Photographers flock to capture ice-covered lighthouses


The winter weather has made for an amazing display on the lakeshore. People have flocked to see the ice-covered lighthouse at the Grand Haven South Pier.

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“When I see the lighthouse, standing up against Mother Nature, I just am in awe. What it has to do, what it has to endure, and the power that Mother Nature brings to the pier,” Connie Passejna said.

Several photographers and tourists stood on the shoreline to capture the best moment.

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“I came out to see the ice on the pier and see the waves hitting the pier,” Passejna added.

Before you head out to the pier, make sure you are safe.

“So, any traffic out on that pier is not safe. Right now, it’s all covered in ice,” Grand Haven Police Department Captain Lee Adams said.

The Grand Haven Police Department has closed off the pier, and for good reason.

“If somebody slips and falls, for one, they’re gonna hit their head on the ice or something, but they can also end up in the water. And a lot of the ladders that are along that pier are iced over,” Capt. Adams added.

Even with good equipment, one person isn’t going to risk adventuring out there.

“If it was my spikes, I have to be careful and stay off of the really smooth, slippery parts,” Passejna.

Still, there’s plenty to see, even from afar away.

“This is crazy. It’s ice everywhere. It’s like an ice castle along here,” Kathryn Volz said.

“It’s very beautiful, very unique, but you can enjoy it from the shore here and be able to see everything and take pictures without walking out there and putting yourself in danger,” Adams said.

The gate has been closed off to their pier, and is currently covered with ice. If you do cross the gate you could face up to a $500 fine.

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See every planet in the solar system at once Wednesday (Dec. 28)


Update: Today’s livestream of the solar system planets will now begin at 12:30 p.m. EST (1730 GMT)


Take a grand tour of the solar system tonight (Dec. 28) as each of the planets in the solar system will be visible at the same time.

As 2022 comes to an end, skywatchers can take in the rare sight of all of the planets in our solar system (aside from Earth) together in the sky. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are all currently visible simultaneously with the naked eye. The two outermost planets, Uranus and Neptune, can meanwhile be observed with binoculars or a telescope.

To celebrate this excellent skywatching opportunity, the Virtual Telescope Project is hosting a free “grand tour of the solar system (opens in new tab)” livestream starting at 12:30 p.m. EST (1730 GMT) on Wednesday (Dec. 28). You can watch the live webcast courtesy of the project’s website linked to above, or on their YouTube channel (opens in new tab).

Related: The Christmas night sky 2022: The planets pay a holiday visit

The five planets visible with the naked eye — Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, in that order — will line up in the sky starting from the southwestern horizon. Mercury, the smallest planet in the solar system, will be difficult to see with the eye, but it’s possible if dark sky conditions are right. 

An illustration of the night sky on Dec. 28 showing the relative positions of Venus and Mercury. (Image credit: Starry Night Education)

Uranus, visible only through binoculars or a telescope, can be found between Mars and Jupiter, while Neptune will be visible through optics between Saturn and Jupiter.

An illustration of the night sky on Dec. 28 showing the positions of Neptune and Jupiter relative to the moon. (Image credit: Starry Night Education)

Gianluca Masi, an astronomer with the Virtual Telescope Project, says while the occurrence of all other planets being visible isn’t particularly rare, it does make for an impressive skywatching opportunity. “It happens from time to time, but it is always a spectacular sight,” Masi told Newsweek (opens in new tab).

Such “grand tours” happen roughly every one to two years, on average. In June 2022, skywatchers were treated to five planets  —  Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn — arranged in a rare alignment the likes of which hadn’t occurred since 1864.

If you want to take a look at the planets of the solar system and don’t have all the gear you need, be sure not to miss our guides for the best binoculars and the best telescopes to view the planets or anything else in the sky. For capturing the best skywatching images you can, we have recommendations for the best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography.  

Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).  



How to make money selling photos: 3 photographer tips


The money shot: Nicole reveals how to boost your finances with these photographer tips. (Source: Supplied)

This is part two of Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon’s ‘boost your finances with photography’ series. You can read part one of How to take photos you could sell, here.

Everyone is an amateur photographer nowadays, thanks to the incredible power of the cameras on our phones.

But there are pictures and there are pictures.

Read more from Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon:

An expertly operated smartphone can get a shot that looks print-worthy – or sale-able. And who isn’t looking for every possible side hustle right now?

Well, I have persuaded the three favourite photographers I have worked with to confide their top tips to making your pictures look professional.

They have generously shared their secrets so you can emulate – and even monetise – them.

Get the composition right

(Source: Jim Trouse, Instagram and social media specialist)

What’s called your photo ‘composition’ is key.

“If you are photographing a person, you could have the person dead in the middle with an even background on each side to almost outline and highlight them,” Instagram and social media specialist Jim Trouse said.

“This is often more effective if they can be bathed in light.”

For other shots, says Jim, the ‘rule of thirds’ can be a great ‘rule of thumb’.

“What you do is position your subject to one side or the other of the middle,” he said.

“Don’t be afraid to use foreground too – most novice photographers forget about this. Whether it’s a portrait or a landscape, use the lines in the vista to lead the eye.”

(Source: Jim Trouse)

What are Jim’s specific tips when it comes to landscapes? It’s a similar deal.

“Use the rule of thirds to position your landscape composition too,” he said.

“Say you are taking a coast pic. Either get bulk sky – so two thirds – or, if you have a really good point of interest in the foreground, position the pic two thirds on that. Never split the photo evenly in two, and make sure the horizon is perfectly straight.”

Position your subject to perfection

In what seems a vital tip, another of my favourite photographers also names the ‘rule of thirds‘ right up front.

“My first tip to make any photo look good is to use the rule of thirds and draw the eye to a third of the image,” Nicola Holland, an accomplished wedding, portrait and magazine photographer, said.

Nicola explains that she uses a particular trick.

“If it is a photograph of someone, make sure that their eyes are on one of the lines of the rule of thirds,” she said.

You can see this technique used in two photos Nicola took for my recent book – one for the front cover and one for the back page.

(Source: Nicola Holland)

This next tip is also important, and an error I’ve seen many rookies make.

“If you are taking a full-length photo, get people’s feet in it,” she said.

“Otherwise, shoot from the waist up. That’s a big tip – often people crop people’s feet out and it looks like they’ve got no feet!”

And it’s unflattering. Which is not going to make your subject happy or predispose them to let you photograph them again.

Use YOUR feet – and angles

Speaking of feet – use them yourself.

Meg Keene is a photographer who is renowned, in particular, for capturing ‘events’ and candid, action shots.

Accordingly, her advice is: “Remember your client and the story you’re telling and move your feet to tell it.

“I was photographing for the 2022 Women in Media Conference so I was looking for shots that showed the good turnout and an engaging speaker. When Nicole came out from behind the lectern – something no one else had done – I knew I could get a good shot from the back of the auditorium that included the audience, the conference signage, and a good angle on Nicole, all in one.

“There were perfectly good shots to be had from the front row or the far side, but they wouldn’t tell the full story in one shot. So, off I went up those stairs for the 100th time that day. A workout and a banger shot.”

And Meg, your efforts and expertise are greatly appreciated.

(Source: Meg Keene)

Using a phone to fake it

Those three favourite photographers of mine also have tips for how to use a phone to fake it. Firstly, timing is everything.

“For example, if there’s wind blowing, snap the precise moment a subject’s hair and dress are on the same angle,” Jim said.

But, without honed photographic reflexes, years in the making, this can be difficult.

Jim says you will give up a bit of editing functionality but simply putting on the ‘live mode’ on your phone means you will get multiple frames from which to choose – and you’ll never miss the shot.

While Meg says it can be tricky to mimic the old heavy long lens to get dramatic depth of field with an audience shot, she concedes ‘cinematic mode’ works well for portraits.

(Source: Supplied)

What apps can you use – if we ask the photographers to speak totally out of school – to cheat and make a phone photo look like the real professional deal?

Nicola likes Lightroom: “You can develop and download pre-sets to make their images really stand out from others.”

“It’s very, very user-friendly.”

Jim is a fan of Hipstamatic, which does a great job of replicating an official single light reflex camera.

“For iPhone, this app shoots authentic-looking analog photographs and has brilliant retro effects.”

Graphic design program Canva also comes highly recommended and allows you to do all kinds of things with your images.

Indeed, Canva is how I stitched together the images for this story.

With massive thanks to our three insiders for their pic insights and phone photography hacks, could you turn a budding photography interest into actual income?

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is the author of How to Get Mortgage-Free Like Me, available at www.nicolessmartmoney.com. Follow Nicole on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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About Town: Solvang’s annual tree burn event set for Jan. 6 at Santa Inés Mission | Local news


Solvang tree burn set for Jan. 6

Solvang’s annual Christmas tree burn is set for Friday, Jan. 6, from 5 to 7 p.m., in the empty field adjacent to Old Mission Santa Inés, at 1760 Mission Dr., Solvang.

The event is traditionally held each year as a wrap-up of the monthlong Solvang Julefest celebration, and will feature a flag retirement ceremony and fire demonstration.

Food will also be available for purchase from Rudy’s food truck.

Those interested in adding to the community bonfire must drop off their Christmas trees at the event site any time before 4 p.m. on the day of the burn.

Nonflocked trees must be stripped of all decorations, including ornaments and tinsel.

The Solvang Parks and Rec tree burn event is hosted in partnership with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

For more information and updates, contact solvangjulefest.org/ or call Solvang City Hall at 805-688-5575.

Winter reading program kicks off Jan. 3

The 11th annual winter reading program for children, teens and adults begins Jan. 3 and runs eight weeks through Feb. 28 at Santa Ynez Valley libraries.

The 2023 theme is “Reading Makes You Bright!” and encourages readers to expand their horizons through book collection and online materials.

To participate, patrons are asked to complete one entry slip for every book — including print books, graphic novels, eBooks, and audiobooks — they read during the program and enter them into prize drawing boxes at their local branch for a chance to win exciting prizes in weekly drawings.

All the tickets submitted during the program will be entered into a grand prize drawing for everyone who participated.

Entry boxes for each age group will be available at the Solvang and Buellton libraries, as well as the Goleta Valley Library and Isla Vista Bookvan. 

Gift sponsors of the 2023 Winter Reading Program include Elegant Nails, the Friends of the Goleta Valley Library, Los Agaves, Miner’s Ace Hardware, and Trader Joe’s.

For additional information, programs and events, visit GoletaValleyLibrary.org

NatureTrack Film Festival documentary now streaming

NatureTrack Film Festival’s award-winning documentary “The Accessible Outdoors,” is now available for public viewing on Vimeo, free of charge.

According to organizers, access to the documentary is the organization’s holiday gift to the community.

The short 15-minute documentary was directed by Mitchka Saberi and Francisco Lopez, and executive produced by NatureTrack’s founder Sue Eisaguirre.

The film made rounds to more than two-dozen festivals where it picked up several awards.

Wildling Museum to host wildlife photographer

The Wildling Museum of Art and Nature will host wildlife photographer and cinematographer Roy Dunn on Sunday, Jan. 22, from 4 to 5 p.m.

The featured event, “Roy Dunn: Capturing Imagery of Our Wild Neighbors,” will provide attendees with a fascinating look behind Dunn’s work in camera trapping and ethical wildlife photography, along with stories behind his photography as part of the current Wildling Museum main floor exhibition, “Wildlife on the Edge: Hilary Baker.”

General admission is $10 and museum member admission is $5.

Advance registration is encouraged and can be done online at www.wildlingmuseum.org/news/2023-roy-dunn-talk

The Wildling Museum is located at 1511-B Mission Drive, Solvang.

Questions can be directed to the museum at info@wildlingmuseum.org or call 805-686-8315.

Free tax assistance offered to low-income residents 

Free tax preparation assistance is being offered to residents of the Santa Ynez Valley who are low- and moderate-income taxpayers.

The Tax-Aide program, which is sponsored by the AARP Foundation and Internal Revenue Service, focuses on assisting older adults during this time of year and also welcomes taxpayers of all ages within the stated income bracket.

While a new Solvang Senior Center building is under construction, the tax return services will be prepared in person by volunteers who are certified by the IRS, on Mondays and Fridays at the American Legion Wing, Veterans Hall, 1745 Mission Drive, Solvang.

The period of operation will be Feb. 3 to April 14, between the hours of 1 and 3 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays.

All assistance is by appointment only and can be scheduled by calling the Solvang Senior Center at 805-688-3793 beginning Jan. 2.

All necessary COVID-19 protocols will be observed at appointments, and Tax-Aide volunteers will be fully vaccinated.

Clients are asked to bring their social security cards, a valid picture ID, records of 2022 wages (W-2s) and all 1099 forms received that report income from interest dividends, pensions/annuities, social security and IRAs, as well as copies of 2021 Federal and State tax returns.

More complex returns which entail rental property, farming or businesses with over $35,000 of expense are beyond the scope of the program and should be taken to a professional tax preparation firm.

Sigma’s fast new wide-angle zoom comes out in June 2022







© Matthew Richards
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Surprisingly compact and lightweight for a fast, full-frame compatible wide-angle zoom, the Sigma 16-28 f/2.8 DG DN |C became the latest in the company’s ‘Contemporary’ line-up of lenses, available in Sony E and Leica L mount options. The zoom range makes it ideal for landscape photography, while the fast f/2.8 constant aperture makes it similarly suitable for architectural interiors and even astrophotography.

Big news from Nikon was the impending release of the Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S. Much smaller, lighter and affordable than the Z 400mm f/2.8 lens that features a built-in teleconverter, this was the launch of a more ‘everyman’ lens. It still features up-market attractions and pro-grade build quality, and is also compatible with separate Nikon Z 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters, for venturing further into super-tele territory.

Taking an entirely different angle on photography, Venus Optics launched the Laowa 24mm T14 2x PeriProbe. It’s literally a macro probe lens that can shoot around corners, at 90 degrees to the host camera body. It also gives up to 2x macro magnification, reproducing small objects at twice life-size on the image sensor.

See other installments in our 12 lenses of Christmas series

Fujifilm released a new roadmap of upcoming XF lenses, signalling its intention to grow the range to 42 lenses in total. The closest three along the route would be the XF56mm F1.2, XF8mm F3.5 and XF30mm F2.8 Macro, covering the bases for portraiture, landscape photography and standard/macro shooting. Other news for Fujifilm shooters was that the impressive Tamron 17-70mm F/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD for cameras would also be released in Fujifilm X-mount, delivering a useful effective zoom range of about 26-105mm.

Following on from our review of the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S in May, we tested the Nikon Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S in June, and were highly delighted by its image quality and all-round performance, as well as the relatively lightweight construction, utilizing a Phase Fresnel element. The combination of the 2,385g weight and highly effective Vibration Reduction makes this an 800mm super-tele that works really well for handheld shooting, rather than having to rely on a monopod or tripod.

Going from super-telephoto to wide-angle, the next lens on our June review list was the Viltrox AF 13mm F1.4, which is available in Fujifilm X, Nikon Z and Sony E mount options. As an APS-C format lens, it gives an ‘effective’ focal length of 20mm, combining a wide viewing angle of 94.1 degrees with a fast f/1.4 aperture, making it ideal for landscapes, architecture and astrophotography.

Next up were a pair of new Sony wide-angle lenses, also for APS-C format cameras. These included the Sony E PZ 10-20mm F4 G with its video-friendly power zoom facility, and the Sony E 15mm F1.4 G, a fast prime with an effective focal length of 22.5mm. Both got entirely favorable  reviews, the latter earning a top-notch 5-star rating.

Back to basics

• What are the best camera lenses to buy?

Lenses for photography genres

• Best lenses for astrophotography

• Best lenses for bird photography

• Best lenses for landscape

Lenses for your camera

• Best Canon lenses

• Best Fujifilm lenses

• Best Nikon lenses

• Best Olympus lenses

• Best Panasonic lenses

• Best Pentax lenses

• Best Sony lenses

BLUETTI Named As CES 2023 Innovation Awards Honoree


BLUETTI today announced that it has been named a CES® 2023 Innovation Awards Honoree for AC500 solar generator. This year’s CES Innovation Awards program received a record high number of over 2100 submissions. The announcement was made ahead of CES 2023, the world’s most influential technology event, happening Jan. 5-8 in Las Vegas, NV.

The CES Innovation Awards program, owned and produced by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, is an annual competition honoring outstanding design and engineering in 28 consumer technology product categories. Those with the highest rating receive the “Best of Innovation” distinction. An elite panel of industry expert judges, including members of the media, designers, engineers and more, reviewed submissions based on innovation, engineering and functionality, aesthetic and design.

BLUETTI AC500 is compatible with B300S batteries for up to 18.432Wh capacity. Built-in BMS and LFP battery to ensure higher security and longer lifespan. The 5.000W inverter (10,000W surge) allows AC500 to run high-powered electronics without any fuss. Connecting two AC500s in series can double the capacity, voltage, and power to 36.864Wh, 240V/6.000W for a worry-free off-grid living!

It’s honorable to win the award, which will also inspire us to roll out more innovations to meet the ever-changing power demand in the future. Said James Ray, BLUETTI’s Marketing Director.   

BLUETTI is dedicated to optimizing the way people access and store renewable energy. AC500 features a matchless MPPT solar inverter, allowing a 3000W maximum solar input. Recharging it from 0 to 80% SOC by prime sunshine takes about 1.5 hours.

For an AC500+2*B300S combo, dual recharging via AC and solar can achieve up to 8.000W input rate, so 0-100% charging takes as quickly as 1.8~2.3 hours.

The modular design significantly shrinks the overall size and unibody weight of AC500 while increasing the flexibility to carry or replace each module individually instead of everything at once if necessary. Also, you can free up much space by vertically stacking up multiple battery packs.

More importantly, various AC outlets are specifically designed to take care of heavy-duty appliances with ease, including 1 x 120V/30A L14-30, 1 x 120V/30A TT-30, and 1 x 120V/50A NEMA14-50.

Over the past decade, BLUETTI has been motivated to redefine renewable energy while providing a budget-saving solution to go solar for everyone around the world. Those gasoline generators that produce toxic fumes and annoying noise are a thing of the past.

It may be costly in the first place, though, AC500 is a great investment to avoid high electricity bills in the long run. Being a reliable backup power source with a 24/7 UPS function, it can be seamlessly integrated into the main grid to protect from unexpected power failures and realize peak load shifting to effectively reduce power consumption during peak hours.

New for CES 2023 — CES has partnered with the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS) to showcase the critical role of technology in support of the United Nations efforts to advance human security around the world. For CES 2023, CTA introduced a new category of Innovation Awards showcasing technologies advancing human rights. The Human Security for All category includes eight new tech subcategories.

The CES 2023 Innovation Awards honorees, including product descriptions and photos, can be found at CES.tech/innovation. More will be revealed in January. Many honorees will showcase their winning products in the Innovation Awards Showcase at CES 2023.

Owned and produced by CTA, CES 2023 will take place in Las Vegas on January 5-8, 2023, with Media Days taking place January 3-4, 2023. Attendees will experience new technologies from global brands, hear about the future of technology from thought leaders and collaborate face-to-face with other attendees. The show will highlight how innovations in sustainability, transportation and mobility, digital health, the metaverse and more are addressing the world’s greatest challenges. Audiences will hear from industry experts during live keynotes, including leaders from John Deere and AMD. Visit CES.tech for all CES 2023 updates, registration details and the media page for all press resources.

About BLUETTI

With over 10 years of industry experience, BLUETTI has tried to stay true to a sustainable future through green energy storage solutions for both indoor and outdoor use while delivering an exceptional eco-friendly experience for everyone and the world. BLUETTI is making its presence in 70+ countries and is trusted by millions of customers across the globe. For more information, please visit BLUETTI online at https://www.bluettipower.eu/.

Ex-NFL QB Tim Couch shocks Twitter with ripped physique: ‘Freak of nature’


Tim Couch looks like he’s ready for a shot at NFL redemption.

On Monday, a shirtless photo of Couch surfaced from his Instagram Stories that featured the former Browns quarterback showing off his fit physique of an eight-pack and buff arms.

“Well here is 46 year old former UK QB Tim Couch’s picture which he posted today,” ESPN radio host Matt Jones tweeted, to which Couch playfully replied, “45. Don’t put an extra year on me.”

45. Don’t put an extra year on me

— Tim Couch (@TimCouchQB) December 26, 2022

The pic fueled cheeky commentary elsewhere, with one user sarcastically writing, “Do you even lift bro?”

“Just push-ups and shake weight,” the former No. 1 pick in the 1999 NFL Draft responded.

Others shared complimentary tweets, noting how Couch looks “ripped” and is in “good shape.”

“More proof that Tim Couch was an underrated freak of nature,” one user remarked, while another said, “More like Gym Couch.”

Couch has been documenting his fitness journey for some time and shared a similar shirtless photo at the gym in August 2021.

“Might make a comeback like [Tim] Tebow,” he wrote on Instagram at the time.

Couch is widely known for having an unproductive NFL career after being selected first overall by the Browns in their return as an expansion team in 1999.






© Provided by New York Post



Cleveland Browns quarterback Tim Couch moves back to pass during a game against the Seahawks on Nov. 30 2003 at Seahawks Stadium in Seattle, Washington. Getty Images

Before that, Couch was a high school standout at Leslie County High School in Hyden, Kentucky, where he was awarded the school’s “Mr. Football” in 1995, following his senior season.

Couch went on to play for the University of Kentucky where, in his final season, he was named the SEC Player of the Year in 1998 following a record-breaking year of 400 passes for 4,275 yards, which set an SEC record for passing yards in a season. He also threw for 36 touchdowns.

The quarterback finished at Kentucky with a 67 percent completion rate, 8,435 total passing yards, and 74 touchdowns.

During his time with the Browns, Couch had 11,131 passing yards with 64 touchdowns and 67 interceptions. He went on to have brief stints with the Packers and Jaguars.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Ci6eBnmMwxm

Couch currently resides in Kentucky, where he often attends college football games at Kroger Field with his girlfriend, Hannah Green. The two have been dating since at least July 2021, according to her Instagram.

With Kentucky set to face Iowa in the Music City Bowl on Saturday, one fan suggested that Couch should return to his roots.

“If he wanna suit up for this bowl game, I mean I’m not against it,” the fan joked.



Summer travel: NZ’s best places for stargazing and sleeping under the stars


Suspended high over Lake Wakatipu, Jagged Edge is just a 10-minute drive from Queenstown. Photo / Supplied

Balmy temperatures and no work to get up early for the next morning are the perfect combination for sleeping under the stars. Here are some of the best places in New Zealand to marvel at the night sky.

Stargazing

Aotea Great Barrier Island

Good Heavens offers cosy and light-hearted experiences for small groups, with “moon chairs”, hot drinks and blankets. Suitable for all ages, a guide uses a laser pointer to identify constellations, everyone has binoculars to gaze at middle-distance objects and an 8-inch telescope allows a closer view of faraway stars and planets. Great Barrier and Stewart Island (see below) are two of the world’s 15 Dark Sky Sanctuaries.

Good Heavens will guide you through our solar system from a beach on the Dark Sky Sanctuary, Aotea Great Barrier Island. Photo / Carmen Bird

The Coromandel

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Stargazers Lodge guests and visitors can book a night-sky tour of the observatory and planetarium in the light pollution-free zone overlooking Kuaotunu. Its solar-powered, rotating-dome observatory houses a research-grade set-up, perfect for the astro-curious and photographers.

Wairarapa

Just an hour north of Wellington, Wairarapa wants to become the world’s largest and most accessible dark sky destination. Here you’ll find Stonehenge Aotearoa, built on the same scale as some other place on Salisbury Plain in England.

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It’s not a folly. Open-air, hands-on Stonehenge Aotearoa is a modern observatory connecting people with the sky and cycles of nature, covering solstices, equinoxes, Matariki, ancient Egyptian, Babylonian and Indus Valley astronomy, Polynesian navigation, as well as Celtic and Māori lore.

Under the Stars runs bespoke events for schools or house parties, and every weekend, Star Safari opens the universe with powerful telescopes, planetarium tours and space science communicators. It’s a social enterprise from Milky-Way.Kiwi, an online platform for space and astronomy news with a New Zealand flavour.

Mackenzie

At 4367sq km, Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is a master of the universe, covering Aoraki Mt Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin, the townships of Tekapo, Twizel and Mt Cook. This rugged, isolated land, dominated by large sheep stations for more than a century, has some of the world’s clearest, most spectacular night skies.

As well as a great camping spot, Lake Tekapo is in the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, making it one of the best spots in the world for stargazing. Photo / Miles Holden

Scientifically, it’s important because it protects the University of Canterbury’s astronomy research at Mt John Observatory.

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A world leader in astro-tourism, there’s no end of inventive ideas here.

Alpha CruX provides private astronomy tours and astrophotography lessons throughout the region.

Big Sky Stargazing’s tour uses the naked eye, astro-binoculars and state-of-the-art telescopes, delivered from an outdoor viewing platform or, if the weather’s unkind, New Zealand’s first 360-degree digital Dome Planetarium at the Sir Edmund Hillary Centre in Mt Cook Village.

Here, science meets entertainment. Families “leave Earth, fly to the edge of our galaxy and far beyond to the reaches of our known universe” and get home in time for supper.

Chameleon Stargazing is a more budget and family-friendly tour in a near-zero light pollution location in Tekapo (with hot chocolate and a fire bowl with roasted marshmallows).

Ngāi Tahu Tourism’s Dark Sky Project is the best-known experience. Its observatory tours are boosted with explanations of Māori navigation, planting, significance of lunar cycles and observations.

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West Coast

It’s fair to stay the West Coast’s skies are stunning on a clear night. Paparoa Nature Tours in Punakaiki take guests to explore the Milky Way and southern constellations through a computerised 260mm telescope while being serenaded by great spotted kiwi, morepork and weka from nearby rainforest.

Queenstown

A Starry Nights Queenstown photography tour with astro-photographer Simon Williams includes a trip around spectacular Whakatipu Basin locations in a Land Rover, a professionally curated photo session and tips on shooting stars.

Dark skies, southern lights – Rakiura Stewart Island is now a sanctuary for stargazing. Photo / Supplied

Rakiura Stewart Island

A Unihedron Sky Quality Meter reading of 16 indicates a light-polluted city and 21 a very dark sky. Stewart Island’s readings have ranged between 21.51-21.93 since 2017. Twinkle Dark Sky Tours are one of several local operators helping you see everything from craters on the Moon to the centre of the galaxy.

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Accommodation

PurePods

These luxury cabins can now be found in nine locations, stretching from Banks Peninsula to the newest on Rakiura Stewart Island. Each off-grid cabin has uninterrupted views of the night sky, but you don’t have to worry about people looking in — they’re all in secluded spots far from light pollution, with the exact location revealed only after you book. purepods.com

Night skies over the Manakau Purepod at Kaikōura. Photo / Supplied

Galaxy Boutique Hotel

Tekapo’s Galaxy Boutique Hotel is a traditional hotel with some stand-out features — namely, large splayed skylights that allow views of the mountains and night sky beyond. Make sure to nab a room on the upper floor for the best seat in the house. galaxytekapo.co.nz

Skylark Cabin

Hidden in the foothills of the Ben Ohau range is Skylark Cabin, which quietly opened in 2020, yet is the type of place that visitors can’t stop talking about. Designed by award-winning architect Barry Connor, it boasts a huge circular window directly over the bed, positioned so guests can spend a night under the stars. An outdoor stainless steel bathtub with gas-heated hot water can also be found on the property, making it possible to soak while you soak it all in. skylarkcabin.co.nz

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Wai Dome O, Waikato

Wai Dome O (a play on “Waitomo”) is one of Canopy Camping’s properties — and it’s only a few minutes away from Waikato’s famous glowworm caves.

The geodesic dome is positioned at the top of a steep hill with views over rolling farmland, meaning it’s in a prime position for stargazing. But if you want to be even more immersed in the landscape, it also has an outdoor tub. canopycamping.co.nz/wai-dome-o

Nightsky Cottage

Side-by-side soaker tubs at Horopito’s award-winning Nightsky Cottage are positioned to look out a large window. The aptly named two-bedroom cottage also has skylights, so you can find constellations without stepping outside. But if you’re keen to get outdoors, there’s a clearing just 50 metres from the cottage, where you can watch the sun go down over Mt Ruaephu. nightskycottage.co.nz

Jagged Edge

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Suspended high over Lake Wakatipu, the ultra-modern Jagged Edge is all sharp lines, softened by its use of floor-to-ceiling glass. The glass walls jut out from the base at an 18-degree angle rising to over 9 metres, resulting in 270-degree views of the night sky in each of the luxury retreat’s three bedrooms. But that’s not the end of your stargazing options. There’s also a heated infinity pool hanging over the lake, alongside numerous outdoor seating areas. It’s just a 10-minute drive from Queenstown.

This is an amended version of previously published stories by Ewan McDonald and Jessica Wynne Lockhart from Herald Travel. For more great travel inspiration, go to nzherald.co.nz/travel

30 Times People Failed At Photoshop So Hard, Shared By This Reddit Group




Here are thhe 30 photos of Photoshop fails people shared in this online Reddit group. These days, there are lot of photo editing apps we can install on our mobile and as well as there are free tools available on the internet. But people love to edit their photos on Photoshop and they terribly failed to do in proper way. There is a subreddit called ‘Photoshop Fails‘ that documents hilarious pics photoshopped by people who clearly lack photoshop skills. Check out some of their funniest posts in the gallery below.

Scroll down and enjoy yourself. All photos are linked and lead to the sources from which they were taken. Please feel free to explore further works of these photographers on their collections or their personal sites.

#1 Invisible Bottom

Image source: 18protons

#2 Photoshop Level: 1000!

Image source: hi-man-road

#3 I Have No Words

Image source: magnemist

#4 Photoshop Fail, Unless This Is A Whole New Yoga

Image source: tribelawn

#5 This Mattress Pad Will Protect Your Bed From Giant Disembodied Hands That Pour Old Soda Onto Invisible Flat Surfaces

Image source: Karnakite

#6 Bruh

Image source: mwazz57

#7 Poor Horsie Legs

Image source: cryptic_slays

#8 A Toy For Your Child If Your Child Is Satan

Image source: jessiegay

#9 Seems Legit

Image source: hannahkp10

#10 The Most Magical Pair Of Pants You Ever Did See

Image source: ThEquinox2

#11 Thumb Looks Kinda Sus

Image source: Zhorhersi

#12 Click Bait At The Bottom Of A Legitimate News Article. Totally Real Bridge With Totally Real Cars

Image source: Sydeburnn

#13 Found This Advertising An Article…how Many Hands Does She Have?

Image source: Scarletrouge7

#14 I Spit Out My Drink

Image source: holluu

#15 These Realtors Really Tried Their Best Giving The Tree Some Leaves

Image source: sarazamia

#16 Need I Say More About This Instagram Ad?

Image source: KING__LIGMA

#17 Looking For Face Covers On Amazon

Image source: F21lva

#18 Tmz “Composite” Fail Of Sophie Turner And Jonas New Born

Image source: seanobeano

#19 Haters Will Say Its Photoshop!

Image source: Forgi719

#20 Oh Well

Image source: KKaena

#21 What A Comfortable Looking Totally Real Mask

Image source: devishjack

#22 Legs Of A Alien

Image source: a_fokus

#23 This Cat… Is Wearing Makeup?

Image source: theokcorral

#24 And All The Kittens Clapped For The Graphics Design Skills

Image source: Racingteamsam

#25 “Look At Those Amazing Eyes! They’re Mesmerizing!”

Image source: ThrowPopcornAtMyFace

#26 Hides Your Missing Chin

Image source: impressiver

#27 Wish I Had A Dog As Real As That

Image source: SyphiListerine

#28 Photoshop Fail , After Tunisian Minister Shows Too Much Leg

Image source: azizfcb

#29 Anyone Else Always Swim In Regular Clothes And Shoes?

Image source: snwiajfnai

#30 Those Arms And That Waist Are Ridiculous

Image source: rotang2240

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Annual Christmas Bird Count set for Dec. 31 at Bushy Run Battlefield


Dec. 28—When members of the Westmoreland Bird and Nature Club conduct the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, many of them will have their eyes peeled for a specific avian arrival.

That’s because a Northern shrike, affectionately known by nature lovers as “the butcher bird,” has been sighted in Mt. Pleasant’s Mammoth Park.

It is only the second time that club member Mark McConaughy of Plum has seen one — the last time was more than two decades ago, in 1999, also at Mammoth Park.

“The Northern shrike summers in the boreal areas of Canada and Alaska,” McConaughy said. “It migrates south in the winter, and Pennsylvania is the southern end of that migration. It’s a rare bird for here.”

It also has a unique method for subduing and saving its prey, which includes rodents and other small birds: After catching a meal, the Northern shrike usually impales it on the sharp spine of a hawthorn bush or a piece of barbed-wire fencing.

“Shrikes are rare among songbirds for their lifestyle of hunting and eating animals,” according to AllAboutBirds.org. “They often kill more prey than they need at one time, but they don’t let it go to waste.”

Northern shrikes also have a toothlike spike on each side of their upper bills, with a corresponding notch on each side of their lower mandible. Known as a “tomial tooth,” it allows the shrike to kill prey with a quick “bite” to the neck.

McConaughy and others will be keeping a sharp eye out for not just Northern shrikes but any and all birds in the area Saturday, when the club takes part in the annual Christmas Bird Count, set for New Year’s Eve day at Bushy Run Battlefield in Penn Township.

“There’s a circular area centered on the battlefield which is divided up into sectors,” said Alex Busato of Scottdale, the club’s chair. “You have 24 hours to catalog all the birds you see and hear. At the end, we send all our data to (club member) Steve Manns and he compiles it.”

Bird-watchers have a list of more than 140 species of birds to look for, compiling data that helps the Audubon Society form a clearer picture of migratory patterns across the U.S.

Busato, 23, got into bird-watching when he took a class on it at college.

“I really fell in love with it, and then I ended up picking up nature photography as well, a few years ago,” he said.

This will be the first year Busato takes part in the Bushy Run count, which kicks off at midnight Saturday and runs until 11:55 p.m. New Year’s Eve. Those interested can email Manns at psuloon@yahoo.com to reserve a spot or join an existing group.

“I’ve participated in a few other ones,” he said. “In Rector, their count the past few years has seen declines in some species that used to be common and upticks in species that typically migrate out.”

Last year, he said, the count at the Powdermill Nature Reserve in Cook Township included a handful of gray catbirds.

“They’re usually out of here by early October,” Busato said. “So we’re seeing some effects from climate change.”

The annual Christmas Bird Count is set for Saturday at Bushy Run Battlefield, 1253 Bushy Run Road in Penn Township. For more, email psuloon@yahoo.com.

An additional count is set to take place from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday in Ohiopyle. For more on that event, email jusko88@yahoo.com.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick by email at pvarine@triblive.com or via Twitter .