4K Screen Backgrounds

I was just re-editing one of my photos for use as a background. In my life complicated by multiple computers, many of which are virtual, I use unique screen backgrounds to remind myself which computer I am on.

Zodiacal Light over Keck
Zodiacal Light over the Keck telescopes
Hmmm? Maybe I should share a few.

These are sized for the newer 4K monitors at 3840 x 2160, which is the usual 16:9 aspect ratio now used for most monitors. The images should display well on full HD monitors as well. You can use these for personal use only, no commercial use or re-posting to other services!

Use the ‘full size’ link under the image to download it.

2017 Gallery

2017 featured many adventure recorded in the photos of the year. Fun to look back and relive the expereince…

Alaska Gallery

Creative Filters for Photography

I have heard it said that the creative filter applications available for phone photography are simply a way to make bad photos look good.

Solar Scope
A solar telescope setup to photograph the total solar eclipse 21Aug2017

I would have to say that these filters are a way to make bad photos look worse.

The web is filled with horrible photos of pets, selfies, and dinner plates, often processed through some creative filter application to somehow make the photo look hip or cool. Sorry, a bad photo is still a bad photo. Often it is far worse for the application of the filter. Fancy colors, brush patterns or mosiacs, it does not matter, it is still just bad.

I am not telling you to uninstall the application, quite the opposite! A well composed photo can be a good photo after application of the filter. You can also use the filter to overcome some limitations of phone photography. Technical defects like color, lighting, and noise are often erased when the filter is applied.

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Processing the Eclipse

Processing the frames to produce a deeper view of the solar corona is not easy. This is the best I have achieved so far. You can still see some ring like artifacts where the layers have been merged. I will be working further to improve this, but it may come down to retouching by hand to eliminate the issues.

The image is an HDR merge of five images taken from 1/500 to 1/4sec exposures with the TV-76 and a Canon EOS M5. Extensive corona and a couple prominences can be seen.

Solar Corona
An HDR view of the solar corona from the 21Aug2017 solar eclipse

The Eclipse Plan

With a little short of two minutes of totality I need to go into this with a plan. I do want a few photos, but I also want to experience the eclipse. How do I balance that?

Hodgepodge
Hodgepodge setup on the side of Mauna Kea with the TV-76mm and Telrad on the plate
The important bit here is that I am going to give myself time to simply enjoy the eclipse and not spend the whole time futzing with the camera gear. When totality begins I will simply sit back and watch. To that end I have thought through a shot plan that may just accomplish this balance.

The plan calls for three cameras… A single camera on a solar telescope, this will be primarily run on automatic with an intervalometer. I just need to check focus and centering of the solar image periodically during the long partial phases. I will use part of totality to attend to this camera and take a deep corona photo.

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Two Solar Film Filters

When travelling to an eclipse, one solar filter is not enough. I need a backup!

Two Solar filters
A Baader film solar filter beside an Orion Safety Film filter, both for the 76mm refractor
This is particularly true as my primary filter is a Baader film filter. While a very nice and effective filter, it is also very thin film, and easily damaged. Thus I have borrowed a second filter (Thanks Chris!), the borrowed filter being an Orion E-Series Safety Film filter.

Having the two filters available for use mean I must choose between them when the moment is critical. Which is better? Some testing is in order to find out.

The two filters appear very different, the thin silver film of the Baader quite different than the thicker black polymer film of the Orion filter. Both filters are safe to use and provide decent solar viewing. Both provided pleasing solar images using my Televue 76mm APO telescope at low and medium power.

Stepping beyond basic use I do find that they perform quite differently. So differently I felt some notes are in order.

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Dual Laser Milky Way Photo Op

The island is home to a vibrant community of photographers, a mix of professionals and serious amateurs. There is one set of photos everyone, and I do mean everyone wants… Dual lasers on the Milky Way.

Dual Lasers on the Galactic Center
Both Keck lasers aimed at the center of the Milky Way galaxy
Just occasionally both of the keck telescopes, and both lasers, are focused on the center of the galaxy, both stabbing right at the heart of the Milky Way.

Opportunities to see and photograph this are few, and occur strictly during the summer months of June to August, when the Milky Way is high overhead. furthermore, these opportunities occur only when Andre Ghez and her UCLA Galactic Center Group have both telescopes scheduled.

July 25th was such a night, a good opportunity to get both lasers. Andrea’s group has the first half of the night, turning over the ‘scopes to other astronomers just after midnight. Actually there were a few nights this particular week, we just chose the 25th. After this galactic center season is over, at least until next year.

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Maintaining the Archive

How do you organize your photos? The answer to that is critical. Anyone who generates a lot of images, and that is just about everyone these days needs to answer that question.

XKCD Photo Library Management
Photo Library Management from XKCD (Randall Munroe, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.)
Keeping my photo archive organized is a bit of a chore. But skip on the effort and it simply gets worse, to the point of being unusable. If you can not find the photos you need why take photos at all?

The trick is to develop a process and to use it… Religiously. I can not tell you how to do it, I can just tell you how I do it and offer a few suggestions.

There are two basic approaches, simply come up with a way to organize the images into a directory using nothing more than your operating system. The other approach is to use some form of photo organizing software to aid in the task. I do make a large assumption here, that the images are in digital format, not negatives and slides. For that you will have to look elsewhere for answers.

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