Sunday, 30 September 2018

Disaster Leads to a Video Experiment

A few days ago I had a slight disaster. I needed a hard drive to install in an old DVR for my night sky video recording experimentation. I had two in my old desktop PC which was running Windozy XP. I took one out, installed it in the DVR and formatted it. When I went to start up the PC - no operating system found. Carelessly I had removed the wrong drive. After a deep thunk I decided to install a different operating system - Linux Ubuntu. This is very similar to the OS usually used on the Raspberry Pi so I am a bit familiar with it.

It is not 100% working on my old PC as it does not recognise the on-board graphics chips. A common problem with a certain make of chip so I am limited to a fairly low resolution display until the replacement PC I have ordered arrives from Germany. It has been built with Ubuntu in mind and pre installed. Why from Germany? It was cheaper than any similar offering I could find in the UK, even with transport costs.

Ubuntu desktop on my present set-up

Screenshot from 2018-09-30 07-50-00

Whilst browsing the available programs for Ubuntu I was pleasantly surprised to find Kdenlive. A video editor, free (or shareware) as are the vast majority of programs made to run under a Linux based operating system.  Once I had installed it to try it out I was more than staggered to see what it was capable of doing, though slowly on this PC. The new one should be faster.

The program looks fairly bland on screen but I am still experimenting with how to set things up.

Screenshot from 2018-09-30 07-53-46

There are many ways of tweaking, enhancing, altering video clips. The one I had a go with was Charcoal. This produces a result which looks like an animated drawing.

As I mentioned, my old PC runs slowly. It took nearly 8 minutes to render that 45 second video. It needs more experimenting to see how clean the output can get. Last night it was past bedtime by the time I had finished.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Having a Flutter or Two

With the recent unseasonally hot afternoons I have actually seen a few butterflies.
In fact Lincolnshire recorded the highest temperature in the UK today.
It was some 6C above the seasonal average at around 23C. Alas it's not going to last.

A Red Admiral was good enough to pose on the Ivy


A Comma settled on one of the hanging baskets



Yesterday a Small Copper was feeding on a Dandelion in the back garden but its behaviour was more typical - flying off just as I got it in focus. At least the somewhat overgrown grass was dry enough for me to give it a trim. My garden is not what I would call large but my phone, which was in my pocket, indicated that I walked half a mile while mowing the grass.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Impressionist in Me (2)

Remember this from a few days ago?


How were the pictures made?
Adrian was correct in surmising it was something to do with a new app.

I found a camera app for the iPhone (NightCap) which is designed for night photography, especially sky photography. It has several different methods for taking photos of stars and meteors. One facility can continuously take slightly delayed shots but instead of saving them separately it combines them in real time. Me being me I decided to see what would happen with a normal daytime view.

This is the area I was looking at


It was quite a breezy day so much of the hedge was moving.
In consequence various parts of the hedge were recorded in slightly different places.
I think I kept the app running for 5 seconds or thereabouts.

Resulting in


I added the frame.

Some fine night I will set up the iPhone on a tripod outdoors to see what happens.
If shooting long enough it should record star trails.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Harvest Moon

Oh, Shine on, shine on, harvest moon
Up in the sky;
I ain't had no lovin'
Since April, January, June or July.
Snow time, ain't no time to stay
Outdoors and spoon;
So shine on, shine on, harvest moon,
For me and my gal.

 Harvest Moon 01

A pity the Moon ended up over exposed.
Lovely coloured clouds again almost makes up for it.

I did take three shots with different exposures.
When I tried to combine them as an HRD photo it was a dismal failure.
Time to explore the capabilities of Affinity Photo.
Found out how to make the background of the darkest one transparent.
That just left the Moon with some features showing.
Next found out how to add that to the above photo to make a composite.

 Harvest Moon 01c2

Harvest Moon, the full Moon closest to the northern autumnal equinox.
In days gone by farmers could use these bright Moonlit nights to continue harvesting at night.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Monday Montage

Last week's WidsMob Montage picture was

Montage 39

Fully identified as a photo of


a Horse chestnut seed, a conker
by Adrian and Ragged Robin with Wilma getting close.

For this week have a look at

Montage 40

If you know what it is, or just want to have a guess, please leave your answer in the comments.
They will be revealed, along with the original photo, next Monday.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

The Impressionist In Me


I wonder how I managed to produce those.
Can you guess?

Friday, 21 September 2018

Looking Up

Once the stormy weather had passed through on Wednesday and some semblance of calm had returned it was the chance to take a photo I've been trying to get for over a week but it has been so overcast. There were some bands of cloud but they were drifting past fairly rapidly leaving occasional clear spots.

To start with, a photo of the Moon


What I really wanted to capture was this


Recently the Moon and Mars have been visible quite close to each other in the night sky.
For over a week Mars has shone like a bright orange star. To spot it on the photo - start from the bright blurry moon and follow an imaginary line from it to the bottom left hand corner. Mars is about two thirds of the way towards that corner. It may show better if you click on the picture to see it larger.

Also noticeable was the amount of colour in the clouds.


Possibly ice crystals high in the atmosphere scattering the Moonlight. Some people have seen Moondogs, rainbow like streaks similar to Sundogs. See an example on the Spaceweather site HERE.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

A Tale of Two Coppers

I recently had to replace my whistling kettle. My old polka dot one had a whistle which, when boiling, rapidly increased in pitch until it was beyond my hearing. Unfortunately a few days ago I nodded off and didn't hear it. When I finally woke it was to the smell of singed metal. It had boiled dry and was well and truly blackened in the process. This is my nice, shiny, copper coloured replacement:


This one has a loud, strident whistle which I can hear.
I used to have an electric one which whistled as it switched itself off. Unfortunately the element gave up. When I replaced it the new one tainted the water with a strong 'plastic' taste, even after several boilings, so I went back to the type I could use on a gas ring.

The second copper of the week - a Small Copper Butterfly.

Small Copper Butterfly

Small Copper Butterfly

Since the very cold blast we suffered earlier in the year I haven't seen many butterflies, let alone those which stayed still long enough to photograph.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

A Darker Sky

Over the past few months our local authorities have been changing the orange sodium street lights to warm white LEDs to save on running costs. Of course any savings will really only start once the cost of new lamps and their installation has been recovered.

In my immediate area some lamps are maintained by Lincolnshire County Council.  The remainder by East Lindsey District Council. How long they stay on at night depends on who owns them and where they are. Along my lane they are owned by ELDC and stay on all night. In the small estate immediately behind me they are owned by LCC and switch off about midnight. Another money saving venture.

 LED Street Lights

Those along the main street belong to LCC. As far as I can tell they operate all night.

One advantage of this change is due to the design of the lamp housing and LEDs. They concentrate the light downwards with little, if any, escaping upwards. When I looked out of my kitchen window at night there used to be an orange glow in the sky from light spillage. Now the sky looks dark, especially after midnight.

 LED Street Lamps

Estate lamp at the top, main street lamp at the bottom.

These changes coincided with an interesting, to me, edition of The Sky at Night broadcast last Saturday. (I still miss Patrick Moore and rarely watch the latest presenters) This programme was about spotting and monitoring meteors and asteroids. Of interest to me was a short section about automatic photo and video recording 'shooting stars'. Something I have long wanted to have a go at but not bothered about with the amount of local light pollution. Now it may well be worth a coat of looking at. Mentioned in the programme was the UK group UKMON. Their website seems a good starting point for information on this subject.

A well waterproofed housing looks the first problem as most are designed to be angled below the horizontal. They may not be so efficiently water proofed when angled upwards. Seems like a job for the hot melt glue gun. Then it will need some 12V heating to clear any condensation which forms on cold nights.

I have an old but reasonable quality b/w video camera.


The main problem will be how to divide any recorded video into easily viewed sections. I don't fancy scanning through single nightly files with several hours continuous recording attempting to spot a possible 2 second streak of light. I have a spare DVR (digital video recorder) which can record moving objects by detecting changes in contrast in any part of the image.  Not sure its detecting ability is good enough or fast enough to spot a shooting star though. Plenty to research and experiment with as the dark nights lengthen.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Monday Montage

Last week's WidsMob Montage modified photo was

Montage 37

Correctly identified as


a wheelie bin / dustbin by Adrian, Wilma, Ragged Robin and The Weaver of Grass

Now for this week's montage

Montage 39

If you know what it is or would like to have a guess then please leave your answer in the comments.
They will be revealed, along with the original photo, next Monday.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Comma Butterfly

There was just one solitary Comma among the scores of wasps on my Ivy today

Comma Butterfly

Friday, 14 September 2018

Of UFOs and Visiting Aliens

I have been watching two fascinating series of programmes on the free Blaze channel on Freesat.

One (Ancient Aliens) is a series about various theories that early civilizations were visited and helped by visitors from another world. Not a theory I readily subscribe to but there have always been questions at the back of my mind about some ancient building works undertaken, some thousands of years ago.  From Stonehenge to the Egyptian and South American pyramids somehow ancient civilizations were able to move hundreds of tremendous blocks of stone weighing anything from 0.5 to 15 tons (or is that tonnes). Not just transporting them several miles but then lifting some high up on various structures. There are massive and sometimes strange ancient stone structures and buildings in many countries around the World.  Intriguing that so much large building work was undertaken by so many different civilizations in the past when populations were smaller than now, available tools primitive by modern standards and much time and 'manpower' must have been needed just providing everyday necessities such as food for the general population.

The other series (Hangar 1: The UFO Files) is examining thousands of files which record sighting of UFOs and several reports of crashed UFOs which have been kept secret. 'Witnesses' reporting that they have been pressurised to keep silent. There are far more of these than I ever realised.

One episode told of a craft which crashed in Texas in 1897.  It was reported in the local paper including noting that a body found with the craft was 'not of this world'. The body was buried locally and a tombstone erected. When investigators applied for permission to exhume the body it was refused on the grounds it was on consecrated ground. If interested there is some more information here.

Recently I read a report that an astronomical observatory in New Mexico has been closed down suddenly and taken over by the FBI with no explanation being given and refusals to answer any questions. Report is here.

The more governments try to keep the lid on certain activities the more people will assume there is something untoward going on they don't want us to know about.

I have experienced one phenomenon which was very startling at the time. About 25 years ago I was driving home one dark, wet, stormy night after a 'meet the parents' evening at school. While driving along a narrow country road I saw a bright orange glowing ball which was hovering maybe 20 feet above the ground. It hovered for a while in a field next to a group of trees and then shot straight upwards, still glowing. Unfortunately I was approaching some sharp bends round a wooded area so didn't see what finally happened to it.  I've always put it down as being a ball of glowing plasma. Something which apparently can occur sometimes during electrical storms. There have been reports and the occasional video of such things moving horizontally or rapidly changing direction.

From Wikipedia:
Ball lightning is an unexplained and potentially dangerous atmospheric electrical phenomenon. The term refers to reports of luminous, spherical objects that vary from pea-sized to several meters in diameter. Full text is here.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

A UDO and an IFO

First the UDO (unidentified dangling object)


Every now and then when I notice the DVR is recording from one of my cameras all that can be seen gently wafting in the breeze is a perfectly circular object illuminated by the IR lights.  Is it an as yet unidentified species of legless spider or the world's smallest UFO caught in a web? It shouldn't be a water droplet as it hasn't rained since early morning. No mist and too warm then to cause dew to form.

Now the IFO (identified flying object)

Common Darter Dragonfly DSCN8916

A grounded Common Darter Dragonfly. At first I thought it was dead until it flew away when I tried to move closer. The above is a small crop from the only shot I managed. I've seen several different types of dragon flitting about on our mid-afternoon walks but so far this is the only one I've seen settle for a while.

On a different topic. A bit if a quandary when typing the title to this post. Should UDO have a or an in front of it? If one reads just the initial letters - U D O - when spoken we would say "a U ....". If UDO is read aloud as words one would say "an Unidentified ......" English can get very complicated at times.  Where is my old English teacher when I need him?

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Wordess Wednesday

Winter flowering Pansy DSCN8877b
Winter Flowering Pansy

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Drying It Out

I have a nice little video surveillance type camera which, if I remember correctly, is supposed to be sealed against water ingress to IP66 standard. Maybe it was IP55. It worked just fine until I fixed it to a fence panel to monitor for any hedgehog visitors. All went well until we had a couple of 'tropical' downpours. After that it started to mist up when the Sun shone on it and at night when its IR LEDs warmed up. Obviously some moisture had got inside.

Fortunately the body is in two halves with just three screws holding them together. I took off the front half and kept the camera powered up in the conservatory for a few days to evaporate any moisture, though nothing inside looked in the least bit damp. The idea seems to have worked. The camera is now re-assembled and fixed to the side of my shed observing anything which moves at the back end of the garden. Also it is under the overhang of the roof with some self amalgamating tape round the join in the body. That should help to keep it snug and reasonably dry.


A quick check yesterday morning to see any captures showed nice clear recordings.
No sound on this video.

It made a change to see something other than moths and spiders being recorded.

I keep hoping to see whether any of the local foxes visit.
They have been in the front garden in the past and fences are no barrier to them.

The final video was made using a free version of VideoPad  which is available for Mac and PC.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Monday Montage

Last week's WidsMob Montage modified photo was

Montage 35

which Ragged Robin and Wilma correctly deduced was a photo of


one of my Chinese Lantern plants.
My thanks to all who had a go.

For this week's montage cast your eyes over

Montage 37

which I think should be easier to identify.

If you want to have a go at guessing what it is - please leave your guess in the comments.
They will be revealed, along with the original photo, next Monday.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Colourful Brackets

Bracket fungi that is.
I noticed these on yesterday's early morning perambulation but had forgotten my camera.
Anyway I remembered this morning


A couple of magnificent looking bracket fungi


These were large. Probably over 12 inches (30cm) across and beautifully marked.
I tried to identify them. Looked at hundreds of photos.
The only two I found which looked like a good match were unnamed.

That Nikon pocket camera has really worked hard. Approaching 9000 photos taken.

Identification solved thanks to Adrian of Adrian's Images.
A  Polyporus squamosus

Friday, 7 September 2018

Cold, Wet and Cloudy

A bit nippy round the extremities on our early morning walkabout.
It was all of 6.5C and still damp after an earlier shower.
So much for the days planned activity of mowing my lawn.
Cutting longish wet grass uses up the mower's batteries much faster.
The situation was made worse by a couple more showers during the day.

We managed to dodge them for our mid afternoon walk.
By the look of the distant clouds we were just missing more rain




One bright note was a little flower skulking under my front hedge


No idea what it is or how it got there.

Top temperature today was 16.2C but as I write this it is diving down to single figures again.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Signs of Autumn

Now we are in the Meteorological Autumn the dewy mornings are making all the spiders' webs in my lawn stand out



Wednesday, 5 September 2018

What Does a Dog Have To Do ....

.... to get its share of that jam tart he's scoffing?

I'll try my 'have pity on a hard done by dog' look

Penny DSCN8878

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Unidentified Bug

Just about to drop some items in our recycle bin when I spotted this minibeast

Unknown Bug DSCN8881

Body length about 7mm

It even let me take a bit of video

Spent quite a while looking at scores of pictures trying to identify it.
Is it an instar of some shieldbug?

Another view

Unknown Bug DSCN8880

If any visitor could help with the identification that would be brilliant.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Monday Montage

Here we are again. Another week flown by.
Last week's WidsMob Montage modified photo

Montage 34b

was correctly identified by Ragged Robin, The Weaver and Wilma as


an apple. Hard luck Adrian. Should have stayed with your first thought.

It is actually a blood apple. The type which has red flesh as well as skin


There is a tree not far away which overhangs the footpath. It always drops dozens of windfalls each year. What has fallen so far this year are not fully ripe and all seem to have a type of end blossom rot. They are as hard as nails to cut through. I have never got round to tasting one.

For this week's modified photo, something from my own garden

Montage 35

If you think you know or would like to guess what it is please leave your guess in the comments.
They will be revealed, along with the original photo, next Monday.
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