From the Mana Road

I posted about a trip we took along the Mana Road back in December. When reviewing and reflecting on that day about a couple of months ago, I realised that I wanted to do more with those images.  I finally managed to get a few of those photos together and put them into an eBook of sorts. As well as showing a selection of 11 photos from that trip, I also talk a bit about the experience I felt while on the Mana Road. As you can see by the title, it is not really about the road itself, but what you experience and see from the road that mattered to me.

It was a short trip along the Mana Road that day, perhaps just 5 or 6 miles up from Waimea. And now I’m itching to go back and photograph the landscape seen along the length of the whole road. You can find the little eBook published at from the following link (go into full screen mode when you get there):

From the Mana Road.

hinge in lava

wpid586-20090523-7477-Edit.jpgSome friends and I were taking a trip along the Saddle Road and we stopped off to have a look around at about the 27-mile marker. We came across a pile of old rusted hinges strewn across the relatively new, black lava. Not sure how they got there or how long they were there for, but nature seems to be reclaiming its iron.

milky way over mauna kea

The Astronomy Picture of the Day today shows an amazing astrophotograph of the Milky Way as seen from Haleakala on Maui. You can see our Galaxy arching triumphantly over Mauna Kea.

Also, note the tremendous amount of light pollution from Kailua, and the distant glows behind MK – Waimea and Hilo?

“it’s a bit breezy”

This was a quote from our observer of the past few nights as I talked to him last night. They had just abandoned the summit because of the high winds. It is now Saturday morning and, as is customary for most Mauna Kea astronomers, I checked the weather page.

This is what I found in the UH88 panel.

uh88windspeedI don’t know if the UH88-inch telescope’s anemometer has got stuck or is broken, but I suspect that it has as 125 mph seems really high to me, especially as you compare to what is currently being measured at the other telescopes. I’ve just tried a couple of reloads over the past 10 minutes and all of the other numbers have updated slightly, except for the wind speed. Comparing to UKIRT (which is next door to UH88-inch) the wind is ONLY at 50 mph.

Looking at the JAC’s meteogram we can see the wind speeds measured at UKIRT and JCMT over the course of the night.

ukirtwindspeedThe line at the top is UKIRT and that below is JCMT (which lies in the valley below and west of the summit and so usually registers lower wind speeds). It seems like we hit a peak of 90 mph last night and its about 60 mph as I write this.

I guess it’s fair to say that there is still a stiff breeze blowing.

summit sunrise #4

summitsunrise4I haven’t done one of these for a while now as I haven’t been up to the summit since before Christmas. So here’s an image I took on my previous visit, from the gantry of the JCMT, of a snow covered Pu’u. The Sun was rising to the east and I used the light it cast onto the side of the Pu’u to split the composition between light and dark and into something that I thought would look interesting.

Summit Sunrise #3


Another Mauna Kea summit sunrise image – well, I said that this might turn into a series. This was a set of 4 shots taken in a square pattern from the back of the JCMT looking westward. Put together in hugin and cropped and tweaked in Lightroom. Yep, I’m ‘hugin-happy’ too!

As the sun rises to the east, the shadow of Mauna Kea is cast to the west. Seeing the shadow of the mountain you are standing on always gives me a sense of perspective, about how large this mountain really is.

In the corner you can see three dishes from the SMA array. There are some fascinating features and range of colours in this image, and I quite like the composition. But note the dark streak across the image from top left down towards the apex of Mauna Kea’s shadow. I’m not exactly sure what that is, but I’m speculating that its the shadow itself from the summit which was behind and above me when I took this.

Summit Sunrise #2


I took this image about a year and a half ago. I was still shooting Jpegs then rather than RAW, so you can see a bit of banding in the sky – the tonal range in jpegs is much more compressed compared to what you can achieve with RAW. I like the way the silhouette worked out.

On the ridge you can see (left-to-right): IRTF, CFHT, Gemini, UH88, UKIRT and the little blip of the old 24-inch telescope. If you click on the image you’ll see that there’s quite a bit of detail present. You can see the guard rails on the road to the left of the IRTF and the weather tower between CFHT and Gemini.

I think this might turn into a series…

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.

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.

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.

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