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Fumesucker

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Member since: Sat Mar 29, 2008, 10:11 PM
Number of posts: 38,308

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Astrophotography on a budget: Sony NEX C3

I got my used NEX C3 a couple of days ago from Adorama, under $130 including shipping for the camera, 18-55 kit lens, attachable flash, battery, charger and original box/packing. The camera isn't pristine but it's in decent shape, mostly the LCD screen is somewhat the worse for wear, scratched some and the black surround on the clear plastic is looking rather rough.

So I tried it out last night with the kit lens set at 35mm and f4.5 (wide open at that focal length), the lens isn't particularly good for astrophotography but I didn't expect it to be, the camera on the other hand is brilliant for this purpose. There is a self timer setting that gives you a ten second delay and then takes five images in a row at whatever time exposure you set, in my case I used 30 seconds which is the max the camera will do on its own so I was getting 5 x 30 seconds for two and a half minutes per shutter button press. I tried different ISO settings and eventually settled on 800 as being optimum for my sky conditions f# and exposure length, if I was under darker skies I would go with 1600 probably though. I had the camera mounted on my small equatorial tracking mount so it followed the stars for no trailing, without the mount I could probably have gone for 10 second exposures while keeping the trailing to a minimum, 1600 ISO would work for that too. Long exposure noise reduction was turned off and I didn't take any dark or flat frames which would have improved the final image some. I just wanted to see how it would work without a lot of rigmarole..

Anyhow, here is the result of 55 x 30 second exposures @ ISO 800 registered and stacked in the freeware Deep Sky Stacker and then further processed in Iris (to remove the light pollution gradient) and Paint Shop Pro (curves, cropping and so forth)... Both the Orion nebula and the Running Man nebula right above it show up nicely and you can even see the Flame nebula just to the left of the leftmost star in Orion's belt. When I get an adapter for some of my prime lenses that are a lot sharper than the kit lens this camera is going to do very well indeed, the flange distance on the NEX is so short practically any lens in the history of photography can be adapted to it and there are adapters available for a lot of lenses now, you have to use them in manual mode but that's not an issue for this sort of photography.

The Comet and the Cluster, Lovejoy and the Pleiades (Updated with new images)

Nine exposures of 30 seconds @ ISO1600 Canon 350D w/Nikon 50mm f1.8 @ f4. Processed in Deep Sky Stacker, Iris and Paint Shop Pro. It was just above freezing so I could push the ISO and still get relatively clean shots out of my antique DSLR. I had about a dozen two second focusing and framing shots @ f1.8 and then I stopped it down to f4 and shot the thirty second ones before the sensor warmed up too much and got noisy.

You can just see a hint of the comet tail coming down like a rocket below it and the blue nebulosity in the Pleiades. It was easier to see in the bitmap, it's a bit too subtle for the jpeg. This is about the closest Lovejoy will get to the cluster it was just chance I had a clear night and a hole through the trees that lined up with the shot. Around here it's trees or lights, take your choice.

It's taken me a couple of years to learn how to get the light pollution gradients out of my shots, I was pleased with the way this one turned out it had a horrible red gradient across it with such a wide field.






So I got some more shots last night 1-17-05 and came up with these two images. Same setup as before but this time it was 18 images of 30 sec @ f2.8 and ISO 800.

The first image is the finished picture..



The second image is a negative that's actually the mask I used in one step of the processing to remove the light pollution from the finished image, it shows the extent of Lovejoy's tail which I can't get to show up in the final image if I get the colors remotely right, there is just too much light pollution for it to work with the equipment I have. the big blotch at lower right is the result of light pollution gradient across the image..



Andromeda slipping into the trees

The moon was far too bright last night for any serious deep sky imaging so I was tweaking my polar alignment setup routine and got a series of 34 images of the constellation Andromeda and the galaxy named after it as they slipped into the trees. Canon 350D with a Nikon 50mm f1.8 @ f3.2 30 seconds per exposure @ ISO800. Resized and processed into an animated GIF with VirtualDub. My tracking mount is an Ioptron Cube Pro used in equatorial mode.

The galaxy is near the center of the image and you can see a satellite sail through the frame about 3/4 of the way through the cycle.. Also note the color of the light on the tree to the right, that's from Christmas lights on the front of the house. Thanks to the moonlight and the local light pollution there were only a few stars that could be seen with the naked eye in the field, the only way I could tell the galaxy was even there was by looking at the images as they downloaded to my laptop.



Next time it's clear with moonlight like it was last night I'm going to try and get Orion rising through the bare deciduous trees we have on the east side of the property, that constellation is a lot more obvious and colorful than Andromeda, the galaxy is really the only standout thing about it.

NYC asks federal court to approve mass arrests of protesters

http://firedoglake.com/2014/12/22/300938/

With our nation in crisis regarding the epidemic of police killings of innocent unarmed citizens, most of whom are young black males, including Michael Brown, John Crawford, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, to mention a few, the NYPD police union president Patrick Lynch pushed back hard on Saturday against people who protest against the killings. In classic right wing nonsequitur fashion, he blamed the predominantly peaceful protesters, Mayor De Blasio and President Obama for the ambush murders of two NYPD officers sitting in a parked patrol vehicle in Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon. Never mind that the killer was not involved in any of the protests and apparently decided to bag two cops after shooting his ex-girlfriend in the abdomen. Terrell Jermaine Starr of Alternet reports,

It was just hours after officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot and killed by a lone gunman, when further inflamed tensions between the police and the minority community during a shockingly divisive and incendiary speech to the media. “There’s blood on many hands tonight,” Lynch said. “Those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protests that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did everyday. We tried to warn, ‘It must not go on. It cannot be tolerated.’ That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor . When these funerals are over, those responsible will be called on the carpet and held accountable.”


Fortunately, some cooler heads are attempting today to pull back from the abyss. However, the NYPD continues to rattle the saber as the NYC Law Department will be attempting to persuade the Second Circuit Court of Appeals sitting en banc to reverse an earlier decision by a three judge panel that held the NYPD had violated Occupy Wall Street protester’s First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and their Fourth Amendment rights to privacy by making mass arrests without individualized probable cause.

The City is arguing in its legal brief that the three judge panel’s “decision will frustrate, not further, the work of police attempting to facilitate peaceful demonstrations while ensuring both the safety of demonstrators and those among whom demonstrations are staged.” This argument is ridiculous because the Fourth Amendment specifically states that police cannot arrest a person without probable cause to believe he or she committed a crime. Police are also prohibited from entrapping law abiding citizens into committing crimes they did not intend to commit. In this case, officers from the NYPD entrapped Occupy Wall Street protesters by leading and escorting them onto the Brooklyn Bridge only to arrest them en masse for violating an order not to go on the bridge that no one heard.

Steven Rosenfeld of Alternet reports,

“This is the most significant and most defining legal case on protesters’ rights in the last 40 years, since the mass arrests of May Day 1970,” said Carl Messineo, Partnership for Civil Justice Fund legal director, which represented the protesters. “Mayor de Blasio seeks the authority to arrest today’s protesters in the same manner Mayor Bloomberg falsely arrested Occupy Wall Street protesters by the hundreds.”


Seeking to legitimize a practice of widespread false arrests by entrapping protesters is an egregious Fourth Amendment violation that deserves condemnation. This is no way to calm troubled waters. Instead it’s yet another reason, as if we needed one, to increase the protests.

Splish, splash

So I was playing with a "new" strobe setup I got, this unit has variable power and when I turn it down to 1/16 the flash is very quick, probably on the order of 1/10,000 sec or so.

This is the result of setting up a drip of water into a bowl and a foam cup full of water and freezing the splashes with my new flash, kind of a combination macro and stop motion photography.I didn't have any kind of motion trigger so I just timed the shutter presses as best I could, only about ten percent of my pictures had something interesting in them but those were worth the effort.

Canon 350D ISO100 18-55 kit lens at 55mm and f16.















An interesting little con I just found.. "Freeware" that loads your computer up with malware

A software that used to be very useful and that I've used myself has now become a deceptive installer of malware.

If you are accustomed to using a particular software you may not notice that changes can sometimes be for the worse or the much worse.

Click on the blue "See all reviews" link to read a ton of negative comments like these typical ones. I'm glad I looked before I leaped.

http://download.cnet.com/Super-Video-Converter/3000-2194_4-10277613.html

Pros

None, anymore.

Cons

Used to be great, now it's another dishonest product from greedy dishonest people which will install TONS of malicious crap on your computer, slow down your browser, and who knows what else?

BAN THEM!

..................................................

Pros

Does what it always did. Super fast conversion of video files. A gazillion options as always. Every possible parameter can be changed.

Cons

Addware in massive amounts during installation. Just click CANCEL / QUIT to the gree installer button. The SUPER will install anyway, no matter what you are told.

Notice that the software adds metadata in your video that is hard to remove. You can not control this. Will display "Created with SUPER".

So very very obtrusive software, to the extend that makes it almost useless.

Summary

There are other players out there which behave as they should. AviDemux etc. Can do same conversion. Some of them even by command line.

This software was put on a pedistal for too long. It has sold it's soul to the devil. Should be avoided as I see it. Find a portable / old version.


Summary

If you are a complete noob who has to ask others to "fix" your computer now and then, this is just about the worst thing you can install.

Reply to this review

Video shows John Crawford's girlfriend aggressively questioned after Ohio police shot him dead

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/14/john-crawford-girlfriend-questioned-walmart-police-shot-dead?CMP=share_btn_tw

Police aggressively questioned the tearful girlfriend of a young black man they had just shot dead as he held a BB gun in an Ohio supermarket – accusing her of lying, threatening her with jail, and suggesting her boyfriend had planned to shoot the mother of his children.

Tasha Thomas was reduced to swearing on the lives of her relatives that John Crawford III had not been carrying a firearm when they entered the Walmart in Beavercreek, near Dayton, to buy crackers, marshmallows and chocolate bars on the evening of 5 August.

“You lie to me and you might be on your way to jail,” detective Rodney Curd told Thomas, as she wept and repeatedly offered to take a lie-detector test. After more than an hour and a half of questioning and statement-taking, Curd finally told Thomas that Crawford, 22, had died.

“As a result of his actions, he is gone,” said the detective, as she slumped in her chair and cried.


Video and more reporting at the link.

A hawk at the flea market

Two or three of us go to the flea market most Saturdays when the weather is good and it was outstanding today. The flea market is held in the parking lot of what was originally a Walmart but has been an antiques mall type place for a long time now. While I was walking around I noticed this young hawk sitting in a pecan tree about twenty feet from the crowd and commotion and about twenty feet up, he or she was surveying the scene regally as hawks are wont to do and didn't seem disturbed by the crowd at all. I had my camera in my pocket and whipped it out for these shots.

Lumix ZX15 1/200 at F5.6 and ISO100, five megapixel mode.











Bloomberg: Ferguson to Increase Police Ticketing to Close City’s Budget Gap

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-12/ferguson-to-increase-police-ticketing-to-close-city-s-budget-gap.html


Ferguson, Missouri, which is recovering from riots following the August shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman, plans to close a budget gap by boosting revenue from public-safety fines and tapping reserves.

The strategy by the St. Louis suburb, which suffered a second round of violent protests last month after a grand jury refused to indict the police officer, may risk worsening community relations with increased citations and weakening its credit standing by reducing a rainy-day fund.

To close a projected deficit for fiscal 2014, which ended June 30, the municipality will deplete a $10 million capital-projects reserve, Jeffrey Blume, Ferguson’s finance director, said in a telephone interview. For the current year, the city is budgeting for higher receipts from police-issued tickets.

<snip>

Revenue from violations, which already represents the city’s second-largest source of cash after sales taxes, will rise to 15.7 percent of receipts in fiscal 2015, from a projected 11.8 percent this year, he said. In 2013, fines brought in $2.2 million, or 11.8 percent of the city’s $18.62 million in annual revenue, according to budget documents.

<snip>

Some free Photoshop plugins I find useful

I use a couple of the plugins here quite often, Local Contrast Enhancement gives a nice sharpening and overall detail enhancement effect while avoiding some of the problematic artifacts associated with the usual sharpening algorithms such as Unsharp Masking. I've also employed the High Pass Sharpening plugin and the Selective Saturation plugin to good effect. I'm using a truly ancient version of Paintshop Pro and these plugins work fine with that, I suspect they will work with almost any image manipulation program that will accept Photoshop .8bf plugins.

http://www.photo-plugins.com/Home/

http://www.photo-plugins.com/Plugins/Plugins/

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