Eclipse August 21st 2017

The rented Excursion rolled to an uneven stop hanging off the side of a secluded, dusty county road that ran through a field about 23 miles north of Lingle, Wyoming. The

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We got there before sunrise.

county road, creatively named Road 12, was fittingly lined all up and down both sides by sunflowers. Despite the cheery demeanor of the flora, it was cold and dark and our ragtag team of eclipse-hungry nerds were tired from our 2 am departure on the road from Loveland, Colorado. We, however, were in good spirits, because we had made it.

What about this place had attracted us? More importantly why was this usually lonely stretch of road already becoming lined with cars before the sun had even come up? I have to imagine you know the answer already, because it was the title of this blog post. On August 21st, 2017 there was a total solar eclipse and this remote location was in the path of totality.

Where we parked the cars was on a corner of Road 12 (GPS coordinates 42.418526,-104.399813, if you are curious) just under 2 miles north of the central line of totality. The sun came up right after we parked and there were a few wispy clouds, but they burned off very quickly. Most of the rest of our group decided it was time for a nap, the eclipse wouldn’t begin until 10:24 mountain time, but I was too excited to sleep; this was to be my first total solar eclipse.

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There were sunflowers all up and down the road.

I had a huge, empty memory card on my camera, two spare batteries, and a bunch of hours to kill… so, while the road continued to fill with car after car, I wandered around taking pictures of bugs, sunflowers, fence posts, and rocks. By the time I had wandered back to the cars, I couldn’t believe how many people had come out to this desolate piece of dirt road. Even before the eclipse began, I was enthused and impressed by the show of interest from nerds of all sorts that had come from everywhere.

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Of course Lego us were there as well.

By the time first contact had rolled around, we had set up chairs, eaten, put on sunscreen… and I had already taken over 1300 pictures between my two cameras (about 1000 of those, though, were from my small PowerShot, taking the images for the time lapses in the little video of the sun rising and the clouds disappearing).

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Just hours after sunrise, this dusty road in the middle of nowhere was already getting crowded.

I had seen partial eclipses before and an annular. Those are very cool. That’s what it looked like as larger and larger bites began to be taken out of the sun. We partook in fun little activities, like projecting a series of crescents from the eclipse onto the ground, excitedly chattering about when totality would happen, commenting on how weirdly sharp the shadows had become, or digging out our sweaters because, though it had been cold when we first arrived, the day had grown warm very quickly, but as the sun disappeared, it grew chilly again. As the sun turned into a tiny sliver, anticipation rose to a point I thought I could no longer take, then, finally, at 11:46 and 14.9 seconds the sun was completely covered. For 2 minutes and 28.8 seconds it was dark in the middle of the day. I pulled the filter of my camera and the goggles off of my eyes and snapped picture after picture to the sounds of gasps around me. It was shortest 2 minutes and 28.8 seconds of my life.

The view was… well… indescribable. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, though, you know better than to think I won’t try to describe it anyway. You can see a few of my pictures here, and I think they turned out pretty nice, and captured what the occultation itself actually looked like, but the view of the moon covering the

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The first “diamond ring.”

sun was not the entire event. All around me, I could hear people grasping for words and finding that they were totally fine with not finding them; they were blissfully speechless. When I could rip my eyes away from the black circle surrounded by bright white tendrils of the corona, I found what looked to be sunrise/ sunset on the horizon in every direction and I could see a few stars and planets. Obviously, I can describe those individual pieces, but the part that eludes me, is a description of the combination of seeing them while feeling the light and warmth from the sun disappear. There was a feeling in my chest of awe, appreciation, excitement, and perhaps even some irrational sense of primal foreboding. It was an

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Totality

incredibly natural event that humans couldn’t alter if they wanted to, which also managed to look wrong and unnatural. Somehow, at the same time it was awe-inspiring and affirming as well. Mixed into this complicated cocktail of emotions, was a strange feeling of connectedness; all across the country, I knew that at either the same time or very close to the same time, hundreds of thousands, or maybe even millions of people were staring, dumb-founded at the sun. They had put their lives on hold for a moment to

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The end of totality

watch an astronomy-related event. They were sharing in my passion for astronomy. I think the thing that struck me most, though was just how momentous, but fleeting it was. How could something so dramatic, with such an impact, last for less than 2 minutes and 29 seconds? Was that part of why it was so important?

Regardless of how it could be over so quickly, it was. It seems that as soon as I started to absorb the event, it was over and we were all shouting “Filters on” as the sun’s photosphere began to peek out from behind the moon, bringing with it that dangerously bright light we’ve all heard so much about.

There was very little time to relax when the totality was over. As much as I would have loved to watch the other half as the sun was restored to its original size, I had already missed the first day of the semester. The clock was now ticking. I had 21 hours until I was supposed to be standing in front of a class in San Diego: the first of 3 classes in a row. We only had 222 miles to drive to get back to the Denver International Airport and I had just under 7 hours to do it which might have been enough, but Wyoming is just not designed to have that many people driving through it. For the first several hours sitting in traffic, I couldn’t open my mouth without, “man… that was so COOL!” coming out. You’d think that might get annoying, and, true, it may have been, but the car’s other occupants (my special lady friend and her parents) seemed to be in a similar state of enthusiasm.When we finally got to the airport, my special lady friend ran off to her flight, which was to leave 30 minutes after mine (and was the last flight from Denver to San Diego for the evening), I discovered that I had missed the cut-off for checking in for my flight by 2 minutes (no, I couldn’t have checked in earlier, you have to do it in person when you fly basic economy on United). I knew I should be upset, but a few hours before I stared at the sun while it was blocked out by the moon, so my spirits would not be dashed.

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The horizon during totality

Let me tell you that for the next few months, I will be extra-careful when I cross the street, because I have to imagine that I used up all my luck for a little while in the next few minutes after finding out that I had missed my flight. I was helped by a woman that proved to be the nicest, most caring United ticket person I have ever seen or heard of. She was excited to show me a picture of the partial eclipse that she had taken on her phone, then immediately took me to a terminal and found another flight (the one my special lady friend was headed towards already). She had to get permission from her supervisor to get me on it, but she was able to do so, then took me and, to make sure I made it in time, escorted me past the line for security (I still feel a little bad about that part, but I wouldn’t have made it otherwise) and right up to the front, where security went fast. I then had to ride the tram from security to my gate, but when I got there, I just barely caught it. Running off of the train and through the airport I found my gate, just after they started boarding and saw that I had enough time to duck into the restroom and take the leak I’d been holding for hours, then get on the plane.

I didn’t get the ticket woman’s name; I wish I had. I feel like I owe her at least a few of my pictures of the eclipse, if not my first-born child (just kidding: I’m never having kids). If she hadn’t taken a special interest in getting me on that flight, I probably wouldn’t have made it to my classes the next day without shelling out all of the meager funds left on my credit card.

Thank you, nameless ticket lady.

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There was a lot of traffic after totality.

Despite all the stress getting onto a flight, then running into classes to start the new semester only barely prepared, and scrambling all week to catch up, it was still worth it. Even if I had missed my flight, it still would have been worth it. That’s how amazing the total solar eclipse was.

In the next few years, my life is probably going to change quite a bit. Who knows where I’ll end up living and what I’ll be doing? There is, however, one certainty: on April 8th 2024, I’ll be somewhere on the thin path of totality which runs from Mexico through the United States into eastern Canada.

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Preston Falls

The three of us at the start of the hike. I’m wearing a goofy hat, and that rock was not a great choice to hold the camera.

The week before last (June 5th- 12th, 2017) I went on a little adventure. I got to meet up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I spent some time with my parents, and got to take a day trip down into Big Sur, which IS accessible from the north, and it appears that a lot of people don’t realize that anything is open down there. It is.

The trip ended with a single night backpacking trip with my siblings to Preston Falls in Stanislaus National Forest. This trip was fantastic, but there was a certain lack of information about the trail (and lack of trail at some points, for that matter) that made me want to write a blog post about it.

For starters, I came across a blog post while researching the trail that said they made it to what they thought were the falls, then made it home to realize that it wasn’t the right falls. This was a super handy tip, but… where were the actual falls? How did she

The river was very full.

know she hadn’t made it? It took me a long while to find the proper GPS coordinates. That’s the first thing I thought I’d fix, in case someone ends up here, curious about the hike to Preston Falls.

The trailhead is actually marked as the Stanislaus National Forest Trailhead and can be found at these GPS coordinates:
N 37° 52.722′ ,  W 119° 57.025′

There is a little parking lot at the end of the road just past the dam where you’ll find a big sign saying “Stanislaus National Forest Trailhead,” a restroom, and, of course the trailhead.
Preston falls is at GPS coordinates:
N 37° 53.067′ ,  W 119° 52.878′.

The trail was very well maintained for the first 4 miles.

We had wanted a short, easy-ish hike because it was only for an over night and it had been a while since any of us had been backpacking. Some sources said it was a 4 mile hike and others said it was more like 4.4. Not usually enough of a distance to really worry about, right? There’s a good reason for that discrepancy… I’ll address this in a moment…

The river had a ridiculous amount of water in it and, though there were signs everywhere that it had burned in the rim fire a few years ago, it was still startlingly beautiful.

There were flowers everywhere.

It was a nice, relatively flat, easy hike for the first 4 miles. Including a long, leisurely lunch break, it took us something like two hours, but we were dawdling, because we thought the whole thing was going to be that easy. Just about at the 4 mile mark, there’s a

These are the NOT-Preston Falls

nice little camp spot, and a view of SOME falls, and the trail went straight into the river. I understand why people would be tempted to stop there.

Did we, though? No. No, of course we didn’t.

We knew Preston Falls was further up stream, so we pressed on. The idea was that the trail had to come back out of the river at some point. For the remaining half mile or so — spent scrambling over rocks through ever thickening poison oak — we found plenty of pretty views, but never saw a trail again. I’m not sure exactly how far we walked because there was a lot of back and forth while setting down packs and scouting ahead, but it was about a half mile, probably less, and it took us almost another two hours. We eventually found some relatively flat ground and decided to call it a day. Curiosity got the best of me, and the little marker on my GPS was SO close, I ran ahead to see if the falls really existed. Fully intending to just pop over for a look and probably come back later, I, like an idiot, left my camera behind. The route got more difficult and took me a while to find a way up, over, and through the obstacles.

If you look closely, you can see our camp site in this picture.

As a side note, this is probably a good time to mention that I had dropped my walkie talkie into the river earlier and was under the impression until I had made it a good ways away from my siblings that it was waterproof… It was not. It just took a while to start freaking out. I felt a little bad being gone so long without contact. They were a little worried, but it all worked out. I did find Preston Falls, just about when I was going to give up. “If it’s not around this last corner I’m going ba… Oh, there it is. Neat.” They were beautiful, but I didn’t wander back over there later. I met back up with my siblings, set up camp, and took a bunch of pictures. It was beautiful, and totally worth it.

The stars were super pretty.

The walk out was easier and much faster because we knew where we were going.

I regret nothing about the trip, but when I plan the next one to this location, there are a few things that I’ll do differently, now that I know. I’ll make sure it is more than an over-night, because there was a lot to explore… but that’s sort of how I feel about everywhere. I would also probably plan to set up camp at the site near the first set of falls (where the trail disappeared), then go back to Preston Falls as a day hike, there’s no reason to drag the pack back there.

I definitely could have spent several days laying on my back, staring at the trees and flowers.

When the river is lower, I imagine the trail might be more easily traversed. Please let me know with a comment if you do this hike and conditions have changed.

Because I’ve been playing around with time lapses, I put together a few throughout the course of my adventure and, just like last time, I edited it into a short video with some music I made. It’s not great, but it was fun to make.

The music is something I made for this video in Muse Score.

The first shot with the flowers, is in San Diego in Guajome Regional Park.
The next 5 (between times 8 and 52 seconds) were taken from my parents’ backyard in Monterey.
The remaining 5 shots were taken near Preston Falls in Stanislaus National Forest.

My First Attempt at Time Lapse Photography

Hey everyone,

I discovered that I can do time lapse photography, so I thought I’d give it a shot. It was actually very easy (See below the video for a description of what I used).

Now, doing it well and just doing it are pretty far apart, and I know I’ve got a long way to go, but for all being done within the first 24 hours of realizing that I had the capability, I’m pretty proud of what I came up with and I thought sharing how easy it is to get started might be beneficial.

The music is something that I composed and played in MuseScore a while back (it was sitting around, so I thought I’d use it). I’m not a musician, so forgive its simplicity and the fact that the instruments are all midi simulations rather than… something that sounds good.

For those that are interested, the shot locations are as follows:
-First two clips with the water – Calavara Lake in Carlsbad, Ca
-The ants and two oak tree clips – Buena Vista Park in Vista, Ca
-Last shot with the grass – out my window in Vista, Ca

 

The camera I used is a Cannon PowersShot SX160 IS with CHDK installed on it. I’ve had the camera for a few years now and I like it, but if I were shopping for it all over again, I would choose something else for one simple reason: this specific PowerShot eats through batteries like a puppy through pizza (maybe a little less messy). The other models of PowerShot I had in the past were not this way. It’s powered by 2 AA batteries and can’t (as far as I’ve figured out) be powered externally (if anyone has any suggestions other than the toothpick trick, please share). Just in the shots used in this video I went through 12 AA battieries; I’m a MONSTER! They are still half full for many other devices, but the camera says they’re dead and turns off. They worked long enough to get these shots, but if I wanted to shoot over a time longer than about 45 minutes (and I do), this just isn’t going to cut it.

CHDK is a set of firmware updates that you can use to increase the functionality of Cannon PowerShots. Model specific downloads and directions can be found here: http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK
CHDK is temporary. You just run it off of the memory card and it allows you to run scripts on your camera. The CHDK download for most PowerShots, I believe, come with an intervalometer script. That’s the one I use. It is very simple once you figure out the menus. You set up your camera ready to go with whatever settings you want, then you tell the intervalometer script a time interval, and launch it. It then takes an image every time that interval is up. For example, if I set it to 10 seconds, it will take an image every 10 seconds until I tell it to stop or it runs out of batteries and turns itself off (the latter usually being the case for me). I did find that, because the camera takes a moment to take and save the images, if you set it too short, it will just take an image whenever it is ready. The clip with the ants, for example, was supposed to be a 1 second interval, but it took one image every time it was ready, which was somewhere between 6 and 7 seconds. The rest of my clips were set to 10 seconds or longer and worked like a charm.

A tripod is a good idea. None of these were taken using a tripod, and I think it shows. My tripod was broken, and the one I ordered was sitting on my doorstep when I got back from the last shot for this. One thing that was kind of cool, but 100% unplanned was the sort of droopy panning effect in a couple of shots. Those happened because I set the camera on its empty case and over the course of 45 minutes or so, the whole thing settled. While it worked out this time, I can see how it could completely ruin a set and is probably impossible to plan exactly where the camera ends up pointing. I don’t know how professionals do the fancy pan shots (hey, I’ve only been at this for a day) but I’m 97.46% sure it has nothing to do with setting the camera on a cloth sack propped against a rock and hoping for the best.

Once I got the shots and made it home, I used the OpenShot Video Editor in Linux. OpenShot allows you to import sequences of pictures. It uploads them like a video clip, with some set number of frames per second and you can manipulate it just like any other video clip. OpenShot is free and very intuitive.
I had a few issues, however. OpenShot uses sequential numbering on the file names to determine which files to include and their order. My camera uses a 4 digit number in the file names. There’s some sort of bug (that took me a while to find talk of on the internet) where if the first image in the sequence has more than a 3 digit number, it tries to upload, then the clip just says “INVALID.” So, I rename all the files to have 3 digit numbers. No, I don’t do it by hand. There are many ways to do this. I had a python script already set up to do something like this, so I just re-purposed it and it works. I have a suspicion that I’m going to get told that the easiest way is to use a BASH script. Feel free to tell me, but I already made my Python tool… so… there.
OpenShot is a little lacking in control of the rate that it plays the images. You can not adjust how many frames per second it shows (I don’t know what the standard is, something near 30?). You can have it double of triple each image while importing if you want it to play 2 or 3 times more slowly. I doubled the images on 3 of the clips because I thought they were too fast, but, for the most part, I feel like being able to speed up or slow down these clips would be handy.Another issue I had with OpenShot is that it is, at least on my computer, very slow with videos of this resolution. You may notice that in the above video the syncing of dramatic moments in the music with clip changes is a bit off. This is because I had to export the video each time just to see if it worked, because the playback option in OpenShot was sketchy and would get stuck. When I reduced the resolution, it worked just fine, so that’s a potential solution as well, but I think I might try experimenting with some other software (any suggestions?).
I feel the need to repeat myself here, though… OpenShot is free… So, that’s really nice.

The music was composed in MuseScore in Linux. It is also free and pretty neat. MuseScore is composition software with a midi simulation playback option which is fantastic for someone like me with no idea what they are doing. It has it’s limits, though. The midi playback IS still midi, and it sounds like it… but it was sort of fun getting to output my song as an mp3 and use it in the video. Maybe someday I’ll use music from real instruments, but for goofing around and learning, I think it works just fine.

I hope you found this enlightening or helpful. Please feel free to ask if you have any questions… though… remember, I’m figuring it out as I go along. In all liklyhood, questions will result in us trying to figure it out together rather than me already knowing the answer. That’s the fun part anyway, though, right?

Portland Adventure

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Multnomah Falls

This last weekend my special lady friend and I went on an adventure to Portland!
I knew that I would like it, but I didn’t realize just how much.

Today my sister called me and asked what we did on our trip. I proceeded to talk for an hour straight, and didn’t cover everything. Point being, we did a lot, and I’m only going to hit the highlights. I’ll cover the negatives first because there were very few and they all happened in the beginning.

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Rocking Frog Cafe

We rented a car and they gave us a Kia Soul. That car was horrible. Some people seem to like the way they look, I can respect that but disagree. It was pretty good on gas, which was really the point. My problem was that the car had a bad turn radius and the worst blind spots I’ve ever seen (I used to work valet, I’ve driven a lot of cars). Being able to see and turn around would have been nice, considering that parking downtown was not the sort of thing that informed people attempt and street signs would have been more visible if someone was trying to hide them. Those are all of the negatives. If you never drive a Kia Soul and you keep in mind that parking will be a bitch if you ever visit Portland, then they wont be a problem for you.

We ate a lot of food… so much delicious food… particularly sweets. We tried Blue Star Donuts, which was great.
We ate at The Rocking Frog Cafe, which I really liked. All their sandwiches were named after writers, the atmosphere was nice, and they had donuts that they didn’t make until after you ordered them… I wanted to hang out there all day, it was probably my favorite place we ate for atmosphere.

Pip's Original

Pip’s Original

Another donut place that we went to, which was amazing, was Pip’s Original. They also didn’t make their donuts  until you ordered them. I think that Pip’s was my favorite donut.
We were told a few times to try Voodoo Donuts too, but the line was always too long.
There was wonderful ice cream at Salt & Straw which was great. Though, it was so salty, that we probably should have split one.
Moonstruck Chocolates was a little pricey, but they had great truffles AND a box for chocolates… that was made of chocolate, which was rad, they also had tea from Smith Teamaker.
The Red Nectar tea that I got there was delicious. The next day we went to Smith Teamaker and got a flight of teas for a taste. If you are ever in the area, and a fan of tea,

Smith Teamaker

Smith Teamaker

I suggest this.

Not everything we did was food, despite how it might sound.
We checked out the Leprechaun Park, the smallest park in the world, and also (according to the wikipedia) “The only leprechaun colony west of Ireland.” There, our Lego people hung out with a Lego Leprechaun… there’s a picture of this somewhere below.
We also went to a bar arcade called Ground Kontrol that was exactly what I would imagine all bars would be like if Tron had been a turning point in American society (an alternate reality that I’m having fun imagining).
I had just finished reading Hemlock Veils by my twitter friend Jennie Davenport that takes place in a made up town east of Portland. I enjoyed it so much that we went looking for Hemlock Veils, but ended up on the wrong highway, because I’m a dork

Lego us with a Leprechaun at the Leprechaun Park (AKA Mill Ends Park).

Lego us with a Leprechaun at the Leprechaun Park (AKA Mill Ends Park).

and, as I said, street signs are not Portland’s strong suit. I still got a taste for how beautiful the area was and was not disappointed when a short drive to the east on 84 brought us right near Multnomah and Wahclella Falls. They were gorgeous and to call the trip to see them “a hike” would imply that it was much further and more strenuous than it was. Short, easy, rewarding; I suggest them both.
Then there was Powell’s Books… Oh my goodness. So many books. I thought I knew what to expect, I was wrong. Words can not describe how awesome such a gargantuan bookstore is, especially to a book nerd like me.

We did so much more fun stuff, I’m going to just flood the rest of the page with images. My end message, though, is that Portland is an amazing and magical place. Visit it if you can.

Pretty view from Mt Tabor Park

Pretty view from Mt Tabor Park

This sign was rad.

This sign was rad.

A flight of teas at Smith Teamaker.

A flight of teas at Smith Teamaker.

We have more friends in Portland than we do in San Diego because they keep moving there and not coming back... Now I understand why!

We have more friends in Portland than we do in San Diego because they keep moving there and not coming back… Now I understand why!

Channel Islands Adventure

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 The Good Wife

The Good Wife

I will post some fiction on Thursday. Over this last weekend, however, I went on an adventure and thought I might share some pictures.

Between Thursday and Sunday I accompanied my girlfriend’s family while they were brought out to the northern Channel Islands on a sailing ship.

The ship was called The Good Wife with Captain Sean and was chartered through Channel Islands Charter (http://www.channelislandscharter.com/).

What I was told were Chumash burial mounds in the foreground with Anacapa in the distance.

What I was told were Chumash burial mounds in the foreground with Anacapa in the distance


 
Captain Sean started out by saying “Well, it’s your charter, we can go wherever you want,” but none of us knew exactly where we wanted to go, except that we wanted some adventure. Captain Sean and his son Cullen made suggestions which did not disappoint. They knew the islands, and the area, they were interesting people to talk to and great cooks. Needless to say, we were well fed, well cared for, and thoroughly entertained.

The lighthouse on Anacapa Island surrounded by seagulls

The lighthouse on Anacapa Island surrounded by seagulls

We made it to two islands: Anacapa and Santa Cruz.

On the first day we explored a little of the island of Anacapa. Some of the high points include kayaking into some beautiful sea caves and trekking up to the light house among hoards of seagulls.

The next two days were spent on Santa Cruz Island, where we hiked around on the island and kayaked into Painted Cave, the largest sea cave in North America, to the tune of some very grumpy sea lions.

The only negative of the entire trip was avoidable. I decided to sleep on deck the last night and was swarmed by mosquitoes all night. I was forced to bury my head down inside my sleeping bag to escape their ravenous little proboscises, where I conceived and wrote the fiction that I’ll be posting on Thursday.

 

Kayaking in painted cave

Kayaking in painted cave

Kayaking in Painted Cave

Kayaking in Painted Cave

The view from inside Painted Cave

The view from inside Painted Cave

 

It was a great trip. If you ever get the opportunity to do something similar, my advice to you is to not hesitate to do so.

 

 

Of course, our lego people had a great adventure as well.

Of course, our lego people had a great adventure as well.