Friday, March 25, 2016

Amateur Radio and Photography

 With spring officially arrived not only on the calendar, but clearly present when you step out the door here in southern Alberta, it was time that I took a drive and with that in mind, I decided that being I hadn't visited the Drumheller valley in some time, this would be my destination on this day.

Getting prepared was as simple as loading my camera gear, as I keep my truck loaded and ready with all the gear that I think I may want to have with me depending on the season. With overnight trips on the agenda, I keep a full compliment of camping equipment with me, as well as a change of clothes as you never know when you might require them.
Of course it goes without saying that my mobile is well equipped with the communication equipment I use on a daily bases for staying connected locally, regionally, and across the continent and beyond. Having said that, more and more I find that I enjoy working HF portable possibly just while out hiking away from my mobile for the day, as I recently acquired a Yaesu FT-897D with the optional internal batteries that reside in the battery compartment at the bottom of this very fine transceiver.

While I was looking for the ultimate portable all mode ruggedized rig required for what I had in mind, I also had decided on what I felt I would need for an antenna or antennas depending on the day or amount of time I would be spending away from my ham shack at home, or possibly because I would set up a camp for several days, and wanting to operate from my campsite. In the past I have used my mobile for this purpose, but felt it would be nice to back it up with a more portable choice, allowing me to set up and operate without being dependent on my mobile.
 After spending time at my computer modeling various vertical antennas that I felt would serve my purpose, I came up with a design for the 10-60 meter antenna that I felt best served my purpose. With time spent in my shop, this antenna took shape, and it has proven to be a run away winner after being used in the field under different conditions over the past 4 months since I first started this project.

Mind you its not like I don't have other antenna choices stored in my mobile, as I have several of my mobile HF antennas available for the Kenwood TS-480HX mounted in the radio stack, plus the very good design by L.B. Cebik W4RNL, the Inverted U for the 10-20 meter bands that I built back a year or so ago, and it is kept stored in the cargo bay along with my Max Gains systems push up mast and my aluminum mast adapter that mounts in the receiver at the rear of my mobile.
With camp set up I am able to have all these antennas available for use when operating my FT-897D through runs of coax, and an antenna switch at my operating position in the form of my favorite camp chair situated under a lightweight tarp or even beneath the vestibule of one of my two favorite tents that I have stored in my mobile.
With field day coming up in June, I have decided to operate on my own this year, and I have narrowed my choices of an operating location down to two, both locations located in southeastern Alberta on high bluffs with both locations having commanding views to the horizons in all directions.

It goes without saying that I always have my emergency preparedness kit with me that is stored in the cargo bay of my mobile, as you never know when you might need to draw from it. There are times when I just need a snack, as I find myself lingering longer that I planned on while backroading far from any towns that would allow me to visit a restaurant or even a food store. At those times, I break out the rations that I keep in my food box, part of my emergency preparedness kit, and this serves a second purpose, making sure that the food that I have chosen to last over a period of a year or so, is kept reasonably fresh by drawing from it when the circumstance's require that I do so. I normally keep a check list with the food stored in my kit that is time stamped so that I can keep an eye on what needs to be replaced.

These thoughts coursed through my mind as I drove the road in the direction of southeastern Alberta, and in particular the valley east of Drumheller that the Red Deer river flows through and is surrounded by the badlands that I find myself attracted to, possibly because I was born and raised in similar surroundings.
As per usual while I'm going down the road, APRS is running on several of the devices mounted in my mobile. One of the conventional VHF APRS devices that most of you are familiar with for working APRS,  is the Kenwood TM-D710A VE6AB-9 mounted in the radio-stack of my mobile keeping me connected to the APRS network via VHF digipeaters located throughout southern Alberta.
 The second APRS device mounted in my mobile, my VE6AB-15 consisting of my SCS Tracker paired with my Kenwood TS-480HX and its dedicated 30 meter antenna mounted on the rear deck of my mobile. The SCS Tracker for HF APRS VE6AB-15 takes over when the going gets too tough for my VE6AB-9 to be heard due to the terrain and distance from a distant digipeater.
 VE6AB-15 kicks it up a notch, allowing my mobile to be heard by the various RPR (Robust Packet Radio) HF APRS Gateways spread across the North American continent listening on 30 meters.
With a path of WIDE1-1 set in the SCS Tracker, on most days my mobile will be heard and digipeated  before being gated by a HF Gateway allowing my mobile  to make it in to the APRS network.
With the two APRS systems as described here mounted in the radio stack of my mobile operating simultaneously, its a given that I am being heard and kept safe while going down the road no matter where that may be.

Those of you that follow my daily activities through my blog or on my website, know that photography plays a big part in my daily life, and over the years I have had much success with it, having my photographs published in various publications, as well as working as a photographer shooting for clients that have need of the type of service I can provide through the viewfinders of my cameras.
You may also know that I recently retired from what was my full time day job, and I find that this is allowing me to use my skills as a photographer as a means of supporting my various needs that require infusions of cash on occasion.
Now that I am keeping my stock file account loaded and up to date with recently shot images, I find my photos are selling well through the company that I signed with years ago.  Interestingly enough I am finding the type of photos I enjoy shooting are being sought after by various sources that have need of my photographs for specialized publications, the most recent sale to a group of authors who penned a text book on Geology used in Universities. They also were kind enough to send me a copy that now resides in my library.

I always strive to capture the best image that I possibly can when out in the field, and then once the raw file is uploaded to my computer, I will tweak the image if required with Lightroom or Photoshop. Remember though, If you do not put an effort in the capture of the image, then trying to fix it in Photoshop will not work if the photo is lacking in composition, sharpness, or in other areas. Another reason to shoot photos that require little editing, is the fact that stock photo companies will reject images that show artifacts from over zealous editing.

Also remember when shooting any type of photo to keep your photos simple, allowing the viewer's eyes to be immediately drawn to the center of interest in the photograph, as the more complexity you add to your photos, the less chance there is of the viewer knowing what you are trying to convey.

Don't be afraid to bracket your compositions ever so slightly. That way when you pre-view your photos, you will have more choices from which to choose. However if you are like myself, you need to cull the duplicate images or you will find your hard-drives quickly filling up.
I find that it is best to separate myself emotionally from my photos when editing them, so that I can make the hard choices needed to separate the good images from the bad. I bring up each photo on my computer screen and consider sharpness, exposure, contrast, color and whether the file format and size are appropriate. Also evaluate the composition, the impact and uniqueness of the image. This is where you get rid of duplicates and similar images.

On a last note I recently rediscovered metal detecting, and when I need a break from playing ham radio, or shooting photos, I reach for my metal detector and do some prospecting for relics from an earlier time, as this photo of me checking out  a dry wash in the badlands of eastern Alberta shows.

 Now that I rattled on way to long, lets get out and play radio and shoot some photos.

Note....all photos expand.

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