Category Archives: Photography

Same, Cedars! Same

The cedar trees were bent over pretty well in some stiff winds before the rain and snow moved in.

I know the feeling.

Same, cedars! Same. Bend, but don’t break.

But that’s a lot of bending. It’s been a long couple of weeks.

A day off, or five, would be nice. But not yet. “…miles to go before I sleep,” and all of that jazz.


Wait – did I say “snow?” Don’t I live in Los Angeles? Like, in the city, not up in the mountains?

Yes, and we didn’t get any snow here. (Yet.) We’re at 1,078 feet elevation and it’s only predicted to get “below 2,000 feet.” Which means that the Grapevine on I-5 (4,160′) going up to NorCal will be a mess, as will the I-15 (3,776′) headed out to Las Vegas. In addition, we all know that the San Gabriel mountains here in LA County go up to well over 10,000′, so there’s snow there all the time in the winter. (People are often amazed that there are ski resorts within a 60-90 minute drive of downtown LA.)

Remember Mount Wilson and the cameras we watched last summer with the brush fires there?

(Image from the HPWREN cameras on Mount Wilson, run by UC San Diego.)

It’s a freakin’ winter wonderland up there.

But closer to home? Places where you don’t normally get snow that often, maybe once a decade or less? Like, Malibu? You know, going through the Santa Monica Mountains between the San Fernando Valley (where I am) and the beach (where Malibu and Pepperdine University are)?

The tallest peak in Calabasas is 2,163′ and the tallest in the Santa Monicas is out in Ventura County at 3,114′. There are the canyon roads that run through there – twisty, turny, two lanes, can be fun, can be a nightmare if there’s an accident or landslide or rocks in the road or a brush fire? Topanga Canyon? Malibu Canyon? A bunch of those roads at their peaks go over 2,000’…

I would love to stay up all night to see if we get a dusting here so that I could go out in the yard and make a two-inch tall snowman – but I’m going to collapse and get some sleep instead.

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Filed under Los Angeles, Photography, Weather

ISS Sailing Upwind

On Wednesday night, two nights ago, there was a pretty nice ISS pass scheduled. On the one hand, it was the last good one for a while. On the other hand, it was partially cloudy with a storm moving in and WINDY AS HELL!!! By which I mean that when setting up I twice had to grab the tripod to keep it from going over, and it was set firmly on level ground, not on a slope or with any other issue. And it’s not a cheap, flimsy tripod either.

I wasn’t at all sure that I would even see the ISS at all and I wasn’t having fun out in the wind. But I just (finally!) got some really great results in capturing the ISS, so I wanted to see if I could duplicate them. So, what the heck? Try it! What have I got to lose, right? Disc space and memory are dirt cheap, it’s not like I was shooting on film. So, holding down the tripod with one hand, triggering the remote with the other, hoping that the wind and my holding down the camera wasn’t jiggling everything too much, I set out to see if I got lucky.

Blow that sucker up to full sized to see it in all its glory. ISS is coming from the lower left (you can see it just starting to clear the horizon, actually in the bare branches of the tree across the street) toward the upper right through the cross of Cygnus. If you look at it full-sized you can also tell which way is north by comparing the start trails (almost five minutes long) on the left and on the right. North is to the right – the star trails there are much shorter since they’re near the pole.

Swinging around to the north, we see the ISS fading toward the horizon and fading to black in the very last frame. And speaking of star trails (there’s only about a minute’s worth in this picture) that bright star right near the start of the ISS trail is Polaris, the north star. It’s not trailing at all, because as the Earth spins it appears to stand still in the sky. But all of the stars around it will trail, some that way, some this, all in a circle around Polaris.

Another thing I noticed:

In this individual frame the ISS is crystal clear, as is the roof on the house across the street, and the telephone pole on the left. The image is in focus. But those tall palm trees in the lower center? Nope, they were whipping all over the place during this five-second exposure and they’re blurry as hell.

Ditto for this single frame looking north. Telephone pole and our roof in good, sharp focus. The cedar trees were having and E-ticket night with those winds.

I guess that I’m glad I gave it shot!

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space

Guess Who Came Back To Visit?!

It Doctor Lizardo!!!

I was taking trash out to the curb and there he was, in his usual spot under the Volvo, right where he can catch rays and be on the hot concrete, but also able to scurry to cover in a heartbeat if needed.

When last we saw our lizard hero, just a couple days before Halloween…

You can see that he’s re-grown that tail quite nicely!

How can I be sure that it’s the same lizard? Well I guess I can’t be 1,000,000% sure, but if you look at the October picture (and other earlier ones) and this one, it sure looks to me like the same markings.

I can’t count each individual scale, but if you look at the banding and patterns, as well as the pattern of green spots sprinkled in along his tail stump, my money says it’s him. Plus, he was in the same place he always sits, and most importantly, when I saw him and went and got my camera and started talking to him and getting close, he didn’t skitter away. All of the other lizards we’ve had in the yard, especially the little, young ones, will bail out in a hot second if they think you’re coming in their direction.

It was up in the 70’s and warm today, and there were a few days last week when it was in the 80’s. On the other hand, I haven’t seen the good doctor here since mid-November. I gave him a warning, which I hope he heeded – there’s cold weather & rain coming for tomorrow and at least the next couple of weeks. I’m glad he got some rays and probably some ants or a cricket for lunch, but I hope he’s now gone back into hibernation for a while.

I’ll keep his spot under the Volvo ready for when spring comes along. Sleep well, Doctor Lizardo!!

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Filed under Critters, Photography

That’s Better

That’s much, MUCH better.

There’s no magic wand to make the pandemic go away, or to change the fact that for four years the white supremacist evil in our society has crawled out from under its rock to challenge our democracy. But we have adults in charge now – honest, intelligent, rational adults. That’s a big step in the right direction.

A day of celebration! And then back to work.

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Filed under Photography, Politics

ISS Pass – January 17th

This came out SOOOOOO GREAT!!

Okay, following the near heart attack from today’s Chiefs playoff game (if you don’t know or care, our MVP All-Star got injured, we won anyway but it was close) and “everything else,” I noticed that there was a nice ISS pass tonight. And it was clear and a million. Time to play with the wide-angle lens.

(Image from Heavens-Above.com)

Rise in the southwest, well after sunset, nice and high and bright, right past the shoulder of Orion, fade to yellow-orange-red-dark as the ISS goes into night right next to Castor and Pollux in Gemini.

So, first of all, the wide-angle lens. Unlike the telephoto lens (70-300 mm) and the replacement normal lens (I got it a couple years ago when the 15+ year old original lens started to break down – 18-55mm zoom just like the ones that normally ship with the Canon DSLRs) this one has a great reputation for astrophotography since it has a very well calibrated hard stop to focus at infinity. If you need the back story, look back through the astrophotos here for the past year where I’ve whined and bitched about how the focus for astrophotography on the other two lenses can be a crap shoot. It’s been very frustrating.

I used the telephoto for all of the Great Conjunction photos and I’m at least at a truce with it where I can make it work. But that “normal” lens? What a pain. It was time to try out this wide-angle lens.

Oh. My. God. I might just be in love.

Here’s one 5-second exposure from the sequence. The ISS is that streak departing the frame at the upper left after having entered right by the telephone pole in the lower right. The bright white light in the middle right is the moon. Just below the center right of the picture is the idiot streetlight, along with all of the lens flares coming up from it. And just above the light is a streak from a jet coming out of LAX.

But blow it up – click on the image to see it full sized. See how all of those stars are perfectly in focus pinpoints??!!! Just off the left edge, partially in the tree is Orion. You can even see that the middle star in the “sword” is a nebula, not a star. Just above and to the right of the ISS streak is the “V” of Taurus, and above and to the right of that is the Pleiades cluster. (I can also see the next thing I need to work on to improve the image even more, but I’ll leave the details for later. Let’s just say that I’ve never had a series of images so good that that particular flaw was visible, but now that I do I’m pretty sure I know how to get rid of it…)

I am very pleased!

Then I put 39 consecutive 5-second images together using StarStax…

BLOW IT UP AND SEE IT IN ALL OF ITS GLORY!!

There’s the ISS coming from the lower right to the upper left, and that outbound LAX jet coming from bottom to top. The moon and stars are all trailing since they got picked up on every single image over the course of three minutes and fifteen seconds and the planet was rotating. But LOOK AT HOW SHARP THOSE STAR TRAILS ARE!!

So, this is something I like a lot. At the same time, it points toward the next steps.

First, fix that little issue with the nature of digital cameras, fairly easy, and I’m pretty sure I can do it in Photoshop. I’ve seen the tutorial, I just have to find it again.

Secondly, mount the camera on the telescope now that I have it working again also. Not to use the telescope as a honkin’ huge telephoto lens, not at all what’s needed for this application. I need that wide-angle view! But mount the camera on the telescope and then have the equatorial mount compensate for the Earth’s motion while I’m taking the 3+ minutes of images, so all of those star images line up. The last time I did that and had it working I was using my Olympus OM-1 camera and shooting on slide film.

This might be the end of some of the frustration and the start of some fun!

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space

No Context For You – January 15th

The measure of our lives…

It used to be the beat of our hearts, the measure that gave us the second, but now even that’s supplanted by sensors built into our wrist computers, bitching at us to stand or exercise, or chastising us if it doesn’t like our pulse.

And we wonder why we’re tired all the time.

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Filed under Health, Photography

The Moon’s Back!

Well, actually it’s front, since that’s the only side we see from here…

Tired and stupid Dad jokes! Because I’m a tired and stupid dad! (Why does “tired and stupid” sound correct but “stupid and tired” doesn’t?)

And ZOOM! It’s not just for tired and stupid working from home meetings any more! The Moon’s that tiny little crescent near the horizon? So, ZOOM!

It’s amazing, it’s back here (more or less, for various values of “here”) every four weeks! And it’s much more fun to see here in the evening than it is to get up pre-dawn and see it curved the other way about six days earlier. (Or twenty-two days later.) Pre-dawn astronomy is only for particularly special events, like comets, or eclipses, or once-in-a-lifetime alien mothership visitations!

 

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space

It’s Seen Better Days

…but then again, so has the country that it represents.

This is the same flag that had started to shred back in October with the wind storms that came through. At that point, leading up to the election, it was my opinion that things were pretty messed up and getting dangerous in the United States, so I left it like that as a symbol of the country’s condition.

Since then the wind has continued to shred and wrap, much as the political winds have. Today, of course, that culminated in the second impeachment of a lower-than-whale-shit waste of protoplasm who never should have been within 100 miles of the White House.

But assuming that creature doesn’t do something truly insane and is allowed to do so by enough evil cult sycophants, in 6 days, 14 hours, 9 minutes, and 11 seconds (there’s an app for that!) I think we’ll be in a much better place (albeit with a metric shit-ton of work ahead of us!). I’m sure there will be some champagne, and I’m sure I can swing a new flag as a symbol of that new beginning.

But for tonight, we’re all still hanging on by a thread.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Photography, Politics

Hibiscus Aftermath

A few weeks ago I posted pictures of the hibiscus flowers that I had taken while putting up Christmas lights. Now that the lights were taken down, I note that the flowers did what all flowers did. And, I guess, all Christmas light displays as well.

The focus and depth of field is just a bit odd on a couple of these photos.

I like it though – let’s call it “different” or “unconventional” instead of “wrong” or “bad.”

I think that’s a lot of us today – exhausted, drooping, trying to hold on, a little bit off, fading, just trying to get by another day. That’s not wrong or bad – it’s just different. As so many have pointed out, and I’ll echo, be kind to yourself these days. There’s a lot of bad shit and it seems to be getting deeper fast – it’s okay if the best you can do is just the best you can do. And remember that everyone else’s Hell is 100% – cut everyone some slack.

Except for fascists and Nazis. (You know who I’m talking about.) Fuck them.

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Filed under Flowers, Photography, Politics

No Context For You – January 10th

I hope your weekend was calm and relaxing. Somehow I don’t think the week ahead will be, on so many fronts.

I don’t think I’m really giving you the finger – think of it more as sharing one with you by accident.

Breathe.

Try to stay calm.

Try to stay safe.

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Filed under Photography, Politics