Sunday, December 30, 2007

One of the reasons I won't be moving back to Ontario anytime soon

On the 27th we drove to Waterloo from Toronto. Along the way there was a storm of flurries resulting in poor visibility and generally nasty weather. In our entire week in Ontario we've seen no sunshine and only dull gray skies. I've been uninspired, so photographically speaking the week has been a bust. I'm hoping Alberta will be better.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 24-70.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I hope that everyone gets a chance to spend some time with their family (or away from their family if that's what makes them happy) and folks have a safe and restful holiday.

Tomorrow is Boxing Day in Canada (and a few other Commonwealth countries). In the past I've spent boxing day getting up early and hunting for deals on various cool electronic gadgets. Futureshop started their web boxing day specials yesterday. I looked through for some deals. Sadly after comparing even their door crasher prices to what I could get from various online retailers back home it doesn't seem worthwhile, especially if one has to start lining up before 6 am.

Starting tomorrow we'll be out and about visiting friends and family in the Southern Ontario area.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 24-70@54mm, f/8, 1/50s, ISO 3200.

P.S. The picture is of an angel perched atop the Christmas tree.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Favourite Holiday Past-time

Playing video games is probably my favourite past-time. Its usually the only time of year that I have the time to pretty much sit around and do nothing, thus indulging in a little gaming can be done without much guilt. I remember from my days in University where I would even plan out the game I wanted to play during the holidays in advance. Some of my favourite holiday games from the past are Wing Commander IV (1995), C&C: Red Alert (1996), Total Annihilation (1997), Starcraft (1998), Homeworld (1999), Diablo II (2000), Civilzation III (2001), Warcraft III (2002) and Civilzation IV (2005). In 2003 I played no games (nor did much of anything else) as I worked feverishly through the holidays to complete a paper submission, and in 2004 I spent the holidays in India. All of the games I have played in the past have been PC games, however in the last couple of years I've all but stopped playing PC games. I was fortunate enough to get a Nintendo Wii this summer so this holiday season I'll be playing Wii games, though I still haven't discovered what the killer Wii game that will occupy my time will be.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 24-70 @ 24, f/2.8, 1/40s, ISO 1600.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sitting in the Vegas airport

I have decided I like McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, for mainly two reasons:
  1. They have free wi-fi Internet. Its not the fastest in the world, but hey its free.
  2. Where else can you compose a shot to include slot machines and flight information screens?
Well our red-eye to Toronto departs in about 40 minutes. That slot player is Kim by the way. Maybe I'll kill more time with pointless web surfing...

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 24-70@70mm, f/2.8, 1/80s, ISO 1600.

Last Minute Birding


Kim and I are just about to leave for the airport on our trip to Canada. We both came home early to take care of a few things before heading to the airport. I noticed a few birds hanging out in the backyard and went out to try and grab a shot or two.

Anyway for the next while, hopefully there will be pictures from Canada. I am actually looking forward to the snow and yes even the cold.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 300 f/2.8 IS + 2x TC, f/6.3, 1/1250s, ISO 1600.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Moon at Dusk

It rained the entire day today. However around 4 things started to clear up a little and there was a nice sunset. As I came home I saw and heard several birds hanging out in the backyard. Unfortunately by the time I got out there with my camera, they were gone. Hence the picture of the moon. One of the nice things about a day of rain is that it tends to clear the air of other aerosols. In fact if it were a clear night tonight I bet the viewing would be pretty good. I think the results are pretty good considering this was shot hand held.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 300 f/2.8 IS + 2x TC, f/7.1, 1/800s, ISO 800.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Showing Holiday Spirit

Most people string up a few lights, maybe toss a reindeer or two on the lawn and then there's those folks who take holiday decorating quite seriously. I've driven past this house several times in the last month or so and its always catches my eye. I wonder how much their power bill runs them...

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 24L, f/2.2, 1/50s, ISO 1600.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Glenlivet

I've been playing around with trying to photograph this bottle of scotch the last couple of days. I been having a lot of trouble with the reflections, especially the light reflecting off the back window. What I really need is a nice backdrop to put behind.

This result isn't too bad. Its not that great either, there's still a lot of reflections all over the place. I used one strobe with a reflector umbrella bouncing off the wall to the right. I think for ideal conditions here's what I would want:
              • One softbox at the right with a reflector on the left. The softbox should give nice diffuse lighting and a key light on the bottle while the reflector should provide adequate fill for the front of the bottle and glass
              • A backdrop and sides to get rid of errant reflections
I'll have to try this again in a few months.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 85L, f/4, 1/4s, ISO 400, strobes fired.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Purple Daisy

Took these this afternoon in the front yard. I'm finding the MT-24 flash works much better with the stofen omni-bounce; I really like the results now (less harsh).

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 180mm macro, f/16, 1/300s, ISO 800, MT-24 flash.

RCX400 Clutch Upgrade

Yesterday afternoon I performed the Declination clutch upgrade on my RCX400. The upgrade basically involves removing the clutch plate, cleaning off all the grease, installing a piece of cork to act as a 'dry clutch' and re-greasing the gears.

The instructions were well written and I had no problems. It took me about 80 minutes to do the whole thing (longest part was removing all the old grease from the various parts).

Since the pictures in the instructions were from an LX200 and weren't of the highest quality, I took a series of shots and have posted a guide to the upgrade.

This particular picture was taken after installing the cork and re-greased parts. At this point all that was left to do was test it out and put the cover back on.

With the upgrade the clutch seems to work a lot better and doesn't require me to over-tighten the Dec. knob in order to avoid slippage.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 24-70 @ 70mm, f/4, 1/5s, ISO 800.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Pasta

A little bored this afternoon so I decided to play around with the macro (which I haven't done in quite some time). This is a piece of orange pasta that we picked up in Italy last year.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 180mm macro, f/16, 1/200s, ISO 160, strobes.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Meade LX90



This is the telescope I've had for just a bit over 3 years. Today, I started gathering all the stuff that goes with it and started getting it ready to be shipped to its new owner.

I've had a lot of fun with this scope and though the RCX400 is a definite step up, I'll probably miss the LX90 (especially when I'm hauling the RCX onto its monster tripod).


Technical Specs: 1D3, 35L, f/7.1, 1/200s, ISO 200 (with strobes).

Safari pictures are finally up!

After a month of slacking (well I wasn't actually slacking just too busy to sit at a computer and process pictures all day), I've managed to get some of the pictures I took while on safari in South Africa up.

Overall, the results are decent, though none are going to win any prizes. I do wish I had more time to do a few more game drives.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 300mm f/2.8 + 1.4 TC (420mm equiv.), f/4.5, 1/500s, ISO 1600.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Black Phoebe

I photographed his Black Phoebe yesterday morning at the Palo Alto Baylands. He was an active little guy but he did manage to stay still for a brief moment.

People are sometimes curious why I bother with bird photography. It certainly seems like a hassle, getting up at the crack of dawn, hauling all that gear in the cold. I do it for a couple of reasons:
                • There is beauty in everything and birds (and wildlife) are no different, hence its worth photographing
                • I find it very relaxing. Its great to spend a couple of hours with very few people just waiting for a bird to return to a particular spot or look in a particular direction. It has a Zen quality to it.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 500mm f/4 + 1.4x TC (700mm equiv.), f/5.6, 1/320, ISO 800.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

California Condor at Pinnacles

This afternoon Kim and I went for a hike at Pinnacles National Monument. I brought along my camera in the hopes of getting a glimpse at the Condors that roost there. Right near high peaks we spotted a couple of the Condors flying around. I took a series of shots but this was the only one that turned out.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 300mm f/2.8 + 2x TC (600mm equiv.), f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 640.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

First Light with RCX400

Santa came early this morning and a Meade 10" RCX400 telescope showed up. I bought this used from a local bay area fellow. This evening, I quickly set it up (needed some help lifting with Kim) and did a very quick auto alignment and checked the optics.

A couple of first impressions:
                • The tripod is seriously heavy and seriously solid. I am still surprised by just how sturdy it is.
                • The OTA is very heavy (85lb compared to the 32lb of my 8" LX90).
                • The combination of the optics, 10" aperture and 2" eyepieces make for a very pleasant viewing experience.
I didn't test the tracking performance or Go-to performance since the transparency wasn't that great and I didn't want to run the scope for too long.

I am planning on doing a bunch of preventative servicing before seriously using the scope, including replacing the plastic gears with steel ones, upgrading the RA clutch and installing Peterson handles.

Know anyone who wants an LX90 in great condition? :)

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 35L, f/2, 1/50s, ISO 800.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Clementine Season

Its Clementine season! Well at least back in Ontario it is. I'm a big fan of citrus fruits and the Clementine (or Algerian Mandarin) is one of my favorites. Kim planted a tree in the front yard earlier in the summer and now its full of fruit. These look like they are just about ready for eating.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 70-200 f/2.8 IS @ 180mm, f/4.5, 1/100s, ISO 800.

Friday, November 16, 2007

First Bird of Paradise

Kim has planted several birds of paradise around the yard (large ones in the back and these in the front). In the past week this one flowered, the first in our yard.

We will be in Jamaica next week for a holiday so there should be fun pictures when we return.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 135 f/2, f/5.6, 1/160s, ISO 400.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Comet Holmes

Its been a pretty busy week. I've been recovering from my trip to South Africa and Kim's parents and Amy have been visiting. Before leaving for SA, I remember reading about Comet Holmes and how it unexpectedly had gotten a millions times brighter quite suddenly. I made a mental note to check it but totally forgot. I was reminded today when I saw Mike's Picture of the Week.

Along with photographing the comet, I also set up my binoculars in the backyard and everyone was able to get a peek.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x TC (700mm equiv.), f/5.6, 13s, ISO 3200.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Cheetah

Another picture from the game drive through Kwantu last week.

Technical Specs: Canon 40D, 70-200 f/4 IS @ 200mm, f/7.1, 1/500s, ISO 400.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Pair of Elephants


Another shot from this morning.

Technical Specs: Canon 40D, 70-200 f/4 IS, f/4.0, 1/3200s, ISO 200.

Addo Park

I just got back from Addo Park and am now in Port Elizabeth. My series of flights to return home begins tomorrow. I took this picture this morning (went on an 6am sunrise safari). I'll add more as I get more chances (I'm finding it challenging to find reliable wireless internet here).

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 300mm f/2.8 IS + 1.4x TC, f/4, 1/1000s, ISO 1600.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Very Long Stem Rose

Its fall and most of the rose bushes have stopped blooming. This rose is the only remaining one. I think the stem is about 6' long. Its also quite fragrant.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 24L, f/2.8, 1/125s, ISO 100.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Back to Palo Alto baylands

This morning, after dropping my parents off at the SFO airport, Kim and I stopped by the Palo Alto baylands. We arrived at 8am (my parents' flight was quite early) but the weather was sadly not co-operative. It was quite overcast and there weren't as many shorebirds around as usual. Since no birds were flying I didn't get a chance to do any birds in flight. I did however pack my tele-converters so I took the opportunity to practice high focal length photography.

This particular guy was photographed with both the 1.4x and 2x tele-converters stacked which meant I had to manually focus. He turned towards the camera for only a split second so I just focused very quickly and took the shot (thankfully it was in focus). Due to the high focal length, 1.3x crop and overcast skies I also had to crank the ISO pretty high. Overall, I am pretty happy, now I just need co-operative weather.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 500mm f/4 IS + 2x TC + 1.4x TC (1400mm equivalent), f/11, 1/200s, ISO 1600.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Alabama Hills

Yesterday, on our drive down from Mammoth lakes to LA we stopped at Lone Pine and the nearby Alabama Hills. This was a favourite location for Hollywood during the era of B cowboy movies. In addition to cowboy flicks other modern films such as Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Tremors and Gladiator were also shot here along with many commercials. We spent an hour driving around the area and it was fascinating. The strange rocks set against Mount Whitney and the Sierra Nevadas makes for an interesting location. I definitely want to return to this area to shoot during sunset and sunrise.

Technical Specs: Panorama of 3 images. Canon 1D3, 24-70 @ 24mm, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 100.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mono Lake afterglow

I started on a trip through Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra Nevada yesterday. This evening we arrived at Mono Lake and I took the opportunity to do some shooting. At first the sunset looked uninspiring but then the afterglow wasn't too bad. I will be returning to the South Tufas early tomorrow morning just before sunrise.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 24-70 @ 24mm, f/22, 4s, ISO 100.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Shorebirds at Palo Alto Baylands

Early Sunday morning I went down to the Palo Alto Baylands (which I haven't visited in over a year) to photograph some shore birds. This was my first outing with my new bird photography set up so I wanted to play around and see what the gear could do and what I could learn about long lens technique. A few things I've learned:

1. Its true, you can never have enough reach for birds,
2. You really need a sturdy support, especially when its windy,
3. AI servo is totally the way to go,
4. Birds in flight really is quite challenging to photograph,
5. You don't need 10 fps for birds.

I was also curious to see if I could encounter some of the 1D Mark 3 focusing issues about which there has been much discussion on the forums. Since I haven't used the 1-series AF extensively and am new to this type of photography it is hard for me to conclude if my OOF shots were because of my error or body error. I shot a whole series of pictures at 10 FPS trying my best to track a bird with the center AF point. From looking at the sequences, my observations:

1. The focus is bang on through-out the entire series, or
2. The first image is out of focus (because I jumped the gun pressing the shutter) but over the next two images focus is locked after which the it is bang-on for the rest of the series

I had a great time and will definitely be going back the next couple of weekends. I'll also be trying to use the tele-converters the next time I am out.

I am also in the process of moving all my pictures over to Zenfolio. I evaluated both SmugMug and Zenfolio and in the end Zenfolio resonated with me much more. I have a few more pictures in my Palo Alto baylands gallery.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 500mm f/4 IS, f/4, 1/2000s, ISO 320.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Diving in Monterey

The past two weekends, Kim and I have been taking a course to become PADI certified open water divers (a course offered at Diver Dan's). Last weekend was a combination of classroom work and getting a feel for things in a pool. This weekend we had the chance to do 4 dives (2 on each day) at Breakwater Cove in Monterey. It was a pretty grueling experience but in the end I think it was worth it and I find swimming along the bottom of the ocean to be quite relaxing. During our dives a few things I managed to see were: many varieties of Sea Anemones; a couple of Nudibrank, including the Spanish Dancer; a couple of different types of fish including a small Halibut; lots and lots of starfish; and a large dead sea lion.

With the busy schedule, I only had the chance to take a couple of pictures. I'm also hoping that as I gain further experience diving, I'll get comfortable enough to hold other gear in my hand (like an underwater camera).

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 35L, f/4, 1/800s, ISO 100.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Shady Lady Orchid

This is a Shady Lady Oncidium Orchid. Its bold purple color is quite vibrant and the spots are remarkable. This variety does come in a few different shades and the patterns also tend to vary.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 180mm macro, f/11, 1.6s, ISO 200.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

At the airport (from the weekend)

I took this a few minutes after we arrived in Phoenix from Albuquerque. The plane in the picture was the one that we took. The sun was rapidly setting and the light seemed good. The plane and ground vehicles weren't as well lit so I decided to shoot a series of 3 exposures for an attempt at handheld HDR.

In order to get a sufficiently high enough shutter speed to shoot handheld, I had to boost the ISO to 1600. I was a little worried if there would be a lot of shadow noise in the tone-mapped image due to the use of high ISO. This is also an interesting test because unlike my previous handheld HDR attempts the scene isn't entirely static. There is the baggage getting luggage and the luggage itself moving on the conveyor belt. There's also a luggage vehicle moving just behind the plane.

Overall the motion blur isn't too bad. Shooting at a reasonable shutter speed at 10 frames / sec seems to have kept the motion blur looking natural. I also noticed a little bit of shadow noise in the tone mapped image but it wasn't that bad. A very slight amount of noise reduction was sufficient to eliminate it without affecting detail.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 24-105@24mm, f/5.6, 3 shot HDR (1/80,1/25,1/8).

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A weekend in New Mexico

How do I select just one picture from a weekend in New Mexico? This is one of my favourites so it wins.

Kim and I left for Albuquerque on Friday evening and returned last night. On Saturday we also drove up to Santa Fe, Taos and visited the Bandelier National Monument. On Sunday we drove from Santa Fe to Albuquerque via the Turquoise Trail. We also had a chance to wander around Historic Old Town Albuquerque before heading to the airport.

I really enjoyed the food this weekend. With some excellent research and planning, Kim had arranged for us to dine at some highly recommended places. In Taos we had lunch at the Appletree Restaurant, where we focused on New Mexican cuisine. We had dinner in Santa Fe at another locals favourite focusing on New Mexican cuisine. On Sunday, we had lunch at La Crepe Michel, a French crepe/cafe/restaurant. I think I prefer New Mexican cuisine to the Mexican food we get in California, so I'm looking forward to going back. I also want a chance to try some real South-Western food.

Overall, I'd really like to return one day and perhaps drive around and explore southern New Mexico.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 24-105@47mm, f/9, ISO 200, 3 exposure HDR.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Banff and the Bow River in IR

I shot this multi-row panorama from Sulphur Mountain (using the Banff Gondola). You can see Banff in the middle left and the bow river as it winds between the mountains. The panorama managed to align fairly well, so I'm looking forward to making a large print from this image.

Technical Specs: Canon RebelXT IR, 24-105 @ 24mm (8 image multirow), f/8, 1/100s, ISO 100.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Handheld HDR

I was recently reading Uwe Steinmueller's Canon 1D Mk III experience report where he talks about using the camera's fast 10 fps rate to do handheld HDR. Having just received the camera before leaving for Alberta, I tried doing handheld HDR a few times during our trip through the mountains. A quick side note, the new UI and menu layout system in the 1D Mark III is fantastic, I am able to select how many shots to bracket, turn on highlight tone priority (if needed) and switch high speed continous in under 2 seconds. The new 40D with the same UI and reasonably fast 6.5 FPS should be able to produce similar results at a much lower price tag.

Many of my handheld HDR attempts seemed to have turned out, what hasn't worked well is Photoshop's tone mapping, so I've been using Photomatix. I don't remember where this was taken and I could have probably gotten similar results using shadow/highlight in Photoshop but I am still pleased with this result.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 17-40 @ 17mm, f/8, ISO 400.

UPDATE: High Speed HDR article at OutbackPhoto.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Sunwapta Falls

This weekend Kim and I went on a trip through Banff and Jasper National Parks with my parents (I'm still in Red Deer visiting them as I write this). In addition to seeing various water falls, we also went up on the Columbia Ice Fields and on the Banff and Jasper Gondolas. This was taken on the last day during a quick stop at the Sunwapta Falls and Gorge. I had neglected to pack my tripod, so I had to rely on resting the camera at an odd angle on the top of the protective barrier. I think that without LiveView, it would have taken much longer to shoot this image (I managed to get this one my first try).

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 17-40 @ 19mm, f/22, 1s, ISO 100.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Full Lunar Eclipse

In the early hours of Tuesday morning this week, there was a total lunar eclipse. The eclipse started at around 1:50 am Pacific time and it took about an hour for the full eclipse to begin. I wasn't sure I'd be able to stay up, but somehow I managed. I grabbed a few shots of the moon during the partial eclipse and finally one shot during the full eclipse. It was late and I was tired so I just quickly grabbed a shot and went to bed. Unfortunately the shot is blurry from hand motion (I was too lazy to set up the tripod that late at night).

Technical Specs: Canon Rebel XTi, 300mm f/2.8 IS + 2x tc, various apertures and shutter speeds.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Tiring but fun!

I am tired, yet totally stoked. On Saturday, I assisted/second shot a wedding for Stagi Imagery. This was my first wedding in about a year and I was a little nervous going in. But the day went smoothly, the venue was beautiful and the bridge and groom were great.

This was a much different experience from the first time I was a second shooter at a wedding. I was much more prepared, both skill and equipment wise and mentally prepared. I was pretty tired by the end, but totally pumped because I really enjoyed doing the wedding. Now I just need to find the time to process the 8+ gigs of images I shot, but I do have a couple more in my AK Imagery blog.

This wedding was also a fantastic learning opportunity. I quickly learned a few technical things. First I really, really need 2 bodies. Next I need one large bag or rolling pelican case (walking from place to place with 3 camera bags was painful). I was worried that the fast pace of a wedding would be too much for primes so I mainly focused on using my 24-70 zoom. I learned that this isn't necessarily the case and that primes can definitely be used effectively (especially if you have 2 or more bodies). I also learned a few aesthetic things like posing tips. Mark is a great guy to learn from and I'm hoping to do several more weddings in next year's season.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds2, 24-70 @ 28mm, f/5, 1/125s, ISO 1600.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lavender Ginger

Kim has cultivated an impressive gardens around the house. The newest garden (she finished it a couple of months ago) is a tropical garden at the side of house visible from the dining room. Its filled with many tropical plans including large birds of paradise, various gingers, orchids and many other varieties whose names I don't know.

A few months ago, Kim received as a gift several ginger seedlings from Hawaii. I think she has planted several of them in the tropical garden. This lavender ginger (which some have also called pink ginger) is one of the first larger flowers I've noticed. I intend to photograph as much of the plants in the coming months in small batches.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds2, 24-70 f/2.8 @ 70mm, f/11, 1/20s, ISO 800.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Out of focus Ring Nebula

I had the chance to do a little astronomy in the backyard tonight. It was very clear and the transparency was excellent. However, according to the clear sky clock, the seeing was only average (this is due to turbulence and temperature differences in the atmosphere). Bad 'seeing' can affect the view of detail on planets but should still allow one to observe deep sky objects. One of the downsides of silicon valley for astronomy is its relative low altitude (on average ~200 feet) which results in frequent poor seeing.

This is the first time I've set up the scope in several months. The new power supply worked like a champ, I highly recommend it. I was a little more careful in my polar alignment but its still not perfect. I've been reading about techniques like drift alignment for accurate polar alignment, but I have two problems; much of the hemisphere is blocked in my backyard, and I don't want to spend two hours polar aligning my scope for a night of viewing.

I did a combination of viewing and imaging. For viewing, I was limited to viewing close to zenith (due to neighbor houses and trees) saw the most visible deep sky objects; the Wild Duck Cluster, the Dumbell Nebula, the Ring Nebula, M56, M29 and M39. I also wanted to try some quick imaging with the Meade DSI. I used Vega to try and focus the scope. After 20 minutes of trying I gave up and went with 'close enough'. It is a frustrating experience trying to focus an older SCT for CCD imaging. The slop in the focuser not only shifts the image but also makes it difficult to get precise focus. I will be getting the Petersen EZ focus modification soon, so hopefully this won't be a problem when imaging this winter. Focus problems aside, I like the color I got, and visual observing was great tonight. I left the scope set up, so hopefully I can do some more viewing and imaging tomorrow night.

Technical Specs: Meade DSI on LX90 8" SCT /w f/6.3 focal reducer, Lumicon deep sky filter. ~12 15s exposures.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Jack Fruit

Kim discovered there was a sale on jack fruit at the local asian supermarket. Since we are both fans of this tropical fruit, she picked up this beautiful ~15lb specimen. I'll probably cut it either tomorrow or Sunday, depending on ripeness.

I remember jack fruit from the days when we lived in Zambia. I remember there being a jack fruit tree in the yard to the house behind ours and consuming a lot of the fruit.

I found jack fruit again at an asian store in Toronto, but it was only as portions of the fruit. It wasn't until coming to California that I was able to find the whole fruit for sale.

Anyway, the fruit has a fairly unique flavour, definitely try it if you get the chance.

Kim also picked up a nice looking pineapple, so I shot it as well so it wouldn't feel left out.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds2, 135mm f/2, f/11, 1/200s, ISO 100, WL UZ1600 strobes.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Perseids and Fremont Peak

This weekend is a great time for astronomy. Its a dark sky weekend (no moon) and its also time for the annual Perseid meteor shower. I really wanted to get out to a place with dark skies to watch the Perseids. After some looking I came across the page for the Fremont Peak Observatory Association, a group of amateur astronomers dedicated to public education. They have an observatory and 30" "Challenger" telescope in Fremont Peak State Park and have facilities for amateur astronomers to set up their telescope. Yesterday, the FPOA had a public event with guest speakers and a chance to look through several telescopes. The park also has campgrounds with several people setting up their scopes in the parking lot.

Kim, Edward and I brought our camping chairs and settled in to see the Perseids. I didn't bring my telescope (you have to be an FPOA "Observer" member to set up your scope) and I mostly wanted see if it would be a good site in the future. The light conditions were decent but not exceptional due to the light pollution from San Jose, Gilroy, Morgan Hill and Salinas. It was however dark enough that the milky way was visible.

Since I don't have an equatorial mount for my camera and my telescope was at home I took only really wide field pictures and tried to keep the exposures short (around 1 minute). I managed to get a couple of shots of the milky way but in looking at the images this morning I can see the light pollution was quite bad.

I was also curious to see what an infrared image of the night sky looked like. Unfortunately I forgot to bring the remote cable release for the IR camera so I was limited to 30 second exposures. The image on the right is an IR exposure from early in the night. There was a very bright tower in the frame which didn't help the shot.

I'm still not entirely convinced about this place to spring for an FPOA membership, but I may return another night to set up in the campground. I'm told that when the fog rolls in to cover San Jose, the seeing can be quite good here. Regardless, its a lot better than in my backyard.

I just received some new parts for my telescope (my power supply and cables died, so I got one of these, along with a dew shield and heater), so I'm hoping that once the seeing improves in the fall I'll be doing more observing and photographing.