Astrophotography, anyone?


It’s been a while, I know. In the past six years I’ve lost my site (but not my vision!), upgraded my camera (thank you Mr. Burglar!), reclaimed my site (finally!), and had a great deal of off-blog fun.

Thanks in part to the recent eclipse I’ve been bitten hard by the astronomy bug (again) and so has The Man (again).

There are two differences this time around:

  1. We have joined the local amateur astronomy group and are heavily involved in outreach.
  2. The idea of astrophotography seems to have taken hold because the tech has advanced just enough to make it relatively painless.

Now if we could just get our ever-changing Michigan weather to cooperate…

84 Charing Cross Road

After months of snow-free bliss we walked into the theater to see Meet Me In St. Louis last night with a chill in the air and not a snowflake to be seen. By the time we emerged at 8 o’clock the car was more white than blue. The snow was so deep by this morning that it took 30 minutes to make the 7 minute drive to work!

This is the perfect night for a book… or a movie about a friendship that revolved around books.

84 Charing Cross Road (1987) is a fine little film based on the book of the same name written in 1970 by Helene Hanff. The story revolves around New York City resident Ms. Hanff’s 20-year correspondence with Frank Doel, an antiquarian bookseller in London. The film stars Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins in the leads, with gems like Judi Dench, Mercedes Ruehl, and Ian McNeice in supporting roles. The movie is talky, and opinionated, and funny, and sweet, and charming. It is just the kind of thing that you want to curl up with on a cold winter’s night in lieu of an old, worn, well-loved book.

Pass the popcorn, please.

The White Stuff



Feets Don’t Fail Me Now!, originally uploaded by Mac Girl.

The white stuff hit with a vengeance today.

The snow reportedly started up between midnight and 1am, by 8am we were getting 1-2″ per hour it was almost impossible for me to back out of my driveway. And Burton Street – which is by no means a low-traffic road – was nothing more than a two track each way. Even The SUV People were respecting others and leaving a good 4 or 5 car lengths between them.

Weird.

Driving down the Burton Street two-track with little more visibility than say, half a block, I realized that the radio was blaring that song that goes: “IT’S THE MOST WONDER-FUL TIME OF THE YEAAAR!!!” and I was singing along just as loud as could be, slipping and sliding along without a care in the world.

Weirder.

Story of my life.

How To Take Truly SHOCKING Images…

Zap, originally uploaded by Mac Girl.

We were on the way home from Sparta last night and the clouds to the South were magnificent! As it got darker and they got closer we discovered that there was some cloud-to-ground lightning going on and since I just happened to have my camera and tripod handy…

Let me tell you, capturing lightning on a still camera is difficult at best. I took a few hundred shots and only two captured lightning bolts effectively. Two. Good thing I wasn’t shooting with film. I’d be broke and disappointed right about now.

What I learned:

1. Make sure that you’re shooting at night so that you can leave the shutter open for as long as possible. (Use a tripod, of course!)

2. Eliminate foreground light as much as possible. I love the WZZM weather ball, but having a giant blue blob of light to one side in the photo was a bit distracting.

3. Shoot a storm that is a ways away on the horizon. Not only will the photos be more dramatic, standing on a hill with a metal tripod in front of you is an open invitation for disaster. If you’re not under the storm you’ll eliminate the risk of getting zapped yourself. It’s also much easier to cover a wide swath of the sky from a distance, increasing your chances of capturing bolts and the way they light up the clouds around them.

4. Set the ISO to something slow for less grain in the clouds. I used ISO 400 for these shots and it worked well.

5. Have fun with it!

Fashion For The Not-So-Frigid

Bootie Call
Originally uploaded by Mac Girl

So I showed up at the Baldwin sled dog races in a sweater, jeans, a Columbia jacket, and my tennis shoes. It was February 13th and the temperature was a balmy 3°F in the North woods.

Alaine’s mom was shocked and appalled that I intended to go out and enjoy myself in city clothes. She obviously knew better than I did – I was blissfully oblivious to the inadequacy of my dress. So before I was allowed out of the trailer she saw to it that I had a warm pair of overall snow pants and an old pair of her Columbia boots to keep me warm. I’ve never been warmer.

I know now that people who hate winter because of the cold simply aren’t dressing right. Honestly. I see people huddled against the cold now and when I look closer I realize that they’re wearing a thin “coat” that is often flapping open and tennis shoes or little non-thermal “boots” that are so small and thin that they’re packed with snow and ice the minute they walk out the door. All of this in the name of “fashion”.

Know what I say? To Hell with fashion! Get yourself a proper coat and boots. You’ll be a happier, warmer person and winter will be just that little bit more bearable.

Now, if I just had a solution for potholes….

Of Pleasant Surprises

Silent Observer
Originally uploaded by Mac Girl

The Man had a teleconference meeting this afternoon/evening (I should be a poet!) so I decided to go out and stretch my legs before our big V-Day date. I ended up driving over to Ken-O-Sha park which is only about 5 min. from our house.

I haven’t been there since I was a little girl, and I keep meaning to take the camera over but I never remember it when I have time. Yeah, we’ve lived here 13 years now, it’s 5 minutes away, and I haven’t gone! Sad, isn’t it?

Anyway, the trail is about 1.2 miles long and I wore my old boots because I wasn’t sure how clear the trail was.

Funny thing about those old boots— I forgot that the right boot is broken on the inside heel. I had my woolies on so I didn’t notice it rubbing my heel until I literally got to the other end of the trail.

1.2 miles from the car.

Damn.

So I favored it on the way back and stopped often. At one point it felt so bad that I sat down on one of the less-snowy park benches and tried to adjust my wool sock to relieve the pain a bit — I still had about a half mile to go!

I sat there quietly for about 5 minutes, and when I stood up I heard a noise behind me. Lo and behold, three deer were standing there staring at me like I was an alien from another planet. I managed to get only one shot off before they decided I was a threat (Who? ME??) and took off into the woods.

I’m home now, the boots are in the trash, I have a large bandage wrapped across the back of my heel and a bloody wool sock to show for it.

But you know what? It was almost worth it for the encounter with the deer.

Reprieve (365 Day Challenge – Day 9)

Shelf Life
Originally uploaded by Mac Girl

I was sitting at my desk this morning wondering why it was so hard to read my monitor. Turns out I’ve forgotten how bright SUNLIGHT is!

Yes, actual sunlight. In Michigan. In January.

I KNOW! I was shocked too!

So I bundled up and headed out to Aman Park in Standale for some back-to-nature photography and a good long walk in the sun.

I was surprised how much green there was. Granted, the snow has all melted in our little mini heat wave this week, but I thought everything would be dormant, brown, and dead-looking. Not so! First off, there was a great deal of moss. Everywhere. There was also a lot of more or less green grass, and the odd plant or two trying desperately to poke through the carpet of dead leaves and soak up some much-needed radiation.

It was all good. I’d probably still be out there now if I hadn’t split my pants crawling (literally) over a log that had fallen across Trail B. That’s a humbling experience, let me tell ya! And a drafty one…

I’m glad I got out of the house today. The National Weather Service is predicting… well, in a word, CRAP through next Wednesday.

Remember, the next time you see the sun, run for it!