Photography ... astronomy ... art ... design ... technology
(... and the odd rant)

All of these make my world go 'round, to some extent, and they will all be found here at some time or other. Some of the photography can be purchased from my Redbubble site. I can also be found at Tempus Fugit (no longer being updated).

Monday, June 14, 2010

300 Words

Having discovered 300 Words this evening, and finding it a splendid idea, I thought I'd try to rise to the challenge. If I manage to turn it into a habit, I might even become a contributor. Here's a start.


I’m a cat person, sort of. I prefer them to dogs, without question – which isn’t to say that I like all cats, or dislike all dogs; far from it, and perish the thought. Why the preference then, when it turns out that I am allergic to the fickle felines?

Let’s see: they amuse me. Well, dogs can do that too, so it’s not just that. They look pretty and feel nice, on the whole. They take care of themselves, without having to be walked, and without one having to pick up biological detritus dropped on said walks. Mind you, I feel somewhat ashamed that they might be nipping over the fence to dig up a neighbour’s precious primulas, but compared to what my son could be doing to their precious daughter, it’s a minor misdemeanour. Not that he lives with us any more, but that’s beside the point.

Maybe it’s an ego-massage-thing: that an animal that can be so aloof if it chooses, might decide to honour your lap with its warm presence, is clearly a comment on your suitability as a host. Have a gold star.

Cats eat quietly. They don’t drool… much. They can’t be heard a couple of hundred metres away, barking at anything that moves – and several things that don’t. They are not inclined to roll in all manner of unspeakable substances that consequently require the donning of protective clothing and a fixed grimace in order to eliminate the offending miasma. They do, however, have minuscule lances on their feet, which they tend to use indiscriminately when young; adulthood eventually puts a stop to that sort of nonsense, unless they are being tormented (or think they are).

Maybe it’s the wide open, love-me eyes, or the I-know-you’re-there-but-I’m-ignoring-you confidence as they walk past, or even that they are a smaller package. Ultimately I’ll just have to admit that Mr Spock would find it illogical. Perhaps I can get some therapy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Back in the land of the living

It's been a while, and there's been a bit of water under the bridge since I last came this way. I've left behind the work of casual employment, and started a job for which I am eminently suited - which makes a change!

In April we relocated to Brisbane, so that I could take up a post at the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium. There, I am styled a Support Officer, which means I am one of the show presenters. School shows, public shows, observatory sessions - they're all in the mix, as I show the good citizens and tourists of Brisbane the sights of the night sky and the Universe at large.

There is a certain repetitiveness about it, giving the same shows on a weekly basis, but with the changing sky as the year progresses, and the different audiences from 5-year-olds to adults, there is a certain amount of freedom to ad lib in each show and change the focus along the way. Besides, there is an awful lot of Universe to talk about in a 15- or 45-minute talk.

One of the fringe benefits for me as a long-time amateur astronomer, is having access to 2 good telescopes - a Zeiss 6-inch refractor and a Meade 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain. The pleasure is somewhat reduced due to the location just a few kilometres from the centre of a large city, but it's good to be back at the sharp end of a decent instrument. While in Edinburgh I had access to the Cooke 6-inch refractor at Calton Hill observatory, although I made far less use of it than I ought to have done, and really became an armchair astronomer over the last 20 years or so.

The Zeiss is particularly interesting, as I can easily mount a camera on it for photography through the telescope. So far I have just done a few tests that need to be built on, but I reckon I shall have fun with it in the future. As well as 'proper' photography with a camera attached securely to the business end (being on a Coudé mount, the scope can support quite a heavy load, which is just as well, since I intend to use my old brass Canons), I have experimented with cameras held against the eyepiece; not the best method, but it can work reasonably well, as this shot of Saturn taken with the mobile phone shows.

Another experiment was shooting both the Sun and Moon with a digital compact - still shooting precariously through the eyepiece while hand-holding the camera, but it worked quite nicely. 2 small sunspot groups are visible at top right and bottom right, and despite fairly poor seeing, the Moon image shows reasonable crater detail.