Thursday Writing Prompt No. 141

My sketch of the clock at Savage Mill, Maryland. Media used: Canson art journal, Utretch sketching pencils, and Ooly Kaleidoscope multi-colored pencils.

I’ve joined a Meetup sketching group to do some urban sketching. Many years ago I took an art studio class, and since then I’ve taken watercolor painting and dabbled a bit with acrylics, markers, and colored pencils. I’m kind of a lazy artist and it helps me to have an assigned project or something particular to focus on to get started. So, with no further ado, let me introduce this week’s Thursday Writing Prompt.

Clocks have been with us for many centuries in one form or the other. We have atomic clocks that measure time down to the pulse of a cesium atom; we have mechanical clocks with gears and flywheels and pendulums; we have sundials, where the shadow cast by the gnomon indicates the hour; and we have water clocks, where the slow drip, drip of water filling up a reservoir is measured to show the passage of time.

Your writing prompt for this week is to come up with a different way to measure the passing of time, whether for an alien race, or a group of humans. You should plan on deciding what kind of measurements would be of importance to your characters, and then design a timekeeping device or some way of tracking time that can be used by more than one person. For example, say your characters only care about the seasons, and they want to measure the solstices and equinoxes. You’re probably thinking about Stonehenge and Mayan temples, but how else could they track these things? And if your characters measure the hours, what kind of device would they use? Water-powered, steam, wind turbine?

Have fun, and plan to do a little bit of research for this one. Some clocks are really works of art and will be a good source of inspiration for you, even if you’re considering something other than a mechanical clock for your timepiece. Also check out sundials for a bit of variety. The North American Sundial Society is a good starting point, and there are links to images as well as instructions for constructing your own sundial, should the maker bug bite you.

Advertisements

The Eclipse, and All That

I really wanted to see the full solar eclipse, but I was stuck at home in Maryland, where we had a partial eclipse with 80 to 85 percent coverage of the sun. I knew that I wasn’t going to travel for the event, so I never got around to ordering sun viewing glasses. Instead, I put together a makeshift projector from a sturdy cardboard tube. I folded a piece of aluminum foil over one end and poked a small hole in the center of the foil with a frilly toothpick (class act, and all that!). Holding the tube with the foil-covered end toward the sun, I projected the image of the sun onto a piece of white cardboard. It’s nothing fancy; just a shipping box that contained pretzels, but the white coating on the box was perfect for this makeshift project. The timestamp on my camera was not set correctly, so I’m guessing this photo was taken between 2:30 and 2:45, or close to totality.

 

What was also interesting was finding little crescents everywhere. We don’t normally notice the shapes that are projected onto surfaces as sunlight filters through leaves, but during an eclipse the small gaps between leaves actually behaves like a lens and focuses the shape of the sun onto the ground and everywhere else. Usually it’s circular and we just aren’t aware of it, but here you can see the crescents scattered on the road surface. I also had crescents dancing on my living room floor where the sunlight was being filtered through the tree leaves and my Venetian blinds.

So, I’m hoping to catch the next solar eclipse. I want to experience the quality of light as well as the astronomical event itself. Perhaps by then I’ll be ready with a telescope and tracking mount for my camera, too. But in the meantime, there are some very interesting effects from the eclipse that are easy to photograph with basic equipment. I took both of these photos with a Nikon Coolpix, and these images could easily have been captured with my cell phone’s camera, too. I’d rather do some serious photography with my SLR, but my work schedule — and admittedly, my lack of preparation — meant that I had to grab things at the last minute and run out the door.

The worst part of the eclipse photography for me was that my yard is full of mosquitoes, and so now I am full of mosquito bites — and still scratching, one week later. Ugh.

Ah, August. I’m melting.


I’m back from vacation and have almost managed to survive the first week back at work. It wasn’t even a full week, it was four days — but that didn’t stop it from feeling like forever. A week of vacation isn’t enough!

This was my second year going to the Maine Astronomy Retreat. I still haven’t reviewed all of my photos, but I do have some Moon shots and Milky Way shots that are nice. I was surprised at how relatively easy it is to get a photo of the galaxy or Moon, but how difficult it is to get them in focus. You’d think that taking pictures of stars you’d just set the camera to infinity, right? Yeah, it doesn’t work like that.

It’s become obvious that I need some kind of focusing aid for astrophotography. No matter if I look through the eyepiece or at the live view display on my camera (a Sony alpha 7), the stars are just so dark and tiny that I can’t see anything well enough to set the focus. I basically have to take a picture and review it and keep twiddling the focusing ring until I get something. But even that is difficult; I can’t see the focusing ring without a light, I can’t tell by touch how far I’m moving it, and it’s very hard to move the focusing ring in tiny increments. Plus, the Earth spins pretty darn quickly, and any exposure that’s too long results in streaks known as star trails (which in my case look like Good ‘n Plenty-shaped lozenges).

Since I’ve been approved as a Shutterstock contributor, I’ve uploaded about seven photos. If my star photos are good they might end up there, otherwise, I’ll post a few in the next blog post. And, on to the weekend. Seems like a good time to avoid the heat and humidity and hole up in the A/C and look at photos. Stay cool, readers!

Almost Vacation

Writing is a long, hard slog this year. Work has been so difficult that when I have time off I just can’t bear to sit at the computer and do any more thinking. I feel like all of my creative energy, and the desire to do anything, has been sucked out of my soul.

But my vacation starts at the end of next week, so I’m hoping a week away from the insanity will restore some mental energy and I’ll be ready to pick back up on some projects. My steampunk story for Corrugated Sky’s second anthology is at the editing stage, and we’re expecting to get the book out in the next month or so. In other news, I’ve been approved for Shutterstock and and I have uploaded five images so far.