Wednesday, 29 August 2007

The 'Spaceworm' video....

Well, at last Blogger has now included video. Yonks ago you may remember a post I did about an object I'd filmed. At the time all I was able to do was post a few snapshots, now here is a couple of moving clips. I know it's a bit wibbly wobbly, but you try holding a camera steady at 35x zoom. Yes, it does look like a modelling balloon, but this was really big (the length of a passenger jet). This object has been nicknamed "The Spaceworm" by my friends, who have been very good about the matter and haven't as yet openly accused me of being a nutcase.

For more information you can either go to the original post (WHAT THE HE*!!?! IS THAT???!.... 2/06/07) or below is a copy of the text of the same.

I was out in the back garden lying out on the grass, when I spotted Venus. It was daytime but it still showed up as a tiny pin prick of light.

I tried to photograph it, but even at 35x it doesn't look much.

I had a go at taking some pics of a jet up at cruising height, where the sky begins to turn that darker blue.
I lay back and considered my next target, when I noticed a little black line in the sky. It was slightly curved and at first I thought it was a buzzard up high. The line shrank to a dot, and then stretched out to a line once more. It was something long, tumbling and rotating, giving the illusion of changing shape. Desperately I tried in vain to train the camera at it, but there was nothing to reference the position to. Eventually I decided to put the zoom at full optical (35x), point roughly in the right direction and perform a crude 'raster scan' of whole area. Bingo! There it was!....

To all the world it looked like a modelling balloon...

...but this was big! When I first spotted it, it had passed above the con trail of the passenger jet that I photoed at the same magnification. Logic dictates that this was as long or longer than the jet plane!

I've seen planets, meteors, glints from satellites and often seen weather balloons, but nothing like this. If it was some sort of huge wacky weather balloon where was all the equipment that normally hangs down below? The way it was tumbling wouldn't have allowed anything like that without getting tangled. It was a real struggle keeping the thing in frame at that zoom, my arms were starting to ache.

Any movement would cause the object to skip about, so I held the shutter button firmly down with the camera clacking away taking five pictures a second!

With the SD card rapidly filling up, I switched to video downloading to the hard drive. With all the messing about with buttons, the object fell out of frame. Damn..... Oh, there it was, got it back again...relief!

Now on movie I attempted to zoom in further, 50x, 80x, 100x, 150x...No it was all too much, I just couldn't hold it steady enough.

The last three pictures were lifted from video. I was a little disappointed that the higher magnification pics didn't come out very clear, this was because I didn't have time to bump up the shutter speed to max. So these were the best that I could get.
I have absolutely no idea what this thing was. All I can say was that it did exist (I saw it with the naked eye as well as the camera), it was grey black, shiny (the sun glinted off it, but didn't shine through it), it wasn't powered (it tumbled in the direction of the prevailing wind, but slower), it had no markings and had nothing attached to it. If you know what it is then let me know, cos I'm stumped.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Drive you to drink....

It wasn't a bad day weather wise, but it wasn't good either. I felt that I should do something slightly energetic in order to burn off some of yesterdays BBQ at Russells. No, I was feeling lazy, a bit of a razz in the car instead.... Heading North, the A515 lured me further on with it's luscious zig zags. After clearing the county of Staffordshire, the roads became more narrow as the hills of Derbyshire loomed ahead. Stone walls lulled you into a false sense of security, obscuring the precipice to your side as you skim the edge of the slope, encouraging you ever faster.

As you climb ever higher the lanes snake through little V shape valleys.

There's always another bend, revealing another valley, with another hill challenging you in the distance...

As I got ever higher, I noticed the sheep dotting the hillsides didn't look quite the same....

Hang on, those are Llamas (or are they Alpacas? Is there a difference?) You know you're getting high up when there's Llamas! This one had recently been shaun, someone, somewhere had got a lovely soft new jumper.

This baby Llama looked impossibly cute. I'm sure the farmer goes round putting mascara on those lashes, no way are they natural.

Llama wool is renowned for being warm and soft, if it's so good why does this chap find it so itchy?

Finally the top of the world (well of this bit anyway) was in view. This isn't a place you want to be caught out in during winter. It was flippin cold in August. There is nothing for miles around. Should you be foolish enough to wander off the road you stumble through peat bogs, dissected by deep ditches which far from helping to drain the land, just give you something to fall into and drown! The tarmac route picked its way through the difficult terrain. This is the only way across the hills, the twists and turns attract suicidal bikers and car fanatics alike. Signs warn of "Traffic Law Enforcement by Police Aircraft". Motorcyclists fit upward facing mirrors to their fuel tanks in order to spot whether they are being 'monitored' by Police helicopter!

This is the 'Cat and Fiddle', the highest public house in England, although there is some rivalry for the title with the 'Tan Inn', either way it's a long way to go for a drink!

The AA (Automobile Association not Alcoholic Anonymous) survey 2003 listed this as the most dangerous stretch of road in the UK. On the homeward trip I bear ed this in mind and drove as quickly as I could in order to get off it as soon as possible!

Down in the tree clothed valleys after passing through the village of 'Winkle Bottom' several times I decided that I was lost. It was time for a coffee and to get my old faithful GPS out. This E-Trex GPS is getting on a bit now, it's been through the wars and is reinforced with tape. It's over 7 years old now, back from when I would have to explain to people what GPS was. After telling one client what it was for and how great it was to have a device that could tell you exactly where you were in the world tucked in your pocket, he replied "But if you've got it in your pocket, you know where it is"! This is the same client that years later after buying a car with a GPS enthused"My new GPS tells me where to go..", I was tempted to do the same...
E-Trex got me home as per usual, a 160 mile round trip, not bad for an afternoons drive.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

My 7 'P's....

I've been tagged, this time by Lesley ( I'm not sure of the rules for this one, just 7 'P's.... PADDLING... Kayaks of course. I'm never happier and more relaxed as when I'm out on the water.

PETER PRINCIPLE... "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." This is why I'm self employed, there is no hierarchy, so I'm free to be incompetent at all times!

PHONETIC... Why is it spelt this way?

PETROL... Why in the UK do we have to pay 80% tax on petrol?! As I fill up I count in my head how much is going to the government and how much is in the tank. Also, while we're on the subject, why when we had the opportunity to protest and make our views known during a rush hour 1 min demo was it just me and one van driver.....where were you all? Premium petrol costs £1.10 a litre (£4.16 a gallon), how much does it have to cost before we demand a tax reduction?

PHOTOGRAPHS... Since my hit and run accident my memory has been patchy at best, if it wasn't for all the photos I'm sure I would have 'lost' big chunks of my life. Now I photo and video everything just in case.

PUBLIC... I'm so glad I'm not a 'member of the public'. They aren't allowed to do anything. You always see signs saying 'No Entry to Members of the Public' or 'Members of the Public are not allowed to.....'. Of course, by not being a member of the public none of these signs apply to me, it makes life so much simpler!

PIPISTRELLE... I was once bitten by a Pipstrelle bat. 'Boris' the bat was found in a gutter by my brother, we tried to nurse it back to health. It was while trying to coax it to eat a yummy moth that I was bitten. Unfortunately Boris didn't make it. I'm still awaiting my special super bat powers to develop, nothing yet, but I do sometimes wake up with the pillows at the wrong end of the bed.

Now I have to pick five victims...I mean people, to tag. As per normal it isn't a chain letter so don't feel obliged...

Monday, 20 August 2007

All the Queens soldiers....

Sunshine and showers this week, "nice weather for ducks" apparently. So, I thought I'd go and feed them.... I love feeding the ducks. I've never seen an animal so chuffed with a bit of bread. Waddling around, smily beaked contented muffled quacks.
Busy Sparrows collecting all the bits others have forgotten about.

The Mallards try and be camouflaged, but have one showy bit just so they can feel 'special' too.

I gave this chap loads of bread because he'd got a poorly wing. He ate tons, he won't be hungry tonight.

You little ba#&$*d!!! Poorly wing! He'd took me for a chump. I'll remember you...cos you look like all the other hundreds of Canada geese. Damn, he'd got away with it.

The Swans were slow to arrive, and after admiring themselves in the wibbly wobbly reflection of the car spot lamps, came over for a snack. They played nicely and took the bread gently. Just as well for such a big bird. All was fine until the bread ran out.....

"WHERE'S MY BREAD?" Legs were pecked, pockets examined, cameras lunged at, and finally....

SWAN ATTACK!! Oww! I left him to it hoping he'd realise his mistake, but no, he was going to chew on this arm until he could pull a chunk off. There was nothing I could do. All the Swans in the UK (if unmarked and on open water) are owned by the Queen. A law dating back to the 12th century meant I would be in big trouble for harming a Swan, you could get 7 years transportation! Hang on, a free 7 year holiday to the Australias, didn't seem so bad....but on the other hand, my arm was beginning to hurt. Ooh! Blood! Well, a tiny bit.

"Yeah, yeah, you wouldn't have got away with it if you didn't know the Queen. "......."Yes, alright I'm going!"

It was probably bedtime anyway.....

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Catnip capers.....

The cats are fond of playing 'hide and seek'. I'm not sure if I taught them or they're teaching me. If you would like to play too, here is the recipe for success..... First you need the right apparel. Humans are big compared to cats, so you are at a distinct disadvantage. Camouflage evens up the odds!
Next you need a big bag of drugs. Catnip is the favourite , give it a good rub to make it extra potent. It's a shame this doesn't work on humans, but it leaves cats quite discombobulated.

Finally, you will need a large basket of cats. Any sort will do, and as many as you can find.
Sprinkle liberally with catnip, and stir gently until you hear a loud purr.

Quickly tip your cats out. You may find that some stick to the sides, but these can be coaxed out with further catnip. Allow to settle until the initial frenzy has subsided giving way to a druggie playfulness.

Lucy was intent on bending the rules even though there weren't any, and it was decided that the garage roof was deemed out of bounds.

Max hadn't quite got a handle on the matter of scale and seemed pretty sure that I was hiding in the old chimney pot.

Lenny was ingenious when it came to hiding places but just hadn't got the patience to stay hidden and couldn't resist another peek. He was quickly caught.

After an hour of intense game play, Lucy eventually fell victim to too much catnip and fell asleep in the compost heap.

With Baggy hiding so well nobody ever found her and Lenny being called in for tea, Max was declared the winner by default.
If anyone knows the whereabouts of a small black fluffy kitten with a white nose flash answering to the name of 'Baggy', 'come here', 'dindins' or pretty much anything as long as it's in a friendly voice then please get in touch......

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

'Lost' stones of Fauld...

For years as I have driven along this road 15miles to the north, these huge white stones have intrigued me. They look so out of place and I have always wondered how they got there.... My investigations led me 3 miles away to this sign. Most English footpath signs point to such places as, 'Dingleberry Bottom' or 'Weston-under-Lizard', you know normal villages with normal names.
This one is different. In fact it's probably the only one in the country....I hope!

Another sign you don't see everyday.

This is the crater left by the biggest unnatural explosion anywhere on Earth until Hiroshima!

At 11.00 am, 27th November 1944, 4000 tons of high explosive blew up. A mushroom cloud 50 yards wide and upwards out of sight, threw out mounds of earth and rock up to a ton in weight and scattered debris for up to 11 miles away. The crater left was 400ft deep, 1/4 mile in diameter and covered an area of 12 acres. Afterwards the surrounding area was covered with a fine dust 4 inches deep, quietening footsteps and creating a moonscape. The blast was heard in London and recorded in Geneva as an earthquake.

Below these hills was a gypsum (a white rock used for making plaster) mine, which was being used as an arms dump. A vast amount of high explosive were stored as the build up to the Normandy invasion. As well as being a dump, bombs were repaired here. Returning bomber aircraft would drop any remaining bombs into soft marshland, they would be recovered and fixed at this site. It is thought that it was while work was being done on one of these, coupled that many of the bombs were stored ready armed ready for use that the tragedy happened. 70 lives were lost, 18 bodies were never recovered. Upper Castle Hayes farm, with all its buildings, wagons, cattle and people completely disappeared.
Thankfully, there wasn't a sympathetic explosion and the majority of the dump didn't explode, but even so buildings many miles away were damaged and the top of Fauld hill was removed from the skyline. The countryside was littered with live ordnance, Mills bombs, land mines, anti-personnel, detonators and 4000lb bombs. Rescues in the mine took 3 months due to pockets of gas, 10,000 tons of rubble and 6 million gallons of water from the nearby reservoir. One search party reported finding a cow standing in a field, twice its normal size, bloated with air from the shock wave. They tried to put it out of its misery by shooting it, but it failed to fall. On closer inspection it was found to be already dead, the angle of its legs holding it in the upright.

For many years the truth of what had happened here was not disclosed. Kids used to play in the bomb hole, rolling rocks down its steep sides. It was not until recently that the area was fenced off and signs erected. In 1974 it was revealed that the explosion was caused by "bombs being taken out of store- primed for use and replaced unused, with detonators still installed." There is some speculation that it was actually caused by the impact of a German V-2 rocket. Parts of a fin similar to that on the V-2 were found. The V-2 rocket entered service in January 1944, it was the worlds first ballistic missile reaching a height of 55 miles before returning at supersonic speed and impacting at 1,780mph. The theory says that this is why there wasn't a 'sympathetic' explosion, as most of the stored bombs were displaced from the mine before they exploded. Many of the successful V-2 attacks were kept secret by the goverment in order to not demoralise the population or allow the Germans to calibrate their aim.

In the fields around the site are many of these war time buildings. They seem to be old shafts, now capped, many of them with signs of large calibre gun emplacements.

It is apparent that these mine workings are still in use and are quite extensive. I found this ventilation shaft relating to it some 2.5 miles away.

I couldn't quite see in, even using the camera held up high. A small pebble dropped in revealed an almost bottomless pit! Who knows what secrets it hides....

Monday, 6 August 2007

See things in a different light......

You may know that as well as seeing in normal light, most digital cameras can see far more... In fact they can see well into the infra red band of the spectrum, and this is where the fun begins. In order for the camera to pick up the infra red you have to filter out the rest of the visible spectrum. You can buy infra red pass filters but they're rather expensive. Here is a cheaper way...
First see if your camera can see infra red. To do this, switch it on and point a TV remote at the lens, press and hold one of the remote buttons. You won't be able to see the light, but if your camera can then your half way there. Next, sort out your old photos, or more exactly the negatives, remember those, before all this electrickery gadgetry digital malarky? Now, what you're looking for is the bits at the end of the negatives, the spare bit that has no image on it but has been exposed and developed. It should appear dark reddy brown. Transparent bits are no good.

You need enough of this stuff to cover the lens, and you need three to four layers. Clip them together or tape them at the edges and then attach them to the lens in such a way that no light can get in around the edges (you'll have to figure this bit out by yourself).

I used a camcorder for these photos, which are better suited for this because they are biased towards being able to film in low light etc, while digital stills cameras specialise in good depth of colour and so often filter infra red out in order to maintain a correct colour balance. To combat this, either take your camera apart and remove the cyan correction filter (only do this if you have an old camera that you don't mind ruining, as inevitably you are left with a matchbox full of spare bits that no longer want to go back....all modern cameras are assembled by minute elves, this is the only way to make them so small), or set to 'low light' / 'night shot' etc.

Eyes look spooky under infra red vision!

Best results are achieved on a bright sunny day. It won't work when it's dull, cos there's barely enough light for the camera to operate with. You may need to manually adjust the focus as well.

If anyone has any success with this I would love to see you post the results.

Many insects and particularly bees can detect infra red, this is why they are sometimes attracted to what at first glance seems like a rather plain flower, but under infra red often display patterns you wouldn't know were there.

Open water shows up inky black. Use a polarising filter (if your camera can cope with even less light!) and you will be able to cut the reflection and film fish which shine brightly!
Some car windows have special layers on them to block sunlight and they show up opaque black.

Finally, a warning... Humans reflect infra red and so show up light. Some types of clothes don't reflect infra red so appear invisible. In some circumstances your camera will work like X-ray specs!!! Might seem to good to be true, but BEWARE..When Great Aunt Flo comes to visit wearing her new light summer dress you could see a sight that no mere mortal was meant to eyes!!!