Weeknotes 030 - Sunsets and a world on fire

At the start of this week, I trekked up the local hill to try and catch a decent sunset photo. All correctly socially distancing, of course.

The hill is a popular dog-walking and exercise spot, with a carpark and walking & biking trails. However, that's all at the far end over there 👈 somewhere, while I park the car just off a country lane and scramble up the "wrong" end of the hill to get to this spot with no-one around.


Getting good sunsets and sunrises is as simple as just going out every single morning and evening with all your camera gear until one happens.

But I don't have time for that, so I end up using the following combination.

1. Skyfire app ( which is tricky to use, but once set up is, well, reasonably terrible. Which I think maybe a UK thing as I know reviews based in the US say it's the best thing ever. They may well have cloud systems that role across the country long enough that you can see one coming a couple of days away, I don't know.

Here however on Monday, it'll tell you there's an 80% chance of a magnificent sunset on Thursday. But inevitably by the time Thursday rolls around that chance has dropped down to the more usual 20%.

It's only handy when it tells you there's a good chance this very evening or the next morning. It's not very good for planning grand near future excursions.

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2. "Clear Outside" (, which is generally used for checking to see if you'll be able to see the stars.

But it's also useful as it shows you cloud layers coverage broken down into, high, medium and low. It's surprisingly hard to find tools that tell you about the clouds, rain is easy, cloudy without rain is apparently not something people care about as much.

If you have lots of high clouds, some mid clouds, but no low clouds, then it means the sun when setting (or rising) can shine "up" from beyond the horizon to the underside of the high clouds, and thus you get colour.

Low humidity helps with the appearance of a sunrise/set too, as having high water content in the atmosphere reduces the colour.

If you want to get even more technical about it, you want to have good high/mid clouds near you in the direction of the sunrise/set, and no low/mid clouds at the horizon where the sun is setting/rising. So you need to know the cloud situation in two locations, the weather where you're taking the photo from is kind of less important.

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3. A website that factors that into account is SunsetWX: ( which in gives you a photogenic forecast. The UI is a bit opaque to start with, but once you get the hang of ignoring the estimates for the times when the sun isn't rising or setting it gets a lot easier.

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4. The final task is to visit each of those apps and sites daily and make quick notes in your diary of the cloud coverage, humidity, wind speed (you don't want your clouds to blow away) and fog (for foggy photos), along with notes (if you like) of any interesting cloud formations, you can even learn the names of them if you like, I haven't. Then record if there was a good sunrise or sunset.

Keeping historical data about your own area is probably the best way of forecasting if you're going to get a good sunset in the evening, or sunrise in the morning, on a very local basis. Pretty much: learn your local area's weather systems, and over time you'll become an expert.

I realise that having a handful of daily tasks is ripe for automation. I've looked into (non-darksky) weather APIs and found one that gives me high, medium and low cloud forecasts, along with SunsetWX's own API that gives you predicted sunset/rise forecasts. Plus I can calculate the sun setting and rising location based on my location and time of year. Which means I have all the parts I need to put together my own hyperlocal and specific to Shrewsbury, needs predictor and tracker.

But, at the same time, I already have too much on my plate and should finish some current projects, before embarking on a new project, no matter how simple it seems. That's how I've gotten into trouble with the current ones.

It turns out a good sunset was predicted for Tuesday evening. On Monday evening I went up for a dry run, the sky was relatively clear, the sun was bold, it was all blue and yellow, no reds, pinks and oranges.

The next day the cold front was coming in, with rain following behind and the clouds were battling it out for control of the weather system. No dramatic sunset to be had; instead, I set up my camera for a two hour timelapse and took this.

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I was stumped for a short while with a relatively simple maths problem.

Most of my artwork deals with angles and coordinate systems so this new problem threw me for a while, and I had to go back to basics to work out the answer, despite my temptation to write a script to simply brute force it.

I ended up with a panorama that was something like 24,000 pixels by 5,300 pixels, for a total of 127 megapixels. But Google Photos only allows a maximum of 100 megapixels. So by how much should I scale the longest edge of the image by to make the final result under (but as close as possible to) 100 megapixels while keeping the image ratio the same?

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Boring website maintenance news.

Over on the pen plotter page: I have thumbnail menu things representing each "tool". The first four thumbnails were screenshots of the tool, rather than a photo of the result because I wasn't bothering to take pictures when I first wrote those tools.

It's been on my todo list for a long time to set those plots away, take photos and swap out the images.

Done now. It's stupid things like that which stop me doing the next part; "Oh, I can't write about the tools, as I haven't put the proper photo in yet". It's that kind of thinking that slows everything down.

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A lot has been going on the past week in terms of Black Lives Matter, of which I don't have much constructive to say that hasn't already been said better elsewhere.

I did send an email of complaint to the BBC though for their evening news, in which the middle-aged, white presenter, while interviewing a younger black woman said, "George Floyd lost his life..."

"Lost his life."

Like George Floyd sat down too fast, and whoops, there goes my life down the back of the sofa.

George Floyd didn't lose his life; his life was taken, it was stolen.

I understand how the media describes situations in different ways, that bit I do know and keep a, hopefully, critical ear out for. But when this was said, it wasn't in a to-camera fashion, it was in a swivel around and start an interview fashion, so he wasn't, I don't think anyway, reading off a script or prompt.

There are really only two possibilities.

One, it was scripted, and someone somewhere decided to use those words.

Two, the news presenter just said those words as they came out of his brain.

Neither of those two things is good. I went to sleep feeling annoyed about it. I woke up feeling annoyed about it. I understand my annoyance doesn't amount to much, especially if I didn't do anything about it. So the email was written because at least it's one more act thrown on to the small actions aggregated pile.

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I've been reading "A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None" by Kathryn Yusoff,

It's a short book, but hard going, well for me anyway. I am not the target audience for this book, and it's been a long time since I've read anything dripping in academic and art theory terminology. I will need to reread this book as soon as I've finished, and I predict I'll get far more out of it the second time around than the first.

In the same way, the protests make it impossible to ignore the systemic violence in the system, this book brings forth the horror, that I knew was there, but is very easy (by design) to ignore of, well, everything. The human cost, no that's wrong, the cost in black bodies to get the gold and minerals that power the phone I use and the laptop I'm writing this on is insurmountable for me to comprehend.

The toll on the earth, the surface torn with ugly gashes and toxic poison that has historically been along "Old World"/"New World", black/white lines. Geology sold as being a neutral science through hundreds of years of black erasure.

The offsetting of violence, Welsh coal mines of the industrial revolution powered by the muscles of miners being fed from imported sugar. Our revolution here could not have happened without the brutality elsewhere.

All of that and those scars will cover the earth for hundreds and thousands of years and the job of healing? No; repairing, making better, paying for, putting right, none of those things is possible, but even the attempt is a task that will take hundreds upon hundreds of years.

The yawning generational amount of time needed reminds me of the scale of those epic Sci-Fi trilogies that track plots across aeons and thousands of pages. But this book is only 108 pages long.

The "new normal" of living in a pandemic? I hope the protests, the Black Lives Matter, the attempt to change violent systems, carries on like this as the "new normal" also. Although as cinemas open, jobs start up again, this may fade away, I hope on the grand scheme of things these protests and understanding will be seen as one of the small steps that were made along the way.

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In the worse segue ever, I partook of consumerism by buying paper from Amazon. See, I have learnt nothing.

My art consumes paper (logging, pulping, water, transportation), and so I use CamelCamelCamel ( to track various supplies.

Even better it gives a graph of historical data, and I wasn't aware that prices of things on Amazon fluctuated as much as they do. An example, we use Brita water filters, I buy them when we run out. If I'd bought them last week, a pack of six would have cost £27, but this week they're only £20, which is better than the current £50 for 12.

Who knew that it turns out, that if you don't care about when you buy something, you can just set up alerts to tell you when the price drops?

I was thrilled when I discovered this and put the contents of my art wish-lists onto the tracker. Now and then it tells me when things drop in prices.

This week, packs of paper that generally sell for £13.50 dropped down to £6 a pack. I was so excited I wanted to tell everyone, "Hey, you can now buy this A3 coloured paper for really cheap!", but no-one I know is really hankering after A3 coloured paper.

Instead, I wrote a line down in my notebook to mention it in weeknotes.

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I moved all my stuff back to the art studio.

Even though I think the relaxing of lockdown is utterly stupid and irresponsible, I have been yearning to get my equipment back into the studio. The studio is an old supermarket, that is a huge open space and no air ventilation, with only one or two other people in it at a time.

I figured it was probably ok to make my way there, work safely and come back to get hosed down rather like Pulp Fiction.

My biggest problem is in not wanting to shave my beard off.

So now I've settled for this instead...


The "wrap" thing is designed for cool dirt bikers to keep dust out of their face or whatever, but here it's purely to keep my beard under control. Under there is also a proper face mask, which you can't see.

The wrap, combined with wearing headphones when I go out, is enough to keep the mask from pinging off my ears as I walk, and my beard from blowing about all over the place.

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We watched Midsommer last night. I envy people without kids who can watch a film all the way through without interruption. I imagine the carefully structured build-up of tension works better that way.

I enjoyed the film, and I especially enjoyed how I imagined a sequel would go down.

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