Sunday, January 29, 2012

An Interesting View...

Often times you don't think about a viewpoint - it takes someone else to note how unusual it is.  Such was the case lately, when a month ago one of the outreach people at the NOAO offices happened upon one of my pictures - it is at the bottom of the post from Christmas day.  It is shown at left here, taken with a 200mm lens.  I've taken similar shots for at least a year or more - the nearly exact same shot was taken exactly 2 years earlier in 2009, but it needed a new set of eyes to see it. 

Anyway, they asked permission to use it in a story about light pollution, and a few days later it appeared in a Yahoo News on-line article.  With the lights of Tucson only 40 miles to the east of the National Observatory, most pictures of Tucson are FROM Kitt Peak.  I've got lots of those too - like the one shown at right above - boring without the observatory.  But the ideal shot would be just like at left, with the lights in the foreground and the observatory shown in the distance! 

Even before the Yahoo article appeared, in another sunset trip to "Bad Dog" overlook (a simplified version of Babad Do'ag, the Tohono name for Mount Lemmon and the actual name of the overlook 3 miles up the Mount Lemmon Highway), I took some additional pictures, this time with a small 80mm Meade telescope I use (480mm focal length).  I took a series of photos as part of a 4-frame mosaic to retain more details over the relatively wide 200 mm lens used above.  Unfortunately, Photoshop had issues assembling it, but with another application in mind, I recently got some new mosaic software that handled it just fine (Kolor Autopano Pro).  The results are shown here at left. 

There is a LOT to see in the photo, unfortunately, Blogger limits the file dimensions to 1600 pixels wide, so it cannot be shown at full resolution.  Of course, Kitt Peak with it's armada of telescope domes is at upper left.  Tucson's skyline, such as it is, is shown at right.  Interestingly, with the perspective view from the NE side of town, the football stadium looks to be right at downtown's foreground, with the red neon "Home of the Wildcats" visible.  In actuality they are separated about 2 miles...  Just to the left of the stadium a large flag can be seen flying over the new Centurylink Building (formerly Quest).  Above and to the left of the flag are some headlights and tail lights from atop "A" Mountain, which entertains a line of cars through the evenings.  Right under the profile of Kitt Peak is a cell tower (red lights visible) that are about halfway to the mountain out at the town of Three Points.  The shadow of the nearby mountains are the Tucson Mountains, the one to the right of Kitt Peak I believe is Cat Mountain, which you pass on the way to the Observatory.  Much beyond the familiar landmarks and I quickly get lost due to the low viewing angle and the diagonal view that isn't square to the street grid...

So a new perspective is sometimes good!  The crops here are from the main mosaic, just a little closer to the native resolution, but still downsampled a factor of 2 or 3.  The  Kolor mosaic software has samples of mosaics assembled from hundreds of images with telephoto lenses so you can zoom out for a wide view, or zoom in to see people hiking on distant mountain trails.  It is quite spectacular!  I'll likely be using it for much more mundane applications, but I see fun in the future!

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