Tag Archives: astronomy

Astronomy

Hurricane Irma may pass directly over Bahia Honda State Park

This morning, we’re waiting to see what Hurricane Irma is going to do and it looks like it might pass directly over Bahia Honda State Park as a Cat 4 or Cat 5 storm.  It’s hard to imagine the damage that could result.

Lynn and I returned from the Florida Keys a week ago.   We spent a couple of days in Key West and then were lucky enough to stay in one of the 6 cabins at Bahia Honda State Park for 3 more days.  They’re built on stilts but even so are only about 10 -15 feet above the ocean.  And we felt them swaying at times while we were there – even in good weather.

The cabins are on the right side of the overseas highway as you head down to the keys.  They’re furnished with everything you need for a great Florida vacation.  And the location on a beautiful lagoon is wonderful.  These next three photos were all made on the patio, just a few steps from the cabin door:

Loggerhead TurtleLoggerhead Sea Turtle – The ranger told us that turtles, dolphin, and tarpon like the lagoon because it’s so quiet and protected.  We’d see one or more of Loggerheads from the cabin porch almost every time we stepped out to look.  We also saw Tarpon rolling on the surface a few times and maybe a dolphin or two.

Sunset FishingSunset Fishing – You can fish in the lagoon by the cabins, but other water activity isn’t allowed.  We often saw campers fishing there.

The view from the cabinAnother view from the cabin porch. The skies at Bahia Honda are some of the darkest in Florida. Lynn and I got up at about 1:30am on our first night. The moon had set and we had a stunning view of this part of the Milky Way, right from the patio. And the bugs weren’t biting too much!

The Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary is about 8 miles southwest of Bahia Honda and snorkeling trips leave for the reef twice a day.  It was a relaxing swim – the water temperature was in the high 80’s, which can cause storms to strengthen.

Sergeant majors and othersLooe Key Sergeant majors and others –  The visibility wasn’t very good the day were were there, but the number of fish we saw was still impressive.

There are also 72 campsites in the Park.  Many of them are in awesome locations too.

Between the bridgesBetween the bridges – This is at sunset, between the old abandoned bridge on the left and the new one on the right.  You can see some of the lovely Bahia Honda campsites on the left side of the frame.

Lynn and I thought of this visit to Bahia Honda as a “scouting trip”.   Based on what we saw, we definitely want to go back.

To everyone in Irma’s path and to everyone impacted by Harvey:  We’re thinking of you.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – stay safe in the storm!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Moon Shadows – August 21, 2017

Did any of you notice the solar eclipse in the US last week?  Here at Central Florida Photo Ops HQ we certainly did!  And even though the full moon covered “only” ~85% of the sun, it was still an awe-inspiring show.

Our experience in Winter Springs started with heavy rain and thick cloud cover, but the sky quickly cleared and from then on we had an amazing view.  I put together this time-lapse movie with ten photos I made at about ten minutes intervals :

To set up my camera, I first focused manually on a very distant tree and taped down the focus ring.  Then I spent some time figuring out exposure so detail on the sun’s surface would show.  The sun is really bright!  I put two stacked neutral density filters in front of my lens to cut the light by about 11 stops.  I ended up shooting in manual exposure mode at ISO 64, f/16, and 1/1000 sec at 800mm equivalent focal length.   For insurance, I also bracketed around that base exposure.  Luckily there were a few sunspots to see:

Sunspots on the surface

We had two other roving photographers on assignment to help document the eclipse.  Kevin McKinney was in Orlando south of us.  He noticed the sun shining through a tree and made the photo below.  Small openings between the leaves were acting as pinhole lenses and focusing multiple images of the crescent sun on the ground.  I’m glad he noticed this, I didn’t think to look:

Eclipse 2017 - thanks to the trees for my only photo opEclipse 2017 – thanks to the trees.  ©Kevin McKinney, 2017, all rights reserved.  Used with permission.

Howard Thomas (our other roving photographer) braved scarce hotels and huge traffic jams to report from Santee, South Carolina along the path of totality.  He made these next three photos:

The Sun’s atmosphere is 300 times hotter than the surface.  A total eclipse is one of the best ways to study the corona.  ©Howard Thomas, 2017, all rights reserved.  Used with permission.

Total eclipse and the star Regulus (upper left corner – click to see larger).  ©Howard Thomas, 2017, all rights reserved.  Used with permission.

Baily’s beads, or the Diamond ring effect, is visible during a total solar eclipse. The rough terrain on the edge of the moon allow beads of sunlight to shine through in some places. ©Howard Thomas, 2017, all rights reserved.  Used with permission.

Eclipses are fun to think about.  They’re such a huge coincidence!  The Moon is 400 times smaller than the Sun, and the Sun is 400 times farther way.  So they’re the same apparent size in the sky – that can’t be very common in the universe.  We don’t see one very often because the Moon’s orbit tilts with respect to Earth’s orbit around the sun.  And since the moon is slowly moving away from the earth, the geometry will be ruined after another billion years.

You can click on any of these photos to look at larger versions.  I hope you were able to see this stunning event and get some photos of your own.  If not, the next one in the US is in 2024.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – go be amazed by rare natural phenomenon.  And make some photos!

©2017, Kevin McKinney, Howard Thomas, and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Shenandoah – Starscapes, Sunsets, Storms, and Falls

Our visit to Shenandoah National Park this year  was extremely enjoyable (mentally not physically!)  relaxing, and cooler than back here in Central Florida (highs there in the 70s).   It was also interesting from a photography perspective and different from last year’s trip.  I did a lot of sunset / night photography and didn’t try very hard to get up early every morning for sunrise.

We were fortunate with seeing conditions on the night we arrived. There were no clouds, and the Milky Way center was above the horizon for about two hours after moon set.  Shenandoah has dark skies and the large cleared meadow near the lodge provides wonderful views all around the compass.  Lynn hadn’t ever really seen the Milky Way before and I’ve never seen it this well.  We were both amazed, and I was also impressed with how much detail my Nikon D800 was able to capture.

Big Meadows Milky Way Big Meadows Milky Way.  Three frame panorama, 24mm lens, manual focus and exposure, ISO 2500, f/1.8, 20 seconds.

Lynn is a big fan of meteor showers, and due to a gravity assist from Jupiter, the Perseid was predicted to be spectacular this year.  We set the alarm for 1am the night it was forecast to peak and went out to watch.  The area around Big Meadows was crowded with over a hundred people watching the show, and each overlook had cars parked with more people observing.  It was a good show.  Here’s one of my photos from that morning.

A Persied Meteor and a cloud in front of a portion of the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy A Perseid Meteor and a cloud in front of part of the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy – From Old Rag View Overlook on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.  24mm lens, manual focus and exposure, ISO 3200, f/1.8, 20 seconds.

I tried sunset photos on most nights.  The sky wasn’t as dramatic as I’ve seen it in the past, but there were many wildflowers in bloom helping to make up for that.

The end of the dayThe end of the day – Looking out over Shenandoah Valley from Skyline Drive. The wildflowers were beautiful when we were there.  Two frame composite, manual masking in Photoshop.

And storms also added interest.  We watched this one develop from the balcony outside our room at the lodge.

Shenandoah Storm #1Shenandoah Storm – A storm built up to the west at sunset. As seen from our balcony at Big Meadows Lodge in Shenandoah National Park.  Multi-frame panorama.

Dark Hollow Falls is one of the most popular places in Shenandoah.  When we drove by on Sunday, the parking area was overflowing with cars.  We waited until the next morning to hike down.  Last year, I didn’t make it to these falls and used one of my  20-year-old photos  to illustrate it.  For some reason, the hike (especially the return up from the falls) is more difficult than it was when I was 20 years younger.  Hmm – I wonder why?  This is from very near the same place, and a horizontal, wider view.  I like this one too.

Dark Hollow Falls Dark Hollow Falls.  14mm equivalent FOV, ISO 100, f/8.0, 1/13 seconds, Olympus hires mode.

We did a bit more hiking this year than last and went on trails we hadn’t tried before.   Rose River Falls and Black Rock Mountain were two new favorites.  Another one we hiked was Pocosin Trail.  It was interesting, although I didn’t like it as much as the others.  Maybe it was because of one sentence in the trail guide:  “Soon the trail flattens.”  It never did!

You can see larger versions of the photos above by clicking on them and more photos from Shenandoah in this album on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

In the yard

Good morning, good readers!

I’ve been busy recently learning all about the Raspberry Pi computer and using it on a project for our home.  It’s incredible how much capability you can buy today for $35.  Anyway, the project (especially learning to code in Python!) has left me with little time for photo excursions.  So this week I’ll have to show you some photos I managed to make from our yard.

I made this first photo standing on our front walk, just before last month’s full moon.  I like the way the sun was hitting the clouds.  It’s a single frame, handheld, and slightly underexposed to keep detail showing on the moon.

Pretty moon tonightPretty moon tonight

Lynn put a small statue of St. Francis in our front flower garden.  This brown anole likes to bask there in the morning sun.

St. Francis and the lizard 2St. Francis and the lizard

And last, an update on our backyard visitors.  The cardinal pair built a nest on our neighbor’s patio and raised one chick that’s now fledged and fully grown.

But for the last couple of weeks, we haven’t seen too many smaller birds in the yard.  Perhaps it’s due to this:

The hawk on the lamp postThe hawk on the lamp-post

I’ve seen this Red-shouldered Hawk sitting on the lamp-post on several mornings recently.  It doesn’t seem to scare the lizards, but small birds don’t like having it around.

By the way, the basics of my Raspberry Pi project are working, so I should  have more time now for photography.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Night Sky in Death Valley

I’ve been away for the last week and caught a bad cold on the trip.  I got home last night and I’m feeling better today although I  don’t have the energy for a long blog post. Sorry.

I’ll be back next week and I promise to provide more photos and info.  Here’s one image to whet your appetite.   This is a 20 second exposure at f/2.2 and ISO 1600, under the darkest skies I’ve ever seen.  The Milky Way was easily visible even though the brightest part was below the horizon.

Two galaxiesTwo galaxies – Andromeda Galaxy and part of the Milky Way, from Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, 1-12-14

Kevin M, Robert WTom M, Lutfi E, and I met at Parish Park in Titusville last weekend for a photo excursion.  We got there well before sunrise and had time for a few night photos.

Stars above the causeway at Parrish Park
Stars above the causeway at Parrish Park – Looking SW, before dawn.

When we’d all arrived, we carpooled over to East Gator Creek Road for sunrise.  Since it was so clear before dawn, I didn’t think it would be very good.  But once again, Mother Nature surprised me, and a set of clouds moved in to add interest and color to the sky.

Passing storm
Passing storm

After daybreak, we drove on around East Gator Creek Road and then Blackpoint Wildlife Drive looking for birds.  We didn’t have to look too hard – they’re out force!

We saw many species and huge numbers of some of them.  White Pelicans were especially plentiful, both foraging in the water and soaring above us.  There were other huge formations of ducks flying over, but they were too high for me to ID.  One smaller flock flew very low right down the road.  I didn’t see them coming and the noise when they passed startled me.

We also saw Ring billed Gulls, a Bonaparte’s Gull, a some Forster’s Terns, Least Terns, a Black Skimmer, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintails, Blue winged Teals, Lesser Scaups, Red Breasted Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, Pied billed Greebes, Greater Yellowlegs, Sandpipers, Killdeer, Roseate Spoonbills, a Bald Eagle, Ospreys, Loggerhead Shrikes, Savanah Sparrows, Red winged Blackbirds, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Wood Storks, Reddish Egrets, a White Morph Redish Egret, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, Belted Kingfishers, and maybe a few others.

Cooperative Loggerhead Shrike
Cooperative Loggerhead Shrike

Highlights also included a very cooperative Shrike that sat still while we all made way too many photos of it, a bald eagle that flew right overhead, and two life birds for me (the Bonaparte’s Gull and Greater Yellowlegs).  It’s definitely birding season at MINWR!

As a side note:  I got an email from a Flickr contact that’s going to be in the area for a couple of days.  They wanted some hints on how to see everything while they’re here, especially Gatorland, Viera Wetlands, and Merritt Island.  I did pass along some hints.  But then I had to tell them that’s a lot to see in 2 days!  The good news is that you’re almost certain to see some good things in those places.  The bad news is that you can’t possibly see everything in that short a time – it’s just too large an area and the weather / wildlife might not cooperate. The key is to relax, enjoy being there and be ready with your camera for whatever comes your way.  I hope I’m not misleading people into thinking that they can photograph all the things they see here on the blog on their first time out.  It takes persistence and even some luck.

Anyway, if you’ve wanted to go to MINWR, now’s the time.  You can see other posts I’ve written about MINWR here and you can see larger versions of the photos above and others from Merritt Island in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now, go make some photos!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Ponce Inlet, Florida – Lighthouse and night photos

Imagine if you will, a perfect dusk scene with sunset colors drifting up from beyond the horizon. In the distance is a photogenic lighthouse that’s illuminated just enough to make it stand out against the bright sky. Beneath your feet, slow-moving Atlantic Ocean surf rolls up on rocks. You spot a bird in the surf and hope it will be still while your shutter remains open for the seconds necessary to record the image as your mind’s eye sees it – tack sharp from foreground rocks all the way to the distant lighthouse, with silky smooth water reflecting light from the dusk sky. Imagine coming home and seeing the image that you imagined on your computer screen in all it’s glory. This imaginary trip can be made real for you too if you venture over to Ponce Inlet, Florida and have a bit of luck, like we did.

Ponce Inlet lighthouse, sunset, bird

Ponce Inlet lighthouse, sunset, & bird – (Nikon D700, Nikkor 24-70mm lens @ 70mm, 5 second exposure @ f/11, ISO 200)

Once again my friends, the Photography Interest Group braved many hazards to bring you extraordinary photographic insight into another wonderful place for outstanding Central Florida Photo Ops. Three of us wanted to do something a little different from our normal photo excursions. We’ve been talking about night-time / low light photography so we decided to visit Ponce Inlet last Thursday night to try out some techniques. It was also an interesting day from an astronomical perspective, since there was a conjunction of Mars, Venus, Saturn and the Moon in the western sky after sunset, as well as the annual Perseid meteor shower to observe later in the evening. We planned this as a “scouting trip”, since we’d never been there (photographically at least), and our expectations for “wall hanger” images were pretty low. We figured we’d scout the place and come back another time armed with knowledge and hoping for good results.

The weather report wasn’t very good. Earlier in the week, heavy cloud cover and rain were predicted, and it was cloudy and rainy earlier that day. But by the time we arrived at Ponce inlet the clouds had parted and we were left with beautiful (but very hot) conditions.

We stopped first at the jetty and I made several photos including the one above and this one of a fisherman below the conjunction.

Ponce Inlet at dusk, fishing under the Moon & Venus

Ponce Inlet at dusk, fishing under the Moon and Venus – (Nikon D700, Nikkor 24-70mm lens @ 32mm, 13 second exposure @ f/22, ISO 200)

Next, we ventured over to the lighthouse looking to pair it with the conjunction. We had a bit of trouble finding the right place to park. This photo is from the parking lot on the south side of the lighthouse. We didn’t get there in time, but it’s possible that the view would have been better from the lot on the north side – something to try next trip. I made this two shot panorama with a 70 – 200mm lens. You could use a wider angle lens as well.

Ponce Inlet light, Moon, Venus, Mars, SaturnPonce Inlet light, Moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn – (Nikon D700, Nikkor 70 – 200mm lens @ 70mm, 6 second exposure @ f/8, ISO 200, 3 exposure composite panorama)

When we finished at the light house, there was time for a “Slurpee break” to cool off before moving down the beach. We found a good off beach parking area not far from the lighthouse and stopped to look for debris from comet Swift-Tuttle’s tail. Within the first few minutes (before our camera gear was set up), “Grasshopper” saw a large fireball meteor. But that was the only large one that night. Here’s a photo of “Donuts” and “Grasshopper” making star / meteor photos.

Grasshopper and Donuts perform photo-magic on the beach under the stars for an audience of three.Grasshopper and Donuts perform photo-magic on the beach under the stars for an audience of three – (Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm lens, 4 second exposure @ f/1.8, ISO 1600, manual focus on Donuts’ white shirt with Liveview)

For the set up at this place, I combined my old 50mm f/1.8 lens with the high ISO capabilities of the Nikon D-700. I wanted to make my exposures short so that the stars didn’t trail. I shot in manual exposure mode and checked the results to make sure I was getting what I wanted. There were some high clouds and haze and coupled with the light pollution in the area that made exposure tricky. It was too easy to overexpose the haze / glare, leading to an incandescent glow that hid the stars and meteors. I also used manual focus. I started by using Liveview enlarged around what I wanted to focus on. But with the 50mm lens, it was just as simple to use the infinity mark on the scale. I did manage to catch a couple of meteors, and here is one photo I made.

Long, dim, green Perseid meteorLong, dim, green Perseid meteor – (Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm lens, 3 second exposure @ f/1.8, ISO 1600, manual focus on infinity mark)

All in all, this was a very fine expedition and we all had a lot of fun. It exceeded expectations and you should try it sometime!

If you do want to try this, make sure you have both wide-angle and telephoto lenses and a sturdy tripod with a cable release. You can also read my post on night time photography for some hints on technique.

Click on any of the photos above to see them larger on Flickr. You can go here to see my Ponce Inlet photo set. “Donuts'” photos are here, and “Grasshopper’s” are here.

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.