Recent photos

I post my best work over on Flickr.  You can find me by searching for “desertowl” or “Jim Melcher.”

Here are highlights from recent work:


At MoZaic Art Park

At MoZaic Art Park

Pierce Point Road

Pierce Point Road



Impossible Project Silver Shade

Impossible Project Silver Shade


A lot of work

The company I work for, Tri-State Drilling, finished its biggest project ever in February of 2014. To celebrate, we put together a video.  Most of the editing and photo selection, and about a third of the photos, are by me:

The CGF Story

Here are some of the photos from my stash for the project:

  • Abandoned farm house
    Abandoned farm house
  • Unloading at site
    Unloading at site
  • Crew measures depth
    Crew measures depth
  • Foggy day in North Dakota
    Foggy day in North Dakota
  • Lance adjusts a glove
    Lance adjusts a glove
  • Crew on the horizon
    Crew on the horizon

The project is called “Center to Grand Forks 345-kV Transmission Line Foundations.” The owner is Minnkota Power Cooperative.  The engineer and project manager was Stanley Consutants, Inc.  The tower erection and conductor stringing was by Michaels Power.

The Ultimate Hybrid Workflow

File under ‘worth learning more about:’ It seems that back in 1966, when NASA was trying to pick out landing sites for the Apollo program, the Lunar Orbiter project beamed back images of the moon. They used a specially designed Kodak camera with two lenses, exposing 70mm black and white film. Then, the unmanned orbiter developed the film (!?!), scanned its results, and beamed home what was basically a fax of the imag–a line-by-line scan in either low or high resolution.  (The program cost $163 million.)

Back on earth, the fax data was captured on tape.  The ‘faxes’ were then assembled and projected–like a slide–onto a screen. Finally, the projected image was transferred to paper–all by the best available (and some not-so-available) technologies of the day. The paper versions of the images served their purpose–the Sea of Tranquility was chosen for the Apollo 11 landing, and history was made. No one at the time saw whether there was any better resolution of the Lunar Orbiter images.  But, thank God, they had the foresight at least to set aside the tapes.

But today, we have the technology! Due to the pioneering work of a handful of NASA employees and enthusiasts, high-resolution versions of the original analog images are being produced at–I kid you not–an abandoned McDonald’s restaurant at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. Some of their results exceed in resolution what has been done by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiters in this century.  (Analog rules!)  Read all about it at Wired.  

From the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

From the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

What I find most fascinating about this story is the analog part:  NASA produced an unmanned film process.  I am dying to find out:

1. What the camera was
2. How the film was developed (including what developer?)
3. How whether prints were made
4. Whether a double set of prints were made ;)
5. How the film was scanned
6. What lenses were used

What’s with all the acorns?

The oak trees in our neighborhood have produced a bumper crop of acorns this year. The sound of acorns hitting the roof and the cars is perpetual. I swept up a huge pile in the driveway in back.

Lots of Acorns this year.

Lots of Acorns this year.

If you look around the web, you can find out a few things about this: It owes more to extra precipitation than anything. It does not tell anything about future weather–it is a “hind cast,” not a forecast. Deer hunters are very interested in the crop, but this abundance might mean the deer aren’t going to have to move around as much.

Location:Oaklawn Ave,Edina,United States

Rainbow over “This Town”

Mark Leibovich’s delightful new book, This Town, opens with an extended conceit–the memorial service for Tim Russert introduces his theme and many of the main ‘characters.’ The scene is full of false grief and shameless networking.

Russert died suddenly of heart failure just as the 2008 presidential campaign was getting into gear. Those of us on the right had special reason to lament his passing, since–after his passing–he seemed to be the only one missing on the scene who could have dared to pop the Obama-worship balloon that has only now–in 2013–seen any sign of deflating.

I highly recommend the book for it’s portrayal of Washington’s political and media culture. Regardless of your politics, you will be informed and entertained.

At the end of the Russert memorial episode, the assembled politerati have repaired to the roof of Kennedy Center for a cocktail party, when they witness a double rainbow. Atheists and believers compare interpretations of this celestial phenomenon. Leibovich’s final comment on the subject is, “God could not be reached for comment.”

I wish Leibovich had at least tried to reach God–he could have easily looked it up: Gen. 9:16. The rainbow is not a message to man, but a reminder–like a string He ties around His finger–from God to God, that He has promised never to destroy mankind again. As far as a message to man is concerned, we should remember, too–though mankind’s wickedness may again approach antediluvian proportions–as long as God sees His bow in the sky, we are safe.

Here’s the dog

Monty B&W

Taken with a Minolta Maxuum 7xi on expired TMax 100. Developed with HC-110 (B). Scanned with Epson v700. (Click on photo to see full size.)

All rights reserved.

Circle the Wagons

The New York Times has an editorial on Benghazi today that blames the CIA for everything. Apparently the State Department merely pointed out to the CIA that the original talking points on the attack made the CIA look bad, so the CIA made all the changes to the talking points themselves, trying to cover their own tracks.

Did Bill and Hill write this editorial? Has the Times forgotten that the President and the Secretary of State were all that week and the next (or more) blaming a YouTube video for our losses in Benghazi? That line of reasoning, which was also prominent in Susan Rice’s appearances, is not at all apparent in the small cache of emails the press has been permitted to see so far.

A large policy question has not been addressed much in all of this: Is the USA better off with a foreign policy that pretends things are going better in the war against Islamist extremism than is in fact the case? If they could see clearly that the White House and State Department want to hide the involvement of Islamist extremists in these attacks, would they think that was a wise policy? I think a case can be made that they would.

Perhaps the Obama administration is too timid in making some case that a policy of ignoring these miscreants is better than one that names them for what they are and seeks out direct actions to stop them. Not just drones, which are an execution without a trial and without gathering any valuable intelligence.

Remember the Clinton ‘vacation from history?’ The electorate may be in a mood for another. This could could be changing at this very moment. At some point, people begin to notice that fellow citizens are being slaughtered….

Camera Load Fail

I ran my first test roll through a new-to-me Mamiya 645 yesterday, and stand-developed it (also a first for me).

Unfortunately, I loaded the film backwards! Never seen such a clear sheet of film! That backing paper sure does its job!

The film was Neopan Acros 100. I had been developing a lot of Ilford, and I usually don’t do a presoak. Not knowing that Acros has such a thick anti-halation layer, I was not planning to presoak, but at the last minute decided to do it. I only gave it 30 seconds, but the water came out dirty blue, and I thought, “Uh-oh, that looks bad.” So I quick-rinsed it one more time and went on with the show. (HC-110 G, which is 1:119, for an hour, with only thirty seconds of agitation at the start.)

I am here to tell you that the clear film that emerged also still has a slight blue haze throughout.

Lessons: 1) Presoak your Acros 5 minutes. 2) A Mamiya 645 film holder has to have emulsion-side out when it goes into the camera (Duh!).

Compare and contrast

The One, the great uniter, has a new ad running in Ohio that ends with the following image:

The ad itself is virtually without content.  Obama took GM through bankruptcy with government help, Romney thought it should have been done without the government.  “Not one of us.”  Nice, O.

Watching the ad, I noticed that one of the speakers looks like a guy, not from GM, but a paper plant worker.  He appears in another ad by a PAC.  Perhaps another sign of collusion between the Obama campaign and the Obama PACs.

Anyway, compare the contentless negativity of the Obama ad with the following:

What’s going on here?

The Mainstream Media seem to be realizing that Romney just might win, and they better get their heads around it…. Maybe they better start trying to butter him up so as to co-opt him later?

Anyway, exhibit one is from CBS News:

I may be wrong about the next one, but even the New York Times seems to be softening this morning:

Romney as Manager

Although, there is a curious difference in the home page subhead (“Safe and Socratic”), and the story page subhead (“Unhurried and Socratic”).  Actually, to a large extent, the Times in this story seems to be pre-formulating their criticisms of a possible Romney administration:  safe, slow, plodding, procrastinating, not-up-to-the-crisis-a-day-pace-of-the-modern-presidencey.