Getting stuck

It happened. Drifting snow, a narrow road, and low ground clearance on my car all conspired to get me stuck tonight. Coming up the last leg of our road, I got sucked into a snow bank, which also happened to be the edge of the road. I fell off.

After an hour of digging under my car, I was still stuck. So we backed Skippy’s truck up, tied my car to it, and promptly got her stuck. Fortunately, her big truck has several modes of 4-wheel drive, and she got unstuck pretty quickly.

She succeeded in pulling me out, and I made it the rest of the way up the drive without incident.

This was all in the dark, with the wind gusting at 20mph or so, blowing snow everywhere. It was a lot of fun. I can’t wait until it happens again!

I’m going to have to add a length of static rope to my Alaska Survival Kit in my car, along with my shovel, flares, gravel bucket, and extra jacket.

On top of the world

I took some more star shots tonight. First, a look at the night sky. This is a 30 second exposure, at f/2.8, on ISO 800, at 17mm:

Night Sky

I used my 105mm to get a section of the sky. This one was taken over 4 minutes at f/2.8, ISO 800. I’m amazed at how much the world moves in just 4 minutes!

4 minute blur

Then, I put the wide angle lens on again, and randomly aimed at a set of stars. When the first image was done, I noticed something at the bottom of the image, and decided to try to get another shot. Looking through the viewfinder of a camera at night, and trying to find a particular place in the sky is not easy. And I almost got the shot I was wanting. 17mm, f/2.8, 20 minutes, ISO 200:

Star Central

That is the star that is sitting nearly in line with Earth’s north axis, so it doesn’t move much in the sky as the Earth rotates. Say hello to Polaris, the North Star! It’s kind of vertigo-inducing, like a galactic-scale whirlpool sucking you in, especially at full resolution.

I’d like it more centered, at least on the horizontal, but still pretty cool! I tried to get another shot, but between taking this one and then processing the long exposure noise reduction, my camera was unusable for almost an hour. Clouds had rolled in, and the stars were no longer visible.

Oh well, I have a few more dark nights before the sun is out all the time!

Taking a long look at the sky

Guess what these are:

Zoom

If you guessed “stars,” then give yourself a pat on the back! I took my 500mm lens, focused it to infinity, aimed it at a bright star, and locked down my remote shutter release for about 9 minutes. The bright trail near the center is the one I aimed for, but there are a lot of fainter stars around it that I didn’t see with my eyes. The variety of colors the camera picked up is also interesting, since most stars look white from here.

Sadly, I learned my camera isn’t the best for long exposures in the dark. DSLRs, and Nikons especially, apparently have a problem with their internal electronics heating up during long exposures and causing blobs of noise to appear in the image. You can see what it looks like here. I’ve cropped the offending bits out of the picture above, but it reduces my usable frame area by about 30%. Basically, my trusty D80 isn’t so great for astrophotography.

Which means on top of the equatorial mount, I’d probably need to get some sort of cooled CCD system to take really awesome deep space shots. Oh yeah, and I’d need a good telescope.

I think I’ll stick to star trails for now.

A Day (30 minutes, at least) At The Beach

Today was our first full day off since arriving in August. We took advantage of it by sleeping in, eating a late breakfast, then heading into town with the dogs.

Our first stop was the post office, to pick up a package. The Homer Post Office is where you would be sent if there was waiting line for Hell. A typical visit for any reason will usually take at least a half hour. Today, because of the holiday season no doubt, they actually had a dedicated counter for collecting package notices. We only had to wait 10 minutes to get our package from my brother. Of course, when we checked our mailbox this evening, there were two more package notification slips.

Then, we took the dogs to the beach, Ashlee’s most favorite place in the whole world. I mean beaches in general, or anywhere where land meets water, pretty much. Her Labrador half practically squeals with glee anytime we drive towards any body of water.

The beach was cold. Seriously. Like, “windchill in the single digits” cold. There was lots of ice on the beach.

On The Spit

We both bundled up, with long underwear, down coats, hats, soft shells, and gloves. We basically doubled our size.

Bulky

This was taken at 2:30. See how low the sun is already?

Low Sun

The angle and telephoto compression make Macgee look much smaller than he actually is.

beach3-s

Ashlee usually gets in the water, but after fetching one stick out of the surf, she refrained from entering the water again.

Ashlee on the Beach

We make long shadows. The beach has a lot of kelp that has washed up.

Long Shadows

Which Ashlee likes to eat.

beach6-s

A bald eagle watched us from a driftwood tree, but took off when I got close to try to get a picture. I, of course, only had my wide angle lens, even though I always know I should take my telephoto for just these sorts of opportunities.

The Eagle Has Taken Off

Unbundling long enough for a few of these shots, Skippy’s lips froze to her teeth. (not really)

Frozen Smile

That’s me, I still occasionally get out from behind the camera.

Fuzzy

Here’s some wave action for those of you in landlocked states. Not exactly a soft, sandy beach, but who in their right mind would be laying out, anyway?

Incoming

Also, we watched “Primer” on Netflix Instant Play the other night. It’s quite confusing, as it involves time travel, but the story is intriguing, and half the fun is trying to figure out what exactly happened after you finish watching it. It might take more than one viewing, but it’s just over an hour long, and there is a lot of discussion online to help fill in the gaps.