Monday, 20 April 2009

Curtailed night shifts

Winter nights observing on the summit of Mauna Kea are real killers. We have a rule that no-one is allowed above the 9000-ft level for more than 14-hours and this is partly safety-related and partly to keep our telescope operators and other observing staff sane. Winter obviously means longer nights and in some circumstances you have to add on a few hours for the time spent preparing for the night. 17 and 18-hour work days are not uncommon. We're human, we need to sleep.

On the other hand, I'm having a hard time recalling the last full night I spent at the summit in recent months. The weather has been so bad that we've given up in the early hours or have been forced down to lower altitudes due to dangerous conditions. Forget that we now have shorter nights, this past winter has seen to it that everyone's been pretty well rested - if you can sleep at Hale Pohaku that is.

I'm heading back up to the mountain tonight to prepare for a couple of nights observing and the forecast is awful yet again. The summary above says it all, but for those unfamiliar with the MKWC's forecast summaries, any blue or red in the top part is bad. They signify the chances of fog and precipitation and in good weather you won't see any colours up there.

So will I take a few more sunset photos? I'm not sure, it may well be foggy up at the summit, but we'll see. It'll also be very windy. That combination means 1) holding a camera steady might be difficult, 2) fog at the summit isn't often photogenic and 3) it'll be bloody freezing.

So much for my new obsession with HDR photography! No matter, I'm still going through old photos and seeing what this HDR technique will do. Here are a couple of examples, before and after. You can decide if the second image is better in either case. As for me, I like the HDR image in the first pair, but am not sure about the second pair. The HDR software also brought out the sea spray spots in that last panorama!

Oh well, back to sleepless nights on the mountain...

1 comment:

Keera Ann Fox said...

I tend to agree. The added definition and color worked on the top one, but actually wiped out some interesting details in the bottom one (the blue of the smoke plume on the left, for example). But it sure is fun to mess around and try out stuff, isn't it!