El Comercio

El Comercio is Quito, Ecuador’s major newspaper.  I’ve been following them on Facebook for some time now.  I’d heard about Cotopaxi, the volcano, erupting.  That’s when I found El Comercio’s online presence.  It has been interesting to read news from that small country where we lived for nearly three years.  (Okay, that was forty years ago.)

When we lived in Quito, we would walk out to the sidewalk and turn south.  There in the distance, dominating the horizon, was the perfect cone shape of Cotopaxi.  It is both beautiful and iconic.

Recently, I’ve found plenty of reasons to continue following Ecuadorian news.  Few folks around here got to see Sunday evening’s blood moon.  On Monday I logged onto Facebook and found that El Comercio had published a number of photos of the lunar eclipse.  This one was my favorite:

Ecuador's view of Sunday's eclipse

Ecuador’s view of Sunday’s eclipse

I enjoy pictures like these and the many others I’ve seen on various blogs and Websites.  However, witnessing it with my eyes was by far the best.

Do you follow the news from somewhere other than where you now live?

Blood Moon

Last night, there was a blood moon.  In other words, a total eclipse of the moon.  It should have been visible from here.  I was ready, and my camera was ready too.

Results were mixed.  I did, however, learn a few important lessons.

The first lesson was, never try to capture an image of the moon by shooting through a window.

150927a

This first shot was a test.  The double glass left some artifacts around the brilliant full moon.  Also,  to shoot this wide, I need to manually control aperture and shutter settings.

As the eclipse started, it was time to capture the next image.  I did this while standing in an open door.

Second lesson was, don’t hand-hold a tight shot of the moon.

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Not too bad, perhaps.  I did brace against the door frame.  Yet, it could have been better.

The third lesson was, atmospheric conditions can spoil your chances.

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I had setup the tripod and was going to capture that “perfect” image of the blood moon.  It never happened.  Dark clouds were rolling in, obscuring the moon.  After much waiting, I managed to capture the above image, which was only partially cloud shaded.  After that I only caught brief glimpses of bits of the moon.  And then it could no longer be seen from here.

Sic transit gloria.

 

Moonlight

After shooting the “ominous” image in yesterday’s post, I headed back to the house.  On the way, I looked up and saw Luna veiled in a misty robe.

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Being coy, she tried to hide behind our antennas (Sylvia and I are both radio hams).  They did not provide her with cover.

I loved the cool surreal quality of that light in the night.  Music provided by nocturnal insects.  I only lacked the smell of freshly harvested apples to complete the autumnal scene.

Evening Scenes

Last evening, we sat down to our evening meal and prayed.  As I lifted my eyes, I caught a glimpse of a glorious sunset.  Excusing myself, I dashed for my camera as fast as I could gimp.  Once again, the glory moment had passed.  I captured an image anyway.

150923b

I keep hoping to see that definitive sunset image.  File that under “unfinished business.”

We finished our meal and cleared the table.  The western sky had taken on a complete different character.  I called Sylvia’s attention to it.  She took one look and said, “Ominous.”  For my part, I agreed.

150923cThat tree on the left is just right of center in the previous image.

I turned to go back in the house when I heard a deer chuff loudly at me.  I paused and scanned the low ground from whence the sound came.  After a bit, a second chuff sounded clearly.  A couple of seconds later, a dark shape leaped, turned and flagged her friends as she bounded away toward the willow thicket.  A second and similar shape followed in her wake.  These would have been last year’s fawns.  Shortly after, their mother followed with her longer stronger leaps.

Then they were gone.  The late evening was once more dominated by the sounds of night-time insects while the moon watched over all.

Night Lights

As Sylvia was getting ready for bed last night, she called out to me.  I was still in my recliner.  She asked, “Have you seen the lightning?”  “No, I haven’t,” was my reply.

I slipped on my walking boot, and went to a window.  There was a light show going on to the southwest.

In the office, I held the camera against the window and tried a hand-held 30-second exposure.

Spectacular

Spectacular

Between lightning strikes, the sky was very dark.  Life is like that some times.

After capturing this image, I hobbled back to my recliner and fell into a peaceful sleep.

Dark & Stormy

No doubt, you’ve heard that cliché story opener, “It was a dark and stormy night.”  That overused line actually applied here last night.  It was a little after two AM when I awoke.  I hadn’t been asleep very long, so why was I awake?

Then a light came on.  Went back out.  What?  Out of bed.  On my feet.  A bit more alert.  It happened again.

Lightning!  A muted rolling thunder followed sometime later.  It was far away.

I looked out the bedroom window.  The action is to the south.

In the office, I lifted the blinds.  There was a light show going on over Kalamazoo.

Thirty second exposure

Caught in the act

You can see lightning bolts in this image.  They are not as bright as you might like.  This is the result of average brightness over the 30-sec exposure time.  Still, they are clearly visible if not as dramatic as they appeared to my eye.

The colored lights in the lower center frame are not part of an alien navigation beacon system.  It’s just a reflection on the window I was shooting through.  The light on the right is in my neighbor’s house.

Come four AM, I was finally asleep.  Heavy rain had started to fall on the roof a couple of minutes earlier.

Ladies of the Night Sky

Last night was beautiful.  The weather was warm and the sky was clear.  I looked up at Venus as she made her way toward the western horizon.  She had sisters with her–the ones that we call the Pleiades.  With camera on tripod, I used a 30-second exposure to capture the scene.

Venus and the Pleiades

Venus and the Pleiades

At first glance, I saw only six of the seven (Pleiades) sisters. Celaeno, the dimmest of the lot is there midway between Taugeta and Electra on the right.  (See it here.)

You may detect some motion in the photo.  There was some.  During the thirty seconds that the shutter was open, the camera moved over eight miles.  (An angular rotation of 450 seconds of arc)

As I was completing my shoot, other ladies of the night passed by not forty feet from me.  They were the female deer that we see regularly.  It was the little bit extra.  Like whipped cream atop your hot chocolate.

My mind was on another lady.  Not a lady of the night, but a lady at all times.  I’m talking about my lovely bride, Sylvia.  I went back in the house, put the camera on my desk and took a seat beside my wife.  We spent the next hour talking about the day and about a hundred other things.  On that high note, I ended my day.

Starlight Star Bright

It was nearly two weeks ago on a clear night that I went out with camera and tripod to capture some celestial images.  I’ve enjoyed watching the waxing crescent moon as it was in the vicinity of Jupiter and Mars as the sun set.  I also enjoy taking pictures of the sky.  Jupiter and Venus are very bright and thus easily captured on the CCD of our point-and-shoot digital camera.  The moon is even brighter.

With equipment in hand, I headed for the back door pausing to check camera settings inside where there was good light.  As I checked the scene setting, I saw there was a “starry sky” setting.  Why had this gone unnoticed?  And, oh look, you can set for 15, 30 or 60-second exposure.  With the tripod, I could use that.  I chose 15 seconds–the moon would be in the shot and it is very bright.

Did it work?  Here’s your answer:

The Moon, Jupiter & Mars

This is the image I wanted to capture.

I was amazed at how many stars I could see after I had processed the images a little bit with PhotoShop Elements.  Thus encouraged, I turned to my left and looking Southwest I saw Orion (the hunter).  I repositioned the tripod and camera to get this shot.

Orion

Orion is one of the better known constellations of the night sky.

The viewfinder on the Panasonic camera was not designed for taking shots like this.  I used the apple branches, which were illuminated by the sodium vapor yard light, to point the camera.  A little bit of processing and more stars became visible.  The three stars of the belt and the three of the sword are very clearly visible–even before processing.  I was pleased to see that the nebula in the center of the sword shows well.

Thus encouraged, I turned to a darker area of the sky as I tried to capture an image of the big dipper (Ursa Major).  The first couple of attempts didn’t work too well, and I had a hard time pointing the camera in the right direction.  Nevertheless, I did manage to get a piece of the dipper.

Ursa Major -- the Big Dipper

The Big Dipper is perhaps the best known constellation of the northern sky.

It was my best effort, but it doesn’t include the pointer stars that indicate the direction of the pole star (Polaris).  I did get the handle and the two stars that form the handle end of the dipper.  Can you see the double star in the second position (from the end) of the handle?  As with the other images, I didn’t know what was there until after a bit of processing.  I’m waiting for the next clear night with suitable conditions so I can go out and try some more shots.  It should be a night with the moon not visible.  Last night was the full moon, which rises at sunset and sets at sunrise.  Perhaps another few days?