Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Pedro Classic

Pedro returns to Fenway this evening to pitch for his new team, the Metropolitans. Everyone who saw Pedro at the height of his powers with the Red Sox has their favorite memories, and mine are two games I attended during his monster season of 1999. I wrote about them on my web site, named at the time (I gave up that domain name when I was able to get

The first game was on a weekend in April 1999 when I happened to catch a Cubs game at Wrigley on Friday before returning home to see the Red Sox host the Indians. Pedro was matched up against Bartolo Colon and was leading in the ninth inning:

After Martinez gave up a run with two outs in the ninth inning to make the score 3-2, Manager Jimy Williams made a visit to the mound but decided to let his ace finish the game. With closer Tom Gordon on the disabled list, it seemed like the right decision. With cheers of "Pedro, Pedro" echoing through Fenway, Dave Justice whiffed on strike three to end the game. High fives all around.

Varitek and Pedro
Varitek congratulates Pedro

My second game was Pedro's last start of the 1999 regular season, his 23rd victory. The victim this time was the Orioles, 5-3:

A Pedro game at Fenway is different because most of the excitement comes in the top of innings when the visiting team is at bat. After every strikeout, the "K" signs go up and the running total is chanted in Spanish, "unos, dos, tres...." (Unfortunately I can't count past three in Spanish and I don't even know if that small sample is spelled right.) After getting a few early runs, the Fenway fans kept themselves amused during the bottom of innings by taunting right fielder Albert Belle. A perfect night at the old ballyard.

Pedro's 1999 postseason featured the epic six perfect innings in a relief appearance against the Indians, and a win head-to-head over Roger in the next round against the Yankees. However, that was only only win against the Yankees in that series. The Red Sox had to wait another five years to kill the Yankees and The Curse, and Pedro was a part of that. A win in Game 3 of the 2004 World Series was his last appearance in a Red Sox uniform.

Postgame: Pedro got shelled by the Red Sox. Good thing we got rid of that guy. Pedro '06 with an 88 mph fastball is a shadow of Pedro '99.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


My goals for the summer aren't very high. Clean out my garage and basement, and get a few shots of some bluebirds. Today I made my first attempt at the latter.

About 15 miles up the road is Mass Audubon's Stony Brook Refuge. Last fall I saw bluebirds there but didn't get around to attempting photos. I took my new digiscoping setup there today hoping to get my first-ever bluebird images.

When I first got there a mob of kids was involved in some sort of activity near the nest boxes where I thought the bluebirds would be. I took a short loop around the pond with just the camera to kill some time, and eventually saw (and heard) the gaggle of noisy darlings move off to another area.

But when I set up the telescope, all I saw at the nest boxes were swallows, not bluebirds. I practiced on the swallows, then by chance saw a bird rise up from a faraway box and land in a tree about 75 yards away. May as well check it out, I figured. Lo and behold, it was an Eastern Bluebird.

Click for larger image
Eastern Bluebird, click for larger image.

This was with a Televue 85 scope, 40mm Scopetronix 2" eyepiece, 2x magnifier, and Canon G6 camera. I lurked around for a while longer, but didn't get any other opportunities. Not bad for a first attempt at that distance, but I hope to get something better this summer. The refuge isn't far out of the way on my commute home from work, so I'll see what I can get in the late afternoon some day this summer.

Here is a more controlled experiment, a goldfinch at the feeder in my back yard. I paced off the distance at 20 yards, which is the minimum distance at which I can achieve focus (without the 2x magnifier). This is cropped, so a small bird does not fill the frame at 20 yards.

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Goldfinch, click for larger image.

I've posted a lot of digiscoping images in the past few weeks because the new gadgets I have are so much better than what I had before. There still are limitations, but they are different than what they were before.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sun and Moon

For the first time in about a week the sun broke through the gloom today in the Northeast, and as a bonus there is a full moon tonight. What better time to test out some new digiscoping gadgets.

Gadget No. 1 is a new glass solar filter to replace the one made from cardboard and polymer film, which somehow got a hole burned in it. (Actually I know exactly how it happened. Don't ignore the precaution about placing polymer film at the back of the scope instead of the front!) The filter has a more neutral cast than the film, which was very orange. The main reason I got the filter is the upcoming transit of Mercury Nov. 8, so I've got a few months to practice focusing.

This type of filter only shows sun spots, not the orange peel surface and the prominences that some other solar filters show. I have a Coronado Personal Solar Telescope which shows some of that detail, but I've never been able to focus the thing well enough with a camera attached to get a usable photo. This isn't a great effort, but I was having difficulty pointing the scope because the sun was high overhead and a tripod with a video head isn't made to point straight up. Fortunately the sun will be lower in the sky during the Mercury transit.

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A few sun spots, click for larger image.

The sun shot was taken with the 40mm eyepiece attached to the Canon G6 camera, which I also used for the chipmunk shot a few weeks ago. I had to crop the image to get the sun to appear this large. For the moon shot I added new gadget No. 2, a 2x lens which, if I'm doing the calculations correctly, increases the magnification from 42x to 84x. The moon fills the entire frame at that magnification.

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Full moon, click for larger image.

For detailed photos of the lunar surface, it's actually better to shoot during other phases when the light is coming at an angle. At full moon with the sun shining directly onto the surface, there's less definition.

I haven't yet received new gadget No. 3, which is a solar finding accessory for the telescope. I won't be burning holes in things once I get that. But other than the transit of Mercury and the occasional solar or lunar eclipse, I don't plan to point my camera at celestial objects very often. There are images from other sources that are so much better than what I can do with my gadgets. My plan is to use the digiscoping setup on birds roosting and nesting. When I have time, there are some bluebird nest boxes that I want to shoot.