Dispatches from the Blue Ghost

As mentioned in a previous missive, I recently spent several days in South Texas with the extended family. While there, I took a couple of hours to visit the USS Lexington Museum in Corpus Christi, mainly because I’ve never been on an aircraft carrier before and thought this would be a good chance to do so.

A bit of background: The Lexington is an Essex-class aircraft carrier built commissioned in 1943 and, save for eight years after WWII when it was deactivated for a major refit, served until it was decommissioned in 1991, at which point it was converted to a museum ship. If you want to read its full history, Wikipedia has a nice write-up here, though it doesn’t explain how the ship earned the nickname “The Blue Ghost”. 

At any rate, I grabbed some snaps with my trusty iPhone 13 Pro Max and thought I’d share a few here in lieu of a travelogue of our entire trip as I did for Oregon/California earlier this year.

Upon arriving at the Lexington, you’re greeted by this retired Blue Angels A-4F Skyhawk “gate guardian“. The Blue Angels—the US Navy’s flight demonstration squadron—flew the Skyhawk from 1974 until 1986.

The ship is permanently moored with a nice, long, easy-to-walk ramp leading up to the museum entrance on the starboard side of the massive hangar deck.

The hangar deck, of which you can get a sense of the size in this photo of part of it, is somewhat massive, though I don’t believe it contained snack bar when it was in operation 🙂 

One of the guns on the starboard side of the ship. This one is a 3″/50mm anti-aircraft gun.

The antenna mast atop the ship’s island:

Always a good policy to follow

A AH-1 Cobra helicopter was adorned with this piece of advice that pretty much sums up why I don’t exercise 😛

The bridge of the ship was much-more spartan than I imagined. In my head, there were controls and information displays everywhere. Instead, the reality was much more basic:

Speaking of controls, there was no shortage of various valves, gauges and dials around the ship:

Including this mystery gauge:

One of the most-interesting things about the ship was that it featured an escalator:

The escalator was installed during the ship’s post-WW2 refit to allow the carrier air wing pilots to easily and quickly travel from their ready room to the flight deck. 

As a museum ship, there were plenty of recreations of various things from when the carrier was in operation, including this food in the galley/mess that probably looks more-appetizing than the actual food during the ship’s service:

The dental suite featured this uncomfortable-looking mannequin:

Several recreations featured figures with creepy projected faces as illustrated in this quick clip I shot:

Another area featured this war-era aircraft trainer that can best be described as an adult version of those kids’ rides that they used to have outside supermarkets:

All-in-all, it was an interesting, albeit hot, visit to see how WW2-era carriers were operated and laid-out. If you’re in the Corpus Christ area, I recommend taking a couple of hours to visit the museum. 

Introducing: Lightroom Preset Renamer

As you may know, besides software, I do photography. In fact, on my photoblog, I’m approaching 15 years of posting a new photo every day (as of this writing, that’s 5448 days of new photos). My main tool for managing, organizing and processing my photos is Adobe’s Lightroom (Classic), which I’ve used since version 1 when I started my “modern” photography hobby/side-business in 2007 (I’d done photography in the past, but had pretty much stopped after college as I no-longer had access to a darkroom, was too busy/poor/had other priorities/obligations for film and digital wasn’t cheap enough/good enough for what I wanted to do).

One of the key features of Lightroom is the ability to create and use presets, which apply develop settings to the selected image, adjusting exposure, color, crop, etc., without user intervention. Some photographers are adamantly against the idea of presets, as they view each photo to be processed as a clean slate that requires careful finessing of values to process. On the other end of the spectrum, you have lazy people who apply a preset without any additional work, export the photo and call it a day. However, most Lightroom users lie somewhere in the middle—using a preset as a starting point for processing an image, followed by fine-tuning it to perfection. 

I am one of the latter Lightroom users. I’ll often open a photo and scroll through my presets looking for a good starting point for the “look” I want a photo to have. Besides creating my own presets, I like to explore other people’s presets they’ve shared in the Lightoom (Cloud) or Mobile app (note that Adobe has two confusingly-named Lightroom applications…one is the professional version (Classic) that most serious photographers use and the stripped-down, amateur/mobile-focused Lightroom (Cloud) that doesn’t, in my opinion, have a place in a professional’s toolkit). In Lightroom Cloud, there’s a “Discover” section that allows you to browse shared presets and download them to use for yourself:

If you filter by “Preset downloadable”, you can scroll through the photo grid and download the preset for any photo:

Lightroom Cloud will then save it to your account and it can be used on any photo in Lightroom Cloud or Lightroom Mobile (the presets will sync to the Lightroom app on your phone).

At this point, however, you can’t use them in Classic, yet. Since the Lightroom Cloud presets don’t sync to Lightroom Classic, you have to do some work to get them there. 

(Note that the following instructions are for MacOS, but should be similar on Windows)

  1. Find your Lightroom Cloud library (~/Pictures/Lightroom Library.lrlibrary)
  2. Right click and select “Show Package Contents”
  3. In that folder, there are 4 subfolders. One has a bunch of random characters; the others are profiles, TemporaryEdits and user.
  4. Click into the random characters folder.
  5. Find the cr_settings subfolder and click into it.
  6. The .xmp files here are your presets.
  7. Copy these to where your Classic presets are stored (should be something like ~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/CameraRaw/Settings
  8. Restart Classic

Voila! Your presets should be there in the Presets pane in Lightroom Classic. The problem with this is that Adobe saves the presets to your local drive as a guid rather than a human-readable name:

If you’re like me, though, this is unacceptable. I want to be able to read the names of the presets while in Finder. So, to solve this, I built a tiny MacOS application I call Lightroom Preset Renamer. This is how I use it:

  1. Copy the .xmp preset files you found in the Lightroom Library.lrlibrary file to a temporary folder.
  2. Run the Preset Renamer application and choose this folder by clicking the “Choose Preset Folder to Process”:
  3. Once you’ve chosen the folder, it will automatically process any .xmp file in that folder, renaming it to it’s “proper name”, while preserving the original file by changing the extension to “xmp_old”:
  4. Now, copy these .xmp files to the CameraRaw/Settings folder as outlined above and then reset Classic.

A couple of notes: 

  1. This app isn’t signed, so you may need to follow the instructions here to run it. Or, if you’re adventurous and have to run unsigned apps often, you can disable Gatekeeper by following these instructions.
  2. If you’re concerned about security, you can inspect the source code and build the app yourself in Visual Studio Mac by going to this Github repository.
  3. Since this is built on .Net, I plan on building a Windows version soon…stay tuned!
  4. You can download the application at the link below:

Download the latest release here

South Texas Sunrise

We recently joined the rest of my extended family (mom, brother, his wife, their two kids and our nephew from my wife’s side of the family) for our annual-ish beach Texas beach trip. Usually, we go to Galveston, as it’s fairly-accessible from the DFW area (5-ish hour drive) and we’re familiar with it, knowing the best places to stay, things to see and restaurants to eat at. 

This time, however, we decided to go further south, to the Corpus Christi area, and stay in Port Aransas. The onus for this change of scenery was to benefit my mother, as she grew up in Corpus and hadn’t been back in probably 30 years or so and wanted to see how things had changed. 

For me, however, it was the perfect chance to try out my new PlatyPod

The PlatyPod is a flat plate with legs that you can adjust in height and a screw mount for a tripod ball head that acts like a go-anywhere and not-take-up-a-lot-of-space tripod that can be wedged into the ground with its spiked feet or set on a car hood or roof with its soft rubber feet. There are also slots where you can thread straps for attaching to poles or trees or whatever.

As I was out early one morning shooting stills of the sunrise on the Port Aransas beach, I decided to use the PlatyPod and my iPhone tripod mount to capture a time-lapse of the sunrise. Using the spiked feet, I planted the PlatyPod into the sand, attached the iPhone, switched the camera to time-lapse mode and set back to let it record.

The results are awesome, as you can see below. The PlatyPod held the iPhone rock-solid and the low perspective gives the video, in my opinion, that “little bit extra”.