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img_0919Did you have a good week, Roadies? Tell me the best thing that happened this week in the comments. Mine was probably getting the Christmas tree up and decorated. I do love to sit evenings in the glow of those lights.

While you think about it, here are the best blog posts I read all week.

Don’t look behind you. That’s Derek Sivers’ advice for those times you’re trying to accomplish something but external factors keep demotivating you. Read Tilting my mirror (motivation is delicate)

As the boss at work, I meet each week for 30 minutes one-on-one with each person who reports to me. I’m there to listen, but often I hear sanitized versions of their experience that don’t let me help them succeed. Claire Lew wrote a brilliant post for Signal v. Noise about questions to ask to encourage them to give real feedback to you as their manager. Read How to have an honest one-on-one with an employee

Eric Kim writes about how to make a living through blogging. Except that it will be a meager living. And the money doesn’t actually come from the blog, but through things you do related to the blog. And forget advertising. And be extremely patient. Read How to Make a Living With Blogging

Finally, a fellow I used to work for, a very good boss, started his own company in the tech industry a couple years ago. Writing for LinkedIn, Mike Reynolds tells how unglamorous and chaotic it was, and offers advice for others who want to do the same thing. Read Hustle: How to Survive, Then Thrive, When Building an Agency

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Photography, Road trips

The joy of wrong turns on vacation

My greatest irrational fear is of getting lost. All those road trips I take? Yeaaaaah, I map them out. I don’t want a wrong turn to lead me astray. One reason I take road trips is to face my fear. Someday I’ll have conquered it enough to head out with minimal prep. I’m not there quite yet.

Even with good preparation I still get lost sometimes. The worst time was on the National Road in Pennsylvania. An ill-marked detour left me driving in circles. My sons were with me, and they’ll tell you: dad was stressed.

Facing my fear of getting lost is one of the reasons I hit the road, even with good maps — or with GPS, as was the case as Margaret and I drove all over Ireland. My iPhone’s Google Maps app gave us great directions all over Ireland, except for this one time.

Among the rocks

Margaret is Irish; she has family in County Galway — family she’d never met before. A great aunt lives on an island in the county’s remote western region. It’s so far out there, and so few people live there, that all An Post needs to deliver her mail is her name, Lettermore, County Galway.

Among the rocks

Google Maps needed more detail than that, however, to find her house. We learned that she lives across the street from a business. We punched its name into Google Maps and glory be, there it was! Or so we thought. Because Google Maps brought us here.

Among the rocks

Nothing here but rocks! But it was a surprisingly compelling view. We lingered for several minutes to take it all in. We were glad to be misdirected; we would have missed this view otherwise. And although we were a little lost, just being with Margaret helped reduce my anxiety.

We went back the way we came and turned down the next road. Surely that’s what Google Maps meant? Nope. But at least there were some houses along that road. We stopped and Margaret knocked on someone’s door to ask. They knew Margaret’s great aunt and gave us directions right to her front door. We had passed her house on the main road.

Margaret is a Joyce, and this is Joyce country. So is the entire Connemara region of County Galway, actually. There have been a lot of Joyces!

Margaret’s aunt was happy to meet us, and soon offered us a tour of the area. Margaret drove while her great aunt navigated. One special place we saw was Inishbarra, a small island where Margaret’s grandfater was born and raised. We couldn’t drive to it; there’s no bridge, no ferry. I gather that at some times of the year the water is low enough you can wade out to it. Not that day, unfortunately. But at least we could see it from the road.

A view of Inishbarra

Here’s another view of the island, from a different vantage point. Margaret’s great aunt pointed out the houses still standing on it and told us which of Margaret’s forbears lived in each one.

A view of Inishbarra

She then guided us to this church in nearby Lettermullan, where Margaret’s grandmother was baptized. This is maybe a mile from Inishbarra, but incredibly Margaret’s grandparents didn’t meet until both of them had emigrated to Chicago! It turns out that life on Inishbarra was self-contained. They grew most things they ate, and there was a school on the island. Until he emigrated, Margaret’s grandfather almost never left Inishbarra.

Church near Lettermullan

I was grateful for Margaret’s great aunt guiding us down the narrow, winding coastal roads here, because I had no idea where I was or how to get out of here. The mobile signal was spotty at best this far out; Google Maps would be no help. Soon we were back on the main road, on which Margaret’s great aunt lives. We soon bid our goodbyes and drove back the way we had come.

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Barna Beach

Barna Harbor
Canon PowerShot S95
2016

This placid scene belies the fact that a strong, cold wind was blowing in off the water. So strong and cold that we stayed but a few minutes here.

Photography
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Photography

Nikon Nikkormat EL

Why didn’t Nikon just call its non-pro line of cameras Nikons from the start? As they eventually learned, everyday people would pay for the cachet of the Nikon name. Yet Nikon insisted on calling its lesser SLRs Nikkormats (or Nikomats in Japan) in the 1960s and much of the 1970s.

Those Nikkormats became more and more sophisticated over time. By 1972 Nikon had developed its first camera with an electronic shutter and automatic exposure, and gave it a Nikkormat name. Here it is, the Nikkormat EL.

Nikon Nikkormat EL

Large and heavy, the Nikkormat EL offered a reasonable complement of features. Its shutter operates from 4 to 1/1000 sec. It offers depth-of-field preview, mirror lockup, and a self timer. A stubby 6-volt 4LR44 (aka 476A, A544, and PX28A) battery powers it all. It goes in a slot behind the lens mount, under the mirror. Use the mirror lockup lever (left of the lens mount) to move the mirror up. Then lift the battery cover and insert the battery. I thought I’d have trouble seating the battery in that tight space but I snapped it right in with my index finger.

Nikon Nikkormat EL

The Nikkormat EL’s viewfinder is fairly big and bright and features an easy-to-read match-needle system for the aperture-priority autoexposure. There’s no on-off switch; to activate the meter, pull the winding lever back. The EL’s focusing screen offers a central split-image rangefinder ringed with a microprism. It works beautifully. The white button left of the viewfinder checks the battery. Press it in with your thumbnail. If the battery is good, the amber light glows.

Nikon Nikkormat EL

With this Nikkormat Nikon moved closer to the classic 1970s SLR idiom by moving the shutter speed selector to a dial atop the camera, next to the wind lever. (Early Nikkormats placed the shutter speed selector on a ring around the lens mount.) And as you can see, the EL takes films from 25 to 1600 ISO.

Nikon finally got the clue when it updated this camera for 1977: it became the Nikon EL, the first Nikon SLR without removable prisms and focus screens. The Nikkormat line was allowed to die quietly.

This EL was placed on permanent loan in the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras by John Smith, who generally buys his gear in top shape. The EL is said to be prone to electronic gremlins, but this one works fine.

I dropped some Fujicolor 200 in, mounted my 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor lens, and got to shooting. I love to do close-up work and the Micro-Nikkor enables it so well. Yet it’s a fine lens for shooting things at greater distance. These are the reading glasses I keep on my desk at work.

Cheaters

And here’s a gripping photo for the annals of all-time greats: the cruise-control switch on my Toyota. I love it that the Micro-Nikkor lens lets me contemplate details like this.

Cruise Control

These batteries came out of a flash unit for my Kodak Brownie Hawkeye. They have to be 50 years old, and true to their marketing, they hadn’t leaked. However, in especially dim indoor light, either the meter didn’t read accurately or the long shutter speed was off, because the exposure was terrible. Photoshop helped make something usable out of the frame.

Marathon Batteries

I shot most of this roll around the house. Last year I moved my irises to a sunnier spot, and this year they rewarded me by blooming in the spring and in the autumn. It was refreshing to see a splash of purple and white among the fall colors! Unfortunately, first frost came before the plant finished blooming, which did the remaining flowers in.

Autumn Irises

We had some striking light one evening, so I went out to photograph it.

Strange Evening Light

This light lasted just a few minutes, before the setting sun and the clouds rolling in obscured it. How often do we get light like this but forget it because it is so fleeting?

Strange Evening Light

Finally, showing that I had nothing but fine art on my mind while testing this camera, here’s my Toyota with a load of sod in the back. Some of the grass I planted in the front yard after the sewer connection project had died, and I had lots of bare spots out back after having all those dead trees removed. My Toyota has become an old beater, so it’s just right for dirty hauling jobs. Its plastic floor is easy to clean.

Wagon Full of Sod

For more photos, check out my Nikon Nikkormat EL gallery.

Metal, mostly mechanical 35mm SLRs are my favorite kind of camera, and aperture priority is my favorite way to autoexpose, so of course I enjoyed shooting with the Nikkormat EL. I didn’t enjoy shooting it any more than any of the other mostly mechanical 35mm SLRs I own, though. I suppose it says a lot about the general goodness of SLRs from the 1970s that a camera as capable and well made as this one doesn’t rise above the rest.

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Celtic cross at Drumcliffe

Celtic high cross at Drumcliffe
Canon PowerShot S95
2016

It is thought this cross dates to the 11th century. This is in a cemetery in Drumcliffe, County Sligo.

Photography
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Photography, Road trips

Exploring the church and cemetery at Drumcliffe

We drove to Drumcliffe twice that day, first on a misty morning, but then again after dinner after the clouds dissipated and the sun shone.

drumcliffemap

Drumcliffe. Imagery © 2016 Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO Landsat. Map data © 2016 Google.

Drumcliffe is a village in County Sligo in northwest Ireland. It has roots to the sixth century, when St. Colmcille founded a monastery here.

A church and cemetery stand near Drumcliffe, and that’s what we went to see. We were mostly interested in the site’s great view of the giant rock formation Benbulben, and we also wanted to see an 11th-century Celtic high cross that’s here.

But Drumcliffe is also well known as the gravesite of William Butler Yeats, the well-known early-20th-century poet. Yeats spent part of his childhood in County Sligo.

Margaret and I got our best photographs here during our evening visit. We even enjoyed, and took full photographic advantage of, several minutes of golden light as the sun began to set. It beautifully lit the church, ravens circling its tower.

Church at Drumcliffe

The church has large, lovely, and unusual swan door handles.

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This 11th-century Celtic cross is in line of sight of the church.

 

Celtic cross at Drumcliffe

I was starting to lose this delicious light. It lasted such a short time.

Church at Drumcliffe

We paid a moment’s respects to W. B. Yeats, who is buried here.

Yeats' grave

His grave has a lovely view of Benbulben.

Yeats' grave

Here’s a panoramic shot of the famous rock formation.

Benbulben

Canon PowerShot S95, except for the panorama, which is Apple iPhone 6s

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