sun, 06-sep-2009, 14:24

Piper wants something

Piper wants to go for a walk

Another gorgeous day in Fairbanks. September is one of my favorite months. The bugs are just about gone, it’s cold and crisp in the morning, and there’s usually an abundance of sun and blue skies. This year has been no exception so far, making it hard to stay in the house. I’ve been out on several excellent walks with the dogs on the trails around our house.

We’re also in the process of getting our road and driveway fixed. We’ve been living here for two years, and both have deteriorated since we moved in. The road is a tough one because so much water runs over it during spring breakup, and I’ve been told that no matter what you put on the road, it will just wash away in a few years.

Still, we had to do something, so we changed the pattern a bit this year, installing a culvert in a particularly bad place, and filling one of the deep spots with very large rocks instead of mine tailings. The hope is that they won’t get carried away in the spring flooding, and may drain well enough that water will cross there instead of running down the road. Time will tell, but at the very least, it should be a much nicer drive this winter, and will be a lot easier for me to keep it plowed.

Road & driveway work

Road & driveway work

One of the common destinations on my walks is this pond, on the property next to us. This is the same pond that I photographed and wrote about last April when I went ice skating on it. Once the Creek freezes, I like to walk upstream to this pond, cross it, and return home on the mushing trails. It’s a nice spot.

Larry and Jenn's pond

Larry and Jenn’s pond

tags: fall  panorama  Piper  pond  road work 
sat, 05-sep-2009, 11:32

Goldstream Creek around the back cabin

Goldstream Creek around the back cabin

Another iPhone panorama, this time with the Pano app. I had been using AutoStitch, which makes panoramas from a series of existing photos. Pano takes a different approach: you shoot a series of photos, in order from left to right, from inside the app. After each image, the app asks if you’re happy with the shot, or if you’d like to retake it. If you’re happy with it, it stores it, and then shows you a semi-transparent slice of the right edge of the photo superimposed over the left side of the current camera viewscreen. This makes it fairly easy to line up each shot as you pan across your scene. When you’ve taken all the photos you want, the app joins the images together and saves it to the Camera Roll on the iPhone.

The upside to Pano is that it’s much easier to get well aligned images, as long as there’s enough contrast in the individual pictures to allow you to line them up as you’re shooting. The down side is that the only layout the app can handle is a single row of landscape or portrait shots. AutoStitch can join photos in any combination. The panorama at the bottom of my previous post (our back yard) was built from two rows of four photos (8 images total). The top row included a nicely exposed blue sky, and the bottom row was primarily the tussock–permafrost landscape of our backyard. Even though there are some obvious artifacts in the final image, it would be hard to get such a nice overall exposure with Pano and the iPhone camera.

sat, 29-aug-2009, 16:32

Moose damage, water tank

Moose damage to the water tank

We’ve had quite a few moose encounters over the last few days. This morning I felt what I thought was an earthquake, but when I looked out the window to see what was happening, there was a bull moose next to the deck trying to work the velvet off his antlers by rubbing them on the deck stair railing. He didn’t completely tear off the railing, but he came close. Along the way he stabbed our water tank several times (you can see the damage to the foam insulation in the photo on the right), knocked over a wheelbarrow, and ripped my National Weather Service rain gage off the dog yard fence. We’d seen the same moose yesterday afternoon along the power line using a power pole support wire on his antlers.

I shot a couple videos of this morning’s action. The first one is after he started ramming the water tank. I decided I needed to go outside and scare him away before he did any more damage to the house. You can see that he thinks twice about charging me before he runs off. I thought for sure he was going to barrel right into the Jeep. Here’s the video:

The second video shows him going to town on the stair railing. This was was shot through a window, so it’s not quite as sharp:

It’s only a couple days from moose season. We live in a bow-only hunting area, but the regulations here allow bow hunters to take any male with more than a “spike/fork” set of antlers (meaning a little antler spike on one side of his head and a forked antler on the other side). This moose is much larger than that. I’m not sure if he’d be legal in a typical hunting area where hunters can shoot any moose with more than a 50” antler spread, but he’s close.

Hunting season means cool temperatures, lots of sun, and gorgeous colors. Here’s an iPhone panorama shot of our back yard:

Back five

The backyard

tags: bull  fall  iPhone  moose 
fri, 28-aug-2009, 15:48

Peat ponds panorama

Peat ponds panorama

Across from the office is a protected area that was the site of a some sort of resource extraction. It’s a nice spot to take a break at lunchtime, and I enjoy walking Nika and Piper on it in the winter (or around it when it’s not frozen). The hill in the distance is Ester Dome, the high point of the Equinox Marathon that Andrea will be running in a few weeks.

The photo was constructed from three photos using an iPhone app called AutoStitch. I’ve done this process on my Mac using Hugin, and it works well. But AutoStitch can do the whole process right on the iPhone, now has a cropping feature to trim off the extraneous curvature at the edges, and does the whole thing with almost no effort on the user’s part. Very slick.

tags: app  iPhone  panorama  Peat ponds 
thu, 20-aug-2009, 19:07

Last night a pair of young moose showed up in our driveway. Andrea and I went out on the deck and shot some iPhone video of their antics. At one point (see the video below) Deuce went over to the fence and the moose ran over to check him out. It was clear that Deuce was trying to play, but I’m not sure what the moose were thinking.

The iPhone shoots QuickTime movies; the new HTML5 web standard will include a video tag that indicates to a browser that the file is a video. Firefox 3.5 is the first browser to implement this tag, playing Ogg Theora videos without needing an external video plug-in like Flash or Silverlight or whatever. This is a good thing because it means web developers can stop developing their sites with a bunch of proprietary languages and formats just to show a video.

Unfortunately, getting a QuickTime video from the iPhone into the right format is a bit of a pain, and even after I got it all figured out, the video wouldn’t play once I uploaded it to my hosting provider. But in case it’s useful, here’s the procedure I used. I suspect the ffmpeg2theora step could probably have been done on my Mac, but it doesn’t appear to be part of fink so I just installed it on my Linux box and ran it there.

  • Drag MOV file onto the New Event icon in the upper left pane of iMovie
  • Crop and select time period in the movie in the middle frame
  • Create a new project (which appears in the lower left pane)
  • Drag the selection from the upper middle frame to the lower middle frame
  • Export the movie at Medium quality
  • Transfer to Linux
  • Run ffmpeg2theora -v 5 -x 350 --aspect 16:9 moose_test.m4v (choosing the proper aspect ratio and size)
tags: Deuce  moose  video 

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