January 2020

I met Brandy while I was working my other job as a Fire Inspector for Arcata Fire District. I was doing an inspection of the apartment complex she lives in, and helped her install a new smoke detector.

Noticing how petite she was I mentioned Lori’s vintage clothing collection and that we were always looking for models to photograph her collection.

I was working on updating the web site for the vintage clothes and I wanted to update some of the photos. This particular bodice is one we bought in England back in 1995. It was the first piece I photographed for the collection, back in our 1914 bungalow in San Jose.

Since the garment fits the period of our house, I wanted to use it for photos in our recently completed parlor. Brandy ended up being a fun model to work with and I’m looking forward to more shoots with her.


Brandenic USA LLC spam & fraud

I kept receiving emails from this company, Brandenic USA LLC, advertising their digital marketing services. They were sent to an email address that is associated with and organization that I am the webmaster for.

The email listed the deficiencies they found in the website, which they could of course fix for a fee. Now being a webmaster myself, I knew that the things they listed in their email were not true, such as their claim that the site wasn’t mobile friendly.

Now normally, I don’t even read the messages that end up in my spam folder such as this one. But this company spammed me over and over in the course of a couple of days. So I decided I would use them as an example to see about taking a spam abuser to small claims court, which is allowed under California law.

Their emails had an unsubscribe link, which I had never subscribed to in the first place. Normally it’s a bad think to click on those links unless it’s a reputable company sending the email. But I figured it would boost my case to be able to prove that I tried to unsubscribe. I documented that process with a screen shot.

Sure enough, I continued to receive emails from them. Each email was now worth $1000 to me. After the second one, I decided to start pursuing a small claims case against them. The first step is to do a search on the LLC name, to find their address (which they don’t publish on their web site), and the legal contact for the corporation so that person can be served with the lawsuit papers.

What I found is that Brandenic USA LLC is not registered in the state of California. Using Duck Duck Go, I then did a search for Brandenic, and found sites with complaints that people had been defrauded by this company. The lawyers advised them that since they couldn’t find a legal filing for Brandenic USA LLC in the state database, there wasn’t much they could do.

Oh well, there went my small claims case. I can’t sue someone that doesn’t exist.

But if you receive the same emails from James Parker at Brandenic USA LLC, I wouldn’t give him your money.

Yelp reviews of Brandenic USA LLC were enlightening too.

Family Portrait Time

November 2019

Before traveling down to meet the siblings for Thanksgiving, my niece wanted a photo of Lori and I for her baby’s scrapbook, so he would have a record of who is family is.

My sister Linda sent a photo of her and her dog, so we thought we should include our cats in our photo. Easier said than done, especially when two of them don’t like each other all that well, and one of those cat’s does like to be held.

We did manage to herd them all together out by our new pond, and with the camera on my tripod I got a couple of shots off using my remote control before the cats had had enough.

I went inside with the card, loaded up the photos on my Mac, and was horrified that I managed to frame the photos so that Lori and I had our heads cut off. How was that possible, I had checked the framing with Lori in the photos when I set it up. Then I realized that the quick release plate that attaches the camera to the tripod had slipped, which caused the camera to tilt forward.

So with the quick release plate tightened extra tight, we rounded up the cats again, but couldn’t get George (the one on the ground) to cooperate, but fortunately I was able to photoshop him into the photo by grabbing him, putting him in the photo and then taking a quick shot before he took off again. Mr. Bingley (left) and Mr. Darcy (right) were better models and happier to be held, so it all worked out in the end.

The Knowles Family Portrait

Emma – Rock On

October 2019

I noticed Emma during this year’s Ferndale Dance Academy production, because she literally stood head and shoulders above the rest of the cast. At 5′-10″, Emma is 6 to 12 inches taller than most of the other dancers. I hope to work with her a lot over the next few months, as she is the same height as Lori, and she will be a good fit for many of the costumes that Lori has made over the years.

For our second shoot, we went up to Bear River Ridge, where she showed that pointe shoes can be adapted for rock climbing.

Emma, a young ballet dancer, dancing on top of a rock.

Pollinating the Gladiolus

September 2019

Even though we have a hummingbird feeder in our backyard, I still prefer seeing our little hummers working for a living. While I’m more than happy to provide the feeder when times are tough and there isn’t much in bloom, we do plant a lot of plants for their benefit, as well as ours.

This female Anna’s Hummingbird was enjoying sipping the nectar from the gladiolus we planted this year in our new cutting garden border.

Anna's Hummingbird feeding at our red gladiolus.

Hope – 1840s Bodice & Skirt

August 2019

Hope answered a Craigslist ad I had looking for dancers. She was off at ballet school but was going to be back home for a bit during the summer. Since she is so petite, I thought she might be able to fit into our 1840 Ensemble which is not only the oldest piece in Lori’s vintage clothing collection, it is also the tiniest. Not only is it one of the rare ensembles we have, it is extra special because it has both the day and evening bodices.

Even with Hope corseted down, she still wasn’t able to close the back on the bodice. Also, at 5′-0″ tall, she’s probably a few inches taller than the original owner of this garment. The bodice fits a 20″ waist so that gives you some idea of how small of a person this dress was made to fit. We’ll probably never find someone able to wear this dress, but it was nice getting good photos of it in our parlor.

Hopefully (no pun intended), I’ll get a chance to shoot with Hope again in December when she’s on break from school again. I still want to shoot her dancing, as the photos she sent me showed that she’s very accomplished and quite bendy.

Hope wearing 1840s Bodice & Skirt

Lupines Worth Stealing

July 2019

If you’re a fan of Monty Python, then you know who Dennis Moore is. In case you’re not familiar with the skit, Dennis would ride around the English countryside and steal lupines from the rich and give them to a poor family. One of my favorite Monty Python skits, and maybe one reason I love growing lupines.

I started a bunch of lupines in our new greenhouse to eventually fill out the new planter in the back yard. While I was watering them, Lori notice that this one had a nice diamond right in the middle of it. Now that would be a lupine worth stealing!

A lupine with a diamond in the middle.

Flora and Fauna of Ferndale

June 2019

While working on my greenhouse, I came across this caterpillar, and having never seen this type before, I was determined to identify it. I started with searching images on Duck, Duck, Go for “green caterpillar with yellow head” and didn’t find anything similar.

I tried a few other searches and finally found one image of something similar, only technically, it’s not a caterpillar. Caterpillars are the larvae of moths or butterflies, and this guy is the larva for a sawfly. I had never heard of sawflies before.

This photo got me off on a project that has proven to be very addictive, identifying the natural flora and fauna of my garden. I have been having fun using my macro lens to explore the creatures that fly, run, hop, crawl, and even swim in my yard.

While I was documenting the animals, my wife suggested I should also document the plants. I have a Filemaker database for keeping track of what I plant, but I decided to go ahead and start documenting what mother nature plants too. You can find my ongoing lists of flora and fauna on my personal web site.

One resource I found that has been super useful in identifying what I photograph is the Seek app. I have found the best way to use it for fauna is to take a photo using my macro lens and DSLR, and then display the image on my monitor and do a Seek scan of that image.

Sawfly Larva

2019 Kinetic Sculpture Race

May 2019

Well it’s been a very long time since I’ve posted my Picture of the Month feature. I’ve been busy working on my house and garden, and unfortunately not taking much time to relax and go take pictures. I’m going to restart the POTM and hopefully keep something interesting appearing here on a regular basis.

Memorial Day Weekend in Humboldt County starts off with the start of the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Arcata. This year there were lots of entries, probably due to the fact this was the 50th anniversary of the event. It was hard to pick a favorite entry this year, but the Cheshire Cat was not only cute, (if something that big can be cute) it was also a great piece of engineering, as it employed 4 wheel steering.

Cheshire Cat

Nikon SB-900 Battery Door Problem Solved

I have two Nikon SB-900 flash units that were both purchased in 2009. For years they both performed reliably, but about a year ago one of them started experiencing a power problem where the flash would turn on if the battery door was held just a bit ajar, but it wouldn’t turn on if it was fully closed. As I haven’t been doing as much photography as I used to, and I could always rely on a bunch of other Nikon flashes I own, or my Photogenic lights, it wasn’t a problem I spent a lot of time trying to fix. I did an initial search on the internet to see if it was a common problem, but came up empty.

Then last week while on location for a job, the second one started acting up in exactly the same way. So today I had some time to take a look at both of them again.

Doing an internet search this time I did come up with some hits that described the exact same problem. Only they didn’t have any solutions. But there were other people that had reported their SB-900s stopped working after batteries corroded the leads.

I checked the leads on both units and they appeared clean, and I had never experienced leaking batteries for these units, as I use rechargeable batteries (Duracell) in them and the batteries are usually taken out when I’m not using the flashes.

I decided to try cleaning the leads with a pencil eraser, and that’s all it took to get both units working again. Even though both units had bright shiny leads, there must have been just enough oxidation to prevent a good contact.

So if your SB-900s experience this problem, try a simple and quick cleaning with a pencil eraser before sending them back to Nikon for an expensive repair.