Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Tuesday is our day for coffee and a donut at Dunkin Donuts. It's our ritual. It was raining this morning, and on the way out of the store I spotted this oil slick on the driveway. If it hadn't been raining, the dripping oil would have just made a wet spot on the blacktop. But when the oil and water mix, the result is this amazing rainbow of colors. If it was just a circle I probably never would have noticed it, but with the strange shapes coming out from the colored center, it looked to me like a psychedelic comet!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:27 PM
Monday, April 29, 2019
We went out for ice cream after dinner last night, and on the way back home, as is our usual custom, we drove down Sea Cliff Avenue, which is the main drag in town. We just like to see if anything is going on. What was really cool was the sun had moved out from under a cloud deck and this wonderful light streamed down the street and lit up the fronts of the buildings on the south side of the street. What glorious light! Please click on the image to see it in more detail.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:52 PM
Sunday, April 28, 2019
When we arrived at church today, the first thing we saw were these beautiful Daffodils in bloom in the planter out in front of the church. It really brightened a gray day. This is St. Brigid's Church in Westbury where we have been parishioners for perhaps 15 years now. It is a beautiful church, and it was built in 1915 in 12th Century Romanesque/Norman style. The stone used to built it was from the bedrock being removed from Manhattan as the subways were being dug. Please click on this picture to see it in more detail.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 6:06 PM
Saturday, April 27, 2019
I may have to call this week "Infrared Week." I am having so much fun exploring how plants look with my magic camera! I have been out and around the house for the last few days, photographing everything in sight. This leafy weed growing at the edge of the driveway was fairly dramatic because it is seen against the blacktop which doesn't reflect any infrared light. This image is blue in color because I was experimenting. There was an early photographic process called "cyanotype" and I had recently seen an exhibit at the NY Public Library, called "Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions" done by a photographer named Anna Atkins who started working in the 1850's. They were beautiful with their cyan color. So I wondered how this infrared image would look like if it was a cyanotype. So here it is.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:58 PM
Friday, April 26, 2019
We went down to the center of town to get burgers for dinner. After I parked the car and started walking toward the restaurant I saw this fence. It was the blue that jumped out at me at first sight. That is, the blue that is left. As a fence, this is quite a construction, at least what is left of it. For me, that's what made it so interesting.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:13 PM
Thursday, April 25, 2019
Lets see, should I try and be creative, or should I just get the Magic Camera and let it do all the work for me? I actually shot photographs of my favorite tree with a conventional camera, and then with this camera. These photographs are so much more interesting I think, so here you go! For some reason this spring, perhaps because I was paying attention to the growth of the buds on this tree each day, it seems as if the tree has exploded into bloom!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:21 PM
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
We heard an amazing talk tonight from this professor who is at Stony Brook University. We are so fortunate, that as a small astronomy club we can have speakers who are tops in their fields come and talk to our group. His name is Dr. Meade and his speciality is high energy theoretical physics. His talk was so well organized that I think most of the people in attendance were able to follow him as he explained the history of our universe. What a great evening!
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Kathy found two of these poking out of the ground in the garden next to the house. They looked completely black outside. I recognized an interesting photographic subject, so I brought inside and built a little studio on the dining room table. When I turned on the light I was stunned to see that the fungus in not in fact black, but rather tea-colored, and the structure that the light revealed was amazing. I had no idea what this was called, so I looked it up, and wonder of wonders, found its name. It said this: "Morchella elata is a species of fungus in the Morchellaceae family . It is known that their fruitful bodies are consumed by bears in Yellowstone National Park."
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:18 PM
Monday, April 22, 2019
This is Grace, our pink-eared kitty. I don't think we have seen a pink-eared kitty before. But all our other cats were gray tabby cats, and so their fur would darken the light coming through their ears. Anyhow, it makes us smile when we see her back lit, and see the pink. She is sitting on a pillow on the back of the couch so that she can look out the window. When she sits there, she looks so regal, so I think of her as the princess.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:13 PM
Sunday, April 21, 2019
We decided that instead of driving down to Westbury where we go to church each Sunday we would instead just drive over to St. Boniface Martyr Church here in Sea Cliff. It was a lovely Mass. And they had traditional Easter hymns that we all knew so you could really sing them out loud, as I love to do. This church had been completely refurbished perhaps five years ago, and I had not seen it since then. It is absolutely beautiful. Before this, the altar was what you might call "minimalist" but this is much more beautiful, and added to the richness of the ceremony.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:43 PM
Saturday, April 20, 2019
You will be thrilled to know I used a regular camera today! Three days ago I photographed one of the buds on the Japanese maple, and look at it now! Wow! Talking about bursting out all over! I mentioned the other day that there was a reddish haze around the tree. Now the haze is green, and this photograph shows the reason why - the leaves have come out. I will have to keep an eye out on these buds, because I don't know what the red berry-looking things are.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:44 PM
Friday, April 19, 2019
As I drove through town today on the way to the grocery store, I saw this Magnolia tree at the Methodist church. As I continued on, I started thinking how it might look if I photographed it in infrared. I visualized the tree as white, and the church would be dark. So I drove back home and got the IR camera and did this. It's perfect! I also took a regular photograph in color, and then I converted the color shot to black & white, so you could see how different the renditions are.
This is the color version, which I then converted to black & white.
I don't like this black & white nearly as much as the infrared version. For one thing, the sky is nearly white in this version, and the sky is gray in the infrared version, which I like much better. Also, the contrast in this photograph more harsh, which I don't like.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:11 PM
Thursday, April 18, 2019
I am having fun experimenting with my "magic camera." Walked around the yard shooting at different things this afternoon. It is hard to know exactly how things will look in infrared. The most interesting of subjects were these Daffodils. I knew the leaves would look white, but I wasn't sure how the blossoms would look. With my other IR photographs, I convert the images to black & white. In this image, I left it the way it came out of the camera, with a slight bluish tint. It is that tint, I think, that makes this image so ghostly.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 6:41 PM
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
You saw a photo with my "magic camera" the other day. I have decided that this Dogwood in the front yard is my "magic tree." It is, as my friend Ken said: "the gift that keeps on giving." As many times as I have photographed this tree, it never fails to surprise me with its changes, and with its beauty. I noticed today that the tree had a faint reddish haze about it, and I realized that the buds are just beginning to come out, as you can see above.
So I moved in really close with my Nikkor close-up lens, and what's cool is you can see where the reddish part of the haze comes from - the covering of the buds. It is amazing to view parts of plants with this close-up lens, and I am always surprised. This is pretty close, right? Well, my friend Dean may not think it is close enough, but at least I tried, OK? :-)
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:44 PM
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
One of Kathy's cousins, Tom, is an artist who works in ceramics. So when we all went to downtown Charlotte, he suggested the Mint Museum, because it had a retrospective exhibition of an artist who works in ceramics, as well as other materials. His name is Michael Sherrill and he combines clay, metal, and glass to create large-scale botanically inspired sculptures. He is a self-taught artist and inventor. And his work is nothing short of astounding. I am afraid I would never have chosen this exhibition to visit if it were not for Tom, and I am thrilled that we experienced it.
The exhibit started out with things you would expect to see by an artist in ceramics, and included some lovely teapots. But then as he changed the way he thought, he moved into vessels like these two, above. What a stunning jump in his way of working!
These objects are combinations of ceramics, glass and metal, and their inspiration comes from the natural world.
It is astounding to see some of these creations of his. Unlike anything I have seen before! It was wonderful to watch how he changed over time and how that was reflected in his pieces. Michael Sherrill has lived in the western North Carolina mountains since 1974, and one small detail that charmed me, is that his studio is in Bat Cave, North Carolina!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:21 PM
Monday, April 15, 2019
I was on my way back from the bagel store this morning, when I saw these clouds and blue sky. I drove home and got my newly converted Infrared camera and drove back down to the harbor. I realized that the clouds would be emphasized and the sky would be black. I was curious how the trees would look. I think the whole scene looks pretty surreal, which is the fun of my "magic camera."
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:30 PM
Sunday, April 14, 2019
There are two Mint Museums in Charlotte. One is in the center of town, and is in a new building and the other is Mint Museum Randolph which is southeast of Charlotte, and is located in a federal style building that once housed the Charlotte Mint. We went to the downtown one and saw some amazing exhibits. This is just one piece in an exhibit called Craft + Design. The Mint Museum collects international contemporary decorative arts in the areas of glass, fiber art, metal, studio jewelry, design, studio furniture, wood art, and clay. This piece is called "Joy of Transition" by Alaya Serfaty. I am not sure what it is made of, but it is in one corner of a gallery about ten feet up the wall, and is illuminated from within. It is an amazing thing to see in person.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:42 PM
Saturday, April 13, 2019
I showed you a couple of photographs with my just converted Infrared camera, a week or so ago. They were both in black & white. I was experimenting some more. This is what an image directly from the camera looks like - a bright magenta. After some manipulation with the camera settings, my pictures are no longer this color - they are much closer to neutral. But I find that I am fascinated with this brilliant color for some reason. What I have been doing, starting with the camera Dean loaned me, is to take the above image and remove all the color, and I am left with a black & white image which I think is more aesthetically pleasing, as below.
You will be seeing some more photographs with this camera over time. Right now the leaves are not on the trees yet, and the green leaves rendered as white are what make the infrared photographs so interesting. Notice in this photograph that the blue sky is deep black, because the sky does not radiate any infrared light.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 6:35 PM
Friday, April 12, 2019
I went to a meeting of the Long Island Macintosh User's Club tonight. I wanted to hear a talk about some software I own, but don't know that much about all its capabilities, and I had a few troubleshooting questions to ask of the club's guru. When I was leaving, I found it had been raining and I saw this view of the courtyard at New York Institute of Technology. There was something about the tree that first got my attention, and then the different lights and their reflections in the scene made it complete.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:00 PM
Thursday, April 11, 2019
We have been back home for a while now but I still have some photographs that I never got a chance to post. When we arrived in Charlotte, I expected that it would be a little bit warmer than it was on Long Island. But I was unprepared for the flowers and trees in bloom! It brightened us so, after leaving home with almost no signs of Spring at all.
This is a park in downtown Charlotte, and the brilliant daffodils and the warm temperatures were enough to convince us that maybe, sometime. Spring would come to Long Island!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:06 PM
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
When I was in the city a month or so ago, when it was still pretty cold, I got on a subway train going downtown, and was surprised to see these two people curled up asleep on the floor of the subway car, covered in blankets. I have seen so many people sleeping on the train, but I don't ever remember people sleeping on the floor. It was cold outside, and at least it is warm in the subway car.
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
This is the new Tappan Zee Bridge, officially named the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. It was decided to replace the old Tappan Zee Bridge which was built in 1955, and was badly in need of replacement. The process to build the new bridge started in 2012, construction started in 2013 and the first bridge span opened in 2017. That must be some kind of record. In this photograph you can see the last remains of the old bridge to the right.
I drove across this bridge four times, going and coming from my astronomy conference. I saw it in bright sunlight, in the morning and in the afternoon. On the last trip home, it was overcast (in the first picture) and I love the subtlety of the light and color. I do like the dramatic lighting in this photograph, as well. For those of you who worry that I might have done these photographs while driving, you should know that instead, I just stopped in my lane and took the photos and then drove on. Well, actually not really... :-)
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:40 PM
Monday, April 8, 2019
This is Dr. Alan Stern, one of the speakers at the astronomy forum. He is one of the reasons I came to hear the speakers at the event. This is the third time I have heard him speak, and he is a wonderful speaker. He is low key and straightforward, but the story he tells is beyond imagining. He is the Principal Investigator of the New Horizons project. That is the interplanetary space probe that has flown from Earth, past Jupiter and on to Pluto where it recorded absolutely stunning images of Pluto for the very first time. Now it has continued out beyond Pluto, and has just photographed a relatively tiny object called "Ultima Thule," one of the Kuiper Belt objects, which are small bodies or remnants from when the Solar System formed. While many asteroids are composed primarily of rock and metal, most Kuiper belt objects are composed largely of frozen "ices," such as methane, ammonia and water. Ultima Thule is only 21 miles long, which is like a speck of dust. i
This is a photograph of Ultimate Thule. behind Dr. Stern. What is astounding about the New Horizons project is the length of time and the distance the spacecraft traveled. The spacecraft was launched in 2006 and encountered the Pluto system in 2015, and Ultima Thule in 2019. It is now 4 billion miles away!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:17 PM
Sunday, April 7, 2019
This is Al Nagler, a legend in astronomy. I first met him at Stellafane, the telescope maker's convention in Vermont, back in 1991. I entered a telescope in the competition and won second prize. The next morning at breakfast he said "Congratulations. Do you know how many years it took me to win a prize?" Al put his lifelong love of amateur astronomy to work as a professional optical designer in 1958 when he was involved in designing NASA lunar landing simulators. Al wanted his own observing equipment to deliver that seemingly limitless vista created for the astronauts. He started a company called Tele Vue and began making eyepieces for amateur astronomers. They were the best eyepieces around and Tele Vue became famous. Al has always continued his love for astronomy and education. A mother and her young daughter came up to him at the convention and he was helping the young girl look through one of his telescopes and he was clearly enjoying the experience.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:33 PM
Saturday, April 6, 2019
Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding, there is no such thing as an "astronomy overdose." Every Spring for the last 30 years at least, I have been coming to the Northeast Astronomy Forum, in Rockland County, NY, along with thousands of my fellow astronomers. This is the field house with all the manufacturers and vendors, selling everything we will ever need! Be sure to click on this panorama to see it in more detail.
Additionally, there are speakers on both days of the conference, and they are all first class. This is Jim Green, the Chief Scientist of NASA who spoke about the history of the exploration of the Moon. Since this is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landings, there is much interest in the history.
Here is a collection of antique telescopes on display by my friends in the Antique Telescope Society.
And here are new telescopes on display by one of the manufacturers. So many tempting things to buy! So you probably wanted to know how badly I was tempted... :-) Well, I bought one new eyepiece. BUT... Wonder of wonders, I won a free raffle and got to choose a 2" Oxygen III filter for eyepieces, the value of which is $189. So it was a great day!
Friday, April 5, 2019
It snowed today! Can you believe this? In April? OK, it didn't. What did happen today was that an older camera that I sent off to be modified arrived in the mail. I sent it off to be converted from a "regular" representation of the world, to an Infrared version of the world. Perhaps you remember some of my photographs from about 5 years ago, when my friend Dean loaned me his infrared camera. I had so much fun with it, looking at the world in a different way. What the infrared sensitivity does is that it records things that radiate infrared, as white. In this case, the grass on the lawn and some ivy on the wall in the distance to the left of the lamp. It is a whole new view of the world, and I will be having fun with this camera, AND you will get to see some of my results in future blogs.
Oh, one other thing about infrared. It is terrible for portraits! It represents skin in a strange way. I mean, how sick do I look in this photograph? But the trees behind me are pretty, all bright white in color.
Thursday, April 4, 2019
We tried something new at the Astronomy club last night, at the suggestion of one of our members, Ed, who is in the center of this photograph. He thought it would be a good idea to have a "Newbie Night" for people who might want to visit the club and ask questions about astronomy, and maybe how to get started in astronomy. That part of the meeting started an hour before our regular meeting.
We had no idea if people would be interested in such a meeting, so we were astounded when so many people showed up. There was a father with his young son, who had a small telescope tucked under his arm! We had young people and older people, and a number of our members would sit and talk with each of the new visitors to answer their questions or to demonstrate how our telescopes worked.
The newbie part only lasted an hour before we went outside and had an observing session with our telescopes, showing our new visitors the night sky. This morning I received this email from the father of the young son: "Good morning Ken: I wanted to thank you for taking time with my son Ryan and I last night. We had a wonderful time and learned a lot. My son was fascinated with everything. When we got home he immediately googled images of the Orion nebula. I could hardly get him to bed. Please thank Doug as well as he spent a lot of time with us and answered a lot of my son's questions. Thanks again, Chris" Wow, that email certainly made my day!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:57 PM
Wednesday, April 3, 2019
We hadn't seen Sharon and Glenn in a few years. Usually we get to visit with them when there is a family reunion in upstate New York. The last reunion was more than five years ago. Kathy has always felt connected to Sharon, so spending several days together in Charlotte was a wonderful time because they had so much time to talk. And to sit in rocking chairs, in warm weather on the front porch. Isn't that what life should be about?
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:02 PM
Tuesday, April 2, 2019
When we were turning the lights out in the bedroom the night we arrived in Charleston, the last light that was on was this floor lamp right by the bed. The second all the other lights in the bedroom were out, this beautiful little angel became so obvious, hanging off the last light in the room. She is made from brass and is so beautifully crafted. She has some colored stones in her hair, and the wonderful wings, and the little tag hanging off her right hand said "Kindness." Such a lovely reminder to us all.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:10 PM
Monday, April 1, 2019
This is Glenn. He and his wife Sharon were our hosts this weekend. Glenn was showing me around their condo in Charlotte, North Carolina, and when we got to the top of the second floor, there was a train layout! When I said that was amazing, Glenn said, "Wait until you see the rest of it," and then he took me into this room. Wow! I was stunned! What a beautiful collection of model trains. Glenn said that he had an engine and about five cars that he had received as a child in 1949, I think it was. After he retired he started collecting model trains.
This is the railroad layout he has constructed. It looks empty at this point, but at Christmas, he adds model buildings and snow and towers. The photographs of that seasonal setup are amazing! What is astounding to me, is that he has several buildings on the layout that are "active." There is a sawmill that takes in round logs, and out come boards, when he presses a button! There is a boxcar that ejects stainless steel cans of milk to the platform. And then there is a car with a load of railroad ties on it, and a payloader that removes the ties one by one! I had a model railroad layout as a kid, but nothing like the sophistication of this layout!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:39 PM