Category Archives: Photography

The Great White North Is – White

I understand that it snows in Canada.

I just don’t ever remember it snowing in mid-April up here. I used to live in Vermont, which isn’t that much different climate-wise from Toronto and I rarely remember getting snow after my birthday in mid-March.

April was “mud season,” meaning that everything was melting and thawing. It also meant that everything was turning green, not this barren and defoliated.

They say it will all melt away by the time we leave on Monday – we’ll see.

Meanwhile they do have pretty sunsets with the white ground a nice contrast. As well as a prominent sun pillar from the setting sun, the setting sun reflecting off of ice crystals high in the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the Angels game from Anaheim doesn’t start until after 22:00 here? How do these people live?!!

Leave a comment

Filed under Photography, Travel

A Lovely Thing In The Sunset Sky Tonight

It was stunning – the pictures might have been a touch better if I had been able to grab a tripod, but given the last few days of panicking and packing, I’m not sure I could put my hands on a tripod in less than about an hour (or six) if my life depended on it. So holding my breath, being really still, bracing on the neighbor’s mailbox, and shooting a lot of pictures and hoping for one or two that didn’t suck will have to do for tonight.

The two-day old moon is on the left (370,557 km away), Venus on the right (225,892,785 km away).

The 6% crescent of the moon is illuminated by direct sunlight – the rest of the moon is illuminated enough by reflected Earthlight so you can see the dark mare areas.

With a better setup and a bit more magnification, you would see that both the moon and Venus are showing the same crescent shape and (to an excellent first approximation) the same percentage of illumination.

Angles! Geometry! Science! Math!

It’s also just very pretty, dangling up there in the twilight.



1 Comment

Filed under Astronomy, Photography

No Context For You – April 16th

Yep, that’s pretty much the way I’m seeing the world these days. Not sure which way is up most of the time. Things that used to take me 30 seconds to put my hands on now take 30 minutes, assuming I can find them at all.

This might be a definition of “winning” that has so far evaded my ken.

Leave a comment

Filed under Deep Thoughts, Photography

ISS Pass, April 12th

Again there were some clouds, but having learned a couple of lessons yesterday…

Being later and darker, I went back to longer exposures. These are all five second shots, again combined with StarStaX 0.70. Part of the allure to tonight’s pass was the way it was going to be going right past Orion, which is clearly visible just to the left of center.

FYI, the stars aren’t misaligned or smeared because the tripod moved – they’re trailing because the planet moves! Over the course of these twenty-two exposures in 2:02 the tripod was reasonably still, the ISS rose in the lower right and headed toward the upper left, one of those 737s headed into Burbank crossed the upper right corner, and the planet I was standing on was rotating so that it appears that the western horizon in front of me is rising up to meet Orion. (Conversely we could think that we’re standing still and Orion is “setting” in the west, sinking down toward that horizon, but why be conventional?) If you blow the image way up, you’ll see that each of the bright start trails is also really 22 little lots in a line.

Having gone overhead up past Orion (and I notice that I once again bailed about three exposures too soon before moving the camera) I swung the camera off to the south and got in five more pictures before the ISS disappeared behind the coastal clouds.

Practice makes perfect. Now, if I just had some really dark skies I could try some really interesting stuff. I might have to leave Los Angeles behind to find those dark skies, though.


1 Comment

Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space

ISS Passes, April 10th & 11th

It’s that time of year when orbital mechanics and equatorial tilt align to give SoCal a whole week or two of really spectacular ISS passes in the evening. Naturally, despite the time pressure and borderline panic involved with packing and moving out, I’m out taking pictures. And starting to learn a bit more about how to do it better each time.

Yesterday, April 10th, there was one of the best passes I’ve seen in a couple of years. Rising out of the northwest headed straight toward (almost) the zenith, being chased by a Southwest Air 737 going into Burbank. (Four-second exposures, combined using StarStax 0.70.)

Lesson to learn – keep the tripod steady. That’s why the stars are doubled up and there’s that little jog in the ISS’ path.

A single frame as ISS passed nearly overhead with that 737 having finally caught up. Again, you can see that there was vibration in the camera due to the tripod not being secure. The rest of the photos in this sequence were worse, so there was little point in stacking them.

But the best of all, a picture I truly love! Just three frames, four seconds each, but you can see the ISS crossing into night above us. Throughout all of these pictures it’s been nice and dark here on the ground, but the ISS, 250 miles up, has been in bright sunlight. This makes it easy to see, but eventually it will go into the Earth’s shadow, or as we techie folks call it, “night.”

Looking at those frames (go ahead, click on the photo, blow it up nice and big on your monitor) you can see that not only does the ISS image get dimmer but it also turns red and orange as it quickly flies through the “sunset” rays of the setting sun. It’s just like our sunsets on the ground, but much faster.

Tonight (April 11th) there were a couple of new issues. Some I can control, some I can’t.

First of all, obviously, were the high clouds. Nothing to be done about that. But the other big issue is the earlier hour. This pass was over an hour earlier in the evening than yesterdays, so the sky was much brighter. I had to adjust.

Because of the whole moving thing I was short on time and just took a WAG (Wild Ass Guess) on the exposure. If the dark sky exposures were four seconds, maybe one second would work?

Well, not a terrible WAG, but next time I might want to go down to 3/4 second or even 1/2 second. In this image you can see the ISS, but the contrast between it and the background sky is much less distinct. (And I was up at the park instead of in my front yard, so the setup time on the tripod was even shorter and obviously less successful.)

Once out of the worst of the haze down near the horizon the contrast got better. The other thing you notice with shooting and stacking a series of one second photos vs a series of four second photos is that the gap in between the images is a MUCH higher percentage of the total time. It looks like the reaction time to shoot the next photo is almost a second itself. In addition, pushing the button manually like that causes even more vibration – next time I’ll use the remote.

The other issue with hitting the button on the camera manually is that it’s easy to get out of sync and miss your timing, leaving a big gap in the sequence.

Heading back toward the eastern horizon, ISS again disappeared into heavier haze and muck.

The other thing that’s truly notable in looking at the four images side-by-side is how much darker it got in the five minutes or so between the start of the sequence and the end. I wouldn’t have thought in advance that it would be so noticeable.

Despite the so-so outcome of the images, the pass itself was lovely to watch with the naked eye.

Remember, to see the ISS in your sky (it’s really simple, you just need to know when and where to look) go to one of the NASA sites that can tell you, or better yet, go to Remember to put your exact location in the box on the upper right to make sure you’re seeing passes and maps displayed for your location.

Leave a comment

Filed under Photography, Space

The Rise Of The Freds

While packing and loading and so on, “the Freds” continue to act bizarre and to multiply. We’ve seen them in the yard for a few years now, but you’ll see one here, one there. I think the most I’ve ever seen at one time is three.

Now I see four and five and six at a time, and over the course of the day at different spots in the yard I’ll see twelve to fifteen of them. They’re not wearing name tags, but they appear to all be different just based on size, shape, and some color differences.

I’ve seen a couple of the “back yard Freds” hanging onto the stucco, but up until today I’ve never seen any of the “front yard Freds” doing it. I guess they’ve been comparing notes and taking lessons from each other.

I’m also seeing them where I haven’t seen them before. There was one of them way out by the curb, nearly getting stepped on when I was loading the van for a trip to storage.

And there’s another thing. ALWAYS in the past if I got within eight to ten feet, they were gone! Into the bushes, into the tree, under the porch, wherever. I never before got within about five feet of one – except of course for the one that ended up in our toilet. Now? I got within about six inches of this guy and he ignored me.

Ditto for this guy. That’s not a shining example of the iPhone’s amazing telephoto lens – that’s a wide angle shot from about three inches. This guy never moved, except to turn his head and swivel his eyeballs to keep an eye on me.

The lizards know something is up!

Leave a comment

Filed under Castle Willett, Critters, Photography

Mourning Dove

It (he? she?) was in the tree this weekend, making those noises.





Giving me lots of side eye as it (she? he?) wondered how close I was going to get with that stupid camera.

Leave a comment

Filed under Critters, Photography