Monday, April 13, 2015

GoPro Hero 4 Black PreReview

My intention is to post a full review of the GoPro Hero 4 Black in a few weeks once I've gotten some more shutter time with it, but I wanted to relay my experiences so far... The unit I was initially provided would lock up at any recording rate more demanding than 1080p 24fps, ruling out 720p 240fps and 4k. It took a long time to get a replacement back from GoPro but they were friendly, and the camera they sent works. Below is a cherry blossom test from DC with a Timelapse and 4k video.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cascade Falls, Patapsco Valley State Park, Maryland - Video Guide

Second episode is up on YouTube, featuring Cascade Falls in Patapsco Valley State Park.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Falling Branch Falls Video Guide

I decided to finally start of video guides for at least the waterfalls in Maryland. The first is of Falling Branch Falls. It runs just short of an hour, although I'll be including shorter clips for impatient viewers.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Time lapse Update

I'm getting a little better with the time lapses...

Friday, March 6, 2015

Maryland Orchid Society Annual Orchid Show 2015

Today I had the joy of visiting the Maryland Orchid Society's Annual Orchid Show at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium. This year, the show was held right inside the main "Cow Palace" with the Home and Garden show that was running concurrently. I'm sure this was great for the orchid vendors, as they probably made lots of extra sales of Phals and other common orchids. I was here for somewhat more esoteric reasons. I had already placed an order with Woodstream Orchids and was really attending the show to avoid having to ship the plants during winter. I ended up buying more orchids than I expected, but that's a good thing. I had been complaining that my collection was down considerably due to move and vacation related losses, so this was a good opportunity to replenish my stock.

In the end, I walked out with...

From Woodstream Orchids (located in MD):
Phragmipedium besseae
Phragmipedium schlimii...
Phragmipedium schlimii (flasked seedlings)
Paphiopedilum tranlienianum
Paphiopedilum primilinum var. purpurascens
Paphiopedilum leucochilum

From Little Brook Orchids (located in PA):
Papiopedilum niveum

Dendrobium kingianum (wonderfully fragrant!!!)
Vanilla planifolia (yup, vanilla)
From Fishing Creek Orchids (located in PA)
Paphiopedilum delenatii var alba

The plants from all three outfits look great and I'm overjoyed to have three good sources of slipper orchids that are relatively local. The folks at Woodstream (Lynn and Bill Goldner, who turned out to be former federal employees like myself) even invited me to visit their greenhouse in the future, which I'm sure I'll take them up on.

A photo of the haul...

The show is still running Saturday and Sunday March 7-8th, so if you are reading this before the end of that period, and you want to see or buy some orchids...get off your butt and get out there!!! The entrance was $12 and was well worth saving the shipping.

More information at:

Timelapse Experiments #1

I've been playing with timelapses the past few days. It is something I had been meaning to do for several years, but just never really got the impetus until I decided I wanted to bring a little spring during the dismal extra dose of winter we just got. Turns out the easiest timelapses I did were of the snowstorm on March 5th. :-P

I've been experimenting with timelapses in two fashions... With my dSLRs and with my iPhone. I'll start by noting that timelapses with the integrated timelapse feature in iOS 8 is very easy but not very controllable. You cannot control anything beyond the focus/exposure and the period the timelapse cannot control how often an image is taken or the total duration of the recording, since it the interval is progressively reduced as you record longer and longer, resulting in a faster paced timelapse of roughly the same 20-30 second length no matter what. I also noticed a tendency for the iPhone 5 to pick up pulsation in the lighting, even when under incandescent lighting. The iPhone 6 did not exhibit this issue and only seems to display it while in slo-motion mode.

Here are some examples:

I've also been experimenting with several methods of using my dSLRs for timelapses. One camera was set up on umbilical power with a Canon remote release that has an integrated intervalometer. This is the best dSLR option and was my ideal camera, but the shots with it kept running into trouble because I had it trained on some daffodils that kept moving. I'm not used to plants that move quite so much as daffodils. Another camera was running on batteries and used Magic Lantern for an intervalometer. Finally, the third camera was running on batteries and was using Canon's EOS Utility as an intervalometer. Of these options, the EOS Utility seemed to work better, but only slightly. Running on battery power was the main disadvantage both cameras had, as they kept needing fresh batteries...and one camera I only have one battery for so it meant gaps in recording.

Here is a decent dSLR example:
My experiments led me to buy a GoPro Hero 4 Black to use for timelapses, because my two primary dSLRs would take too much shutter usage if I used them for timelapses, and my other dSLR would require additional accessories and would still run into the shutter issue. I'll continue to use the dSLR for macro timelapses and things that the GoPro is not suited for recording, but I think it will be tasked with timelapse duty a lot.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

National Aquarium in Baltimore, February 28, 2015

I visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore today with my friend Jeff Compton and his daughter. I haven't been to the National Aquarium in several years, so I was excited to see the changes, including the jellyfish (although I've seen a similar display in Chattanooga). The highlight actually turned out to be the birds and the Golden Lion Tamarin/Marmoset. I've been wanting to see a marmoset there for YEARS and finally I saw one today.

Birds (and a bat) first:

They've changed the dolphin setup. They no longer do scheduled shows, which is nice for the dolphins, and even nicer for the visitor, because the little amphitheater is basically deserted.

I FINALLY saw the Tamarin!

And finally, some video (sound edited out) of the jellies.

I hope you enjoyed the photos. For the curious, today I was using my lightweight Canon EOS Rebel SL1, which is my "I'm definitely not a professional photographer so don't hassle me" camera along with my Canon EF 50/1.8 "plastic fantastic" lens (for the jellies) and my ancient "I'm not a professional because it isn't white please ignore the red ring" telephoto Canon EF 100-300/5.6L lens (for the birds, bat, dolphins, and tamarin). All rights are reserved on the photos and videos, please do not use them without my permission, although you're certainly welcome to link to this posting or share the link to the YouTube video. In all, a pleasant way to spent a cold day in Baltimore. And it WAS cold. The Inner Harbor was frozen.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Handi-Foil BBQ King Orchid Moisture Tray Solution

As a totally random aside, as should be obvious from my Alaska trip report, I am a total orchid fanatic. I chase them in the wild, photograph them in botanical gardens, and grow them at home. Unfortunately, I'm forced to grow my orchids under lights and in less than ideal humidity, as I live in an apartment. Currently, my collection has suffered dramatic losses due to a move and several two-week vacations without adequate watering, but my Mexipediums and several other hardy varieties have survived and I wanted to encourage some new growth that I'm seeing. I had been using tin foil trays with pots in standing water for some time before my move...this worked well, but it encouraged root rot if the medium wasn't changed every year...and that was with Orchiata bark, which is usually good for several years. I had been planning on buying legitimate moisture trays eventually, and may still do so, but I found a wonderful makeshift solution in the Handi-Foil BBQ King aluminum tray. It is a ribbed, perforated tray that fits nicely into several other Handi-Foil trays (or other aluminum foil pan brand trays, really). They come in a pack of 7. SKU / UPC: 052092205641.

Check the video for more details:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Yellowstone National Park/Grand Tetons National Park - September 2013 Trip Report

Yellowstone National Park/Grand Tetons National Park - September 2013 Trip Report

As I mentioned in my May 2012 YNP/GTNP Trip Report, I did not get sufficient time on the ground to satisfy my need to explore Yellowstone National Park, thanks to an untimely snowstorm that ultimately closed the south entrance of YNP and trapped me in Jackson Hole. Not a horrible place to be, but I had expected at least one more day in Yellowstone. So, I started planning my next trip to Yellowstone almost immediately. I ultimately was able to book lodging in the park this time around, a week at the historic Old Faithful Inn ( and a week at the Lake Lodge Cabins ( I had to share a bathroom for my week at the Old Faithful Inn, but that wasn't that big of a deal for somebody who lived in the dorms at the University of Maryland-College Park. What was far worse was the NASTY, mold riddled bathroom in my cabin by the lake. I DO NOT recommend the Lake Lodge Cabins. Xanterra has a lot of work to do with respect to those cabins. I understand their age, but the amount of mold I encountered was simply unacceptable. That little mold rant over, let us get started with the trip report.

Due to the fog of time, I'm not going to be able to go into anywhere as much detail as I did in my Alaska Trip Report, so instead I'm going to just give a general overview of how my trip went. My intention was that I would spend the week at the Old Faithful Inn mostly visiting the thermal areas of the park, and the week at the Lake Lodge Cabins mostly doing wildlife photography. I actually was able to stick to this schedule fairly well. I spent the first few days in the park exploring Geyser Hill and the Old Faithful area, getting to see Old Faithful Geyser play many times. I also saw Grand Geyser play twice, several plays of Castle Geyser, and also some smaller geysers playing.

Above you'll find some photos of Old Faithful Geyser playing. You can see that I took the time to hike up the hill to get some photos from above.

Grand Geyser

Morning Glory Pool

A little bit smaller geyser.

Castle Geyser.

Human for scale. Actually, he kept getting in our photos...

Blue Star Pool.
I also got to visit several other thermal areas, including Norris Geyser Basin, Fountain Paint Pots, etc... One particular highlight that proved nearly impossible to photograph was Grand Prismatic Spring. Since I was travelling solo and it was in bear country, I did not make the bushwhack up the hill to get a steam-free photograph. The NPS isn't too keen on folks doing it, although as far as I am aware it is not banned outright...yet.

I spent the latter portion of my trip exploring the northern and eastern parts of the park, which are more mountainous in parts and more prone to wildlife sightings in parts. I was lucky enough to see Bison, Brown Bears, and many other animals, especially in the two main valleys of the park, Lamar and Hayden.

I was also blessed with the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and spend a morning getting some nice morning photography done.

I finished up my trip with some time in Grand Tetons National Park, where I got some quality time with a black bear and some other wildlife.

It was a good trip. I've complied some video for your enjoyment. It runs around 48 minutes and covers most of the major thermal areas of Yellowstone National Park, with many geysers:

* Just a note... The photographs and videos on this website are an exception to my normal share and share alike with no commercial use license. They are Copyright Joshua Szulecki and MAY NOT be used without permission. I do NOT want to see them showing up on your website without my permission.