Month: April 2015

Becoming an Astrophysicist…. one step closer!

While making my rounds yesterday morning visiting a few of my routine web-based news outlets I ran across a very interesting little educational video. I’m not sure that Neil deGrasse Tyson should feel threatened by this encroachment in to the world of astrophysics by the young man featured in the video and a bunch of Peep’s Easter candy but who can say… stranger things have happened.

If you are like me then surely you have spent a number of sleepless nights trying to come to terms with the comprehension of things such as ‘light years’ and the ‘speed of light’. Things that you and I have to take as fact from people… well, perhaps somewhat smarter than us.

But there’s good news to report on that front, I ran across the a fore mentioned video on the National Public Radio website (NPR) which gives you and I, simply laymen, an opportunity to confirm that the speed of light is really 670,616,626 miles per hour and it’s not just some ploy by the Federal Government to once again mislead us.

Well, I just had to share this little video in the hopes that those of you who are like me and have always had some measure of a deep seeded desire within your soul to become an astrophysicist will receive a little measure of consolation that with a few bags of Peep’s candy and an operational microwave oven we can make some measure of progress toward our ultimate goal. 🙂

‘Movie Review – “Draft Day (2014)

5-Star Post MasterDraft Day - 2014 - 01

Given the fact that I have already watched this film twice, perhaps it is time to express a thought or two regarding my unsolicited opinion of the film. Well… I have already watched it twice so there you go! What more of an endorsement could I levy? 🙂

It is definitely a sports film dealing with the sport of professional football and I found it to be exceptionally entertaining. The film encompasses a time frame of some 12 hours and it revolves around all that comes with that one day a year when all the National Football League teams select from the cream of the crop of the year’s top college players. Of course we all know it as “Draft Day”.

The subject film stars Kevin Costner as the fictional General Manager of the Cleveland Browns along with his co-star Jennifer Garner who is one of the front office staff along with being his inter-office love interest. The film presents us with the high stakes drama and inter-office politics that manifests itself within a team’s managers and coaches in an effort to select those players who are the best fits for their teams. That same drama plays out as the individual teams negotiate with each other for players and yearly draft choices using their draft choices for barter in their quest for the players of their choice.

This is definitely a sport’s film so it’s impossible to say that everyone will find it as entertaining as I did. I’m sure that if you have at least some measure of the love of sports and in particular the sport of professional football, you may find it entertaining and even somewhat educational although from that standpoint the film may be little over dramatized. 😕

Sun Direction Calculator for Photographers….

I recently read in our local newspaper about a mural in the downtown area of a nearby town, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, that was going to be lost due to a fire that had gutted the building on which it was painted. The building had received severe fire damage from an apparent arsonist and was slated to be torn down in the very near future. The mural which the Union Pacific Railroad paid some $30,000 for in 1998 depicts a locomotive engine, “Engine 819″, which was built back in 1943. Union Pacific has operated a huge train repair and railway yard in Pine Bluff beginning in 1962. The recent article also published a photo of the mural which is what tweaked my interest… photographically speaking.

I was seriously considering getting my own photographs of this mural before it is destroyed but I was curious as to when it would be best to take a short trip to the town to get a photograph or two. I wanted to go when I knew the sun would be at the proper angle to illuminate the mural. Perhaps I could have made an educated guess but wanted to find out exactly, direction wise, where the mural was located and at what time would the sun be full on the mural so as not to have wasted a trip to the location since it was in another town. I needed a “sun direction calculator” for lack of a better term.

Well as it turns out, despite my best intentions, I was never able to get to Pine Bluff in ample time to secure my own photographs of the art work but I was fortunate in discovering a really great sun direction calculator. If you are a serious photographer, depending on the subjects you like to photograph, the sun can be a very important part of the photograph’s equation. Especially for those who enjoy photographing landscapes and architecture. The only ‘serious’ photography I do outdoors that is critical to sun is architectural in nature. But unlike many, I prefer to do my architectural photographing not on bright, sunny days but cloudy days so as to eliminate those harsh shadows that can often be created by the bright sun. But, this post is not about photography techniques but rather about a photography tool.

As to the discovered sun calculator mentioned earlier, as it turns out, and wouldn’t you know it, Mr. Google already had the exact tool available for use. Mr. Google made the calculator an add-on of sorts to its “Google Maps” program which of course made all the sense in the world. You just had to know how to access the calculator it and how it worked and you could easily project sun direction on any location you so desired.

Google’s sun calculator program is called “SunCalc” and can be accessed by clicking on the following link… Google Sun Calculator.

If you are familiar with Google Maps in general you will note when opening the SunCalc webpage that it looks identical to the google maps layout except for the geometric drawing appearing over the map which is in fact the “sun calculator indicator”. The map application itself works just the same as always except you now have the movable calculator appearing over the maps which you can move around as necessary to meet and/or determine your specific criteria. You also still have available the “Map” view as well as the “Satellite” view.

So for the purposes of this little ‘show & tell’ I have assumed that we are going to visit New York City and we want to go to Liberty Island and take a great photo of the Statue of Liberty. Hopefully the screen shots that follow along with my brief tutorial will be of some use in learning how to use the sun direction calculator.

We have decided that we want to take a photograph of the Statue of Liberty with a full frontal view. And we want full sun on the front so that no dark shadows are present to hide any portion of the statue. So we will need to know at around what time is the sun in a position to fully illuminate the front of the statue. We then open the “SunCalc” and type in the location we are looking for and in our case that would be Liberty Island in New York. We would then see on the Google’s Map page a graphic similar to the one below. Please note that you will need to click on the images I will be presenting and enlarge them so as the see the details we will be discussing….

Map - 01(Click To Enlarge)

The circle shown in the middle of the map is the geometric part of the calculator. Also note that Liberty Island which is our subject matter is located near the center of the calculator circle. Now let’s look at a marked-up version of the graphic….

Map - 02(Click To Enlarge)

On this graphic I have added a few notes. Note that the calculator can be moved around the map so that you can locate the center of the calculator at the specific point you desire. Now of most importance is to note the timeline bar and setting at the top of the graphic. The orange dot on the timeline indicator is currently sitting on about 4:30 AM. If you put your mouse cursor on that orange dot you can slide the dot along the timeline indicator. As you do that, the straight orange line on the inside of the calculator circle which goes from the center of the circle to the outer edge will begin to move around the outside edge of the circle. This orange line is the sun direction indicator and is how we will determine at what time we need to be at the Statue of Liberty to get our fully lit frontal photograph of the statue.

Now, using the ‘ZOOM” function of Google Maps we will zoom in on Liberty Island for a good close up view. We will also set Google Maps from the ‘map’ function to the ‘satellite’ function so we can determine the exact location and position of our subject, the Statue of Liberty. You should see that function setting in the upper right-had corner of the map. After doing that hopefully you will see a representation similar to the one below….

Map - 03(Click To Enlarge)

Now we can clearly see Liberty Island and the precise location of the Statue of Liberty. As we note the direction that the statue is facing which is towards the bottom right-hand side of our graphic we will then want to move the ‘orange dot’ on the timeline bar at the top of the graphic. Again as previously noted, as you move the ‘orange dot’ along the timeline you will see the straight orange line rotate around the center of our sun calculator circle. The straight orange line is indicating the current sun direction based on where our orange dot is located on the timeline bar. As can be noted from my graphic, the current time setting is around 10:00 AM and the orange straight line is pointed directly at the front of the statue. Therefore, to get the photograph of the statue that we desire fully lit from the front we should be standing in front of the statue at around 10:00 AM in the morning.

Going to the sun calculator application, opening it and playing with it for a few minutes I think will show that this whole process is a lot less complicated than I may have made it look. But if precise sun direction is ever of any concern for any particular reason, hopefully this application will be of some use. I know with regards to some of my photography projects such as the one mentioned at the beginning of this post, it certainly can be of great help.

Movie Review – “Philomena” (2013)

4-Star Post MasterPhilomena - 2013 - 01

The review I find myself offering up today is on a film which I have already watched twice over the past couple of months and there is little doubt that I won’t watch another one or two more times in the future. Enjoyable and entertaining from the get-go, the film “Philomena” was well worth the hype it was getting prior to the 2014 Academy Awards of a year ago. Unfortunately it did not garnish any awards for its four nominations to include Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay. But as we all know, winning awards or not winning awards is not necessarily an indicator on the entertainment value of any film when it comes to our personal likes and dislikes.

The subject film is based on the book by journalist Martin Sixsmith titled “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee”, the true story of a mother’s fifty year long search for a son who was forcibly taken from her at age fourteen and adopted out to another couple. Martin Sixsmith, who was portrayed by Steve Coogan in the film, was the journalist who accompanied and assisted Philomena in the long search for her son.

I have to say that it took me a while to convince myself to even watch the film. I just wasn’t sure a drama based solely on the search for an adopted child could hold my interest for any real length of time. Well I sure got that wrong! Certainly a bittersweet movie but none the less, I found it extremely entertaining from beginning to end and of course the acting was superb. There is hardly a time in any film that Judi Dench doesn’t deliver.