Last week dozens of online photos of Comet NEOWISE enticed me to make an effort to see it for myself. At 9:00 PM on Friday I noticed that the sky was clear, threw some gear in a pack, and hiked up the hill behind the house. I sat in the grass in a big hilltop clearing as the sky darkened and first the comet, and then a million stars, and then the full sweep of the Milky Way emerged above me.Continue reading “A night sky to remember”
Vernal pools are enchanting places, the breeding habitat of dozens of animal species that would otherwise be absent or rare in a forest. But it is a challenge to take enchanting photos of vernal pools. If you stand far enough away to include the entire pool, lots of trees will probably block your view and the photos don’t seem to capture the essence or importance of the place.Continue reading “Selfie at the pool”
The levee of Bayou Petit Caillou supports the long strip of houses that is Chauvin and Cocodrie, the narrowest towns I have ever seen. Way down delta in Louisiana, you are either on the levee, in the bayou, or somewhere out in the salt marsh. For exactly 100 years, Cecil Lapeyrouse’s Grocery has been on the levee. Today most of the houses are seasonal, and the store gets by with business from people coming down to shrimp or fish or have fun. We stopped by on our exit from the LUMCON Marine Center in Cocodrie where Public Lab held its annual meeting. That had fallen into the fun category. Continue reading “Gas Ice Bait Beer”
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In the 1970s I exposed about 400 rolls of black and white film. Most of these were 36 exposure rolls of 35 mm Kodak Plus-X which I bulk loaded and developed at home. I made an 8 x 10 inch contact print of each roll, and put an accession number on the contact sheet and the glassine envelope with the negative strips. I still have all 14,000 of these negatives and contact prints. If you think that preserving this collection suggests that I am farsighted, consider that I never put a single date on any of this material. Continue reading “Negative space”
The Lytro camera is probably the most interesting advance in photographic technology this year. An array of microlenses allows the sensor to capture information about the exact direction from which light is coming, and that allows software to focus every part of the scene regardless of it’s distance from the camera. To highlight this advance, the company’s first camera produced interactive online images which could be refocused by clicking anywhere in the scene (see some here). We have all looked at photos with out-of-focus parts, and it is a novel experience to be able to click on or touch the fuzzy places and have the crisp focus shift as if a focusing ring was being turned. But it has also been maddening to know that the captured data would allow the entire photo to be in focus all at the same time, yet this was not an option for any Lytro photo. It was a clever marketing approach, because modern digital cameras with tiny sensors have very good depth of field, and many of the photos we take now already have everything in focus. Allowing the viewer to “focus the photo after it was taken” highlighted how new this technology was. Continue reading “Lytro Schmytro”
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I thought I had finally done everything right. The Flowform 16 was flying steadily in a 15 mph breeze (with gusts to 20) and easily lofting the full KAP rig with Canon S95. My plan was to take vertical photos for combining into an orthophoto image of a hayfield that had been partly burned two days earlier by the farmer. Preston had posted some dramatic photos of the evening blaze advancing across the field, and the burn pattern looked impressive when I drove by the next day looking for way to get closer to it. On my return a day later, I avoided asking permission for farm road access, and just parked two miles away and walked along the Lemon Fair River. Because the good wind provided plenty of lift, I opted for the full KAP rig and radio control instead of just the camera pointed down and shooting every ten seconds. That gave me the option of also taking some oblique shots, and the 5:00 PM shadows of burr oaks and silver maples were already enticing on the new grass. Radio control also allowed me to release the shutter only when the rig was quiet between sways, and to take far fewer photos than the ten second intervalometer would have taken. Continue reading “Lemon Fair”
This time it was the dry umbels of Queen Anne’s lace that I was tossing into the air as I crossed the field. WeatherUnderground.com was reporting only 4-7 mph winds at the golf course, but WeatherSpark.com was predicting 10 mph winds from the west which could easily loft the camera over the marsh. This was the first sunny day in a month with a prediction of steady west winds, and it might be my last chance for above freezing weather and a shot at getting aerial photos of the entire cattail marsh at Otter View Park. So I was disappointed with the plummeting umbels, and soon out of breath from running upwind just to watch the Levitation Delta crash in the grass. On the second try, I ran 100 yards and got it just high enough to find a wind. Continue reading “Return to the Marsh”
In honor of the opening of the new Crown Point Bridge across Lake Champlain (scheduled for Monday, November 7, 2011) I took my last free ferry ride and flew the Canon Powershot S95 over the Crown Point State Historic Site for three hours last week. The south wind was strong and steady at about 15 mph, but the Levitation Delta kite wandered a bit much to get good coverage for easy panorama stitching. I learned some new finesses of Microsoft ICE and was able to make some decent scenes with as many as 28 stitched photos, but could not construct a half-spherical panorama.
The narrow lake at this place has made it a strategic location for millennia. The British built a small fort in 1690, and the French built an elaborate one in 1738 to control north-south traffic on the water route between Montreal and Albany, NY. The British chased away the French in 1759 and started a new fort, one of the largest they ever Continue reading “Above Crown Point”
It didn’t seem windy enough, so I plucked dried heads of orchard grass and tossed them into the air. The live feed at WeatherUnderground.com had been reporting 10-12 mph NW winds at the Ralph Myhre Golf Course a mile away, but the grass was falling almost straight down here. On a knoll in the center of the field I felt a breeze, so I took off my pack and assembled the nine foot Levitation Delta kite (with wind less than 15 mph, the Sutton Flow Form 16 would stay in the pack). The delta flew out of my hand and climbed easily to 100 feet. It was flying to the south, not to the east over the cattail marsh I wanted to photograph. Otter View Park in Middlebury is the focus of Galen’s community service project, and he has been describing the plant communities in that marsh. I would not be able to photograph much of it today unless the wind shifted. Continue reading “Otter View Park”
I went over to the Adirondacks last Wednesday and came back with 1900 photos. Most of them were taken by my Gigapan imager, and half of those are duplicates that will never again see the light of day. Before I even got to New York, I took 126 handheld photos from the Lake Champlain ferry, 48 of which got stitched into the three-row panorama below of the new Crown Point Bridge, still under construction. Back on August 26, the day the central “network tied arch” was lifted into position, I came to repeat the gigapan I took of the old bridge. But the place was crawling with gawkers, and the men in hard hats would not let me get to the place from which the earlier panorama had been taken. So I left defeated. If you missed it too, you can relive the raising of the arch with the fully archived construction webcams, but you have to click through a lot of photos to get to 3:30 PM on August 26 when the action started. Continue reading “Return to the Nubble”
Somehow I convinced myself that the 4626 foot summit of Giant Mountain in the Adirondacks would be a good place to take some photos with a camera hanging from a kite. Yesterday I walked up there with two kites, three cameras, two KAP rigs, 1000 feet of line, and one sandwich. I think it might be possible to fly a kite up there sometime, but most of the time the wind on a mountain peak is not just blowing horizontally, it is moving up slope. This was obvious when I easily got the delta kite in the air from the summit and it tried to fly into the wind, over my head, and down the slope behind me. I realized that kites are designed to fly in wind that is perpendicular to gravity. When this geometry is lost, erratic behavior results, and the kite landed in a tree twice. Continue reading “Giant Mountain”