Sunday, December 30, 2007

No Loose Lithium Batteries in Checked Baggage

If you are travelling to Bonaire from the USA, you will be interested to know that beginning Tuesday, you can't pack spare Lithium Batteries in your checked baggage. You can pack them in your carry on, however. Make sure the terminals are protected so nothing can short them out.

Here is the full story on the Bonaire Insider web site.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Full Moon Fun

Bob Lassiter and I sallied forth last Friday, Dec. 23, for some full moon foto fun. Bob has been experimenting, for a number of months, with using the natural light of the full moon to get new views of familiar subjects. He's got some great shots of his house, for example. We headed up to Seru Largu to see what we could see. It was pretty hazy that night, so the full moon wasn't as bright as it could have been. So we may need to do this again. In the above photo, shot entirely with moonlight, we see Bob getting his big 100-400 zoom lens ready for action.
I cheated and used a bit of fill flash on this one to fill in the Moon shadows while Bob set his sites on the the lights of Playa.
Here is an attempt to expose for the lights of town, as well as the moonlit areas of the island. I'll probably play with these images some more to see what variations I can come up with.
There was a cruise ship in port that day. Cruise ships often leave shortly after sunset, but this one stayed around until late that night. To the naked eye, it looked like a big building covered with Christmas lights.

Moon and Mars

On Dec. 23, the full Moon passed right by Mars during the course of the evening. This picture, taken at Moonrise, shows Mars well to the lower right of the moon. (to the right of the cacti) By nine pm, the Moon was right next to Mars, and by the time I went to bed, the Moon was to the lower left of Mars.
Now I wish I had taken a series of pictures every hour or so, but this one will have to suffice.

Two Comet Show on Friday Evening

We got to see comets Tuttle and Holmes last night. In the binoculars, Comet Tuttle was about as bright as the galaxy M31 was to the naked eye, that is, we could barely see it.

There was some high haze present the whole night, so we couldn't see the Milky Way. That made it easy to identify the constellations. But there were periods of time when the thick clouds cleared away, so I got about 16 one minute exposures of the sky between the constellations Andromeda and Perseus. You can see both Comet Tuttle and Comet Holmes in this picture. Tuttle is small and aqua colored. The X below Tuttle is where it was on Thursday night, and the X above Tuttle is where it will be Saturday night. It looks like the comet will pass right by the galaxy M33 soon.
I labeled a number of interesting objects in this picture. The first letter of each label is to the lower right of its object.
I drew in some constellation lines. The somewhat parallel lines running off the left side of the image are Andromeda. The triangle above Andromeda is Triangulum. The sprawling set of lines at the lower right of the picture is the constellation Perseus.

I had just started a series of close ups on the Andromeda / Tuttle area when my scope mount quit tracking. I have a bad wire in the cable running between the hand controller and the mount. I've been able to nurse it along for months, but I think it died for good last night. To fix it, I'll have to cut about a foot off of the end of the cable and re-solder the individual wires to the teeny tiny printed circuit board inside the controller. I'm a ham handed solderer, so I'm a little concerned, but I've got nothing to lose at this point. :)
We'll be outside tonight to see what we can see. It's been pretty cloudy and rainy all day, so who knows.... There is an Iridium flare at 19:34, so hopefully we'll get to see that at least. (There were also nice flares on Thur. and Fri. evenings, as seen from our backyard.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Green Christmas

Sandra wound lights in and around most of our windows, for a nice ambiance inside, and a little holiday flavor from the outside as well. Bonaire is really green and lush right now, and many of what usually are dry stream beds and ruts in the roads have running water in them. It is a nice change. We had a Christmas Eve service at the IBCB. I was happy to see as many visitors as regular church fold there that evening. Room lighting, except for the platform, was by candles in paper bags with sand at the bottom. I lightened the picture so you could see everyone a little better.
Christmas morning found Sandra doing some last minute Christmas light repairs.
We didn't set up a fill size Christmas tree this year because our six month puppy would have probably knocked it over. So we had a mico mini tree on the table.
We visited with some friends in the afternoon, and then in the evening we went to the Christmas Buffet at the Divi Flamingo hotel. We enjoyed the buffet A LOT and will probably do it again next year. Entrees included baked fish, yummy turkey with all the fixings, baked ham, and rib roast. We tried them all of course.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Long Time No Post

It's been about two weeks since my last post, so I'll do a few tonight. I've got more stuff to share, so maybe I can get to it over the holidays. Life gets busy in December, even here on Bonaire. Then Sandra and I have been pretty sick for about a week, yuck.

But we're both feeling much better now. I might even venture out on an easy bike ride tomorrow. I think it will take me a couple weeks to get back up to speed though.

I sold all my Minolta camera gear on eBay since my last post. My six auctions ended late on a Sunday night, everyone paid promptly, and my dad graciously packed and shipped the stuff right away. By the Friday, everyone had received their goodies. The guy who won my Maxxum 28/2 lens was particularly happy. I'm not surprised. The 28/2 produced cleaner star shapes in my astro photos at F2.8 than my Canon 24/2.8 does at F4! The Maxxum 100/2.8 macro was also better wide open at F2.8 than my Canon 85/1.8 is at F2.8. Bob Lassiter has Canon's 100/2.8 macro, and he says that I can try it out under the stars some time.

I saw the International Space Station pass right in front of the Sun on Saturday morning. I tried to get set up to image it with my telescope, solar filter, lap top computer, and web cam, but didn't get it all hooked up and functioning in time. Now I'm usually so busy trying to get pictures that I don't even see the event at all. Yesterday was a different story and I am happy to report that the ISS looked really great in my ETX 90 and 26mm eyepiece as it zoomed across the Sun's disk.

I was out this evening taking some pictures of the beautiful Full Moon / Mars pairing and saw the ISS pass by at about 18:55. It was too hazy to get any useful pictures of the ISS but it was fun to see that it was right on schedule, ha-ha. The ISS will be also be visible, here on Bonaire, a couple more evenings this week according to CalSky dot com. As I've mentioned before, the Calsky and Heavens-Above Web sites are worth their weight in gold if you want to know what is going on in the night sky at your location.

Flamingo Dreamscape

I like this picture, from my Dec. 8 ride, because of the soft colors and the reflections in the water. Bonaire usually presents a pretty harsh image, but to me this has a softer feel.
Sometimes I really don't feel like carting my camera around as I cycle through Washington Park. A full Camel Bak is heavy enough all by itself, but I see such interesting stuff just about every time, that the camera comes along for the ride after all.
I was recently playing with Bob Lassiter's Canon 20D and found that it was quite a bit heavier than my new Rebel XTi. I must say that I was really lusting after the new 40D, when I bought the XTi, but now I'm glad that I won't have to lug the bigger camera around on my treks to the Park. (I do miss the 40D's astro photo focusing abilities though.)
I also chose the admittedly non-professional looking silver version of the XTi after discovering how amazingly hot my all black Minolta used to get when I was hiking around with it in the hot Bonaire sun. Now I just need to round out my collection of white lenses, ha-ha.

Flamingo Fun

Here ia a flamingo picture that I shot back on December 1. I briefly mentioned this bird in my Dec. 9 post. I was on a dirt road/causeway between two big ponds in Washington Park.
A flamingo suddenly decided to fly from the pond on the Playa Frans side over to the pond on the Brandaris side. I started snapping pictures like crazy as he flew towards me, passed right in front of me, and then curved on past me.

This is the best shot from that sequence, and I like it a lot! The version I posted here is a 429K file, so you might want to not click on the thumbnail if you are using a dial up connection. I don't know if Blogger will downsize it or not, but the photo I uploaded is 1680x1050 and I'll be using it as wallpaper on my laptop.

Starry Nights

It has been quite cloudy and rainy, here on Bonaire, for a couple weeks now. But back on December 11, I got out in the back yard and took a few pictures of the Milky Way running from Cassiopeia over to Taurus. This composite picture runs from Cass. to the Pleiades. The top picture has some labels to help you know what you are looking at. At the top left of the picture is the Andromeda galaxy, which I've incorrectly labeled M33. It is really M31. I could also see M33, the Triangulum galaxy, in the original picture, but I don't know that you can spot it in this downsized version, although it is barely there at the middle of the top edge of the frame.

At the left side of the picture is the constellation Cassiopeia, it is below the Cass. label and is pretty much lost in the clutter of stars. The double cluster between Cassiopeia and Perseus is above the "D" in the label. Comet Holmes is to the lower left of the "C" in its label, and is above the central part of Perseus. Then way over on the right side of the picture is the Pleiades, located to the upper left of the "P" in the label.
The lower picture is a little larger and doesn't have any pesky labels in it. There is another comet in the sky right now, not too far from the site of this picture. It is much dimmer than comet Holmes, but we'll look for it later this week when the moon isn't up.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Big Sailboat

This sail powered cruise ship glided by while we were eating out under the stars the other night. So when it was time to head home, Sandra and I stopped off downtown to check it out.
Bonaire is usually too windy to allow for calm reflective water like this, but this time of the year is the exception, and I hope to take full advantage of it any chance I get.

Christmas Party Time

Our son, Richard, recently drove from NJ to Virginia, for the annual company Christmas party. Here on Bonaire, we had a staff Christmas food fest at Richards Restaurant.
Although we don't eat out much, Sandra and I have visited Richards Restaurant a good number of times during the 17 years he's been in in operation here on Bonaire, and we've been very pleased with both the service and the food each and every time.

Here's a picture of Sandra and friends enjoying the seaside atmosphere and camaraderie. Wish you were here, heh-heh.

Cara Cara - Wara Wara

The names for this bird remind me of the po tay toe - po tah toe song. By any name, these are impressive birds.
During the hot and windy spring/summer months, I often see them soaring on thermals and on wind pressure waves associated with some of the ridges and valleys in Washington Park. One bird, soaring near Yuwa Pass, shot up vertically like he was on an invisible elevator. I definitely was suffering from wing envy that day.
During the cloudy and windless fall months, I usually see these birds hanging out on the ground.

I saw four last week as I cycled through the park. Three of them scampered into the undergrowth when they saw me, but this one flew up onto a nearby cactus. He really has two legs, but spent a lot of time perched on only one.

I saw five Cara Cara yesterday. One was flying and four were hanging out on the ground.
Here is a 100% crop from the first picture.
This is a 100% crop of another image.
Some flamingos performed for me too. A couple were so nice as to fly right past me while traveling from one pond to another. I'll post flying flamingo pix sometime soon. I like the contrasting colors in this picture.

I also saw a bull and a few cows in the park last week, in the same area that I saw them once before. But no bovine pictures in the blog. I didn't stop to dig out the camera from my backpack, 'cause I wasn't sure if I could pedal as fast as the bull could run, if he turned out to be camera shy.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Big Birthday

Sunday was Amado Felix's 60th birthday and a full day of festivities were planned, starting with a small reception following the morning service at the IBCB. If I ever fail to have my camera, I can count on Lucy to get some great shots. Here she zooms in on Amado while Keith and Barb Johnston sing him a special song.
Here we see the birthday boy with his wife Sue.
It looks like a photographer feeding frenzy. Notice the kids waiting in the wings before their own feeding frenzy!

Just Plane Fun

The sky was quite clear last Saturday morning. I really enjoyed the vistas in Washington Park as I rode my bike in there for the first time in about a month. Another Saturday morning regular is Ernie Franke, who often takes out the Bonaire Flying Club plane for a lap around the island. I frequently see Ernie fly by offshore as I ride along the "long route" in the park.

Regular readers of my blog will probably remember the aerial photos of Bonaire that I've posted from time to time. They are the result of Ernie kindly inviting me to join him for his aerial adventures from time to time.

Here is a shot, with my "new" 400mm lens, of Ernie and Janto as they flew by the north coast of the island on Saturday morning.

Visitors from the Cold North

It was great to see Tim Jones and family in church a week ago. Back when I was operating our TWR transmitters out by the salt flats five nights a week, Tim Jones, the son of TWR missionaries Warren and Bev Jones, used to hang out with me from time to time. We probably swatted a million mosquitoes and ate about that many Pringles, urp!

Tim, his wife Dawn, their two kids, and a Nephew all visited Bonaire a week ago. They had already plowed ten inches of snow back home in Pennsylvania before coming here, and it was 20 degrees F. when they returned. It sounds like they took full advantage of the snorkeling while they were here for an all too brief visit. Here is the obligatory "please stand in front of the big map at the IBCB" photo of the happy family.
On a side note, we still tease our son, Richard, about when cow poo splashed on him during a youthful visit to Dawn's family's dairy farm in PA. I can't figure out how we let Mike Rowe and the Discovery Channel series, "Dirty Jobs" run away with that scenerio and have all the fun.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

ISS Flybys

The International Space Station (ISS) passed almost directly overhead on Wednesday and Friday evenings. I noticed that the ISS was going to almost "hit" the bright star, Deneb, in the Norther Cross, as seen from our back yard.
I did some playing around and found a spot just North of 1000 Steps where the ISS should pass directly in front of Deneb. Sandra and I zoomed out there. We marveled at how dark sky was compared to Hato, and enjoyed the first cloudless evening in a long long time.

With our naked eye, the ISS appeared to graze Deneb. In this picture, taken with a 400mm lens, it was a miss, but a near miss to be sure. I've labeled the stars with their Tycho catalog numbers. I'm still going to do some checking to try to figure out the scale of the picture.
The ISS went from left to right in the picture. You can see a wiggle at the left end of the ISS trail, probably from when the mirror went up and the shutter opened. My tripod was especially wiggly that night, but I didn' t have time to tighten it up. I generally lock the mirror up and take the picture two seconds later, but in this case I needed to have better control of the timing, in order to capture the ISS passing the star.

Comet Holmes (again)

Now that the moon isn't around in the evening, comet Holmes is again a naked eye object. But it isn't amazingly obvious like is was a month ago.

I took this picture Friday night. It is the first chance I've had to take a "real" astro-phot0 of the comet. Previous images were stacks of 2 second exposures. This one is a stack of one minute exposures, and better shows how rich the central Persius area of the sky is.