Observing Weekend

This weekend I was pleased to have been invited with a few other people to go spend a night at the Manastash Ridge Observatory in eastern Washington.  It’s about a 120 mile drive away from my house, and we headed out from the Seattle area around 11am on Saturday. 

After arriving, we were treated to a great view of the surrounding hills, excellent brats on the grill, cookies at 1am for stargazing, and a great game of cards.  Unfortunately, the weather didn’t completely cooperate: high winds (I guess there’s a reason the Wild Horse Wind Farm (pics) is just about 15 miles away) and about 30-40% upper level cloud coverage made viewing conditions less than optimal.

I did finally get a chance to play with some wide angle sky photography.  I’m so-so about the results, definitely need to do some more practicing with this stuff:

Cygnus and Lyra

More pictures available on my Flickr stream here.

Seattle Central Library Photostroll

image Today the Seattle area was greeted with good weather.  Of course, the local Flickr meetup group had pre-planned a photostroll that, of course, was inside. 🙂 We wandered about the downtown Seattle library for approximately 2 hours, taking pictures of the awesome architecture and colors of the building.  My photos are here.

Also, got the first bike ride of the season under the belt today.  One week until Tour de Lopez!

San Francisco for a Day

imageHad to run to San Francisco for a one-day work trip this week.  Luckily, my work wrapped up a bit early and I was able to go act like a tourist for a bit.  Took a drive up to the Golden Gate Bridge, drove and hiked around the Marin Headlands, and had dinner with some friends.  SF is a really beautiful and photogenic city.  Pics are online at my Flickr gallery here.

Lunar Eclipse

Ok, so I’m a day or two late, but everyone else is posting pictures they took of the eclipse, so here’s mine:

image

Taken with a Nikon D70 and 70-300mm lens, ISO400 for 4 seconds at f/5.6 from the 28th floor of Lincoln Square in Bellevue.

Also while up there, I got a panoramic of the Seattle Skyline as seen from Bellevue (click for larger version):

Seattle Skyline

Cold and on the ground

According to Weather Underground, it’s currently 28°F outside.  It snowed a fair amount last night, and now the snow that thawed most of the day is turning to ice.  It’s been interesting watching people try to drive up the hill into our neighborhood.

I heard tires spinning about 2 hours ago, so I decided to peek outside.  Turns out that someone had abandoned their car a while back and was now trying to get it out of the middle of the road.  Fun stuff.  I then noticed that the moon was out, and Orion was out.  The ever-present winter clouds had pulled back.  This means two things: it’s gonna be cold tonight, and I had a great opportunity to take some pictures.

DSC_4760 (2)I grabbed the camera, threw on the 70-300mm lens, and unpacked the tripod.  It was in one of the few boxes that we decided not to unpack.  Out I went, shooting pictures of the moon and Orion with varying degrees of success.

The moon is easy enough to capture. It’s actually really bright – since the sun is reflecting off the moon, it’s actually nearly as bright as the surface of the earth would be.  The rough rule of thumb for moon photography is an aperture of f/8 at 1/125th second exposure.  I took the picture at right at f/8 and 1/100th second at ISO200.  A 300mm camera just captures enough detail to start identifying craters, but a tripod is an absolute necessity.

DSC_4748 Enough with moons: how about stars?  Orion was out, so I pointed my lens that way.  My 70-300mm lens worked again here, just barely fitting Orion into the view at 70mm.  My best picture came out at ISO800 at f/4 with a 13 second exposure.  Unfortunately, there seems to be a big dust bunny on my Nikon’s sensor that I need to clean, but otherwise I’m very pleased with the photo.  Even at the scaled down version here, Orion’s belt, Betelgeuse, and Rigel are easy to make out.  Looking at the full-size picture (click the photo to see it), you can actually make out the Orion Nebula (M42) and some binary star systems at the bottom of the photo.

I decided at this point to drag out the small telescope, a Meade ETX-90.  Using eyepieces between 26mm and 9mm, I watched the moon move around the sky for about a half-hour before I turned towards Orion.  Since I was laying on the ground looking through the scope (no tripod for this one, sadly), it took me quite a while to find anything related to Orion – but eventually, I found what I was looking for: M42.  With the ETX-90, I couldn’t make out the vivid colors of the nebula, but I could make out 5 stars of the trapezium cluster with some of the tell-tale nebula clouds around them.

Unfortunately, about that time our local clouds decided to crowd back in, and that killed my viewing for the night.  Next time it’s this clear at night, I’m going straight for the big telescope.

Searching for: A digital photo frame

So, I’m in the market for some digital photo frames, but can’t really find one that fits my needs. My thought is to be able to buy them as gifts for family in far off places (ignore voltage for a moment, converters are relatively cheap), and have them display pictures from my own RSS feeds.

That’s the killer — to pull pictures from my own RSS feeds. Therefore, it’s got to have wifi. Internal memory is a wash for me – great if it will cache from the network, oh well if it doesn’t. The key thing is that I don’t want to pay for a monthly service fee to use these, like [MomentoLive](http://www.momentolive.com/) and [CEIVA](http://www.ceiva.com/lmore/dpr/dpr.jsp). That’s dumb – I understand their business model, but I run my own thankyouverymuch.

If anyone knows of a product that fits these needs, anywhere from a 6″ to a 10″ screen, please let me know. 🙂

Nikon does the Right Thing – Publicly

I wrote a few days ago about getting my Nikon D70 back from service, and said kudos to them for replacing the parts in my camera even though it is out of warranty. Well, seems that Nikon has publicly announced that they'll be replacing defective parts on D70's, D2h's, and F55's. The information is also on Nikon Europe's support page as well as Nikon USA's support page.

Well done, Nikon.