Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Weird Weather or Alien Invasion?
Vancouver, English Bay

Me I was hoping this weird weather effect was the initial thrust of an alien invasion. I mean ... well ... an invasion from outer space would be pretty cool considering it would answer the "Are we alone?" and "Do aliens look like Milla Jovovich from the movie The Fifth Element?" questions once and for all.

But, as optimistic regarding the abnormal as I am I'm not really a big believer in the whole "aliens stole my baby" conspiracy. I've reviewed even the most optimistic math and, as with most of the space based urban myths, if you don't have a comfortable understanding of infinity you'll get wrapped in the riddle and start to believe that ET is living next door.

The bottom line, mathematically, is that in our galaxy, which is pretty darn huge, there are, right now (maybe) between 5 to 10 planets that have intelligent life capable of communicating across the vastness of space. We are one of those 10.

The other civilizations are no doubt as busy as we are trying to create a unified civilization and have little time to "reach out and touch someone". Even if they could the basic laws of physics say the best that you can do is communicate at the speed of light.

That might sound fast and such but when you need to communicate across upwards of 100,000 light years (the width of our galaxy and as such the worse case distance between two of the 10 sentient civilizations) you have a huge time lag to take into account.

A lag large enough to make the whole "We come in peace." argument pretty much implausible.

Considering that we discovered the number zero less than 10,000 years ago as a species the idea of keeping one goal active, talking to an interstellar species in this case, for 20 times that is kinda funny once you do the math. I hate to burst anyones bubble but if a species is smart enough to plow the cruel vacuum between the stars the last thing they are going to do is visit Bart Simpson.

Consider us the sole owners of this entire galaxy then. A concept I consider even more powerful than the existence of extra-terrestrials.

What these photos actually show is a common weather phenomena magnified by being beside a gigantic body of water called the Pacific Ocean.

Micro climates.

We get a lot of those here on the west coast and these photos nicely capture the micro-climate effect embedded in the low clouds above English Bay here in Vancouver.

Fresh weather. Mist on your face that's come from something that was just born from the warm aqua-green of the Pacific Ocean and is still uncertain as to what it will do next.

The little pockets of inversion that produced the cloud dimples in these shots will, if they are strong enough, eventually merge with the master pressure system and head east. If they decide to stay though they'll often dump their energy as rain or hail on Surrey. Huggles. :)

Sigh. No aliens though or, argh, no Milla.


The weather here is still nutty with yet another 80km/hr to 100km/hr windy night incoming as I type this. That's 5 wind storms in the past 2 or so weeks.

Its been a series of weather patterns that has reminded me of a story I read back in the 1980's. It was one of those "End of the World Because of the Weather" sorts of stories that, back then, was a thrill to read since it was so impossible. But, ... well a few weeks short of 2007 AD it's not so thrilling anymore.

The least thrilling part of the story for me was that when the weather finally goes nutty it does not do so over the course of decades but over the course of months. In scientific and mathematical terms it's referred to as the point of inflection. Basically things just go from getting bad in a slow linear sort of way to sucking in an exponential way.

Things get bad faster than we can adapt is the basic jist of it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

How Clouds Are Born
The Sunshine Coast, BC Canada

The weather on the north west coast of North America has been crazy this fall. Mix together a mild El Nino in the south Pacific ocean, the regular and ever tempermental 12 year solar sunspot cycle and a healthy dose of global warming and the net effect has been a never ending series of weather systems seemingly on magic mushrooms.

"Is it just me Chester or do these clouds not look like a bowl of the most excellent and twisted Cheesy Puffs?"

"They do Eugene... they do."

The video below was created one lazy October afternoon as a high pressure system, pumped by El Nino, transited north along the western coast. In my opinion the best parts of my latest include the sweet vocals of France's Alizee, the forests of coastal mountain pine drying out and birthing clouds and the roll-up effect the time lapse reveals on the mid-level clouds. This is something that only the distorted timescape of silky smooth time lapse can deliver.

YouTube is all well and good but if you would like a much better view of this latest video click here ->

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Nephews Rock!!

Given the incredible success of this blog I've decided to expand and have drafted the services of a graphics artist who's career I have been following since he was knee high to a grasshopper.

Thanks to Colin for patiently responding in the positive to my eleventy-ba-zillion tweak requests. The new header graphic looks great.

The Fantasy of Black & White Film

As a photographer once and awhile I'll bump into the perfect shoot. The lighting is right. My mood and patience is one with the moment. And everything lumped into the technical is 5 by 5. Such was the day I shot my first roll of Infra Red Black & White film. It was mid August 1996 (or so) and the world of digital photography was still reserved for newspapers whilling to cough up $15,000 for a one mega-pixel camera.

I've yet to have such a moment as that in the world of digital but I'm certain it will come.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

If Ya Wanna Cat Toy Youze Gonna Have Ta Get Past Me
November 2006

Cats rock. In particular when you let their own personality unfold without imposing too much of your own.

That's not to say there's no place for basic discipline. Sometimes Sirrus, pictured in the photo to the right (while guarding her stash of cat toys and looking 4 feet tall thanks to the fish-eye lens effect) will .... loose it.

She's always been a very quirky and infinitely interesting cat and every once and awhile she will find a way to remind me that what rattles around inside her head is significantly different from what bounces around inside my own.

Last evening, just before heading off to bed, she decided that he sister of the past 5 years was threatening enough to warrant "the poofy tail". It was hilarious. Her normally sleek streamlined short-hair cat tail puffed up to three times it size and she slowly stalked her way over to her sister Sheba. Walking half sideways, back arched in that classic Halloween cat pose with this big gigantic tail trailing behind her.

Why? I've no reason. Sheba in fact was half asleep during all this. Snuggled into the spot she always occupies when I'm watching DvDs. With one eye open she watched her sister approach basically indifferent even to 'the Poofy tail!!'. echo echo echo.

It was a pure Sirrus the cat moment. The delightful strangeness of it all.

I once remarked to my cat sitter Odette that one of the charms of felines is just such moments as these. Little peculiar reality bits that are totally unexpected, fascinating and remove the day to day of the boring. Without Sirrus and Sheba my life would be half the fun it is. No question.

Budding Photo-Nut
December 3 2006

One of the great things about digital photography is that you can instantly review the picture you've just captured. In theory the idea is to use this moment of review to refine the shot and, if all hope is lost, delete a junk image. In reality though I tend to keep everything. One of my photos for this year's Christmas card for example was a somewhat out of focus shot that had I been worried about storage space I would have deleted.

A moment of light, flight and motion captured but then lost forever in order to save a few megabytes on a gigabyte sized flash storage card.

Given that external computer disc storage hit the 1 gigabyte per dollar mark a year ago and is now down to the 50 cents per gigabyte mark why delete anything? Toss in the gigantic storage capacity of DvDs (6.4 gigabytes) along with the speed with which you can backup old photos there is really only one reason to delete what, at the moment of capture, you might consider junk - the signal to noise / forest-for-the-trees phenomena.

This is something that the next generation of photographers or media types in general will find even more pressing. Given that we are approaching what is for all practical purposes just about infinite storage where once you would take 1 image the temptation now is to take 100.

This is all good though given that it's this process of framing and reframing the same image that is at the heart of professional beyond-point-and-click photography. One stellar photo out of 1,000 (0.1%) is a goal I'm quite happy with. Given that I'll take upwards of 10,000 photos in a year this works out to 10 or more really cool photos.

The downside though is that you then start to drown in the thousand images that lead up to the one good one. The signal (a good photo) to noise (the 'crap' photos) ratio goes down and all you can see is the forest (the thousand photos) blurred into this one big morass of images. Finding that one cool tree (the good photos), even with photo archive management software, becomes a headache inducing process.

That cool image I mentioned earlier, the one I used for one of this year's Christmas cards, is a good example of this effect. I can't for the life of me find the original. I remember shooting loads of images of a flock of seagulls buzzing the trees on Sunset Beach one lazy fall afternoon in 2005 but try as I might I can't find even one of them. Fortunately I did move the winning image into my 'CoolPics' folder but, sigh, it's a copy, it's re-sized from the original, it's a bit too processed, etc.


Here's a hint for all you digital photo-nuts. When you see a great picture copy it to a separate folder on your computer in its raw format immediatly. Copy it again in your Cool Pics folder and rename the copy to something meaningful. Keep the good stuff separated from the wanna-bees.

Each month I now shoot between 6 and 10 giga-bytes of photos (600 to 1,000) and given that I'll be doing this for decades if I'm not careful I'll wind up creating this big meaningless forest of photos.