Tuesday, September 15, 2020

House Cooling Party

Oppressive August and September heat waves blanketed SoCal with high temps and high humidity. My new air conditioning system was installed during a heat wave, and my house is now comfortable.

The result? An urge to celebrate with a dinner party, christened a house “cooling” party by my son. My dinner parties are opulent affairs (wink- wink-) with one-to-three socially-distanced guests and their dogs. My son and grand-dog (Finn) visited with me, Libby (my dog), Hazel (Libby’s other best canine friend), and Hazel’s owners.

Hazel’s owner, Tim, suggested the photo op for the House Cooling party—wearing heavy coats inside the newly air conditioned house.

And how is this related to writing? I had dinner with my muses. All the canine and human guests are in my books. Hazel was the neighbor’s dog in Emma’s Best Friend is a Robot. The spin-off, Hazel, Hero of Dog Beach, is currently with the illustrator. Finn and Libby have cameos in the second children’s book, and Libby played an important role in the first McGregor mystery. My son is Detective Scott McGregor’s best friend. (My daughter, Scott’s girlfriend, was unable to join us due to prior commitments.) Hazel’s owner, Diana, works in the Fresno Police Records Department and alerted Scott to a clue in his first case. The adults attend Scott’s house parties where Tim often plays and sings.

The following weekend, another heat wave struck bringing temperatures near the one-hundred-degree mark in the full shade … and another air-conditioned, socially-distanced doggy play date / dinner party.

The heat waves aren’t bothering me as much as they used to.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Photographing Meteors

Perseid meteor photo by Wayne Woodcock

Guest post by Wayne Woodcock

(Research Assistant for the Detective Scott McGregor mystery, Forever After)

2 cameras.
5 nights.
13.25 hours.
12,225 exposures.
10 really good pictures, maybe.

I used two cameras shooting the nighttime Perseid meteor showers. A Sony a6300 with Olympus 55mm f1.2 lens using an OM to E mount adapter, shooting wide open, four second exposures ISO 1000. The other camera was a Sony a6500 with 16mm f2.8 lens and fisheye adapter, shooting wide open, 25 second exposures ISO 1250. Both cameras were set to manual focus and exposure and continuous shooting, locked on using a wired cable release. Shutter speed was calculated using the 300 Rule to reduce the star trail movement in each picture and exposure adjusted by changing the ISO setting.

Images were recorded continuously for at least two hours each night. The morning after each photo session, I spent hours backing up to an external HD and processing the still images.

Using the Sony Imaging Edge Viewer program, I was able to create time lapse movies from the thousands of exposures as videos that lasted a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on the number of exposures in a session. Meteors streaked partially across the sky. Planes and satellites crossed the entire view region, both moving slower than the meteors.

StarStaX Perseid meteor photo by Wayne Woodcock
Using StarStax, I created star tracks that showed the circular movement of the stars around the North star. Meteors, planes, and satellites showed up as straight lines crossing the concentric star paths. The StarStaX photo was compiled from 327 exposures taken over 23 minutes (elapsed time).

Every night I saw spectacular meteors in one direction while the camera lenses were pointed to a different quadrant of the sky. I got about ten really good still shots. The time lapse movies are fun to watch trying to spot the meteors.

It has been about 30 years since I had last done any nighttime photography. Way back in the days when rolls of film were sent off to be processed before you could see what you had as images. So I looked on the internet, read some articles and watched some videos. That is where I found out about the 300 Rule, StarStax and tying a hand warmer to the camera lens to keep it from fogging up.

Wayne Woodcock is an amateur photographer who has traveled the world and seen all seven continents through his camera viewfinder.

Wayne and Joan, of husband-wife “Team Woodcock,” added depth and different perspectives to the research gained from the August on-site exploration of the settings for Detective Scott McGregor’s third case. As experienced researchers, they are occasionally available for assignments to exotic locations.