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My picture of the year

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  • My picture of the year

    On my way home from town today I decided to take the back road into our valley. The smoke was dense. Coming in that way you drive under the quadruple set of half million volt power lines that feed the power from the Bennett Dam to Vancouver and points south. Smoke is ionized and therefore conductive. The lines were hissing and crackling loudly with corona discharge when I took this image this afternoon.



    Sitting relaxing this evening and working on some of the pictures I have taken lately it occurred to me that I might be able to take a picture of the intense corona discharge. I have never seen an image of corona from the actual lines, only around the insulators. Because of how the lines cross the gravel road as they slope down the side of the hill they are only about 30 feet above the road. I drove down to that end of the valley and parked under the lines at about 11:00 pm. They were still hissing and snapping as before but even after my eyes adjusted I couldn't see anything.

    I set up the camera and took several time exposures of about 1 minute as ISO1600 with my Canon 350D. It was spooky as hell with my hair standing on end because of the strong electrical field. Every time I touched the truck I could feel a tingle of electricity. The combination of desert dryness and conducting smoke is causing a far stronger field than normal.

    When I examined the images I was very surprised. The corona is very obvious and different than what I expected. I imagined that it would be a more even faint glow but instead it shoots out in jets from various and numerous points on the lines.



    A closer look from another image:



    This is another first for my collection of night photography.
    Last edited by Evan; 08-06-2010, 08:34 AM.
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  • #2
    Trying times produce some interesting conditions........great shots, I think the sun photos were outstanding......as good as all this is I hope for a quick improvement on your situation.
    Opportunity knocks once, temptation leans on the doorbell.....

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    • #3
      so in a sense, you DID get aurora of sorts.

      [edit] if you took several shots (or a movie) would they be moving or stationary?
      if stationary do they come and go from the same spot?
      Last edited by Astronowanabe; 08-06-2010, 03:55 AM.
      --
      Tom C
      ... nice weather eh?

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      • #4
        Wow -- world's largest smoke detector!
        Todd

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        • #5
          Hell, you may as well move to LA and take a machete with you to slice your way over to Hollywood and Vine .
          - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
          Thank you to our families of soldiers, many of whom have given so much more then the rest of us for the Freedom we enjoy.

          It is true, there is nothing free about freedom, don't be so quick to give it away.

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          • #6
            I saw a program that covered the problems in long line power transmission in South Africa. Problems with grass fires giving ionized paths to ground caused them to monitor weather to try and predict where the next trouble spot might be.

            A large chunk of Albuquerque's power comes in on HV lines from the northwest, an area prone to grass fires. A couple of years ago one fire was close enough to the lines that they started a nice conductive path to ground, and the arc was sustaining. I didn't see it but wish I had - something like 30MW was involved IIRC.

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            • #7
              I quickly discovered that if I crouched down directly in front of the truck it acted as a partial shield from the intense electric field. I would have taken some longer exposures but it was just too creepy being that close to such high voltage on the loose. I might go back tonight if conditions are right but this time I will rig a mount for the edge of the window and stay in the truck.
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              • #8
                Hey Evan,

                Neat pics of the discharge. I've never seen anything like that.

                Have you ever tried holding a fluorescent tube under the high tension power lines? It will light up right in your hands!
                Lee

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                • #9
                  I considered taking a few with me but I didn't want to alarm the few people that can see that part of the road.

                  BTW, IT"S RAINING!!!!
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                  • #10
                    Today I spoke to the Transmission Assets Managing Engineer at BC Hydro Corp. He looked at my pictures via internet and was highly impressed. He asked for precise details of which lines they are and the exact time of day for the images, which I provided. He explained that the images are very valuable to determining the maximum loading of the circuit under these unusual conditions and in his opinion they may have been overloading the circuit based on the amount of corona and my reports of the intense electrical field near ground level. As the load increases the amount of energy coupled to the ground increases dramatically and transmission efficiency drop quickly.

                    He asked in a round about way if I could/was planning to take pictures of the tower insulators tonight. I explained I would be happy to do that. I have a feeling there might be a nice little well paying side line here. He explained that they can't be everywhere at once.

                    Incidentally, protecting the transmission line from the fires is top priority only exceeded by lives and structures.
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                    • #11
                      Incidentally, protecting the transmission line from the fires is top priority only exceeded by lives and structures.
                      I'm surprised structures come before the power lines.

                      Glad you're hanging in there. I assume the danger of fire consuming your place has now passed?

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                      • #12
                        I've always been amazed how you could be centered between the towers and hear that hissing and crackling, and wondered what it might look like. I've never seen any flashing even on the darkest nights except at the insulators, so this is quite an eye opener! Nice. I wonder what might happen if you use your "priming the pump" method of sensitizing the camera.

                        And what a great example of right time, right place, well equipped.

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                        • #13
                          I assume the danger of fire consuming your place has now passed?
                          We wish. I am afraid it is closer than before. It is breaking through the southern end of the fire line because it has been too smoky for the water bombers to fly. It is now 8 miles distant from us.

                          Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here

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                          • #14
                            Gps

                            Evan, if you don't feel it would be invading your privacy, would you give us your GPS coordinates so we could "find" you on Google Earth?
                            Jim (Warm in Mississipi but no fires)

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Evan
                              We wish. It is now 8 miles distant from us.
                              I'm following the Williams Lake weather report with much interest: http://www.wunderground.com/cgi-bin/...Select=WEATHER.
                              Cloudy with 40 percent chance of showers this evening and after midnight. Showers beginning after midnight. Risk of a thundershower this evening. Local smoke.

                              They need to change that word risk to chance or hope.
                              Allan Ostling

                              Phoenix, Arizona

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