The ephemeris told me that moonrise last night would be AFTER sunset. Keen to make up for some uninspiring photos from the previous attempt, we looked around for a good viewing spot. It turned out that Monk’s Bay (about 5 minutes drive away) would see the moon rising above the entrance to the estuary, with South Shore on the left and the hills to the right. I must have driven past that point at least a hundred times in the years I’ve lived in Christchurch, but never looked over the wall to see a suprisingly pretty little area.
There was a fair bit of cloud out to sea, but the moon showed up nice and bright, casting an impressive path across the water. Exposure times were probably a bit too long – the moon ended up quite lopsided in some shots because it was moving too far while the shutter was open – but I quite liked the look of it, and the smoothed out sea.
- You can see the distortion in the moon in this shot, but I don’t care!
- We kept taking photos until nearly an hour after sunset, by which time it was getting quite dark, though the moon kept getting brighter.
- This shot was taken after sunset, but before moonrise. It was actually fairly dark but the long exposure made it look brighter.
While trying (and failing) to get some good photos of the moonrise tonight, I snapped a shot or two of the Seaward Kaikoura range way off in the distance – 170km (just over 100 miles) across the sweep of Pegasus Bay.
Video here: Youtube
A week ago I decided to tackle Blender (the open source rendering and animation package) again, since I didn’t get anywhere the last time I tried. It’s quite a steep learning curve, though I gather it’s much better with this latest version. I decided that the three things I’d most like to use it to illustrate were (1) monsters, (2) robots, and (3) alien landscapes. (Once a science fiction fan – always a science fiction fan). Just as you can never have too many monsters, you can never have too many tentacles. This was an attempt to make a suitably alien tentacle. Not brilliant, but I think it’s a good start. Deciding to animate it – just to see if I could – was challenging but very satisfying.
Philosophy and Image Creation
I’m an engineer and computer programmer, and when I look at an image, I’m always mentally translating it into a table of numbers. Because that’s all a displayed image is – just an array of red/green/blue intensity values at N pixel locations. I think that carries over into my attitude to post-editing and cgi. It doesn’t matter to me whether an image was created by extremely careful photography, rougher photography + touching up in a photo-editor, rendering software, or even someone painstakingly filling in the pixels one by one with MS Paint. All that I care about it is the final image.
This attitude is nowhere near universal. I’ve seen websites (including blogs I’ve visited because the author ‘liked’ my blog) with a proud declaration “All images on this site are un-modified and just as they came out of the camera”. Which is fine – it would be a boring world if we all thought the same – but makes an interesting contrast. To me it smacks of entering the Guiness Book of Records for hopping on one foot to the top of a mountain. It shows skill and determination, but no-one can tell from the triumphant photo at the summit just how you got there – and it’s much easier to walk.
In theory, saving images in RAW format and converting them to jpg / png format on the computer should let you get a better result than letting the camera do the conversion. In practice, I haven’t been able to get my converted images to look as good as the camera gets. Even the image browser I’m using (IrfanView) displays the RAW images better than my conversions. Most annoying.
- Sunset image (RAW) as viewed by IrfanView
- Converted to .png using UFRaw
For the moment, I think I’ll go back to using jpegs and bracketing my exposures. Apart from anything else, it saves a lot of time.
Raining hard outside so I decided to snap a photo of a pot plant and composite it onto a pile of rocks I photographed yesterday (as if it was a giant plant). I can’t say I’m happy with the result, but extra practice can’t hurt. A bit tricky extracting the cactus from the background, and masking three layers of rocks to blur the foreground, but it helps me get more familiar with GIMP.
- Here are the three images I started with. The cactus is about 250mm (10″) high, sitting on the living room table and photographed from below.
- The rocks are big ones, in a pile taller than my head.
- A generic bit of cloudy sky, taken earlier in the year.
For a change, we drove up the hills south of the city, hoping for a nice sunset. Unfortunately there was a huge southerly change rolling in but we got some reasonable shots, and spotted some good locations for another trip when the weather is right.
- Some more shots of the sunset
- Here’s a wider view showing the hills rolling away to the massive bank of cloud that is a southerly storm coming in.
- And this is a handy (free) application called “The Photographer’s Ephemeris” that lets you see where the sunset/sunrise/moonset, etc, fall – overlaid on Google Maps/Satellite.