The snow is back

The mountain is closed for the night and astronomers stranded at the Hale Pohaku Resort & Hotel for Stray Astronomers are huddling by the fire – well, the internet. There are various reports from Tom, Brad, Andrew and Damon provides some interesting video of the impact of the storms at sea level. For a lot of people this is very serious as the flooding the rains are bringing are causing significant damage to their properties.mkiceagereserveI don’t have any pictures from today, so here’s an image I took last year. The snow was so persistent that it reached all the way down to the 10,000-11,000 ft level. It was the first time that I had seen snow or ice down by the Ice Age Natural Area Reserve sign. There’s irony in that, somewhere.

Poll results and a new theme

So, following more than a week of the poll on readability that I was running here, the results are in. In the end, 64% of you thought that the readability of the font size and colour etc was fine. But that means that 36% of you didn’t. That’s a third of you that bothered to vote. So, to try and make everybody happy – apart from me as I really liked the old theme – I’ve decided to change to a new theme which I hope will be agreeable to all.

So here it is.

Hitler rants about the new Nikon D3X

After a long day stuck in a meeting, this was welcome relief and made me laugh:

As I said in my previous post about the D3X, I don’t want to get into the debate over the price but this is really funny. The best bit is when the people outside the war-room are getting worried over Hitler’s increasing madness and one lady comforts another by saying “It’s OK, He only shoots JPEG “! Classic.

Thanks to TimJ for throwing this my way.

Q: I don’t think that this video is taken/stolen from the new ‘Valkyrie’ movie? So which one is it?

Summit Sunrise update


I was looking at the Summit Sunrise panorama again to see if I could do a better job of it. You see, I realised that hugin has the option of using the Panotools enfuse engine for making the blends. It makes HDR images as well although I haven’t tried it for that… yet.

The nice thing about hugin is that it generates both files for you, the normal blend and the enfused one. That allows you to compare. This one above is the enfused one and I think it does a much better job. It’s matched and dealt with the lighting changes across the field much better. No (overtly obvious) joins!

I’m even more pleased with this result.

Swimming weekend

I said that I’d had a quiet weekend blog-wise as we were away in Kona for a two day swimming event. Mira swims for the Hilo Aquatics Swimming Club (HAQ) also knows as “The Poi Dog Paddlers”! That’s a great name and emphasizes the mix of cultures that the club celebrates and the feeling of ohana that permeates the team.

Having made the Long Course State Championships last summer, Mira was aiming to qualify again for the Short Course State Champs in two weeks time, but having only just aged-up in the last two weeks, the new times she needed were out of reach this time. But to her total credit, she continued her good progress (after a shaky start to the season) and has her sights on the summer Champs.

Here she is with dad having a little snack between events.

Mira and dad being a bit silly between events
Mira and dad being a bit silly between events

Expert advice on making high-res panoramics

My favourite scientist-who-should-be-a-pro-photographer is Jao van de Lagemaat (you can find his blog on my side-links). He has also started to contribute to O’Rielly’s Inside Lightroom blog. In the latest post, Jao blogs about making high resolution landscapes with a low-resolution DSLR. There is some really good advice in there (not sure that climbing onto the roofs of snow covered huts at 12,000 ft is requistite, but it helped in the example given).

I was also pleased to discover that Jao is a user of hugin, which I talked briefly about in a previous post, and will likely post about in future ones. Jao has a smugmug page set up showing some of his panoramic images which is really well worth a look. There is some excellent work there, and the lesson to take away from it (and what I have to learn) is that panoramics do not have to be linear, long and thin. Explore all dimensions available…

iPhone Apps to 10,000+

This is pretty amazing. Not that Apple have got 10,000+ applications now available at their App Store, that was always going to happen and 100,000 and 1,000,000 won’t be that far behind.

No, what amazes me is that somebody had the time and patience to do this: 10,000+ on Flickr – Photo Sharing! All 10,000+ icons from all 10,000+ Apps put together in a mosaic that depicts the iPhone.

Still, it’s very cool!

The impact of Big Island vog on the state of Hawaii

It was a quiet weekend for me with regard to this blog as we were in Kona for a  swimming meet. More on that later, in the meantime…

In his post, A Very Voggy Day, Andrew provides a nice link to the MODIS satellite which took  visual images of the island. The clouds are the really white, fluffy stuff. The murky, grey looking stuff is the vog which is generated by Kilauea and which the trade winds carry off to the rest of the island chain.

The image dramatically demonstrates how, when the trade winds are blowing, the best place to be is the east coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.

Astronomy with Lasers, Part II – or Canadians in Scotland

When I did the first part of this post, I said that if Keck were shooting lasers into the sky again I would try to get another night time image, but using the tripod. I did try again the following night but we were quite busy so I didn’t get the chance to get out until late. But good news, the laser was still firing, so I set up the camera on the tripod and went outside. I set the camera up and pointed roughly in the right direction (it was dark out there, you can see anything through the camera’s eyepiece!). I set the camera to its bulb setting and f/8 aperture, manual focus set to infinity and I was ready. I looked up and… no laser! WHAT? They’d switched it off! It was bloody freezing as well.

[I’m sorry, I have to tell this because as I write that phrase – “bloody freezing!” – it reminds me of a story. I studied for my PhD in Edinburgh and one of my fellow students was a Canadian named Steve Torchinsky. For obvious reasons I called him “The Torch”. He told me a story that has stuck with me, about when he was in an Edinburgh pub and a happy but drunken Scotsman started talking to him for no other reason than he was there (it happens). Then he found out The Torch was from Canada and exclaimed the following. Now you must understand, this is only very funny if you say the following in a drunken Scottish accent, otherwise it’s just merely amusing. The drunken Scotsman said, “Don’t talk to me aboot Kanada, Eye’ve bin to Kanada. It’s bloody freeezin‘ in Kanada. It’s so kold in Kanada, the snot FRO-OZE up me NO-OZE!” I love Scotland, and I love the Scottish people… especially the drunken ones. And yes, it is cold in Kanada.]

I got luckier the next day, but I kept one eye on the Keck while I set up the camera and tripod. The following was the result after a 3 minute bulb exposure at f/8.

Keck Laser

As I turned around to go back into the building I noticed that rising over in the East was the Southern Cross. So I set the camera up and exposed it for a minute. I was quite happy with the result, composed with the entrance to the JCMT.

Southern Cross

Summit Sunrise


The image above was taken a couple of nights ago as we finished our night shift, observing at the JCMT. It’s a panoramic image, three images going left to right – can you spot the join? – taken from the summit of Mauna Kea. In the distance is Mauna Loa.

For panoramic images I use a great piece of software called hugin. It’s donationware, but it is a great piece of software and although it doesn’t always produce a final stitch product (which has only happened to me a few times) when it works, it works better than any other piece of stitching software I have used  before. I must admit though, the exposure blending didn’t work marvelously well this time (you can see the joins, right?) probably because the light changes quite quickly at that time of day.

This was a hard exposure to get right because the ground is dark and the sky is bright. I had no choice really but to expose for the sky as that’s where all the interesting detail and colours are, and hope that I could recover the rest in my Lightroom. I like the final result.