So in the near future there will be some time-lapse movies on here of various places in NYC that I shot whilst visiting my brother, along with my lovely lady. I knew I wanted to do some time-lapse of crowds in motion, but how to steady the camera? Carrying a tripod around the whole trip would be very tedious, and plus it takes up a lot of room on the sidewalk. Solution: one of those gorillapods–you can even wrap it around a signpost and put it above head-level! I bought a gorillapod with ball head expressly for this purpose, and you can see it in action in the photo here. I think it performed admirably well, although it is definitely way more susceptible to wind gusts than a normal tripod.
For anyone curious, the gorillapod actually did stay right in position as it is shown here, except for when a gust of wind would blow the signpost, or my hand went up there to fiddle with it.
I might have to start a new series of posts showing the gorillapod in extreme action poses.
I love it when I can make a post using the “Moment of Genesis” tag. That in itself is a tiny triumph. I think this one qualifies:
In the mail a couple weeks ago I recieved all the little bits of plastic I’ll need to construct an HO-scale replica of the steel viaduct at Mine Creek. This is a giant trestle along the Milwaukee Road mainline in the Snoqualmie Valley of Washington state, and indeed my replica will be GIANT as well. Check out the whole setup below, with the locos and some inspiring artwork seen in the background:
Someday I dream of being ‘that-guy’ with the huge attic empire of a sprawling model railroad. To help that dream come true, I plan on building smaller dioramas or set-pieces which will someday become the focal points of a large sized train layout. This huge bridge will most definitely be one of these!
I will probably still need to pick up a few more minor pieces to model the top deck, the railing, and the catenary posts (those parts that hold up the overhead wire), but the major pieces are all here now, which is very exciting. Micro Engineering, the company who manufacturers these bridge kits, is one of the best companies out there. When this bridge is done, it will be spectacular indeed! Also, it will probably be a very non-trivial endeavor to build it! These are advanced-level kits, not intended for the faint-of-heart. Oh boy.
Anyway, it will probably be a while before I actually break all this open, airbrush it, cut it from the sprues and then build it. There’s a house move in the near future and all this stuff is a can of worms to be respected. But still, it’s here, and I see the potential in it. This thing is gonna be AWESOME.
This weekend I attended a Star Party (aka an astronomer hangout session) with the North Houston Astronomy Club and took along my timelapse setup. I got to meet some cool people who are way into the stars, and got in some solid time staring at the heavens during the Orionid Meteor Shower. I’m pretty psyched about the resultant video below because it combines a whole bunch of techniques and tricks that I have never tried before.
Public service reminder: hit the 1080p and fullscreen it. We’re looking at stars. They’re small!
For anyone who’s wondering, those 4 tall poles in the timelapse where the sun is still going down are actually a radio telescope, set up to listen to the sounds of Jupiter as it passes southernly-overhead in the middle of the night. Bonus points for exotic telescopes!
I had done “star trails” images before by using this simple, free program called StarStaX, but I hadn’t realized that the same program can save a picture at every step during the composite-making process, which gives these really neat star trails videos. I also found a photoshop actions file as blogged about on Owen Scharlotte’s site that let me do the fading-startrails effect. This is my first time using either of those techniques. (UPDATED…TWICE!: Owen had a broken link, which is now fixed! His actions are now more sophisticated as well, so click here to download the version I used, which I’ll leave posted as it was requested of me via email from a reader. Please note: I can’t provide technical assistance with this actions file. You’ll have to read Owen’s website and figure out on your own how it works. You should check out his site anyway, as it’s good.)
As with my last attempt, I did a batch process on all 1,145 photos before compiling them into the video. I figured out how to remove hot pixels from the dark parts of the sky (using a subtraction layer on a noise reference image), but I still haven’t mastered removing them from lighter regions near the horizon. There’s definite room for improvement. Another very cool thing: I learned a few neat, new tricks with Shadow/Highlights in Photoshop as well as Curves; two functions I use all the time. Hah! And I arrogantly had assumed I knew all there was to know about these functions! Enlightening and humbling in the same moment. This whole deal was certainly a beneficial learning experience.
But stepping back from the technical aspect of all this, and speaking of humbling, have a look at those stars. Wowzers.
Something that really knocked me out that night was seeing “the great nebula in Andromeda”, aka M31, aka the Andromeda Galaxy. Maaan. I mean… every star you see in the sky is an incomprehensible distance away from us. Jeez, really I can’t even genuinely comprehend the distance from Earth to Venus, let alone the distance from Earth to Proxima Centauri… But holy %*#^ Andromeda, that’s 2.5 million light years from Earth. And you can see it with your naked eye if the sky has clear “seeing”. Hanging out with a bunch of astronomers and having them point out all these fascinating things in the sky was really inspiring. There’s certainly more sensational things to be seen in the sky (Jupiter and it’s four Galilean moons was truly a sight to behold) but looking up and spotting another galaxy, well that blew my mind. I checked it out through both binoculars and a pretty excellent telescope as well. No matter how you see it, it’s dim. But it’s there, and one of the top mind-boggling sights of my year.
You can see it, as my camera saw it on the left. I drew in purple dashed lines connecting some of the nearby stars in the Andromeda constellation that make it easier to spot. The galaxy itself is circled in green. As you can see it’s not much more than a faint blur. But man oh man, did those photons ever come a long way before, by sheer random chance, happening to land upon the image sensor of my camera. At the time that those photons left the Andromeda Galaxy, the genus Homo had literally just begun. Homo Habilis was the species. Definitely still very very ape-like. By contrast, Homo Sapiens emerged 250,000 years ago; an order of magnitude more recently. Wow.
Even though there are fantastic pictures out there of such objects as Andromeda, it’s still so very powerful to see it with your own eyes–to have your own retinas collect some photons that traveled 2.5 million years to reach them. Seeing that is ….. well it’s breathtaking.
Meeting other people who are jazzed about the sky was a highlight of the evening as well. One thing I had hoped to do was learn a bit about telescopes since it’s somewhat of a long-term goal of mine to acquire one. I met a guy named Rusty who had just gotten a brand new Orion model off eBay. It was his first real night out with it, so he was still getting things dialed in, but overall he had it in pretty great form. Seeing his excitement over the new instrument was infectious and definitely made me want to go do some further research. But talking to him at length also made me realize that I have 100% no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to ‘scopes. It’s going to be quite some time before I know enough to even consider a purchase. In the meantime, I think I might invest in a good, lightweight, comfortable pair of binoculars. I had read people saying that this was a great first step into astronomy online, but I sort of scoffed at the idea, thinking, naahh, what I want is a badass telescope! And yes, that IS what I want, but still, a good pair of binoculars is certainly a fun, portable, and instantly-maneuverable way to check out the sky. I think I will be getting a pair.
Looks like they’ve posted up the hour-by-hour schedule for Bear Creek 2011. And man, it’s a doozy. I’m not sure when I will have a chance to breathe with that much funky music filling up the air. Both the blessing and the curse of a fest like this is that jeez, there is just SO-MUCH-AWESOME occuring all at the same time that there is simply no way one can catch it all. I see several spots on the timetable with some agonizing choices–for instance Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe is playing at the same time as Medeski, Martin, and Wood. Ahhh! What do I do?!?
Here’s a silly MS paint synopsis of how my day will go on Saturday:
Tomorrow I’m going to go do a little stargazing and hopefully come back with some new timelapse, startrails images, and maybe a little knowledge of telescopes depending on who all ends up at the Orionids Meteor Shower Star Party.
I found this free program called Stellarium that basically loads up an Ultrasweet 3D Ultramap of the sky… which you can do tons of helpful stuff with: you can enable/disable things like constallations (lines or drawings!), labels, satellite orbits, see through the Earth, or remove the atmospheric haze. You can zoom in on anything, you can click on anything and it tells you what it is, you can sort objects by type (planets/nebula/galaxies), and there’s a night mode so everything turns red (to save your nightvision if you’re using it outdoors at night). You can advance (or rewind) the time to anytime you like, and reposition yourself anywhere on Earth to see how the sky looks. Man! That’s just, like, badass!
It’s like Google Earth, for the sky. I’m pretty amazed that you can zoom way, way in and click on ANY star. I don’t know the last time you checked, but there are A LOT OF STARS in the sky.
I think I’ll be using this a bunch to learn more about the heavens. Seriously this is mondo-helpful. If you’re into the sky, even just a little bit, you gotsta check this out.
Okay, not gonna lie: extra-large size awesome news struck on Friday and I’m totally not able to play it cool about this.
The most excellent people at Madison House Publicity have helped me obtain a media pass and photo credentials for the 2011 Bear Creek Music Festival.
Just gonna sit back and absorb that one for a minute…
Ah yes, that’s ah, well, you might say that it’s, um, geez, what can you say about that?? It’s gonna be flippin amazing.
In the coming weeks I’ll be adding several posts leading up to the festival, and then once I’m there, I intend to upload photos and do a little live-blogging as the fest unfolds. Then for (many?) weeks afterward there will be a steady stream of photos and other coverage. I’m not even sure what all that will entail yet. Being the ambitious guy I am, I intend to try to make the most of it.
So consider this like a tiny preface to a novel that you’re about to read (and see and listen to!) on here. It’s going to go deep into the artistry of funk music, like I’ve only scratched the surface of before. This is something I’m terrifically excited about. For serious.
Super close up portrait with the 10-24mm, CUSTOM white balance on-camera, suckas. That’s right.
Very curiously, this wine went down nice and smooth the night I opened it; now one night later (with the use of a vacuum cork) it tastes like it’s gone a teensy bit sour. That’s really weird. Almost like it was already decanted. Typically I open a bottle, drink about half, and save the other half for later. The second half is, with very few exceptions, always better. Not this time. Weird!!
So I’ve been enjoying the fruits of my labors for quite some time now, by holding on to these speakers I built for my brother. Last weekend we worked out dates for me to come visit him in NYC and deliver the speakers, so they’ll soon have a new home. I’m excited to give them to their rightful owner…. but I would be totally lying if I didn’t admit that I’ll be very sad to see them go as well! These Scanspeak tweeters are detailed and exquisite as can be. I’m probably going to have to build something to replace them because I know I’m gonna miss these so bad when they’re gone! Plus, they’re GREEN. I mean, how often do you see green speakers? Shown above is a view from the backside; I mounted the terminals vertically, with positive on top. That will make it easier to figure out which is which in a dark corner of a room. I also offset them to one side so they’d be easier to reach. Since this is my third major speaker design, I took a metal-ink marker and wrote “JB mk.III” and LEFT, to denote that the L-pads should face the listener (so you can always check their setting with a glance)
Anyway, they turned out pretty kickass, and the last thing I need to do to them before they’re ready for a plane ride is to take some PVC pipe adhesive and cement the flared ports so they cannot come apart. Since you cut them to your own desired length, they need to be glued together before they’re “finished”. As you can see in the below picture, looking through the woofer opening and into the cabinet, the adhesive sort of melts the plastic a little; when I wiped the excess away, it left a little grungy residue behind. These are the little secrets that only the speakerbuilder will ever know.
I also thought it’d be nice to post an image of the crossovers mounted inside the cabinet. As you can see, I’ve got some sheets of foam about 1.5-2″ thick that go over the walls of the cabinet to dampen the internal reflections. I took a small piece of that and put it underneath the wooden backplate of the crossover before screwing it down into the bottom of the cabinet, so that it should never rattle when the volume gets bumping. For anyone who’s curious, these crossovers are pre-built ones made by Parts Express, and have a 12dB slope at a frequency of 2.5kHz. Obviously you can get better materials (more $$$) and go nuts on crossovers, but I believe the money is better spent on quality drivers; plus these things were on sale at the time and it was too hard to pass them up for $25 a pop. Bam, done.
Servin’ up another mixset to add to the list of original content around here; I call it the “Late Nite Chill on the Lake”. This is another byproduct of the Bill’s Boat Cassette Project, only unlike the previous two “Cactus Vinyl Funk Mix” and “BOATCHASE!” this one is a descendant of the mix which was imprinted to ferromagnetic tape, labeled “Heady Downtempo”. The tape was version 1, this is version 5. Click on the image below to stream it from the music player on the navigation bar!
This mix is intended to be something you’d put on after a long day of cruising around on the lake, tubing, drinking, goofing off, enjoying the sunlight and the fresh air. The sun goes down, you turn on the running lights, pop open one last brew (or maybe the second or third to last), and slip this tape into the deck. Or this could be what you put on the stereo after you get back to the lakeside house after a day on the water. In any event, it’s the soundtrack to the end of a long day of good times.
Tons of artists suffer from the desire to keep tweaking their works ad nauseum, to the point where one begins to wonder, “Will it ever be ready”? This mix was suffering from the same nagging feeling that I could still improve it, but finally I decided to just shove it out onto the stage and say okay, OCD adjustments OVER, this is it. Some of the neat tweaks you guys might appreciate knowing about:
the sounds of the Mediterranian Sea can be heard between tracks 2 and 3. I recorded these on MiniDisc in 2004. Finally I put them to use here.
the very start of the mix begins with the sound of me taking a cassette out of its plastic case, opening my cassette deck, putting the tape in, closing the door, pressing the power button, and hitting play.
the end of track 1 and the beginning of the last track were run through my Glass Nexus effect pedal, providing a large reverb and some delay. On track 1 the effect starts out light and gets progressively thicker; on the last track the effects start out thick and fade back into to clean. I tried using the software reverbs on the PC and they just weren’t cutting it–the Glass Nexus has an awesomely realistic ‘verb.
some of the chatter (in French) before the last track I recorded at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris from 2005. There is also a really cool sound effect that I included, which plays through the airport preceeding any announcement over the intercom.
update: the people have demanded a tracklist, so here she be:
1. Global Communication – “5:23”
2. Leggo Beast – Bizzare Love Pentangle
3. Tipper – Everything Is Everything
4. Visit Venus – First Man On The Moog
5. Tom Middleton – Astral Projection
6. Blue Planet – Chaser
7. Bonobo – The Shark
8. Swag – Aug Munch
9. The Karminsky Experience – Departures