Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Full Moon

A 100%, by-gosh-full moon, and this is the only decent photo I got with my snappy.
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Living in a goldfish bowl of atmosphere sucks. The asteroids--that's the life for me.

Posted by Dave

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Spring Flowers

We've gotten just enough rain this winter to kick off the spring wildflowers.
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These are on the high side of my driveway retainer walls.
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Pretty. So much beauty in the world. Shit, I'm wiping tears.
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I admire this explosion of yellow every morning.
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Macro shot. Here I'm as close as I can get with this lens.
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OK, here's the deal on these last two shots. Above, I stopped down to f36, which means the smallest possible aperture (opening). Depth of field is greatly increased.
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Above, at f5.6, the largest opening available to this lens under these light conditions. See how the background is blurry? A lot of photographers use this effect to accent their subject. With the larger opening, the shutter speed is a lot quicker. 1/200 second for this shot, and 1/8 second on the previous shot.

Posted by Dave

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Whole New Level

Wow, I thought, as I boosted the ISO to 6400. These are gonna be killer pics. But you never really know what you're going to get until you download your evening's photos onto your computer and look at them on the big screen. All of the following photos are 30-second shots using an 11" SCT as a prime-focus lens for a Nikon D5100. Without an autoguider, 30 seconds is about the limit. Anything longer, you get star trails.
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Above, this is M51, The Whirlpool Nebula, in the constellation Canes Venatici, The Hunting Dogs. At 2 a.m., it was almost directly overhead. While the level of magnification is adequate, this picture suffers from too-short shutter speed and too-high ISO.
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Brightened and cropped. Awful! The noise!
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Here we have M83, a spiral galaxy in Hydra, The Sea Serpent.
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Brightened and cropped. Ugh! Make it stop, make it stop!
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This is NGC 4762, a nebula supposedly resembling a kite, in Virgo, The Virgin.
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Brightened and cropped. I swear, last one.
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My alignment went fruit. I tried two new alignments with no success. Ears numb, feet cold, I packed it in.

Posted by Dave

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Globulaxy

The winds calmed, the clouds wandered out of the sky, and God commanded Dave to rise from his slumber and set up the Celestron CPC1100 Schmidt-Cassegrain scope.
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Astrophotography requires a good alignment. If your scope isn't tracking the apparent movement of the stars, then your pictures will look like above. The streaks are called Star Trails. The above picture was taken immediately after slewing to M13. The tracking motors hadn't "calmed down" yet. I usually wait a minute or two before shooting a dozen or so shots. All of these pictures were 30-second shots at an ISO of 3200.
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That's more like it. This is M13, the Great Globular Cluster in the constellation Hercules. This photo is right out of the box. All I did was convert the NEF file to JPG. No cropping, no nuthin'.
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Same shot, only I brightened it a little and cropped.
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This is M82, a most colorful galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major. The Big Dipper is part of Ursa Major. This photo is right out of the box.
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Same shot, brightened and cropped.

Posted by Dave

Monday, February 11, 2013

'Round Sunset

Late in the day, clouds were scurrying hither and thither.
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I'm always looking up at the sky, day or night. I like cloud drama.
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My sister takes the coolest near/far, foreground/background shots. I keep hoping to one-up her someday, but so far I haven't.
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OK, now we're seeing some interesting interplay of sun and cloud. Not bad.
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Right after this shot, the clouds just starting disappearing. I was really hoping for some blood-red sunset action, but this was about the most color I saw.

Posted by Dave

Globula

Nosing around the heavens a few nights ago. I was playing with a Celestron CPC1100, an 11" Schmidt-Cassegrain. Good optics, but alignment is tricky, so these are short exposure / high ISO. Both pics are heavily cropped, noisy, and not very sharp. I'll do much better next time.
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Above, I think this is M4, a globular cluster in Scorpius. Forgot to write down what I was looking at.
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The famous Ring Nebula, M57 in Lyre.

Cool stuff coming up. Spring and Summer have the most spectacular objects. Clouds and wind have been bothersome lately.

Posted by Dave

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

World O' Concrete 2013

The World of Concrete 2013 Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, was a disappointment. My skirt was not blown up in the least. Let's start with the start time. I got an e-mail last week that said the show was open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. So after a 2-1/2 hour drive, I was standing at the entrance about 15 minutes early. Got my badge and walked around a bit. At 7:30 sharp I tried to walk in. "I'm sorry, sir, but the show doesn't open until 9:30. Only vendors are allowed in right now." So I had to kill two hours. STRIKE ONE.
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While I was cooling my heels, I checked out the map of the booths. Only one problem--I couldn't figure the map out.
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The helpful "You are here" arrow wasn't much help because the map didn't tell me which way I was facing. If there had been a north arrow, I might have figured it out. As it was, the colored shapes did not correspond to the real shape of the building, so I had no clue where I was in relation to the map.
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The obligatory Elvis impersonator. In Vegas, these guys run the street in packs.
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I was almost curious enough to ask what this mixer was designed for. It reminded me of one of the Apollo capsules.
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Waxed and gleaming! There were only a couple of these ready-mix trucks on display. The last WOC I attended had dozens.
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Economizing. In previous shows I've attended, these batch plants were brought in and assembled full-size. I was not impressed. STRIKE TWO.
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If these models had been any smaller, they could have been sold with the Hot Wheels die-cast trucks in the lobby.

Some observations on the show. The booth salespeople were so eager to show you their products, I felt like I was on a used car lot--surrounded by instant BFF's. And then some of the salespeople looked at their watches every few minutes, bored to tears. There didn't seem to be anything in between.

There were lots of holes. You could see where the show's promoter couldn't fill it up. Parts of the building were blocked off, and booths were moved in to scrunch up the show. Three years ago, the show was full, in spite of the depression. Three years ago, the huge space where trucks and boom pumps and batch plants are displayed had a large number of young Chinese companies eagerly looking for business. I saw very few Chinese companies at this show. I had to wonder why. Were they still in business? Did they just not consider this a good return on effort and expense?

I saw several software companies, but their software was inventory and bidding and workflow related. Nothing I was interested in. Trimble and Autodesk had dinky little booths with some of their products I've never heard of. I would loved to have checked out Trimble's SketchUp Pro and Autodesk's Revit Architecture.

All in all, Piffle! STRIKE THREE.

Posted by Dave

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Enlightenment

The clouds cleared, the wind died down, and I couldn't sleep, so I set up a scope to look at the moon. These two moon pics are taken with a Nikon D5100 attached to a Celestron CPC1100, 11" Schmidt-Cassegrain, as a prime-focus lens. ISO 800.
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Focus was not sharp. "Seeing" was not good--atmospheric turbulence. Some nights are like that. While I was looking here, the image was shimmering like heat waves over hot pavement, even though it was a chilly 50°. The above was taken with a shutter speed of 1/125 second. Added note: In this shot I put a 2X Barlow Lens in between camera and scope for increased magnification. No Barlow in the shot below.
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This one I took with a shutter speed of 1/500 second. Both of these moon shots are right out of the box, no cropping or sharpening or other tricks. I always take several pictures at different settings, because even though you can do a lot of fixing with PhotoShop or "camera raw" programs like Nikon Capture, any fix usually produces "artifacts" like fringing or spurious ghosts. Fixing a photo is kinda like those medical commercials--Side affects may include ED, fatal nose warts, etc...
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I took the camera off the scope and took some shots in the dark. Above, what it really looked like to the north. Below, lightened up in Nikon Capture. I had to screw the camera onto a tripod because the shutter speed was 5 seconds, and it's hard to hold the camera still that long holding it by hand.
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Same pic brightened up. The upward light pollution to the left is from one of the casinos in Laughlin, Nevada, which our house mostly blocks. Still, I can't get a decent astro-pic in that direction. The darkest part of the sky here is to the southeast, and that is where I take most shots.
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This is toward the southwest. You can see the lights of the "big city," Mohave Valley, Arizona. 5-second shot.
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Same shot, brightened up. Those obscene lights to the left are from an RV park to the south. It's 1/3 mile away, and trashes my view to the south. Grrr!
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View to the west. This is a 10-second shot.
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Same shot, just lightened up a bit.

In Nikon Capture, and also in PhotoShop, you can look at something called "metadata". It's the info on what camera took the shot and every setting including the shutter speed. It goes with every picture--you can't erase it. You can add info like copyright or comments that will stay with the photo no matter how many times it's passed around the Innertubes.

Posted by Dave