Category Archives: Photography

No Context For You – April 03rd

Not art, just something really odd that came out of the camera just like this. I’m not sure if the physical mechanism of the shutter in the camera failed (this is from my Canon Rebel XTi, not my phone) or if it’s something glitchy in the logic that combined bits and pieces of two frames.

Having reached yet another Friday evening, it is an appropriate representation of our world right now. Both right and not right, fractured, bits and pieces recognizable but not fitting together the way they are supposed to.

So I guess there was some context.

My bad.

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Venus & Pleiades

I mentioned a few days ago while sharing pictures of the Moon and Venus that the Pleiades (an open cluster of bright, blue stars, easily visible to the naked eye) were nearby and Venus would be getting closer to them.

It’s happening over the next few nights and tonight’s clear (-ish) here so I decided to see what I could see with the big lens.

(As always, I urge you ignore the sensational headlines online no matter how tempting it might be to distract yourselves from news of the virus and the panic and our governmental ineptitude and the growing body count. This conjunction of Venus & the Pleiades is not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – it happens about every eight years. And it’s not something you have to see TONIGHT or you’ll miss it – it will take place over the next week or two, so relax if it’s cloudy tonight and you missed it.)

With the telephoto lens and a tripod mounted camera, you tend to start getting “trailing” in longer exposures. This is caused by the Earth moving (and no, not in the “good” way!) and the camera not. So even at the widest field of view, after about a four second exposure you’ll get trails. But it’s easy to see the extremely bright Venus and the core of “The Seven Sisters.”

(As always, click on the images to see them full screen sized, they’ll look much better and you’ll see more detail.)

If you let the exposure go to out to twenty-five seconds you’ll see a LOT of stars – but they’re moving and trailing. And that’s some random satellite crossing the upper right quarter of the field.

Zoom in about half way and the trailing gets worse, so anything over two seconds starts to show trails

And if you go out to twenty-five seconds, Venus starts to look like a really bright comet as it smears across the image.

Finally, zoom all the way out to 300 mm and crop the image to get a nice shot of the core.

Let’s see what I can play with tomorrow night or Saturday if it’s clear! (And Los Angeles folks, there are some fantastic ISS passes coming up on the weekend!)

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space

Altostratus Undulatus Or Gravity Wave Clouds?

Yesterday afternoon, from horizon to horizon, the high level clouds were lined up like rows.

I’ve seen this before, but there are two types of clouds that can form this way – altostratus undulatus clouds or gravity wave clouds.

“Gravity wave” clouds sound just absolutely bitchin’ and when I first heard the term I was hoping it was a manifest, macro-scale effect in our atmosphere from the sort of gravity waves that are just now being detected from colliding black holes. I wanted an unbelievably huge release of energy a hundred thousand years ago and a hundred thousand light years away to making patterns in our sky.

It doesn’t.

Instead, “gravity wave” clouds are formed the same way that the wind whipping over the ocean forms ocean waves. It’s a matter of buoyancy differences in a fluid in motion causing oscillations in the fluid flow. Still cool, but not black-hole-collision-drawing-patterns-in-our-sky cool.

This could also be (and most likely are) altostratus undulatus clouds, which are wispy clouds of ice, high in the atmosphere, which forms bands like this as they flow over mountains or coastlines which disrupt the smooth flow of a weather front. We had a a front moving in, there’s a coastline over to our west, and these are wispy clouds of ice, high in the atmosphere.

My money’s on altostratus undulatus.

Either way – cool looking clouds.

And if you click on them and blow them up to full-sized, can you see the tiny sliver of the crescent moon in the upper left corner of one?

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You Know Who Else Doesn’t Care About COVID-19?

I’ve pointed out that the birds, bees, bunnies, and blossoms don’t really give a rat’s ass about COVID-19, no matter how much we’re stressing. (And believe me, we’re stressing, but still feeling okay here, hope that you’re doing the same!)

You know who else doesn’t care? If you need something beautiful and some perspective, go out tonight (if you’re on the West Coast and it’s early enough) or tomorrow or the next day and look for the crescent Moon and Venus and the Pleiades and Orion and Taurus and all of the other spectacular objects in the evening sky.

These were taken about twenty-five minutes ago:

Four day old Moon and Venus. This is a 1/400 sec exposure and you can see a bit of detail on the Moon. Longer exposures show Venus better, but the Moon’s details wash out pretty quickly from overexposure.

Another 1/400 second exposure, zoomed in all the way with the 300mm lens. Again, some detail on the moon.

But if we take a much longer exposure, 4 seconds, thinking to bring out the palm trees across the street, we get something special:

Click on the image to see it full-sized. Look in the upper right. Those are the Pleiades, M45, an open cluster of young, hot, blue stars.

If you’ve got a clear sky in the next couple of weeks, go out and take a look. The Moon will be moving, but the Pleiades (and Orion off to the left, and Taurus up higher above the Pleiades) will all be clearly visible to the naked eye. If you’ve got a pair of binoculars, they’ll all be spectacular!


Keep your physical distancing. It’s helping to slow down the inevitable spread of the virus.

Wash your hands. It’s a HUGE help to improve your odds of not getting the virus.

And go look up at the wonders above us. It will remind you of why you want to come out the other side from this crisis.

This too shall pass.

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Filed under Astronomy, CoronaVirus, Photography, Space

Prey

Yesterday’s pictures were a gorgeous red tailed hawk. As I was taking pictures, she dove and just as she was going behind the house I saw the legs extending and the claws coming out.

Some relative of this guy, no doubt.

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Filed under Critters, Photography

Hawk

One of the advantages to working at home is that, when you take a break to stretch your legs and get some air in the back yard, if you see a red-tail hawk pinwheeling around the thermal rising above your hill, you can rush back into the house and grab your camera.

She was magnificent. (I don’t know for sure if it was a male or female, and what I find online is “females are generally bigger,” which is spectacularly useless when you only have one with nothing to compare it to.)

And then, in a heartbeat…

…she spotted something, wheeled around…

…tucked her wings…

…and dove. Incredibly fast.

I can’t help but think that tucked like that, her silhouette reminds me of nothing so much as an SR-70, which was designed to go Mach 3+.

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Filed under Critters, Flying, Photography

No Context For You – March 18th

Nibbled to death by ducks.

Did I make a difference? Did it matter?

Tough to tell.

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