Category Archives: Misc

Halo: Reach — Combat Refined?

HALO Reach - the latest (and last) HALO title from Bungie is a prequel to all other HALO titles

Some of you may have noticed that Bungie just released a new HALO title —  HALO Reach.   (video and pics at the bottom)

Reach is a prequel to all the other titles, if you know anything about HALO and the story arc, then you know, we lose this one. Very ambitious of bungee to give us a game in which we lose. So did they do the story arc justice? Blah. …Thankfully the game is great.

The character development and story within a story was pretty good.Where Bungie failed, I think, is in pulling these subplots together and plugging them into the over all story of HALO. You’ll recognize characters and ships from future titles, but they rewrite a few pieces of HALO history — not cool. In some ways it seems like they had the character stories, gameplay and everything else done and realized they needed something to make it feel like it wasn’t a total loss. I expected to feel heartbroken at the loss of human life, they totally missed the ball on this. Sure, we saw a few civilians die throughout the levels – but they totally missed the whole “hey, we’re the covenant, we’re here to kill everyone on your planet and soon, the rest of your planets.” It should have been more emotionally involving. With 1 through 3, the whole game you feel like you’re fighting for something. You have great moments of victory and defeat. At the end of the game you let out a big sigh and sit back a bit amazed at what you’ve just experienced, the story, the characters and oh yeah, the game play — you don’t want to move, you can’t believe it’s over.

Reach missed it. The game was great, the story could have been. Continue reading »

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A Brief Break from a Busy Summer


The Palmer Family sits around a campfire in the Sawtooth Mountains.

My wife, my parents, and I -- sitting around a campfire in the Sawtooth Mountains. This was a 15 minute shot, in the background you can see the bright lights of Metro Stanley, Idaho. Population 76.

Almost every year my wife and I meet my parents somewhere high in the mountains for a week of vacation. Again this year we stayed in our own backyard… The Sawtooth Mountains, which happen to be between their house and ours.

Last year I spent every day on a trail hiking in the sawthooth wilderness, this year was a lot more laid back, we even had the fourwheelers. That’s not to say I didn’t hike, among the destinations was Goat Lake. I’ve been to the falls before, but this was the first time up to the lake I see now why several photog friends say it’s their favorite. It was pretty awesome.

It’s amazing how far behind a person can get after being gone for ten days, to make matters worse, our f150 (275k miles) blew a head gasket while on vacation. Thankfully we already had our other truck with us so aside from the hassle and having to get the f150 towed, switching vehicles, frustration etc…  out trip wasn’t interrupted much. But that caused a 24 hour trip back up to Salmon this weekend to switch out vehicles and such… needless to say I didn’t get much accomplished this past week. But, I’m catching up. Hopefully, later this week I’ll really be able to start processing photos from this trip…

So… this coming weekend is a catchup weekend, oh, and the Boise Curb Cup. oh, and our final trip to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival for the season. Next weekend has four day photo trip planned, then for the rest of the summer/fall/year really, we’re out of town every other weekend for one thing or another (mostly planned photo shoots). One of those photo trips is to the Washington Coast, I can’t wait, haven’t been to the Oregon/Washington coast in almost 10 years. Joy hasn’t been. To make long exposure night shots easier, I booked a B&B right on the beach 🙂 (no seriously, that’s the excuse)

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Looking back…

Elk Cow and Calf in the Idaho Wilderness

Elk Cow and Calf in the Idaho Wilderness

The year is almost over. It’s not though. I love Christmas and usually do a fair amount of shooting in december, but around thanksgiving I start thinking about next year…. Becasue this year is almost over. Though it’s not over yet. Almost. Not quite. Will be shortly.

I’ve been looking at random photos in my “2009” folder, as I look back through the year I’m happy to say I was able to do a lot of things I wanted to do, go places, shoot things. I’m happy to say that overall, my photos have gotten better. But it seems my todo list left for next year is longer rather than shorter. Next year, I believe, if I take off the months of February, April, May, July, August, September and  October… I may be able to shoot everything on my list, but something tells me that isn’t going to happen. Prioritization is in order. There are things, projects, that I want to try, new places I want to go, techniques that need tried and honed. It’s rather exciting really…

We’ve got a trip to Salmon at Christmas to see the family. Salmon is one of the most beautiful places in the world, so the camera is always handy, it’ll be a great no pressure photo trip and with that, 2009 will be over, done.

I’ve yet to plan anything major for 2010. Aside from a workshop myself and two friends, Johnny and David are organizing on January 16th, but beyond that it’s a blank page.

Speaking of blank pages, I am going to re-examine my website…  I’m asking it to do so much, that I end up not doing enough with it. I hope to roll out some structure changes around the first of the year that will make it easier for me to share my work as well as my tech and personal content without doing three separate websites. I’m constantly getting email and face to face comments (or even by proxy) about the photos I choose to post here and I realize I need to post more. So many of my photos I want to post just sit on my hard drive waiting for a blog post I can associate with them. I cant guarantee anything, but I’m gonna try my best to post the photos and let them speak for themselves without thinking I’ve got to comment everything. Though, google sure prefers I write about them 😉

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Vacation 2009: Stanley

I'm Back: aka self portrait at Goat Falls

Self Portrait of me standing under Goat Falls

I’m not sure a photographer ever gets a real vacation.  If we do… this “vacation” was the closest I’ve come to a “real vacation” in a long time. Being half photographer half computer guy, I didn’t do any computer work while I was gone, so at least that half of me had a real vacation. Don’t get me wrong, it was a vacation, there were days where I could have fit the photos I took on one roll of 35mm. Other days were centered around photography and filled my largest memory card. My camera was never more than a few feet from me, ending up with over 1500 photos. Joy and I met my parents in the Stanley, Idaho basin for a week camping trip. Well, it was supposed to be a week, but we got there a few days early and left a day later clocking in at 10 nights in camp. The morning we left we were pulling out of camp and we both decided that it had been a good trip, but we were ready to go home; that is, for me, what made it a great vacation. I was actually ready to go home. We had an amazing trip though, I hiked thirty two miles of trails in the Sawtooth Wilderness plus a bit of bushwhacking here and there for large rocks and waterfalls. Hiking destinations in the Sawtooth wilderness included the breathtaking Sawtooth Lake and Goat Falls a spectacular (cold) 300 foot waterfall. (pictured).

In addition to hiking in the sawtooth wilderness, I also spent time in my old stomping grounds of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness; Dad and I caught a bunch of fish on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. I also took everyone up to the headwaters of the Salmon River where puppy could jump across the river.

I got most of my photo todo list done. There was one shot that I really wanted to get but the stars weren’t in alignment. Or rather the moon wasn’t. Many of you have seen some of my star trail photography. I scouted the place for my next major star trail photo, but the moon wasn’t cooperating within the time frame I had. I’ll be running the night sky simulator to find a couple days and times when I can travel back up to Stanley to take this three hour photo. The window is very tight and the weather will have to be perfect, and I have two months to take the picture or wait another year. hmmm.

The above photo was a self portrait of me at goat falls. I love waterfalls! nothing I’d rather photograph….   The perspective doesn’t do it justice as this was setup for the self port; Goat Falls is an amazing place, this torrent of water makes a 300′ fall from the top of the photo to my feet then continues on an amazing cascade down to the valley below.

This was the last of my hiking destinations in the sawtooth wilderness. One leg of the tripod was on a rock, the other two in a pool of water. Joy would have taken the photo except she was on a rock a couple hundred feet down the hill reading a book to the dog. Shortly before we got married her and I were climbing on a waterfall in Lemhi County near the Salmon River. She fell 90% of the way down it (30-40 feet). I thought she was seriously injured. We were ten minutes from radio coverage. An hour drive to the nearest paved road; another half hour to the clinic. Or lifeflight an hour to a real hospital. She wasn’t as badly injured as I thought, so we ended up not taking the helicopter ride that day, instead we bandaged her up, gave her some pain medication and made it back to town in record time to have my mom (a nurse) check her out. Nothing broken, major bruising, serious pain for a few days and some scars left, but we laugh at it now. Oh, but she’s banned from waterfalls.

Anyways, we got an daylight early start for this hike but it was still amazingly hot. So I was happy to pull the waterproof cover over the camera backpack and spend some time getting soaked.

It’s back to the real world now. I have 1500 more photos in my queue to go through and post process. I have a todo list a mile long from the next trip and I’m further behind everything I was behind on before we left. It was an amazing trip; I’m glad to be home.

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Trust the dog – search training jasper

Working Jasper posed

Jasper is nice enough to pause search training for a moment to pose for a photo

A few of you on my facebook and twitter have seen me post updates about doing search training with our six month old border collie, Jasper. When he first started getting his play drive as a young puppy we started doing some chase exercises in the parks. I’ve worked with and around search and rescue dogs in the past, namely a few times when I assisted S&R as a communications liaison with the forest service. I’ve always been impressed with their intelligence and drive the dogs have and how much fun they have with it. Though it can be an emotional drain on them too as I found out on a search where we located the remains of the victim.

Border Collies are working dogs. They need a job. Especially Jasper considering his long bloodline of working cow dogs. I don’t have cows. Sheep would do. I don’t have sheep. I’ve even seen them herd ducks. I don’t have ducks. And he doesn’t pay attention to the neighborhood’s resident mallard. He gets plenty of exercise with Frisbee and “catch-it” and now he’s taken up swimming. He has amazing, borderline obnoxious play drive. He’ll out play you at anything. I’ve been working really hard to exercise him mentally. His hour morning walk with joy, at least an hour of swimming/frisbee/fetch/catch-it in the evening and all the normal dog play in between do well at keeping him exercised and happy. But this dog has brains and I want to make him use it.

So, soon after he fully developed his play drive I did some research, read a couple books and picked a couple of minds. I decided to start training him as a search dog. I could have trained him as a bird dog. I don’t care to much for bird hunting. Could have trained him as a bear dog. heh, no way, I don’t have the energy to hunt bears using scent dogs. Plus, Border Collies aren’t typically bear dog material. Same goes for lion hunting, not my idea of fun (the chasing dogs up and down mountains all day part). Either way, these are sporadic activities at best. We need something that we can do on a weekly basis. Agility was a high option. Still is, but everyone with a border collie (not on a ranch) does agility.

So search training it was. We started off with some cute chasing games in the park then went on to hide and seek in the park. He loves his hide and seek. Doing search work in the park is one thing, doing it up in the mountains is a whole different game. Once he was 100% comfortable will all terrain and used to trails and off trail walks we slowly started doing search work with him up in the mountains. We started back with the basics but he quickly wanted more. This week was his first real week of scent work in the woods.

Last week we took him up behind Shaffer butte and worked with him on scent trailing exercises. Basically hide and seek, but nothing too hard. Everything started on the scent trail and fresh trails. He was 100%, a few times he’d take shortcuts where he was air scenting but most of it was nose to the ground tracking.

We only had his short leash so keeping up with him was a chore. He’s still a puppy so doesn’t get off leash in public too often, he minds well when he wants to, but can get distracted. After the first exercise I had to let him off. This time after waiting for Joy to get hidden I gave his command took off his leash. Wow, talk about speed. Instead of running out the trail for a hundred yards like Joy did before she got off the trail jasper turned straight up the mountain at full speed. I did my best to keep up with him and could hear his collar jingling but the dog was on a mission. Over the river and through the woods. ok, no river, but lots of dense brush. I was starting to worry, I was sure he was off course probably chasing a deer scent or something. He took a hard left turn and headed back out the ridge. I wondered if I’d ever see him again. So I gave a couple of quick ranging whistles I could hear him faintly in the brush. I gave a recall whistle and he started to come back to me, but stopped and went back away from me. I was really worried. Seconds later “Good Boy! What a Good Boy!” I stepped around a tree and could see Joy and Jasper playing tug, his reward. When I got to her, I was a bit confused. The plan was for her to be only a few yards off the trail as another warm up. What I didn’t realize was the trail made a couple of switchbacks and she was only 10 yards off the trail. Jasper had caught her scent in the air and decided to skip the trail. Joy told me that he was only feet from her the first time I whistled and he started to move toward me then caught her scent again. I just knew the dog had it wrong… yeah.

Tonight we went up there, fully prepared and planning on training this time. We had his tracking line, a small bell (much like a hiker’s bear bell, if one chose to wear such an obnoxious item) and since we’d be finishing around sunset, his red flashy led light. All attached to his favorite trail pack.

Working Jasper candid

Jasper's candid portrait during search training in the Mountains

Tonight was all about air scenting. It was gonna be tough as the winds were quite random, in direction only, constant in speed (7mph). We setup the problems paying more attention to the terrain, wind and vegetation. Joy does most of the hiding, but we switch it up with me occasionally. We’d hide in a defined area but I wouldn’t know exactly where she was so I couldn’t affect the dog except by watching and learning his body language and reading wind/terrain. With his 50′ line it was a lot easier to work with him and learn from him. The third problem I didn’t have a clue where Joy was hiding. Really, she was outside the area I thought she’d be in. His body language indicated he was sure about the scent as we intersected the maintained trail she had been on for a portion of the hide. We got past where I thought she was going to be and onto an open low sage hillside. His body language started showing he wasn’t so sure. With this not so sure attitude he started off down out of the open into the thickest brush he could find, nose to the ground. Going back and forth at random. With him not 100% sure and me knowing that joy wouldn’t hide down there I gave him a quick range whistle he looked at me and started back my way. We went back to the trail, the last place where I knew 100% he had her scent and started again. He walked in a large circle and bolted down the hill back into the thick brush, nose to the ground. “Good Boy!” “That was so Good!”   hmm….    You would have thought that I’d learn my lesson from last time. When I whistled he was on the other side of a tree and some dense brush just uphill from Joy. But, we did get back on the scent for sure and after talking to her about the path she took in there, it makes sense that he (err, we) got confused.

We finished the night with a couple more air scenting problems, increasing in difficulty but all successful followed by a quick fun one.

Now, I don’t know if jasper will ever put on a search and rescue jacket. Don’t know if he’ll stay interested or progress far enough to be good at it. Don’t know if we’ll ever get him with a search dog trainer to try it out for real. But I do know this dog had a nose on him and the brains to back it up, especially when I don’t get in his way.

We’re going to continue working with search problems with Jasper over the next couple of months to see how he progresses. Week after next we’ll be spending a week in Stanley. We’re going to work longer searches and search for other people. If he can stay interested in the longer searches and work well with other people, I’ll be seriously considering calling up some of my S&R friends for some additional training. But right now, if Joy or I get lost in the mountains; Jasper is the dog! He will find us, if you just trust him.

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U-Turn Through Nevada – The 2002 Deer Point Fire Trip

U Turn Through Nevada

Something I drew once.

Been going through some old documents and folders from years past and found this drawing I did. I guess it was back in the summer of 2002 when I was still working for the Salmon-Challis National Forest as Webmaster and Communications Tech. Things were quiet locally but fires were all around us so I got assigned to the Deer Point Fire in Chelan Washington. It was the number one priority fire in the nation and a Type 1 Incident Command Team from California (scott vail’s team as I recall) got the call.

Myself and the Communications Unit leader who had recently transferred to the SCNF started driving to the call out. It’s a dreadfully long story, and even longer drive. But originally we were called out to a grass fire in Las Vegas, that’s where we started driving our comm truck to. That got changed to a California fire when we were almost to Los Vegas. Then we got bumped to an Oregon fire and then a Washington fire (but not the deer point) and finally the deer point.

It took us three days worth of driving to get from Salmon, Idaho to Chelan, Washington via all of Nevada. The GPS logged about 1900 miles. After our 14 days on the fire we drove the 480 miles back home in one afternoon.

I call this my “U-turn through Nevada” trip. I’ve now seen all of Nevada I ever want to see. Most of the the IC team flew up from LA but some where complaining that they actually made it to Vegas. yeah, I feel real sorry for them 🙂 two flights? poor thing…

When we finally made if to the fire, everyone else already there, I walked up to the IC who I’d talked to but never met. GPS in hand I showed him the bread crumb trail on the national map… a huge “U” through the state of Nevada.

After getting the initial ramp up out of the way I finally got a day to rest and spend most of it in the Comm Trailer at the Deer Point Incident Command Post. I pulled out a pen and drew this. I don’t draw much, I’ll draw a plane once or twice a year, maybe a sunset or a runway once in the the odd years. But I rather liked how this turned out.

I found this tonight, severely water damaged and a few smudges. Scanned it in and with some levels and selective colors in CS4 was able to get an OK capture of it for digital achieving.

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The Big Screen

You know that feeling you get when you sit down in the front row of an IMAX theater? The feeling like the screen is towering over you and could engulf you at any moment? The feeling like the screen is so large you don’t know where to look and you’re afraid you’re gonna miss something? The feeling that you’re small and insignificant? yeah… that’s the feeling. I bought a ASUS Eee PC the other day it’s got a eight point something inch screen and a keyboard the size of my phone, well maybe a little larger. I installed linux on it and have been customizing it for the past couple of days. Then a few minutes ago my wife went outside to take the puppy on a walk, I started an update on the Eee and reached over for my wife’s laptop with it’s 17″ ultra bright widescreen. Wow…. that feeling. I love the little Eee, it’s perfect for what I’ll be using it for. But it does take some getting used to.

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A quick Jasper video

We’re getting ready to head out of town. But I took the pup to the park for a little fetch and grabbed a camera for a quick video.  I’ll get a better version in the next few days, but here goes…


That dog is crazy fast… This video doesn’t do his speed justice. I’ll have to work on that.

The Summitt – 1000 Wins (almost)

Jasper Eight Weeks

Jasper playing in the snow

Jasper posing for a shot last week near Salmon

Jasper turned eight weeks today. He’s fitting in really well, I can’t believe how smart he is and how much he eats for a guy his size.

Jasper has pretty much mastered using the bathroom where he is supposed to, he’s 99% with “come” also really good with “sit” and pretty good with down when he’s not distracted. We’re working on a few other commands, he shows interest in “crawl,” “backup” and “rollover.” Though I haven’t used it in a few days, he also really loves the “touch” command and his target stick. He’s finally mastered our stairs as well. Yesterday we had great success with retrieving a small tennis ball. He’s always enjoyed playing tug, but the last week he’s been showing more interest in playing with a ball. As I mentioned, he is really smart, amazingly so. I really hate it when he looks at me with that look like he knows he’s smarter than me. No doubt he’s a border collie. I’m still having to work with him on this whole walking thing. He’s really good on a leash so long as we’re going the way he wants to go.

Jasper: Snowball fight

"The Eye" the look border collies are known for... He's having a snowball fight with Joy

For the last week, we’ve been taking him to a small neighborhood park a couple blocks west. It’s got a side walk circling through it, after he goes once around it, he’s really good. But the first time there are just too many distractions he wants to sniff out. Once we’ve gone a few times around that and put him on the long lead and run through the park, he’s amazing. The last couple of times we’ve gone, Joy and I have played some search games with him, he really gets a kick out of that.

We’ve been using a clicker to help with his training, last night I apparently left it in a chair after playing fetch with him. Joy and I started watching a movie pretty soon I started hearing a jingling sound that at first I couldn’t place. Soon I realized it was the key chain on the clicker. When we looked at him he had the clicker in the floor pawing it. Makes sense, every time I press the button on that clicker he gets a treat, guess he was hoping it’d work if he clicked it. 🙂

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