A nice little piece in The New York Times a few days ago: “Tweaking a Camera to Suit a Hobby.” The hobby in question is launching balloons with point-and-shoot cameras attached and, as far as I can tell, letting them go where they will go. The folks featured in the article, who go by the handle North Iowa Experimental High-Altitude Ballooning (NIXHAB), use balloons that have reached heights around 100,000 feet. That’s far enough up there to give the impression you’re on the edge of space. (My first question: Do these guys need to file flight plans or consult with the FAA?).
The Times story focuses on the software hacks that allow the balloonists and other hobbyists to set up Canon point-and-shoot cameras to record their images. Here’s one from the NIXHAB site (also used in the Times piece):
G Street and 86th Avenue, Oakland. A block away from the A&B towing yard.
It’s a Buick Roadmaster Deluxe. For sale for $4,000 if you’re looking for a project. It’s been parked at various spots around Mariposa and Alabama streets, a couple blocks from where I ply the radio news editor trade, for at least a month. (Those stacks in the background of the top photo–I’ve been looking at them for the last year and I haven’t yet investigated what defunct local manufacturing operation they might have been part of.)
At 18th and South Van Ness. I walked by a couple months ago at midday while exploring a different route to work. I haven’t investigated, but maybe the location is part of a bygone chain (on the other hand, the sign says “since 1955”). In any case, it’s the one and only Whiz burger stand I know. I haven’t yet sampled the fare.
Last night, at the northeast entrance to the 16th Street BART station. Beautiful, warm afternoon and evening. Lots of people on the street, and the scene at the plaza around the station had a little bit of crazy energy to it at the moment I showed up: some of the homeless and local SRO (single-room occupancy) hotel residents arguing, parents reprimanding kids, a mom yanking her kid by the arm as she took him into Burger King for dinner, people spilling out of a Muni bus that had just pulled up at the corner.
For several blocks, I had watched the light above change and looked for an opportunity to try and catch it. Not that it’s so important; but in a way these pictures are a little like postcards to myself, reminding me of a place, a moment. This was my last look at the street scene before heading down the escalator to the train.
A fence I pass every day. On 16th Street in San Francisco, between South Van Ness and Capp, and right next to Theatre Rhinoceros. The fence surrounds a parking lot, site of a defunct AM/PM minimart and a dead car-tuneup place. Nearby is an empty Jeep/Chrysler dealership. The fence, though–it’s doing fine.
Just noodling around, looking for historical pictures of California for a possible project, I came across the Library of Congress stream on Flickr. Soon, I came across a series of slick, posed images of women at work during World War II in Los Angeles-area aircraft plants. I’m captivated by how much is going on here: high (for its time) technology, the serious industrial setting, the artful setup and shot, the costume, the war-on-the-homefront theme, the intensity of the worker as she does her job (not to mention the conceit that the man in the shot is instructing the little lady on what to do).
The caption: “Women are trained to do precise and vital engine installation detail in Douglas Aircraft Company plants, Long Beach, Calif.” It was shot in October 1942 for the Office of War Information, our domestic propaganda agency, and credited to Alfred T. Palmer, the agency’s chief photographer. Click for larger image.
As I just wrote to my brother John;
“… I wasn’t so lucky with the pictures last night. It
started clouding up about an hour before sunset, and
the space station and ISS were crossing well to the
north (maximum elevation was about 27 degrees). So it
was doubtful they’d be as bright even if they were
visible. At the scheduled time — the shuttle was
supposed to appear at 6:03, the ISS at 6:04 — I
couldn’t see anything, but I released the shutter
anyway. After about 30 seconds, I could see something
moving dimly above the clouds in the northwest. After
the first 60-second shot, I reaimed the camera further
east, and realized there were two objects moving by; I
had missed the first, the shuttle, but both were
clearly visible as they crossed through the north to
the northeast. I tried another 60-second shot and got
both of them, though they don’t look nearly as bright
as they did just looking at them. Looking at the shots
now, there was so much ambient light that the sky
became very washed out, and a shorter exposure might
have shown them better Something to remember for next
“Still — pretty amazing stuff. I was seeing them about
four hours after they had separated; if you assume
they were exactly a minute apart, that means the
distance between them was just under 300 miles (the
distance they travel in 60 seconds at 17,500 mph).
Looks like it will be too cloudy here to see the
shuttle again before it lands.”
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