Category Archives: Photography

Everything In Motion

And yet that new iPhone 13 “night mode” camera takes a pretty decent photo without even a tripod…

Jupiter at top, just left of center, Saturn just a scooch above center to the left of the tree, the quarter moon setting between the tree and the house. Various other stars visible if you click on the image to blow the whole thing up to full sized.

No tripod, so this image shows a little blur and jiggle – but as I said, everything is in motion.

The Moon in its orbit around the Earth has now moved to be visible at this time of night. The Earth has rotated so that we’re in night. The trees are all blowing in 16 knot winds, gusting to 24 knots, so they’re waving about a bit. And I’m trying to hold the phone/camera as still as possible while standing in those winds as a faux tripod.

Yet – the picture is lovely.

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Filed under Astronomy, Castle Willett, Photography

New Camera

I got a new camera yesterday and got it set up. I’ve been taking some test pictures to start.

This camera has been talked about a lot recently as folks anticipated its availability – they weren’t kidding! I just saw these images from the full-sized files on my desktop monitors. STUNNING!

These were all taken with just the ambient light from inside the houses and a couple of street lights. The street light in our front yard that’s been the bane of my existence (when I’ve been taking pictures of ISS passes) is out. It’s dark out there.

Poking through the clouds up there is Jupiter. Mind you, I haven’t done anything yet to learn about all of the features and settings on this camera. If you think these are cool, wait until I actually learn how to use it! All I did for these was push the button and see what happens. I didn’t even use a tripod, so the fact that these aren’t blurry or jiggly is amazing to me.

Again, Jupiter’s the bright one, Saturn is the one closest to the right edge, and if you blow this up to full sized you’ll see all kinds of stars it captured. And all I did was hold it while standing in my back yard and push the button.

What’s even MORE amazing about this camera is that it’s got two more lenses. These were taken with the regular lens, but there’s also a telephoto and a wide angle lens built in. Fun times ahead playing with those!

Oh, yeah, and this camera also has a small supercomputer built in, as well as wi-fi, bluetooth, it shows me TV, movies, streaming video, has a whole slew of business apps, GPS and maps, connects to the internet, can keep a huge music library as well as hundreds if not thousands of books, health apps, and on and on and on.

Yeah, I got an iPhone Pro Max.


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Filed under Astronomy, Computers, Paul, Photography

In Case You Had Any Doubts

If you made the trek up the big hill, got to the top, saw our house, and thought, “I wonder what football team they root for?”

The old flag (middle) has seen a lot of miles, and I didn’t have one for my car, so a quick trip to the Chiefs’ online store solved THAT problem.

Glad that I cleared that up for you.

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Filed under KC Chiefs, Photography


Prior to last night’s little episode with lightning & thunder (which almost blew me into next month), the approaching storm gave a fantastic display of mammatus clouds just before it got dark.

Usually seen at the bottom of a cumulonimbus cloud, they’re a sign of a huge amount of turbulence above as opposing updrafts and downdrafts in the clouds churn the air.

The name comes from their sack-like appearance, looking like breasts hanging down from the clouds. As a pilot, I would avoid flying underneath.

We don’t see these out in this part of the world often, so this was a treat. This particular storm cell was just starting to drop some light rain, and it had moved on and wasn’t responsible for the lighting and thunder later, but with this sort of activity building you can bet that it lit up the skies up over Ventura and Santa Barbara counties later.

What stood out in a wider view is the distinct difference in the cloud’s appearance across the bottom. On the right you see it smooth and fairly featureless where rain was starting to fall and obscure the mammatus formations above it.

But on the left you can still see up through a hole in the rain layer to the higher formation in the cloud. I was surprised to see that foundry so clearly defined.

Mammatus clouds – a good sign that meteorological mischief is afoot. And maybe a good time to get inside, or at least under the porch awning, and off of the golf course or lawn.

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Filed under Photography, Weather


Sort of out of nowhere today the weather kicked up over the Catalina Channel to our south and a series of fairly good sized thunderstorm cells started drifting north over the Los Angeles basin. We don’t get that sort of weather often, maybe once every couple of years at best, and often even when we do, the storms tend to drift inland into Riverside and San Bernardino Counties and miss us over here at the far west end of Los Angeles County.

Not today.

It’s no secret that I absolutely ❤ LOVE ❤ rain and thunderstorms. So when they started coming in, I grabbed a whole slew of cameras and gear over the evening to take pictures of the clouds (some fantastic pictures of mammatus clouds right over head), to listen to the rain, wind, and thunder, and to try to catch lightning strikes on video.

Eventually about 20:30 there was a good sized cell sitting just to our south.

(Image from NOAA High-Def Weather Radar app)

Sitting out in the back yard, listening to the rain pounding on the back porch roof and the howling of the wind, seeing the flashes of lightning, this (long-ish, 4:31 total) clip ends (at 3:36) with a HUGE boomer. That was a good one!

A little later things had fired up again and a couple of big thunder boomers had rattled the house, so I took my iPhone out into the front. Another cell was coming in south of Calabasas, so I started recording. It was raining pretty hard, so I stayed on the porch, but then I couldn’t see the sky real well, so I decided to walk down to the garage door, figuring I could lean against the garage and stay pretty much out of the rain, but still have a good view of the sky. Just as I got there, at about 0:55 in this clip, and turned around… (I urge caution if you’re listening with headphones or earbuds or have the volume turned up!!)


How I managed to not clear out the deepest darkest corner of my obscenity directory, I’ll never know. How I managed to not come in with brown jeans when I went out with blue jeans, I’ll never know.

Curious, once I got my heart rate back down into double digits, while editing the video I checked a few figures on the timeline.

The frame where the bolt struck, at 1:02977 seconds.

The frame where the sound hit, at 1.04070 seconds.

That’s an elapsed time of 1.093 seconds. With the speed of sound being 1100 feet per second, that means that the bolt hit somewhere down the street 1,202 feet away.

That’s a really high “pucker factor.”

Furthermore, look at the soundtrack magnified way, way up:

About 1/20 second before the sound hit, there’s this.

An extremely vivid part of my memory of the event is that the incredibly bright flash hit, but in that 1.093 seconds between the strike and the sound I very distinctly heard a frying or sizzling noise, almost like someone on the roof right above me had a big sheet of cellophane and was crumbling it up into a ball. I think this is that sound. Why I would hear it separate from the “BOOOOOOM!” and every so slightly earlier, I don’t know.

Looking at the map shows more waves of showers building to the south and headed our way…

…with more behind that.

It could be a VERY long night!

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Filed under Photography, Video, Weather

No Context For You – October 01st

How much of what we see, or a better term might be “perceive,” is “real?”

In a historic context, we can travel to ancient lands and see ruins or magnificent architecture that’s 2,000+ years old, or we can go to Disneyland or Las Vegas and see something almost exactly like it, in many ways even more magnificent. “Real” or “fake?”

If you ever have any eye issues you’ll start to see just how personal that distinction can be. I’m dealing with a little issue with floaters and flashes of light, which I’m told is normal and harmless and it will go away on its own soon. How? How will it “go away?” Are they going to give me some pills, or do some sort of surgery, or should I put warm compresses or ice packs (or both) on my eyeballs? No, my brain will just learn to ignore them, they say.

So far all my brain is doing is screaming, “SPIDER!” or “FLY!” or “LIZARD!” or “LOOK OUT!!” about every fifteen seconds, which is not nearly as much fun as it sounds.

Many years ago as my vision started to deteriorate I had laser surgery on my eyes and ended up with “EAGLE VISION!” It was great! I went from being unable to read or see anything at a distance without glasses (“Bats use me as a role model,” to quote a line from a long forgotten 1986 Jeffrey Tambor sitcom that lasted only eleven episodes) to being able to read “Copyright (C) 2004 Acme Eye Chart Company” at the very, very bottom of the sign.

This is sort of the reverse of that and it sucks. Painless (fortunately, ’cause I’m a wussy boy) but annoying as all get out. And they aren’t kidding – “just be patient” is the #1 piece of advice, unless it gets so bad that they put you on the list for an eyeball transplant.

“Just be patient” – HAVE THEY EVER MET ME??!!

So, my eyes might be lying to me, just a bit. It’s like my very own, personal optical illusion, 24/7/365.

But then I start asking questions and trying to troubleshoot it. For example, the flashes of light… I get that I don’t really see them in normal lighting or daylight, but if I go wandering around the yard after dark to try to look at the stars (and boy, take a look around this site for the past several years and look at all of the astrophotography and astronomy and space related stuff there is and you’ll know just how PISSED I am that I’m having real problems with THAT manifestation of this issue!) I’m seeing flashes every time I blink or move my eyes. It’s dark there, the relatively dim flashes stand out. Uh-huh. So why when I close my eyes do I never see flashes. Or when I just cover my eyes with my hands? Only when my eyes are wide open and I’m in a dark location?

Or not when I lay down at night? Maybe it’s a horizontal-vs-vertical thing? Nope, go outside at night, lie down on the sidewalk (it’s okay, the neighbors already know I’m a little odd) and I still see them.

So I ask the nice eye doctor folks about it. And they just smile, and nod, and put notes in my file, AND NEVER ANSWER. Because they don’t know.

This further supports the theory (and just to be clear, I’m joking here, I don’t want this to be the accidental start of another bullshit theory for the anti-vaxxing, science-denying, conspiracy-theory whack jobs to run with) that medicine and science aren’t real at all and this eye thing is a personal punishment from God just to piss me off.

It’s working.

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Filed under Health, Photography

Random Old Photos – September 28th

No sure quite how “random,” but the truth is I wasn’t even looking for a photo necessarily, and in particular I wasn’t looking for something to use in a “random old photo” post. But I was punching buttons at random-ish on my iPhone, looking for inspiration, and at some point hit something referring to “Your Memories” and it came up with a set of photos from exactly fifteen years ago, September 28, 2006.

Antwerp. I was there with a group of my Pepperdine MBA classmates for the next to last day of our foreign tour to Prague and Brussels. We had traveled to Antwerp by bus (I remember having been up waaaaaay too late the night before and gotten up way too early that morning), had two meetings that were part of our MBA curriculum, had lunch next to the harbor, and then had about an hour to wander around town.

I walked down to the town square and the cathedral, camera in hand of course.

It’s funny what you remember. Just on the right past the crosswalk was a little pharmacy. By this point in the trip I had massive blisters and wanted to find some Band-Aids and  something to kill the pain. The very nice woman in the store spoke no English, I spoke no Dutch, but we figured it out. Curiously, I still have a couple of those Band-Aids, or at least I did the last time I looked.

Not the oddest souvenir I’ve ever brought home, but a contender for the short list.

Fifteen years. It actually turned out to be a melancholy memory. About half of the photos were of classmates, at lunch, in town, on the bus, at dinner afterwards… We’ve gone our separate ways. I still see one or two on FaceBook every now and then and there are a few Christmas cards that get swapped, but that’s it. And I have no idea when I’ll see Europe again. Or if…

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Filed under Photography, Travel

High-Altitude Smoke

California’s been burning, a LOT. Most of the fires have been up in the Sierras and in Northern and Central California, and I’m sure many if not most of you have heard about Lake Tahoe coming within a hair’s breadth of burning to the ground. A lot of that smoke has ended up Colorado, Utah, and points east, as far as Chicago and Pittsburgh.

But very little has hit the Los Angeles area.

Today that changed, rather suddenly.

Most of the smoke is up at high altitude, so we’re not doing any choking. You can’t smell anything on the ground.

But it sure is orange.

It’s supposed to blow out of here again over the weekend. Say hello to Sheboygan!

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Filed under Disasters, Los Angeles, Photography

Unwanted Guests

Being where we are and the ecosystem we’re in, we get gophers. Annoying little bastards, they’ll ruin your lawn in weeks if allowed to. Our gardeners deal with them as needed. But this morning…

As soon as I came to a spot in the house where I could see out of the sliding glass doors to the backyard, it was obvious this was no simple visitation from gophers.


The other problem with them, especially since the back yard is on the edge of a sizeable hill, is that if left unchecked the gophers can dig enough holes and tunnels to undermine the stability of the hill. Given enough gophers and a good soaking rain this winter (please, we could REALLY use that rain!) then a chunk of our (rented) house ends up in the downslope neighbor’s back yard and the house gets red-tagged and we’ve got 24 hours to find a new place and move out.

Not my idea of a good time.

So the powers that be have been notified and in a couple of days someone will be out to encouraging the gophers to move to someone else’s yard. In a couple of days.

In the meantime, tomorrow morning might be “interesting.”

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Filed under Castle Willett, Critters, Photography

Random Old Photos – September 21st

The end of summer is here. The autumn equinox is tomorrow, September 22nd, at 15:21 EDT, 12:21 PDT. From there the days get shorter and the nights longer, until we get to December 21, 2021.

Out of curiosity, I looked up where I was on the autumn equinox ten years ago. I figured it would be some random picture around town or more birds, lizards, or dogs. Nope, I was out of the country!

In London, to be precise. I had gone to Southampton for three days of testing on a theoretical procedure for reducing drag on racing yachts. On the way home, the timing was off for getting straight from Southampton to Los Angeles via Heathrow, so I ended up with about twenty hours in London.

Poor, poor me how it worked out that way.

I didn’t get much sleep on that brief layover. There was plenty of time for that in steerage on the flight home.

This picture is from my first stop after a quick nap (I think I left Trafalgar Square about 3 AM according to the date stamp on the pictures.) It was raining, but I wasn’t going to let that slow me down. This was from Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, followed by a quick pass past Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial, the Princess Diana Fountain, then a sprint back to the hotel for my bags and a train ride to Heathrow.

Someday I would like to get to London to visit and roam and stay for at least 24 hours, maybe even 72. It could happen.


Filed under Photography, Travel