It took a little while to perfect it, but the T-Shirt trick works for capturing flats. Unlike my previous attempts, I bought a clean, new white shirt. I gently stretched it over my scope and secured it with a rubber band. I made sure to maintain the same focus I used for my light frame exposures. And, the best trick of all, I switched my camera’s mode to “Av” on my Canon Eos Ra (an amazing Christmas gift from my brother!). The mode automatically picks the correct shutter speed to produce the proper exposure for the flat frame.
As for my light source, I’ve been shooting in my backyard lately. So, once I finished taking my light exposures and my darks and I’m getting ready to pick up, I turn on my white LED porch light. From there, all I need to do is point my score at the light. It’s just as good as using an all-white LCD tablet or laptop screen or resorting to a light box. Except, it doesn’t do my a lot of good when I’m not shooting from my backyard. So, I’ll need to find a good portable light source when I’m working remotely.
Here’s the result of plugging my new flat frames into Deep Sky Stacker and doing some newbie image processing on them in Photoshop. It looked so nice, I had it printed and matted at FedEx Kinkos. Ultimately, you can see how that distorted ring of brightness from the last post is gone now, averaged out by DSS with the flats!
The next step for me is to learn more about image processing in Adobe. Right off the bat, I can share just how great the “arcsinh” curve stretches are for performing color-preserving stretches of the TIF file data. The guy who designed these stretches for PixInsight, which is the super expensive astrophotography editing software, created these stretches for Adobe and he explains it all in this post on the Cloudy Nights forum here. Definitely pick these up and install them if you’re using Photoshop for Astrophotography; they’re free.
Here’s a quick and dirty bit of imaging I did using the arcsinh stretches to draw out my images with only a couple hours of exposure time at my local observatory. Granted, the EOS Ra also helps a lot with image quality, too. And even still, there’s a lot that could be done to improve these images of M81 and M82, the Bode Galaxy and Cigar Galaxy, respectively.
I grabbed 4 hours of exposure time of the Whirpool Galaxy, M51, which was the deep sky target I cut my teeth on over last summer. Assuming I can find some time this weekend, I’m hoping to process that TIF file in adobe and try some more advanced techniques I learned, like creating star masks to preserve star color, tricks to remove light pollution, and (not so advanced) ways to “feather” my lasso’s deselections so I can play with the galaxy separate from the stars and vice versa.
I caught the special Backstage Premiere of The Daily Wire’s first film, Run Hide Fight (2020), tonight and it was totally enjoyable. To be clear, it’s not perfect, but it’s the type of movie I often say never gets made these days. I was sold on it after I saw the trailer and the protagonist’s quip about being remembered. I just thought it was as cool a moment as I had seen in a trailer in a while. You can check it out below.
The concept behind the story of a high school student doing battle with a pack of nihilistic school shooters may leave a bad taste in some people’s mouths and the depiction of the violence, while not at Taratino levels, can be shocking; it’s brutal in its abruptness. The film isn’t a completely original concept, however, just modernized. It hearkens back to older films like Toy Soldiers (1991) and Fortress (1985), but is a little more Die Hard (1988) in execution and plot points. So, if you’d enjoyed those films, you’ll dig this one.
The two main stars really do a great job carrying this film. Eli Brown makes a darkly amusing villain taking on the role of the school shooting plot’s mastermind, Tristan Voy. He manages to be absolutely despicable, while being charismatic and quippy. He’s also pretty terrifying early on in the film, demonstrating only mocking empathy for his victims.
Isabel May reminds me of a young Katee Sackhoff. She juggles playing a scared teenage girl crumbling with grief and a mostly realistic action hero with the protagonist, Zoe Hull. She’s tough and performs a lot of difficult but mostly practical courageous acts as she works through her grief. She’s also not an action hero in the sense she can punch out a teenage boy with 100lbs on her or is an expert marksman that can mow down bad guys. No, she’s mostly focused on getting her classmates out of imminent danger, not having a climatic showdown with her nemesis. The film makes it clear she’s capable but vulnerable, so the audience feels it, and that drives much of the tension throughout the film.
The story as a whole is solid enough. It’s not perfect. There are lots of small little details that could have been adjusted to smooth over some inconsistencies and plot holes. And in a lot of scenes where people should have been running for their lives, they didn’t appears to be in any kind of rush to not get killed. In general, the actors outside of the main cast, extras really, don’t feel especially panicked with a few exceptions, e.g., the cafeteria lady. And without going into spoilers, the film (surprisingly) underestimates how loud gun shots and vehicle crashes can be, especially in closed spaces. The ending is definitely questionable with its execution, despite its parallel to the film’s beginning. It just raises questions you don’t want to be considering when the credits roll and could have been fixed with a few small adjustments. And if we’re being completely honest, the hunting aspect of it is a little cliché but not necessarily in a bad way.
There are some admittedly silly moments. The movie could have done without the school security guard. It’s a bit of quick commentary, but is just a distraction that doesn’t amount to much in the overall story. So, too, is the scene with the Spanish teacher and how (not) well hidden Todd Hull, Zoe’s father, played by Thomas Jane is, during a pivotal scene where stealth would be especially important. A few shrubs would have gone a long way.
Still there are also really clever moments, deliberate and implied. Again, the cafeteria lady’s scene stands out, as does a particular, brief exchange between Tristan and his heavy, Chris, that completely reorients your view of just how manipulative Eli really is. The film also doesn’t shy away from alluding to a particular historical school massacre, which at first seems to be in bad taste, but goes in a surprising direction. If anything the theme it interjects could have been explored a little more to the film’s benefit. The characters also run out of ammo and guns are accounted for through the film, which was refreshing.
One quick fix the film’s producers should make if they do a special release would be to actually pull a George Lucas and digitally enhance some of the explosions, especially the most pivotal one (and maybe add a little more time to that clock if they do).
All of that said, it’s a suspenseful action flick. Some people may be turned off by the film’s producers, The Daily Wire crew, but the film doesn’t dwell on politics or messaging or at least any messaging the vast majority of people would agree with. And what it does reference, it mocks. If anything, it’s the crew’s attempt to decentralize filmmaking a bit, and if they can it’ll benefit movie lovers. This film is pretty much the same as Die Hard as far as any of that goes and people watch that movie for Christmas. That’s not going to stop critics from mercilessly bashing it, both for its assumed politics and for its anti-establishment nature.
The film was free tonight for the premiere but it’ll be behind a paywall tomorrow. However, it would be worth splitting the $12 or so with a few friends to sign up for the Daily Wire to watch it. I’m assuming you could cancel right after if you chose to do so. Given a choice between watching this one again or picking some random new sci-fi or horror movie on Prime or Netflix, I’d watch this again. Hopefully, it’ll be successfully enough for The Daily Wire crew to produce other films or at least encourage the bigger studios to go back to smaller budget flicks like this.