Quick Guide to this site…


Howdy.  I have many hobbies and post what I can, when I can, here and on sometimes on YouTube.  Below are some quick links if you want to quickly tune into a certain hobby.

** Throughout the site you can click on images to enlarge them. **

STORM CHASING: Click Here    Lightning


MUSIC PRODUCTION / DJ: Click Here  or these external sites:

Early October Lightning

It was great to see some early October lightning, although it has been bone dry for the last two months.  A small cell was putting down some lightning southwest of here (west of the Air Force Academy) but I was home with the kids while Erin was out.  That storm died by the time it cleared the Rampart Range, but another storm formed directly east of us that started to look good, so I grabbed the camera and drove out to a place I could watch the show.

There was only a bolt every 3-5 minutes, probably a total of 10 bolts total which I missed about half of getting to my vantage point, but they were all on my side of the storm and had very intense stepped leaders.  All were cloud to ground making some nice photo opportunities. As soon as the storm formed, it dissipated, so you had to be in the right place at the right time for this one!

All pictures taken from Bear Dance Road and Tomah Road between Larkspur and Castle Rock looking North.  Click for larger images.

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Obliq Museum – Elektron Octatrack Repair

I’ve recently been really getting into the Elektron Octatrack sampler/looper.  My band partner Jeff of Multicast came down the other night and we had a very productive session.  But, I spilled a little bit of cider on the top of it and some got down into the unit before I could completely dry it off.

I turned it off for a while and a later when turning it back on most things worked, except for one pot and the crossfader.  Bummer.  Too much clutter in the studio and lack of discipline!  I took the unit apart tonight with the goal of cleaning everything with q-tips and isopropyl alcohol and hoping for the best.

Octatrack goddess

The octatrack goddess – the voice in the machine!

Taking the Octatrack apart is pretty simple.  Some 2mm hex screws on the outside, and the User Interface PCB is a Torx 10.  I wanted to take it completely apart so i could ensure that I got everything that seeped into the unit clean.

CPU and Power Supply

The CPU Board and Power Supply are attached to the bottom case

Upon taking it apart, I could see where the bottom CPU board needed a little cleaning and so did the bottom of the metal case enclosure.  Nothing too bad, which was great to see.

Octatrack user interface pcb

User Interface PCB detached from the front face plate

The main user interface PCB looked pretty good too.  I cleaned around the pots and otherwise there really was no staining or remnants of the mishap.  Since Pot B wasn’t working, I cleaned all around that area including the pot itself.

Octatrack Cross Fader

Cross Fader assembly and PCB

The cross fader was interesting, much more mechanical than I would have guessed.  A nice design to take a beating without breaking.  You can see the PCB pulled from the rest of the assembly.  The digital design would slide between the two “tents” on the PCB and IR light would reflect and get caught by the sensors.  Everything was done by light, neat.  This assembly needed some cleaning as the metal shafts were a bit sticky. The cross fader is an Infinium 45mm Crossfader DX400211.

Octatrack cross fader

Octatrack cross fader

Taking apart the cross fader (my warranty period expired a couple of years back) I noticed something making a sound, like a really small loose screw.  I popped off these plastic covers showing the IR LED and light sensors and noticed that PT8 has a small piece of glass (?) that fell off.  This is super small and i won’t be able to fix it.

Cover for the IR LED and holes the sensors read the light through the encoded pain on the plastic (next photo)

Cover for the IR LED and holes the sensors read the light through the encoded pain on the plastic (next photo)

If you note in the above picture, there are 7 holes which allow the IR LED (bottom center) to reflect off of the “tents” and be ready by the sensors underneath.  I presume that the reason for the plastic piece is to control the exact amount of light that each sensor can receive.  I noted that a couple of these were covered by the cider, so I cleaned these up really nice.

Encoded paint with the IR  light interacts with to allow the sensors to read where the fader is at.

Encoded paint with the IR light interacts with to allow the sensors to read where the fader is at.

Upon putting everything back together, the pot worked great, and the fader worked all but 5% of the extreme left in which it centers.  I’m going to try and get a replacement from Elektron, but in the mean time I’m going to tape something to stop the fader from going all the way to the left, and that should be a work-around to the issue.

What is It's A Boo???

What is It’s A Boo(?) mean ?

Upon putting everything back together, all functions except for the extreme left on the fader are working flawlessly now.  I put in an email to Elektron asking for the replacement cross-fader part.  If it is cheap, i’ll buy two and have a spare.  Happy that not much damage occurred to the unit; I could probably play using it without any change now; but I do want to fix the cross-fader if I can; meanwhile I’ll use the work-around.

Loop User Interface

Loop User Interface

2015 Denver Gem and Mineral Shows

Was able to break away from our busy schedule and make a trip to Denver for a couple of the Denver Mineral Shows. As always we head to the Merchandise Mart for Zinn’s show as this is where all the display cases are. I have included many photos from these cases as there were some outstanding specimens on display this year. We also went to the Colosseum Show. I find that I don’t buy too many minerals, especially ones that I can find locally here in Colorado. Instead, I tend to focus spending my money on literature, display mounts and tools. I bought a subscription to the Mineralogical Record and man these are amazing journals! I suspect, although pricey, I’ll be a subscriber for a while. In the January/February 2015 issue on the fantastic Pederneira Mine in Brazil I learned much about pegmatites, some information relevant to where I dig!

Here are some of the cool minerals displayed in the specimen cabinets at the main show. Obviously a small selection as there were tons (literally) of beautiful and amazing minerals on display, just some that caught my eye. Many are Colorado or close-to Colorado specimens, a bit of scouting as I may pay a visit to those localities in the upcoming years!

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Photographing the Blood Red Super Moon

Man I just love the sound of that (the Blood Moon), kinda gothic and fitting around fall as Halloween approaches! During this orbit, the full eclipse was at a nice time where most folks could enjoy it; which is awesome because everyone should enjoy these celestial events, IMHO! My kids finally got to see it due to the early time. Here is the blood red super moon!

Entering eclipse

Assuming no cloud cover and available where I live, I always watch these eclipse events and usually pull the camera out and photograph them. In the recent past events I noted having trouble dialing in the setting for photographing the event, especially getting the blood red part in focus and alternatively the bright partial moon in focus. My goal this time, other than enjoying the entire event, was to dial in the settings and process so next time I can focus on some more creative elements of photography and not so much of the technical stuff.

Entering eclipse

Moon entering eclipse

Because I tend to forget stuff that I don’t use often, I figured I’d document my findings which would at least serve me for future events. As a bonus, hopefully this is helpful to others that want to photograph these type of events and maybe haven’t known how to do it. Finally, I’m hoping that someone with much more experience and skills than I could also chime in and provide some suggestions for my next attempt!

Exiting full eclipse

As the moon was starting to come out of full eclipse

A couple of quick tips I use whenever doing low-light photography:

Tripod. I most always use a tripod in low light. I configure such that I don’t have to bend over or position myself around the legs, simple ergonomics! I put the “V” on the legs spread so I’m in the middle of it (hmmm…); and extend the height so I don’t have to bend over or stand on my tip-toes. You need the tripod as you can’t hold the camera still enough to capture the low light and stay in focus.

Supermoon - long exposure

Blurry due to too long of exposure

Focus. This is still one of the harder parts for me because focusing all the way out with the camera lens is never going to give sharp focus. Focus depends on the temperature and other environmental factors. I tend to use auto-focus if I have a light source far away, and then I turn off auto-focus and fine tune from there using my eye in the viewfinder, and then taking pictures and reviewing the zoomed digital screen. Many times I don’t have a big enough bright source so it is just trial and error.

Image Stabilization. Turn that bad-boy off. There is a slight vibration when in use that will give you less focus. Image Stabilization isn’t needed for tripod work so it always gets turned off.

Remote trigger. This is a wired remote that allows me to trigger the shutter (and lock it, if doing time lapse) without touching the camera or tripod setup. I recommend these so you don’t have to touch the camera when taking the picture at all; which more often than not causes some blur in my photos. This has a really small adapter so do this in the light (cell phone flashlight apps are good for this).

Super moon total eclipse

Total blood moon eclipse

Now to the camera’s configuration. With low-light situations, especially a lunar eclipse which lacks light by definition, you want to capture as much light as possible, in the shortest amount of time possible. A problem is we’re on a moving object (yes, the earth is rotating) and so open exposure will result in blurred photos if open too long. My rule of thumb for stars (when shooting meteorites) is 8 seconds max. When shooting severe weather (clouds and such) in low light it is about 4 seconds max. For the moon in crisp focus since there is tremendous detail, I’m shooting for the smallest exposure possible. Below is a picture when the exposure is too long, notice the stars starting to trail and the moon being blurry.

I always shoot in Manual Mode. Note that this mode isn’t available only just DSLRs, my daughter’s trusty (and inexpensive) point and shoot Canon also has a manual mode and tripod mount and can take great low-light photos! There are three standard adjustments that all are interrelated that I work with (note these are my layman definitions, for more scientific and precise information, you should check out other sources):

a) Shutter speed governs how long is the shutter open and letting light in.
b) Aperture or f-stop is how big does the shutter open up, letting in more (or less) light while the shutter is open.
c) ISO is how fast the “film speed” is, which in DSLR terms how quickly the light is absorbed onto the photograph.
d) This is not configurable, but the lens speed is how much light your lens can let through quickly, or how expensive is your glass. Rule of thumb, the more expensive, the quicker!

Because I have too many hobbies I’m limited to what I can spend, so a fast (expensive) lens is not an option for me at this time, so I get a slow lens and have to work with the other configurable factors. A faster lens will let more light in by default allowing more optimal camera configurations.

Back to my goal, I need to let in as much light as possible in the shortest amount of time, so I typically go with the lowest f-stop setting my lens allows and I adjust the exposure and ISO.

Because I want to let the earth move as little as possible while the shutter is open, my goal is as fast shutter speed as possible.

Because I want crisp and sharp pictures, I need to balance with the lowest ISO setting possible (higher ISO absorbs more light which is great, but also absorbs noise “pixelating” your picture). Here is a pretty noisy photo taking with a very high ISO (3200), you can see the graininess in the moon. Are those dots around the moon stars or noise? I believe stars but noise looks basically the same!

Fully Eclipsed Super Moon

Supermoon fully eclipsed, a little grainy due to higher ISO

There are really two phases to the moon eclipse, when it is partially eclipsed with the sun’s reflected light and our shadow on the surface; and when it is fully eclipsed and very dim. As the moon is entering/exiting the eclipsed state, I often want to get the blood red part in focus but also the bright reflective part in focus too.

red moon

Starting to come out of full eclipse, slower shutter speed

half eclipsed

About half way eclipsed

I was able to dial it in last night such that I could make one adjustment and capture both of my goals as it was entering/exiting the eclipsed phase. I am using a Canon EOS T2i with Canon 70-300mm 1:4-5.6 lens. My f-stop was 5.6 at 300mm and my ISO was mainly 800 or 1600. I would switch between 1/4 second for the blood red perspective and 1/1000 second (or even faster as it got less eclipsed) for the bright perspective. Simply switching the shutter speed back and forth I was able to capture both perspectives of the eclipse!

light bulb moon

Reminds me of a light bulb, faster shutter speed gathering both red and lit eclipsed moon

almost done with eclipse

Nearly done with the eclipse

What a fun night, and wonderful celestial event! Next up, October 8, 2015 the Draconids meteorite shower, and then October 21-22 is the Orionids! Can’t wait!

Micro Smoky Quartz Pocket

I was able to head up to the hills again, twice in one weekend (albeit a long weekend) for about 4 hours on my way home from a camping trip, decided to prospect a little in a new area.  I found some ground that looked promising, and out came some nice peg.  I dug the peg for a while with no luck at all, but was persistent because it was too late to prospect out new ground for the day.

The smoky quartz crystals I found over about 45 minutes of carefully digging through the pegmatite.

The smoky quartz crystals I found over about 45 minutes of carefully digging through the pegmatite.

Right before I gave up for the day I hit into a half baked clear quartz crystal; with no point and completely fractured; but with the flat sides and about 3 inch length I got renewed interest in this peg.  I have found that clear quartz when digging for smokies sometimes is a sign that smoky quartz is nearby.  I carefully dug for about 10 minutes more and a small gemmy smoky quartz crystal popped out.

Another gemmy smoky quartz

Gemmy smoky quartz that started my renewed interest in this peg

It has been a while since I hit a small pocket, I actually like harvesting small crystals as it presents a challenge of being careful and clean in the hole.  Many prospectors have no interest in anything of this size, but to me a crystal is a crystal regardless of size.  :)  It is easy for the small crystals to be covered in dirt and swept away, so I had fun for the next 45 minutes or so meticulously pulling out tiny smoky quartz crystals!

I love how this crystal is irradiated only for part of the crystal, the rest is clear!

I love how this crystal is irradiated only for part of the crystal, the rest is clear!

In one section of the peg there was some nice micro plates of quartz with crystals, but it finished as soon as it started and was tough digging as it was surrounded by very hard peg (I had to use a chisel and hammer and attack it around the pocket). I was able to pull out many gemmy smoky quartz before calling it a day.  The peg continued on, so I suspect I can go back another day and continue to collect ultra small crystals.  Some of these crystals were the smallest I’ve ever dug; so I was very happy with the day!

Neat tabby that was totally gemmy!

Neat tabby that was totally gemmy!

This one was odd; neat growth at the bottom of the tiny pocket!

This one was odd; neat growth at the bottom of the tiny pocket!

The smallest plate of smoky quartz I have ever found.  Way smaller than the tip of my pinkie finger.

The smallest plate of smoky quartz I have ever found. Way smaller than the tip of my pinkie finger.

Microcline and Smoky Quartz

A piece of microcline crystal with a small seam of tiny smoky quartz

Digging float quartz crystals

Was able to break away from work so I took a vacation day and went up to Devil’s Head digging this last Friday.  Been rough to get up there this year due to a busy schedule, but it was nice to be back out in the forest again.

I had a plan for this day–which I had been pondering upon over the last month while planning this trip.  First thing I wanted to prospect an area that I remember looking promising a couple of years ago and if that didn’t pan out I wanted to dig some float on a very old dig I found that seemed pretty productive to the original prospector.  If I got skunked with both parts of the plan I had a third option that was within a mile.

I stopped several times during my prospecting and checked out what looked to be good ground in many places.  There was peg showing on the surface–both quartz, feldspar and combos–but the quartz was very striated, fractured and had no flat faces at all.  I found many places along this steep hillside with the same situation, even though there was a lot of “good looking” signs on the surface.  I ended up finding one rough point about the diameter of a nickel in one spot, but nothing otherwise.  The hill was *very* steep and after nearly 4 hours I got tired of all the climbing and precarious hiking so I decided to give up on that area.

Stash of crystals I brought home from today's "float dig"

Stash of crystals I brought home from today’s “float dig”, all rinsed with water, none cleaned in chemical yet.

My second stop was about 1/2 mile away and was a old dig that someone obviously had success with as they had excavated a trench about 50 foot in length as they followed the pegmatite dike across the hillside.  I could tell the dig was really old because the trench had naturally filled in most of the way and was looking pretty filled in.  I believe this is why the Forest Service is okay with leaving holes unreclaimed as over time they naturally fill back in, although I still believe to fill in my holes as it takes a long time for nature to do it; and holes are simply an eyesore in our forest and potentially dangerous to animals!

My goal at this location was to see if I could find float or perpendicular seams coming out of the peg with some nice sized crystals (given the dig was fairly large). In other spots I have found my best crystals not in or under the pegmatite dike but rather coming out perpendicular to it in many spots in smaller peg seams. I also figured as I got into the old diggings I could possible see what the person was into–I always like to analyze others’ digs as this is a primary way I learn!

I started digging about 4-6 feet downhill of the old trench about 2-4 feet wide and a couple of feet deep.  It was hard to tell if I was just digging in tailings or actual virgin ground below the trench, but soon I started finding crystal parts which narrowed my focus.  Quickly I zoned in upon a small seam with microcline and smoky quartz crystals.  Some were nice and I kept them; but most were only partially euhedral which was a sign of a smaller, tighter seam–even though some of the crystal parts were 5-7 inches long!

The crystals were organized to make me think this was not float (i.e. eroded crystals that eroded and rolled downhill from the pocket) as evidence of microcline and crystals next to each other and some red stained dirt.  They definitely were in loose dirt and not harder rock.  I followed this seam at a angle of about 30 degrees from straight downhill (I was on a very steep hill) for about 25-30 feet until it disappeared.  The further downhill I went the smaller the crystals shards were, the less smoky in color and less frequent.  The last 20 feet or so didn’t have anything worth keeping.

A nice euhedral microcline (right), microcline with mica, triple quartz cluster and double terminated smoky quartz

A nice euhedral microcline (right), microcline with mica, triple quartz cluster and double terminated smoky quartz were some of the nicer finds of the day.

As I made my way into the old trench from below I started hitting larger masses of pegmatite (like three feet deep), this was the original peg that the prospector followed across the hillside.  The digger left many crystals along the bottom of that seam and had obviously found a crack in the peg that had crystals, which is where I often also find my crystals.  The unfortunate thing was that the digger obviously used metal tools in this seam and most of the crystals he left attached to the bottom of that seam were damaged on their points.  Obviously the digger was finding nice crystals because they didn’t care about the nice 2-3 inch ones they were damaging all along the bottom of the small pocket/seam.  Moral of that story, don’t use metal tools in your pockets and take your time, unless you don’t care about the “little guys”!

Nice sized crystals with damage due to carelessness of the previous digger using metal tools in the pocket.

Nice sized crystals with damage due to carelessness of the previous digger using metal tools in the pocket.  You can guage the size by the soda can ring on the old table.

I dug until the sun was setting (beautiful sunset) and it started to sprinkle, since I had a heck of a hike (about a mile with some steep hills) back to the car I didn’t want to wait and have it get dark.  As always, had a blast being out in the forest prospecting and was able to prove that–whether it is float or a perpendicular seam–there are sometimes crystals left behind by other prospectors and available if you put in the work from previous digs.  This is definitely easier than prospecting good ground signs and striking into virgin ground, which likely will improve the chances of finding crystals quickly?

Smoky Quartz

Interesting growth pattern on this smoky quartz

New images of upcoming music-related items

I have received a couple of new really cool images in the last couple of days.  First, is the cover to our new re-release of Bahian Coastal Hwy by Multicast.  This is on Carpe Sonum records and should be mastered in a week or two.  Then it goes to the pressing plant; hopefully we’ll see it by October?

Multicast - Bahian Coastal Hwy on Carpe Sonum Records

Multicast – Bahian Coastal Hwy on Carpe Sonum Records

I also will be receiving a poster of this amazing artwork for the upcoming 2015 Full Moon Festival by M.E.S.S.  The poster will be framed and on the wall for sure. This is going to be a great party and I’m looking forward to both our release and the party.


Rural Colorado Lightning

I love the monsoon season, because 30% chance of thunderstorms means there will be one within 30 minutes of where I live; it is the way living atop the Palmer Divide usually works!  I drove about 10 minutes south of home and was able to capture these tonight.  Not as close as yesterday’s lightning by any means, but still pretty cool.  Again, cell phone and daytime pictures so quality is appropriate, daytime lightning is much harder to photograph, especially getting the stepped leaders!  What will tomorrow bring?Rampart Range Lightning Rampart Range Lightning Rampart Range Lightning Rampart Range Lightning


Castle Pines Lightning

The monsoon is in effect here in Colorado, like it always is in late-July and/or early-August (which I love) as I can capture some great lightning photos. Nice thundershowers each afternoon cool it down and make just fantastic evening/night conditions (and also keep the landscape green, which is a challenge here this time of year)! I was driving home from work which is normally 45 minutes but yesterday ended up being over 2 hours. As I was in the stop-go routine, an oncoming storm with very frequent cloud-to-ground lightning was encroaching. Luckily, the traffic ended up thinning out just in time to miss the core of the precipitation which would have made the drive even longer, ugh!

I travelled to the next exit and got off to take some pretty close, daytime lightning photos. This is with my cell phone, but surprising got some really nice shots! All of these bolts were between a mile and two away.

Castle Pines Lightning Castle Pines Lightning Castle Pines Lightning Castle Pines Lightning Castle Pines Lightning

Castle Pines Lightning

This one is interesting I feel because it shows the end of the initial discharge and the start of the second return stroke.

2015 Perseids Meteorite Shower

Excited for the 2015 Perseids meteorite shower.  This one is special because of the new moon.  Expecting to see some fantastic shooting stars!

It has been pretty rainy with the monsoonal flow in full effect lately, and my worry is about clouds.  Two nights before the peak it was cloudy all night and I was not able to witness anything.  One night before peak it was partially cloudy with a little haze, but I was able to see several shooters.  3 Perseid fireballs (2 were slow without much of a tail, one with a tail), 6 nice shooters and the remainder were small or really fast ones without tails.  I saw 15 from 1:30am to 2:30am.  I woke up a couple more times but there were a lot of clouds so I didn’t stay out that long, caught a couple small ones during this time.

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

2015 Perseids shooter

There are many reasons I head out the day before/after the peak.  One is the peak could be off, but the other is clouds.  The peak morning was cloudy and there was very limited visibility to the sky (maybe 10-15% viewable for 20-30 minutes at a time).  I was able to watch for about 60 minutes where there was viewable area, and I saw 55 shooters.  That is awesome, too bad I couldn’t watch more of the show.  We’ll see what tomorrow morning has in store…

Perseids Peak with clouds Perseids Peak with clouds Perseids Peak with clouds Perseids Peak with clouds