Sunday, March 31, 2019

Hints of Spring!

Am back to the Midwest at "Ketelsen East" to enjoy the emergence of Spring! It looks like I arrived with perfect timing - there are mostly shades of brown and gray, trees bare, temps still definitely on the cool side after Tucson temps have been flirting with the 90s! But there are definite hints that the new growth of Spring isn't far away! Just a couple meters from the house, in fact, growing up in bits of asphalt piled high by the snowplow clearing the roads in my absence, are some beautiful crocus flowers. Shown here at left is the biggest plant - barely reaching 3" (8cm) tall, so I needed the macro lens for these shots!

And as soon as I shoot the yellow crocus above I notice some slightly smaller white crocus too! I had to check with my neighbor Elaine on the ID - I've not sure I've been early enough to catch these beauties in years past. She claims she has some purple crocus in her yard, but I've not been there to catch those yet.  I like the gentle pale yellow trim on these white flowers - they were kind of hard to spot with the brown grass background, but there were quite a few plants scattered about.

As I mentioned, the temps have been cool, and the flowers close up as the temperature drops as sunset approaches. The photo at left (same yellow crocus as above) was taken shortly before sunset, and today, with temps never going much above 40, I think they stayed closed all day! Lows tonight will be 24, so hope they survive the hard freeze tonight - will check on them tomorrow...

Note that most all of these photos were taken with the macro lens, and in order to extend the range of sharp focus at these considerable magnifications, several shots taken at different focus settings were taken and combined in Photoshop. Known at focus-stacking, they can considerably extend the range of sharpness in these photos...

In my searches for other things just poking out of the ground, I thought the bud at left might be the first sprouting of my beloved Trillium, that I spend time shooting every year. But from my first discovery of these sprouts (only about 1/2" tall) to today, they are starting to reveal their blue colors - Blue Scilla, which will carpet my yard blue in a week or two! Click on the right image for the full-size that shows the appearance of blue colors... Will try to keep an eye out for new members of the Spring population!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Its a 3D Solar System!

This is a 3D stereo post - so dig up your red/blue anaglyph glasses! You DO all have some, right? I've got a few hundred pair to give away, but can't afford postage to send them all out to you - let me know how to get them to you if you are lacking!

Anyway, this is a 2-part post! A few stereo pairs from a recent trip to Mexico and a recently released 3D data set from a spacecraft that visited a comet! The later is really incredible, and I had taken a few from the Mexican beach, so decided to combine... I hope you enjoy them. BTW, You REALLY need to have a pair of glasses near your computer! They are often used to present images from NASA craft and are also used on APOD frequently too!

The beach shots are all taken by me using a single DSLR camera (Canon 6D), and in this case, a macro lens was used for the close-up, and these first two shots here were taken with the normal kit lens. In each case, 2 images were taken with a shift between them to provide a baseline. When each is viewed with the appropriate eyeball, 3D stereo results! That is what the red/blue glasses does - allow you to see each image with just one eye for your brain to reassemble. The separation for the normal lens (above) is a couple inches, about what your eye is. For the macro, the distance between photos is less because of the magnification involved. Likely a couple centimeters is sufficient! The 3D really brings out the structure and form of objects - MUCH more clearly than a single 2 dimensional image!

One of my must-reads on the Internet
every day is a stop by the Twitter feed of planetary scientist Emily Lackdawalla. She has very similar interests to my own, and daily reposts links that I'd love to look at, from planetary and astronomical exploration, to pushing her girls into STEM, and seeing what is outraging the working scientists of the day. It is ALWAYS worth a look around! In her efforts to clearly explain the intricate details of planetary missions, both of the robotic spacecraft and the resultant data collected, new data sets are often revealed. Such was the case last week when she reposted a set from a couple years ago of the Rosetta comet mission to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It is an incredible data set, with details of distance, time and where on the comet the view is located. And the 3D views of this foreign landscape (a COMET!) is just incredible! There are over 1000 anaglyph stereo pairs presented, these are a couple of my favorites. I love both the wide-field ones here, with mighty jets shooting material outwards as ices melt in sunlight, as well as close-us of mighty ridges and caves that likely hide the jets in the deep shadows...

So take these in and be amazed, then go
to the link below to browse away the day!

Click here on this link to go to the Rosetta 3D anaglyph image collection!

Desert Snow!

People have many misconceptions about the Southwestern Desert.  It is NOT like the Sahara with seemingly endless dunes of drifting sands like the Sahara!  It is actually  quite a diverse ecosystem with plants and animals found nowhere else!  And while drier than where you can grow corn in the Midwest, Tucson gets about 10" of rain per year, and actually, local Indians used to grow corn crops since half our rain comes in the summer rainy season!

We also have a secondary rainy season thru the Winter, and occasionally, storms that pass through come down from the Gulf of Alaska, resulting in below-freezing temperatures and often snow up in the higher elevations (over 9,000 feet) ringing Tucson! Tucson itself, relatively low at 2500 feet elevation rarely gets snow, perhaps once every two years or so. But a couple weeks ago, it happened! I had a doctor's appointment and witnessed that it snowed in Tucson for over 3 hours, but because the ground was well above freezing, we didn't get any accumulation... The flakes came down in huge conglomerations or clumps - I witnessed a few over 2" diameter! When they are that large they land with a splat! The view of my "Old-Man Cactus" at left is affectionately called "Bernie"!

The next day, up for a drive, a friend joined me for a road trip up to Globe about 100 miles north of Tucson. While a drive to 9,000 foot Mount Lemmon would have been more impressive, the road was likely still closed to keep people out while it was being cleared. The road north moves around the Catalina Mountains, climbing to 5,000 feet going through Oracle, then dipping into the San Pedro Valley before climbing another snowy range before descending into Globe, an old Mining town... The day dawned perfectly clear, transforming the view of the Catalinas to the north of town quite spectacular. At left is the view from the south, with saguaro cacti dominating the foreground. By the time I circled the Catalinas to pick up my friend, the view of the north side (at right) down a residential street was even more spectacular!

Since Rancho Vistoso (my friend's neighborhood) was much higher in elevation than Tucson, we saw snow all the way to the 25 miles to Oracle. From there the elevation fell down into the San Pedro River Valley, so the striking photo at left, taken from just past Oracle, shows snow where we were, the snow-free valley, then the snow covered range on the other side.

It had been years since I'd been on highway 77, so much of it was new to me, including a new Indian Casino - Apache Sky, which I've just been hearing about... Of course, climbing the next range brought a new appearance of snow and there was a good 12" or 14" where the elevation peaked! Unfortunately the snow plows hadn't come back to clean off the pulloffs, so we parked dangerously close to the highway and waded through nearly knee-deep very wet snow!

It was fun, and all the tourists we saw were having a good time playing in the snow. Interestingly, we helped an elderly woman lay down on the snow and make her personal snow angel, shown at left. She needed help getting up too, and we took a group photo of their trio with her creation...

The trip down to Globe for a side trip to a rock shop and a quick brunch at a burger place was anti-climactic by comparison. We made a beeline for home to make an appointment, but was a fun day to play!