Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Tomatoes? Not So Good.

We planted about 7 or 8 tomato plants in the spring, some of which were from the seeds from France. The tomatoes were looking good, and they were all over the plants.  It looked like a bumper crop this year.  But then just as the individual fruit became ripe, they were infested with bugs.  And if there were no bugs, there were these little brown craters on the surface of the fruit!  We did get some good ones out of both gardens, but not that many.  This is sad that so many have gone to waste.  I started reading about spraying for bugs, but it puts important insects like bees at risk.  What to do...

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Selfie, With 300mm Lens

Sometimes it gets boring waiting for a picture to happen.  This was the case for two days last week, waiting for the clouds to clear enough to photograph Venus and Jupiter.  So being bored, I was looking around for something to do.  I decided to use my toy camera and do a selfie of myself and my setup with my 300mm lens at the park where I photographed the conjunction.  It's kind of pretty with the remains of the sunset and the deep blue sky.

Monday, August 29, 2016

"Save Money"

Now that the weather is less hazy and the skies are clearer, you are likely to see the Geico Skytypers flying over populated areas, like beaches, or the North Shore of Long Island.  For me the first clue that they are around is the very distinctive sound of the throaty roar of five big radial engines as they approach from a distance.  There is no other sound like it.  So then I run outside and start searching the skies.  There are five aircraft flying in a line, side by side.  They are North American AT-6 "Texans" with 600 horsepower nine-cylinder engines.  They make the white smoke by injecting mineral oil into the engine exhaust, and the planes are all connected by computers to sychronize the smoke puffs that create the letters.  I had always wanted to fly with them to do photographs, but it never happened.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Mulligan

A "Mulligan" is when a player gets a second chance to perform a certain move or action.  That seems appropriate because yesterday I didn't get a good look at the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter.  Tonight there were fewer clouds, so I brought my Canon 6D and a 300mm f/2.8 lens down to the beach, and managed to get this photograph.  Venus is the brighter of the two objects, at the upper left.  Jupiter is more toward the center of the frame.  The other two bright objects are landing lights on an aircraft inbound to LaGuardia  Be sure and click on this photo to enlarge it and see it with more detail.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Beautiful Sunset With Clouds - Phooey!

This photograph is taken from Memorial Park, overlooking Hempstead Harbor, at sunset.  It is beautiful because of the clouds.  It is also maddening because of the clouds!  And that's because, behind the clouds, the planets Jupiter and Venus are in conjunction, which means they are really close to each other.  Close, as in only 1/2 degree apart!  I brought some 15 power binoculars with me, and decided to go down to the water to better see the western horizon.  It was still light out, and I was able to see both planets, through some of the thinner clouds, for a period of about 5 minutes.  This would have been an astounding thing to see, had both planets been in a dark sky.  If you missed this, it will happen again in 2065.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Color Green

Desperate for a picture for today, I headed out to the garden.  I had in mind to check out the tomatoes.  We have a billion ripe ones - more on that in a later post - stay tuned.  So I did some photographs of the ripe ones, and then while looking around, this tomato jumped out at me.  It was the green on green color pallet, next to a flower garden full of brilliant colors.  This is another one of those French tomatoes  given to us by our friends from across town.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


I brought this telescope into the house, so I could disassemble it to clean the telescope mirror.  I never even considered that this would happen - that one of the cats would SIT in the telescope!  The good news is that the mirror in the bottom of the telescope is covered by a Plexiglass cover, and then on top of that is a one-inch thick foam rubber pad.  So the delicate surface is well protected.  Given that the mirror is safe, then I can laugh out loud, once again, at cat behavior!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Drawing Craters on the Moon

I did the program tonight at our astronomy club.  The project was to learn how to draw features on the surface of the moon, like craters.  They viewed one image of a crater projected on the screen which they used to draw from.  I can't take credit for the idea of the talk.  I attended this talk at the Northeast Astronomy Forum back in the spring, given by the president of the Astronomical League.  The author was kind enough to send me his Powerpoint presentation which I presented tonight.  Here's the really cool part - almost everyone said "I'm not an artist, I can't possibly do this."  I suggested they try anyway.  So many of the people were stunned that they could make such a nice drawing!  It was really rewarding to see how happy and surprised they were.    Please click on the second photograph to see the drawing in detail.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Approaching Thunderstorm

Does this look like the end of the world, or what!  It was pretty exciting around here with thunderstorms day after day, in the last two weeks.  I was headed into the grocery store and the sky was a bit dark in the northwest, but no big deal.  It didn't take me long to shop, and when I came out this is what I saw.  I only had a couple of minutes to grab a few frames, and then the rain began to fall.  I just made it back to the car, unscathed.  Thunderstorms really are magnificent!

Monday, August 22, 2016

"Atomic Accidents"

OK, so this is a crazy story!  Kathy and I took an AAA Driver Improvement Course today.  We were listening to the instructor as she taught the course, and I noticed this guy who was not paying attention to the course.  I took this photo thinking that it would be another "not paying attention" photo.  On our first break, I went over to the guy - I have no idea why - and asked what book he was reading.  He was reading "Command and Control" a book about nuclear weapons and all the accidents that have happened since nuclear weapons were invented!  I could not believe it!  I have been reading a book called "Atomic Accidents," about all the accidents from atomic research, and building atomic weapons and nuclear power plants since the 1940's.  I was stunned that two people in a room of 40 people were reading such exotic books!

Sunday, August 21, 2016


For years, when I grilled salmon, I put a mustard and dill sauce on it.  One day, when I was at our local grocery store, I saw this Mediterranean Salmon in the prepared food case.  I didn't think that it looked all that appetizing, with a few pieces of scallion on top of the salmon.  But it served as an inspiration for me to go off on my own, into the depths of the internet!  I came up with a recipe that sounded really good, with all kinds of ingredients.  Tomatoes, black olives, garlic, capers, and some herbs.  This is what my version of the dish looks like.  The thing is, I am pretty good at food photography, and this is just a snapshot of my dish.  This is not a real food photograph.  But you get the idea.  The dish is the store is not all that appetizing, is it?

Saturday, August 20, 2016


 The Cat-In-The-Box, indeed.  These cats are so funny.  Well, actually, I guess all cats are funny.  If there is any new thing around, then they have to sniff it, or paw it, or lie down on it, or, in the case of a box. get in it.  It brings them such joy.  Until I come along, and then they look at me suspiciously.  You can see Sam here is not sure if I am going to tell him to get out of the box.  But all I want to do is make sure I get a photograph of this, which I did.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Hole in the Fence

As I rode my bike past one of the golf courses I pass every day, I noticed the Cumulus clouds on the horizon, and they are beautiful.  At first I kept on riding and then thought: "Hey, stop and shoot this!  What's wrong with you?"  So I turned around and went back.  As I got close to where I wanted to shoot, a young woman with a backpack came out from where the fence was.  I was wondering how I was going to get a clear shot, because the fence has vines growing on it.  I parked my bike and looked  to where the woman came from, and found a hole in the fence.  So I went through the hole and managed to get this shot.  I thought the clouds looked so much better in black & white.

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Five members of our astronomy club drove out to Holbrook for a Moon watch at the library.  It was a children's library and a whole bunch of people showed up.  We set up our telescopes and looked at Saturn, and Mars, and then when the full moon rose, we explored that. The children were wonderful, and they were amazed that they could see the "real" Saturn and Mars.  It is one of the most rewarding  things I do, to let people see the Moon and the planets in a telescope, for the very first time, in many cases. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Who's Not Paying Attention?

I was leading the astronomy meeting as I do every Wednesday night, and making announcements about upcoming events, when I looked down and saw this scene!  The woman illuminated by the iPad screen jumped out at me right away, then I noticed the woman next to her reading her iPad.  I thought it made a funny picture.  Obviously I don't have the magnetic personality that would get everyone's attention and hold it.  Oh well...   :-)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Coming Storm!

So I heard thunder and checked my iPhone for the radar image and saw it was headed right for us. Hmmmmmm… Where should I go to protect myself from the lightning?  Oh, I know… The Beach!  Why don’t I go down by the water and watch the storm come across the sound!  What a great idea, right?  I set up my camera on a tripod, and used a manual setting.  I set the exposure for 6 seconds at a time.  I open the shutter, and hope for lightning.  The shutter closes and I make the next exposure. I continued this for about half an hour, taking about 125 photographs.  I only had lightning in about 20 of them.  But I did get this one!  I remember a saying back in the newspaper days when I would come back from a difficult shoot, saying "Oh man, I only got ONE shot!"  The editor would always say, "One shot is all you need!"

Monday, August 15, 2016

My French Tomato! :-)

It made me laugh to put the title I did, on this blog!   Larry, our former neighbor who moved across town was in France having dinner with his wife Nancy.  He said that he tasted a tomato, and he realized it was something special.  So he saved the seeds and brought them home.  This spring he planted the seeds, and a while later brought us three small tomato plants.  And now a couple of months later, here is one of the tomatoes.  I will have to wait to give an accurate taste test - I have only had one of the tomatoes so far.  But isn't this an interesting looking specimen?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Twins!

These are the twins!  It is so much fun to see them, because they are growing so fast!  They are playing with the coolest thing - it is a tunnel that collapses like a slinky for traveling, and then when it is time for them to play in it, it springs open.  They had so much fun crawling back and forth through this toy.  Grayson is in the tunnel, and his twin sister, Evelyn is watching from the background.  Don't you just love his grin!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Bobbsey Twins

We had our family picnic today in Connecticut, and at the last minute Kelsey decided to drive down from Northern Maine, which is a seven hour trip!  It was great to see her - it's been a while.  This is a photo of my sister Karen, on the left, and her daughter Kelsey on the right.  They were getting dressed for the party and then noticed that they were dressing the same.  Thus "The Bobbsey Twins."  Perfect occasion for a portrait.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Well Used Cookbook

The first picture is that of Kathy's Betty Crocker Cookbook that was given to her by a roommate back in 1967.  I love that you can see how well used it is, with spots, drips, smudges and spills all over the pages.  There is a glass bowl of freshly peeled peaches sitting on the cookbook, in preparation for the baking of a Raspberry Peach Pie.  The pie is being made for the Fourth of July family picnic.  No, that's not a misprint - we had such a hard time trying to pick a date for the July 4th picnic that it ended up being moved to August!  Does this look good, or what!  My sisters will report back tomorrow when they get to eat it!

Thursday, August 11, 2016


How's this for a photograph!  I was on the way home from picking up dinner - don't tell anyone but it was Colonel Sanders tonight!  There had been thunder around all afternoon but it wasn't until I was driving along the harbor that I saw this.  It is unusual to see a thunderstorm from the side - usually it is a squall line moving through.  The thing that first caught my eye, other than the dark clouds overhead, was the rain core - the medium gray shapes streaming toward the ground.  I don't remember seeing that before.  Thunderstorms are powerful and dangerous, and so incredible beautiful.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"This is the church, this is the steeple..."

As I was leaving Mass MoCA, I found myself driving toward this church.  I was stunned to see the structure of heavy timbers tapering from wide to narrow.  I immediately realized that it was the framework of this church steeple.  I parked my car, and rushed over to spend some time photographing the church and the ruins of the steeple.  Turns out that this church, St. Francis of Assisi, was built in 1863, and eight years ago was abandoned as the Catholic Diocese consolidated churches.  I have seen references to North Adams, Mass, as the city of steeples.  Interesting that the three steeples in the distance, in the lower photograph, are all tall and slim, as was this steeple before demolition.  It just seems so sad that such a beautiful structure and steeple will no longer exist.  In many communities unused churches around the country have been repurposed.  That was the hope here, but there was never a critical mass to save the building before falling masonry that landed on sidewalks and streets, requiring the immediate removal of the steeple.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

"Cubic Sky"

Mass MoCA never disappoints!  This piece is called "Cubic Sky" by Fred Tomaselli.  These objects are plexiglass cubes, illuminated from inside.  They were painted black, and then the paint was scratched off where all the stars were meant to appear.  They are suspended from the ceiling in a completely dark room.  It was just amazing to enter this room, and after my eyes got accustomed to the darkness,  I discovered some beanbag chairs on the floor.  So I sat down, and just stared at the cubes of stars.  It was so incredibly peaceful that I stayed here for quite a while.  This is such a brilliant piece of sculpture

Monday, August 8, 2016

Looking at Sunspots

As I mentioned yesterday, those that came to look carefully at my 1" telescope were really fascinated by the project.  This young woman came along, and was amazed that she could actually see sunspots which the telescope projected on to a piece of paper.  I pointed out that there were four spots in two separate groups, and she said "There is another one right there!"  And she was right!  I had overlooked the fainter spot.  If you can see it, it counts!  It doesn't hurt that she has much younger eyes!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Ghosts of Telescopes

When telescopes are used at night for stargazing, it is important that the mirrors be at the same temperature as the night sky, to avoid warm air coming off the mirrors and that air distorting the image.  So when telescopes are left on the observing field during the day, they are covered with mylar film to reflect sunlight and keep the telescopes cool.  Of course, when a whole field of telescopes have these coverings they look like ghosts, to me.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

I Won a Prize at Stellafane

I am stunned, and really pleased.  I wanted to display the telescope I built for observing sunspots, at Stellafane, but there was nothing really in particular about this scope and I had not ground and polished the lens.  But I wanted to show it to people so decided to enter it in the competition, under "Mechanical."  They gave me second prize in the "Special Category" as it's called.  I think they really liked that I was doing science with this telescope.  When it was on display, about a dozen people or so came by to look at it, and to ask detailed questions.  The people who were fascinated about the project were really impressed and wanted to take pictures of it. So that was fun.  I won a prize in mechanical design here, back in 1992, I think it was, for a telescope I built to take to Australia, that folded up on a board.

Friday, August 5, 2016

A Small Request

I received the following request from my friend Dean in Tucson:  "How 'bout showing some actual pictures of the star party or telescopes this year?  You always find interesting things on the way, but some of us would find the reason you are there interesting!"  He's right!  I don't think I ever show photographs of the telescope maker's conference!  So I will do that this year.  This is Ryan from down below Richmond, VA, and he is a professional telescope maker.  I spotted this beauty from 100 feet away!  Because of the single aluminum ring that acts as the cage - the "cage" holds the secondary mirror and the focuser for the eyepiece.  What's brilliant about this design is the low mirror box with the oversized bearings.  This is what I am planning to do when I get working on my 18" f/4.3 telescope.  Seeing Ryan's handiwork has inspired me to get back to my project!  That is the power of Stellafane!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Black-eyed Susans

Busy day today.  I was at the Hartness House Workshop, for a conference called "Sub-Arc-Second Spatial Resolution Imaging."  You all would have loved it!  The speakers were first rate and there was a great turn out.  Then we had dinner and the keynote address by someone from the U.S. Naval Observatory, and then I drove up to Breezy Hill where the convention is and where everyone set up their telescopes.  It was a nice clear night and I hated to drag myself away, but I have to get up in time for breakfast tomorrow, or starve...   :-)   So in the interest of expediency, I am posting another favorite photograph from yesterday.  This one is also from the Vermont Welcome Center.  I promise to post some photos from the convention in the next few days.  In the morning I head off to Mass MoCA, so I will be tempted to post something from that trip!  And, hey, this is not a bad photo!  I forgot to mention that I was interviewed by a local paper which is doing a story on Stellafane.  You can find the interview online, here:

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Ghosts of Farmers Past

I stopped at the Vermont Welcome Center, which is right after you cross over the line between Massachusetts and Vermont.  Every year I come up with at least one photograph here, on the grounds surrounding the visitor's center.  I think I have seen these old farm implements before, but I don't remember that they had mowed around them, and mowed pathways so that you could get up close to them.  These are wonderful old rusted examples of early farm equipment.  I am almost positive that I remember seeing my grandfather Spencer on one of these hay rakes, pulled by a team of two horses as he raked up hay that had been cut and left to dry.  Seeing them all around the grounds got me thinking of all the farmers who used this equipment in the years before it ended up here. One of the lessons here is how many ways you can photograph a single object.  The middle image is only included because it is so abstract.  So which is your favorite? 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

High Line Leftover

I was going through some of the stuff I shot on the High Line a while back, and found this shot that I never posted.  I saw this wall with the door in it, and just stood there shooting as people walked by.  This isn't perfect, but it is close to what I wanted, with our eyes going back and forth between the two couples, which I think makes it interesting. NOTE!  I am headed to Vermont for 5 days for the telescope makers conference.  If you don't see any new posts, it means I am off the grid, so no need to worry.

Monday, August 1, 2016

More Choices

Help me pick the better photograph, again, please.  I went over to the side garden, where Kathy's Zinnias are exploding.  A beautiful thing to see.  So I spent some time looking for an interesting composition.  Then after shooting some pictures with my regular Nikon lens, I went inside and got my "lensbaby."  It is essentially a magnifying glass mounted on a device that holds it in front of the camera and allows me to focus.  I have used it before, and the danger is that it may just seem like a cheap trick.  Which photograph do you like the best?