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Tuesday, 23 November 2010


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Contrail .... hmm. What do Mulder and Scully think?

While it might not be a "realistic" exposure Mike, I think it looks great. It catches the nuance of the colors at that time of evening. A Happy Accident if you insist...

Having moved to the southern edge of tornado alley in Austin after spending my my life up north I found the tornado warnings a bit unnerving at first. But after a while you get used to them. The local news is good about knowing where and when a funnel cloud might form and where it is headed as well. Problem is they can't tell you if it's on the ground or not. If it's at night like they often are well you'll know when you know.

your'e a lucky man. I'm shure you did the 1-Billion-Dollar shot I'm waiting for so long: http://thepubliceyeblog.blogspot.com/search?q=from+outer+space

Who are Mulder and Scully?


Mike, I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who forgets to check the camera settings. I feel so stupid when I blow the picture because of that. It's nice to see I'm not alone.

To be honest I quite like the pictures, to me it displays the mood of the weather yesterday. That front was something similar down here in Indianapolis.

Are contrails that rare? We used to see them all the time on the Eastern Short of MD...

The sky is fascinating. One of the strangest things I've ever watched was one day this summer when I was sitting on the front porch and there were two layers of clouds moving in opposite directions. The high clouds were moving East to West and there were small lower clouds moving West to East. I'd have had to make a video to show it and I doubt Fox would be interested.

No, not rare, but I've never seen one move across the whole sky before. Usually they drift much less and the wind tends to break them up as it moves them along.

I don't know, I'm not an expert on contrails.


"Who are Mulder and Scully?"

They're Jimmy's niece and nephew. You know Jimmy, he lives next door to one eyed Doris. She lost it in a tornado

I think you could win a prize with the third shot... try entering it in one of the UK's "British Journal of Photography" mag competitions – doesn't matter what their next theme is! Just think, $5,000? Wow, you never know! ;-)

Mike, knowing the destination of your pics are web-sized 800x600 JPEGs, you could have easily cooked up the images in lightroom, up the exposure, add NR and not tell us about forgetting camera settings; and no one would have figured it out. So here's the question, why did you decide not to do so? Do you typically remain faithful to whatever comes out of the camera?

I did. These are the corrected JPEGs you're looking at. (Except I didn't run NR on the last one.)


contrails are my thing...


I shot a photo of my house last year with medium format Ektar 100 (which I had scanned after processing) vs. my usual digital camera capture. All in all, a good photo, but my wife's eye jumped right to a short and twisty contrail in the frame's top center and said it looked just like the space shuttle Challenger explosion. While I didn't associate it as such (I know that normal jet contrails form and break up based on a plane's path through varying atmospheric conditions), I also doubt her reaction would be an isolated one. Which means I either have to photoshop the contrail out to disarm viewers or else I have to just call that photo a "failed attempt" (to use Michael Reichmann's words ...).

Just to be pedantic -- if the Air Force is in fact flying a new reconnaissance plane with unusual engines, hundreds of people have to know; not "nobody". People designed it, built it, fly and maintain it, provide security on the base where it's maintained, assign missions to it...and plow snow, and sweep the floors. Hundreds of people have to know.

They can still sometimes keep that sort of knowledge restricted to the few hundred people THEY pick for quite a while, though :-) .

Doughnut-on-a-rope contrails, as they are called, can be created by good old commercial aircraft. I've seen such contrails forming behind clearly recognizable passenger planes with my very own eyes. Sorry to burst these theories.

That one with the moon in it is lovely.


"Who are Mulder and Scully?"

The hero and heroine of the old "X-Files" TV show. Mulder was into the strange and weird events they investigated and Scully was his female MD partner who tried to keep him rooted in science and the facts, not the fantasy that Fox was so fond of.

Rod G.

""the exposure compensation dialed way down"
Dear Mike;
I supposes that means you work in Av,Tv or program mode. It´s funny I´ve never used anything else on any camera I´ve owned or borrowed except for Manual. That´s the way I was taught. I´m sure the other modes have their advantages but I´ve never been interested in finding out, probably because I like to be in control of everything.
"Who are Mulder and Scully?"
Mike if you are into conspiracy theories and UFOs´s you´ll probably like the X-files. I was and always will be a die hard fanatic of the series.


My guess is that most of your readers thought you were kidding when you asked "Who are Mulder and Scully?" I think it may be attributed to your now well-known admission that you haven't watched a lot of movies. I carry that over to you having not watched much TV during that same time.

Mulder and Scully were two FBI agents on a show called The X-Files. They investigated paranormal activities and there was an underlying paranoid theme of government directing some of the weirder things that happened. Those doughnut hole contrails would fit right in.

Either that or you were goofin' with us.

Jim Weekes

Fox Mulder and Dana Sculley are the main characters from the TV show "The X-Files". They were always investigating UFOs.

Now that you guys mention it I do vaguely remember the "Mulder and Scully" names and their association to "The X-Files," but I wasn't putting anybody on--I've never seen it.


Hans beat me to it, but "what he said." We have clear skies most of the year here in New Mexico, and the air at high altitudes is of course cold, so condensation trails (contrails) are very common. They often last all day, accumulating with trans-continental traffice. If there are high winds aloft, they often move, more-or-less intact, across the sky. And the so-called "doughnut-on-a-rope" is very common, created quite often by run-of-the-mill commercial aircraft, which -- as Hans said above -- are easily recognizable as such. No conspiracies needed.

This is why I check the first shot of any subject on the screen. I've been caught before. There's so many variables on a digital camera that it's... (pause while I check that I reset the Pentax to RAW files again) easy to get caught out.

@ Mike and @ Brian White

I'm adding myself to your select and self-confessed group of "didn't check the exposure settings before shooting" (there may be another couple of us in the world). Quite a few years ago, I was in Las Vegas for a multi-day conference, and managed to escape for a day to go to Death Valley. Given the choice of spending time in a darkened auditorium listening to radar experts going on about SAR imagery, and actually going to take some images, it was an easy choice.

So, Death Valley. Perfect - just perfect - weather. Sky blues, desert ochres, massive contrasts between sun and shade. Trip of a lifetime, at least for a Brit.

I had a single 36-exposure roll of Velvia 50, and a Nikon film camera with an auto-DX reader that could be disabled to allow a manual ISO to be dialled in. I agonised over every shot: it took me 12 hours to shoot the roll.

You can imagine what a complete **** I felt when weeks later I received back the processed slides. Every single one shot on a manual setting of ISO 800, the forgotten result of a previous experiment with pushing (or pulling, I can't remember which way round it went) a roll of Tri-X.

I guess that I spend too much time in the city and don't look up enough to have seen contrail donuts before.

Do a search on "chemtrails" if you want an interesting afternoon's reading.

@ Mike

The series is ongoing, kind of like street photography only looking up:)
I am on the flight path to laGuardia so I get regular overflights. I also have seen lots of donut-trails, from regular jets. Have also seen lots of weird ones that looked like that LA "rocket" incident--it's pretty common.


Glad to hear I am not the only one blowing shots. The difference is I have never learned to shoot manual. For that I earn an F for foolish. However I am planning on a new camera and will learn to use it only manually so there is no falling back on the computer of the camera body.

It is much more common for me to have the white balance set to flourescent lighting or daylight when I am shooting in the other.


This is a little off the contrail theme , but thought I would tell you of this.
I'm no meteorologist, but I think I saw ball lightning earlier this year. A thunder storm was brewing and I was going back out to lock the car after the family had got indoors. Suddenly, (a miserably insubstantial word for what actually happened) there was a tremendous crack and as I ducked and looked up at the same time I saw a white condensed (balled) flash followed by a fizzing horizontal streak. The latter part of which being what I turned in to as I scarpered for the house. Whatever had occured, it was certainly unusual. Ball lightning or a goose cooked on the wing? Hans will know, he obviously works for the FBI or MFI or even DFS. Or are two of these British furniture stores - we may never know.

Ahh I misunderstood. We have a lot of contrails, but not that much wind. I've probably never seen that either.

Also, I meant the Eastern Shore, not Short. Dang muscle memory.

During the great volcano ash shutdown earlier this year I took a photograph of the cloudless sky over our house (we live about 10 miles from Heathrow and 20 from Gatwick) without any contrails. I hadn't realised how ever present they were (along with the noise) until then. It is of course a very boring photograph!

Fox news?

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