A new Solargraphy project

 This evening we visited the wonderful Rooftop Movies. Before the show, though, thanks to the organisers , we set up a dozen or so solargraph cameras around the cinema.  These are a mix of Solarcan Pucks, Solarcan Cans, and some homebrew can cams.  The plan is to recover half of them in a fortnight to check alignments and framing, and the rest on the last day. As a special treat to ourselves and the Rooftop Movies team, we brought one Puck in after just three hours. Here is the result.

The Accidental Author

Through late 2022 and most of 2023, an author, E.W.Paris , on the Mastodon instance shared a daily AI generated image as a writing prompt for a 500 character story.  I found myself entranced by the often surreal images, and responded to quite a few of them. A handful of them turned into a linked space opera that I am now turning into what will probably be a novella with a working title of The Cerian and Varan War. You can find that here .  Another one prompted a high fantasy, which is also turning into a larger tale, most likely a long short story or novelette. You can read about Gwen and Grey here. And so, without actually intending to, I appear to have become an author of sorts. I hope you enjoy my tales.

Post processing in Astrophotography - comparing images

 I am a novice when it comes to driving advanced post-processing tools like Siril , which, if you are getting into astrophotography, I highly recommend. It does have a steep learning curve, especially the post-stack processing side. Powerful, but not intuitive. But if you want quick results from your funky new smart telescope, you do have alternatives. So let's have a look at some solar photography and see what happens. Here is a untouched image, and the same image with some in-camera curve adjustment. The only edit is to crop the image. The Sun, unmodified With in-camera curve  adjustment Straight away, you can see more detail - the penumbras are clearer in sun spots, the granulation is more obvious.  Now let's look at what happens when you get heavy handed with Snapseed's structure and sharpening tools, adjusting the shadows and highlights a bit more, adding a touch of HDR and tweaking the colour balance. Heavily post processed in Snapseed First up, the granulation is ver

Hunting Neptune

  Back in the day, and I mean starting around the turn of last century, you'd hunt for planets by taking photos through your telescope days or weeks apart, and then comparing the two plates.  Today I proved to myself that I have photographed Neptune from my front garden. This evening, I took this shot with my DwarfII - 10x15s exposures, stacked, and filtered to make everything cyan. In theory, somewhere in this image is Neptune. Good luck working out where. Cyan tinted star scape. Somewhere, Neptune is lurking. Last week, I did the same thing, but I tinted this one yellow. Yellow star scape. Neptune still hiding. Next, I composited them in Snapseed, and played with the opacity slider. Can you see Neptune now? Here are the two locations highlighted Neptune in two locations, circled Two very cool things about this. One, I did this with a telescope the size of a 1L UHT carton from my garden in the middle of suburbia! Two, it clearly shows how planets got their name - from the Greek  p

Good News (every) Week

  I do not often plug things. One, I suck at it, two, most things are perfectly good at plugging themselves. For this site, I am making an exception. We all know that there is a lot of horrible stuff going on in the world. And we do need to be informed about it so we can do something about it. But what about the stuff that has had things done about it? We hardly ever hear about that. A few years ago, David Byrne - ex-frontman of Talking Heads, and all-round nice guy, noticed this problem, and started a news site that focuses on solutions from around the world. https:// Well researched and excellently written articles about the good things in the world - giving us all a reminder of why we should keep going.

The Leaning Tower of Gingin and the Sun

  A six-month solargraph taken at the Gingin Gravity Discovery Centre, looking North at the Leaning Tower. Many thanks to the GDC and AIGO for letting me set the cameras up back in December! Scanned using Google Photoscan, and post-processed in Snapseed.

Summing Up What Sort of Photography I Do!

 Folks may have noticed that very little of my photography these days is "normal".  I do still take conventional photos with a fairly ordinary digital camera, but that is mostly my nature photography, and I do not often talk about that.  Great Egret - Herdsman Lake, June 2023. Nikon P900 I also do some astrophotography, up until recently using my mobile phone,  Milky Way, Pixel 6a, Guilderton, June 2022. but more recently with a Dwarf II 'smart telescope'.  Cat's Paw Nebula, Doubleview, June 2023, 98 x 15s frames, stacked in camera. These are not so much telescopes as dedicated astrophotography rigs controlled via a mobile app, and the results speak for themselves. They can align and stack multiple frames all by themselves, and compensate for significant levels of light pollution.  At the other extreme, I also experiment with in-camera cyanotype photography, using an 1830s era chemistry that is best known for making blueprints!  Mandurah Canal House, December 2020

Easy and cheap(ish) Astrophotography

Astrophotography is arguably the most technically demanding discipline in the art of photography, with high demands in both equipment and post-processing. In recent years advances in mobile phone technology have given everyone access to easy wide-field astrophotography, leaving three areas that still require high end equipment: Stellar, Planetary, and Deep-sky.  Is there still a place for high end equipment in wide-field? Absolutely! Just like the Instagram folks are discovering that a real camera takes better photos than a mobile phone, so too will a dedicated astro rig take better photos than a mobile phone.  But the mobile is accessible, cheap, and easy to use - so it will get folks in.  If you can get shots like this in a Bortle 5 area, it will get you excited, and some folks will be inspired enough to go further.  But what about deep sky? Enter the "Smart Telescope".  These are not so much telescopes as dedicated astrophotography rigs. These have many advantages - some o

AI Visual Writing Prompt 16/17 02 2023 and Tannis was not quite sure how she ended up embedded in the middle of a Varan combined tactics formation, but none of them appeared to have noticed her Cerian fighter. "Oh, well, I may as well go with it for now. It is not like they can do much with me in the middle of them, even if they do notice. Who knows? I might even be able to do some good", she mused to herself. A quick glance showed the CVR was running. Not bad last words. With that, she started checking her weapon loads.

Visual Writing Prompt 2023 02 07

Written  In response to this  prompt over in Mastadon. Part 1 Twice a year it came out of the river, always stopping in exactly the same place, no matter what was there. Buildings, vehicles, animals, anything there would be crushed - but it never went any further, and anything along the way was avoided. There it would stand for an hour, and then return to the river. No one knew why, or where it came from, or where it went. But they all agreed that it had a beautiful singing voice. Part 2 You wondering why none of us are worried? Well, it has been doing this for as long as folks have been here. Probably longer. We've had wars come through, and it pays no attention. Mind you, if you shoot something at it, it will come straight back at you! As for the crushing thing, well a few years back Old Harry left his ute there when he was on a bender. Only reason insurance paid up was that it was worth so little to begin with. Then there was that developer guy from out of town. Tried to stand h

Using a Solarcan Puck at lower lattitudes

 The Solarcan Puck is a great little reusable solargraphy camera. It has a relatively wide aperture (f/90), so it can create  a decent image in a single day.  The limitation is that it has (for a camera of this type) a relatively narrow field of view - about 120 degrees.  This means that if you have it mounted vertically, you are going to be able to record angles up to 60 degrees above the horizon. This is fine if you are above about 50 degrees latitude. At about 50 degrees, the sun will never be higher than about 60 degrees above the horizon. Why that value? Probably because of where Solarcan are based:  in Scotland.  What do the the rest of the world have to do then? You can restrict yourself to winter months - but that is not much fun.  The other alternative is to angle your Puck upwards. But how far?  In the worst case, on the Equator, the sun will be directly overhead at Solstice. This means that the Puck will have to be angled upwards at least 30 degrees - but this would mean tha

Non alcoholic cocktails #7

Jamaican Wonder (Booth's Handbook 1966) This one has all but vanished from the lexicon of cocktails - there is a variant on the Absolut site, but that is the only one, and that cuts back on the lime. Even Simon Difford appears to have forgotten it. Here is a Lyre's zero-proof version: 1 shot Dark Cane Spirit or Spiced Cane Spirit 1 shot Lime Juice 1/2 shot Coffee Originale  Dash Angostura Bitters Mix in a highball glass, and top with chilled bitter lemon. Interestingly, the published version makes no mention of ice, so don't use any in this either. This is quite sharp, but the coffee flavours combine with the rum backing to present a very tasty and surprising drink. 

Today I noticed something odd about the UAP ads

 So I made the mistake of watching commercial news this evening, and there were a bunch of UAP ads. One thing that struck me was that most of the things being campaigned about are things that are not actually things the Australian government directly controls - where super is invested, home-loan rates, and so on. Now these things *could* be legislated, but doing so would transform our economy into a centrally planned economy. This is quite aside from the rather conflicting platform of increasing investments while dropping (or holding) interest rates. Presumably also via legislation. For a party that claims "freedom" as a defining feature, they sure seem keen on direct legislative control of the economy - a defining feature of authoritarian governments.