Photo Blogging Challenge: October 2013’s theme is…

Oct 02

Hey, it’s photo challenge time again!

I hope others are enjoying this monthly challenge as much as I have. I would love to see us grow a little bit, so feel free to let others know about this and hopefully we can pull a few more people into it. In the end, it’s not too difficult — take the theme, interpret it, take five posts, do a blog post and link up here.

Simple!

So, onward and upward.

The summer is gone. The fall is here (for many). The colors are changing. Football, crisp air — everything beautiful about this season.

Before you even get to the theme, I’m sure you have a clue where this is going. But here’s the beauty, by taking just the word, there are so many ways to interpret the theme. Please just remember to use photos you’ve taken this month, not past shots. That defeats the purpose of the challenge. Have fun with it!

And spread the word!

Remember, too, if you haven’t posted a link for your September challenge, there’s still some time.

As a reminder of a few things, let me copy and paste this from last month:

  • I have an e-mail reminder list set up. Basically, I’ll e-mail the group with about 10 days left in the month to remind you. When I remember, I’ll also shoot one out the day before the end of the month, as a reminder to post the following day. I can’t always guarantee that one though! If you are not on the list, let me know in the comments below that you would like to be on it.
  • Second, I set up a Facebook group for those who are interested. Reminders and maybe some discussions or other things can be done there.
  • If you haven’t already, attempt to check out everybody’s posts and consider commenting. These challenges are great for personal growth, but it’s also nice to be interactive with all the others in the challenge!

Before we hit up this month’s theme, for new people, allow me to refresh the rules a bit.

Here’s how it will work.

  • On the first of each month, I’ll have a blog post here with the theme for the month.
  • Over the course of the month, participants will take photos with their interpretation of the theme. On the last day of the month, participants should  publish their blog post, which will include five photos from the month. (please don’t recycle photos from the past … the idea is to hopefully challenge you to go out and take new photos each month to interpret the theme). And please only use photos you took.
  • I’ll have a link-up thing at the end of my post so people can come and post the links to their posts so, hopefully, everybody can go go check out and comment on other posts.

There is no rule on equipment or anything. Use a cell phone. Use film. Use a point-and-shoot. Use a DSLR. It doesn’t matter. Just make sure you publish your blog post on the last day of each month, come here and link up.

It’s simple!

Your blog posts can be as simple or as in-depth as you want. I’ll likely talk a little about each photo. But if all you want to do is post photos, feel free. The idea of this is to give a small challenge and give everybody a chance to express themselves with photography, participate in a challenge and have something to blog about.

That’s it. Easy, right? So join in! Help us continue to grow this challenge by telling fellow bloggers/photographers about the challenge and hopefully it can become a great monthly thing!

For those still with me, this month’s theme is: Fall.

I’m pretty sure most people who have participated are in the fall months — and if you’re not, well, insert your season here! Or, totally go in a different direction — which is why I used “fall” instead of “autumn.”

Please make sure your blog post publishes Wednesday, Oct. 30 (I am going a day before the end of the month as I figure some people do Halloween-related posts on the 31st I’ll post the new theme on the 31st or Nov. 1st)

If you think you are going to take part in this, drop a comment below so we can see who all might be trying to tackle this challenge!

History of the challenge (past month’s themes – links to see everybody else’s posts are at the end of the linked post):

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog@gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Cleansing the mind and body with a day of geocaching

Sep 23

Nature really can be medication for the mind and body.

Being stressed recently with the job situation, I needed to get out. Last weekend, I had the chance to meet up with a friend, Tavis, and head out on a day-long geocaching excursion.

It’s always fun to find a geocache out in the woods.

This went beyond regular old geocaching, though. Let me re-phrase that — it went beyond a power day of caching where the majority of caches found are park-and-grabs.

It was going to be some hiking, which is good as well because I haven’t been as active as I should be since my summer gig ended. Though my weight has remained about the same, I needed to get some activity going as I want it to keep going down, not staying status quo. The plan was to conquer Mine Kill State Park, which had a whole heap of caches among their trail system.

Turns out, this is what my mind and body needed. Though, I will say, my feet were killing me at the end of the day. That’s not just from the walking, though, it’s also from the terrain and because some of the trails were quite soupy and I didn’t have waterproof shoes on!

Anyway, back to the post at hand.

With everything going on in my world, my mind had made my stress level go through the roof. Seriously, for those of you who have battled a long bout of unemployment and such and understand, the stress level is through the roof.

So sometimes you need to find a way to ignore it all. Geocaching is the perfect hobby for that.

(For those who don’t know about geocaching and want to learn more, I’ve done a 101 series on the blog. Click the part you’d like to read: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

A place to sit and look at the lower falls at Mine Kill State Park.

The day started out with a quick grab along the way and then we went to the first part of Mine Kill, the falls. There are trails leading to the bottom, so you can see that part of the falls.

After hiking down to the bottom part, it was back up top to the viewing spot for the upper falls. Two caches were in this part of the park. We then headed into the main part of the park where another 13 caches awaited us, and then two more at the connected power authority.

Heck, that’s a day all on its own!

The trail systems in Mine Kill are quite nice. There’s some terrain and most of the geocaches were pretty easy to find, once you got to the area. We saw some wild trees, some great nature and some cool places.

Just what geocaching should be.

The caches in the park took a few hours, but it was a perfect day for it. The sun was out for much of the day, but it had a little feel of fall. Therefore, part of the day required a sweatshirt, which was nice because that meant it wasn’t too hot to hike.

The day was filled with a ton of great caches.

We even stopped at one point to make some lunch and enjoy just being outside. The views through much of the park at Mine Kill is quite beautiful.

I’ve been to this park a couple of times before, but mainly for the falls. It was nice to get out and explore the park a bit, take some photos and see different parts.

We had originally also planned on hiking up to Vroman’s Nose, but with a full day of hiking already under our belts, it was decided that was better saved for another day. Instead, we then focused on a few shorter hikes in smaller town parks and a bunch of park-and-grab caches to finish off the day.

Of those local parks, one ended up being on a trail that was pretty overgrown. To make it easier coming out, we actually walked our way through a cornfield. Now that was interesting.

How’s that corn?

One of the caches we found was a memorial for Old Blenheim Bridge, an historical covered bridge that was washed away when Irene came through a few years ago. It’s sad to see that spot as it is now as it was one of my favorite covered bridges in New York.

Toward the end of the day, we hit up a small town park, where there was a multi and a letterbox hybrid. We found both, but there must have been some festival earlier in the day as there were still people milling around. There was also some tug-of-war competitions going on.

In the end, it turned out to be one heck of a day as I ended with 35 finds (Tavis had one or two more as we found a couple I had previously found), so not bad at all.

And it was good because my mind wandered for the entire day and that was something I needed.

Here are a few more photos from that day:

Colorful nature.

Signing the log.

Found — without trespassing!

Sign we saw at a fishing access. Looked old school.

Sign in Mine Kill State Park. Looked like an old wanted poster.

The lower falls at Mine Kill.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Geocaching can be a way to forget about life for a while

Jan 30

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about geocaching.

And that’s probably because I haven’t been doing it much. With all the other things going on in life, I haven’t really been out finding things. Part has been the weather — I’ve definitely turned into more of a fair-weather geocacher — and it’s also part because there’s not much locally I haven’t found. It makes no sense to waste gas money to travel 40 or more miles to get a micro.

Caching in the winter can make for some interesting ways to make a find.

So, I try and budget time for a few caches whenever I go somewhere.

As long as all goes well, that will change this weekend. Me and a few friends are going to do an old-fashioned geocaching day. It will include 20 or so caches (as long as all goes well) and an event. We’ll leave early enough to cache before the event and leave with time to hit a few more on the way home and make a fun day of catching up and caching.

I miss days like that, so hopefully it will be good to do.

The reality is, my mind has been pretty much wondering about employment. That’s why I try and mix things up, whether it be blogging, caching, the new homebrewing obsession, photography or something else. The mind needs to wander. Life isn’t grand right now, that’s for sure. But as long as I can keep my sanity, I’ll hopefully get through all of this.

Geocaching is one of those activities that help make you forget about life for a while. You get out, get a little exercise, enjoy nature and find some plastic boxes in the woods, or whatever else has been hidden.

The event is one I’ve wanted to attempt for a couple of years. In its third year, it’s held on a frozen lake. They fish, they grill, they play croquet (hell yeah!) It’s also a chance to get outside, breathe some fresh air and enjoy life a little.

Saturday’s weather forecast seems perfect for this — 27 degrees and partly cloudy. I just hope the crazy weather we’ve had yesterday and today won’t mess it up. It’s been rainy and today could reach the 50s.

We did have two weeks of frigid temperatures, so hopefully the ice is thick enough to withstand this unseasonably warm wave. It would stink to not be able to actually go out on the ice! Tomorrow is supposed to start the decline in temperatures with a high around 40 and it keeps dipping to 26 (with a few snow showers) on Friday and then 27 on Saturday.

I am ready to get out and find some caches!

There will be the caches, too. Though several are park-and-grabs, there are a few of bigger sizes, which is nice. I even did the planning the way I used to — somewhat in-depth, to hopefully help us grab a whole heap of caches.

There might not be a ton of snow still, but there will likely be enough to make it feel like caching in the winter. Snow poses its own set of difficulties when caching, especially when caches are low to the ground!

But, it’s nice to get out in the winter, too. There should be photo opportunities this weekend and it will be fun to catch up with a few others I haven’t hung out with in a while.

And we’ll get some smileys to boot.

Everybody needs a way to get away and escape reality. Hopefully this weekend will allow me to do so.

Now to figure out where the heck I put my GPS so I can load it and be ready!

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Good riddance: Geocaching challenges finally sent packing

Dec 05

Finally.

Groundspeak, the owners of geocaching.com, have finally come to some sort of senses and gotten rid of Challenges, a feature they launched last year. Though nobody ever came out and said this (that I saw), it was undoubtedly a way to try and appease the mass of people who have been clamoring for the return of virtual geocaches.

I gave this concept thumbs down last year when it was created. I never saw enough improvements to change that opinion. Apparently Groundspeak’s opinion of the Challenges wasn’t great either.

See ya, Challenges! Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out!

Everything seemed so rushed. There were countless numbers of flaws with what they launched and it was way too easy to get around the system and users could score more “finds” by doing all the work from their computer. I saw several challenges where people from around the world found an image needed and posted it, despite the reality that they didn’t actually complete the challenge.

And, “owner’s” hands were tied.

See, with geocaches, an owner owns the geocache. That means if you armchair a find, I can delete it. With challenges, you didn’t have that option. In fact, once you created it, it was done. You couldn’t do anything from that point forward. You didn’t even get notifications that somebody completed the challenge you created!

No editing.

No deleting.

No verifying.

Nothing.

What’s the point then?

The idea of geocaching is to get out and find something. It’s a way to get outside and see something. Not just sit on the computer and search for images so you can “claim” a find.

Heck, after initially having them “count” toward your finds for geocaches, Groundspeak at least was smart enough to switch that up.

This is what Groundspeak had to say in a post to its forums Tuesday afternoon:

In our effort to inspire outdoor play through Geocaching, we are often faced with decisions about what to focus on next, and what to focus on less. It is through these decisions that we explore opportunities to grow the global game of geocaching.

Occasionally, during this process, we are faced with the reality that certain ideas don’t catch on as we had hoped. In these situations we owe it to ourselves and to you to make tough decisions about the future of every project and the resources to be applied to each. Sometimes, as a result, cool features must become casualties.

In this spirit, we have decided to retire Geocaching Challenges.

This means that, effective today, we have disabled the ability to create new Challenges. We have also removed the Challenges application from all mobile application stores. In approximately 7 days, we will be removing all traces of the Challenges functionality and related content from Geocaching.com.

On an office wall here at HQ is a sign that reads, “Let’s make better mistakes tomorrow.” By accepting that we will sometimes get it wrong, we can allow ourselves to learn from and imagine new opportunities in the world of Geocaching. Our hope is we can take the lessons from Challenges and create better tools to guide you on your next adventure.

Kudos to Groundspeak for realizing that this was a failed idea.

Geocaching had grown to an amazing size and with Groundspeak being the main players in this game, the company needs to try different things. I don’t blame them for attempting this.

And I personally hope Groundspeak doesn’t decide to bring virtuals back. The ones that are out there now are just fine. They are able to be done and that’s great. But as this game continues to grow, if there’s not a serious set of rules with virtuals, they’ll be overused and become a bunch of trash. I don’t want a virtual cache to take me to a parking lot, which you know would happen.

If Groundspeak wanted to work with some National Parks or something and unveil some virtuals in conjunction with places like that, I’d be all for it. But not for opening them back up to anyone. It would get out of hand.

For today, Challenges are on the way out and I applaud Groundspeak for making this decision. It makes the game better by not having Challenges and it, hopefully, will help the game swing back to what it was originally intended to do — get outside and find something.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog@gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Notes from my noodle: September 25 edition

Sep 25

“Get busy living or get busy dying…”

I’m sure many of you may remember that quote from the Shawshank Redemption, said by Red, portrayed by Morgan Freeman.

I write this post as I listen to some big-band era swing music. It’s some pretty sweet stuff. It can get you in the mood to be creative. Though I’ll readily admit not being a fan of a lot of jazz music, there’s something about the big-band era that really works for me.

Especially the songs with the faster pace and beat. Songs like “Sing, sing, sing” by Benny Goodman. Excellent stuff. Makes me thing of the 1920s and 1930s. Gangsters. Prohibition. Suits. Cigars.

Ahhh… talk about a time in history.

Recently, I was at a friend’s wedding. During the dinner portion, the DJ played some swing music. A couple people got out and danced. It was kind of fun to watch.

I was then chatting to a friend about this era of music and noted if I could go and live in a different era, this would be the one.

Back when Zoot Suits were the norm.

And I’m not a supporter or advocate for organized crime, but there’s something about the gangsters from that era. The suits. The cars. The Tommy Guns — AKA a Chicago typewriter.

And, of course, swing music.

I’m not sure what I would have been. Maybe I’d still have been a scribe. I could see covering the Yankees or something back then for one of the many New York papers. Maybe I’d have been on the crime beat.

Heck, maybe I’d have been a gangster. Chewing a cigar and rat-a-tatting with the Tommy Gun.

Who knows.

But what an era.

I know a lot of people don’t listen to music when they write. And, for the most part, I can’t listen to music with words when writing. But tunes such as classical pieces or the swing band era can keep my mind rolling as I write.

And with the jazzy stuff I have playing tonight, it’s got me thinking of old cars (Like the Ford Model Ts and As) and the prohibition era of time. Black and white.

That’s the era I’d definitely love to be in if not for now.

And while you read the rest of this post, have a listen to a little Benny Goodman:

YouTube Preview Image

****

As many of you know, I’m still working on finding a job. The resumes keep going out and I can’t seem to find much. I’ve thankfully landed something on a part-time basis, but it’s basically once a week and it’s not even every week. Still, it’s something to help me along and get something more recent on the resume.

So, I’ve been looking at career changes. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that here before.

I recently visited a school for a program I’m highly interested in. I’m not going to spill all the beans here because I hate putting things out there until I know for sure if I’m going to do it or not. Some friends already know as I needed to see what some people thought.

My issue?

I don’t want to fail — again.

Though I realize I didn’t fail in newspapers and journalism, the industry failed me. And I don’t think it’s getting any better. And with barely anything in a retirement fund, I need something different.

I’ve watched others go the route of changing careers during the mid-life years and do well. Heck, take a peek at my brother who fully changed directions and went into teaching and now he’s a tenured teacher at a good school.

Might as well give it a go, yeah?

So, I’ve e-mailed one other school today in hopes of being able to compare the two programs. There’s a significant price differential in the program, as well as hours needed and the time frame to finish. The end result would likely be me going into business for myself. It’s something I’m thinking long and hard about.

Once I decide, believe me, I’ll share with the readers of the blog. For now, I’ll leave it with my seriously considering a massive change in career direction.

****

Speaking of writing and career things, I’ve also finally sat down to work on a couple of fictional books. These likely won’t be huge books, but I’m hoping to write them and see where it takes me.

I don’t fathom any riches here.

I need to get working on my book ideas so I can one day have a book like this!

The reality is, I’ll likely publish them on myself. If any money is made, it will basically just be a bonus. My thing is just getting it done. Then seeing about shaping it and all from there. If something bigger comes out of one of these, awesome. If not, it’s more of a goal to just do it.

My big issue with fiction is shaping the story.

I have a couple of real-life things I’m working on, too. I’m not sure if they will be full-blown books, a series here on the blog or something along the lines of an Amazon Kindle Single. But, I am hoping to work on those, too.

I need to push forward. I’ve applied and applied for things to get squashed. I guess it’s time to take the bull by the horns…

****

I went on a small trip Sunday, heading up to Ithaca to hike a bit, find some waterfalls and take a few photos.

But I also got to play disc golf for the first time since early June.

Taughannock Falls just outside of Ithaca. I took this shot Sunday during a day trip to the Ithaca area.

It was nice to get out and flip a few discs on an actual course. To be fair, it was just a nine-hole course, but it was so nice. It’s also good because I’m playing in an Ace Race in a couple of weeks. While I don’t expect to do anything major in that Ace Race, I’d at least like to know I can throw a disc well enough to get it close to baskets!

As for the day overall, it was nice.

For those of you who have never been to Ithaca, it’s a wonderful little city. The city’s motto is “Ithaca is Gorges.” There are many gorges and waterfalls to explore throughout the area, so it makes for a nice day trip.

In total, I got to see several awesome waterfalls and hiked — including the disc golf — upward of 3.5-4 miles, which is always nice to do.

I had been worried about the waterfalls and how much water would be coming off them, considering the lack of rain we’ve had all summer. Alas, recent rains made most of them vibrant falls. All but one were fun to check out and take photos of — in all their glory.

And yes, there were a few geocaches mixed in as well.

In the end, it was a good getaway from the real-world issues going on in my life. Nature can do that to you.

**** 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the passing of a well-known local person.

Sid Levine died Sunday at the age of 99. I only knew Levine in his later years as he owned part of the Oneonta Tigers, the minor-league team I covered for six years. A quiet man, Levine was one of the nicest people I dealt with. He also was a no-nonsense person. He didn’t worry about what people though, he told you how it was.

And that’s how it should be.

He, along with co-owner Sam Nader, ran the local team up until selling in 2008. The team then left the area before the 2010 season.

I dealt with and developed a stronger relationship with Nader, now 93, but toward the end of the run of the Tigers, I also got to know Levine. He was always a gentleman and had an infectious smile. And he knew his baseball.

Nader and Levine were close friends for more than 75 years and when I visited with Nader one afternoon earlier this year, I had to come after a certain time as he and Levine still met nearly every day to chat.

Levine’s legacy in the Oneonta area will live on for a long time. But he’ll be missed, that’s for sure — for many more reasons than baseball.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Foto Friday: Finding waterfalls

Sep 21

The waterfalls at this area were quite nice after a good rain.

I’m willing to bet that most photographers have their favorite things to photograph.

Maybe it’s people. Or nature. Or landscapes. Or architecture. Or sports. Or countless other things. Parents focus on their kids. Journalists focus on the news. Amateur photographers go with their interests.

A second set of the falls.

I’m a sports guy. I love doing action photography and often had to pull double-duty when I worked at the newspaper, writing and taking photos. It’s my hope one day, I’ll be able to do some freelance photography again (though I need a better “sports” lens. One day).

But I have other things that I like to shoot, too.

I love kids photography because you never know what you’ll get. It’s a bonus that several close friends have kids who are some of the most photogenic kids you’ll ever meet. It makes it easy.

I’m a covered bridge nut, too. But with so few in new York, sometimes it can become repetitive.

Then there are waterfalls. Boy do I love waterfalls. Big, small, whatever. It’s helped me work on different types of techniques. But I hadn’t seen many waterfalls lately. And, well, this summer has been so dry, many are dried up.

A few weeks ago, a new geocache published not far from me. I’m not one to race out to be first to find anymore, but this one was close. And it was a nice day. So, I went for it.

The cache brought me to a wonderful area that I had known about, but never visited. It’s a set of waterfalls and the cache was close to it. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much water flowing. Even worse, I didn’t find the cache. I still snapped photos that day, just without the tripod, so I wasn’t able to get the silk look of the small amount of water flowing.

The lower set of falls via the pinhole lens.

It rained that night and part of the next morning. Then the sun came out. That evening, I went back. But, I didn’t bring the camera. I just wanted to find this cache and explore a little. I found the cache and looked around a bit and knew that next time we got a good rain storm, I was coming back.

That happened this past week.

One day and night it unleashed. So, the next day, I headed back. I found a better way into this gorge and got exploring and set up for a few shots. With tripod — and other “lenses” in hand, I headed down in and spent about an hour there, checking things out and snapping photos. I think there might be a few more falls below where I was, but I couldn’t find anything that looked like a safe way down. And, being I was solo, I figured taking a big risk probably wasn’t too bright.

This time, I came prepared with things though.

Obviously, I had the tripod and a remote release, looking for the longer exposures. But I also carried my pinhole cap and the Diana lens. I wanted to see what kind of results I could get out of each of those.

Of course, the exposures for the pinhole needed to be much longer, which was kind of cool.

Water flowing peacefully.

I did learn a few things this day — like the need for a neutral density filter. Using that will essentially knock the sun out of the equation and allow me to go with some longer exposures if needed. I don’t know what it would have done this day as it was pretty much cloudy out and I got decent exposures. Still, I found a cheaper set of filters, one of which is the ND. I’m going to grab those to see what I think about them. I don’t want to pay upward of 70 bucks or higher for an ND filter if I ended up not digging it, so I figure investing in one with a price more my style will give me a bit to see what I like.

Waterfalls really are fun to capture. It’s my hope I can continue to find them. I’m planning a trip to the Ithaca area this Sunday in hopes of finding a few good ones — after all Ithaca is Gorges. Alas, this summer drought has taken a lot of the water away. So I’m hoping the trip isn’t in vain. We’re likely doing a round of disc golf and we’ll find a few geocaches, so it’ll be worth it in that regard. But I’d really like a few waterfalls, too.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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