Street corner mannequin #132. A different look.

 Leica SL + Sigma 65mm f2.0. Late afternoon. 

Ah. The darling raccoons. The arduous Tuesday swim. Devolving the Leica allure and so much more...

 The portrait above is not really related to anything in the written content of the blog. It's here as a visual anchor for the post... just wanted you to know. (Not a raccoon). 

So, it's Tuesday morning and I thought I should give a quick report on Operation Raccoons in the Chimney. Yesterday I did some research and melded it together with the stories and suggestions shared here. One person with some raccoon experience suggested that I take the cap back off the chimney to allow the mom raccoon to get in and relocate her loved ones. It sounded like a good idea. It was seconded by a person from the critter removal service we have used in the past. But, even though hope springs eternal I did make an appointment to meet here at the house with the same animal removal service in case our "voluntary relocation opportunity" failed. We meet in the next hour or so...

I dutifully took the cap off yesterday but it was already partially dislodged so I know at least one of the parents is still around. I also devised a bizarre ladder with the idea that transporting baby raccoons up a sheer face might be too daunting. I need to go take a picture of my ladder creation but I didn't have any thick rope around so I took two 50 foot extension cords and used the stoutest one as a straight "rope" and then used the second one to make load bearing loops at 12 inch intervals --- something for a raccoon to grab onto or use as a foot hold. I know, it's silly... but I'm trying to encourage an undramatic exit for them. 

Since I had replaced the cap at the start of the weekend I was now worried the babies would die of starvation or dehydration. To ward off that avenue of guilt I went to Trader Joes and bought a couple organic, honey crisp apples, sliced them, bundled them loosely in a paper towel and dropped them down the chimney. I hope they enjoyed them. 

As night fell we turned off most of the outside lights in order to make the adult raccoon potentially more comfortable during its incursion. I didn't hear any noises coming from the roof but I guess I could have slept through them. 

When I got up this morning to get ready for swim practice I tiptoed into the living room and paused to listen at the fireplace. There was no movement and everything was quiet. I made a cup of hot tea and read the various news feeds and was just about ready to pat myself on the back when the racket of young raccoons restarted. Crestfallen, I headed off to swim practice. More to follow a brief run down of swim practice. 

Swimming for fun and good health. Any bleak and sallow day is made much better with a morning swim workout at the Rollingwood Swimming Pool. 

I've incorporated my Apple Watch into my swimming because I was miffed when I swam long workouts with a dive watch and later in the day my Apple device would subtly chide me for not being active enough. It's pretty cool to have your watch count actual laps for you and also use its GPS to calculate distance swum. There is some attempt calculate how many calories one burns but I think it's a bit suspect. My watch is telling me that I burned 530 calories during the swim. It's a bit amazing but it also breaks down the percentage of each stroke swum. Since we had a demanding freestyle set most of the yardage was freestyle but there is also a running tally of backstroke and breast stroke and I'm presuming its classification of "mixed stroke" means butterfly. 

My lane mates and I knocked down 3200 yards in 55 minutes so I think we did pretty well. I can also look at the chart of heart rate measurements and see that my resting heart rate before workout was around 51 bpm but during workout it peaked at around 154 bpm. I'm surprised that my heart rate peaks so high but I'm sure the 100 yards of butterfly was a contributing factor in that. So, I'm guessing I'm working right near the upper edge of safe cardiovascular performance. It's also interesting to see how quickly a high bpm drops back down in the 70s and 80s. 

Lately our coach has been enamored of a laddered set of 100 yard freestyle repeats with an ever descending interval. We started out with five 100s on a 1:35 minute interval, dropped to four 100s on a 1:30 interval, then dropped to three 100s on a 1:25 interval, two 100s on 1:20 and then one 100 at a full sprint. We did other stuff but that was the main set. The swims on 1:20 were right at the ragged edge of my capabilities so I either need to train more or get younger. Or, I could accept aging and give myself a bigger interval. 

We ended the workout with one of my lane mate's favorites. A series of 25 yard swims, all underwater. I'm convinced that everyone can hold their breath for the 20 or 25 seconds it takes to swim underwater from one end of the pool to the other but there is a psychological impediment for most people after the second or third lap (with short breaks in between) that comes into play. Conquer the fear and underwater laps aren't nearly as daunting. Or....keep the fear and pop up to grab nervous breaths long before you need them, physically. 

We were out of the water by 9 am and on to coffee and breakfast. My watch tells me I've completed my required exercise and activity for the day but I scoff at its presumption and am still planning a nice, long walk this afternoon. Just after I hear about how we're going to handle the raccoons.

New to swimming? Grab a pull buoy. It's a floatable foam construction you put between your thighs to raise your overall horizontal body position in the water which makes swimming easier. It also reduces your need to kick as quickly or as hard (in fact, you probably don't need to kick at all with a pull buoy in place). You'll develop a better feel for your arm strokes and a the better position in the water will help you streamline more. It's a less painful way to get started swimming longer distances. Eventually, you'll want to give up the pull buoy so you don't become dependent because the officials are not going to let you use one for a race; either in the pool or in open water...

Back to the raccoons. Our person from Critter Control arrived and I took him up onto the roof so we could look down the chimney with a flash light and get oriented. Yep. We've got a mom raccoon and some baby raccoons down there. They are on a platform which includes the flue. They seem nice a comfy but that's not a good thing. Right now the estimator is out in his truck conferring with his regional boss to try to devise a plan of (humane) attack. More to follow....

Leica-Allure. It's easy to dismiss the whole Leica brand as nothing but highly successful marketing and product positioning, and, for the most part in  2021 I'd agree. But with some caveats. First of all I think you need to see the M Leica's (the interchangeable lens, true rangefinder cameras) as a whole separate category. They are unlike all the other interchangable lens cameras in the market and there are benefits to working with a rangefinder camera. Especially if your focal length wheel house is from 28-75mm. 

Coincident rangefinder focusing can be quick and highly accurate in that range. The ability to see "outside" the frame, in the finder, is a big plus because it allows one to anticipate when something is coming into the composition. Some people also find being able to see outside the bright frame lines as an advantage in composition. These things are different from all the other cameras and if you want them you are stuck with Leica. Or you'll happily embrace the Leica. 

So many of the Leica rangefinder users are driven to the brand by nostalgia since Leica was a predominant choice of so many famous magazine journalists in the 1950s and 1960s and the camera type seemed to be a badge or a talisman for most of those famous Magnum photographers all the way up to today. Plus, many in my generation had fathers who were photo hobbyists and we "learned" from a young age that the Leica M was the top of the heap for camera in their generation. I think many of us harbored the aspiration to own one from a young age; regardless of whether it was the "right" camera for our use...

The Leica mirrorless cameras are a different beast. If one understands that new plastics and compounds are as good and capable of precision as metal, and that sensors are pretty uniformly homogeneous across systems then the SL line is, I think, a different market altogether. You essentially have to choose to pay a lot more for two thing beyond "build quality" ( which few of us are really able to gauge... ). One is access to the family of Leica L mount lenses and the second is the totally different presentation of the control interface. 

As far the lenses go you could save about half the cost of an SL2 body by getting a Panasonic S1R body and you'd be able to use the same L-mount lenses. There might be additional firmware resident in the SL2 body that tweaks each lens to a greater degree than the more generic firmware in the lens itself but I can't think this would make a world of difference using either of the cameras. 

At some point, if you want to work with Leica SL lenses you might as well have one of the SL bodies on the presumption that power consumption, firmware tweaks and AF performance would be optimized as a system. 

This all presumes that you buy into the idea that Leica SL lenses noticeably outperform lenses available in other systems. Some will believe this and some won't...

Finally there is the topic of the interface. The back of each SL and SL2 camera is quintessentially minimalist. The number of buttons and dials is reduced to next to nothing. On the SL nothing is labeled while the SL2 uses the same three buttons system found on current M cameras. Each simplifies as much as possible and the whole machine-ness of the camera body recedes from conscious notice and becomes more transparent to the operator. I love the interfaces on both the SL and SL2 cameras, even though they are different. The important point is that they are alike in philosophy and general logic. 

Taken altogether a purchase of a Leica as system camera is probably not very wise for most people. While the lenses seem to hold their value well the resale value of digital Leica bodies doesn't seem to outperform that of Canon, Nikon and Sony's better cameras. Losing half the value of a Canon 5Dmkiii is less painful than losing half the value of a $6500 camera. Even if the percentage of loss is the same. 

If you buy into the Leica stuff to use professionally you'll find big blank spots in the equipment catalog. There are few "inexpensive" Leica lens options for those focal lengths you don't use as often. Right now camera batteries are backordered. There's no current SL macro lens. Etc. Oh, and if you want a vertical grip for your SL2 be prepared to spend north of $1,000 to acquire one. It's a bleak scenario for less affluent photographers who get called upon to do a wide range of projects. 

I guess the reason I wanted a couple of the Leica SL system camera bodies was a blend of all the positive things. I love the heritage of the brand. Most of my favorite photographers used the Leica cameras as their life long tools. One hopes some of their luck with the cameras confers through my own Leica's (irrational at best). The handling is wonderful and the menus grow on me by the day. But most of all the system represents the idea of products that sit at the pinnacle of photographic practice for most knowledgeable photographers and when you shoot with one you have, at least, the impression that you aren't leaving possibilities on the table because you scrimped on investing. 

Now, back to the raccoons. After an hour of exploration and researching around the chimney, coupled with our assertion that we were looking for a humane resolution, our "wildlife consultant" sat down with me in the studio to go over a plan. We're going to ask the mom raccoon to take her babies and relocate. 

We'll leave the cap off the chimney. We'll drop down a bigger and better rope. One with knots in it for resting spots and stability while climbing. The service will drop down a cotton ball dipped in some amazingly expensive witch's brew of male raccoon hormones, coyote sweat, something else equally bad, like that aftershave your friend thinks is a real chick magnet, and hope that they smell convinces Rita Raccoon to de-camp. We'll be ready to put up with additional occupancy for several days as she makes up her mind, looks for better accommodations and goes through the process of moving the brood. Then, once we're certain that they've vacated, the service will return to create a better barrier to accessing the chimney. They'll also go around the entire house and studio to make sure they are no other fun entry points for other pests and they'll seal those.  

In a week or ten days we hope to have total resolution. And we'll move on to the next project which, I think, entails the replacement of 25 year old skylights on the back porch. Followed by the installation of a new hardwood floor for the living room followed by...........(fill in the blank). 

But for now I'll be happy just to say "goodbye" to the raccoons.