Saturday, June 28, 2008

Glaciers Up Close

We went on a cruise of near Prince William Sound today. The main attraction in this area are the numerous large glaciers which dump into the Gulf. I've been somewhat spoiled, having grown up living a couple of hours from the Rocky Mountains in Canada. I thought I had experienced glaciers there, but this is at a different level. Highly recommended if you ever visit Alaska. Tomorrow, its off to Denali, where there most definitely won't be internet access :)

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 300 f/2.8 IS + 2x TC, f/6.3, 1/1250s, ISO 800.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Blitzen and Bread

Apparently also available topped with cream cheese. I wonder if they have a specialty dog with that touch of extra red.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 24-105 @ 65mm, f/6.3, 1/100s, ISO 200.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Farthest North I've Ever Been

Earlier today (at around 1 AM) I landed in Anchorage, Alaska. The purpose of my trip is to attend the IEEE conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition. Before dinner, a few of us went for a short walk on a coast side trail. Sadly the tide was low and there were a lot of clouds so the view was uninspiring (hence the picture). I've mostly spent the day at the conference so I haven't seen much of Anchorage. I will say that even though the sun officially sets around midnight and rises around 4 AM, the afterglow and predawn glow effectively means there is always light outside. Its a little unsettling to look outside now (it is around 10:15pm) and it looks like it would be at around 6pm on a cloudy day back home. What is also strange is that places seem to close at the same hours that they do elsewhere, so late at night, there is a lot of light out but most places are closed.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Waterloo CS Convocation

I spent the last 4 days in Waterloo and Toronto, primarily to attend my sister's convocation. She not only got her degree in Computer Science on Friday but was also the valedictorian. This meant we got really good seats in the front row, which was great for seeing stuff and not that great for the pictures.

Things always start off with the procession, led by the guy with the sceptre.

Mike Lazaridis, the CEO of Research in Motion, is also the chancellor of the University of Waterloo and kicked things off.

Dr. Alan Kay received an honorary degree of Doctor of Mathematics. Among many other things Alan Kay was one of the inventors of Smalltalk and is considered a father of object oriented programming and a pioneer of the graphical user interface.

The valedictorian then gave rousing address.

Eric Veach was awarded the J. W. Graham Medal in Computing & Innovation for his work with Metropolis Light Transport and for helping Google make billions with AdWords. If you ever get a chance to read Eric's PhD dissertation (and have an interest in light transport), I would highly recommend it. Its long and addresses a challenging topic with mathematical rigor but as a dissertation its at a level that I think computer graphics PhD candidates should aspire to.

This convocation was quite short since it was only the CS degrees being awarded, as opposed to mine which was excruciatingly long with all the Math degrees.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 24-70 @ 70mm, f/4, 1/125s, ISO 1600, flash fired.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Fun With a High Speed Video (and Still) Camera

We got a Casio EX-F1 camera this week at work. Its a fairly unexciting camera image quality and handling wise, but it does have a couple of neat features including the ability to capture:
  • 60 frame burst at 60 FPS at full resolution (6mp)
  • 300 frames/second movie mode at 512x386 resolution
  • 1200 frames/second movie mode at (a rather abysmal) 336x96 resolution
Though the camera is fairly rough around the edges (not to mention slow to operate) I believe its movie options are not only interesting to explore but its a harbinger of things to come. The Casio EX-F1 is most probably the first in wave of cameras that meld the digital and still world and in the process offer interesting possibilities to those willing to experiment.

I was really excited to play with its 1200 fps capture feature since it essentially gives you a high speed camera in a consumer body (and for a consumer price). Sadly its not the extremely low resolution that makes it difficult to work with but the extremely wide (i.e. awkward) aspect ratio. In the end I stuck with the 300 fps capture since the frame size was something more familiar.


In addition to droplets of food coloring in water, I also shot the popping of balloons (which still happens too fast for 1200 fps to capture) and the reaction of baking soda to vinegar (which wasn't terribly exciting).

I have a few more ideas I want to explore with the camera but it'll have to wait until I get back from my quick trip this week.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Arcturus & Vega

The astronomical forecast predicted good transparency and average seeing tonight, so I set up the Astrotrac and my big binoculars for some viewing and widefield imaging. Tragically the combination of city light pollution and the quarter moon kept the skies pretty bright. Due to short exposure times (anything more than about a minute at ISO 800 and f/2.8 resulted in a totally washed out image), I concentrated on photographing stars with a 200mm lens.

Unfortunately there isn't anything interesting easily visible near Arcturus (top picture). In the photograph of Vega (pictured below), you can see Epsilon Lyrae (a.k.a. the double double) in the lower third to the left. If you look at a higher resolution image you can also make out the even closer double star Zeta Lyrae.

I am definitely looking forward to when I take the Astrotrac out to a really dark spot to really give some imaging a whirl.

Technical Specs: Canon XSi (full spectrum), no filter, 200 f/2.8L II, f/3.5, ISO 800, 62s (top), 45s (bottom).

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Whirlpool Galaxy and Mizar

I wanted to give the Astrotrac a whirl this evening, so even though the seeing was pretty terrible I set things up and grabbed a quick shot of Mizar (star in the upper third and 2/3 to the right with a closeby companion) and the whirlpool galaxy (two faint fuzzy blobs in the upper left). The mount was definitely easy to set up and the tracking seemed to be quite decent given the very rough polar alignment I performed. Looking forward to giving it a try with a longer lens and in darker skies.

I also pointed the camera towards Arcturus and took this picture.

Technical Specs: Canon XSi (full spectrum) /w Hutech LPS filter, 85 f/1.8 @ f/2, 2m, ISO 400.