Tag

Night

Lunar Eclipse Photo Sequence, October 8 2014

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, California, San Diego

Lunar Eclipse Sequence Over Broken Hill, Torrey Pines State Reserve. While the moon lies in the full shadow of the earth (umbra) it receives only faint, red-tinged light refracted through the Earth's atmosphere. As the moon passes into the penumbra it receives increasing amounts of direct sunlight, eventually leaving the shadow of the Earth altogether. October 8, 2014, San Diego, California

Lunar Eclipse Sequence Over Broken Hill, Torrey Pines State Reserve. While the moon lies in the full shadow of the earth (umbra) it receives only faint, red-tinged light refracted through the Earth’s atmosphere. As the moon passes into the penumbra it receives increasing amounts of direct sunlight, eventually leaving the shadow of the Earth altogether. October 8, 2014.
Image ID: 29412
Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California, USA

I have made a few photographic sequences of lunar eclipses, including several of the total lunar eclipse of April 15 2014 (version 2, version 3). I wanted to do something similar for the October 8 2014 lunar eclipse, but did not have the freedom to go photograph out in the desert where the air was likely to be clear. On the evening of the eclipse conditions were iffy, and down on the beach the air was heavy and wet so the pier was out — it was on the verge of turning to fog. Up on the mesas above and inland from the beach the air was much clearer and drier but still the shooting looked iffy, I was not sure the eclipse would even be visible. As it turned out I was able to get the images for which I was hoping, although things were not as clear as I probably would have found in the desert.

My planning for the eclipse was something like this: the penumbral phase of eclipse was to begin at 2:15am at 227 degrees on the compass and inclination of 53 degrees. Full eclipse would begin at 3:25 (245 degrees, 41 degree inclination) and end at 4:24am (256 degrees, 30 degree inclination). The penumbral phase would end at 5:34 (266 degrees, 16 degree inclination). This meant the “rectangle” that the path of the eclipse would take through the sky was roughly 40 degrees horizontally (left to right on the compass) and spanned a vertical inclination of about 37 degrees. I figured a lens with about 24mm of focal length, or a little more, held in portrait orientation — which covers approximately 73 degrees vertically and 53 degrees horizontally would work well, since it would allow for some foreground and would cover the entire left-right travel of the moon with room to spare on all sides. Mind you this may sound like some sort of complicated math but in truth a few minutes with The Photographer’s Ephemeris and a few notes on the back of a VISA envelope were all that was required to set up the plan for that night. The “center” of the eclipse would be at a compass angle of about 250 degrees, so I setup my camera in that direction, configured it to shoot periodic bracketed images all night long using an intervalometer, and crossed my fingers the sky would remain clear for the two and a quarter hours that the eclipse would happening.

I also shot individual images of the eclipsing moon with 560mm of focal length — the Canon 200-400 f/4 lens with built-in 1.4x teleconverter turned out to be perfect for this, and I periodically used live focus to ensure the moon was as sharp as possible. That lens, coupled with good focus and a good sensor, can really resolve a lot. I composited these sharp and detailed moon images onto the best single image of the “background” in the location and orientation in which the moon travelled across the sky. They appear about twice as large as the moon actually appeared in the original wide-angle photographs. I was a little surprised to find the path was slightly convex (relative to the ground) as in my previous south-facing sequences the path was strongly concave, but then realized after looking at the star trails of the images from that night that indeed this was the proper path of the stars and moon. I was facing only about 20 degree south of west and Polaris was about 110 degrees to the right. All heavenly objects have an apparent rotation about that one star, leading to the path of the moon you see here. The following image is a huge (12000 x 12000) mosaic of the sequence, with some impressive detail in the moon including some visible lunar mountains when the sun was just skimming the edge of the moon in some of the frames. The frames I found the most interesting, and challenging to expose, are those were there is still direct sunlight case upon the moon while at the same time some of the “blood red moon” coloration is beginning to appear in the shadowed area of the moon. The moon is yellower at the end of the sequence than it is at the beginning — at the beginning it is high in the sky and the optical path passed through relatively little atmosphere, but toward the end of the sequence the moon was nearly setting and the optical path passed through much more atmosphere, affecting the “color temperature” of the moon and rendering it with a yellowish hue. (Hue: does anyone actually use that word in conversation?)

Lunar eclipse sequence. While the moon lies in the full shadow of the earth (umbra) it receives only faint, red-tinged light refracted through the Earth's atmosphere. As the moon passes into the penumbra it receives increasing amounts of direct sunlight, eventually leaving the shadow of the Earth altogether. October 8, 2014

Lunar eclipse sequence. While the moon lies in the full shadow of the earth (umbra) it receives only faint, red-tinged light refracted through the Earth’s atmosphere. As the moon passes into the penumbra it receives increasing amounts of direct sunlight, eventually leaving the shadow of the Earth altogether. October 8, 2014.
Image ID: 29411

Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Trees and the Night Sky Milky Way

White Mountains

If you like this, please see my Gallery of Ancient Bristlecone Pine Tree Photos or my Gallery of Milky Way Photos.

These ancient bristlecones are two of the more iconic in the world. They stand on an eastern slope in the White Mountains in a clearing with few other trees nearby. I am fairly certain the foreground tree — which has been photographed by thousands of photographers — is dead. It has a beautiful, gnarled, twisted shape and is quite imposing. The living bristlecone (Pinus longaeva) in the background is my favorite in this area, and one of the most beautiful of the old but living bristlecones anywhere along the White Mountains crest. It was the subject of the first milky way photograph (after many attempts) with which I was really happy, made alongside buddy Garry McCarthy in 2012. The evening I made this particular photographs brought a fast changing mix of light, with clearing storm clouds that alternately moved through the scene and then opened up to reveal stars. I timed my visit specifically for this one night since I knew the lunar phase would balance moonlight with starlight and lend a little bit of detail to the surrounding landscape, something that is more difficult to achieve on the new moon. I’ll post a few more from that night in the coming days. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Stars and the Milky Way over ancient bristlecone pine trees, in the White Mountains at an elevation of 10,000' above sea level. These are some of the oldest trees in the world, some exceeding 4000 years in age, Pinus longaeva, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, White Mountains, Inyo National Forest

Stars and the Milky Way over ancient bristlecone pine trees, in the White Mountains at an elevation of 10,000′ above sea level. These are some of the oldest trees in the world, some exceeding 4000 years in age.
Image ID: 29407
Species: Bristlecone Pine, Pinus longaeva
Location: Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, White Mountains, Inyo National Forest, California, USA

Ancient Bristlecone pine trees (Pinus longaeva) live in a relatively restricted area of eastern California, Nevada and Utah, typically at altitudes above 9500′. The ancient bristlecone pine tree is considered to be the world’s oldest species of tree (and indeed the world’s oldest sexually reproducing, nonclonal lifeform). A number of individual bristlecone pine trees are known to exceed 4000 years of age; the “Methuselah tree” in the Schulman grove was estimated to be 4838 years old in 2006. These extraordinarily hardy, gnarled and lonely trees are best seen in the White Mountains of the Inyo National Forest in California. These photos were taken in the Patriarch Grove and the Schulman Grove, two exemplary groves that can be accessed by car. A few new images below and in my gallery of bristlecone pine tree photos were taken on a clear spring night with the Milky Way spread across the sky — it was a moving and serene experience being around such old trees with the heavens spread so dramatically above.

Ancient bristlecone pine trees live at extremely high altitudes. In some regions, the lower treeline for bristlecone pines exceeds the upper treeline for all other species. Bristlecone forests often occur in areas where there is a strong carbonate content (limestone, dolomite and/or marble). In these barren, remote mountain areas, exposure to constant wind, excessive sun and bitter cold has molded the trees into remarkably gnarled, twisted shapes that have captured the interest of photographers and artists for years.

The trees do not grow tall — 60′ is about the tallest — but tend to be girthy with a wide base and roots that splay outward in all directions. Ancient bristlecone pine trees grow very slowly, and pine needles are infrequently dropped with some living for 30 years. Pinus longaeva has evolved a few strategies that yield such a long lifespan. Their wood is extraordinarily dense, and full of resin, making it nearly impossible for invasive bacteria and insects (what few there are in that inhospitable climate) to bore into and damage the wood. Bristlecone pines also tolerate a gradual dieback of their bark, in such a way that old specimens may have only a small amount of living bark. While the tree may appear dead or nearly so, this is actually an advantage as it lessens the bulk of living material the root system and crown must support. In some old trees, a thin strip of bark a foot or less in size is enough to support a healthy specimen.

Ancient bristlecone wood is so resistant to decay, and occurs in such an arid and cold environment, that fallen pieces dating back 8000+ years have been found in some groves. These pieces have been used in the calibration of the radiocarbon time-dating method, a technique which is employed in a broad range of scientific disciplines.

Please see my gallery of ancient bristlecone pine tree photos. Thanks for looking!

Searching the Skies – Palomar Observatory at Night

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, California

My father took my brother and I camping at Mount Palomar a few times when I was a kid. We would fish at Doane Pond (back then it seemed like a lake but now I realize its little more than a puddle), and always visit the Palomar Observatory just up the road. I was fascinated by the amazing astronomy photographs in the gift shop, and the sheer size of the dome and telescope (200″ diameter, 14-ton glass mirror!) seemed awesome. Fast forward 40 years. I was recently permitted to photograph this telescope at night. The Palomar Observatory, which first collected light in 1948 and is part of the California Institute of Technology, remains one of the most important telescopes in the world. The evening I photographed the observatory, I was fortunate to be accompanied by the observatory’s public relations officer who kindly answered my many questions. One remark of his in particular really stunned me regarding the work that was being done the very evening I was there. I still sort of shake my head thinking about it. I spent years in college and grad school studying some heavy mathematics and science and still have trouble wrapping my mind around this idea: within the last decade and particularly in the last year, scientists at the Palomar Observatory have made direct observations of exoplanets — planets orbiting another star. I don’t mean inferences of other planets by observing the slight periodic dimming of a star, suggesting a planet is crossing in front of the star. I mean direct observations of the exoplanets themselves, through spectroscopy, which allows the composition of the planet to be understood. The distances involved in this science are so great, and the implications so profound, that I find it a little disorienting to ponder for more than a few minutes at a time, my puny intellect is overwhelmed! I’ll have more images of Palomar Observatory to share in the coming weeks. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Palomar Observatory at sunset, Palomar Mountain, California

Palomar Observatory at sunset.
Image ID: 29336
Location: Palomar Observatory, Palomar Mountain, California, USA

Venus, Milky Way and Arch Rock at Astronomical Twilight, Joshua Tree National Park

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Joshua Tree

Things are always better at astronomical twilight.

Venus was often referred to as the “Morning Star” by ancient civilizations (and as the “Evening Star” as well). On this day, it was indeed the morning star, rising just moments before astronomical twilight began. This allowed for a very brief window of time, a few moments really, to make a balanced exposure including the Milky Way galaxy and a sky full of stars, the planet Venus, the onset of dawn’s blue sky, and a softly lit Arch Rock. Just a few minutes later and the impending dawn became bright enough to make the Milky Way unseeable This image required no compositing or local adjustments, just global contrast, shadow recovery and white balance. I managed to make a huge 180-degree panorama of this same scene just two days later, but an alignment such as this allowing one to compose Venus under the arch, with the Milky Way just above, right at the transition of astronomical twilight (with its accompanying deep blue sky) will not reoccur for quite some time and I will probably never have another opportunity to see it. Shot alongside friend and photographer Garry McCarthy in Joshua Tree National Park. If you like this, check out some of my other Astrophotography Landscape Photos. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Milky Way over Sky Rock Petroglyph, Volcanic Tablelands, Bishop, California

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Sierra Nevada

Milky Way over Sky Rock Petroglyph, Volcanic Tablelands, Bishop, California.

I made this image several years ago but neglected to share any images from that evening’s photographic efforts on my blog. I have made many visits to the Volcanic Tablelands, at all times of day, to explore the rocks, admire the vistas over the Owens River, and photograph one of the finest petroglyph panels in the world. In this composition, I waited for a specific date when the Milky Way could be effectively photographed above the petroglyphs with Mount Tom and the Sierra Nevada range aligned in the distance. It was a very cold evening, I wore all the clothes I had on hand, but after several hours of trying different compositions I managed several images I am very happy with. Sky Rock is a magical place at night, with ancient light emanating from stars many hundreds and thousands of light years away cascading down upon these special, old and impressive engravings. It is just the type of place I enjoy photographing at night, with no other people around, no photo workshop groups, no RVs, no automobile sounds — nothing. Solitude. I have also photographed these petroglyphs under a full moon as well as under pastel dawn skies, as well as a massive panorama of this location that I will be sharing soon. 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