Category

Astrophotography and Night Scapes

Big Corona Beach at Night, Corona Del Mar State Beach, Newport Beach

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, California, Seascapes

When I grew up in Newport Beach, I spent a lot of time at “Big Corona”, aka, Corona Del Mar State Beach. Because this is a great place to take the kids, bodyboard and kick back in the sun, this beach gets crowded. Yachts sail by in and out of the channel all day, and when a swell arrives there can be a good break along the jetty. This is a view of Big Corona at night, viewed from just around the corner from Little Corona.

Big Corona Beach, aka Corona del Mar State Beach, at night lit by full moon, Newport Beach

Big Corona Beach, aka Corona del Mar State Beach, at night lit by full moon, Newport Beach
Image ID: 28865
Location: Newport Beach, California, USA

La Jolla Cove at Dawn, La Jolla, California

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, La Jolla, Seascapes

One of my favorite times to photograph in La Jolla is when night is just transitioning to dawn. Sunrise is till 45 minutes or an hour away. In December it can be chilly at this hour, but it is also quiet and, usually, still. The only people I see are early morning runners, dog walkers and occasional delivery trucks stopping at the restaurants. Sea lions bark, wave brush over the sand, gulls call and pelicans fly by close overhead. Sunlight was not really even visible to my eye when I took this image, just a hint of blue on the horizon, but my camera was able to record vivid pre-dawn colors with a 30 second exposure. Cheers and thanks for looking!

La Jolla Cove and pre-dawn light

La Jolla Cove and pre-dawn light.
Image ID: 28847
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Prints of this image are available here. Be sure to see more Photos of La Jolla, California.

VLBA Radio Telescope at Night under the Milky Way Galaxy, Owens Valley, California

Astrophotography and Night Scapes

The Owens Valley is home to a variety of radio telescopes. This particular radio telescope, photographed with the Milky Way galaxy rising above it in the night sky, is part of the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), a system of ten widely spaced radio telescopes that make certain forms of high resolution interferometry possible. The VLBA radio telescopes, which are each about 10 stories high when pointed straight up, range from Hawaii in the west to New Hampshire in the east. The VLBA radio telescopes are controlled from a central location in New Mexico. Large amounts of observational data are recorded at each VLBA telescope site, then sent to a single data processing lab where they are pooled and analyzed on very powerful computers.

Radio telescope antenna, part of the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). The Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) is a system of ten radio telescopes which are operated remotely from their Array Operations Center located in Socorro, New Mexico, as a part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). These ten radio antennas work together as an array that forms the longest system in the world that uses very long baseline interferometry, Big Pine, California

Radio telescope antenna, part of the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). The Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) is a system of ten radio telescopes which are operated remotely from their Array Operations Center located in Socorro, New Mexico, as a part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). These ten radio antennas work together as an array that forms the longest system in the world that uses very long baseline interferometry.
Image ID: 28787
Location: Big Pine, California, USA

Prints of this image are available here. If you like this image, you might check out my landscape astrophotography website or my gallery of landscape astrophotography photos on this website.

Sky Rock Petroglyph with the Milky Way Rising over the Sierra Nevada

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Sierra Nevada

The Milky Way Galaxy rises in the night sky over the Sierra Nevada, with the Sky Rock Petroglyph panel in the foreground. I’m sure the original creator of this remarkable set of petroglyphs — considered by some to be the finest petroglyph panel in the world — had even darker skies than we do today and a much better view of the Milky Way, hundreds or thousands of years ago when he chiseled these strange shapes into the desert varnish of the volcanic tablelands. Cheers and thanks for looking!

The Milky Way at Night over Sky Rock.  Sky Rock petroglyphs near Bishop, California. Hidden atop an enormous boulder in the Volcanic Tablelands lies Sky Rock, a set of petroglyphs that face the sky. These superb examples of native American petroglyph artwork are thought to be Paiute in origin, but little is known about them

The Milky Way at Night over Sky Rock. Sky Rock petroglyphs near Bishop, California. Hidden atop an enormous boulder in the Volcanic Tablelands lies Sky Rock, a set of petroglyphs that face the sky. These superb examples of native American petroglyph artwork are thought to be Paiute in origin, but little is known about them.
Image ID: 28798
Location: Bishop, California, USA

Milky Way and Stars at Night Over Mount Rainier

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Mount Rainier, Washington

In this single image (not a composite), made with a special combination of low-light camera and extremely fast lens to best capture the details and colors of the gas areas of the Milky Way, our galaxy rises in the night sky over Mount Rainier. A few specks of light can be seen on the mountain itself — these are the lights of climbers who are ascending the mountain. A few months earlier or later and this composition, with the Milky Way aligned directly above the extinct volcano, would not have been possible. I was fortunate with weather, having tried to make this image several nights only to be shut out by heavy cloud cover even at the high altitude setting of Sunrise. On my last evening of the trip, I was lucky to have clear skies and spent most of the night, alone in a meadow with the sounds of small animals flitting about, photographing the stars as they wheeled in the sky over the Mount Rainier.

Milky Way and stars at night above Mount Rainier, Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Milky Way and stars at night above Mount Rainier.
Image ID: 28732
Location: Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA

If you like this, check out some of my other Milky Way photos, or photos of Mount Rainier. Thanks for looking, and cheers!

Mount Rainier, the Milky Way galaxy, Star Trails and Climbers’ Lights at Night

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Mount Rainier

On my recent trip to Mount Rainier National Park, I had one particular image in mind, and I managed to achieve something very close to what I envisioned with this photograph. Seen here is the northeast side of Mount Rainier, with star trails in the sky and climbers’ lights tracing their paths over Rainier’s snow-covered slopes. The colorful area of the sky to the left of Rainier is the Milky Way moving through the sky from left to right as the Earth rotates, intentionally blurred in a time exposure but still recognizable. I’ve used this technique a number of times this summer to good effect, to make Milky Way images somewhat different than the norm. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Moutain climbers light see upon Mount Rainier, Milky Way and stars at night above Mount Rainier, Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Moutain climbers light see upon Mount Rainier, Milky Way and stars at night above Mount Rainier.
Image ID: 28726
Location: Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA

Blue Moon over San Diego City Skyline

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, San Diego

San Diego City Skyline at Sunset with a Rare Blue Moon

Tonight I was fortunate to photograph a rare “blue moon” rising at sunset over San Diego’s beautiful city skyline. This view is from Harbor Island looking across San Diego Bay toward the downtown waterfront. Tonight’s full moon is indeed a “blue moon”. What is a “blue moon” you ask? Typically a season, such as summer, will have only three full moons. On those occasions when four full moons occur during a given season, the third full moon is called a “blue moon”. (Note the oft-quoted “second full moon in a single month” is actually incorrect!) Remarkably, a jet plane on approach to San Diego airport flew right in front of the full moon, and the light of the setting sun just balanced that of the rising blue moon allowing a photograph to be made showing the jet with its headlights on against the sharp detail of the moon, with San Diego’s beautiful skyline set below. No photoshop trickery here. The jet is a tiny black spot on the moon in the first image below, but since this photograph will print beautifully up to 24″ x 36″ you’ll be able to see the jet clearly set against the moon in the print hanging in your living room or office lobby! Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Blue Moon, Full Moon at Sunset over San Diego City Skyline, approaching jet with headlights appearing in front of the moon

Blue Moon, Full Moon at Sunset over San Diego City Skyline, approaching jet with headlights appearing in front of the moon
Image ID: 28753
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Blue Moon at Sunset over San Diego City Skyline.  The third full moon in a season, this rare "blue moon" rises over San Diego just after sundown

Blue Moon at Sunset over San Diego City Skyline. The third full moon in a season, this rare “blue moon” rises over San Diego just after sundown.
Image ID: 28754
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Blue Moon at Sunset over San Diego City Skyline.  The third full moon in a season, this rare "blue moon" rises over San Diego just after sundown

Blue Moon at Sunset over San Diego City Skyline. The third full moon in a season, this rare “blue moon” rises over San Diego just after sundown.
Image ID: 28756
Location: San Diego, California, USA

If you like this, please check out more of my San Diego City Skyline photos.

For you photographers that might wonder: this is a single raw image, with no local processing applied (only global adjustments for white balance, saturation, contrast and sharpness), and the moon is not composited. There are a few minutes each day when the exposure of for the moon is within a stop or two of the correct exposure for the landscape, and at those times a balanced moonrise or moonset photo can be taken with a natural, honest-looking moon that requires no photoshop compositing. Personally I have never composited the moon (or the sun for that matter) into a composition, it never looks natural to my eye. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Perseid Meteor Shower, Milky Way, Half Dome and Yosemite National Park

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Yosemite

Perseid Meteor Shower, Milky Way, Half Dome and Yosemite National Park

I spent two evenings at Glacier Point during the peak of the 2013 Perseid Meteor Shower, hoping to capture my first photographs of meteors. I have a few landscape astrophotography images that have chance meteors recorded in them, but this was to be my first attempt at photographing meteors as the principal subject. Conditions were nearly ideal. There were virtually no clouds on either night, little wind, and the air was dry and clear, perfect for astrophotography. This image is the result of those efforts, showing the Milky Way galaxy, about 16 meteors, Half Dome and Tenaya Valley and some of the Yosemite High Country in the distance, and the amphitheater at Glacier Point with a few people (and lights) enjoying the evening’s show.

Perseid Meteor Shower and Milky Way, Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleides Cluster, over Half Dome and Yosemite National Park, Glacier Point

Perseid Meteor Shower and Milky Way, Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleides Cluster, over Half Dome and Yosemite National Park
Image ID: 28746
Location: Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

As you might imagine, this image is a composite. The Milky Way was aligned above Half Dome in just this way during the mid-evening. Note that the Andromeda Galaxy can be seen as a oval blurry object just above and to the left of Half Dome and to the right of the Milky Way, and the Pleides star cluster is seen at the lower right of the sky, just above the horizon. The individual meteorites, however, came from separate images taken over the course of 12 hours of continuous photography. I selected the best exposed and brightest of the meteorites that I photographed, rotated them about Polaris (the North Star) as necessary to account for the fact that the night sky “rotates” above us all night long, and composited them with the baseline image of Half Dome and the Milky Way. A little green “air glow” is seen near the horizon, and some distant smog or haze is also seen as a brown horizontal layer just above the horizon in the distance.

The Perseid Meteor shower, which is considered to have the brightest meteors of all annual meteor showers, is named for the constellation Perseus from which they appear to emanate. Note that most of the meteors in this image appear to radiate from the lower portion of the Milky Way in this photograph — that’s where the constellation Perseus lies.

Zodiacal Light, Milky Way and Jupiter over Yosemite National Park

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Yosemite

Photographing Zodiacal Light over Yosemite National Park

August 11-12 was near peak viewing for the 2013 Perseid meteor shower, and many people including myself were viewing the show from Yosemite’s Glacier Point all evening long. However, because the moon was nearly new and it was late summer, I knew there was an opportunity to see the faint, remarkable Zodiacal Light the following morning. My plan was to let my cameras run all night capturing Perseid meteors until about 90 minutes before sunrise, when I would reset them to photograph the (hoped for) Zodiacal Light. I managed to get a couple nice images of Zodiacal Light, better than my one previous attempt!

Zodiacal Light and planet Jupiter in the northeastern horizon, above Half Dome and the Yosemite high country, Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California

Zodiacal Light and planet Jupiter in the northeastern horizon, above Half Dome and the Yosemite high country.
Image ID: 28745
Location: Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Zodiacal Light arises from sunlight that reflects off a disk of space dust that orbits our inner solar system. Zodiacal Light is purely a solar system phenomenon (relatively local to our planet) and is not associated with stars that are observed alongside (behind) it. The aforementioned “space dust” is thought to arise primarily from asteroid and meteor collisions (Nesvorny and Jenniskens, 2010), and resides on the plane of the ecliptic. (The plane of the ecliptic is the plane in which planets orbit around our Sun.) While aligned with the plane of the ecliptic, this dust cloud is not thin. Because it extends outward from the sun to the vicinity of Jupiter (with its strong gravitational field), the dust cloud is disturbed in such a way to give it a thickness, explaining the width of the Zodiacal Light that we observe. The Poynting-Robertson effect causes this space dust to slowly spiral inward toward the sun (where it is consumed), so a constant supply of new dust from colliding comets and asteroids is required to maintain the dust cloud. Sunlight reflecting off this dust can be seen in our night sky when there is little or no competing moonlight and/or light pollution from nearby cities. Zodiacal Light appears as a faint pyramid or triangle glowing on the horizon, with the apex of the pyramid tilted in line with the path of the Sun and the plane of the ecliptic. In these photos, planet Jupiter (which lies in the same plane of the ecliptic as our Eath and follows the Sun’s path through the sky) is clearly seen as the brightest object within the triangle of Zodiacal Light. This view is roughly northeast, looking past Half Dome from Glacier Point with the Yosemite High Country in the distance and Little Yosemite Valley at bottom middle.

The faint northern arm of the Milky Way is also discerned in these photos, crossing from upper left to lower right.