Author Archives: Damian

Solar Light Pillar

Forgot to post these…

From the morning of Wednesday 14th Feb.

Hand held Nikon D3 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8

The first at 7.22am

70mm ISO 200 1/125sec f/5.6


and the second at 7.26am

70mm ISO 200 1/160sec f/6.3


A light pillar..?

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

An atmospheric optical phenomenon in the form of a vertical band of light which appears to extend above and/or below a light source. The effect is created by the reflection of light from numerous tiny ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere or clouds. The light can come from the Sun (usually when it is near or even below the horizon) in which case the phenomenon is called a sun pillar or solar pillar. It can also come from the Moon or from terrestrial sources such as streetlights.


See here for more details:




Views from today….

Following on from Andy’s earlier post from today (Darwin Walk and Biolam microscope)….

Lichfield Cathedral in the background…

3 hrs in…looking forward to lunch at Mable’s Cafe… Tweedledee and Tweedledumb taking a short break…(I’m not saying which, is which !)

Andy back at ours checking out my cheek cells ! You can see the photos he has just taken through the eye lens still on his phone…

My picture taken with an iPhone6 held up to the 10x eyepiece and 10x objective (plus 1.5x binoviewer).

LOMO Biolam Microscope restoration.

As you’ll have gathered, Andy got me an old LOMO Biolam microscope for Christmas. Included in the sale were an assortment of extras ‘upgrades’ (all in their own wooden boxes) to the original base unit (most I don’t think have ever been used), including a binocular head with a pair of x7 and x10 eyepieces.

Being 41 years old, it needed some TLC – the main issue being the infamous ‘Russian Tank Grease’ originally used!

You can tell it’s age as the serial number contains it’s year of manufacture – just like Takahashi do, so the ’77’ is 1977.

This instrument is still a ‘LOMO’ version, later, it was also made and marketed under the Zenith brand (we used their cameras at art college!)

Over time, this grease has solidified (think your bonfire toffee apples), so most things that were supposed to move were either very stiff or just plain stuck.

Not being very ‘DIY’, I’ve spent the last few weeks tentatively stripping it down and soaking various parts in white spirit and WD40.


Andy came round just after Christmas and we had ‘first light’ – this image is of a Lilly Ovary, iPhone 6 held up to the 10x eyepiece in the Binocular attachment (adds 1.5x mag) and a 20x objective (so 300x)

It was pretty tricky to achieve focus as the main (coarse focuser) was lumpy and the fine focus unit inoperable….

The microscope (thankfully) turned out to be pretty easy to take apart.

Below, the main/coarse focus unit (after spending a week in a bath of white spirit). Brushed clean with my old tooth brush and re-greased with a modern silicon alternative.


Image below – bottom of the ‘stage base’ – the bit where you place your slide (‘rotating stage’ also stuck!) This shows the silver-grey fine focuser mounted on the side.

Most of the microscope is cast metal and brass. The only plastic part was this strip of gearing for the condenser (the unit that focuses the light source onto the slide/specimen). The two screws though caught me out – the top being countersunk and the lower a pan-head!

The brass is ‘pre-polished’….

Below images (x2) – back of same ‘stage’ part….

…..and with gearing removed….

The biggest issue was the fine focuser. The actual unit is self contained, like the inside of a watch and ‘runs- dry’ – so no grease. Whilst it worked on it’s own, I could not get the fine focus to work once everything was reassembled…

The large metal pin (above) sits in that circular recess shown below in the middle of that brass piece. Inside the main cavity sits the fine focuser which mates to the fine focus gearing/knob just seen in the shadow right at the back.

It turned out that the brass part (with circular recess) is supposed to freely move up and down with a turn of the fine focuser…

….the movement dampened by a large spring that sits inside this circular recess on the other side (top). The spring is held in place under tension by the serial number ‘date’ cover shown earlier.


Once we had worked out how this works Andy………. hit it…… (carefully) with a hammer….(!!!) after judisious use of WD40. That freed the brass dovetail allowing cleaning, polishing and re-greasing…

41 years of grease (finally) removed !

Amazing what a bit of Brass can do!

Once all back together everything finally worked!


Andy headed off and I finished polishing up the chrome objective head and attaching the X/Y upgrade to the stage.

Later in the evening I popped over to Andy’s to try the microscope out. I still have the condenser upgrade to sort (Russian tank grease again) and then sort an LED / Halogen illuminator to replace the 15w bulb version (itself an upgrade over the supplied mirror).


Andy’s calibration slide – each line is 0.01mm apart.


The moon….?


ET’s hand !




Solargraph – worked… (sort of)!

Six months has flown by….

Time to collect the solargraph we ‘planted’…


Yes, a few days early to be collecting, but today is my last one in the office and I wasn’t thinking of doing a 124 mile round trip to collect from Leominster on the shortest day!

What a lovely start to the day, a slippy stile and muddy walk!

If you remember from the last post, the first attempt had been damaged – probably due to the shiny  ‘foil’ pinhole being pecked out by an interested magpie!

2x previous photos of new solargraph in situ…(Above and below)

The site from Google Maps:

Kimbolton Church (Nr. Leominster) is in the centre. The solar graph is sited in that first tree-line (towards 10/11 o’clock), looking back to the church – thought it would make a nice view/foreground…

This time, we had forgone the foil (you pin-prick it to get a fine hole and therefore sharper image recorded) and instead drilled (No 1 drill bit), straight into the tin. No bird was going to get through that!!

Would this one fair better…?

This was it’s rough view as seen this morning upon collection at 8.45am….

First impressions were good… the baked bean can pinhole camera looked to have survived it’s six months and was in remarkably good condition with hardly any rust – sheltered under the trees.

Back at the office, second impressions were of an unremarkable small image and some image shift (double exposure)…. look how the church is double exposed on the original below….      ;-(


I don’t think it was ‘vandalised’ if it had, it would have been ripped out and strewn across the hedgerow… ‘Mother Nature’…. perhaps…? More likely a horse or sheep rubbing up against the stake (or wire fence) – although I did try and protect it somewhat…

(Above: Initial scan – 900DPI, Colour-Millions, mirror reversed on the horizontal plane, cropped).


If this hasn’t worked, that’s 18 months from the first try (summer>winter 2016) – I didn’t have another pinhole camera prepared after the first go to put imediately back in place, so waited until this summer solstice in 2017 to try again.

Again, I didn’t have another prepared to start again this morning either, so another camera would have to wait until summer 2018….




With a little Photoshop magic, it’s amazing what can be achieved!

Phew  😉


For January’s RAG end-month meeting, I’ll bring the laptop, scanner, etc. So if you tried your own solargraph and want some help processing it, bring it along and we can have a play!

If you want to preserve yours until then, I suggest you remove from the tin, ***dry completely with a hairdryer*** and then put nice and flat inside an envelope (or two) out of direct light.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!



The Joys of RAW…

Never got time this year to build my RAG Aurora talk… it’s nearly a year since we were preparing to head to Alta, Norway….

But work is nearly finished and so I decided to have another play.

This is the jpeg off the camera – way too dark and the aurora far too green – this was a very fast moving teal green, multi-band wave that stretched across the sky. It was far more vibrant and illuminated the scenery…. which is much bigger than it looks here – width wise, this combination captures 114 degrees (84 high, so with the camera angled, the top of the pic is around the Zenith) !

22nd Dec around 6.30pm – I only managed another 10 shots of this outbreak before the battery finally died (that was after eeking out some last shots by warming it up under my armpit!) Thankfully I’d captured the majority of this performance and it was fading out. It was then back to the lodge for dinner, a fast battery re-charge and then headed back out for our final evening….

Tripod mounted, (old) full frame D3 (only 12Mp) and the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. Cable release and using mirror lock-up to reduce internal shaking.

800 ISO, 14mm,  f2/8 at only 6 seconds – shows how bright and fast it was moving when you consider what the camera recorded (and the blurring of the bands….) Keeping to 800 ISO keeps dynamic range at the expense of shutter speed. I could have pushed to around 1200-1600 ISO as the cold would have kept the noise down, but that’s how it goes…

6th Dec 2017: NEF RAW file processed in Adobe LightRoom Classic CC (2018) and finished in PS CC 2018. I’ve cropped it down to a more pleasing composition and tried to depict what we saw (although this is more saturated).

The moral of the story is… always shoot RAW!


For orientation – the diamond of ‘Delphinus’ can be seen to the lower left just past the tree. Coming out of the top of the same tree is the (Summer) Milky Way, that bright white star just clearing the branches being Deneb in the tail of Cygnus. The bright orange star in the upper left of the photograph is Scheat – if you examine your star atlas, you’ll find it as the top right star in the ‘Square of Pegasus’ !

Plus a short movie, made from 13 files (pre Photoshop) put together in iMovie (the shot above was the third in the sequence)…


Crescent Moon and ‘Earthshine’

October 25th, 6.18pm

Taken out the bedroom window, looking to the West…

My old full frame Nikon D3 (12Mp) and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII plus 1.4x Nikon Teleconverter. Hand held.

Shot details:

280mm, 1/13 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200.

Processed in Lightroom Classic CC to bring back the burnt-out highlights!

What Is Earthshine?

Earthshine is a dull glow which lights up the unlit part of the Moon because the Sun’s light reflects off the Earth’s surface and back onto the Moon.

It is also sometimes called ashen glow, the old Moon in the new Moon’s arms, or the Da Vinci glow, after Leonardo da Vinci, who explained the phenomenon for the first time in recorded history.