Thursday, December 25, 2008

The True Meaning 2008

(Yes, I post this every year)

"And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid... And the angel said unto them, "Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

"And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men."

"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
--Linus Van Pelt (and Charles M Schultz)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What is a Professional Photographer

A professional photographer is the Chuck Norris of photography

A professional photographer's camera has similar settings to a non pro, except ours are: P[erfect] Av[Awesome Priority Tv[Totally Awesome Priority] M[ajestic]

A professional photographer doesn't color correct. The world adjusts to match us.

Sure, a professional photographer deletes a bad photo or two. Other people call these Pulitzers.

A professional photographer doesn't adjust his DOF, he changes space-time.

A professional photographer doesn't wait for the light when he shoots a landscape - the light waits for him.

A professional photographer never flips his camera in portrait position, he flips the earth

A professional photographer orders an L-lens from Nikon, and gets one.

When a professional photographer brackets a shot, the three versions of the photo win first place in three different categories

Only a professional photographer can take pictures of a professional photographer; everyone else would just get their film overexposed by the light of our genius

A professional photographer's nudes were fully clothed at the time of exposure

A professional photographer once designed a zoom lens. You know it as the Hubble Space Telescope.

When a professional unpacks his CF card, it already has masterpieces on it.

A professional photographer’s portraits are so lifelike, they have to pay taxes

On a professional photographer's desktop, the Trash Icon is really a link to National Geographic Magazine

A professional photographer spells point-and-shoot "h-a-s-s-e-l-b-l-a-d"

For every 10 shots that a professional photographer takes, 11 are keepers.

A professional photographer's digital files consist of 0's, 1's AND 2's.

A professional photographer never focuses, everything moves into his DoF

A professional photographer's shots are so perfect, Adobe redesigned Photoshop for us: all it consists of is a close button.

A professional photographer never produces awful work, only work too advanced for the viewer

A professional photographer isn't the Chuck Norris of photography; Chuck Norris is the professional photographer of martial arts.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Photographers are like...

I love this quote:

"(Professional) photographers are like Hookers: at first we started doing it because we liked it and it felt good, then we kept doing it but only for our friends, and NOW we're still doing it but are charging money for doing it! " -Dean Collins

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why Pro Photographers Are Worth It

Sometimes you hear people say, "Why are your prices so much more than "such-and-such" and "so-and-so"? Well, probably because they are one of the many individuals who have recently picked up a camera and decided they were a "professional photographer". Chances are more than fair that they do not have what real, working photographers have: knowledge, experience, training, etc.

Below is a "Top Ten" list that speaks to the reasons professional photographers are worth your investment....

10 Reasons Why Photographers Charge What They Do

10. Professional photographers are in business, and as a business, need to make a profit. Because they make it their career, they dedicate themselves to becoming the best they can be, and share that knowledge with their clientele.

9. Professional photographers have to buy professional equipment. Nope, they don't just pick up a point-and-shoot from Wal-Mart and declare themselves a professional. They spend thousands upon thousands of dollars getting multiple camera bodies, the finest lenses, flash equipment for every situation, tripods, light stands, backdrops, props, carrying and storage cases. And then when you think you have it all - you need to get backups for everything to make sure you never miss an image.

8. Professional photographers continue their education, and learn as much as they can about the business. They join groups like Professional Photographers of America or the National Press Photographers Association. They attend seminars and training by some of the best names in the business. They concentrate on becoming the best they can be.

7. Professional photographers don't just snap a picture, they create a photograph. They understand positioning. They understand lighting. They understand placement. You're not just paying for the ability to place a finger on the trigger and snap a picture. You're paying for the years of experience it took to create the perfect image.

6. Professional photographers can spend hours producing one professional photograph.

Time can include:

* creating the marketing
* answering emails and phone calls
* meeting with the client to talk about the event
* setting up for the event
* drive time to and from the event
* time for the actual photographing
* running to and from the lab
* meeting with the client for previews and decisions
* processing the image
* retouching the image
* mounting the image
* framing the image
* packaging the image
* dropping off final images
* production work
* follow up work

Add it all up, and you can see why one portrait session may include hours worth of work. It's impossible to stay in business if you only make a few pennies per client.

5. Professional photographers have to be more than photographers. They have to be CEOs and marketers, and bankers, and salespeople, and production workers, and janitors, and buyers, and negotiators, and networkers, and drivers, and organizers. And photographers. That's a lot of skills for one person to master.

4. Professional photographers will do it all. Want to get married at the top of a 14,000 foot high mountain, where the only way up is a 30 minute ski-lift ride? A professional photographer will be there. Want a portrait running through the waves on a Southern California beach? A professional photographer will be there.

3. Professional photographers aren't just order takers, they provide total customer service. Professionals photograph dozens or even hundreds of clients a year. They understand what looks good, how to put together albums, and how to group multiple photographs together. Their goal is to provide you with what you need and what's best for you - not just have you sign on the dotted line.

2. Professional photographers watch for the newest, most innovative, creative products available. They stay up to date on industry news, and find things that perfectly match their clients taste. They don't try and fit you into something you don't like - they find out what you want and search the world over for the perfect things. They are the professional.

1. Professional photographers have the knowledge and the skill to make you look the best you can be. I can buy a hammer for a few dollars at the hardware store. Yet I spent hundreds of dollars for a handyman to repair my deck. I can buy a needle and thread for a few dollars at the fabric store. Yet I spent over $100 on alterations at a local tailor. It's not about the tools; it's about the outcome.
Sure, anyone can buy a camera and take a picture. You can head down to your local discount store, wait several hours and have a minimum wage clerk place you on an X and snap a few pictures. But they can't get what a professional can get. They won't concentrate on expressions. They won't advise you on outfits and locations. They won't provide 110 percent customer service. You won't get a professional portrait.

Isn't it time to see a professional?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Season's End

Well, today brings an end. Change is inevitable.

At noon the sirens went off for their monthly test. I went outside to listen, knowing that - barring an actual tornado - the alert sirens won't sound again until next spring. It makes one sad, especially us weather people. And most especially the ones who hate cold weather.

The second sign of change is that the National Weather Service posted a Freeze Warning for the entire area for tonight. With a hard freeze, that brings an end to the growing season. Oh sure, we're going to cover the garden so the tomato plants (and other plants) don't get killed, but it's a sure sign of the impending doom of winter.

Now I'm depressed.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Let's Not Do It Again

Loyal readers (yeah, like I have any) will remember that this time last year I got roped into participating in a local photo exhibition/competition, and it didn't go well. I swore then I would never do it again.

Well, I did. And I think it was somewhat worse this year.

(Note: Names of individuals have been shortened to just their initials. That way it could be anyone whose name starts with a particular initial. By keeping it vague, I keep from getting bitched out)

The theme this year was "Wetlands and Water" in order to show "concern for the environment" and to make the rules a bit more focused than last years' debacle. I wasn't starting out to submit anything, because I didn't care about it. When asked to participate, I said no. But then I took a really cool (at least I thought) shot of a sunset over the Thornapple river reservoir back at the end of August. We were having spectacular sunsets due to some volcanic activity in the Aleutian Islands, giving us intense colors at sunrise and sunset. The water was nearly calm, and I got a wonderful reflection of the sky in the water. It was a perfect example of "water" for this photo thingy.

I went to my local professional lab, and got the image printed. I unfortunately told someone there - "K" - about the competition, and she opened her stupid mouth and told "S" there at the lab what I was doing with the image ("S" was involved in last years' debacle, and I had sworn to her I would never do it again). So I got pissed off at "K" for blabbing about my image. Why can't women keep their mouths shut?

So I go ahead and get the image printed as an 8x12, and get it matted and framed. And due to screw ups, this cost me more than I was planning on, especially for an event I cared nothing about. I submitted it last week, and that was that.

Cut to tonight, when there was the "artist opening" at a local library. I go out there to see how things went, knowing that I have a nice photo (again, I think so) but it won't win any prizes. That would be even more stupid to think anyone would like my work. I walk in, and noticed that there's not as many images submitted as last year, to start. I take a look around, noting that some of the shots look pretty good, and some are just "formulaic" in their approach to the subject. Also, I take much notice about how crappy some of the matting and framing is. It looks like a kindergartner did them, or someone with mental problems. In sort, some of these suck. I also see an image by someone I don't care for, because she's one of these "I bought a camera, so I'm a photographer" people (you know the type). I shrugged it off, and moved on. I then ran into "P" who told me she was glad I submitted something (I purposely didn't tell her I was submitting anything). She then moved off to talk to someone else, and I turned to on of the other display areas to see more photos.

And to my shock and amazement, I see an image from "K"!! I can't believe it! Of all the fucking nerve!! Up until last week she didn't even know about this, and now she's got stuff in the show!! She must have went out and shot something really fast and got it ready. I guess it's my fault, because I mentioned this show, but I never told her much about it. But the nerve of her. What a bitch. As I stand there in shock, I actually see her and the previously-noted person I hate looking at the submissions. Well, before she can see me, I turn around. There's no way I can face her after this backstabbing she gave me (typical how women seem to do that).

Well, as with last year's losing to shitty photos, I got pissed off and left. I don't think I was there for ten minutes. I got int he car, and drove off, fuming and getting more pissed off by the minute. How DARE she do something like that, and also how can this group even call this a photo exhibition when they let craptastic and shoddy matting/framing be accepted? Again, like last year, NO MORE!!! I dont' even want to hear about this event again. In fact, I don't want to hear about any photo exhibitions.

I never found out where my photo will be hanging for the next month, and I don't really care. When it comes time to pick it up, it's just gonig to sit there. Since I don't know where it is, how can I pick it up? And what the fuck will I do with it once I have it back? Last year's photos are sitting gathering dust in a corner. I entertained the thought it going and picking it up, and smashing it right in front of the people. I mean, I don't care about it, so who can say anything if I destroy my own work?

And as to "K"? Fuck her (figuratively). I want nothing to do with her, nothing to do with her place of employment (the lab where I got my stuff printed) again. Bitch.

So ther moral of the story? Don't get involved in anything, and never talk to anyone. Keep all your thoughts and ideas to yourself, because someone will steal them. Trust no one.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Banned in (Not) Boston

If you don't get the title, you're not old enough. Try and Google it for the answer.

Today I got banned from a group on a photo sharing site. And man, am I upset about it.

Well, not really. Actually, not at all.

The person who runs the forum is a real narcissist, and someone who flaunts his monetary status to all. He looks down upon others less fortunate, and does not suffer criticism - or just plain observations negative to his opinions - at all. He has stated in the past how he will not "take my big fat wallet" into places, because he was not treated like a god. He recently stated that he was "used to the Hilton" and not "roughing it" in a Holiday Inn. I'm sure you see a pattern.

He runs his forum with an iron fist. If you stray off topic by a vowel or consonant, he closes down the thread. People who disagree with him disappear, just like in Stalinist Russia. And now it happened to me. Here's why, and you will see that I am completely innocent.

A person posted an Off Topic thread about their browser. I replied - with the sarcasm I am known for - that they angered the "God" of the forum, and he will come and smite you. It was pretty funny.

So this morning I get a message from our antagonist. Here is the message:
"Do you have a problem with the way I run the forum?"
I replied:
"I was being sarcastic.

Anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes on any of the *******-sponsored forums knows that you come down hard on people who post things not photography related.

You can run your little forums however you see fit; with either a heavy hand or light touch. It means nothing to me.

It may come as a shock to you, but there are many of us who are on forums for "the heck of it" to read what others say about photography. And we don't live and breath what one person's view contains.

I can quite easily quit your little forum because - in the real world outside of cyberspace - neither it nor you matter to me. I'm here to read what others say, possibly learn something, possibly help others to learn. But I don't life and breath it, and I don't blindly follow people. And I'm sarcastic.

So I guess if you don't want people like me in your little internet fiefdom, you should ban us "casual" readers/posters. I'm too old to worry about little things like this."
So a few hours later, I get a message saying I'm banned, and another message from our antagonist:
"As you are banned. And banned from any and all ******* activity."
I then penned (can you say "penned" when using a computer? Hmm...) a reply...
"You know, you just proved the point of a lot of people. You have too big of an ego, and can't take criticism or just plain observations.

You inquired as to whether I had a problem with the way you ran the forum, and I replied in a succinct manner - I don't care how you run it. It's your forum. And because you didn't like what I wrote in a personal message to you, you banned me. I did not "wish" for it, as you state. I said if you didn't like people of my kind, you should ban us. So you are being prejudiced and narrow-minded towards people who don't have your mindset. Oh yeah, and since I'm not a rich know-it-all, you hate me because I'm poor as well. Figures.

Of course, in all the forums I am on via this vast internet, you run yours more heavy-handed than anyone. Every other forum allows "semi" off-topic things, as long as they don't get out of control. I run five such forums in the science discipline. But that's not the point.

Have fun in your little world that has no concept of humor or relaxation. Of speaking the truth and hearing the truth.

I know I will have fun blogging about you and your treatment of people. I rarely talk about people beneath my social and mental status, but I can, and will.

Heh. Whatever. Life goes on. For some of us who work to live."
Well, turns out that he blocked me, and my message can't get delivered via the site's message program. Now, if I really cared, I could email him directly, but why bother? He and his type have major psychological issues, and will never admit their shortcomings or that they have a problem, even though people around them can see it plainly.

I just wrote this because I find the whole thing funny. The antagonist of this piece must be a small, insecure little man, as evidenced by his attitude. Some may feel sorry for him, but because I feel nothing, I could care less what he does, or what happens to him. He is to me what Orwell called a "non-person."

So there you go, dear readers. The story about how I was "Banned in Boston."

(I purposely kept the real names of the forum, the group, and other things that can be recognized anonymous, because "mr. antagonist" is more than happy to sue anyone he thinks wrongs him.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Not Again

Crap. Rats.

Fall is here. It arrived a few minutes ago. Which means stupid, ugly, crappy winter isn't far behind. Can I just sleep until next May?

I hate all seasons except summer.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Recommendation Rescinded

Optec, Inc. Do not do business with them. If you have done so in the past, I think you should stop. If you haven't, then don't start. Nothing good will come of it.

"What's going on?" you may ask. Well, glad you did.

A few months ago the company - owned and operated by Jerry Persha since it's inception back in the late 1970's - was bought by an ex-employee of his. Now, Jerry could have declined to sell, but sell the company he did.

Almost immediately the changes began. People were let go, and this guy brought in his own people. I had stopped by a month ago, and there was a strange person sitting at my friend Ron's desk (Ron is the head of the manufacturing and machining there). I saw two others I didn't know, and since I was in suddenly unfamiliar territory, I beat a hasty retreat.

I know that when a new boss/owner comes in changes are inevitable. I used to work in the retail business, and that happened all the time.

For part of his "payment" Jerry only comes in a few days a week, and has given up all say in the running of his former company. In fact, at the end of the year, he will be out completely.

So today, my friend Ron calls. He's been fired.

Yep, you read that correctly. Fired.

Fired from a job he's had since Optec put in a machine shop. There was no machine shop before Ron was there. Ron single-handedly did the programming of the mills, lathes, and other equipment that manufactured the Optec line of goods.

It's quite a shock. But my Dad told me that the new owner was probably planning on doing this all the time, to get rid of anyone from when Jerry owned the business. And after thinking about it, he's right.

This clown that owns it now used to be, like I said, a former employee of Jerry's. He left of his own volition because he couldn't stand the way Jerry ran things (Jerry was a stickler for doing things "his way" and this guy didn't like that). So he's probably holding a grudge, even though he quit. So now that he's got the company away from Jerry, he's going to run it as he thinks it should be run. And that means getting rid of anything from the past.

And I dont' know how smart that is. I've heard through the grapevine that their sales have been waaay down. And why not? People don't know this new owner. They've dealt with Jerry and Ron for decades. And now some new person comes in? I know I wouldn't trust him.

So there you have it. I will not recommend that anyone who needs astronomical, visual, or any other types of equipment of the like buy from Optec. Shop elsewhere.

So anyone out there need a journeyman tool & die maker? Someone with over 20 years experience? I know someone for you.

(And oh yeah.... anyone need a photographer? I'm available).

Monday, June 30, 2008

Wedding Bells!

No, not mine. Are you insane? Sheesh!

No, my friend Sasha is getting hitched in August. She's a fellow (can you say "fellow" when talking about a woman?) photographer, and does waaay more in the way of weddings than I do.

I first congratulated her, and then asked if she needed a photographer for her own wedding, or was she going to shoot it. Later I got to thinking that most - if not all - of her friends - are photographers. What will that look like at the wedding, with every guest and person in the wedding lugging cameras around. :)

But anyways, congrats Sasha and Tony.

If you want to, you can read her blog about it.

One Hundred Years

On this date 100 years ago, there was a "shot heard 'round the world."

A drifting piece of space junk (we're talking natural "junk" here, because the space age hadn't started yet) wandered into our atmosphere and exploded over the Siberian tundra.

I won't write much more about it. I suggest heading over to Bad Astronomy to read what Dr. Plait has to say.

And you know what? It will happen again. We just don't know when. (hey, that rhymes!)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I'm in Stitches

You ever get on a run of silly ideas and want to play with things? I am on that right now. And it all has to do with stitching things together.

I'm not talking about sewing or something like that. I'm "stitching" together photographs. Panoramas. Panos.

I made my first one a few weeks ago when we had a storm go through. I had read about how to shoot images to make a pan, but had never done it. So I figured "why not try one?" So I shot three or four images, took them off the camera and into the photo program, and voila! - a panorama. It was kind of easy, thanks to the software. The only thing I could think of to do different was the way to shoot the images in the first place. I mean, they turned out great, but if I had shot vertically instead of horizontally, I could have gotten more of the cloud detail of the storm higher.

So this evening we had a storm come through, and this was my chance. I went up to a local "lookout park" and watched the storm come in. I set the camera for the correct exposure, and proceeded to take ten images in vertical format, pivoting around and making sure I had enough overlap. I then took them home and let the computer "do its thing." It took a while (because the images are huge, and it takes a lot of CPU cycles to compute the information) but I got a really cool image.

My ultimate plan would be to do this at night under the stars (preferably during an aurora) but I don't think I could ever get the shot, due to the time needed for the exposures. See, the stars move from our vantage point, and taking their photo involves more than a "snapshot." It takes many seconds for each exposure, and I don't think there is any way to get all the shots and then align them. It might be an unrealistic goal right now.

So in the meantime, I'll stick with the daylight stuff. But at least I can say it's cool.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Atmospheric Turbulence

Wow, if you didn't get out and look up this evening (only if you were living in my area) you missed a great sight - an isolated mature thunderstorm (cumulonimbus cloud) floating in the sky to the east of town.

I had went out to run up to the store, but this time remembered my camera. Which is a good thing that I did, because as I turned east onto the main road, I saw this amazing storm taking up a large part of my car's windshield. There was basically nothing else around except this huge storm cloud. I decided that the store could wait; I had to get a shot of this thing.

But where to go? I needed a nice semi-flat horizon so I could get the whole thing in the viewfinder of the camera. I headed east, and ended up in the parking lot of a local golf course. I had a perfect vantage point for the shot. I then proceeded to take a bunch of images at various settings, making sure I got it right. In several of the images an aircraft is visible as it flies towards the storm, but changes course before it gets there.

I got the photos, and then left for the store. When I got there, I called my brother (why use the cell phone when driving?) and he told me - according to radar -that the storm was over Ionia County dropping small hail at the time. I then called the local TV meteorologist I know (not WOODTV 8 - I wouldn't do anything for them even if they paid me) who told me there was nothing special about the storm, but the NWS was "watching it." And why not? There were other, smaller cells around, but this puppy was taking all the energy available and building up.

It's rare to get to see an isolated storm like this, and the clarity to see it as I did. I need to get to the NWs and find out just how big it was.

Man, I love by job as a storm chaser/spotter and a weather geek.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Political Stupidity by Democrats, Especially Hillary Supporters

Normally I stay away from politics, unless something is evil (like Mitt Romney) or I see something incredibly stupid by someone (or ones). The latest thing I saw that is INCREDIBLY stupid are some of the Clinton supporters.

But first a disclaimer: I am not a member of either party! I am not a republican nor democrat. I look at the individual candidate, make informed decisions, and then cast my vote. Clinton or Obama? Right now I don't care. McCain? Don't care. I am neutral.

So on to the stupidity of Clinton supporters (and some Obama people too)...

There have been rumblings in the democrat ranks along the lines of "if my candidate doesn't win the party nomination, I'll vote for McCain" or "I won't vote at all." That is SO STUPID. INSANELY STUPID.

Hey. Democrats!!! You want to wrest control of the White House and Congress from the Republicans, right? THEN SHAPE UP AND QUIT WHINING!!

By not backing whomever is your party's candidate, you are screwing up the best chance in a long time to win. It's said the democrats snatch defeat from victory, and this petty whining and squabbling is doing the same thing as you have in the past. YOU ALL NEED TO GROW UP.

So say Obama wins the nomination. I'm just saying. If the democrats TRULY wanted to win, EVERYONE would rally around Obama's candidacy. EVERYONE. Yes, that includes you Hillary people. The only way to win in November is to have a UNITED FRONT against the opponents, because they will use EVERY OPPORTUNITY to tear apart your party and poke holes in your beliefs. Unless you create a united front, you will lose.

I can't BELIEVE the idiotic stupidity of the democrats who say they won't vote, or vote for McCain, if their person isn't the democratic party candidate. INFANTS have better sense that you people. Dead, rotting animal carcases rotting along the side of the road have more sense than you.

If you want to win, you back WHOMEVER is the candidate. Otherwise YOU are the losers.

I have heard this more from the Hillary camp than the Obama camp. It seems that the people backing Obama have their heads set on their collective shoulders more securely than the Clinton people. You people have a chance to make history, to either put an African-American or a woman in the White House. Are you going to screw it up because you're acting like a spoiled brat?

Yeah, you probably will. Because I don't see a lot of smarts and intelligence out there in the DNC. And that will be your downfall.

You are causing your own problems, and you will have no one to blame but yourselves when November 5th comes along and McCain is President. You could have stopped it, but your bickering, whining, complaining, juvenile cry-baby antics cost you another election.

So have been warned. Shape up, or lose it all.

And when you DO lose, don't try to blame anyone else for YOUR MISTAKES!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I Can't Win

It seems I just can't win, when it comes to some things.

It looks like it's going to be clear the whole weekend, so I reserved last night at the observatory so I could just go out, relax, and do some observing. Even take a few photos. But I was wrong.

I get out there to find one of the members opening one of the telescopes. He tells me he's there to help with a group tour. "What group tour," I say. Mostly because for one thing, I know I had the night reserved, and also because when groups make appointments to visit the observatory, I'm the one who sets it up. Well, apparently someone - who doesn't have the authority to do so - decided to let a group come out. This person didn't bother to check the observing calendar to see if anyone had reserved the place; they just decided it was okay to let a group come up.

So I grumble and complain under my breath while I'm getting my tripod and camera set up, and another club member comes up to help with the group, and he parks right in my way! I yell at him to move his car, and he looks at me like I'm insane. I tell him he's going to ruin my photograph with his car there, and he wants to know why. Why? Because your fracking car is in the way, you imbecile!! He reluctantly moves the car.

So I figure out where I need to set the camera, and now just wait until the time when the space station (ISS) flies over. While I'm waiting, another club member - but one I invited up - arrives. The imbecile member asks him why I'm so angry. Sheesh.

Well, to finish this rant, the station flies over, I get the picture, and then I go into the building and up into the dome to begin observing. I don't care about the others out there - they are interfering with my peace of mind; damaging my calm. And I came out there to be calm.

No wonder I resigned my positions in the club. Who wants to be the leader of a bunch of morons?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Today - But in the Past

I was picking up some of my DVDs that had scattered around, and one title made be think back to a spring day twelve years ago. On this day, in 1996, I was sitting in a theater watching what I consider the "Best Comedy Film of the Year."

The movie? Twister.

I can't actually remember who I saw it with, but I remember going into the theater and trying to get a discount on my ticket because I was a storm chaser. I had my card from the NWS (National Weather Service) out to show the people, but they didn't care. So I got a ticket, walked into the theater, and waited for the film to start.

Which it did. And it was funny right from the first few minutes.

There were so many errors, in time, technology, and other areas the film was a laugh-riot. For supposedly having "experts" assist with the filming, the director and producers obviously didn't listen to them (which is typical for Hollywood, of course). In fact, some of the guys I knew who were the technical advisers publicly trashed the film, and distanced themselves from it.

Sure, the normal, uninformed public might not notice all the mistakes, but anyone with a small interest in tornadoes, weather, storm chasing, etc. would point out these inaccuracies in a second: which I did. Throughout basically the whole film. In fact, we were laughing so hard that we were told by the theater people to keep it quiet or leave, because other people were being bothered by us. Sure, because they believed everything in the film.

So I plan on watching this DVD today, and getting more laughs out of it.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Changes Have Happened

Well, after nearly two years (and possibly more) of concern, and the threats of this previous January, I finally completed the decision I made last year May.

I resigned (nearly) all of my positions in my astronomy club.

Officially I was the President/CEO, but over the years I had accrued other "duties" that people were not willing to do, but had to be done. I was wearing so many hats, my head threatened to cave in. Here is a list (possibly not complete) of what I was doing for my astronomy club:

Officially - President, and webmaster (I designed the website years ago, so it's "mine.")

Unofficially - setting up monthly meetings (and sending out monthly postcard reminders of the meetings), doing publicity, maintaining and updating the membership database (and sending out renewal notices, welcome letters, etc), setting up public events, editor of the newsletter, sending out communications to the members for everything. I also had to listen to people bitch, and whine, and moan with others - who had the responsibility - didn't do what they promised they would.

There are supposed to be individuals who take care of all of these things. The club's Vice-President is also the chairman of the Programs Committee, and he's supposed to set up meetings, get speakers, do publicity for them, send out reminders, etc. The club's Treasurer is supposed to take care of all membership stuff, including the database and all mailings to members (where their membership is concerned). There is a Publicity Committee, but no one on it. The committee to take care of public events at the observatory has a chairman who doesn't do what he promises. The committee that oversees the observatory has a chairman who doesn't do what he promises. There is supposed to be an editor for the newsletter. There is supposed to be a Membership committee.

But none of this gets done, except by me. Well, not anymore. I've had it. It is now up to the people running the club to get these things done; I'm out. I will continue my membership, use the observatory, maintain the website. But that's it. Don't call me, I'll call you. I plan on not coming to meetings (if we have them - there aren't any scheduled), not coming to public nights at the observatory (or other places). I am going to be like 99.999999% of the membership in our club - I'm not doing to do a damn thing.

The board of directors - and the membership to a lesser extent - brought this on themselves. There's only so much you can expect someone to do before they burn out and need to get away. And now I've gotten away.

There are many reasons why I did this. Perhaps someday I will write about it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Did The Earth Move For You, Baby??

We had an earthquake last night!!! Well, about an hour and a half ago.

This is so cool. Now, if you live in an earthquake-prone area, you may not think it is "cool" but here in the Midwest it's rare. Now, there are fault lines around here, and there is the big New Madrid fault in Missouri, but it's been quiet for a long time.

No damage here, but there was some down where the epicenter was, in southern Illinois.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Few Updates

Not much happening lately. Shot a wedding last weekend, and went to see an astronaut from NASA speak last night.

I'll post more later.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Stellar Distress

Actually it should be "de-stress," but I'm doing a little play on words.

Last night I spent a few hours out at my astro club's observatory under the stars. It's always been a great place for be to go when I want to "get away" from everything, calm down, de-stress, and just relax.

I didn't call anyone to come out and observe with me, mainly for two reasons. One, I'm sick and tired of always having to be the one to call and say "want to go out?" I mean, if people were interested in doing things with me, wouldn't they be the ones calling? And second, I just wanted some time by myself, and not have to make conversation about anything - people, places, things, photography, science, etc. I just wanted to observe. I didn't even bring any music along with me; I just wanted solace.

I toured the sky. I observed nebulae, galaxies, and start clusters. I took a lot of time observing the planet Saturn, which was shining brightly in the eastern sky. The seeing was very good, and I marveled at the planet's rings (which are closing from our vantage point), the detail on the planet's clouds, and the pinpoints of light surrounding the pale, ringed apparition: it's moons.

I took some time away from the eyepiece to watch some travelers in our local area. The ISS (International Space Station) was making a bright, high pass overhead. I watched it for nearly it's whole pass; from the southwestern sky until it disappeared low in the northeast. Tonight it was the brightest object in the sky, and it had some traveling companions as well. Proceeding it (but much fainter) was the Progress supply ship, and bringing up the rear a few minutes later was the Automated Transfer Vehicle Jules Verne. As ISS was traversing the area next to the Big Dipper, Verne was rising in the southwest, taking the exact path of ISS. And as Verne traveled near the Dipper, it was even joined by another point of light journeying north to south: the satellite Lacrosse 4.

I ended my evening journey through the cosmos by sitting on the front steps and watching the constellation Orion slowly sinking in the southwestern sky, heralding the end of the winter season, and bringing the promise of warmer weather, the "realm of the galaxies" and the promise of seeing different wonders of the Universe.

Could I have experienced the same thing with people around? Possibly, but it wouldn't have been as personal.

There are times when it's good to be alone. This was one of them.

De-stress complete.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008

Wow, that is news you never want to hear. Sad news; news that leads you to contemplation and remembrance.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke died today. For most people he's going to be best remembered as the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey. But to me, and others of his fans, he was so much more.

He was an author to be sure. He penned hundreds of books, both fiction and non-fiction. His fantastic writings in the mid 1940's predicted communication satellites, and today those satellites reside in an orbit around the earth commonly called "Clarke Orbits."

He was fascinated by everything, and he never lost that fascination. I had always hoped that somehow I would meet him, get to talk to him; heck even receive an email from him. But like with most things, this never happened. I don't know what I would have said to him; I might have been the giddy fanboy. I don't know. But his books meant a lot to me, and still do. Not just 2001, but Childhood's End, Sands of Mars, Songs of Distant Earth, A Fall of Moondust. Too many to mention here, but they all have special meaning to me.

In this day of crappy, meaningless science-fiction, Clarke's works were actually meant to make the reader think. No stupid "fantasy" stuff. No vampires, no dragons. Just "hard" sci-fi.

(But just try to find his work in the local bookstore. Only a few titles. The "modern" bookstore has thrown the "fantasy" books in with the actual science-fiction. Don't get me started on that.)

Clarke was a visionary... a critical thinker. And the world will be a lesser place now that he is gone.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Is the Universe about to Crash?

I just read something about the "WWT" or "World Wide Telescope." Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? But evil might possibly be lurking behind the name. And it might cause the destruction of the known (and unknown) Universe.

Why? Because the "World Wide Telescope" is a product of Microsoft!!

Yes, that Microsoft. The company of bugs, errors, and hacker/virus attacks. The monopolistic company who has a (near) stranglehold on PC OS's.

(Yeah, unfortunately I have PC's. But only until I get some money, then I'm all about the Mac's)

Are we going to be the citizens of a buggy universe? Will hackers and virus writers attack the Bug Nebula? And will Microsoft themselves charge "upgrade prices" for new eyepieces? Or larger telescopes to see farther?

"Yes, you can see the detail in QSO 3c273. You just need the upgrade. That will be (insert large number of monetary units) for your license key."

"I'm sorry, but 'Windows to the Universe Genuine Advantage Validation Tool' has determined your Universe to be a pirated version. To receive a key to a genuine Universe, please click here."

And what happens if you are observing something important, and the stars disappear and the sky turns blue? That brings the phrase "Blue Screen of Death" to proportions no one wants to think about. And just how would we go about rebooting the Universe? Would there actually BE a ctrl-alt-del?

Yes, be afraid people. Your existence could end at any time. When Microsoft gets involved, the Window to the Universe will be unstable.

(this article © Kevin. All rights reserved)

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Great Frozen Lunar Eclipse Adventure

The Great Frozen Lunar Eclipse Adventure
(or, how to lose feeling in your extremities while taking photos in the winter night)

It was a dark and snowy night. Well, it was semi-dark and while not actually snowing, there was a lot of snow on the ground. But it works for this story.

I had been looking forward to the February 20, 2008 total lunar eclipse for quite a while (last year, in fact). This was to be the last eclipse visible from my area until December of 2010, and while that’s only a couple of years away, it’s too long between eclipses. I had just gone through a longer drought than that, and it wasn’t pleasant. The lunar eclipse we had in March of 2007 was clouded out, and the one in August was nearly as bad; we had hazy, scummy skies at the lakeshore. So this was the last best shot for a while.

I spent the day trying to find a remote switch for my camera, among other things. But all events during the day lead up to the night.

Because it has been nearly permanently cloudy for over a month, I was sure no one had been up to the observatory (James C. Veen Observatory in Lowell, Michigan), so that meant the road probably hadn’t been plowed. In the past, this would not have been a problem, as a friend of mine cleared it off with his plow truck. However, the truck - a 1964 Toyota - finally died a horrible, lingering death last fall, so now there’s no free plow service. And we don’t even want to think how much a real plow service would charge for a .33 mile road and lot. No way.

The Clear Sky Clock for the observatory was indicating that it might be at least partly cloudy for the event, so I made plans to go up and shoot the eclipse through one of the telescopes. And that meant getting the road cleared off. After some phone calls, we got someone to go up and take care of it. I was getting all my stuff ready to go out there in the evening, when Ron called and said "I hope people appreciate this." It was a major pain (actually he said something not appropriate for kids) to clear the road. It was ice/snow/ice/snow - about two feet deep. They had to plow five feet, back up, then five feet more, etc. And then they couldn’t get the whole upper lot cleared, but there was enough for six or seven cars. Yeah, I guess we’d better appreciate it.

So I pack everything in the car: cameras (digital and film) and laptop, snow shovel (you never know), and road salt (again, because you never know) and headed out to the observatory. The skies as I left the house were crystal clear, and it looked to be a great, albeit cold, night.

As I’m driving towards the observatory, I notice something I don’t want to see: clouds. Sure, the moon was shining through breaks in the clouds, but there were clouds nonetheless. As I got closer and closer, the clouds got thicker and thicker. When I finally got to the bottom of the observatory drive, the whole sky was covered. This did not bode well for our hero. But the Clear Sky Clock had it “sort of cloudy” for the 8pm block, so I was hoping that it would clear out. I had a backup plan: I would wait around at the observatory until 9.30, and if it didn’t’ clear out I would race back to Grand Rapids to a church I know, as I’ve used their lit steeple for moon shots before. So on up the road I go. It is now 7.30pm.

I made it up fine, but was then glad for the shovel, because I had to then shovel my way to the door of the building. Remember, no one had been there since January. So I struggled to shovel a path through the previously mentioned two feet of ice/snow/ice/snow and cleared the steps. I then opened the door and went inside ten minutes later. And because it was still cloudy, I didn’t bother to bring in any of my equipment. Why haul it all inside if I can’t use it there, right?

I immediately turn the furnace up, so the library will get warm, and where I can go to warm up. I then ascend the stairs of the west dome to get everything uncovered and opened. Because of previous problems with the dome slit opening (the bottom shutter sticks to the top sometimes in the winter), I immediately tried to open the dome: yep, the shutters were stuck. And with the moon being high on the ecliptic, I needed the lower shutter to stay down. So I lowered the shutter to just above the rim, and went downstairs to the utility room to find tools. I found a hammer with a head falling off, and an old screwdriver, which I took up into the dome and proceeded to knock apart the shutters. After some straining, sweating, and cursing, the two pieces came apart! Hurrah!! I then opened the shutter, and as it was opening, I beheld a clear sky!! Yes, while I was working on the dome, the skies cleared out. I just hope they were clear all over (since I was looking northwest).

I then went over and flipped the switch to turn the dome, and guess what? The dome didn’t turn!! All the freezing and thawing had frozen the dome in place. I now had to - while working the motor switch - manhandle the dome back and forth. After a while I got it to go most of the way around, but it stuck just short of the position I needed it to be to get the moon in the telescope view. (the good news is, while turning the dome, I saw that it was indeed clear from horizon to horizon, and the full moon shone brightly into the dome.) I backed the dome around half way, climbed up on the desk, and as it came back around pulled as hard as I could until the dome moved past the position where I had to have it for the event. And even then, it wouldn’t go any farther north in that direction. There was much snow out on the roof leaning against the dome. I was lucky to get it to move that far.

All of this took about one half hour. It was now 8.15pm.

I then turned on the power to the telescopes, uncovered them, and went back down to my car to haul in my gear. I then received a call from one of the other observers who was watching the eclipse from the warm comfort of his living room window. He asked if I saw any shadowing yet, which I told him I did. The partial umbral phase wasn’t supposed to begin (first contact) until 8.43, but as the moon got closer to the umbra, there was definite darkening of its leading edge.

I attached my digital camera to the telescope I was going to use for the evening, a four-inch Takahashi refractor. It is perfect size to allow the entire disc of the moon to fill the frame. Our other telescope in the dome, a sixteen inch, is too powerful for this situation. I then rotated the camera to the correct position, centered the image, and attempted to focus.

Focusing a digital SLR is extremely different than focusing a film camera, primarily because the focusing screen isn’t really designed for manual work. It’s rare for a photographer with a digital camera to manually focus his images all the time. While it takes just seconds to focus using my film camera, this new digital took a bit of doing. And still, to be sure, I took a few shots of the moon, removed the card from the camera, and loaded the images into my computer to check the focus. After three attempts, I got acceptable focus. Now to wait for the main event.

I wasn’t going to take a lot of photos of the partial phases of the eclipse, because I have seen many eclipses over the years, and have many photos of the non-totality phases. I just wanted totality and near totality. Heck, I have a whole series of images from the August 1989 eclipse where I shot every five to ten minutes for the whole eclipse. Believe me; I’ve got partial phase images!

During this time, I’ve been receiving a few phone calls from other people about the event, and then one of the other club members came up to check it out with me. He went up in the dome while I warmed up a bit. I then got a call from my friend Sharon and her sister Sally, who missed the turn to the road and needed a bit of direction clarification. I soon had them pointed up the observatory drive. They arrived and brought their cameras in, and I showed them up to the dome. The girls hadn’t been here before, so they were taking it all in. I showed them the moon through the scope (albeit through the viewfinder of my camera, but still…) and they got their stuff ready to shoot.

To fast forward a bit, there was swapping of cameras for a while as all three of us took turns shooting photos as the moon got closer and closer to totality.

When totality arrived, I took a couple of images, and then let them have a go, and then told them we needed to go outside. When we walked out the door, it was a different sky than when they arrived, as the formerly bright full moon was replaced by a dim, reddish full moon. The surrounding stars, once dim or invisible because of moonlight, now blazed forth in their glory. I took a few minutes to point out some constellations for them with the laser, and then got to work on my next task: a wider-angle shot of the eclipse.

Just a note on the eclipse itself. We saw a hint of turquoise at times, and during mid-totality it seemed to be darker then the previous eclipses. Must have been stuff in the atmosphere causing it. Definitely darker than the January 2000 eclipse, when I previously froze taking photos.

I put my lens back on my camera, took it downstairs, put it on the tripod, and went back outside. I had been thinking of how I could get an “artsy” image of the eclipse (my idea from the summer one was to get the eclipsed moon right next to the lighthouse on the lake, but it didn’t turn out), so I went around to the back side of the observatory where I could see the moon hovering above the dome. Perfect spot. I then proceeded to take a few photos, bracketing the exposures and painting the dome with a flashlight to get it to show up in the images. I did this for a few minutes, and when I really couldn’t feel my fingers and toes, trudged through the deep snow back to the building, and told the girls they could go back up and shoot through the scope more, as I was going to warm up in the library. I did that until I could feel things again, and then went up to the dome, joining the girls as they were having fun taking shot after shot. I took a few more as we got halfway out of the eclipse, and then left them to shoot what they wanted.

We took a break for a while to warm up again, and I showed them the AV presentation, and we chatted a while about astronomy, photography, etc. We then went back up to the dome, where the un-eclipsing moon was getting brighter and brighter, and they decided to pack it up and go home. As we packed up, I moved the scope over and showed them Saturn through the main scope, and the Mars, and then the Orion Nebula. Geeked was about the right word to describe how they felt, and they promised themselves they were going to come back again and again and see more things, and photograph more things.

I closed the dome, covered the instruments, and we took our equipment out to our respective vehicles. I closed up the observatory, followed them down the drive, and went home. It was just after midnight.

Arriving home, I lugged my stuff in the house, transferred the images from the camera to the laptop, and then took it downstairs and worked on the images while I warmed up. After about a half-hour I could feel all my toes and fingers, so I finished with the photos for the night, uploaded a couple to some websites, emailed to people, and finally went to bed (a nice, warm, toasty bed) just before 3.00am. A full, rich (and cold) day.

Now I can't wait for December 2010, and the next eclipse.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Sad Death of Instant Photos

I can't believe I didn't heard this on Friday when word got out.

Polaroid Closing Instant Film Factories

Wow. I remember when it was all the rage for people to use Polaroid cameras. We still have a SX-70 that my Dad got when it was new. As kids, we thought it was really cool to take a picture, and then watch with held breath as the image slowly appeared on the small, milky square.

We also had the regular Polaroid cameras, where you had to pull out the tab and picture, wait sixty seconds, and then peel it apart, but the "magic" of the SX-70 was so awesome!

Later Polaroid cameras used the same type of film, and I learned (in photo school) to manipulate the images as they were developing, using pencils, pens, and the like. We did some really artsy stuff back then. I remember using Polaroid backs when doing photo shoots as well.

But in this ever-increasing digital age, "instant film" isn't really needed. We have the instant gratification on the LCD screen on the back of the camera.

Ah, Polaroid Instant Film. You had a good long ride. Rest in Peace.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I Got a Bad Feeling About This...

And no, it's nothing to do with Star Wars. It's about a planetarium light show.

Around here, we have a planetarium, named after a local astronaut (now deceased, unfortunately). What is also unfortunate is that they don't really do anything to pull in large crowds, and make science available to the general public. They are more interested in pandering to the rich people in town. And they, like the museum they are located at, charge exorbitant prices to see shows and exhibits. Because of this, they never have crowds. Also, because they never do anything that is popular.

One of the things that is popular are laser light shows. Now, they don't do anything to further the study and appreciation of astronomy and the sciences, but they bring some (usually) good music so the (mainly) stoners of the area can go, spend $7 each, and sit wasted for an hour. Their standby shows are Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall. They have done some Led Zeppelin in the past, along with crappy music like Radiohead and Creed.

What I have said to them for years is "hey, do a Rush light show." There is a huge Rush fan base here in west Michigan, and they will have no problem selling tickets. Heck, all they would have to do is put the 2112 album to music and effects. It's perfect. And for years, nothing.

Now I hear that "sometime in 2008" there is a Rush show on the schedule. I made it quite clear that I would like to "be in on it" (I do have many contacts down there, and have "hung out" at the planetarium for years). Suddenly I see today that on February 16th there is a Rush show, featuring "a new lineup of Rush’s greatest hits." This scares me.

Why does it scare me? Because the "person" in charge of the production is frickin' 20-something years old!! He doesn't even like the music. How is he qualified to pick what songs should be used? I'm afraid he's just going to go for the popular ones, like Tom Sawyer, Spirit of Radio, and Closer to the Heart. Those are great songs, but probably not the best for a laser light show.

I was thinking Fly by Night, Countdown, an edited Cygnus X-1 (to name a few). But I am 99.999999% sure that these songs won't be used.

And when the show fails to bring in audiences, they will use their standard "it's not the right show for this area." And all because they themselves screwed it up. Which is too bad, because it could be glorious.

Friday, January 25, 2008

We're All Gonna Die!!!

A ginormous asteroid is going to slam into the Earth next week!!!

Oh wait... that's patently WRONG!!!

Head on over to SpaceWatch for the real story, and a link to Phil Plait's video.

Friday, January 18, 2008


I read earlier today that Bobby Fischer passed away. No matter how eccentric or strange he was these past years, he will always be the person I remember who popularized chess and brought it to the world stage when he defeated Boris Spassky in 1972.

I didn't realize until today that I learned chess at the same age he did - 6 years old. I never got to the Grand Master level that he did, but I was a fairly good player. Unfortunately I haven't played in years, because there's no one to play with.

Thanks Bobby. You gave me a game I was good at.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mitt Romney = Evil

It's too bad "truth in advertising" doesn't extend to the candidates and their typical rhetoric.

Romney makes these statements that he's "from Michigan" and "knows how Michigan feels." How can he, when he hasn't lived here in years?

And backing some of Bush's ideas? That's a strike against him as well.

I've talked to quite a number of people my age and younger (I'm mid-40's) and for us, Romney's name means nothing. Heck, Milliken was governor here when I was a kid.

Romney speaks of "change" and "getting rid of the status-quo" in Washington, but he's just the same - another life-long politician who's in it for himself, and not the public.

Personally, to me, he looks like one of those slick used car salesmen that you can't trust at all. And since he's a lawyer, it makes it doubly sure you can't trust him.

I just wish the candidates would tell the truth, and not make stuff up.

And before I get flamed, I'm not a democrat. I remain neutral, and will vote who I think will do the job, not because someone tells me to. That's the problem with both parties. They demand people to vote a certain way, and if you don't do what they want, you are evil.

Again, it looks like this election - overblown as it is already - is shaping up to being "pick the lesser of two evils."

Again. Mitt Romney is evil. He cannot be trusted. Do not listen to him.

(this message brought to you by me, a non-committed individual with no party affiliations, who votes his own mind).