So we had a very interesting day on Windsor Drive on Friday. The road construction crews had carefully prepared the ground with graders and "steamrollers." Do they still call them that? Forgive me, I'm going to be relatively vocabulary-deficient today. (Road construction is far from my field, and I was playing spectator, not reporter.)
The Power Paver SF-3000 showing the screws that chomp concrete. Xander thinks this is my new favorite thing. I think he's right. It has a 260-HP Cummins diesel and can move at speeds up to 36 feet per minute, although it wasn't going anywhere near that fast on our street.
Guide wires were set up on either side of the street (you can see them in the foreground here), and a giant contraption that moves on tank treads called a "Power Paver" was fired up. [Thanks to Steve Snyder for the link. —Ed.]
A succession of dump trucks and cement mixers deposited loads of wet concrete in front of the Power Paver, which has a worm drive all the way across the front of it that you can see in the second picture. The Power Paver then slowly crawls up the street munching raw concrete and...
...Spitting out a continuous slab of smooth, pristine road behind it. I had never seen the process before, and it was way cool. See the horizontal pink line near the bottom of the frame? That's the guide wire—it looked to me like sensors on the Power Paver keep it on track as it trundles along and does its work.
Time for my little stretch—that's sprawling TOP World Headquarters in the background.
This picture shows most of the process—loads of wet concrete being delivered in front of the Power Paver, which then slowly crawls over it and ingests it. Exactly how it turns it into road is, well, magic, in accordance with Clarke's Third Law.
It leaves behind a continuous, very clean slab of 8-inch-thick concrete road surface. The Windsor drive project is 1,324 feet long and was estimated to cost $470,000. However they're also doing Charles Street at the same time, and I think the estimate for both was considerably higher. The builder is Willkomm Construction Inc. of Kenosha.
Following along later is a smaller road-spanning apparatus, also on treads, to surface the road with grooves and (I'm guessing) repair small imperfections. These pictures are a bit out of strict order.
Here's the new road in front of my house. Ain't it beautiful?
Hours later, after dark, this guy comes along. It's his job to saw cuts in the concrete about two inches deep, so the concrete will break cleanly along the cut [see vbsoto's comment below]. He has to wait a certain fairly specific amount of time after the concrete has been laid, after it's set but before it gets too hard, so he has to work through the night.
I had fun shooting this guy in the dark. His saw has a light on the front that illuminates the clouds of concrete dust. He was a nice guy—told me he sometimes worries about security, working all alone in the middle of the night. The flyer the company passed out to residents said he might be working until six o'clock in the morning, but surprisingly the noise didn't bother me. I was surprised, however, that he wasn't wearing hearing protection. His machine was pretty loud.
A note on cameras
I have about five mirrorless cameras in the house right now. The first one I grabbed was the Sigma DP2 Merrill (you can buy a new one at the link, but they're plentiful on eBay right now too). I used that for the top two pictures. Lots of bright light, right? Well, was it ever the wrong tool for the job. I needed a zoom lens to be able to frame better, and the image on the Sigma's viewing screen was fugitive in the bright sunlight—aiming was hit or miss. Then, after I'd left the house with a full battery, the camera spluttered off after about fifteen minutes. Dead batt. Rats. Forgot about that. When they say the battery in the Sigma is good for ~60 shots, they ain't lyin'.
After that I switched to the Olympus E-M1 (pictures 3 through 9). This is currently my favorite camera to use—a luxurious-feeling device, responsive and comfortable to hold, with a stellar EVF. I currently only have one zoom lens, and it's for Micro 4/3—the slow 12–50mm that came with the now-departed E-M5. That's the lens the middle pictures were taken with. Very good lens, but not sexy.
When it came time to shoot the cutter, though, I realized I don't really have a camera that's highly suited for high ISO. I picked the Fuji X-T1 because its marvelous 23mm ƒ/1.4 lens is faster than any other lens I currently have. I set it on ISO 3200 and ƒ/1.4. Used that for the last two pictures (and many more like them). Great lens. I trust it already. That last picture has camera shake, but that's not the lens's fault. (It doesn't hurt that particular shot.)
I have only one serious gripe with this camera, and it wasn't in play here—it's that when you set the aperture ring on "A," it's very easy to knock it off that setting. The lens really needs a lock for the A setting. (I also wish the X-T1's ISO dial had a two-position in-out locking switch like the E-M1's PASM dial, instead of the push-and-hold one it has—but then, I wish the Olympus had an on-off switch where the Fuji's is. Oh well, you know what they say about greener grass.)
It's kind of BS to have so many cameras cluttering the closet. I know some people are motivated and energized by having a large selection of cameras to use, and I'm not saying they're wrong. For them. But for me, it starts to get to be a Camera Cabinet of Babel, especially with my fairly woeful mix 'n' match hodgepodge of various lenses—I tend to have one or two lenses for each mount, and not very rationally chosen, either. I've got a whole shelf cluttered with chargers and I'm always getting batteries and accessories mixed up or lost. I've got to pare back down to one or two cameras. I will do that soon. (And if you believe that....)
The X-T1 is a very nice camera to use as well. That's the camera that ate the Nikon Df's lunch, done all up with ultra-traditional dials and knobs and doing it even better than Nikon. It makes the camera feel sensible and controllable even when you don't know it very well. Its EVF is good too, and the form-'n'-fit factors are just as good as the Oly's if a trifle different.
Of the cameras I currently have, the Olympus E-M1 is the one I think I'd standardize on if I could have only one. I need a better lens for it, though. With the latest lenses it focuses extremely quickly. I covet the Panasonic 12–35mm for it—you recall that Ctein had John Camp's copy in Madison and I got to try it. I really like how the camera operates. And, with IBIS, it has all the features I want.
I will say, though, that the Fuji's files are so good that the X-T1 makes me a little—a little—less satisfied with the image quality of the files out of the Olympus. Not that there's anything wrong with E-M1's files, but the X-T1's are that little bit better. It really is a pleasure to work with the Fuji's files, and I love the look you get from technically good shots.
That 23mm could use a few more pixels behind it, though. Its aperture ring foible aside, it really is a lovely lens. Best lens I currently own, in fact.
Note: Open Mike, which usually appears on Sundays, appeared on Friday last week.
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
vbsoto: "I'm a civil engineer out in Los Angeles so can give you a little more behind-the-scenes rationale on the nighttime cutting of the concrete. All materials expand as they rise in temperature or in this case shrink as they cool. They cut the concrete at the coolest part of the day because that is when it's the shortest (most contracted) and it's actually under tension and will most likely crack the remaining six inches beneath the cut before the guy calls it a night."
Les Myers (partial comment): "The paving machine you photographed is a kid's dream! Tonka, where are you?"
Mike replies: Seriously. That's what I kept thinking. I also envy the guys driving the giant front-loaders and rollers up and down the street. (Interesting that I know the words "steamroller" and "steam-shovel" but I don't know what those vehicles are actually called in the modern, real world.)
Darr: "I use a Hoodman loupe over the screen and a tripod most of the time when shooting the DP Merrills; think of them as mini field cameras without the bellows. My snap-shooter is a Sony NEX 7 with a Zeiss 16–70mm. Interesting story and images."
Mike replies: Thanks for the Hoodman tip Darlene. Is the H-LPP3 is the one you use?
Darr replies to Mike: "That should be the one Mike. I let it hang from my neck and use it with the Merrills on and off tripod. Really easy to use and very beneficial."
R: "Are they still using the old Power Paver SF-3000? I heard that the SF-3010 might be released soon."
Mike replies: ...Available for pre-order, but at a price premium, right? :-)
Jim in Denver: "I fully believe you could be happy using nothing but the E-M1. I've gotten rid of everything except mine, and a Canon compact for which I have a scuba housing. No worries, no regrets; the size is wonderful, the lenses are jaw-droppingly amazing, and it handles beautifully. I didn't know it was the camera I've been looking for all my life, but it seems that it is."
Daniel Stevenson: "I have to agree with the Hoodman comment for the DP2M, although the actual Hoodman was a bit pricey for me. I have a third party one that works essentially the same but for a lot less money. And I don't even consider the DP2M as the camera I take out for snapshots. I consider it my large format camera and treat it the same. If I am going to use it the big Gitzo goes along. I also use an external meter. Although the size makes me feel a bit silly sometimes, until I look at the results. That thing puts out awesome 'negatives.'"
Mike replies: That seems like the smart thing to do. Treat the DP2M like a much larger camera. Makes a lot of sense in fact.