Monday, September 24, 2012

Saving The Earth

OK, here's a cool toy. A $750,000 Caterpillar Trackhoe with an electro-magnet, found at Las Vegas Metal Recycling. I've just pulled my trailer-load of cut-up rebar over to this awesome machine.
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I didn't get a picture of him, but rest assured, Larry is at the controls.
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Larry swings the magnet over for the third of four grabs of 1,000-lb bundles of rebar on my trailer. I travelled 120 miles with this load because the recycler in my town pays $100/ton and Larry pays $225/ton. Well worth the gas.
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Ker-chunk! That's 1,000 lbs of rebar! Apologies for the lousy phone pics, but I never dreamed they had this cool toy. I was expecting a forklift or a backhoe, so I didn't bring my camera, Fortunately, my cell phone has a camera and I know how to use it and download the pics. (Not easy.)

Posted by Dave

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Autumn Astrophotography

Still learning. The loss of sleep and the bug bites are taking their toll, but I persevere. I suffer for my art. As always, click to embiggen.
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Above, this is the fabulous Cocoon Nebula, NGC 7243, in Lacerta. It's in there somewhere. Can't see it? Me neither. Dave, are you sure you were pointing the scope at the right spot in the sky? Maybe. I think so. 30 seconds at 1600 ISO
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This is NGC 891, a galaxy in Andromeda. 164 seconds at 1600 ISO.
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OK, here we go. The Pinwheel Galaxy in Triangulum. I took out some of the bluish color cast with Capture NX2 and applied a little noise reduction, but otherwise left this photo unmolested. 133 seconds at 1600 ISO.
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Here's another attempt at the wispy Veil Nebula in Cygnus. The bright star is good ol' #52. 164 seconds at 1600 ISO.

Yer welcome.


Posted by Dave

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Underwhelming Astrophotography

Some nights I can take 200 photos and not salvage a single one. This is one of those nights. I took these shots with a Nikon D5100 DSLR hooked to a Celestron 6" refractor. Click on any of these pics to embignify.
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Above is NGC 253, a spiral galaxy in the constellation Sculptor. 137 second exposure with an ISO of 1600. I didn't have my autoguider hooked up, so even though I had an excellent alignment, you can still see star trails. I'll get a decent pic of this bad boy yet.
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This is M76, a bluish planetary nebula in Perseus. 30 seconds at ISO 3200. It's faint and tiny, but if you squint just right, it's in the center.
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This is the wispy Veil Nebula in Cygnus, which you can hardly see in this picture, even with some editing to bring it up better. 184 seconds at 1600 ISO. The bright star is good old #52. It doesn't have a pretty name.

















This is Mrs. UC's shot of the Veil Nebula. Taken with a Nikon D300 and an f2.8 200mm lens, 61 seconds at ISO 800. You really have to squint. It's a tad left of center.

Posted by Dave

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Lovely Andromeda

I'm always trying to improve my astro-pics. Here are several shots of the galaxy Andromeda that I took last night, using a Nikon D5100 DSLR and a Celestron C6R refractor/Atlas EQ-G Mount/FeatherTouch focuser as a prime-focus lens. Shot info is underneath each picture. As always, click to embignify.
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30-second exposure at 1600 ISO.

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30-second exposure at 3200 ISO.

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30-second exposure at 6400 ISO.

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152-second exposure at 1600 ISO. I like this one the best, so time beats ISO. ISO just means the sensitivity--the higher the number the more sensitive. Notice that the more light that gets gathered, the bigger the galaxy seems. That's especially true with nebulas; a longer exposure picks up colors and size that the eye would miss otherwise. A longer exposure or higher ISO also picks up more "noise", which is pixels showing light that isn't really there. In Nikon Capture NX2 I can deal with some noise, but not all. There's also a bag of tricks with exposure compensation, contrast, levels, and saturation, that can greatly improve the pictures.

I didn't edit any of the above photos because I wanted to see a realistic comparison. All I did was convert the .NEF format to .JPG.

Posted by Dave

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Photo-Bombing The Lagoon Nebula

Damn satellites are as thick as flies. Mrs. UC took this shot of the Lagoon Nebula through the zoom lens on her camera. The Lagoon Nebula is in the constellation Sagittarius.
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I did heavy editing in Nikon Capture NX2. Corrected a red color-cast, increased contrast, noise reduction, levels, saturation, magnification.

Posted by Dave

Missiles Over New Mexico

There I was, just mindin' me own business, when all of a sudden I look up and see this:
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This is the military's version of Shooting Skeet; launch one missile and shoot it down with two others. While I was gaping at this, Mrs. UC went in the house and grabbed camera and tripod. In order to bring out the colors, you need to use exposure compensation. Here she used a -3.0 exposure compensation, which required a tripod for the longer exposure. Pretty wild colors.

Posted by Dave

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Building Safety

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"Safety measures." You're probably tsk, tsking, thinking, "If only..."

If only those backwards Pakistanis had modern regulations, things like lighted exit signs and unlocked emergency exits, fire alarms, fire extinguishers, and building code fire regulations.

Here's my "If only..." If only people would build their structures out of non-flammable materials, like concrete. I don't know of a single building code in God's America that forbids building with flammable sticks. I'm like, Hello! Anybody home?

Posted by Dave

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I Caused A Collapse In Prices

Two solid weeks I spent chopping leftover rebar into 4' lengths, after talking scrap steel prices with a recycler in Las Vegas.(They give the best price if the rebar is 4' or shorter.) I decided it was worth trailering these up to him, so I bent my back to the task.
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I made a rack and stacked up 4 piles, 1000 lbs. each, about half of what I chopped up. My trailer is rated to carry 5K, so I thought I'd better not push it. #6 rebar, 3/4", weighs 1.5 lbs/ft. I weighed one of the 4' pieces, and my digital scale said 5.8 lbs. Close enough. Two trips.

A friend of mine suggested I check scrap prices in Victorville, California, just to keep the Vegas guy honest. So I called Victorville first. They weren't interested, in spite of their Yellow Pages ad that said they were. Hmmmmm. OK, so I call the Vegas guy and ask him what his current price is. He said, and I quote, "The market is in freefall. I'll buy your rebar, but you won't like the price."

So I caused a commodity market crash, all by myself. Now, if I could just figure out how to crash the market for politicians, the Military-Industrial Complex, Welfare-as-we-know-it, Welfare-as-Corporations-know-it, etc., well then, I could call it a day.

Posted by Dave

More Clouds

I heard the rumbling, and Charlie, our director-of-security, went rushing out his door to meet this menace head-on.
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I love the contrast in these clouds.
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We didn't get a drop out of this. That localized torrent stayed on the other side of the Colorado River.
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Just like fresh cauliflower. I love a "crisp" cloud. this photo was taken with a 300mm zoom lens at maximum magnification.
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It's all about the contrast. Crisp, white clouds with dark underbellies, and a deep, blue sky.
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Some of this moisture would have been nice.

Posted by Dave

Saturday, September 1, 2012

God Is In The Clouds

I am endlessly fascinated by the sky. Stars at night, clouds in the daytime. To take better pictures of sunrises and sunsets, I nosed around the Innertubes and discovered Gordon Laing. Here's one of his YouTubes. Double clicking will take you to full screen:



Lesson applied thusly to this cloud pic I shot two days ago:
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Click to embignify. A little exposure compensation can throw some drama into a cloud pic.

I'm experimenting with Blogger display. I can now post big boy pictures without clipping the right side, but now my side panel overlaps a bit. I'm not sure if that's a Blogger problem or a Chrome problem. I'll keep screwing with it.

Update: By going into the HTML editor I can change the width and height of both pictures and YouTubes.

Posted by Dave