Monday, July 30, 2007

San Jose Grand Prix 2007

Yesterday was the final day of the 2007 San Jose Grand Prix, and also the day of race #9 in the 2007 Champ Car World Series. Two of the Adobe buildings are right on the track so one can get a great view from even the parking garage. I also discovered that my office window offers a pretty decent view (left image). Kim and I arrived about an hour before the big race of the day.

In the first hour there were a few accidents and bumps, including car #11 which had to be towed away (pictured right).

Due to the heat, we went up to my office to watch the next 1/2 hour with the comfort of air conditioning and shelter. Kim wanted a shot of her posing with my camera and lens. She was shocked by how heavy it was, which was surprising to me since I've gotten completely used to it.

We returned to the garage level for the rest of the race which was won by Dutch driver Robert Doornbos (his car is the top picture). Interestingly Doornbos started at 15th, had a small spill early on, yet still managed to win the race.

I actually found that I enjoyed the race much more than I thought. I'm actually really looking forward to it next year (and looking forward to snagging a better spot to shoot from).

I shot the race with my 1Ds2, 300mm f/2.8 bare and with the 1.4x and 2x tele-converters. All my images are in my Picasa Web Gallery.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

American Goldfinch

This morning, as I was working the in the backyard I heard the characteristic tweeting of small birds. I looked around and saw a very small bird hanging out in a faraway tree. Due to the distance and size of the bird I couldn't readily tell what it was. I grabbed my camera and put both the 1.4x and 2.x tele-converters on my 300mm lens. I setup my camera on the tripod, pointed it at where the bird had been and waited. After waiting for about an hour, the bird returned and I snapped a few frames. Due to the stacking of the tele-converters and wind causing the tree to sway back and forth, it was very challenging to get a decent picture. In the end I had to crank up the ISO and what you see is a 100% crop.

A quick search on reveals this to be an American Goldfinch, which is further confirmed when listening to the bird's voice on wildbird.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds2, 300mm f/2.8 IS + 1.4x + 2x TCs (840mm equiv.), f/8, 1/800s, ISO 800.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Scintillating Moon

I saw the moon rising this evening, turns out it is nearly full (the full moon is on July 30th), so I quickly grabbed my longest lens setup and snapped a few pictures. Just out of curiosity I placed one on top of the other to see the difference and was quite surprised by just how much scintillation there really is (if you click on the picture and open the original GIF, it animated to flip back and forth between two shots). The scintillation is caused by a few factors including aerosols in the atmosphere, wind, temperature gradients in the atmosphere. The somewhat poor resolution can probably also be explained by atmospheric variations.

Update: Google in their infinite wisdom doesn't allow animated GIFs (looks like it takes the first frame and converts to JPG). So I've hosted the animated GIF elsewhere.

Technical Specs: Canon Rebel XTi, 300mm f/2.8 IS + 2x TC, f/8 @ 1/200s, ISO 400.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

An Evening at the Lick Observatory

Last night I finally did something I've been wanting to do since moving to the bay area, visit the Lick Observatory.

In the summer, for three weekends, the observatory has a summer visitor program where guests can partake in a lecture and look through the 36" and 40" telescopes. Tickets are usually sold out, so its done as a lottery. I was fortunately enough to get two tickets for last night.

We started the evening by attending a lecture by Kai Noeske on the history of galaxies and stars. I found the lecture more appropriate for junior high kids.

We looked through the 36" telescope first (pictured to the right) which was trained on the Wild Duck Cluster (M11). It was an interesting experience looking at the cluster through such a large telescope. I've seen M11 on my scope but I've not been able to resolve so many stars so clearly with just the naked eye.

It took a considerable amount of waiting before we could look through the 40" telescope, which was pointed towards Jupiter. Along with Jupiter, 3 of the 4 Galilean moons were visible. Io and Europa were clearly visible and Ganymede was in transit (though the transit was just ending so it was still easily visible).

In addition, amateur astronomers had their telescopes set up in the parking lot behind the observatory. We managed to get a view of the Ring Nebula through an 8" SCT and a Dob.

It was a fun evening overall, and I think I'll try to get tickets again next year. Though if I get VIP tickets Music of Spheres concert I also get a tour of the 120" telescope (a sight to see I am told).

Monday, July 16, 2007

Washington Palm

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had the chance to once again go into the backyard and photograph the plants and flowers. This is the Washingtonia Robusta (or Washington Palm). I was going for something abstract, not sure it worked 100%. I guess even f/32 does give enough depth of field at these working distances.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds2, 180mm macro, f/32, 1/250s, ISO 1600, MT-24 fired.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Backyard Fuschia

Kim has been planting a lot of flowers in the backyard. She has created a tropical garden along one side of the house and in addition has various hanging and potted plants. On two planters are Fuschia. I also took the opportunity to experiment with the macro flash. I was trying to do everything handheld despite knowing how challenging it would be. I have several more I took earlier this morning with a tripod, perhaps I'll post those later.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds2, 180mm macro, f/14, 1/250s, ISO 1250, MT-24 flash.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Almost Grand Prix Time Again...

The tell-tale signs of the San Jose Grand Prix are apparent if you drive around downtown San Jose. The barriers have started going up and streets are starting to get closed. Soon it'll be an adventure to get into work in the morning, though I will say its kind of fun driving down the barrier-ed street. I didn't get a chance to watch the Grand Prix last year (too busy with the wedding), but I might pop into work this year, especially since my office window faces the race track.

I took this picture on my drive home yesterday. Another oddity about the picture is that its cloudy. It may not seem like a big deal elsewhere, but for San Jose, a cloudy day in July is extremely rare (I don't remember a single cloudy day last year from about May to September).

Thursday, July 05, 2007

24 hours in Vegas

During our Canada Day celebration this past Sunday, the suggestion to go to Vegas for the 4th of July was made (not 100% sure if one individual actually suggested it or if it just evolved into that). So Billy, Alison, Kim and I flew to Vegas Tuesday evening and returned late yesterday night. Edward had driven down earlier that day, so we met him at our hotel. My goodness was it ever hot, about 115F/42C at the peak of the day (and about 90F/32C at night) . We didn't do much walking outside at all because of the heat (Edward was kind enough to shuttle us around). 24 hours definitely is a little too short, I think I'd like at least 2 days, though fun was had and good food eaten.

Since our flight was scheduled to take off at 8:30 (right at sunset) I made sure to have my camera with me for any potentially colorful shots, hence this picture.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Anybody know what this bird is?

I saw this little guy chirping away yesterday morning so I quickly grabbed my camera and fired a couple of shots. Anyone know what bird it is or any online California bird identification guides?

Update: Thanks to Mike for suggesting the 'What Bird' feature on ( I believe this is a house sparrow, the beak size and colors are consistent with the sparrow.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds2, 300mm f/2.8 IS + 2x TC, f/6.3, 1/1000s, ISO 400.