Sunday, August 13, 2017

Taking photos of the sun

There's an eclipse coming in a couple of weeks. I want to take lousy photos of it. But, I also want to avoid burning out my eye like an ant on the sidewalk with a magnifying glass. So, a project.
Problem: The sun is bright. Really bright. Too bright to look at. Too bright to photograph. Both eyes and cameras can be damaged by pointing them at the sun. I'll set up projection rig for most of our eclipse viewing. Its fairly easy. You duct tape a big opaque card over the front of your binoculars with a hole for one side. Then you point the binoculars at the sun and they will project a nice sized image of the sun onto a white card a few feet away. (Caution: Don't look through the binoculars!!) It takes a bit of rejiggering to get things pointed right but it does work. That way you can watch the eclipse while facing away from it -- no blindness, just a bit of eclipse-tan on the back of your neck. Huzzah!
But, of course I will want to take photos. So I need some really, really dark sunglasses for my camera.
There are a number of ways to make it safe to look at the sun. They make sunglasses for eclipse viewing. Its best to stick to companies you know for your eclipse glasses. There are cheap imitations out there that are dangerous to use. One quick spot check you can make is to put them on and look at anything but the sun. If you can see anything at all through them then they aren't dark enough.
You can buy ND filters for your camera that are made for this. They start at around 60 bucks for a screw-on ND 100000 filter and most cost more. So, I decided to try a less expensive do-it yourself alternative.
On thing you can used to safely look at the sun is the lens from a pair of shade 14 welder's goggles. The lens looks like a black glass disk but if you look through it at the sun you will see the sun as a green disk that won't set your retina on fire. Perfect!
For my project I needed the aforementioned welding goggle lens (50mm shade 14) plus a couple of step-down rings to adapt the 50mm lens to the 62mm filter size of my camera lens. Here's my kit:

And here is the mess that I made of it. Happily, epoxy fingerprints will mostly scrape off of glass with a razor blade.

As one might expect, as soon as the glue had set clouds covered the sun which didn't make an appearance for several days. But it did finally come out and I was able to snap a few photos. Here's one of them.
Not bad. I was hoping to see sunspots. But I checked a solar observatory website and there aren't any right now. This proves my filter works perfectly -- there weren't any sunspots and I couldn't see any! Perfection!!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Keyser Soze or TinEye

I was recently reading stories on an online magazine website when an image in an advertisement caught my eye. Here it is, more or less.
It appeared, slightly smaller, with a headline something like "Michael Jordan buys World's Fastest Jet." I blush to admit that I clicked the ad, hoping against countless past disappointments that, just maybe, this time the linked story would contain some reference to the odd-ball photo. It didn't of course. It led me to a perfectly-nice if slow-loading story about celebrities' private jets. It was a slideshow with 40 individual pages with a million ads each. I saw Celine Dion's jet and Harrison Ford's. But nothing about Michael Jordan, and more to the point, the come-on image did not appear.

The set me to wondering, once again, about what is to be done about click-bait artists who post links that are blatant lies but who none-the-less get paid when they trick us into clicking on their links.

Two approaches occurred to me. The first would be more satisfying but possibly tricky to implement. That idea is a sort of crowd-sourcing thing to raise funds to hire death squads. Then one could simply find the people responsible for the misleading ads and kill them... and their families... and their livestock... burn down their offices... the whole Keyser Soze thing.

Any takers?

No? (*sighs*)

Ok, then, the other option is to right-click on the image you want information about and pick "view image" from the right-click menu. You can then copy the image's URL from the location bar and paste it into the TinEye.com* image search engine. They will come up with a list of pages where visually similar images have appeared. You can then scroll down the list looking for a less sketchy url -- skipping clickbait-r-us.ru and the like -- until you find something that looks like an actual story.

On page three of their list I found this link: Formidable biologically inspired airplanes by Al Brady

So, the image is a computer generated model by a man named Al Brady who designs futuristic stuffola for use in films... or, maybe more accurately, aspires to do so since the one credit I can track down appears to be a completed-but-unreleased 2016 made-for-tv film named "This Is Heaven" for which IMDB lists a runtime of 17 minutes.

So, there you go. With TinEye and option two my curiosity bump got scratched and no one died. That's better ... isn't it?

* I am sure there are other similar search engines for visually-similar images but TinEye.com was the first I found and it is convenient and works well. If you prefer a different one that's lovely. Leave a comment about your favorites.