Category Archives: Astro-photo

Mars rounds Polaris.

Star trails at night.

The sky was very clear the other night, perfect for star trails! Mars is the very bright streak on the right side of the above photo. I got really lucky with this first image! In the upper left corner you can barely see three faint streaks running perpendicular to the stars. I am not sure exactly what they are but they took approximately 90 seconds to travel the recorded paths. (Maybe iridium flares from orbiting satellites?) Below you can see Polaris at the center of the star trails. It looks like a stationary point but it is not true celestial North so there is a little bit of wobble.

Polaris and star trail rings.

Yosemite Weekend: Day 1.

Thumbnail image of Lake Tenaya.

We spent the past weekend in and around Yosemite National Park. I was pretty young the last time my family and I visited. I was again reminded of how awesome that place is! There is a tremendous amount to see. Literally, you can spend a lifetime exploring and still not see everything! (Never mind a weekend…) New to me was the town of Lee Vining and Mono Lake. (The two food shots were eaten there.) Also spectacular! However — “more time” — was my mantra this weekend.

Our drive from Santa Clara is about 5 hours (Google maps says less than 4 but that is baloney). The distance is only about 200 miles; once you hit the twisties on CA Hwy 120/Tioga Pass: traffic and a cautious pace are what slow you down. It is a fantastic drive though, if you enjoy driving. ;)

I have too many words to describe our relatively brief experience. SO, please view my photos instead (click on the image above). I also have a gallery for, “Day 2”, coming soon. Next time we need to stay for at least a week! (Travel Buddies, you feelin me? One word: RV!) :mrgreen:

More Starry Skies.

Sirius and the Milky Way.

I was so excited about actually seeing Lulin that I posted that image out of sequence. We actually started our star gazing in the fields of Wahiawa. Usually a great place to view the night sky but that night was far too cloudy (at the time we arrived). We continued on to Mokuleia — clouds or not, it is much darker out there. Sure enough, the sky was star studded! Venus was clearly visible and lit up the western most sky, over Kaena Point (not pictured). Unfortunately, the clouds caught up with us and made viewing rather frustrating. Oh and let me not forget the constant 30 MPH BLAST of wind from the ocean!

Despite the less than prime conditions, we did manage to get off a few shots. The photo above shows the Milky Way reasonably well (as well as our nimboid nemesis). The exposure was 30 seconds. Earth rotation is clear, pixel peeping, at 100%. But as I was shooting at 24mm, the stars appear still in this web sized example. Below is a demonstration of a 56.5 minute exposure.

Star trails for nearly an hour.

Certainly not the greatest of star trail images. But, I am just glad that I was able to get something out of the trip. These semi-successful photo junkets are actually more valuable than one would think. We were able to really torture test our methods, equipment, and even our clothes / footwear. Field testing is often much more valuable than the images we capture. :)

Comet Lulin: spotted in Hawaii.

Comet Lulin, high in the sky.

Early this morning @ 2:33am, I was finally able to find the Comet Lulin. By that time it was very high in the sky — almost directly over head. It was very difficult to aim and follow with my telescopic focal length. But the near zenith position offered a pleasant surprise: diminished contamination from Earth based light pollution.

I stacked 10 images to build up the density of the comet and partially eliminate the high ISO noise. Even wide open at f/2.8, my exposure was 2 seconds at ISO 6400. My particular setup demonstrated some terrible banding artifacts. (So much for the “miracle sensor” in the D3.) The darkened edges (brightened center) are a demonstration of the light fall off characteristics of my lens “wide open”.

Beautiful Night Sky.

Full moon and nebulous clouds.The moon was full last night. But due to less than “ideal” viewing, I decided to take a departure from my standard documentary astronomy. The air was very still. (“Kona weather” is what we call it.) As a result there was a continuous layer of patchy clouds that lingered, long after moonrise. In addition, the vog –from increased Kilauea activity– wrapped everything in a haze. However, all that moisture and particulate matter –combined with the light of the full moon– made for a most incredible nebulous effect of light, color, and texture.

Full moon with textured nebulous clouds.This second image is my favorite from last night’s departure. The color and texture of the clouds on the bottom edge captivate me. (Reason for my repositioned watermark — the original image orientation is vertical.) I just couldn’t bring myself to cover up the most interesting part of my composition. Although, after looking at it for a while, I think I will crop the top edge a little. ;-)

No Eclipse Photo, But…

Full Moon + 1 day, 2008-02-21.

As most of you know the night of Feb. 20th, 2008, was a full Moon. It was also the last total lunar eclipse we (in America) will see until Dec. 21st, 2010. Technically, for us in Hawaii, it was only a partial lunar eclipse (we could only see the Moon leaving the umbra phase of the eclipse at Moon rise and for only about 30 minutes at best). I had spent the day out in ‘town’ photographing my usual haunts and set myself up well before sunset to try and capture what little I could. However I got a little too ambitious and rather than camp out on the eastern most shore (obvious choice to get the moon rising), I decided to be fancy and tried to frame the event over Koko Head and Maunalua Bay…what is that they say about the best laid plans of mice and men???

I have not had the chance to develop the images from Wednesday but I plan to over the weekend. In the mean time here is a quick grab shot I got of the Moon last night (2008-02-21). Its phase was “waning gibbous” (full +1 day). Captured with: Nikon D3 & Nikkor 1600mm f/11. Developed in Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended. Once again the D3’s LiveView capability allowed me to reach a new level of focusing accuracy. (This image is far more detailed than any other I have gotten in the past AND last night wasn’t even ideal “viewing” through the atmosphere!)