Twilight Blood Moon Eclipse, October 8, 2014


Bloodmoon Lunar Eclipse, October 8, 2014; (170mm 1″ f8 iso100 HDF, cropped)  image by (c:2014) me.
I had the opportunity to photograph another “blood moon” lunar eclipse this last week!  I was excited about the fact that it was to occur during twilight near dawn and I was looking forward to capturing it near the horizon (appearing larger) and with the dark bluish tint of a twilight sky.  I got up just before six am and went to my desired location.  I found the moon fully eclipsed but still fairly high in the sky as I set up my equipment and waited for it to descend and the sky start to lighten.  Some isolated wispy clouds then began to move in as I waited until the moon was obscured.  As I waited for these to pass, they became more numerous, so when the moon popped out into a hole, I went ahead and shot as I began to worry that the clouds were gaining the upper hand.  This happened two or three times until finally, as I feared, the clouds became a somewhat solid deck in the Western part of the sky and I was unable to get the shots I wanted.
Fortunately I did get a couple of the moon still partially eclipsed in the holes, though higher and smaller than I wanted and without the twilight sky.  I found myself using my camera’s “High Definition” (HDF) mode combined with manual underexposure in order to capture both the darkened reddish portion without blowing out the lit portion.  This shot was the best one, though I used GIMP to crop it, since the original shot was at 170mm (55-300mm kit zoom lens) to include the horizon (since my desire was to capture a shot with the moon closer to the horizon) and to slightly increase the overall brightness by slightly adjusting the input levels.
The HDF added a nice effect to the slight cloud cover and haze over and around the moon.  A second shot that came out really well had a tiny (invisible to my naked eye) power line passing through it.  Despite not being able to get the shot I wanted, I was very pleased with this one. The HDF feature takes three photos at slightly different exposures and combines them to increase the dynamic range.

How things Used to be and Ought to be made, in the USA

Antique lamp-splitter
Photo by (© 2014) me.
Now, this is how things used to be designed and built right here in the U.S.A!  This is an ancient (several decade old) split lamp-socket adapter I inherited from my grandparents.  The pull-switch went on the fritz last week and I was apt to chunk it, as I’m no longer really needing it anyway, until I noticed this screw in the center of the case!  I haven’t seen anything like that in years.

My curiosity then got the better of me, compelling me to unscrew it in an attempt to open it up to see what’s inside (and if there was any possibility of actually repairing it.  I removed the screw in the side and – nothing budged.  I then removed the butt-screw and again – nothing.  I eventually tried removing the bottom screw-in bulb part, which was, alas, bradded on.  This was accomplished by prying up the two bradded indentures, then unscrewing it from the base.  Finally, I had this thing open as shown in the photograph!  Sure enough, I was able to repair the pull-switch which had not jammed, but rather the contacts were worn down from use.  I was able to slightly bend one of the tiny contacts slightly upward, which registered positive results by my olm meter. Unfortunately it’s a four-position switch, of which two are used for ON and two for OFF, but I only succeeded in fixing one of the ON positions, resulting in it being now necessary to pull three times to go from OFF back to ON, but at least it now functions again!  I had no trouble getting it all back together. Something like this made today would be made cheaply in China, be unserviceable, and would likely never last anywhere near five-plus decades!

Crossing the Line to the Other Side!

Approaching Finish Line
Photo by (© 2002) Steve Patt
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me:Try this on me & there will be a lawsuit!

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Taking the Retirement Leap
Photo by (©) The Principal Financial Group
Iris (in my pasture)
“Iris”  by (© 2014) me. 
Mockingbird mocking my cat!
“Mockingbird mocking my cat!”  by (© 2014) me. 
I Can See Clearly Now“, by (© 1972) Johnny Nash
posted byRealityShifts. via You Tube

<<<< “School’s Out” (From “Live at Montreux 2005″)
by (© 1972) Alice Cooper; posted byEagle Rock. via You Tube

U.S. at 2014 Sochi Olympics, My View

Winter Olympics Diary: Everything's broken in Sochi, is my spirit next?
Photo by (©) Phil Noble, Reuters
story by (©) New York Daily News
Maroney, Figure Skater Ashley Wagner Is Not Impressed By the Olympics Either
“Not impressed” (Ashley Wagner)
Photo by (©) Darren Cummings,
Getty Images
Now that the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are now officially closed, boxed up, and put back into cold storage for the next four years, I can now officially award additional medals to certain well-deserving athletes!  I ended up watching very little of NBC‘s TV coverage this time due to my life’s current level of busification and my lack of inspiration for the Winter games in general (I have a slight preference for the Summer games).  My general opinion of this particular games was best summed up by a male DJ at KISS FM Radio a few Olympics ago (I’m thinking the Lilyhammer games, but not sure, or whether it was was Kid Kraddick or not), when he sang “I hate the Winter Olympics, little bitty countries kicking America’s butt” to the Olympic theme song on the radio and we broke up laughing.  I was not particularly impressed with the overall American performance either, particularly the “lack-of-speed-skating team” and either gender’s hockey teams.  The U.S. did take the Bronze medal in “overall medaling”, but only due to all the new “X-game” events just added this year.  One thing is certain though, THIS Olympics will forever have an ASTERISK next to it!  (see image above – at the Opening Ceremonies)  That made me ROFL!  I especially appreciated the Russian’s successful effort at self-depreciating humor at the Closing ceremonies (see story by (©) WGHP Fox 8) where actors repeated the unopened “asterisk” ring in formation and then opened it up properly!  One other really cool thing to those of us old enough to remember the Cold War and Jimmy Carter’s stupid Olympic boycott, was seeing and hearing the Star-spangled Banner played in Russia! :D

US women lose hockey gold in heartbreaking fashion
Photo by (©) Mark Humphrey, AP
story by (©) Greg Beacham, Yahoo News
I actually tuned into the third quarter of the Women’s hockey game and was delighted to see them up 2-0 on the Canucks only to get me all excited and my hopes up only to watch them completely crash and burn in the final three minutes to snatch defeat from the jaws of Victory¡  I could not bare to watch the overtime and found out later that they were beaten in a five-on-three power-play.  Hey refs, WHO calls that many penalties in a SUDDEN DEATH overtime in the GOLD medal game unless it’s blatant?!  Let ‘em play, for sport’s sake!  At least the women fought hard to the end.  I did not see the men’s games, so I can’t comment on those except that I found out later that the men just completely rolled over for Finland.  C’mon guys, the Bronze is still worth playing for!  Instead you co-own the “Wooden Medal” with your female counterparts for this Olympics!  At least, you did channel 1980 and beat the Ruskies!

Olympic Alpine Skiing Giant Slalom Results 2014: Men's Medal Winners and Recap
Photo by (©) Charlie Riedel, AP
story by (©) Bleacher Report
Jordan Malone of the United States celebrates their second place finish with the flag of Texas
Photo by (©) Darron Cummings, AP
story by (©) Paul Newberry, AP
courtesy (©) Stamford Advocate
I was most impressed with Ted Ligety’s giant slalom win and Mikaela Shiffrin’s gold medal slalom performance, particularly after she came oh so close to wiping out on the second run but recovered nicely for a gold medal!  In the meantime, (my) hometown’s favorite son Jordan Malone anchored for the men’s 5000m short track speed-skating relay team which took the Silver medal!  Jordan showed off his Texas pride by skating a second victory lap with the Texas flag held high!  Way to go Jordan, the eyes of Texas are upon you!

Anyway, time for the final 2014 Winter Olympic medal awards!:

Mikaela Shiffrin
Photo (©) Russell Isabella,
USA Today Sports
Johnny Quinn
Photo (©) JohnnyQuinnUSA
Johnny Quinn forced to use his 'push training' to break down door of Sochi hotel
Photo (©) JohnnyQuinnUSA
via
Twitter
story by (©) Mail Online
This game’s “Iron Medal” (awarded for sheer toughness, grit, determination, stick-toittiveness, overcoming difficult odds, and overall good bull) is a tie between Johnny Quinn of the United States bobsledding, and Mikaela Shiffrin (United States Alpine Team).  Johnny, for overcoming his spartan Communist era-like hotel accommodations and making it to his event after having to break down his locked-from-the-outside hotel room door and then getting stuck in an mal-functioning elevator!  Mikaela, for overcoming certain elimination by coming as close to wiping out as possible and still managing to both fully recover instantly and still finish in gold medal-winning time on the very difficult and treacherous women’s slalom course with sheer grit and determination!

This game’s “Wooden Medal” (awarded for (usually) 4th place and below (expectations) finishes due to utter underwhelming performance, lack of preparation / work-ethic, rotten luck, choking, excessive whining, embarrassment, and / or otherwise snatching defeat from the jaws of near-certain victory, etc.) goes equally to both gender versions of the U.S. Hockey Team; with the whole Men’s Long-track Speed-skating Team finishing a very close second.

Congratulations, Team USA for these and all the other medals won and to everyone for their efforts, medal winning or otherwise who gave their best to represent themselves and the United States in this year’s Olympics!

Pentax DA 70mm f/2.4 Ultra Compact Limited (“Pancake”) Lens – Review

Candid shot in downtown Bowie, Texas
Candid shot in downtown Bowie, Texas (1/1250″ f2.4 iso100), by (© 2014) me.
My Christmas gift to myself this year was an SMC Pentax DA70mm f2.4 “pancake” prime.  This is the third and final “pancake” of the three-piece set that I’ve purchased over the last two years.  I have never regretted purchasing the other two since they are simply two amazingly well-crafted works of sheer glass and metal art!  The images I get with them are simply amazing and completely blow away what I can get with my kit zooms.  They are also compact enough to carry in my pockets.  I often now travel “bag-less” on many shoots with only these two lenses – one on the camera and one in my pocket along with a polarizer and a spare battery (If I do bring the bag, it stays in the car).  I had been somewhat hesitant to add this one after swallowing hard and coughing up the dough for each of the other two – used, since the focal length seemed to me to be the least useful of the three (the other two are 21 and 40mm).  I had begun to feel the urge for having the longer focal length one and had started watching prices for used ones on Amazon, since Pentax had recently announced that they were replacing all the “pancake” lenses with identical new “HD” ones with some new-fangled coating.  This meant that the current “SMC” ones were being discontinued and could probably be had for a discount.  The final straw that led me to finally go for it was when, on a simple lark, I decided to check the Black Friday sales on B&H Photo‘s website and, gasp, saw a NEW one for LESS than $400 and LESS than any of the used ones I’d been following on Amazon.  Without hesitating I snapped one up Friday morning!  Sure enough, I just checked again a few hours later and they were GONE – Sold Out!  Anyway, mine arrived a few days later, opened it up and checked that everything was in order and, according to family tradition, it had to go under the Christmas tree until December 25!  (Click on an image to view larger)
Jupiter Coffee House, Denton, Texas
Jupiter Coffee House, Denton (-1.7ev 1/1250″ f7.1 iso100), by (© 2014) me.
Since Christmas, I’ve had time now to get it out and put it to work!  One thing I will have to say about this lens is that it’s the tack-sharpest lens in my bag now, even slightly beating out my 40mm – wow!  That is saying a lot since both my 21 and 40 are very sharp and produce outstanding images.  There’s also almost no purple-fringing.  The only way to see any at all is to shoot a high-contrast scene and then fully crop it down and display it on my 21 inch computer monitor!

I originally suspected that I might not be using this lens nearly as much as my 21 and 40 and now, having been out on some shoots with all three of them, actual experience is bearing this out.  The 70mm is somewhat long for most walk-around shooting like I do, but it does come in handy in certain situations!  One in particular is candid street shots and indoor portraits.  I found it worked great for chest-up portraits of people nearby but far enough away to not always notice you are taking their picture!  The f2.4 aperture permits very sharp flash-less candids at parties and in clubs, even with high ISOs in low lighting.  The lens comes with a cool little retractable metal lens hood and metal front cap, both inner-lined with black felt for a really pro look and feel!  The hood screws on either in place of or in front of a 49mm filter. The cap pushes on over the hood and the felt makes it fit snugly enough to stay on, but not onto the lens unhooded.  The hood also contains no threads for mounting filters on the front.  If you want to cap the lens unhooded, you will need to acquire a standard 49mm snap-on or screw-on cap.  With the hood on, you most likely won’t need the cap, since it seems to protect the lens pretty well and since it’s a special cap, you’ll probably want to keep it home in a safe place anyway.  The lens has a nice old-schoolish focal length and DOF scale etched and painted onto it.  Like the other Pentax Limiteds, it’s all metal and glass, no plastic and, though light-weight, still feels and functions very solid and well-made.  Also, like the others it comes with a cool little black fake-leather pouch with close-able draw-string.

Cooke Co. Courthouse, Gainesville, Texas
Cooke Co. Courthouse, Gainesville, Texas – fully cropped (1/320″ f7.1 iso100), by (© 2014) me.
Now for the drawbacks.  First of all, I’ve grown to somewhat despise the little metal hood this lens comes with (though I love the tiny and unique metal hoods that came with the 21 and 40).  It looks cool and does a good job, but adds 17mm of physical length to the lens (when compressed) and a full 26mm (extended) to a “pancake” lens that (hoodless) is 41.5mm long.  This makes it difficult to pocket this lens in jeans, though not so much when I’m in my cargo shorts or wearing a coat.  The little pull-out extender seems really cool in theory, but in practice I always find myself forgetting to extend it.  I refuse to carry the lens around without the hood since the large front element is otherwise very exposed and would easily scratch up in a pocket.  I thought about a simple UV filter to protect it, but that, combined with no hood, I feel would likely degrade image quality.  Anyway, I believe I’ve found the answer for my hood / size issues – I’m purchasing a second copy of the beautiful little metal hood that came with my 40mm.  I tried it out on the 70 and there was no vignetting and it does appear to protect the glass very well and only adds 7mm to the lens size, and is nice and well rounded for smoothly fitting into a pocket! I ordered a plain knockoff one online for $13 less change on Amazon and am now awaiting it’s arrival.  With this hood, it will be essentially the same length and as well-protected as my 21mm.
Denton Co. Courthouse
Denton Co. Courthouse (-3.3ev 1/25″ f2.8 iso500), by (© 2014) me.
Candid shot literally taken from my hip!
Candid shot literally taken from my hip! (1/50″ f2.8 iso25600), by (© 2014) me.

I have no regrets purchasing this lens, especially at the $399 fire-sale price I paid for it new and, though it probably won’t live on my camera, it will likely join the other one in my pocket on most, if not all shoots going forward! When I want a really tack-sharp image, especially in less than generous light, and can step back a bit, this lens will definitely be on my camera in situations where I would’ve used my 40 and cropped in the past.  The extra half-stop (f2.4 vs the 40’s f2.8) is a plus as well, often providing a better tight DOF alternative to my 50mm f1.4 due to it’s much-superior image quality, with a slightly further reach too.  It nicely fills the gap between my 40mm and my other long prime, a 90mm macro (which usually remains in my bag in the car due to it’s size).  You can also view my Pentax DA 40mm Review.

Sunset in Downtown
Sunset in Downtown (-1.3ev 1/2000″ f7.1 iso100), by (© 2014) me.
downtown Bowie, Texas
(-0.3ev 1/25″f2.8 iso500), by (© 2014) me.
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