Author: Joe Wilcox

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A Touch of Color

For the Aroostook County, Maine trip a week ago—to see Dad while we still could—my sister and I stayed with our beloved Aunt. Her husband, and naturally our Uncle, was Washburn fire chief for two decades. He passed away in August 2020. I was humbled by opportunity to sleep in his bed, which a portrait of him in uniform overlooked.

The Featured Image and companion of young he and mom are opportunity to show off some of the AI-enhanced capabilities of Samsung Photo Assist. I edited both portraits on Galaxy S24 Ultra. The second, made more monochrome, is for reference to the first, which is colorized.

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A Maine Reflection

The weekend trip to Aroostook County, Maine, ended Feb. 19, 2024, when my sister and I joined a full flight of passengers flying from Presque Isle. Scheduled for 6:15 a.m. EST, the jet took off late due to deicing of the wings. Travel to Maine had been sudden, and unplanned; the ravages of old age accelerate, and we can’t know how long Dad will last.

As the aircraft lifted off the ground, I wondered about the abnormally low amount of snowfall; chuckled thinking about my father’s absolutely adorable and friendly Shih Tzu dogs; and longed to see more wildlife outside the Solarium windows.

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They Come to Eat

On the second—and last—day visiting Dad, he asked my sister to take out scraps for the birds. She put them beside the building just below the big windows looking out onto the backyard. She calls the room, where his little dogs like to sun, the Solarium.

During the course of the afternoon, I observed birds and several red squirrels come by for grab-and-go snacks. The glass was clean enough that I could shoot through the window, using Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. The Featured Image sets the mood for the set. Look sharp for the red squirrel. Vitals: f/3.4, ISO 32, 1/900 sec, (synthetic) 230mm (digital and optical zoom); 1:58 p.m. EST, Feb. 18, 2024.

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Dad’s Dogs

The first morning in Aroostook County, my sister and I left our Aunt’s house to be greeted by a balmy air temperature of -10 Celsius (14 Fahrenheit). The next day: -17 C (1 F). Brrr. By the way, -40 is where the two scales of measurement meet—and, yes, Northern Maine absolutely does get so cold.

Dad’s dogs are the cutest ever. The Shih Tzu littermates are about three years old, and they are litter pan trained. Think about it. Would you want to take out two little dogs to do their business when it’s so cold outside. Wind blows constantly at the family farm, so think colder.

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That’s Not a Lot of Snow

My hometown of Caribou, Maine averages about 279 cm (110 inches) of snow per season, which typically spans from mid-November to late April. But October isn’t too early or May too late for a dusting or meaningful accumulation. Depending on your measure of cold and snow, winter is as long as six months.

But 2023-24 is anything but typical. Snowfall is significantly below normal. According to outdoor enthusiast site Snoflo: “Snowpack levels across the state are currently 35 percent of normal. The deepest snowpack in Maine was last observed at Caribou Wfo [Weather Forecast office] with a snowpack depth of 7 inches [17.8 cm], about 35 percent of normal when compared to it’s 20 inches [51 cm] average depth for this time of year”.

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I Could Have Saved Nine Dollars

Posting resumes, following an unplanned hiatus. Dad is in a state of physical decline, and concern grows about how long he will be with us. One of my sisters asked me to join her—she from Florida, me from California—for a Presidents’ Day holiday weekend trip home, which is Aroostook County, Maine. I logged 2,950 air miles each way.

My trip started in San Diego and first stopped in Los Angeles, following a 22-minute flight with connection to Newark and onward to final destination Presque Isle. Hungry, I grabbed a burger while at LAX. I shot the Featured Image, using Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, while waiting for my $20.25 beef patty.

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Brushing University Heights

Some San Diego stoplights take so long to turn that they present unexpected opportunities—like taking the Featured Image. At Madison and Texas, I observed an artist painting the village’s name on a utility box. My wife and I were in the car headed to Costco.

We sat so long at the Red that I could claw Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra out of my snug jeans pocket; unlock the device; launch the camera app; roll down the window; tap 5x zoom; and (finally) compose three shots. Whew. And still there was time to spare!

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The (Honorary) Cats of University Heights: AI

I first photographed today’s feline on Jan. 7, 2023, using Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. But on examination, some guy’s beefy arm could be seen inside the window behind, left of the animal. I thought best not to use that one until remembering Samsung’s Generative AI photo editing, which is available in the Gallery app on S24 Ultra.

The results are scary remarkable. I selected the full frame of the window pane to the left of the cat and let the tool do its thing. Result: Perfectly placed full reflection of the car. Whoa. Wonderful. Icky. Vitals, for the Featured Image: f/4.9, ISO 40, 1/640 sec, 230mm (film equivalent); 11:10 a.m. PST.

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The Cats of University Heights: Champion

The backlog of unpublished cats bulges, so we need to spit them out. We start with one that I refrained from posting because he possibly is a second-sighting, but I am not certain—and the portrait is a good one.

I spotted this fine feline somewhere on Campus, Oct. 17, 2023, and used Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra to capture the Featured Image, which is presented as shot; no edits, no crop. Vitals: f/4.9, ISO 50, 1/400 sec, 230mm (film equivalent); 12:34 p.m. PDT.

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Tree Sign

While walking along Madison, just into North Park, my wife pointed out what looked like a branch placed atop a street-sweeping sign, today. She thought kids, then changed her mind on further investigation. A tree had grown up the metal post and come out on the back side.

This was a resilient, living thing—and another example of how conducive is San Diego’s year-round summer climate and fertile soil to growing seemingly anything at any time.