The Grief Continues

The title says it all.

This is one of my longer posts. You’ve been warned. It does have some pictures, though.

I really like Dexpot,  a virtual desktop manager. I have seven desktops defined, based on the major categories of my various work: writing, pictures and graphics, programming, regular work, etc.. It works well and it is fun to watch the seven-sided cube (in my case) turn to the right desktop, especially once you get the speed the way you like it. I really like the way it lets me clean icons from my desktop(s) for greater focus and ease of use. Being able to copy and paste between the desktops is useful, too, as is still having access to the Orb and all the installed programs no matter what desktop you’re on. I like it enough that it’s the only program I allow to start when Windoze starts.

All in all, it’s a great program, or so I though until last Thursday.

I had used The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) the day before to check sunset times, angles, etc.. I knew the spot I had in mind wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I thought it would give me a nice landscape. I was expecting good cloud formations for a very nice sunset. I was itching to do some time lapse. I hadn’t done any since a year ago or so.

Sunset was around 9:21 pm local according to TPE. I decided to leave at 8:30 pm. I invited my wife to go along and she accepted. YAY!! I love it when she goes with me. I thought maybe I should leave around 7:45 instead to give me more time to get there, get set up, and get going taking pictures. Then I forgot that and actually left at 8:30.

First Grief: It took longer to drive to the place than I thought. I had figured 15 minutes but it took half an hour. Along the way, I saw some awesome shots. I would have been in the shade of a cloud, the distant field was brightly lit, off in the distance was a very nice cloud arrangement, with shafts of light and shadow streaming to the ground. Gorgeous! My wife even commented on them, suggesting I do the shoot there.

BUT I had this spot in mind and THAT was where I was going.

Second Grief: When I got to the prescribed location, I jumped out of the vehicle and got everything set up and ready to go. Camera on tripod — check, laptop up and running — check, Pentax Tether http://www.pktether.com/ running — check, camera connected to laptop — check, camera focused — check, lens selected — check, scene composed — check.

Image of Silverado Blazer rear gate open with laptop resting on it and USB cable running to camera on tripod. Background shows dried grasses and distant mountains under a very cloudy sky.

This is the time lapse setup I use most of the time.

So, why wasn’t Pentax Tether recognizing my camera?

Fiddling around with things, I finally got it to recognize the Pentax K-10 and take control of the camera. No idea what got fixed, but Whew! Only by now I’d lost a lot of light and was minutes away from sunset. I decided to go ahead and run a time lapse, just to verify things worked. I’d try again the next evening for the full time lapse I wanted.

#$)(&#$%&*@!!! It had worked fine last time I used it, why wouldn’t it work now? I kept getting camera buffer not cleared messages. Grrrrrr!!!!

Fiddling with the settings, I finally managed to eliminate those, but now I had “too many camera commands…wait or try later.”

Now I was getting irritated and muttering under my breath. I had never encountered either of those messages before. I had already tried rebooting camera and laptop. This time, I switched the Dexpot to not start when Windoze started, turned off the camera, and turned off the laptop. Then I started everything back up.

By now, the sun had set but there was plenty of twilight. I was determined to get something.

Third and final Grief: When everything came back up and I switched the camera on, everything seemed to be working great. Apparently Dexpot was throttling access for Pentax Tether’s storing to my hard drive, accessing the USB, or something.

With everything looking good, I hit the shutter button in the program. HUH? Only one picture was indicated as being taken, but I saw nothing on the screen. Oh, I needed to re-select the timed exposure checkbox.

Again I hit the shutter button…nothing. I looked through the viewfinder of the camera and saw…nothing. #$)*(&$&*(!! Now what??

Things seemed to be working fine…OH!

Somehow, I had reset the shutter speed to 30 seconds. No wonder I didn’t see anything, the entire image was white from overexposure and being displayed against the white background of the program. I fixed that and the pictures started showing up and getting stored to my laptop’s hard drive. Note to self…see if I can change the Pentax Tether program background to something else like grey.

FINALLY!

Of course, by now the sunset was a goner, the reds and oranges I was hoping to capture were pretty tired of hanging around and had left, but at least everythng was working properly. And I did get some pictures, nothing to write home about, but not all bad. I even managed to get a time lapse…sorta…if you watch it without blinking.

Image of distant sunset across the open farmland with the Owyhee mountains in the distance.

The sunset I was trying to capture. I’ve done better than this, but as you can see from the text I was having all sorts of trouble. At least I got something!

So now it’s Friday and I’m looking out the window right now at a totally overcast sky. Hopefully, that’ll change in the next eight hours. If not, there’s always Saturday….

AHHHHH! When 6:00 rolled around, the sky was broken and there were some nice cloud formations on the western horizon. So I started getting my gear together and my wife asked if it was time to go already. YAY, she’s going with me again!

Loaded up and headed out, this time I asked her to watch for that spot that we’d both liked. I pulled off the highway and backed into the access to the field. Opening up the back of the vehicle, I quickly set up and started shooting. All was going well until about 15 minutes later I started seeing the ‘too many commands’ message again.

Puzzled, I poked around and powered off the program and the camera. Firing up the program again and turning on the camera, everything started working again. Then I realized what had happened. Just as Dexpot defintely messed with the interface between Pentax Tether and the camera and I had fixed that, so did my screensaver settings. I suddenly realized that when I had been shooting with Pentax Tether last year, I had turned the screensaver off. So, this time I kept checking the laptop and moving the mouse or pressing the shift key to keep it awake.

After that, it was an enjoyable evening as we watched the sun set, my wife read, and I kept the laptop awake.

The whole time I was shooting that time lapse, I had thought it odd the clouds were NOT moving and was pleased to be shooting the sun moving through the clouds. I would have sworn they were staying in place the whole hour and half I was there. It wasn’t until I actually created the time lapse and viewed it that I realized the clouds were constantly forming and disappearing as well as actually moving.

This time, I elected to use Shutter Priority so that I could set the shutter speed and let the camera adjust the aperture. This was my first time trying that setup and it did seem to do a bit of what I wanted in that the images were more reactive to normal light conditions than previous attempts at shooting the passage from sunny to twilight. This time the images didn’t suddenly go dark on me for no reason that I could discern. True, the video shows the scene going dark, but that’s to be expected when shooting into the sun like that.

Another concern I had was that while I’d done it before, it always makes me nervous shooting at the sun like this. I’ve been careful to ensure that I never shoot directly at the sun, and I consider that to be the case where the sun is right in the middle of the entire image with a straight line to the camera sensor. I always ensure that the sun is off-center by a decent amount. That, plus I’ve been lucky, I think, is why my camera’s sensor hasn’t been sun-damaged.

All in all, I had a nice time with my wife, it was good practice for some projects I have in mind later this year, and I did get a passable time lapse out of it.

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