Monday, August 20, 2012

삼성역 - COEX and the Glass Tower at Samsung Station

I wish I'd been able to make a time lapse of this building... Unfortunately with the 16:9 crop, I couldn't fit the whole thing in with a 24 mm lens.  Now I've got a 15 mm fisheye that should do it, so I need to go back........ The two photos were taken an month apart

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Anaerobic Digestion and Stonyvale Farm

Dariy Cow

Dairy farms have a lot of cows. Cows are great as they produce milk, which is essential when eating cookies (as any Fogler relative will know), among many other things. However, in addition to milk, cows produce a lot of manure, which is essential for... Well not much really. It can be used as smelly fertilizer, but one wishes to find a better use, especially if you work on a diary farm and have to deal with tons of it every day

In fact, one can use the manure waste to produce heat and energy using a very similar process to that which the cow uses to generate the manure using a facility called an anaerobic digester. This is exactly what many farms in Europe are doing, and now some in the USA. In fact my uncle and cousins at Stonyvale Farm in Exeter, Maine have just installed the first such facility in Maine and formed two companies Exeter Agri-energy and Biogas Energy Partners to manage their new facility.  

How can we take cow manure and produce energy? A cow has a special relationship with some microorganisms contained in its stomach which help it break down plant matter into amino acidsfatty acids, and simple carbohydrates which it can use. Similarly, we can develop a special relationship with another unique bacteria called a methanogen that breaks down the waste further into biogas - carbon dioxide and methane, which we can then burn to create heat an electricity.  As you may know, methane is also known as natural gas - a very common fuel for producing heat and electricity. Let's investigate this process starting with the plants the cows eat, continue with how the cow digests the plants with the help of special microorganisms, and end with how we can use a similar process to cow digestion to further digest the cow's waste to produce renewable energy.

Have you ever eaten a huge salad with lots of lettuce and leafy vegetables and a few hours later felt really really hungry even though you ate such a large amount of food? This is because most of the energy content in the salad was not available to you because you can't fully digest it. Why not? Digestion is a fairly complicated chemical process, but basically when you eat something, your digestive system secretes various proteins called enzymes that break food down into simpler chemicals such as fatty acids, simple carbohydrates, and amino acids which are then absorbed by the body through the small and large intestines. Plant cells are surrounded by cell walls composed of a polymer called cellulose. It is really tough stuff and it is what gives plants their rigid structure. Our digestive system doesn't have enzymes that break down cellulose, therefore even though we can extract some energy and nutrients from plants, most just passes through trapped in the cellulose.

Cows on the other hand, are huge animals that exclusively eat vegetation like grass and corn. They can survive on this diet because they have developed a unique digestive system that includes a symbiotic relationship with various microorganisms that are able to break down the cellulose of plant cell walls into carbohydrates, short chain fatty acics, and amino acids. Cows themselves don't produce the enzymes to break down cellulose, but contained in their huge 4 compartment stomach are a wide variety of bacteria, protozoa, fungi that do produce the enzymes capable of breaking down cellulose into smaller molecules that can then be converted to carbohydrates, fatty acids, and amino acids that are absorbed in the small intestine. Some of the most important types of bacteria found in the cow stomach include  Butyrivibrio fibrisolvens and Bacteroides succinogenes which produce the enzymes to digest cellulose, and methanogens, which are a special type of bacteria that consume hydrogen and carbon dioxide produced during cellulose digestion and convert it to methane. You can learn more about the organisms in the cow stomach here. Although cows are pretty efficient at digesting plant matter, there is still a fair bit of energy left in their manure.

The environment inside the cow stomach is optimized to produce simple carbohydrates, fatty acids, and amino acids and use the methane producing methanogens simply for regulation. However, what if we could design a system similar to the cow stomach, but optimized to produce methane with the methanogens. An anaerobic digester is a facility that does exactly that. An anaerobic digester takes waste from the cows and combines it with food waste from restaurants and farms in a huge vat containing many of the same microorganisms as are found in the cow stomach. The biggest difference is that the equilibrium is shifted such that it is optimized to produce methane rather than carbohydrates, fats, and amino acids. After being mixed and heated for several days, the bacteria and microorganisms further break down the plant matter and convert as much as possible to methane. What's left over is some fluid enriched with nutrients useful for fertilizer and some solid waste that can be used as bedding for the cows. The collected methane can then be burned to produce heat and electricity.

Photo of the anaerobic digestion facility in Exeter, Maine. Photo courtesy of

By implementing the digester into the cycle of milk production on a dairy farm, we end up with an almost completely closed system for generating milk and renewable energy. We start with converting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to cellulose by growing plants. The cows then eat the plants and convert some of it to milk and some of it ends up as manure. We then take the manure and convert it to methane and carbon dioxide, plus some fertilizer. Finally, we burn the methane to generate heat and electricity and producing carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is then released to the atmosphere where it can again be converted to plant matter with the help of the fertilizer completing the cycle. Without the digester, the manure can be used as fertilizer, however, much of it ends up in landfills where it decomposes producing methane, which when released to the atmosphere acts as a greenhouse gas with more climate changing potential than carbon dioxide.

Here is a video about Stonyvale Farm and the new project.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Spring 2012 time-lapses in Seoul

About 6 months have passed since my last time-lapse collection. A lot has happened since then including the conclusion of my time in Seoul. I had a very happy and eventful time there and made some lifelong friends. I'll miss it a lot and hope the time and effort I put into making these videos reflects how special my time there was to me.

Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in Seoul knows that the geography of the area makes it such that there are very few days when the sky is clear enough to take good photos. Most of the time, the city is locked an a perpetual fog. In addition, when the sky is clear, it is usually because the wind is blowing really strong. So please forgive some of the shaky shots. I don't yet have the software capable of removing the wiggles caused by the wind.  However, I did get lucky and had some free time correspond with clear skies!

This time, most of the lapses were shot using aperture priority mode. I set the ISO at about 200-400 depending on the scene and just let the camera do the rest. On previous videos, I did more manual shooting, but it took too long to process the transitions when I changed the exposures. Using aperture priority yields pretty good results, however in some I still see a bit of flicker probably due to slight changes in the size of the aperture. I read one can correct this by partly detaching the camera lens such that the aperture doesn't open and close between exposures, but I wasn't about to do this with my camera suspended above the Han river and the wind blowing so hard it was difficult to stand up. :)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the results. Please let me know what you think.

The first sequence was shot on a hill between 방배역 (bangbae station) and 사당역 (sadang station) in early April. Still pretty cold at that time. I was expecting something a lot more interesting. However, most of the time I shot on Sunday evening, so not much was going on.  However, I think it made a nice background on which to add the titles.

The second sequence was shot at 양재천 (Yangjae stream) looking towards the Samsung Palace towers - the tallest buildings in Seoul. This one was a lot of fun. I arrived early to look for a good location and ended up deciding that the best place was in the middle of the stream.  It was only about 3 feet deep in the middle and there were several spots were large granite rocks were placed to allow people to cross. I set up my tripod in the river and sat on one of the rocks enjoying the weather - for about 2 and a half hours. Quite a few people looked at me funny, but I think they were afraid to speak English and ask me what I was doing.

Still frame from the time-lapse

Behind the scenes - see my tripod in the stream? I actually dropped my lens cap in the stream and had to order another.
Another behind the scenes image taken with my iPhone
The next three clips are some experiments I did trying to capture some daytime motion time-lapse. Usually, I set my camera to take shots every 7-10 seconds. However in these three clips, I took a shot every second. Also to blur the motion so the video is not too choppy, I used a variable neutral density filter so I could use an exposure time of 1/3 second. I particularly like the second one in the middle of the street in Gangnam during lunch time. I was hoping to come back and do a similar one at night, but never got the chance :(
서울역 - Seoul Station
강남역 - Gangnam Station - I'm standing at the end of the bus stop Island - not really in the middle of traffic
Random road with a walking bridge near 용산역 - Yongsan Station
The next clip was shot on the top floor of a parking garage of the I-Park mall at 용산 - Yongsan station. Apparently, the same view is found in a famous Korean movie 화차 hwa-cha, but I never saw the movie.  I thought that a day/night transition here would have a great effect as the exposures got longer, the trains would  look like short laser pulses, but alas, it was not meant to be... After I had been shooting for about 1.5 hours and things were starting to get interesting, a couple of Korail security guys came and told me to stop.

Time-lapse still frame from 용산역 I-Park mall parking garage.

Behind the scenes at 용산역 taken with iPhone
 The next two clips are taken one from each side of 서강대교 - Seogang bridge.  The wind was really howling during these shots - especially during the second one looking towards 여의도 - Yeouido, that I held onto the camera the whole time to try and reduce the shaking.

Time-lapse still frame from 서강대교
Behind the scenes at 서강대교. I tried some shots with my canon G10 (the small camera near the bag), but it was too windy for it
Another behind the scenes shot
Time-lapse still frame from the other side of 서강대교 looking towards 여의도.
Behind the scenes from the other side of the bridge.  Almost blew away that day...
Next is one of my favorites. It is from 남산 - Namsan overlooking 강남 - Gangnam. The weather was perfect that day. The sky is clear like it was that day only a few times a year in Seoul.

Time-lapse still frame of 강남 as seen from 남산
Behind the scenes from the 강남 -> 남산 shoot
The next clip is a sunset framed around the famous 63 Building. I already posted about this shoot here.

The final scene is from a place near my house on SNU campus. I used this location once before for my fall series and definitely wanted to see the sunset here again.

Still frame from SNU sunset time-lapse

Finally, here are a few behind the scenes iPhone shots from the SNU sunset. Also, I should mention that for the music I used Mozart, Symphony No.40, Third Movement by Oskar Fried (

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Here are some pictures from a recent trip to Singapore. Special thanks to Mr. Santos Rivas and the J. H. Kim Taekwondo Institutes in Singapore for providing me a place to stay! It is great to have members of the taekwondo family all over the world.

Night view from Marina Bay
Night view near Clark Quay
Singapore Botanical Gardens and the National Orchid Garden

Singapore Zoo

A sunset and some sunrise photos from East Coast Park, near Katong where I stayed

A 20s exposure about 30 min before sunrise. The horizon at the right is not a city, it is hundreds of enormous ships

Sunday, May 20, 2012

여의도 - Yeouido sunset

These photos are dedicated to a friend of mine, Kailyn who is leaving Seoul for England to study abroad. Good luck Kailyn, sorry I missed your official going away party.

Behind the scenes