As the seasons move on and we enter fall for the first time in our new neighborhood I notice that there are substantially more homes with Halloween decorations out than in our old neighborhood. It was one or two as soon as October rolled around, but now the number is growing. (This gives me great hope for Christmas, although it’s equally likely that we’ve just inadvertently moved into a neighborhood of vampires, ghost, goblins, and ghoulies and we’ll never see Christmas because we’ll be eaten alive on the 31st… Never mind!)
Most of meager supply of Halloween decorations are still in storage after the move, but a couple of lawn ornaments got shoved into the garage during those chaotic weeks, so this weekend I put them out in the front yard. Of course, last night we had our first severe Santa Ana wind event and they got blown over. (In the old neighborhood we were at the bottom of the hill and somewhat sheltered – here we’re at the top of it and pretty exposed. It got windy.)
No harm, no foul, everything’s back up again tonight, but in that mindset, the Halloween zeitgeist as it were, I noticed something else tonight.
From our front yard security camera, during the day (the mail carrier is likely not a ghoulie) it looks like, well, a front yard:
However, tonight I noticed that that bush in the foreground right by the porch looks quite different when lit from the porch light only:
Am I the only one that sees a crazed, screaming face in that bush? And why do the eyes follow me when I look out that window and move around the room?
Have I mentioned that I take a **LOT** of pictures? (Hint — I have)
As proof that if you do that, eventually you’ll take one that just pops, where you look at it and say, “Damn! I took that picture and it’s just about perfect!”
Here’s one of those that I took.
September 2009, Ventura, CA
One of the things about taking ***LOTS*** of pictures is that you get lucky every once in a while. Like when I was out on the Ventura Pier and this gull decided to buzz me and head down to the water. I take a lot of pictures of critters, and the critters are often flying. Occasionally I get lucky. Volume helps the odds.
The advantage to having such great cameras that we can routinely carry with us at all times (the fact that they can make phone calls and also act as supercomputers, libraries, boom boxes, and movie theaters is just gravy) is that sometimes you can just see something really beautiful. So you can whip that thing out and take some amazing photos.
Like I did last week at our Over the Edge event. After all of the rappelling, we had a celebration in the pool area of the Universal Hilton, right around sunset.
Then, if you happen to have a website where you post something pretty much every day and you have a day where nothing spectacular or otherwise noteworthy occurred, you can whip out those photos and, viola! Instant blog post with everyone looking at the the pretty pictures and liking the post while no one bothers to read the last couple of lines of drivel at the end!
That was a first!
I hope that some of you in LA got to see the nice ISS pass that I talked about last night. It was bright, it was long, it went almost from horizon to horizon, fairly near the zenith.
It was behind this:
But the green stuff hadn’t covered the blue dot yet, so hope springs infernal! Out I went with my tripod & gear!
Much as in the radar, clouds covered most of the sky. But not ALL of it – there was that little slice to the west-northwest where the ISS would be rising. And the lighting wasn’t continuous, nor was it close enough to actually hear the thunder yet, so standing out there in the open on top of the hill next to the trees and telephone poles wasn’t the stupidest thing I had done today!
And there it was!
I tried shooting this in portrait mode this time instead of landscape mode since the ISS was rising pretty much straight up. That part worked. I even remembered to focus! I still need to work on getting a slightly more stable tripod setup, since you can see where there was a slight shift twice.
But given the circumstances, I’m not unhappy with this result. I’ve seen (and photographed, for better or for worse) the ISS three times in two days. (No visible pass tomorrow, but there’s a so-so one on Sunday night, then nothing for a while.) And I didn’t get hit by lightning!
Now it sounds like the storm is here and that big orangish, reddish, angry looking blob is headed right towards us in the next fifteen to twenty minutes, so I’m going to go out on my front porch and enjoy (in safety) a bit of rogue Southern California weather. I might even do another Facebook Live if it gets to hopping and booming!
First of all, if you’re in LA, I’m showing you this tonight because there’s an EXCELLENT pass of the ISS tomorrow!
Rise at 17:32 in the northwest, highest point at 19:35:58 in the southwest 62° above the horizon, sets at 19:37:54 in the south-southeast. (Map here on heavens-above.com)
Which brings us back to this evening.
The ISS goes around the Earth in about 90 minutes. If you happen to have a long twilight at a particular time of year and you get a pass early enough in the evening (but still after it’s dark enough to see the ISS in the dusk) you might get another one 90 minutes later before it’s full dark. That happened tonight in LA with passes at 18:48:35 and 20:24:56.
Here’s what I learned trying to photograph it (I’ve mentioned in the past that it’s a learning process):
For that early dusk pass, when it’s still fairly bright but you can see the ISS just fine with the naked eye, a one-second exposure isn’t going to work. The sky’s too bright and each frame will be way, way over-exposed. I had a feeling that might happen and was tempted to cut it to like 3/4 second – should have cut it to like 1/8 second or less and then just shot a LOT of frames to stack.
Secondly, when you realize the ISS is over there when you thought it was going to rise over there and you grab the tripod and scramble to reposition, take a second to make sure that the camera’s still in focus. (It probably isn’t any more – duh!)
For the second pass when it’s much later and darker, those 1-second exposures work well! The ISS here is the upper track, passing from the lower right to the upper left. The lower tracks are aircraft over the California coast on the long arc into LAX from Asia.
You’ll note that the ISS fades out in the top (upper left) of its arc. This was when it moved into shadow. Being the second pass of the night you’re probably not going to see it get too high or travel too far across the sky. It’ll still be there! But the Earth’s shadow will catch it, it will fly into orbital night, and you won’t see it any more. But watch for it – it will dim and turn red and orange as it goes through it’s ten-second orbital sunset.
In between the wires after the first pass there was a two-day old moon and Jupiter down on the western horizon. (They’ll be there tomorrow too when you go out to see that ISS pass that I told you about at the top – right?) This photo brought to you by the fact that I remembered to focus!
Remember to fly – remember what you’re passionate about – remember to stay with the light.
Without passion we’re just random bits of protoplasm metabolizing oxygen on an infinitesimally small dust mote in an infinite and infinitely uncaring universe.
With passion, we are alive, we are observers and participants, we are a vital and irreplaceable component that allows the entire universe to be alive, to be aware.