Category Archives: Video

July Can Take A Hike

As in, take a long hike off a short pier. Preferably into deep water with an anvil in your underwear. (Not a euphemism.)

As every month in the past four years or so has gotten steadily worse with only occasional bright spots (surgeries survived, great new job, fun trip in late 2018, Super Bowl champs, comet!) it’s gotten almost ridiculous how events come up some days and your only reaction is, “Really? REALLY??!! Where did THAT plot twist come from? That’s not believable, even Lot didn’t have that many bad things happening in such a short period!”

Yesterday we got the little earthquake to remind us to check our emergency bags. Today I was reminded why as much as I love flying things, I sort of hate hearing multiple helicopters and sirens. It might be a car chase or some other police activity, but you get to know the difference in sound between police sirens and fire truck sirens, and the helicopters sound different too, so at some point fairly quickly your subconscious says, “Maybe you should stick your head out the front door?”

Never good. Maybe it’s just a house or a car or something small…

Or, not. Good thing that it’s only 104°F out there and 14% humidity…

Fortunately Ventura and LA County Fire Departments are jumping on these little brush fires really fast and hitting them hard. This one was about two miles from us and even in this second picture which is only about a half hour after the fire started, you can already see the big fire-fighting bombers circling and dropping Phos-chek.

It was out in a couple of hours and it only burned 27 acres with no homes lost, so that’s a win.

But it’s time to review our evacuation plans and our 30-second, 5-minute, 15-minute, and 60-minute checklists.

It’s going to be a long summer. On top of COVID, fascism, and *waves hands vaguely* everything.


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Filed under Disasters, Photography, Video

Cosmic Double Header In Reverse

As we had last night, there was a bright, glorious ISS pass to go along with better and better views of Comet NEOWISE. But orbital mechanics being what they are and out of my control, tonight we’re doing them in reverse order. First we have the gorgeous ISS pass, and then it gets dark enough to view the comet.

The ISS pass was wonderful to watch, but difficult to photograph because it started at 20:30 and it’s still too bright at that point to do what I did yesterday. Yesterday’s images were five seconds long because it was dark. Similar images today would have been nothing but white from border to border, completely overexposed. The camera wanted to do 1/4 second exposures at the most, but I’m the PIC (Photographer in Command, in this case) so I set it for 1 second exposures and hoped for the best.

The results were marginal looking to where the ISS was rising in the west, but pushing the contrast in Photoshop at least allowed the station’s path to be seen, coming out of the glare of twilight toward the upper left corner. At least I’m getting a lot better on planning where to point the camera!

Headed over the horizon to the northeast the sky was darker, so there wasn’t as much tweaking necessary in Photoshop. You can also see where one of the big jets out of LAX was headed off to Asia at one point during the sequence. That bright star visible right next to the ISS path about half way is Vega, a very bright star, just starting to be visible as night falls.

I had to wait another half hour for it to get dark enough to see the comet. Again tonight it’s higher than it was yesterday, staying up longer while it gets darker, and easier to see. Again I’m emphasize if you’re looking – BINOCULARS! It looks fantastic.

This is a fifteen second view…

…and this is a twenty second image toward the end of the evening, shifting around the yard to try to dodge those trees blocking my view. These were both taken with the telephoto lens at 75mm.

Seeing if I could zoom in (better close ups of the comet) and take longer images (gather more light, but it’s a balancing act because the Earth’s moving and the image will smear if you’re not tracking) I tried to see what happened and got this at 300mm zoom and a ten second exposure:

It’s a little smeared and disappearing down behind that tree, but if you blow it up to full sized you can see how the comet’s tail is spread and curved. No chance with this rig, this low, and this light polluted to see the blue ion tail.

But that wasn’t my main goal for the night. From the time that the comet started to be really visible in the twilight (21:08) until it went behind that tree (21:25) I had cameras set up to take one photo after another, fifteen second exposures. Then I used that trick I learned in Photoshop…

This is the “regular” lens with a taller image, so that you can see the Big Dipper at the top. The comet is at the bottom, between those trees, heading down and to the right. I love this little video, the really clear, easily recognizable constellation spinning at the top, and how some of the stars in the Big Dipper “blink” as they go behind the power lines.

But I said I had cameras set up – plural. The big lens was also running!

Watch how it gets darker as time goes by and the stars in the constellation Lynx (below the Big Dipper) start to come out and the comet’s tail just gets brighter and more prominent as twilight fades!

This is easily my best work yet. I didn’t know how it would turn out, and there’s plenty of room for improvement still, but I’m very excited with how this turned out.

I’m posting the full-sized videos above. (I hope – it’s really late.) They’re also on my YouTube channel, but at reduced resolution.

And what happens after you’re done with that? Well, the first video is made up of forty-seven images, but that’s from a series of fifty images. I didn’t know exactly when the comet disappeared behind the tree. And that forty-eighth image?

The comet can just barely, almost, maybe be seen behind that tree – but the helicopter that came by missed its opportunity to photobomb my work!

But tomorrow’s photobombing, if I can pull it off, could be on a par with tonight’s results.

Stand by and happy hunting!

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space, Video

More Bird Fun

Not necessarily with our recently departed terrordactyl chicks…


I was out in the back today, looking up in the trees at the end of our yard and into the trees down the hill. (This picture will be relevant later as well.)

There were crows out and about, at least a murder and a half, making a wonderful racket. Finches everywhere (along with the mockingbirds, humming birds, mourning doves, thrushes, sparrows, etc), with most of the finch activity being between trees and way, way up at the top of these. But I noticed a couple, maybe three, maybe more, that looked small, maybe without a full head of feathers, hopping and fluttering between branches about 25-30 feet up.

Could have been fledgling flight school. I’m just sayin’.

Meanwhile, the folks at Cornell who run the wonderful Merlin Bird ID app shared a couple of videos of their red-tail hawk fledglings, and while I don’t typically share other folks’ videos here, given the subject matter it seemed appropriate. Watch the reaction of the two siblings as gravity and a gust of wind win and life choices are questioned:

BTW, he was fine!

Back on this coast, while I was burning mean (too literally) on the Fourth of July BBQ, there was a bird call that I’ve never, EVER heard before. And it was *LOUD* and close, up in those trees that I showed you at the back edge of the hill.

I’ve condensed about five or six minutes of sound into just the parts where it was calling, about every 30-45 seconds. No clue.

But wait, there are apps that will ID bird song, right? (The Merlin app doesn’t.) So let’s run that through one of those! Right?

Canada Goose? REALLY? I mean, I’m not Audubon Society Hall of Fame candidate, but this bird was CLOSE, really LOUD, and moving around up in the trees. First of all, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Canada Goose in a tree, and if one was there and just twenty or thirty feet from me I sure as shit would have seen it!!

Shall we try again, maybe focus on that second set of calls that seem different from the first one?

Yeah, well, if I had somehow missed the Canada Goose, I still wouldn’t have missed the human being with the noise maker in the tree…

I checked the supplied sounds for the California Quail and they’re at least sort of close-ish to what I heard, but quail don’t perch in trees either.

The mystery continues…


Filed under Critters, Photography, Video

Mama Finch Getting Fidgety

Something might be happening in the finches’ nest – instead of simply sitting there all day, wishing she had Netflix, today Mama Finch was fidgeting and fussing with the eggs underneath her.

Maybe tomorrow is Birdy Birthin’ Day?!


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Filed under Critters, Video

ISS Pass & A Bonus

The weather’s better, there’s a nice, high, bright, ISS pass… Let’s see if I can avoid screwing this up two nights in a row, shall we?

(Image –

It was sweet, especially with a little contrast cleanup in Photoshop.

There was a bright, almost full moon rising, so I kept the exposures shorter, just 2.3 seconds each.

Then I tried to shift to another location to catch the rest of the pass as the ISS swung overhead and headed back toward the southeast where the moon was rising. The rabbits covering the lawn didn’t appreciate it and tried to trip me going down the hill.

I finally made it and got set up to see it fade into night as it got down near the moon (that honkin’ bright thing at the lower left edge).

As I pulled the tripod and started heading home (I had moved a couple houses down the hill to clear the street lights and trees) I noticed another satellite straight overhead. I quickly put the tripod back down and started shooting again.

It was MUCH dimmer than the ISS – this is a single frame and you can see it in the center top, heading down and slightly to the left.

Why not a combined file like with the ISS? When I tried to combine these images in StarStaX the satellite trail vanishes. It’s too dim and therefore too thin and each segment gets overwritten by the other layers where it’s dark.

But… I learned a new trick and I’m not afraid to use it three days in a row.

In a GIF format, you can see the unknown satellite moving down toward the horizon, before it too goes into darkness.

The fact that it went into darkness at about the same distance to the east of us means that it was probably at a similar height to the ISS. If it were higher, it would have stayed in sunlight longer – lower and it would have gone dark sooner. Beyond that, I have no idea what it was.

Keep looking up. You never know what you might see!

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Filed under Astronomy, Paul, Photography, Space, Video


There he goes!! Wait for the “push ups” at the end!

Standard issue fence lizard. Now that it’s getting warm we’re seeing a dozen or so of them around the yard. By late summer it will be many dozens, depending on the attrition rate as the crows and hawks and other birds prove to be quicker than they are.


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When The Going Gets Weird…

Quarantine Day #26? Maybe? I should check and see when this started here…

Anyway, people online have been complaining about needing haircuts, including the subhuman cretins out “protesting” (by which I mean they’re following the right-wing cult leaders who lead them around by the short hairs) about “opening up” the states. Sorry, that got away from me…

Anyway, people online have been complaining about needing haircuts and I know the feeling. I normally keep my hair short and it was about time for a haircut when everything got shut down, so four weeks down the road I’m even shaggier. It’s not that I don’t like how I look – geez, have you people every actually met me? No, it’s that it gets to be a pain in the ass to take care of, it tickles, it just starts to bug me.

Fortunately, I don’t have a complex haircut requirement. Buzz cut, all over. I’ve said for years, if I could see the back to trim it up a little I wouldn’t even bother going to SuperCuts or Great Clips or Fantastic Sam’s or wherever it’s fastest and cheapest.

Time to test that theory.

The clippers came today, the instructions were scanned enough to verify that they could be ignored, the light was fading, and I went out into the back yard to cut my own hair!

Of course, I did it live on Facebook. Because a little bit of harmless insanity goes a long way these days.

It’s not for everyone, but I had fun.


Filed under Castle Willett, CoronaVirus, Paul, Video

Super Bowl Champions Monday

We won.

There was BBQ at our house because, well… Kansas City! BBQ! Duh!

(Click to enlarge.)

There was some tension being behind by ten points with only about eight minutes left – but you have seen us play, right? Like, really?

There was champagne that we had been saving for a special occasion, and they don’t get just a whole lot more special than this.

There was hanging out and celebrating and watching Andy Reid get his awards and Patrick Mahomes get his and everyone else looking at wedding pictures.

See you next year, same time, same place – back to back!

(And pitchers and catchers report in eight days…)

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Filed under Castle Willett, KC Chiefs, Panorama, Photography, Sports, Video

Christmas Day 2019

I hope that everyone had a Christmas Day that was as calm or exciting as they wanted or needed, with as much or as little drama as requested, and that everyone had been good (enough) this year so that Santa brought them what they wanted.

If you didn’t get everything you want, it’s never to early to start planning for next year.

Here’s a short video of our lights turning on:

And a picture of what it looks like after dark:

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, y’all!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Christmas Lights, Photography, Video

No Context For You – Video Version (December 16th)

Don’t blink, you’ll miss it.

Sort of like today in general. And last week. And November. And 2019…

But I finally tracked down the infamous “Red Nose Actually,” the 15-minute “sequel” to “Love Actually” with most of the original cast. Yeah, it’s an ad for the Red Nose charity, which is a good thing, and it’s a little hokey in spots. It’s also spectacular.

Jamie & Aurelia… Mark & Juliet… David & Natalie… And then Sam & Joanna…

Now what I wouldn’t give to find a clean, high-def copy that’s not got YouTube’s commercials interjected every two minutes!

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