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.