Decided to try my hand at shooting the Christmas Star last evening… this is my first time shooting anything past the moon so I wasn’t holding out much hope… It seems like it would be easy enough shooting, just focus and shoot! Well, it turns out to be not so easy!
I did a little research and set the shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Camera on my big carbon fiber tripod… live view and two second timer to avoid camera shake. I believe I actually captured the best image I could get with the equipment I have. The conjunction looked pretty sharp on the screen… not so much on the image itself. With a little experimentation I found that a third of a second with ISO 100 gave me the sharpest image. Anything faster than 1/3s and all I got was two faint blips in the sky. Slower than that and the planets were just a blur.
Perhaps I will still try my hand at a long exposure of the stars someday, but the planets would appear to require much more sophisticated equipment to successfully capture. So many factors… the earth is spinning at 1000 mph and traveling around the sun at a rate of 30 kilometers per second. Jupiter is moving as well, traveling around the sun at a speed of almost 30,000 mph and rotating at almost 28,000 mph. Then you have to factor in how much dust or other material might be in the way of an object 552 million miles away! So my little camera and my relatively slow lens with a best aperture of f8 with the 1.4x teleconverter is incapable of freezing all that action.
As you can see in the image Jupiter has already moved in just a third of a second. Saturn fared a little better, you can actually see the rings, even if there is little detail left in the spinning mass of gas. Saturn is further away… over a billion miles from the earth and traveling a bit slower at only 21,000 mph. As expected, it isn’t quite as distorted as Jupiter in my images, but still no real detail.
The image below was shot at a one second shutter speed with ISO 400, more blurry and less detail than the shorter exposure, but I was able to bring in Jupiter’s moons 🙂 All in all a fun experience, but I believe I’ll be sticking to wildlife photography in the future!
Decided at the last minute to try my hand at photographing the supermoon tonight. The first order of business of course was to get the camera and tripod all set up with all the proper night sky settings. I decided on F8 for an aperture, 1/30th of a second for a shutter speed and ISO 100 to limit long exposure noise. I also wanted to try out live view which actually makes selecting the shutter speed pretty simple. You just dial it in until it looks right 🙂
Then the problem of where and when… so I went outside and made sure I had an
unobstructed view of the eastern mountainside. But exactly where and when? A quick search of the internet showed that the information I was going to need could be found on timeanddate.com, including general moonrise time, current azimuth and elevation angle which really came in handy since I have a mountain between me and the horizon. I estimated the mountaintop to be about 10 or 15 degrees which helped me to figure out when I was actually going to see it. Unfortunately there was a cloud over that part of the mountain so I couldn’t get the mountain in the shot and I had to wait even longer for the moonrise!
At first I used manual focus along with the enlarge button for the LCD screen. Blowing up the moon on the screen really helped to get the right focus. I also tried out the touch screen focus method which I actually liked better. Touching the screen tells the camera where you would like to focus and also triggers the shutter. I had a two second timer set so that any camera shake set off by the touch would have time to settle down.
Well anyway, I got a couple of shots I am semi happy with… I don’t have the greatest equipment for astrophotography but it’s not really my thing anyway. I just do it for fun once in a while 🙂
Kind of forgot about this… until I downloaded the camera chip from yesterday’s shoot and discovered these images were still unprocessed! Well, better late than never 🙂 Actually I almost missed the event completely. On the day of the eclipse I was just out making my usual rounds, going to the gym, getting supplies for later, etc. Then I got to thinking about it and everyone was so excited about it I thought maybe I should give the eclipse some more attention! As I thought about it while looking at the peak and wondering what it was going to look like with a 90% eclipse it came to me that Bald Mountain would be the perfect spot for viewing. There is an unobstructed view of the peak from there and you can see all the way to The Sangre De Cristo, Sawatch and Mosquito Range mountains from up there.
A quick check of the internet on my phone and I discovered that I had just enough time to get up there to see the whole thing, from start to finish. Didn’t expect to see anyone else up there but there was already a small party going on by the time I arrived. Apparently Bald Mountain is a popular hiking destination for quite a few Crystola locals! Grabbed my camera and tripod and hoofed it up to the summit and took a seat in the soft grass. It wasn’t long before I heard someone exclaim that it had started 🙂 Several people had those little dark squares of glass suitable for sun viewing so it was easy to get a minute by minute report of the progress 🙂 I selected my wide angle and put the camera on the tripod and attached my remote shutter release so that I could video with my phone while snapping pictures of the peak.
The change seemed to come in phases with a sudden cooling of the temperature. The summit of Bald Mountain is probably close to 10,000 feet so it was a bit chilly up there anyway, but as the sun became more and more obscured by the moon it got downright cold! Eventually about when I figured the effects were at their maximum, someone loaned me the glass to look through. Indeed it looked like the sun was about 90% obscured so I shot some video and then this image of the peak. The dimming of the light was not all that noticeable, kind of like a fully overcast day only with a weird flat greenish looking color cast. I usually do some Photoshopping on my images but for this one I have left it alone in an effort to provide an accurate rendition of the conditions at the time. You can see that it was just kind of a dull light and there are no shadows on the peak.
Then as quickly as it had begun, it was all over with. It was a glorious clear day and the bright sun quickly warmed the summit and everyone was on their way. I’m sure those who went to the maximum effect areas of the country had a much more dramatic eclipse experience, but I met some new people, had some fun and participated in the event of the century… and that’s got to be a good day. Be sure to watch the Academy Award worthy video I shot below 🙂
These pictures and more will be for sale on my website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, canvas, framed and matted prints and also as novelty items including t-shirts and coffee mugs. Commercial editorial stock versions of the images is also available at the image licensing portal of my website.