The View Up Here

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Archive for September, 2010

Worldwide KAP Week 2010 Begins!

Posted by Tom Benedict on 10/09/2010

If you’re active in the world of kite aerial photography, chances are you already know Worldwide KAP Week 2010 starts tomorrow.  It runs from Saturday, September 11th, through Sunday, September 19th.  (Yes, that’s also “Talk Like a Pirate Day”.)  If you already have KAP gear, get out.  Wherever you are, get out over the next nine days and fly a camera.  Take pictures.  Have a good time.

As for me, I’m taking the entire week off from work.  Some people think that’s silly, but it’s one of my only opportunities during the year to really get out and dedicate a big chunk of time to doing KAP.  Looking back at the pictures I made during Worldwide KAP Week last year, and everything that’s happened since, I have a pretty positive feeling about WWKW 2010.  These are the big changes in my gear and technique:

  • I picked up a Dopero early this year, so I can fly a heavier rig in lighter wind.  From 3.5kt to 25kt, I’ve got my kites covered.
  • I’ve worked a lot on my panorama technique, added a Ho/Ver axis to my rig, and hope to make a number of good, printable panoramas.
  • I’ve also worked on my sunrise/sunset/golden-hour photography, and hope to work in better light during WWKW 2010 than I did during WWKW 2009.
  • Finally, I’ve been experimenting with graduated ND filters in the air.  I think this is the last tool I use for landscape photography on the ground that hasn’t been available in the air.  Now it’s all there.

I’ve got spots picked out all over the island, and a list of subjects longer than I can handle.  So no matter what, I doubt I’ll come away from WWKW 2010 disappointed.  It should be good.  I checked the weather and wind for tomorrow morning (my first sunrise outing ever!) and it looks like there should be nice wind on Mana Road.  Some years back I did an early morning session on Mana Road, and came away with some nice pictures.  But the foreground was too dark, and the clouds over Mauna Kea were blown out.  This time I have tools for dealing with challenging lighting, so I hope the pictures will be better.

I can’t wait!

– Tom

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Don’t Trust Nuthin’

Posted by Tom Benedict on 03/09/2010

I’m getting seat time on some new tools at work, so I’ve had a chance to try to catch up on some long-standing projects.  One that I’m eager to get back on involves mounting a cryocooler on one of our smaller test cryostats.  It started life as an infrared camera, but several years ago it was recycled into a test cryostat for a new infrared detector.  This involved gutting it of all mechanics and optics, and basically turning it into a cold optics bench, complete with a 1/4″-20 screw hole pattern on 1″ centers.  We added a cold shield, installed baffles for the two rotary feedthroughs, the whole nine yards.  We really just wanted to characterize a new detector, but by the time we were done we had a general purpose cold optics bench and enough bits and pieces to build a complete infrared camera.  We could’ve bolted it to the telescope, but that was never its purpose in life.

Thank goodness we made it a general purpose tool.  Once again we need a cold bench, and once again we’re pulling it off the shelf.  Only this time we’re trying to move away from liquid nitrogen cooling and use closed-cycle cooling instead.  Some months ago I did a poster presentation at SPIE covering our conversion of one of our science cameras to closed-cycle cooling using a Polycold Compact Cooler (PCC).  When we did that conversion we picked up a full set of spares, and a second full set for lab work that we got off of Ebay.  (Yep, even science nerds buy hardware off of Ebay.)  The idea is to use our Ebay set to convert the cold optics bench to closed-cycle cooling.

Luckily this cryostat has all sorts of nice service hatches you can pull off and work with.  I popped off one that had enough surface area to mount the PCC cold head, and used that to get some seat time on the new tool.  It needed a clean face for mounting the cold head (0.020″ deep circular pocket clear with final outside clean), a clear bore (0.550″ deep circular pocket clear with final outside clean), and a bolt hole circle (drill cycle with a spot drill followed by a peck drill cycle with the tap drill).  I can’t say the machining was relaxing, but it went pretty quickly.  The seat time is paying off.

When it came time to tapping the holes, I went back to the cold head we had sitting on the shelf.  It had a #10-24 screw through it, so that’s what I used: #10-24.  The body tube bolted straight on, but when I tried to put the cold head in, the #10-24 screw jammed.  !!!!!  Turns out it’s threaded #10-32, but someone had driven a #10-24 screw through it.  This did a number on the thread, but nothing some cleanup work with the #10-32 tap wouldn’t fix.  The cold head and body tube cleaned up nicely, but the mating holes on that access panel were tapped to the wrong size.  Grrrrr!

Can’t trust nuthin’…

In the end we opted to keep things the way they are and just mark the two sets of bolt holes.  One is marked #10-24, the other is marked #10-32.  Same tool, totally different screws.  It’s aggravating, but that’s life.  Next time, I’ll check.

I hope to have the test cryostat bolted together some time next week.  So there should be some pictures to share.  I probably won’t be able to show the machining job since it’ll be buried, but a picture of the cryostat itself is worth a thousand hand-waving descriptions.

The part that really makes this project fun is that the PCC can only get down to about -150C the way we have it set up.  We need 77K, or -196C.  That’s 46C more than the PCC can give us.  We’ve got a test plan in place, and should know some time in the next two weeks whether it’s going to work, or if we’re just plain stuck.

– Tom

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