Friday, August 31, 2007

Panama Canal

A couple of posts ago I had been tagged by somebody, and I listed among my "six things about me" that I had operated the gates of the Panama Canal. That raised a couple of eyebrows among my readers and prompted requests for the rest of the story. I'll do you one better...I have pictures.

In 1974, I spent the summer with my aunt & uncle, who were missionaries in Guatemala at the time. I was 16 years old (you do the math) and had never traveled farther than a few hours from my home in Dallas, Texas. The whole story is much too long to tell here, but it was truly an amazing experience in so many ways.

After spending a few weeks at their home in Guatemala City, we drove to meetings with other missionaries in Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama. My aunt & uncle had met a man from Panama who had brought his church's youth choir to their church in Guatemala and he had told them if they ever came to Panama, he'd give them a tour of the Miraflores Locks where he worked. So they took him up on his offer.

I confess the photographer in me cringes when I look at these pictures, but these were taken with a Kodak Instamatic on 126 film, long before I knew what I was doing. And these slides have been stored away for years, not always under the best of conditions. Did I mention that the lab messed them up when they were developed? They did, so I had to do a little digital manipulation to bring out the images the best I could. Here they are....

Here's a picture of me (on the right), my cousin and a friend (daughter of missionaries) in front of the Miraflores Locks. We're standing on top of one of the gates.

We went up into that control tower you see behind us in the picture and stood on the balcony watching the locks fill up and the boats come through. At that time, every ship that came through the canal had to display the American Flag, since it was still American territory. This was an amazing moment when we saw a Soviet ship come through...flying the American flag! Here it is:

We waved to all the sailors, taking pictures of them. You can see in one of those pictures that they were taking pictures of us, too!

It took quite a while for the water to drain between the different sections of the lock so the gates could be opened. I loved watching all the pelicans flying around while we don't see many pelicans in Dallas! Here's one that shows the difference in the water level as it drained and filled up:

And we did, indeed operate the gates ourselves. We toured inside the control tower. They had a huge mock-up of the locks laid out simulating the whole process with buttons and levers all around. Of course none of it made sense to us. But when our friend said "push that button" my cousin did, and when he told me "now, pull that lever" I did. And outside those huge nine-story tall gates began to swing open!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Vintage Camera: Miranda G

In my last post I mentioned that I collect vintage cameras. I thought I'd share one of them with you. It's the one that really got me started on this kick.

When I was in college, my dad gave me his old Miranda G outfit. A fully mechanical 35mm SLR, with a 50 f1.9 lens, a 135 f3.5 lens and a 2x teleconverter. Having only used Kodak Instamatics up to this point, I was eager to try it out. He also gave me a small hand-held light meter...a necessity with this camera, since it had no meter built in.

I would point the meter at the palm of my hand in bright sunlight (or the brightest part of a room), then again in the shadows (or the darkest part of a room) and that would give me my range of F-stops and shutter speeds. Then I'd tuck the light meter in the back pocket of my jeans and wouldn't need to take it out again unless the light changed. Shooting this way forced me to be aware of how the light fell on my subject...or didn't...and adjust my settings accordingly. Of course, back then, I wouldn't know if I'd done it right until days later when I'd get my prints back from the lab. That was before the invention of the 1-hour labs!

I discovered that those old Miranda lenses were pretty sharp. Later when I decided it would be nice if I could get another lens or two to add to this outfit, I started doing some research about Miranda cameras. No internet access then, so I got most of my information from Shutterbug magazine. I found out that the Miranda camera company had been out of business for awhile, but back in the 1960's they had a good reputation and were used by some pros. They were one of the camera companies, along with Nikon, to come out of Japan and catch the attention of the working pros of the time.

But the camera I had, the Miranda G, was a professional model. It had mirror lock-up, a feature considered a necessity for doing good copy work. It also had a removable pentaprism with several different versions available, including a couple with light meters, one with a flip up viewer (like you'd find on the Rolleiflex), and one with a flip-up magnifying viewfinder. It also had interchangeable focusing screens so you could pick your preference.

But what really set the Miranda apart was the lens mount. It was a dual mount, with an external bayonet and and internal screw mount. With these two mounts and a variety of adapters Miranda made, you could use your Miranda SLR with just about any lens on the market, including Nikon, Pentax, and even Leica lenses.

I always thought this was a very elegant looking camera, with some distinctive features. The front-mounted shutter release was one of them. I found that I could easily take pictures at slower shutter speeds with this camera that with others because the placement of the shutter release allowed me to gently squeeze it between my finger on the front of the camera and my thumb on the back, making camera-shake much less likely.

You can read more about Miranda Cameras here.

Now here are a few photos of my Miranda G:

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I've Been Tagged

I've been tagged by Hip Kid.

The Rules: Each player starts this game with 6 weird things about themselves. People who get tagged need to write on their own blog 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says you're tagged in their comments and tell them to read your blog.

So, without further ado...

6 weird things about me:

1. I collect vintage cameras

2. I spent my 16th summer in Central America (most of it without a passport)

3. I taught myself to play the guitar

4. I love stitching tiny things that would drive most people crazy

5. I'm never sure what to say when people ask "What do you do?" because I do so many things

6. I've operated the gates of the Panama Canal

Now, I'm tagging these six people:

Have fun guys!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Do Overs

I started another Mini-Puzzle Ball a couple of days ago, this time cutting out pieces for two different ones at the same time. That way I've got another one ready to go when the first one is finished.

All those tiny stitches can actually be a sort of therapy for me. It's as though I'm channeling all my perfectionist tendencies into those stitches. My living room/crafting workshop is a disaster area...but, by golly, those stitches sure are neat, aren't they!?!

It used to be that I would sew all the little sections together before starting to trim the seams, turn them inside out and stuff them all, then assemble the ball. These days, though, particularly with the tiniest ones, I've decided to trim, turn & stuff the first section I finish. That gives me a better idea of what the finished product will look like.

This time, though, I trimmed it a little too close. When I used the pointed end of a pair of scissors to work the corners out, I had a blow-out. I had trimmed the seam too close and there just weren't enough threads left to hold it together there. Here's what I mean:

Determined to keep from making the same mistake again, I picked up the next pieces of fabric in my prepared stack and kept stitching. After I had successfully completed the second attempt at my first section of this puzzle ball, I cut out two more pieces of fabric to replace the ones I'd wasted on my first attempt. Of course, with a project this's not much waste!

When it's finished, this Mini-Puzzle Ball will be available in my etsy shop.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Treasuries Abound!

I was delighted yesterday to discover I was featured in one of Etsy's Treasuries. Treasuries are like a mini-gallery of items from all kinds of Etsy sellers. Any Etsy seller can set up a Treasury and pick out an assortment of products from different Etsy shops, usually around a theme. A certain color, or activity or topic of some kind. Here's one I'm in now, featuring sellers who are all part of the EtsyMom Street Team:

And here's the one I just found out about today, also featuring EtsyMoms:

I hope you'll click on those links and go check out those treasuries for yourself to get a closer look at all the wonderful things made be these featured EtsyMoms!

Popular Pocket Mirrors

I've gotten lots of comments on the pocket mirrors I've listed in my Etsy shop and I've just sold another one:

I'll be posting more soon!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

My cat, Sebastian

Sebastian has made a brief appearance in this blog once before, in my previous entry about ACEO's but I think it's time to make a formal introduction.

Sebastian and his sister, Snowflake (she'll be the subject of my next entry) were rescued from neglectful next-door neighbors when they were just a few weeks old. We could tell that Sebastian would be the larger of the two, but we didn't know that he would grow into a beautiful Maine Coon cat, or as close as you can get to it without the pedigree.

I always thought Sebastian was a little like a 10-year-old boy. He'd let you pet him, and he'd enjoy it for awhile. But then he'd shake it off and go his own way like a kid wiping off the lipstick kiss of an overbearing distant relative. He was also my watch-cat...yes, like a watch-dog. When he heard someone coming to the door, he'd come running as if to say "Who are you and why are you coming to my house?!"

And when Sebastian was truly satisfied he'd smile. I explained to my daughter that this is the way cats smile...they slowly close and open their eyes. That's all. They'll look right at you, then slowly, their eyes will close and you can almost here them saying "Aahhhhh".

That's what Sebastian was doing when he posed for this first photograph. Oh, he seemed to enjoy having his picture taken when he saw me take out my camera. I did my best to do him justice. I've included photos of the keychains I made with these, too, which are now available in my etsy shop.