Thursday, May 31, 2012

Photography And Rving

I am not a professional photographer.  By that I mean I do not make my living by taking pictures.  But I have taken a lot of snapshots, slides, and short videos over the years.  And of course I have my opinions.  My father took many thousands of pictures with a couple of different cameras.  He too was no professional, but I think a good picture taker.  I still have and use (occasionally) his Voitlander Prominent from approx 1953.  When I was first an adult with a family I decided I would learn about photography and getting good pictures.  Then in 1980 I bought an Olympus OM2.  And extremely well made 35mm that has worked flawlessly since new.  I read a number many many "how to take good pictures books."  I had a whole series from Time-Life who seemed to put out quantities of book series in the 1960's - 1980's.  After getting all this gear and knowledge I bought a bunch more hardware and used up hundreds of rolls of film.  Until recently I have boxes of old negatives from decades of pictures taking.

So now we are in 2012 and you know things have changed as Eastman Kodak has now declared bankruptcy.  But to take the kind of pictures you normally use with RVing such as

  What are the things we need to be concerned about?

  • If you just want to take simple pictures for putting on Facebook what do you need?  The answer is almost anything will work fine.  A good smartphone with a minimum of 5 mega pixels and an HD video capability will take pleasing pictures for posting on Facebook.  In my opinion phones will less than the above capabilities are not good enough.  Almost any compact point and shoot digital camera will work fine also.  I have had three Sony's and they have been reliable and the results have been good.  In addition, almost any camera you have around the house that uses film will work fine too.  You do not have to toss out your film cameras.  This week I took a roll of film with one of my oldest point and shoot cameras and sent it to a lab in San Clemente.  They developed it in 24 hours and I already have my shots back through the internet.  I will get a CD with higher resolution files in a day or two.  And guess what.  The old film camera shots really look better and more detailed than digital pictures I took with my 8 mega pixel phone.  That is because standard film cameras operate with 100 mega pixels.  Even with less than fabulous lenses film is so finely detailed that you can get great detailed pictures using film.  
  • Lets say you want to go just beyond Facebook and have good looking shots to put on your TV or large computer monitor.  We have now just made a big leap.  In my opinion as a minimum you need a camera with a well made lens and about 15 mega pixels if it is digital.  And once again pretty much any old film camera will work as well.  Just make sure when you get your digital scans back you specify the higher setting as far as fine detail.  My processor offers 5.6 mega pixels as standard and 16.5 mega pixels as optional.  Since most film has that 100 mega pixel capacity, getting digital with 16.5 mega pixels is a cake walk.  
  • If you want to really have the images "pop" on your big screen TV or blow up prints beyond 11" x 17" you are going to need to be picky with a digital camera.  You will need a camera with a fine lens and a camera capacity of at least 16 mega pixels.  Or you can use you old film SLR and have the processor send you back the high pixel digital.  
  • Keep in mind that Ansel Adams used a big camera with a huge piece of film to get the finely detailed images that he is famous for.  
I have lately decided to use all of my old cameras with at least one roll of film each year.  Plus I have started to research getting a better digital camera.  In the first case I have found out that my old cameras work pretty good.  And in the second I have found that digital cameras have a lot of ins and outs and are a technology that is still very much in development.  In no way (in my humble opinion) are fine digital cameras a perfected technology.  The absolute top end digital cameras offer up to 36 mega pixels.  Old film cameras are 3 times that.  And top end SLR cameras from the best makers like Nikon and Cannon are bulky big things.  Way bigger than my elegantly made OM2.  Olympus has just come out with a new digital camera that looks a lot like my old OM2.  The size and look are similar.  But to get it that size they had to compromise the sensor size and were not able to include an actual optical viewfinder.  

Lenses.  Back when I read all the books about taking pictures all of the experts said the same thing about lenses.  The most useful lens is a standard one of about 45-55mm.  It is the one you will use the most.  The second most useful lens is a wide angle of between 28-35mm.  Next is a mild telephoto lens or a portrait lens of about 80mm.  They advised that very high telephoto lenses were for people that want to take nature shots.  Usually of animals.  I have taken thousands of pictures.  I have had a telephoto lens for years.  I have hardly used it.  The problem for me is that it is almost impossible to take people and standard "place" shots.  People shots you normally need a standard lens or lower.  And when you go see a cathedral somewhere you need a wide angle lens not a telephoto.  

Fixed lenses almost always give finer details than zoom lenses.  My old Voitlander had as a standard lens a 50mm 1.5F.  Most zoom lenses only stop down to 3.5 or more.  Plus there are all those moving parts in the lens and it is nearly impossible to keep everything aligned exactly right at every length.  Zoom lenses for the movies made by Panavision cost tens of thousands of dollars.  Consumer camera lenses with zoom do not compare with fixed lenses by the same maker.  You can easily see the difference if you look at the results closely.  

My conclusions.  If you just want Facebook quality pictures anything will do.  If you want sharp clear pictures on a big screen you need very sharp lenses with lots of pixels.  Don't throw out you old film cameras.  Just like any hobby or sport it is almost always more important that the person have the skills and talents than the gear.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Top Ten Best Places To RV To In The USA

It is Spring and time to think about this years destinations.  The USA is a big place and there is a lot to choose from.  We are planning to do a really large loop this year and basically go Southern California to Seattle to Cleveland back Route 66 to Southern California.  It is a long trip and the time to leave will come up quick.

Over the years I have been to every State except North Dakota.  I am going to add ND to the visited list this year and then I will have seen them all.  But where are the best places to go?  That depends on you and what you like to see and where you start and plan to finish.  People basically break down into two groups.  You have the "people", people, and you have the "thing" people.  I am a "thing" person.  So when I think of travel it is in terms of seeing and exploring new places and points of interest.  There are many people who are "people" people.  When they think of travel it is who they are going to visit.  In my opinion the best motor home trips are the ones that combine both.  As we plant to do this summer.

But of the places what are the best ones to see in an RV?  Here is my top ten list.  It is in order of the best first.
  1. Yellowstone - Grand Teton.  Absolutely without a doubt in my mind the best place in the USA to visit for any type of family vacation or RV vacation.  This is a National Park with ACTION.  Large wild animals, spouting geysers, beautiful lakes and mountains, magnificent waterfalls, fishing, hiking, you name it.  If you have not been here plan to go as soon as possible.  It should be number one on your bucket list.  
  2. Glacier National Park.  My recommendation is that even if you go here in an RV you book at few nights in some of the old hotels in the park.  The finest view from a hotel I have ever experienced is from the Many Glacier Lodge.  Glacier Park has lots of animals, scenic mountains, beautiful glacial lakes.  Be sure to include Waterton Park just across the border in Canada to your visit.  
  3. Yosemite.  The "range of light" should be seen by everyone.  If you can possibly make it in May try to do so.  The waterfalls are much greater when they have the spring runoff in them.  
  4. Grand Canyon.  It takes your breath away.  See both sides.  Williams is a good place to stay in an RV on the south side.  There are also RV parks close to the south rim.  There is a beautiful RV park on the north rim.  Might not fit the largest RVs.
  5. The area north east of the Grand Canyon to Mesa Verde.  When you leave the Grand Canyon go up towards the Cameron Trading Post and then into the Monument Valley area.  Stay in Monument Valley.  Take the tour.  Take the road up towards Bluff.  See the ancient native American ruins.  Stop at four corners.  Go through Mesa Verde.  
  6. Oregon.  Oregon is RV heaven.  There are big rivers, mountains, ocean, volcanoes, a couple beautiful cities and towns (Ashland, Jamestown, Florence, Bend, and Portland, plus quite a few more), lots and lots of RV repair places, great State campgrounds, many great commercial campgrounds, and is generally a really beautiful place during the RV season.  Oh, and very nice people.  
  7. Montana - Wyoming Similar to Oregon put bigger mountains and no ocean.  Things to see and do include Frontier Days, Cody western museum, Yellowstone-Grand Teton, Jackson, Bozeman, Flathead Lake, Glacier NP.  
  8. Utah Red Rock Country - Start at St George, go east till you can turn left to Arches Park, ride a bike in Moab.  Every color of rock you can imagine in every shape.  Bryce Park takes your breath away.
  9. Arizona in general.  From the Grand Canyon to Bizbee this is a great State to RV in.  Lots of sights of various types.  Generally clear weather, but very hot in the lowlands in summer.  Set up well for RVing.  
  10. California - There are so many things to do in CA that I don't have enough space for them all.  If you have a smaller RV you can do many more things in CA.  Big class A's just don't fit well down route 1 through Big Sur.  They also do not fit in most State Parks.  There are also lots and lots of people here and some really big traffic problems.  See if you can avoid the traffic.  If you have a smaller RV you have many choices to camp by the ocean.  If you have a big RV there are far fewer.  A good place to go with a big RV is Pismo Beach.  I really like camping in the 49er area in the old gold mining towns.  Again these are small roads and many places cannot accommodate a big RV.  Borrego and Palm Springs are great RV places in the winter.  
Any list like this will have your own preferences in them.  I like the USA west of Denver.  That is reflected in my picks.  There are many things to see and explore east of Denver.  I just like the western places better. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mission Bells Weekend In Tecolota

These last few days the club has been up at beautiful Tecolota RV Park.  Rolling hills, birds, ducks, emus, good  food, and so on.

We had three ez up sun shields and that was more than enough to keep us comfortable.

 A few walked the hills.

And some played cards and built fires.

But as usual a very good time was had by all.  We were also blessed by near perfect weather.  And very good cooking.  

Getting Started

This Mission Bells RV Club San Diego blog was started to share our adventures related to RVing with the other members so we can keep up on the activities of the members and the club.  Blogs are for stories of adventures and thoughts + pictures.  Please make sure pictures uploaded to the blog are not huge files.