Monday, December 26, 2011

The New Las Vegas City Hall

This is the nearly completed Las Vegas Oppression Center City Hall.


I had a hand in every molecule of concrete used to build this tragic waste of taxes magnificent edifice, including the sidewalks. This pic is what it looks like when I show up to work at 6 a.m.

Posted by Dave

Sunday, October 30, 2011


My Grandfather was an avid photographer. Everywhere he went, he snapped pictures with his Leica camera.

This is the Utopia Lodge in 1955. It's either in Jackson, Wyoming, or near Yellowstone Park, because that's what it says on the box of slides. I have hundred of boxes of old slides from my Grandparents, who unfortunately are both long gone. I can scan slides, 16 at a time, in my HP Scanjet G4050.

Undoubtedly, the main drag of Jackson, Wyoming. Check out the antique tin!

This deer and moose antler arch is the gateway to a park in Jackson Hole.


I'm guessing this is Old Faithful, 56 years ago.

Posted by Dave

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hope For Old Slides

I'm using an HP G4050 scanner to turn old family slides into jpg pics. I came to a group of slides that were very red. I don't know whether they turned red over time or whether they were always red. Here's what I did.

In Adobe Photoshop CS3 I clicked Image > Adjustments > Auto Color. That made the biggest improvement. Then I clicked Image > Adjustments > Selective Color > Magenta > -35%. The result is above. I could probably have played with the individual colors for hours to achieve perfection, but the result is acceptable to me.

Posted by Dave

Another Damn Fire

This week's fire:

MOHAVE VALLEY — Heavy winds are being blamed for a fire that destroyed an unoccupied home at the far east end of King Street in Mohave Valley Wednesday morning.

Week after week it happens, yet another fire of suspicious origin that provides steady employment for firemen. Heavy winds? Nope. The real cause of this fire is the flammable sticks used to build the home.

Metaphor time: Don't go in the pool.

Posted by Dave

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bob's Knobs and the Unsharp Mask

In search of better pictures, but with a mind toward economy, I keep trying different things. On Schmidt-Cassegrain scopes, the major cause of poor performance is bad alignment of the secondary mirror. For my Celestron CPC1100, collimating (aligning) the secondary mirror is a pain. You have to risk scratching the front glass cover with a phillips screwdriver while you're looking in the eyepiece to make an adjustment. So clever Bob made up some replacement screws that don't need a screwdriver. These knobs make it easy to collimate your scope's secondary mirror every time you set it up.

I replaced the phillips screws with Bob's Knobs. Easy.

After putting in the Bob's Knobs, you need to do a rough collimation. Stand about 10 feet in front of your scope. See how the circular reflections are listing to the right? Adjust the knobs until things look symmetrical.

 Then take the scope out and find a bright star. Defocus thusly and fiddle with the Bob's Knobs until the image is symmetrical. Just a small improvement in symmetry yields a huge improvement in clarity.

Here's a moon shot I took this morning. In addition to the improvement from tightening up the collimation, I used the unsharp mask in Nikon's Capture NX2 to get further sharpness. Capture is a must-have if you have a Nikon DSLR.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Cause of a Fire

This is the saddest thing imaginable--A mother loses her son.


BULLHEAD CITY — Bullhead City Fire Marshal Jim Dykens said he’s getting closer to determining an exact cause of the fatal fire that claimed the life of a 2-year-old boy in south Bullhead City Monday morning, but he said he needs a little more time to be absolutely certain.

Jim Dykens is waisting his time. Every damn week another trailer burns here in Mohave County, Arizona. The cause is ALWAYS the same--a dwelling made of flammable sticks.

Posted by Dave

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Unsharp Mask

I think this has possibilities.

I'm playing in Photoshop CS3 and Capture NX2. Same pic, top and bottom. I didn't do much to the upper pic, but in Capture NX2 I used the "Unsharp Mask" on the lower pic. It seems a lot sharper. Why they call it "unsharp" I haven't a clue.

In CS3 I put both pics together and made a red border. Neat trick, but it's not easy. I had to nose around the Innertubes a bit to find out how. Jerad Hill explains it all Here.

Posted by Dave

Friday, September 9, 2011

Collimation Check

This is an out-of-focus star shot. (Capella, in Auriga.)

Ideally, I should have this more centered in the viewfinder. Anyway, what you look for is perfect symmetry. This is pretty close. I'm going to tweak it a bit when I get some special hardware from Bob's Knobs. They're knurled-knob screws to replace the ones in the secondary mirror of my Celestron 11" CST. Bob's Knobs make it easier to adjust--no screwdriver needed.

Posted by Dave

Moonin' Ya

Just some moon shots, taken night before last.

I didn't play with any of these, no brightening, cropping, or contrast adjustments.


These last two setting moon shots show a distant radio tower. That hilltop tower is at least 20 miles away.

Kind of eerie, all dark and bloody red, huh? Summer moonset shots are redder because the hotter atmosphere has more dust and moisture in it. The hotter air also makes it hard to get a crystal-clear focus with all that turbulence.

Posted by Dave

M79 In Lepus

Not one of my best pics.

This is M79, a globular cluster in the constellation Lepus, The Hare. At magnitude 7.9, it's not bright, and I had to hold the shutter open for 143.4 seconds to get this much. That's why you see all the red dots in the photo, which are not stars but pixels throwing up their little pixel arms in disgust.

Posted by Dave

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Using The FarPoint Focus Mask

Here's a trick to get sharper photos.
This is the FarPoint Focus Mask, based on the Bahtinov design. It'll show you when you're perfectly focused. This one is sized for the Celestron 11" SCT. See how it just slips over the secondary mirror housing. Then you pick the brightest star near your area of interest. You're looking for the center pattern below. When the pattern is centered, take off the mask and shoot away.

I used Capella in Auriga for these left, center, and right patterns because it's so bright. You probably won't have such a bright star in the vicinity of what you're shooting, and you want something close by because the farther you swing the scope, the more chance that the focus will change.

Posted by Dave

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nikon D3000 Astrophotography With An Orion Telescope

I woke up a little past midnight and looked outside. Completely clear skies, a zephyr of a breeze, and temperature in the low 90's. A bowl of oatmeal and a couple cups of coffee later, I was out the door. I had my scope set up, aligned and tracking by 1 a.m. Using a Nikon D3000 with an Orion 80mm f7.5 refractor scope as a prime focus lens.


The Andromeda Galaxy, M31. ISO 1600 and a 30 second exposure. Click to embiggen.


Pleiades, the Seven Sisters, a cluster in the constellation Taurus. ISO 1600 and a 30 second exposure.


Globular Cluster M15 in Pegasus. ISO 1600 and a 30 second exposure.


The fabulous Orion Nebula. ISO 800 and a 114.5 second exposure.


NGC 869 and 884, a double cluster in Perseus. ISO 1600 and a 30 second exposure.

These are some of my best shots ever. I take great care in focusing, and I usually take sets of 3 shots just to make sure the tracking motors have settled down. While I'm waiting for the camera to get the shot, I lay down next to the scope and watch the sky for shooting stars and satellites. I use a remote clicker so I don't jiggle the scope.

Posted by Dave

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Purpose of Shelter

Got to sandbag it up. Yo diggity.


It's a shame that we build homes to flee FROM instead of TO. Sturdy homes built on high ground, homes that can withstand earthquakes and tornadoes, homes that don’t need insurance. Materials like concrete, brick, rammed earth, steel studs and sheetrock. Sigh.

Posted by Dave

Thursday, August 25, 2011

M37 In Auriga

This is M37, a beautiful open cluster in the constellation Auriga.

I took this shot with my Nikon D3000 and a Celestron 11" Schmitt-Cassegrain telescope, effectively a 2800mm, f/10 prime-focus lens. ISO 1600 and a 30 second exposure. I think I could really sharpen these shots up with an autoguider. Perhaps when I go back to work.

Posted by Dave

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

OK, So It's Hot!

I think Summer has arrived.

But inside it's a delightful 78 degrees.

Posted by Dave

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Civil 3D--Point & Label Styles, Deskeys, and Groups

Move on. Nothing to see here. Just let me blather on. I'm moving a project from AutoCAD 2008 Land Desktop to Civil 3D 2010. In an effort to firm up my understanding of how styles, point groups, description keys and layers collide, I followed the recommendations of an article on Edward-James Surveying, Inc's website. The particular article I read is Here.

Start with the Point Styles. Set the Marker and Label to Layer 0. Everything else set to ByLayer.


Set up your Label Style(s) and set the Layer to 0 again. Notice I've got two Label Styles that display the Point Number only. The 0.10 means 1/10" high letters. The 0.05 Style is for letters 1/20" tall, for when the points get dense or your plot is just a small portion of the total drawing.


Next up, Description Keys. When I import my points from the other drawing, I want them to land in different layers, so that I can turn those different layers on or off, to show or not show the information I'll be conveying in the drawing. Any drawings I make will be either for me or my layout partner, so I won't have to big-deal the drawing.


For any points that the Deskeys don't catch, setting up a default layer will herd the stragglers onto a Misc Points Layer. Notice the Deskeys are enabled.


In theory, I won't have to make any point groups, although I might group points together just to make exporting easier to my data collector. But I should be able to control visibility to my satisfaction without making any Point Groups.

My biggest complaint of Civil 3D is this process of Layer visibility that is supposed to make the program flexible, but I think makes it almost impossibly complicated.


Here's a screen shot of my drawing in 2008 LDT.

Posted by Dave

Friday, August 19, 2011

How Many More Have To Die?


BULLHEAD CITY — A 64-year-old woman died as a result of a fire in a local mobile home park.
Bullhead City Fire Department reports indicate the woman was trapped in a mobile home in the Carefree Resort RV park, 350 Lee Avenue, after the residence caught on fire. Neighbors managed to extricate her from the home but when rescue personnel arrived, they discovered her unresponsive. She was taken to Western Arizona Regoinal Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead Wednesday evening.
The fire destroyed one mobile home and badly damaged another. Two neighbors who attempted to rescue the victim suffered smoke inhalation, but refused medical treatment at the scene.
Mohave Valley Daily News

Why, oh why, do people continue to live in shelters made of flammable sticks? Year after year, people will pay any price for fire insurance and a fire department, but damn few see the irony. The above story is a weekly occurrence here in Mohave County. Sad.

Posted by Dave

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Marvelous Night For A Moondance

Being an incorrigible early-riser and it being a full moon nearing moonset, I stuck my trusty Nikon D3000 and VR 55-200mm lens on a tripod. I had to shoot in manual mode because the "night" scene mode wanted to use the flash, and since it determined I wasn't shooting at anything near enough to use a flash on, it refused to snap a pic. Which meant I couldn't use the autofocus either.

This was a 3-second exposure, ISO 200, and an f/stop of 5.6. Because of the totally blown highlights, this shot looks like the sun, but it is indeed the moon and the time was about an hour before dawn's early light. I overexposed to bring out the clouds and the mountain peaks.

Thin mask of clouds in front. This was 1/50 second shutter speed and same ISO 200 and f/5.6. I was hoping for some real drama with the clouds, but this was about my best shot.

Even more cloud masking. 1/4 second exposure. The cloud gods were not kind this morning. They wouldn't give me something stunning.

1/10 second here. There were dense clouds right above the mountain tops, so I couldn't get a shot of the moon setting over a mountain peak. Maybe next month.

Posted by Dave

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Nikon D3000 Astrophotography

I took these shots about 2:30 a.m. I used a Celestron 11" Schmidt-Cassegrain scope as a prime lens for my Nikon D3000, shooting in manual mode. Clicking on these pics should make them bigger.

This is M39, a beautiful open cluster in the constellation Cygnus, The Swan. Shutter speed is 30 seconds, with an ISO of 1600.

The Andromeda Galaxy, M31. 25 second exposure at 1600 ISO. I take several shots of everything, and at various exposure times. I also took a 30 second exposure of this galaxy, but the stars "trailed" a bit. I've got to get an autoguider so I can take some seriously long shots.

This is Jupiter, of course. Crappy shot, blown highlights. 1/2 second exposure at 400 ISO. When I backed off the shutter speed to 1/20 second the moons didn't show and Jupiter was still washed out. A shame, too, because the "spot" was clearly visible in the scope. To get a spectacular planet photograph you have to "stack" shots, something I haven't tried yet.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Can't Open Nikon D3000 .nef Files With Capture NX2?


Apologies for the strange title. It's for others who are baffled as to why Nikon's Capture NX2 program won't open .nef files from a D3000 SLR. Rest assured, upgrading to version 2.2.7 fixes that, no problem. Go Here to get it. Be sure to install 2.2.6 first. I think the lack of interagency communication involved in the problem is astonishing and I hope heads rolled.


Shot this photo with a Nikon D3000 DSLR and an Orion 80mm f/7.5 Refractor telescope as a prime focus lens. ISO 200, shutter speed 1/25 second.

This pic is for all of you who doubt the moon is made of green cheese. I greened up this shot with Capture NX2, then I cropped it and busted down the rez with PhotoShop CS3. All in a day's work. Thanks fer stopping by.

Posted by Dave

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Werewolves of Arizona

Shot these photos with a Nikon D3000 DSLR and an Orion 80mm f/7.5 Refractor telescope as a prime focus lens. ISO is set to 200.

Full moon fairly high in the sky. Shutter speed is 1/320 second.

Moon is now fairly low in the sky and getting more orange. Shutter speed is 1/250 second.

Setting moon. Shutter speed is 1/25 second. Heat waves really distorted this pic.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer Has Finally Arrived

Yesterday afternoon at 3:16. Sensor is regulation, 4′ above ground and shaded. Death Valley is the only place in the U.S. hotter than here, and only slightly.

Posted by Dave.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dry Bones In A Dry Season

I just like the title. It stays with me. Seems to fit the times. The title is lifted from an essay by Richard Mitchell. But plagiarism aside, I digress.

I haven't worked much in the last couple of years. Maybe construction will come back, maybe not. If construction does make a comeback, the first industries to feel the revival will be surveying and civil engineering. And like Garrison Keillor's story about the husband waiting in the "V" of the bed for his wife to join him in sex, there I'll be, waiting. I bought a laptop with AutoCAD Civil 3D 2010 from a civil engineering firm that had fallen on hard times. Then I bought a half-dozen books on Civil 3D. So I haven't been sitting on the couch watching Oprah. The above is a screenshot of part of my footing drawing for the new Las Vegas City Hall building, which I worked on last year. I used this drawing to calc layout points for the footing dig.

This screenshot is the street centerline points for the same LV City Hall building. In another week or two I'll go back to work for a couple of months, and these points, which I got from the project surveyor, are what I need to calc points for the first-up project, footings for the Photo-Voltaic "Trees" going in front of the building. After that, bollards and sidewalks and steps. In addition to laying out the locations of these outside features, I'll also be slugging in stakes and doing formwork. After all, I am a carpenter.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Concerned About The Citizenry

I think our masters are worried.

These bollards and crash-barriers are very common in Washington D.C.

Everywhere you look.

Kinda reflects a paranoid mindset.

Notice the bottom line of this sign. These people will go all SWAT on your ass if you so much as blink.

Posted by Dave.