Friday, September 27, 2013

Astrophotography Masters

The moon over the sea from La Venta viewpoint
I went to a free talk on astrophotography, which was part of the masterclass held in Los Cancajos this week by Astrolapalma. It was brilliant! The two teachers gave a talk each: Christoph Malin on light pollution, and Babak Tafreshi of The World At Night project. These guys are famous astrophotographers, and their photos and time lapse videos are stunning. And Babak likes my book, and Christoph REALLY likes my book. In fact, he told everyone how good it was and recommended that they buy it! And then he invited me to the photography session they were about to have for free!! I was beyond knackered, but I went. Of course I went! This is something like being invited to a jam session with Brian May. The weather was crap, and it took me a while to remember how to use the manual settings on the Pentax, so the photo isn't much cop. But I have had personalised advice on white balance, and maximising dynamic range from Babak. Wow!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sunrise and bad ankles.

Sunday was busy.

A remarkable number of the archeological sites on La Palma line up with astronomical calendar events: particularly sunrise or sunset at the solstice or equinox, and the rising and setting of the star Canopus. Since Sunday was the equinox, I went with a group of friends to one of these sites to see the sun rise behind the highest point of the island, the Roque de Los Muchachos. It meant leaving home at 7 am, but it was well worth it. Everyone else went up in a bus, but I was going to be guiding later, so I drove up in my own car. Of course I left a little late. Then I realised that although a bus is slower, they had a shorter journey. So I had to drive quite fast. I caught up with the bus in Los Andennes, which was cutting it pretty fine. And then we yomped along the path towards El Time until we reached Las Cabeceras de Izcagua. I'd have preferred a gentler pace, but the sun wasn't going to wait. We got there in time. There are three stone cairns lined up pointing at the Roque de Los Muchachos. Of course the sun had risen half an hour ago on the east of the island, but we watched the Muchachos (natural stone pillar that look like people if you use a lot of imagination) get too bright to look at as the sun rose right behind them. And then Ignacio, an expert from the university, said a very old prayer in a North African language to greet the sun. The hairs on the back of my neck rose. It sounded old, and totally not European. And then I had to go to work, so I left the group and showed two groups around GTC. And then I went to the Roque and hiked to the espigon - a spur which pokes out into the huge crater. That was probably a bad idea. I got some nice photos (I'll share them another day) but my ankle was a little achy when I started, and worse when I finished. It didn't hurt driving down the mountain, but as soon as I got home and tried walking - yeouch!. So my plans for this week are somewhat derailed.

Friday, September 06, 2013

The kitchen

So my son had his birthday party on Thursday. They're pretty easy to organise these days: tidy living room, provide nibbles, drinks and extra batteries for game console remotes, and shut the door. Half way through, supply pizza and birthday cake.

 Easy, right?

 Nah, that would be boring. 

I promised my on a special lunch. He'd been asking to try American-style biscuits for ages, so I'd rashly promised to do them. The morning vanished faster than expected, as mornings do, and I returned from the supermarket much later than planned. So I dumped the shopping in one corner of the supermarket and got cooking.

 As I'd expected, the biscuits themselves were simple enough (very like English scones) but the rolling out bit meant a lot of cleaning up before and after. By the time we sat down to eat it was 3 pm and the kitchen looked like a bomb had hit it. And there was the not-so-minor matter of the living room, which I've been ignoring in favour of writing for months. By the time we'd eaten, we had 40 minutes.

In the end we shoved everything in boxes and bags. Some wound up in the bedrooms, and some in the kitchen. By the time the first guests arrived, the kitchen was looking like a neat-freak's worst nightmare.

 So I left the boys to have fun and cleaned and tidied and cleaned and tidied and cleaned and tidied.

We had a phone call. "We'll be delivering your new mattress in about half an hour."

I had to say no. I wanted that mattress, but I had to declutter the route from the front door tot he bed before we could take it, and I had no time.  Besides, the only place to store the stuff temporarily would be the living room, which was full of happy teenagers.

So I cleaned and tidied until about 6 pm, when I produced pizza and cake. Then I cleaned and tidied some more.

Actually, by the time the guests left, the kitchen looked quite reasonable again.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013


Yay! My son's passed his resit exam, and he's through to the next year of school without any extra work to fit in. We've even done the paperwork. All that's left to do is the bus pass.