Tag Archives: photography

The Week in Project 365 Photos [2009-W03]

Sunrise Towers.
Communication towers on Surf Court catch the first rays of sunlight.
Sunrise Towers [2009-012]

Goooooood morning, JSC!
Building 1 and Building 4S on the NASA Johnson Space Center campus glow in the early morning light
Goooooood morning, JSC! [2009-013]

Top of the Astrodome.
Looking at the skylights atop the Astrodome from the Reliant Center.
Top of the Astrodome [2009-014]

Bay House at Night.
The corridor in my apartment complex looks sinister in a 15-second exposure in the artificial light.
Bay House at Night [2009-015]

Clear Lake Panorama.
A panorama at sunset from the Lockheed Martin building on Space Park Drive. (This newer Clear Lake panorama looks better.)
Clear Lake Panorama [2009-016]

Saturday, My Room.
Ganesh stares at me every morning. Thanks, Amrut.
Saturday, My Room [2009-017]

St. Paul Cathedral, Nassau Bay, Texas.
Slowly but surely these ribs are becoming something. I bet this would freak Jonah out.
St. Paul Catholic Church, Nassau Bay, Texas [2009-018]

Hey, add me as a contact on Flickr. If you want to. No pressure.

The Week in Project 365 Photos [2009-W02]

You know what keeps me sane here in Houston? Not much. But I found something recently: the Project 365 group on Flickr. It's a simple concept: take one picture every day and post it to the group.

Participating has been a surprising amount of fun so far, despite the short distance I cover during a given day; I live 1 km from work and I walk the same route every day, three times a week I go for a run, three times a week I go to the gym, once a week I go to the grocery store. Within those boundaries I only take my camera with me to work and back, so I have about a 1 km stretch twice a day along Space Park Drive to find a shot that moves me. I have not been disappointed so far. By looking for a view to share with the Project 365 group, I have to keep my eyes open every day along a well traveled trail -- the kind of trail that would, generally, fail to keep my attention. Now the street has my full concentration. By transitive property, a little bit more of life has my full concentration. Through small, insignificant steps, I will extract myself from these doldrums yet.

So. Here are the photos that I took during week 2009-W02:

Condensate Window [2009-011]

The Tower, the Trees, the Night [2009-010]

2 + 1 [2009-009]

Glory [2009-008]

Before Sunrise, the Alley [2009-007]

The Ongoing Surprise [2009-006]

Shut up and get back in your cubicle [2009-005]

And, as a special New Years bonus, here are the other four photos from the first week in January:

Towboat at the End of Illinois [2009-004]

Dreary [2009-003]

Dirty [2009-002]

New Years in New Delhi [2009-001]

Connect with me on Flickr: kittell.

Also: I'm testing WordPress Flickr plugins on this post. See kittell.tumblr.com/post/69765284 if you have any opinions about Flickr plugins for WordPress that I can use here.

Panoramas from the Heart of the Mojave

A week ago, I was forced to go to Sacramento for a business trip -- forced, as in "don't fling me in dat brier-patch." Seriously. Have to leave Houston to go to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada? There are many, many worse things in life. I'll write more about the trip later. I'm still fussing with a .kmz file that shows my travels on a map. You know me: I'm obsessed with maps.

In the meantime, I wanted to show a few photos that I took in Trona, California. I tell people that I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Fulton County, Illinois. Trona is... maybe at the end of nowhere -- the end of the world, right before you fall off into the abyss. In other words, it's a pretty cool place.

It's hard to describe the Mojave Desert in photos in the same way that it is hard to describe central Illinois in photos: the place is wide open, expansive. If you focus your camera on the so-interesting horizon, you often end up with a so-disappointing photo. It's maddening. That squarish rectangle that your camera captures does not capture what it feels like to be in the wider landscape.

The way around this is to capture a panoramic view of the landscape. I have been taking panoramic photos since I got my first digital camera in 2004, but I have never tried in earnest to stitch them together. Finally, with this batch, I mustered the impetus to try it.

So, I picked up a copy of hugin 0.7.0 from SourceForge to create the panoramas.

It was fairly easy to use. There is a feature to create the panoramas automatically, but I set the control points -- the points common to multiple photos that would be stitched together -- manually. It looked better like that because I could do some quality control on each point, plus I did a more thorough job picking control points in the common areas.

Click each photo for a link to its page on Flickr. Welcome to the desert. Let me know what you think.

Trona Pinnacles:
Trona Pinnacles Panorama

Trona Pinnacles, from on top of a pinnacle:
360 Degree Panorama from Top of Trona Pinnacles

Panamint Valley, from CA-178:
Panamint Valley Panorama

If you're impatient, you can see all of the photos from this trip on Flickr before I write about it: California, October 2008

Trona Pinnacles: blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/ridgecrest/trona.html

Hurricane Ike Aftermath Photos from Clear Lake

I returned to Nassau Bay on Wednesday morning. There is no damage at my building. However, here is no electricity here, though on the same block as us the hospital parking lot and the Lockheed Martin building are both teasing us with their electricity. So, it's urban campout time.

Yesterday morning, I went for a bike ride with my camera around Clear Lake, which is only about 100 meters from my apartment. The lake has receded to its pre-Ike level, but not before flooding, smashing, or otherwise causing havoc around its shores.

I have posted all of my photos to Flickr: Hurricane Ike, September 2008.

I felt like a jerk riding through other people's misery, so in most cases I shied away from taking personal photos. The folks in Kemah, on the coast of Galveston Bay at the mouth of Clear Lake, got hit hard. I know that people on the Gulf of Mexico coast were hit harder. The photos below, and the full set on Flickr, are just a small part of what I saw there. Tomorrow I'm going to see if the Red Cross can use a pair of hands -- much more useful than snapping photos, though I wanted to share with you that aren't here what it looks like in my neighborhood.

Storm Parking

Keep Out We Shoot!

Seabrook Marina

Precarious telephone pole at my office

Like a ship out of water

Missing dock at Clear Lake Park

Suck My Balls Ike

Sheared off

Collapsed car park awning at Balboa

Seabrook Marina

Waterways Marine

Now that the storm has passed, Clear Lake is serene again. It's eerie to consider how different -- how powerful -- it can be when it is sitting there so silently.


Clear Lake, Ike getting closerBefore Ike, there were three benches

Clear Lake, Ike getting closerClear Lake, serene

Exploring the West Texas Desert: Maps and Photos

On 14 to 16 June, I went on a grand tour of the Republic of Texas: Houston to Amarillo to Guadalupe National Park, then back to Houston.

(Want to just see photos? Go to Flickr.)

View Larger Map

(If you're a Google Earth user, I highly recommend downloading the KMZ file for this trip. I spent a good deal of time matching the photos you see in the map to the perspective they were taken from.)

Virginia Tech CanSatThe ostensible purpose of the trip was to cover CanSat 2008 in Amarillo for the American Astronautical Society (CanSats are small student payloads that are launched into the air on rockets and designed to perform a fairly realistic mission). My grand plan was to demonstrate to the AAS folks how social media could enhance our activities. I was going to publish photos on Flickr, student presentations on SlideShare, and updates on Twitter. I was going to show them that this could all be done for free, and that others out there in the ether could even give feedback to the students via the web site (I spent the week before CanSat with Nick Skytland installing WordPress specially for this event.)

The attempt was a farce. The conference room had no reliable internet connection -- which probably saved me from making a host of other mistakes anyway -- and I was stuck with just my mobile phone and Twitter. Consider it a lesson learned. At least, I'll try to fail in a different way when trying to do the same at the AAS National Conference in Pasadena in November.

However, the attempt to broadcast should not be confused with the student competition. The CanSat landers and the presentations that the students made were excellent. These guys and girls officially have more hardware experience than some of the people I have worked with in the industry. Like me, for example.

After the presentations and dinner, at 8pm, I took off from Amarillo for Guadalupe Mountains National Park. I had been there before, very briefly, when I was driving from Illinois to California in January 2005. During the trip, I received some excellent advice from one of the volunteer staff: hike the peak in the dark, watch the sun rise over Texas.

Grain elevator in Umbarger, TexasThe rule for these grand tours is simple: don't drive on roads you've already traveled. Try something new. Something new became a pass through dry, sleepy panhandle Texas in the dark: US-60 to Hereford, US-385 to to Brownfield, US-62 to Seminole, then US-180 all the way to Guadalupe Mountains National Park after cutting off a corner of New Mexico. The grand tours are better in the light, but time doesn't stop for anyone.

At 2:30am, I arrived at the park. 2:30 seems like a reasonable time to go to sleep -- except I was trying to reach Guadalupe Peak in time for sunrise. There was no time to sleep. Sleep meant not only watching the sunrise from the side of the mountain, but watching in the rapidly increasing desert temperature. No thanks.

Moon setting over the ridgeGuadalupe Peak is visited often enough -- it's the highest point in Texas, a state where big is a virtue -- that the path was easily discernible in the waxing gibbous moonlight. Even after the moon set behind the ridge I was ascending, the moonlight reflecting from the opposite ridge was sufficient to see the trail. Eventually, around 5:00am, the moon did set behind the invisible horizon, causing the trail to disappear almost entirely. Sure, I had a flashlight. But, I live in a world of electricity and certainty every other day of my life, and I wanted this trek in the dark.

Listen. Look.

There are some things that you can't understand until you see them for yourself, and no photograph is going to do it justice. Even as the moon left the trail invisible, it opened up a new trail, this one across the sky: the Milky Way. With no cities for miles and miles to throw light into the air and diminish the view, the Milky Way was so clear that it wasn't even clear anymore.

Have you seen the Milky Way in the night sky? That light band of stars stretching from one horizon to the next? Imagine a sky so clear that the the Milky Way becomes not just a single discrete band, but a sky full of light pinpricks so numerous that they command your view in all directions -- not just a star here and a star there, but a whole cascade of them from that central band, brilliant. You can't imagine what you're missing behind the city lightscape.

Upon arriving at the peak, it wasn't clear from which direction the sun would rise. All was the same color of murky blue black. But, the Milky Way became the beacon for this transformation. The sky wasn't discernibly lighter yet where the sun would rise, but the clarity of the Milky Way band was receding.

Slowly, the show began. This is why I hiked 4.5 miles to the top of Guadalupe Peak in the dark:

Most of the way back home was a sprint across the Chihuahuan Desert: US-62/180 to TX-54 to US-90. Briefly I stopped in Hugh McLeod country -- Alpine, Texas -- to get a sandwich and coffee at La Trattoria, a place I recognized from his posts on Twitter. It was a decent place, good coffee, good sandwich, good treatment from the ladies tending the place. La Trattoria felt like a trip back to Caffe Paradiso or Espresso Royale in Urbana -- except for the dust devils whirling down the street. We didn't have those in corn country.

Beyond Alpine, on to the east on US-90 there is little, nothing. It's a desolate stretch of road, and it gives way to a feature of the desert that I appreciate: the landscape is a product of what you project onto it. What? Let me explain. There is nothing out there -- nothing relative to our existence in cities and suburbs and towns -- to recognize, to tag human experience to. It is arid, desolate, lonely. It is winding canyons and miles of scrubby brush stretching to the RIo Grande border with Old Mexico. And I'm sure that the other side is a reflection: more canyons, more scrub, more desert. As if the desert cares about something as imaginary as a border. Out there you can see either (a) that there is nothing or (2) there is an entirely new world. Once you get out there, walk around, get some of that grit in your teeth, you might learn to like it. Or you might hate it worse. That's fine with me. There's a limit to my desert evangelism: I don't want the place to get clogged up with too many people anyway.

Guadalupe Peak summit marker