Archive for August, 2008

D*C Update Saturday

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

The yip-yip costume has been a big hit at the con. Lot’s of attention and camera circles.

K even got complements on her construction from somebody who claimed to be a Muppet puppeteer (and at this place, it wouldn’t surprise me if he really was). Little kids are either afraid, or thrilled by the big pink alien. Watch Flickr for various people’s pic’s of me, cause I’d like to know about them. Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, took a picture of me in costume holding his book so watch his Flickr for that pic and I’ll try to get permission to host a copy here.

No time to write more or upload pics.

Look Martha! It’s one of them space varmints!

Friday, August 29th, 2008

I saw this bugger traipsing about in the backyard so I hit him with the deer spotter while Martha got this picture. We’re gonna sell it to one of them grocery store magazines!

Alien in backyard!

Seriously though…. Dragon*Con is ON!!!

Alien on Earth

Yip – yip – yip.

PS: Yes, our house is officially covered in pink fuzz.

Niagara Falls Trip

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

As promised I’ve posted the best of the Niagara Falls images. (Technically, they are still uploading to the gallery.)

Overall conclusion, misty air around the falls makes for pretty blah photography in general. My favorites out of this set are definitely the macro shots of the flowers. There are a few interesting angles thrown in from when I was able to snap a quick shot between attempts to quickly remove the water from the lens filters.

Also, I’m noticing that the crud on my imager is finally reaching intolerable levels. I’ve been avoiding buying another bottle of Eclipse because it’s such a ripoff to pay $9 shipping on an $9 2-ounce bottle of methanol (half of which will evaporate between uses). Unfortunately, methanol is considered a controlled substance from a shipping to random civilians point of view. Otherwise I could buy very high purity stuff directly from a chem supply house for a fraction of the unit cost.

No time to comment as I’ve already missed too much sleep tonight trying to get stuff wrapped up before the Dragon*Con trek.

Vincent Laforet’s Blog

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

I have just added Vincent Laforet’s blog to the links below because I have so enjoyed reading the Olympics photography blog he has produced with Newsweek.

If you have interest in photography, or the impact of new media on traditional media (newspaper, magazines), you’ll find his blog interesting. He’s just getting started as a blogger, but it looks like he’s on the right track to explore an interesting niche. He seems to recognize that while opportunities seem to be fading for the traditional ‘staff photographer’, considerably more freedom and opportunity is available working directly for your audience (us!).

To share one tidbit, in a posting after his return from Beijing he posts:

In Beijing, with a total of 6 cameras, I shot: 28,444 files for a total of a whopping 480 Gigabytes of Images! That’s INSANE! Even I am shocked.

I thought my photography archive was getting out of control. I’m just pushing that many images in my entire career at a third of the storage space.


Border boredom.

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

After our trip to Canada over the weekend to see Niagara Falls and other sights (pictures to follow in a later posting), we had the joy of experiencing the new and improved US border.

It took us about 2 hours to wait in line with the other cars for about 60 seconds with the border agent. What are we doing with all of the delay if the search is so cursory? I can only assume that somebody is getting the nth degree. The question, of course, is: Is it the right somebody?

Anyway, this sign says it all:

Please Slow Down. Your Speed is 0 KPH.


Sunday, August 24th, 2008

Thanks to Bill at the Evil Eyebrow for inviting me to participate in his Plutopia! blog carnival. Or if “invite” isn’t really the appropriate word, at least throwing out a blanket invitation and letting me sign on.

So the whole point is that today is the 2nd anniversary of Pluto’s official demotion from the arbitrary astronomical classification “planet”. I’m not going to get into the pseudo-political world of why this is arbitrary or whether it’s particularly significant in any particular way, what I am going to say is:

Pluto is small.

Really freaking small.

Or at least really freaking small relative to anything else that we have come to know and love as a planet. According to NASA, Pluto is 1422 miles (2288 km) in diameter. So although I wouldn’t want to personally walk its entire 4467 mile circumference in one trip, it’s easy to fly that far without leaving this planet. In fact, in my flights to and from Australia, I traveled over three times that far (more if the trans-American legs are included). Granted, Oz is pretty far away in Earth terms, but can we really respect an astronomical body that can be circumnavigated in half a day by a commercial airliner? Mercury is now the smallest planet with a circumference of over 9500 miles (15000 km). Check out this graphical planet size comparison widget.

It’s not just that Pluto is smaller than our Moon, but because it’s 8 bajillion* miles (13 bajillion** km) away it’s absolutely ridiculously hard to see. In preparation for this post, I decided to pull up my handy free home planetarium software, HNSKY, and see if Pluto is actually visible. Not that I expected to walk outside, point to the sky and say “there’s Pluto”, but I thought there might be some remote possibility that I could capture it in a picture. It IS technically in the sky right now, not far from Jupiter in the sky (about 15 degrees to the right at the time of publication: 00:01 EDT). The problem is that (according to the software) Pluto is about magnitude 13.9. Do you have any sense for how many objects in the sky are brighter than that? No? Take a look at the picture below. It is the area around Jupiter and Pluto that you might see with the naked eye on a clear summer night with stars to magnitude 6 shown. Pluto should not be visible, but is marked with a small green dot and two lines.
6th Magnitude Sky
One could reasonably argue that this is a better sky than most people will ever see, but it doesn’t matter, because THIS is what the sky would look like if you could see everything up to and including Pluto.
14th Magnitude Sky

Obviously, you can see that the software has sort-of broken down for this many stars… and in fact, seems to only be displaying stars up to 11th magnitude. Click on the picture to see a larger rendering of this same piece of sky. My point is that even if you COULD see Pluto, you probably WOULDN’T see Pluto because it would be lost in the jumble of the other million objects in the sky which are brighter than it is. Which of course means that even if I could point my camera at the right piece of sky, AND get a few hundred thousand photons*** to travel from the Sun AND bounce off Pluto AND end up in my lens it would take a significant effort to determine which one of the non-black pixel dots contained Plutonian photons.
For reference, the two dimmest planets are Uranus and Neptune at approximate visual magnitudes of 5.7 and 7.8 respectively. So even though Uranus is within the range of human perception it wasn’t documented as discovered until 1781 AD. It was simply another dot lost in the background noise, and moved too slowly to appear to be changing in the sky.

So Pluto, we salute thee, even though you’re small and dim and probably deserved to not quite rank with the eight remaining Solar planets. The good news is that you seem to have plenty of siblings in this new realm of astronomical bodies.

Check out the rest of the Plutopia blog fest at the Evil Eyebrow.

* I’m amused that Firefox wants to correct the spelling of “bajillion” to “bazillion”. I was forced to look up the word “bazillion” to see if it actually meant something other than “word for an arbitrarily large number”. It doesn’t. Neither does bajillion.
** The astronomy geeks out there (or anyone willing to type in “distance to pluto”) will note that I have just accidentally determined the conversion factor for “bajillion” as approximately 380 million.
*** I found a nifty little article about how many photons it takes to make a cup of tea that helped with this approximate.


Thursday, August 21st, 2008

K made some really yummy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies the other day. The word got out.

Happy Belated 80th Birthday Grandma!

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

No, I didn’t forget my Grandma’s birthday, this is just another set of pictures that have suffered from a busy summertime. I’ve finally gotten a chance to do some quick touch-ups and post these to the gallery.


There are, as always, a lot more pictures than I’ve posted, but I think these are the highlights. In general, the pictures didn’t come out as well as I hoped. The hall was a typical tile drop ceiling with sparse florescent lighting. This makes for high ISOs, slow shutter speeds and weird color casts.

Anyhow, we did a series of family shots of the various guests, so I’ll close with those.

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Olympics Photography Blog a must read.

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

If you haven’t been following the adventures of Newsweek photographers Vincent Laforet, Donald Miralle ad Mike Powell at the Olympics, you’re missing a great opportunity. As all of you readers know, I’m an amateur photographer with aspirations for a few great shots. These guys are the best in the world shooting in a two week marathon of photography moments. They talk about the technical, physical and emotional challenges involved in capturing emotionally and literally dynamic events in still frames.
I posted about Vincent’s packing exploits to start off the series, but I think the posts have gotten even better as we’ve gone along.
They’re sharing a unique perspective on what it takes to get unique perspectives on this media circus of a sporting event: the technically strategic challenge of being in the right place (or several places) at the right time after hours (days!) of planning the perfect shot, the emotion of ‘discovering’ a new sport, the catharsis of introspection… it’s just been a great ride so far.

Keep it up guys!!

Zoo two.

Monday, August 11th, 2008

These pics are from the end of June, but for some reason I haven’t gotten around to posting them. K’s folks were out visting so we took Nate to the zoo with them. He was a bit more interested this time, or at least Grammy was able to keep him entertained.

In any case, here are some more pics from Rosamond Gifford Zoo.

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