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August 13, 2008

Eddie Izzard In Seattle

It was a few weeks ago, July 12th, when we saw Eddie Izzard presenting his STRIPPED tour at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. For those unfamiliar with Mr. Izzard let me just say that he is different from other stand-up comedians. Not only is he an accomplished actor ("Mystery Men, "Ocean's Twelve", "Ocean's Thirteen", HBO's "The Riches") but also a cross-dressing transvestite comedian with a wide variety of rambling monologues on often rather absurd topics.

Interestingly enough STRIPPED saw Eddie Izzard switching into "bloke"-mode as he referred to it at the beginning of his act. No high-heels this time!

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The show was fun with a wide range of topics and he genuinely seemed to enjoy the audience's reactions. He was quite puzzled though when a joke about Huskies (the local university team nick name) failed to generate any laughter :)

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His favorite topic seemed to be Noah's ark and intelligent design in general - very pointed, considering Seattle is the home of the dubious Discovery Institute, a fundamentalist Christian "think" tank advocating creationism and other anti-scientific beliefs. Eddie spent lots of time on why "intelligent" design isn't so intelligent after all.

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After the show Mr. Izzard came out the side-entrance to greet an enthusiastic crowd of perhaps 80 fans. He refused to give autographs ("I am too tired!") but did Q&A for about 40 minutes, entertaining all kinds of fun questions and a few bizarre ones.

There was also at least one far-traveling fan from Alaska who begged Eddie to include AK on the next tour, guaranteeing sold-out shows!

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Mr. Izzard even got a marriage proposal from a die-hard fan with a "Cake or Death?"-necklace but turned it down :) Some folks were shouting things like "Don't do it!" and "You can do better", rough crowd!

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Overall: good show with great Q&A afterwards, thanks Eddie!

September 05, 2007

Lunar Eclipse August 28th 2007

For once we had a crystal-clear night in Seattle and boy was the Lunar Eclipse beautiful! It started at 1:51 am PDT and ended at 5:24 am PDT with the total eclipse beginning at 2:52 am PDT. Needless to say I was in bed 5 minutes later :)

Just like the last eclipse I was amazed by the speed with which the moon zooms through the night sky. Shooting with a Russian MTO 1000A 1100mm f10.5 M42 tele lens (manual focus) I had to reposition the camera every minute or two as the moon moved out of view.

Here are some tips for decent pictures of lunar eclipses (or night skies in general):

  • Use a sturdy tripod! Especially if you're using a heavy lens (mount the lens on tripod).
  • Use the longest focal length lens you have, also check for rentals at camera stores if you are serious about getting the best pictures. For example Glazer's in Seattle has the fantastic Canon 600mm f4.0 L IS lens for a fair $80 per day/night! Or search EBay for "MTO 1000A" and buy yourself a 1100mm lens for $200 or less plus shipping from Russia. Oh and don't forget the M42 adapter to whatever system you're using and make sure the lens fits to the body. It's huge and may bump into the flash (some Canon models and others), you may have to use a very short M42 extension tube!
  • If using a manual focus lens a view finder magnifier may be useful to check exact focus.
  • Do a mirror lock up on your camera to prevent mirror-induced shaking.
  • Either delay with the timer or better use a remote to take shots to reduce shaking.
  • Shoot a series of exposures ranging from normal exposure to minus two stops. Experiment and take plenty of shots, memory is cheap :)
  • For better exposure adjust the metering points to the center instead of weighted average. Experiment.
  • Go for short exposure times, the moon is moving surprisingly fast! At the same time try to avoid the highest ISO settings on your camera as noise may ruin the picture. Experiment with 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8 seconds while the moon is still fully lit and check the results - is it crisp or streaking?

The pictures above are the full frames with a 1100mm lens. With a 500 - 600mm lens the moon would be around one half in diameter.