Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

It is a snowy Christmas Eve in PA.  We went to a memorable candlelight service at Calvary Church on Landis Valley Rd. here in Lancaster county.
Sandra is checking out the lobby tree here at Willow Valley Manor North.

The outdoors Christmas lights look extra pretty with some snow mixed in.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Plentious of Poinsettias

I went with my dad to Frysville Farms, in Ephrata, today to pick out a giant Poinsettia plant for the hall by their apartment.  I'd put a link to their web site, but I don't see one on their brochure.  I wonder if Mennonites do Internet

They had lots and lots of Poinsettias, that's for sure.
This is one end of the greenhouse.

Here is the view looking from the other end of the room.  I was amazed to see those purple plants along the left wall.  We have the exact same plants growing in our planter on Bonaire.  They grow like crazy down there.

Hot Wide Angle Lens Tip

This is the fully manual 14mm lens that I've used for just about all the astronomy photos that I've posted in 2012.  My lens is called a Rokinan, but this Bower is made by the same company.  It works well for astro photos, even wide open at f2.8.  At f4, it is excellent.  I focus using live view.

My hot tip is that B and H photo has it on sale for $299 right now, for most DSLR systems.  The link is for the Canon compatible one, but the other ones are the same price too.  I've got nothing to gain financially if you buy one, but I'm making this plug 'cause I consider this lens an very good bang for the buck. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Moon and Jupiter

Here is Jupiter to the left of the Moon tonight.  I wish I had had a DSLR tonight because the small point and shoot camera is severely limited for this kind of shot.  But it does serve to show how close Jupiter is to the moon.  Jupiter is at about 10 o'clock relative to the moon and is sitting within the sky glow caused by the moon.  It doesn't show up in the photo, but when I was outside with the naked eye, I could see the star Aldebaran to the lower right of the moon.  Clicking on this picture to see the full size version might help.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It Snowed

We had planned to drive from Florida to Pennsylvania during the course of Monday and Tuesday this week.  But when we learned that snow was forecast along our route Tuesday am, we did the whole drive on Monday.
I ate dark chocolate to stay awake.  Sandra drank coffee but slept like a baby.  ha-ha
It didn't snow much today, but it was messy out this am and we were very glad to be snug in my parents' place and not out on the road.

Moon and Jupiter Dec. 28

Sandra and I enjoyed watching Jupiter and the star Aldebaran each evening last week from the clear skies of Penny Farms, Florida.
If you go out after sunset (in North America) on Wednesday, December 28.  You'll find the Moon stationed more or less between Jupiter and Aldebaran.
If it is clear here in Pennsylvania, (snowed today) I'll try to take a picture with the small point and shoot camera I have with me on this trip.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Fall Furlough Fun

We were at the Westover Church in Greensboro, NC the first week of November.  We had a great time with other missionaries and with the friendly people in the church.  We also had a great time with our hosts, Ken and Laurie Pittman, and their dog, who shall remain nameless, to preserver her crime fighting effectiveness.

There are lots and lots of trails in Greensboro.  We did a late afternoon hike on one of them.
The leaves in Greensboro were looking mighty fine that week.

Ah yes, nothing like a little fall furlough foliage fun.
The fall colors were still looking nice the next week at the TWR office in Cary, NC.  Sandra is catching up on some emails in our room.

Cool Wheels


Well, if I ever have to retire to Florida and drive a golf cart everywhere, it is going to be one like this!

Happy Thanksgiving

We celebrated the American Thanksgiving Day with Sandra's family in Florida.  Here are a couple shots of the happy family.
We also enjoyed watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in Hi-Def.  And then the National Dog show,  whoo whoo,  before the obligatory football games.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cool Microscope

I know the name Celestron from their telescopes and binoculars.  I had a lot of great nights under the stars with one of their original orange 8" SCTs with the sand cast fork mount.
Sandra's cousin, Bud Gillan, just showed me a new Celestron Microscope he will be using with his high school students.  It is the Celestron Pentaview LCD Digital Microscope. 
Not to be confused with its less expensive brethren, this scope shows what you are looking at on a touch screen and has a built in 5mp digital camera, with both time lapse and movie recording capability.
If my high school had had one of these, my friends and I would have gone crazy looking at stuff with it for sure.
Here is a photo of a sliver of bamboo, I think.  I looked at all sorts of stuff, like the printing on a five dollar bill, and the torn edge of a piece of paper.  We didn't have any pond scum to look at, boo hoo, but Bud is going to collect some for his students tomorrow.  :)

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

New Startrails Picture

I was just hunting around for TWR stuff on one of my backup hard drives, and I came across a folder full of images I shot at Red Slave on Bonaire, back in March of 2011.  Just for fun, I combined three and a half hours of shots into one image which shows the trails caused by the apparent movement of the stars across the sky.
You can see a time lapse movie that I made from all the images that went into this photo on YouTube.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Furlough Fun

Sandra and I headed to the States last week to visit our financial sponsors and prayer partners.  We got to New Jersey just in time to experience the hurricane.  Here is a shot of our son's roof.
Now we are in Greensboro, North Carolina.  It has been warm and the cars have been very courteous as they passed me on my bike rides.  Here is the view through the skylight in the bathroom at our house.
We are at Westover Church at their Fall Global celebration.  Yesterday the men attending the conference went bowling while the women had a luncheon.
Above, you can see Lynn Everswick, in black, about to deliver his ball.  Lynn grew up in Zimbabwe and is the missions pastor at Westover Church.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

New Mystery Object

We found this interesting tool in the tech. shop at the studios.  We can figure out what it is for.  As you can see in the bottom picture, the one hole goes straight through, so maybe it is a drilling jig - sorry for the fuzzy pix.
Anyone know what it is used for?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ultimate Zoom Lens Bargain

Have I got a deal for you...   If you don't happen to have $26,000.00 lying around to buy the Sigma 200-500 F2.8 zoom lens.  (free shipping at Amazon!)

You can now rent one from  A four day rental will cost you a mere $1050, plus shipping.

Actually, if you want to rent their copy of the lens, you'll have to wait 'till after the World Series, because that is where it will be, probably attached to Fox's super high speed camera system.
Here is a picture of the lens in action  from the web site.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Star Trails

Here is a star trails picture similar to the one I posted back in March of 2011.  I'm going to try making a poster of this one at

The gaps in the star trails were caused by clouds passing by.  This site was dark enough that the clouds showed up as dark blobs in an otherwise starlit sky.

The fairly wide pink trail towards the lower left of the picture is the Eta Carina nebula.

When is a Dog not a Dog?

Answer:  When it is a chew-toy Hog.  They've since chewed the ends right off both of these Nylabone chew toys.

TX Site Stars

Back a week or so ago, before the winds stopped and the clouds rolled in, we had a really clear night.

I zoomed out to the TWR transmitter site and took some pictures of the setting Sagittarius Milky Way behind our antenna towers.

I'm planning to use these shots as promotional posters when we report back to our sponsors and prayer partners later this fall.

Each shot is 30 seconds, at ISO 3200 and F2,8 with a Samyang 14mm lens.

Dog Days of October

The no trade winds days of October have finally arrived.  We've had either no wind or backwards breezes since last Friday.  Had a couple thunder storms too.

The island is looking green and the mosquitoes are swarming.

But, on the other hand, no-wind days are great for bike riding and for diving on the normally rough east side of the island.

Here is a view of Goto Lake from my bike ride Saturday morning.  The water was glassy smooth, which is quite rare here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Summer Volunteer

Right after the two church summer missions teams returned home from helping us here on Bonaire, former TWR missionary kid, John McDonald arrived to help get the TWR Bonaire web site back online after an absence of quite a few years.

John saved up his vacation time and was able to be here for seven weeks.  Besides working on the web site, John got in a lot of diving, and was able to re-connect with quite a few friends from back when he lived here as a kid.

We had a staff China Nobo take out food feast in the Master Studio when John wrapped up his volunteer efforts at the office.  John's sister, Joanna, joined John for the last two weeks of his time here.
Pictured, from left to right:  Dave Pedersen, Dick Veldman (partially hidden,) John McDonald, Joanna McDonald, Donna Gassert, Laura Neal, Brandon Neal, and Ivan Statia.  You can see my food waiting for me in the foreground.   Yum!

Another Summer Mission Trip

We were very fortunate to have two church groups from the States here this summer.  They volunteered their vacation time to help with some construction type projects.  I wrote about the first group here.

The second group to visit, shown here, was from the Tabernacle of Danville, Virginia. 
Photo credit: Laura Neal

Planetary Update

Yikes, it's been so long since I've done a post that I almost forgot my login informaton!

A few days after I saw Mars, Saturn and the star Spica making a small triangle in the sky, the moon joined the grouping.  I ran out in the backyard and snapped a few pictures.  Never got around to posting until now though.

Compare the position of Mars with its position in the pictures in the post just below this one.
It was fun to see the configuration change from night to night.  Or maybe it is just fun if you live on a desert island...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Planetary Pair

The planet Saturn has been lurking near the star, Spica, for months now.  Recently, Mars zoomed over to join in the fun.                              In this shot, from last Friday, you can see Spica, Mars, and Saturn forming a small triangle towards the right hand edge of the picture.  They are a little below the middle of the picture from top to bottom.

Here is a close up shot of the planets. In this view, the triangle is rotated a bit clockwise compared to the shot above.  Spica is at the bottom left, Mars is to the right, and Saturn is at the top.

In this shot, taken Tuesday, you can see that Mars has moved to the upper left and is now in line with Spica (bottom) and Saturn (top.)
You can click on these pictures to see the larger versions.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What's in that Astrophoto

There is a Web site called Astrometry dot net that automatically identifies objects in one's astro photos.  Here is what the site found in my recent shot of Scorpius.  There is so much stuff in this part of the sky, that the labels overlap.  I'll try it again soon with a more zoomed in shot.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Church Group Visits

Last week we were visited by a great ministry team from the Midway Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC. 

Besides enjoying the beauty and diversity of Bonaire, they helped with some construction projects and held a very successful a ladies night at the International Bible Church.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Another view of Scorpius

Just for fun, here is another shot from last night.
Besides the four minute long Scorpius astro photo that you can see in my previous post, I did get one full five minute long exposure.  The clouds obscured the bottom part, but I'm encouraged by the additional information in this longer exposure.  If I can ever get a whole bunch of five minute exposures, I think I'll be able to tease out more of the red around Antares.  There is also a huge area of faint red nebula in the upper left corner of the frame.  I can just barely detect it in this image, but not at all in the 4 minute image.

Semi Starry Night

The sky was a nice deep blue color yesterday afternoon, and there wasn't thaaat much haze on the horizon.  So, after getting home from work and feeding the dogs, I packed up my gear and headed out to a new spot out in the back boondocks of Bonaire, to try to get a good image of the Scorpius part of the summer Milky Way.

Well, the skies were indeed dark and transparent, but there were also tons of clouds floating by.  I stayed out 'till around 11pm and managed to get one good four minute long exposure.  My goal had been 20+ five minute exposures so I could combine them and get a nice clean picture.  But this one shot will have to do, for now.

In the image to the left, I've drawn in some lines showing the main stars in Scorpius and Sagittarius. This area is chock full of interesting things to look at with binoculars or a telescope.  A number of them are visible in this picture, if you view the larger size version.  I didn't label them so you'll have to get out your handy dandy star atlas if you want to identify them.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Planets on Parade part 2

Well, Jupiter, Venus and the Moon wrapped up their three day show this morning.  It was cloudy at 4:30, so I went back to sleep.  But at 5:30, I could see moon and planets.  They looked mighty fine up there.
Tried to go back to sleep, but gave up and got ready for my before-work bike ride.  I usually get up at 6 for that anyway.  The sky clouded up and I got rained on a little bit in Rincon, but I didn't care, 'cause I had already seen the moon and planets.
I shot the picture yesterday with an 85mm lens.  The wider shot today was with a 24mm lens, and gives a good feel for the scale and separation of the planets and moon.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Early Bird catches the Planets

If you happened to look to the East at 4:30 this morning, you would have seen Venus, Jupiter and the Moon forming a compact triangle in the sky.  If you missed it, try looking Monday morning when they will make sort of a straight-ish line in the sky.

Oh, I just checked and these picture look much better if you click on one of them to see the full size versions.
This picture, above shows what I saw with my naked eye this morning from about 4:30 'till 5, when I went back to sleep.  That is Jupiter at the top, the Moon in the middle and Venus to the lower right.  You might also be able to spot Aldebaran slightly below half way up on the right side of the frame.  This was a quarter second exposure.

When I shot a half second exposure, I also caught the rest of the stars that make up the V shape of the horns of the bull, Taurus.
The point of the V shape is near the upper right corner of the frame, Aldebaran is at the end of one of the horns, and the other horn points right at the moon. Aldebaran is known as a "red giant" star and you can see it has a different coloration than the planets and other stars.

There was a slight amount of haze in the sky this morning.  If it is clear tomorrow am, and if I get to bed early enough tonight, I'll take another picture so you can see where the moon moves to.  Speaking of moving, I do a picture in my files from a week ago, which shows Venus much closer to Aldebaran.  It is fun to watch the planets wander among the fixed stars.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sorobon Reef

I did a snorkel at Sorobon yesterday with Sandra's cousin, Bud Gillan.  Some sections of the barrier reef out there are really nice.  Probably my favorite snorkel these days.

We saw a couple Scorpion fish.  Can you see the fish in this photo?

There are lots of interesting channels to swim in and out of. 

We saw some sea urchins making a comeback, which is great.  They all but disappeared a number of years ago.

Saw some nice trunk fish, and loads of other fish, in a whole range of ages and sizes.  Bud saw a big tarpon, but I missed it.