Sunday, 30 January 2011

Hilo rocks again

A couple more from yesterday evening and another Lightroom workout. Thought I'd try black and white but can't compete with Ant!

The next few weeks are going to be interesting as the STFC sort out their stuff. I'm optimistic one moment and pessimistic the next. Right now I'm in the middle of the two but it changes day to day.

Hilo rocks

I've been a little quiet recently, sorry about that. To be honest I thought I'd go quiet a lot earlier than I did as UKIRT has long since gone into Minimalist Mode and expected to be called several time every night. In fact that has happened but not as often as I thought plus the weather has been so bad on Mauna Kea's summit we've been closed a lot and the few times we've been able to open and observe means that any little gotcha will, well, be a gotcha. Thankfully we've not had too many.

The last few nights have been wonderful - clear skies, hardly any faults, few calls and lots of great science data. Long may this continue!

So on my night off, on the way back from the grocery store, I thought I'd try the new camera out and also give lightroom a go, the idea being going from taking a picture and then processing it through software and coming up with a picture I like. It's taken all evening but then again I'm used to staying up late, so not a problem!

Anyway, I'm sure this picture could be improved, but not bad for my first go I think! It was taken just east of Hilo in the first park I could find right by the ocean- my groceries were in the back and didn't want to take long.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Let sleeping cats lie

She looked so sweet before I woke her up...

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Wolf Moon

January's full moon is often called the "Wolf Moon" which apparently originates from wolves howling at the full moon around North American Indian villages in the middle of the winter. This picture was taken last night as the full moon was rising over Kaloli Point, Hawaii, while I was still trying to learn the new camera. I have to say, it blows my old camera out of the water...

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

That's how the light gets in

Tonight I've been working on several things I've fallen behind on and something changed. I couldn't put my finger on it first of all and then it struck me. The coqui frogs had gone silent. Normally I put up with a 90-decibel chorus each night and have learned to live with it and so it seemed strange when everything became silent. Well, not really silent, because I could hear the waves crashing against the cliffs again and more. These are the sounds that made this such a wonderful place to move to over a decade ago.

A few hundred yards away are humpback whales. I know they're there even if I can't see them. The wailing and unmistakable spouting and fin-splashing are now the loudest noises of the evening. To hear them once again made me feel quite emotional!

Just a couple of weeks ago I was in Carpinteria with Pam and listened to something else that made me emotional. I don't know quite what triggered it but think both of us had been through the most traumatic year possible. Cancer, possible redundancy, having to relocate, promotion, successful completion of a huge project, dodgy knees and back, money, lupus, pneumonia, and, well all sorts of things that I'd normally expect to deal with over several years, not twelve months.

So I played this song in Carpinteria for Pam and simply started crying. I think I lasted quite a way through it but probably lost it at around the 6-minute mark, because although everything before that bit is stunningly beautiful, everything after just got me. I don't know how else to describe it other than a song about optimism. Pam and I are still around, aren't we?!

I promise this is the last Cohen video I'll post, not least because it'll make me emotional again! Still, please enjoy the music and the musicians. And I apologise to Pam for the totally unexpected and out of character loss of a stiff upper lip!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Cats and hats

And the moon.
First shots from the new camera taken this evening. Nothing spectacular I'm afraid, I think that'll take some time, this is going to be like learning to take photos all over again since the new camera is so different to what I'm used to. I'm sure it'll be a fun process although I was already swearing at the camera while trying to photograph the moon! Everything I'm used to has changed. I'd become quite slick with the old camera but now it takes me five minutes just to figure out how to change the exposure time.

Cat pictures will come one day soon I'm sure - at least this one doesn't move around all the time or play with the neck strap.

And a picture of my hat.

Monday, 17 January 2011


Too tired to post anything substantial, so hope you enjoy these pictures instead. Both From California. The top one is Summerland and the bottom is Carpinteria.

Despite posting no news or astronomy lately, things are going on behind the scenes and I hope to post some encouraging news and science shortly, but it may be a few weeks from now. In the meantime remote operations is keeping me busy - it's a few phone calls each night which isn't too different from summit operations but what the hell, I didn't expect anything different!

The new camera arrives tomorrow. I almost feel naked without any means of taking pictures. One of my neighbours left me a bunch of bananas on my porch and it would have made a great still life photo and a piece about how wonderful my neighbours are, but I can't do that until tomorrow. In any case, if my neighbour reads this blog (very unlikely!), thank you so much!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Water sprites

I don't know what the name is for this phenomenon as it seems "water sprites" is a description given to fairies living in water. Some might be a little surprised I don't believe in fairies, but I thought I should mention that fact so we're all on the same page. Still, I've not seen these before. If you click on the picture to get a larger version and look closely, especially from the centre of the picture to the top right quadrant, you see a lot of weird things jumping out of the water.

I took several pictures of this spot as I was really just experimenting with settings, and they are in none of the other pictures. They really look quite bizarre. I'm sure they're simply caused by small water droplets but they do appear to be launched into the air by nothing at all.

The picture was taken in Goleta, near Santa Barbara, CA. I've no idea what the name of the creek is, but it's at the end of some road that Pam knows. Just in case anyone wants to go and look for themselves.

Friday, 14 January 2011

That's life

While waiting for the new camera I practised a little with lightroom tonight and think I'm starting to understand it a little more, but you know as you get older learning new stuff always becomes harder. This is a picture I posted a few days ago but redid it in lightroom and think it's a little improved (it's from Carpinteria Beach, CA). The graduated density tool is screwing with my head though...

But the subject is nothing to do with the picture, it's to do with those things that always seem to happen to you - anyone familiar with the BBC comedy series "One Foot in the Grave"? It's about a very grumpy old man called Victor Meldrew and how everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Like Victor, I should have predicted it, but after splashing out on the new camera yesterday my car broke down today in a very expensive way. You can't plan for these things in any sensible way of course, it's just life.

Someone said at work today when I mentioned the breakdown "at least you can enjoy your new camera to cheer you up". The camera doesn't get here 'til tuesday.

Have a great and inexpensive weekend, everyone!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

It was always going to happen one day...

I've been saving money for various reasons over the last two or three years but bit the bullet today and ordered a proper camera plus one or two accessories. Hopefully an EOS Canon 60D will be on its way over the Pacific shortly (I hope it doesn't experience the same turbulence that was present the other day). My friend Ant is selling me a second-hand Sigma lense which saves a little money and then I decided to go all the way and buy Adobe's Lightroom software. I might as well get this all out of the way in one go. It makes repairing the damage to my bank account a little easier to figure out if it's all done at the same time.

Lightroom is going to require a bit of learning but I did get my first picture processed by it this evening from my old and broken camera (which is in pieces beside me as I write this - I haven't been able to fix it unfortunately). It was a horribly over-exposed picture of an oil platform, ocean, surf and sky from Carpinteria Beach and the picture still isn't that great, but at least I figured my way through some of the menus!

Here it is:

If you think it isn't very good you should see it before it went through Lightroom. It was a nice test piece and since I've been used to using Picasa for a couple of years now this will require some re-training. For instance, I've still to find Lightroom's "I'm feeling lucky" button...

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Bugger that - another one bites the dust

My camera didn't survive the latest trip. It worked in California but didn't make it through the last 15,000 miles or so. Not sure what broke it - perhaps the wet and cold California beaches did for it or maybe the rather bumpy flight back across the Pacific, but it's broken and a write-off. It'd cost more than it's worth to get fixed. That's two cameras broken in two years although the previous one got hit by lightning, so I'll forgive it for expiring on me!

Perhaps it's time to invest in a proper camera. I'll be thinking about this over the next day or two especially as my Mauna Kea summit visits will be limited, but then again even if my current camera still worked, I've outgrown the thing. It can't do what I want it to do.

Even more disappointing is that it was pretty obvious the camera was on its way out in California - the zoom kept failing and focusing was becoming a real bitch hence a lot of not-quite-in-focus pictures - but I didn't spot the problem until downloading all the photos onto my PC and spotting the focus problem. Oh well, the trip to California and London was wonderful anyway!

So, here are a couple of the last shots the camera ever took, both at Summerland, CA. Hope you enjoy them!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Santa Barbara mountains

Not sure if this is the correct term for the mountains, but Pam was kind enough to take me up on a mountain road just north of Santa Barbara and the views were simply gobsmacking. I believe this is a view of Los Padres National Park and tried to give black and white a go.

I'm no Ansel Adams and can't even compete with Ant's black & white photos, but these don't look too bad. Snow in California was something I've wanted to see for years, just like a Mauna Kea visitor hoping to see snow in Hawaii on Mauna Kea.

Central London has been my location for the last few days but with all the rain and a fairly busy schedule I haven't been able to take any photos but I think most of you have seen pictures of the place. I took a taxi ride from the hotel to Waterloo station this morning and felt like a tourist - it's been 20 years since I was last here and driving via St Jame's Park and by the houses of Parliament was quite special!

Back to dealing with Minimalist Mode next week! And for those that want a little colour, Summerland last week:

Monday, 3 January 2011

Summerland, CA

Well, it would be if it wasn't so damn cold!

Sunday, 2 January 2011


No, not me, silly! There's just not a lot of picture taking opportunities right now what with all the rain in California so thought a picture of some water felt right. Plus, I think it looks quite nice.

Hope everyone had a great New Year!