Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Images of the Total Eclipse on April 8, 2024

I work in software development as I have pretty much all of my adult life. The startup I work for has very flexible policies towards life events, and of course a total eclipse is a major life event. I photographed the eclipse in 1979 when I was still living in Winnipeg (for another 4 months), and this is the first total eclipse I have experienced since then ... a breathtaking 45 years later.

I am not quite dedicated enough to drive hundreds of miles to escape the whispy cloud cover that was predicted, nor to get on the path of actual totality (Ottawa maxed out at 99%). Four or five hours of driving would have netted me the classic images that are associated with totality, but I just can't generate that kind of energy any more lol.

However, I was quite willing to buy a 72mm ND400 filter for my m4/3 Pana Leica 100-400 f4-f6.3 zoom lens and shoot that on my Panasonic G9 Mark 1 on a carbon fiber tripod as you can see here ...

What you cannot see from that image is my fancy Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head (a new one shown below while mine was bought used and rather worn out -- but for 25% of the new price who can complain) does not have sufficient travel to find the sun as it had the temerity to be directly overhead.

This was a huge problem that I found I could solve only by having the camera and tripod essentially in my lap with one foot under the front leg. Not the most comfortable of positions, but it certainly had no bearing on clarity since the shutter speed was very high for the entire shoot.

Now, the day before was a Sunday, so I went outside in beautiful clear skies (grrr) at about the same time as the eclipse was set to begin and shot a few test images. It took a while to get comfortable with the Neewer ND400 variable neutral density filter, but I eventually got the hang of it and was quite pleased with the result. It was shot at the equivalent of 800mm at f22 I believe. That's a pretty high diffraction aperture, but the result is quite adequate as far as I am concerned.

If you look closely, you can see two sunpots near the top and midway. There is a much fainter spot towards the bottom but at this size it will not really be apparent. I verified that these were sunspots by googling for sun images and found ones with sunspots that look exactly like these. So I am astronomer guy for a day lol.

And then the day arrived ... well, it was only the next day so no great anticipation. I worked starting earlyish in the morning and when my alarm went off, out I went. The whispy cloud was actually less intense most of the time than what you saw in the first image above. And at ND400, the sun pretty much overwhelms the faint cloud cover. However, I did have some trouble getting in focus images at first, so I fiddled with the AF system until I was reliably hitting focus each time. Modern mirrorless cameras have a lot of focus modes :-)

Note: It took me until the sun was a sliver and the AF could no longer reliably hit to finally realize that all I ever had to do was get the sun in focus once and then switch off the AF at the lens. DUH! Considering the distance, there can be no variation at all once the lens is focused at infinity.

The first shot that really looked good was already something like a 10% bite out of the sun. The moon is travelling on an apparent tragectory of perhaps -20 degrees from vertical through the sun and only a hair off-center as you will see. That's a wild-assed guess by the way, so don't hold me to it. These were all shot at ISO 100 with aperture between F14 and F22 and at shutter speeds of 1/8000s, dropping as the sun darkens.

And so I reveal my number one sun. (Well this would actually be my number 2 (hyuk hyuk) sun since I am displaying my first ever sun above.)

Impatient me shot the next one only minutes later. If you stare at it for a bit you will notice that the moon has travelled a few percent further along. But you will also note that the exposure and/or processing improved the sunspots immensely.

I tried spacing them out from here so there was a least *some* noticeable difference :-) ... so let's see how I did.

And the moon finally gets the first of its prey ... the big sunspot in the middle of the sun is no more. Goodbye sweet sunspot, we shall mourn you for almost an hour ...

Had to skip the next one in sequence as it had a tragic auto focus accident ... as in it wouldn't. Again ... DUH! This leaves a bit of a jump to a smaller slice remaining than your eyes might expect.

And here begins the tilt ... it starts subtley, but that quickly changes (for you ... it slowly changed for me 😜) ...

You will have noticed by now, and it is even more obvious as you go forward that a sliver of the sun appears to be rotating around the moon. It would be very cool to see it happen as a video ... and maybe I will do that at some point ... But this is an illusion of course ... the moon is just passing the sun a very short distance offset from center to the southwest from our point of view -- as in, at this specific latitude and longitude. Others are having a different experience.

So the crescent that remains as the moon passes image by image through the sun is about 1% that is off-center and shifting bit by bit to the right and down.

And we arrive at the final image in the sequence. The exposure was increased somewhat aggressively when the sun was a tiny sliver as things got pretty dark around the yard. So when I realized that the sequence was reversing and quite a bit of the sun was exposed, I hurredly grabbed an image before packing it in. And of course I blew out the exposure something fierce 😜

I worked on it in Lightroom for quite a while and this is the compromise I arrived at. No Da Vinci here, but a serviceable image to prove that the world did not end at peak eclipseyness.

I hope you enjoyed these images as much as I did while shooting them and perhaps a lot more than when I was processing them. What a fabulous event that was ... uniting huge parts of the world (along a very narrow path 😜) in the quest to watch the two most important celestial bodies duke it out for our attention. I think the sun won in the end, but it was a close thing there for a moment.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Forgotten, But Not Gone ;-) And another sell off? **UPDATED**

Well, howdy there Internet People ... sorry, almost stole Beau's opening. 

So this blog has had a very spotty history since about 2013, which coincidentally lined up with a pretty significant life event. I am not sure that I could generate the enthusiasm to start up intense blogging again, especially in a world where this is mostly done on YouTube, but I feel that I should get back to some photography and I'm not sure I have the time or energy to vlog. I suppose we'll see which mix of technologies I choose as the outlet for my hobby ...

One thing that I do have in the hopper in the second great sell off of camera equipment. It is finally time to be permanently shut of Nikon equipment. This is not because I suddenly don't love them, but rather I cannot be bothered carrying heavy equipment around any more. I have some wonderful pieces that I will surely miss (e.g. D600, D7200, numerous excellent lenses), but alas, things change over time and the pandemic has wrought change like nothing else in my lifetime.

As I did ten years ago in 2012, I am consolidating again down onto mirrorless cameras. At that time, I was starting fresh into mirrorless, but this time I already have a stable of mirrorless cameras -- G7 (my daily driver webcam), G85, GX85, GX9 -- that I can use to get my phtographic jollies, so to speak.

But I actually want to update the G85, and possibly even the GX9 (which I only acquired months ago in a screaming deal with several lenses). Basically, I am choosing now between two excellent options ... or even three. They are, in no particular order:

  • Sell the G85 and GX85 and get the G9. This gives me the GX9 and G9, a superb tandem that would last a lifetime in my opinion.
  • Sell the GX9 in addition to the above and get the G9 and the EM5 Mark III. This would be in some ways an even better tandem in that Olympus's cool new features would mostly be available to me. But hand held hi res is not there and neither is the built in pseudo ND filters. So that's not quite ideal.
  • Keep the GX9 and get the EM1 Matk III. This is a shift to Olympus as my main driver with Panny as my secondary. This brings a host of superb features and very good performance. But the G9 performs pretty much just as well and is still my preferred option as the Oly has flaws like a reasonably crappy EVF and such like. Still, this option does not suck. But it is almost as pricey as getting the G9 and the EM5iii.
  • And so the ultimate ... keep the GX9 and get the OM-1. That's the best camera I've ever seen in mirrorless and is tempting beyond belief. The most expensive option of course, but not a lot more expensive than the EM5/G9 option, and arguably a lot more performance. Plus, I love the GX9 feel in the hand and would like to keep that around. And the G9 is very long in the tooth.
Alas ... options, options. I want modern tech for sure as I have little patience any more for slow AF systems. And I have a lot of older equipment that I can essentially trade off against a much simpler and smaller system going forward. 

So if anyone reads this (and that is not a given lol), let me know in the comments what you would do and why. I have a bit of time since there is much to be done to get the equipment prepped and sold.

Update Dec 2022

So I ended up getting a great deal on a used G9 with vlog and a Lumix 25 1.7 for 950cad. It looks and feels like new so I checked its shutter count and lo and behold it had less than 1400 shutter actuations when I got it. Wow. It came from the east coast and shipping was super reasonable, so I count myself very happy with the purchase. Now to get on with the sell off of the Nikon kits and some other miscellaneous stuff.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The lamps we're not allowed to have. Exploring Dubai's lamps.

This is a fascinating look at LED lamps made and sold in Dubai (under a 5-year agreement) that makes our current generation look like power hungry monsters. The gist is that efficiency goes up as power goes down per element, so dropping the power and increasing the number of filaments makes the bulbs run cool and last for a very long time.

Just for fun, I tested the concept by touching the base of an LED bulb that burns while I work less than 3 feet away. It was hot enough to burn my finger, reminding me that heat is the enemy of efficiency and long life where electronics are concerned. Imagine a generation of cooler bulbs that last forever. Such a nightmare for manufacturers lol.

Anyway, it's a fun watch and the demo and explanation are fairly short, after which you can turn it off if you don't want to watch the disassembly and analysis of the circuit etc. Note that these bulbs come in only four shapes and do not dim, so they are no doubt a pita for architects.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Government versus Private Industry ... Who should finance research and development?

In North America, we seem to have a fascination -- or perhaps fixation -- with private industry being more efficient than the public service when it comes to doing "stuff". Whatever we want done, we think that private industry will make it happen faster and more efficiently than government could ever do.


Note: I thought I might take this post into territory where I discuss the takeover of the elites (a.k.a. Oligarchy), or globalization, or some other angle on our fascination with the assumption that the wealthy have it all figured out. But the reality is that this is just a distraction from the topic I would rather discuss, and so instead I urge you to read this excellent New Yorker article that discusses the book Hillbilly Elegy. It thoroughly discusses the plight of us normal people and how the elites look at us. Think about it a bit before automatically rejecting the value of government intervention where it is needed.

Now, we've recently been treated to the news that our vaccine shipments have been interrupted for at least a week. We also know that we have only managed to vaccinate 1% of the population in the time that the Americans have vaccinated over 3%. So what gives? Well, here is a clip from a McLean's article regarding the recent aggressive mutation and what it might do in light of our embrassingly poor vaccination plan. This clip explictly discusses why we are suffering the difficulties in supply.

How widespread or common is such sequencing of COVID samples in Canada?

Canada has been conducting viral genome sequencing through the Canadian COVID Genomics Network (CanCoGen), which was started in April 2020—though many public health labs and research labs had started sequencing to some extent prior to this. As of Dec. 22, more than 25,000 viral genomes have been sequenced as part of this (roughly five per cent of confirmed cases in Canada at that time.)

Some countries are doing more sequencing than we are in more of a “real-time” fashion; e.g., the U.K.’s sequencing network, with whom CanCOGen is partnered, has sequenced ~10 per cent of all their cases. Part of this relates to infrastructure and years of ongoing investment. The U.K. is one of the world leaders in using genome sequencing for public health surveillance, with capacity they have built over the course of the last decade for enteric pathogens and tuberculosis.

How much sequencing would Canada need to be doing in order to know how B.1.1.7 and other variants are spreading here?

This is difficult question. The higher our sequencing and analytic capacity, the more we will be able to detect B.1.1.7 and other variants are they arise. However, there are substantial challenges to increasing this in the middle of a pandemic. Investments need to be made to continue to build infrastructure, fund sequencing, hire skilled scientists who can lead and conduct analyses, and support those already working long hours on this, etc. It’s not as clear cut as just “sequencing more,” unfortunately.

So that's depressing. We don't have the ability to create a vaccine, nor to produce one. We lost all the researchers at some point. And here is an article from the Hamilton Spectator explaining how the last Conservative federal government (a.k.a. Stephen Harper) drastically cut research dollars that had the inevitable knock-on effect of researchers saying goodbye to Canada along with all those partnerships that get shit done. Resulting in the fact that we don't have a single Pharmaceutical partnership to lean on and thus we are automatically at the back of the line to those who do.


Let's all try to remember then that government funding of pure and applied research is a good thing and ultimately benefits the population in ways not understood when the hack and slash of austerity raises its ugly head to the benefit of cronies and other relationships but to the obvious (now, at least) detriment to the population being governed.

Yes, people rarely do learn this lesson since each candidate for government pays attention to controversial issues that can galvanize their base to kick those bastards out! But that does not make for good government (see USA 2017-2021), and maybe we should also remember to factor in all those unnecessary deaths in both countries. After all, we have "business first" governments at the head of most provinces and of the USA and many states. The coelescence of these governments in a time of hyper-partisanship could not have been worse given the presence of a deadly pandemic and all ...

My bottom line -- the federal government in Canada should be ensuring that we have the capacity to resist the next pandemic, and that we revive at least some areas of our manufacturing capability so that we are not trying to fight the entire planet to get in line for factories in other parts of the world. Surely it is worth paying a bit more for goods when that also means more jobs for our own population. The elites have a whole world to plunder. The elites shift profits around to avoid paying taxes in Canada. These are very good reasons to none get too bent when the worst of them bugger off somewhere else to pillage the population.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Published in the Ottawa Citizen tomorrow, 9 August 2018

As always, my thanks to Robbi Hay, editor of the Ourtown section of the Citizen … don’t forget to grab your copy of the paper to see what’s going on in the city over the coming weeks …