to come back to that now, to find ways to do it better, more skillfully — but like any art it requires practice and patience. While the latter is another strength of mine, the former could quite possibly be my undoing. 

It could be better than ever, though. 

I can work toward that. 

🙂


Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall | The Daily Post

Strengths | The One-Minute Writer

Haiku Today 2015.10.01 —

lightning-storm-clouds-lake.jpg
(Image credit: r.nial.bradshaw)

lightning drives,
seeking connection
across worlds

 


Why is it that sometimes the hardest thing about some endeavours is finding the drive to get started in the first place?

We have a billion things to do. Make coffee, clean up, go to work — doing our part in countless ways, and so naturally we have those things that we begin with little effort, but whose completion becomes something of an inconvenience, possibly to the point of falling by the wayside: a half-trimmed hedge that nags at you until it begins using the neighbor’s voice to make itself heard. And yet when there are things that should be quick and easy to do, sometimes we . . .

We hesitate. 

This past Thursday morning it was lightning and rain, so I couldn’t run. That was totally legitimate. Friday it rained. Saturday too. I just won’t run in any rain unless it catches me by surprise. Sunday had me feeling like it was getting ridiculous with all the rain, but Autumn is here and she’s decided to bring the full of her cold, cloudy gloom to our skies. That’s what killed my motivation this weekend. I never got out to the garage. I never got to run. I never found the words.

I noodled around in my vintage-style Flash T-shirt and tried to work up the motivation to throw on my gear and shoot out the door like a bolt of lightning . . .

Instead, I remained static in the cloud of weekend activities.

I’ll do it this morning though, before I get ready for work. I can actually feel the charge of motivation building up.

Isn’t it odd how it’s easier to fit something like that in when you’re supposed to be busy?

Haiku Today 2015.04.06 — We’re not in Kansas Anymore!

pink bloom by Johnson Cameraface
(Image credit: Johnson Cameraface)

 

crowding in
gawkers on the scene
with held breath

 


Do you ever feel like a change would do you good?

I keep trying to think of ways to spice up the routine here on Rob’s Surf Report, but then life interrupts me with dumb things like work and sleep. I made a photo post this past Sunday for the first time in forever, which was a refreshing change, but sometimes it seems like something more drastic could really get the juices flowing — like, what if I switched blogs with someone for a week?

This isn’t something real I’m doing, but consider the implications: a different blog is a different frame for the writing impulse. First of all, if you are a serious blogger posting to someone else’s blog, you’d be more likely to post regularly over the course of the week. You’d also be more likely to craft posts of a higher quality than usual. Is it a competitive streak that compels you to do so, or the wish to respect the other blogger’s space? Does that really matter? We are so often the first to let ourselves lapse. As unforgiving as we are to ourselves sometimes, we can be our own worst enemies when it comes to giving up, or rationalizing inaction in our own lives; but to work in another blogger’s space then holds you responsible for what they find when they return, and so over the short term this could spark a renaissance in work ethic for a floundering blogger.

Of course, this is where Murphy’s Law can come into play. I could be that person that — with all good intentions — orchestrates a switcheroo, only to be forced by unforeseen circumstance to forego blogging for the duration of the week. Whoops! “No big deal,” they say. “Don’t worry though, I took good care of your blog for you. Great idea, by the way.” Only slightly better would it be to be that person who does the right thing, only to find that their counterpart has not blogged at all, for whatever reason. In that situation you get your money’s worth in a mental change-up, while your own blog languishes.

All that aside, though, who would I like to switch blogs with?

Film poster for Freaky Friday - Copyright 2003...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not even sure where to start. To avoid a Freaky Friday of blogging, I’d want to pick something where I’m comfortable slipping into someone else’s shoes. JED’s Okay, What If? is worth a mention, since I have been trying to curate a list of topics for a while: stuff that I never get around to addressing, but that would make good What If fodder, like ‘what if an entire football team was body-snatched?’ or ‘what if an army of shoemaking elves decided to protest Footlocker?’

Now that they’re down on the page, I’m not so sure they’re all that great, but those are just two I threw down; so I think I could enter the What If arena if I only had the time. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself though, since last weekend was Easter and the last I knew, I am able to contribute to that site already. I should do that soon.

To avoid the risk of going overlong here, though, I’m just going to say that there’s already a certain element of the stage to one’s own blog, let alone to assuming control over someone else’s. That would involve getting into a different character, and then interpreting another’s work through your own work. Maybe I could trust myself to do that for another, maybe not. Maybe I could trust him or her to do a good job with my blog, or maybe I’d chew my nails the whole time. If I were given the option to switch blogs with someone for a week, I think I would do the right thing and decline, saying:

 

“there’s no place like home!”

(Daily Post prompt: Switcheroo | Header image by Alan Levine)

Blur —

The more photos I take, the more I realize that for the person who loves to take photographs but knows little about the mechanics of how photography works in the field, things tend to fall to either one of two laws: Murphy’s Law, or the Law of the Jungle; so it went as I attempted to create a photo for this week’s Daily Post photo challenge.

I do all of my shooting with my phone. It’s both a convenient and effective tool for capturing images, and so it’s not necessary for me to have a dedicated camera on hand, ensure that it’s charged, with enough free space in memory to take all the pictures I wanted to at the highest resolution. But it turns out that my phone’s shutter speed is freaky faster than a Jimmy John’s delivery driver. Yesterday when I got to shoot out at my in-laws’ place on the Missouri River, I intentionally tried to get some blurred photos by moving the phone quickly while pressing the shutter button.

A crystal clear, unexciting photo was the result.

I’m almost certain I frowned in confusion. Then I held up the phone, and spun in a circle, pressing the shutter button so rapidly that eventually the photo app threw up a circular arrow popup in an effort to get me to slow the heck down. I got about ten photos, all of them clear as a bell and about as interesting as an audiobook of Ben Stein reading a phone book.

So now I was done trying. Obviously when you wanted to capture an object in motion, you couldn’t; and when you wanted to intentionally blur a photo, you also would fail — Murphy’s Law.

So I began to look for interest in the world around me. This is where I often feel the daunt in photography: like, what really qualifies as an interesting shot? Am I just playing the part, or can I really find something that people would agree is visually appealing? Some day I will learn much more about photography. In the meantime, I figured out how to get my blur by trying to shoot in the direction of the afternoon Sun, while blocking it with my hand so it wouldn’t wash out the CCD and the resulting picture.

Auto-focus was the key here.

Pinching Out the Sun, by Rob Ross
Pinching Out the Sun, © 2015, Robert W. Ross. Creative Commons 3.0 CC BY-NC-SA

It turns out that my phone has a remarkably short focus field; you only have to be about an inch or two away from a subject to focus, and it automatically focuses on the closest subject. My current phone uses touch focus in the native camera app, but I happened to be using Hipstamatic, which doesn’t have a touch focus feature at this time so it focused on my hand. I held the Sun captive for a moment while I took this one. Then I wondered if I could do it with something so insubstantial as a pine needle, so as to get a more or less completely blurred photo.

Sunlight Cutter by Rob Ross
Sunlight Cutter, © 2015, Robert W. Ross. Creative Commons 3.0 CC BY-NC-SA

I got the opposite effect, but no less interesting: it looks like the light of the sun is cutting off the root of the blurry pine needle.

Here’s the upshot: I didn’t think to save blurred photos. I have, up until now, considered them to be garbage (i.e., a good reason to click the garbage can in my photo app.) I haven’t seen one worth keeping yet, but now that I’ve made a few on purpose I’ll probably consider in the future whether a blurry photo I’m viewing has some worth. It’s the least you can do for that unimportant, frozen moment in time. If you think about it, these moments of life — each moment of which should be precious to those who live in it — are now more expendable than ever. The first visual capture device in history was the eye, and those images were recorded in the mind. They could only be transmitted through the spoken word of oral tradition.  Millennia down the road, we began to capture these moments on light sensitive media — first film, and now digital memory. We’ve innovated our way through the challenges — clarity, color, cost, convenience, &c. . . now it seems like these moments are expendable when they don’t meet the strict criteria of the the photographer — their needs, their current mindset, their idiosyncratic preferences.

But what if someone else thought that image was useful? Even if it was worth less than a penny and so had to be given away — would it be worth erasing?

I’m not saying we should keep every image we capture, but maybe more of our images are worth another look.

(Daily Post photo challenge: Blur | Header image by Sophie Asia)

Haiku Today 2015.04.03 —

Baby geese
(Image credit: Sean Winters)

striding youth:
pioneers of truth —
dictators

 


 

Some days I don’t understand kids. At almost three years, my daughter makes every attempt to become Iron Fist #1 — saying no, telling us to stop, telling us it is time to go home . . .

This child is really adamant. It amuses me, more than anything; to think that Little Miss would assume that we would do whatever is commanded of us. Maybe it is worth a shot, when we’re at that point in life.

Goodness knows we don’t typically push like that as adults; those that do wind up in charge, because aggression tends to trump competence. Bullies tend to rule.

Is this world just a bigger version of a school playground?

Something to consider over this weekend.
(Daily Post prompt: Three Letter Words | Header image by Alan Levine)