The last day of 2011 was beautiful here in south Florida. Started off cool (chilly, even), but warmed nicely throughout the day. Since it was the first Saturday after Christmas, I was out in the field on the West Palm Beach Christmas Bird Count, and the weather proved mildly conducive to the birds we were seeking; a morning's work yielded 50 species in some pretty marginal habitat. I'll have more on the bird count later. I spent the afternoon at the beach with Eric, who decided that a dead-tired-from-birding Daddy had no excuse not to take him, and I'm glad we went. The weather was just so lovely; much nicer than the previous two times we'd gone, with 20-mph easterlies howling at us, sending sand stinging against our legs and into our eyes. I actually wore my parka the last time I went to the beach! But December 31, 2011, was absolutely idyllic:
Way back in the fall of 2008, I got the nature geek's equivalent of the Holy Grail: a digital camera with an adapter for a spotting scope. Thus began the era of digiscoping on Benweb. The camera was a Nikon Coolpix P5100, a 12-megapixel wonder with more shooting modes than anyone could possibly know what to do with: video, stop motion, all the standard shooting modes (P, M, S, A), etc. But the two things that really made it exciting were that it had a strong, light magnesium housing (lightweight cameras don't overbalance the scope as much as heavier ones do), and that it had a threaded front lens(thus allowing a simple connection to the adapter for my spotting scope). I was able to shoot the moon and terrestrial subjects with equal ease, enjoying the superb depth of field and ability to focus provided by the spotting scope; all I needed the digicam to do was get out of the way, which it usually did. I usually left the camera attached to the scope so I wouldn't have to search for it when I wanted to go out and make some pictures. All in all, it made for a portable rig that was easy to just grab and go. But the other night I paid a high price for that convenience: I was trying to be stealthy, keeping the lights off sso as not to wake the baby I'd just spent an hour putting to sleep. I'm obviously not cut out to be a cat burglar, however, because in my stealth I managed to bump into the tripod, knocking it over right onto the delicate camera connection Result: a still-working camera, but one that was no longer capable of digiscoping with the adapter: the screws that formerly held the lens thread ring onto the camera face were wrenched right through the (in hindsight relatively weak) magnesium housing.
Well, patience pays off. Last night I got a pretty decent shot of Day 6 of this month's lunation:
Today was a glorious Martin Luther King day, except for the fact that I didn't get to celebrate it as a holiday. Instead, I was inside, chained to my desk all day. So when I got home tonight, and finally finished the last conference call of the day, I grabbed the opportunity for my "garbage moment" with both hands. (If you're familiar with the cute but not particularly funny comic, Rose is Rose, you know what a garbage moment is: that moment when Dad gets to commune with the great outdoors while taking care of the domestic chores.) And tonight's garbage moment included a glimpse of a stunning three-day-old moon: shots of the 1-day-old moon and 2-day-old moon. I doubt I'll be able to get the complete lunation, but these three days are a pretty good start! As you can see from the relatively poor quality of the photos, I have much to learn about digiscoping the moon. These days, all the best earth-based photography seems to be accomplished via expensive CCD camera outfits on expensive scopes, or on cheap webcams, which can take hundreds of frames and stack them all together to achieve some incredibly fine detail. My shots are just digiscoped: I slap my point and shoot Nikon onto a little bracket that fits over the eyepiece of my little 60-mm spotting scope. I don't expect perfection; in fact, I'm tickled that tonight's shots turned out so well (the first two shots are from Saturday and Sunday, respectively; in all photos, south is up and east is to the right of the image):Peirce and Picard in the large crater Cleomedes (the first large crater "below" Mare Crisium; right below that is Burckhardt and then Geminus). Well, you can see Peirce and Picard if you have the original image and zoom in on it a little bit; on this platform you really have to know what you're looking at to tell they're there. Or you can click the link above, which will take you to Antonio Cidadao's shot of Peirce; you really should spend some time on his site if you're at all interested in the moon. But look how different the moon is after 25 hours; last night the stars of the show were the four-crater chain Langrenus-Vendelinus-Petavius-Furnerius; tonight the star attractions are the Mare Crisium herself and surrounds. Two other craters are fairly prominent about halfway between the L-V-P-F chain and the terminator: these are Snellius (the one that looks somewhat oval, although it is, like most craters on the moon, pretty close to circular) and Stevinus. Hope you enjoy these little lunacies of mine; maybe I'll get all of 2010's Winter Moon on "film."
On the weekends I get to spend a lot more time with my son than I can during the week. There's no rush to get out the door; no meeting to prepare for; no freeway traffic to fret about. The morning stroll can last quite a bit longer; we can take more than one, if the fancy strikes us, as it did today. Even during the week, though, when time is at a premium, Eric and I always find the time to go for a morning stroll, unless it's pouring down rain. It's usually just down to the corner and back, but we have to do it. I'm not sure why I'm so rigorous about getting the boy outside whenever I can; maybe I hope that some of my love of nature will rub off on him. Maybe it's just to give his stomach time to settle in and take care of the medication (his GER is getting better, but we're still dosing just to be sure). Maybe I just want to be outside myself, and since I'm in charge of the lad, he gets to come along, will he, nill he. This morning, though, as we went out for our predawn (yes, daylight saving time lasts into November now, so dawn comes late to south Florida) stroll, I saw something that, after the typical fruitless attempts to get the boy to look at something so far away (he might have seen it, he might not have...), made me run back into the house and set the boy up in his pack and play: Read more
Green Cay Nature Center hosted its second annual Migration Day on Saturday, October 18th. Despite having laryngitis last year, I was apparently popular enough as a speaker to be invited back for a second time! This time I was able to go around the boardwalk once before my talk, which was very nice. It gave me a chance to practice digiscoping in ideal conditions: lots of light, wide open vistas, and stationary birds. Here are a few shots:Florida Native Plant Society website; go to a local chapter meeting (in Palm Beach, Broward, or Dade county). Learn what to do, when, and how. Then get out there and help!
Last night, I actually had a moment or two after putting the boy to bed. So I went outside and fiddled around a bit more with my digiscoping setup. I took about a dozen shots of the full moon (actually, about 28 hours past full) in a rather stiff breeze. One shot, of the entire batch, actually came out fairly well. On the left is the shot as it comes out of the Nikon's memory chip: lots of color that really wasn't there in the live image, or in the LCD screen until the camera started to actually take the shot. The second shot, with the color removed, shows much more accurately what I saw on the LCD and expected to see in the final product.
Well, I finally got a chance to figure out how the threaded adapter works to mate my new digicam to my trusty Televue-60 spotting scope. Here's how it works: First, as I did in part one, unscrew the thread cover from the camera. Then attach the camera adapter to the camera. Now, in part two, the new stuff: Read more
The birthday wish list of a naturalist is pretty simple: books and gear. Gear and books. Maybe some new gear and some old books? How about some new gear and some new books? While I didn't get that shiny iPhone everyone seems to want (there's always next year!), I got something that should turn out to be a whole lot more useful, and that doesn't have the dreaded monthly contract: a high-resolution point-and-shoot digital camera: Read more