T-Mount Try Out

The T-Mount system was devised by Tamron in the 1950s to allow their lenses to be used on many different cameras. It’s also the system used to attach a camera to the prime focus of a telescope. I’d never tried it, so I ordered a T-Ring and Sony adapter and gave it a go.

All of these images were made with a Sony A6600 APSC camera mounted on a NexStar 6SE telescope at prime focus using the T-Mount adapter. I captured multiple frames for each and processed them with astro photo capabilities added recently to Affinity Photo.

In prime focus astrophotography, you’re using the telescope as a lens, mounted directly to your camera. There’s no eyepiece involved, although you can insert additional optics into the light path. I used three different configurations.

1. Prime focus, with a Celestron f/6.3 Reducer Corrector. Equivalent focal length = 1.5 x 1500 x 0.63 = 1418mm

In the first image I used a Reducer / Corrector. This both widens the field of view / lowers the focal length, and flattens the field to enhance sharpness at the edges. This worked OK, but did have some obvious vignetting that was hard to deal with in post processing.

Luna 2.Prime focus. Equivalent focal length = 1.5 x 1500 = 2259mm.

Image 2 is the same setup, but straight from the telescope to the camera. There was no vignetting and I think the image quality is very high. The featured image at the top of this post is a crop from this photo. (Note: This one is posted on Flickr and is worth a click to see in greater detail. Click it twice when you get there to enlarge it.)

3. Prime focus with a Meade 2x Barlow lens. Equivalent focal length = 1.5 x 1500 x 2 = 4500mm

And finally, image 3 uses a Barlow lens, which is like a 2x extender. The image quality in this one is not as good. That could be due to degradation from the Barlow, a slight mis-focus, or vibrations / motion (or all three!).


Conclusions:

  • Check and double check all settings and adjustments.
  • These are longer focal lengths than anything I’ve ever tried before. Technique is super important and it’s hard to know if you’ve messed up until you get things on the computer later.
  • The straight prime focus method works very well. The image quality is the best I’ve gotten through the telescope, It’s better than the afocal approach (camera lens through an eyepiece) I used for this post.
  • The reducer / corrector works OK, but I’ll probably shy away from it unless I need a wider field of view. And if that’s the case I think I’d try using piggy-back photography first.
  • The 2x Barlow approach is challenging. The magnification makes any focus or motion issues much worse. This should probably be reserved for planets, and used as a second option to straight prime focus or piggy-back with a long telephoto lens.
  • There is a lot to learn about astro photography!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – make some (astro) photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Happy Valentine’s Day

Years ago, Lynn brought a few ferns back from her mother’s home over in Bartow, Florida and transplanted them into our back garden. Since then, they’ve thrived, and a few usually even grow on our brick fence. We noticed last weekend that they’d arranged themselves into a very nice message appropriate for today’s holiday.

Happy Valentine's Day Ferns in a Valentine’s Day arrangement on our backyard fence.

I’m a bit unsure if they didn’t get the “E” done in time, or if maybe they were going for the colloquial “LUV”. Anyway, this isn’t photoshopped and unless there’s a stealth gardener we didn’t notice sneaking into our back yard, these ferns grew this way naturally. The odds of something like this happening spontaneously have to be vanishingly small. Maybe it’s more likely nature is trying to send us a message?

Peace and ‘Lov’ to all of you gentle readers. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And today, cherish your valentine!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

MINWR – 2/5/21

Well. Kevin M. wanted to meet and photograph the SpaceX launch scheduled for 5:15 am last Friday morning. Talk about zero dark thirty!

Anyway, I was all packed and prepared Thursday night when the launch was postponed. Since I was ready to go, I decided to head over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge anyway on Friday morning (just not so early!). I’m glad I did. I got to see a lot more things flying than just a space ship. By the way, if you like to look at photos of SpaceX launches, their Flickr stream is awesome.

With our recent cool, clear weather, I expected few clouds and a so-so sunrise. But this scene with the sun rising below the clouds and centered behind the Vehicle Assemble Building at Kennedy Space Center was pretty.

VAB SunriseVAB Sunrise

Gator Creek Road at MINWR has been closed for a while so I was glad to see it finally open again. They’ve been busy maintaining the dirt road surface and trimming vegetation along the sides. You can see a little better now – and you don’t have to dodge potholes! There was a lot of bird action.

A large squabble of gullsA large squabble of gulls (Mostly Laughing and Ring-billed)

Birding is interesting in many ways. For instance, you can always call a group of birds a “flock”. But I think the group names for different bird species are fun. If you’ve ever listened to a big “squabble” like this, you’ll probably agree it’s an appropriate name for gulls. You can also call a gull group a “flotilla”, “gallery”, “screech”, or “scavenging”.

I’m not sure what attracted these huge gatherings to Gator Creek. but they sure seemed to like it there.

A tightly stacked scoop of Skimmers A tightly stacked scoop of Skimmers

“Scoop” is a wonderful name for a group of Skimmers too. The classic photo for Skimmers is of a single one feeding just above a calm surface with its lower mandible in the water (like this one). I didn’t see any of that behavior on Friday, but I really liked this alternate flight shot. It’s hard to understand how they fly that close without hitting each other. Groups of Skimmers are also known as a “conspiracy” or “embezzlement”.

On Black Point Wildlife Drive the water was very low in spots but there was still a lot to see. Here’s one more group flight shot:

A fling of DunlinsA fling of Dunlins

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that Dunlin are sort of a life bird for me. What I mean is I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them before, but I find Sandpipers challenging to ID and I’d never consciously done so with Dunlin. I also saw / ID’d some Western Sandpipers on Friday for the first time. Flocks of Dunlin are also called a “flight” or “trip”.

And here’s one last bird photo. This group was a lot smaller than the others. They were spread out and flying around so fast the only time I could grab a collective image was when they settled for just a moment.

A small worm of American RobbinsA small worm of American Robbins

It looks as though there’s only the one name for a group of Robins. I suppose you could always be boring and call them a “flock”.

If these names interest you, here’s a good summary article on the subject: https://www.thespruce.com/flock-names-of-groups-of-birds-386827

So that was a great visit to my favorite wildlife refuge! In addition to the birds above, I also saw a Bottle Nose Dolphin, Alligators, a Bald Eagle, Roseate Spoonbills, Forster’s Terns, a Eurasian Collared Dove, Brown Pelicans, Turkey Vultures, Ospreys, Ibis, American Avocets, Great Blue and Tricolor Herons, Redish Egrets, Great and Snowy Egrets, and some others that I’m forgetting or (once again) didn’t ID.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved


GO BUCS!!!

Wildlife Panoramas

Sometimes you want to get closer / zoom in with your lens to show as much detail as possible but if you do, you can’t fit everything in your frame. When I’m in that situation I try to expand the frame by making a stitched panorama. It’s a common approach for landscape images – but it can also work for wildlife and I don’t see that mentioned very often elsewhere. Here’s a recent example I assembled from two photos:

Pretty in Pink 2
Pretty in Pink

And here’s one more made from three photos:

A Partial Pod of PelicansA Partial Pod of Pelicans. (Click to see larger on Flickr. Click again to zoom in)

I’ve written about this before, so I won’t repeat myself. If you’re interested in my approach, see these two posts:

And there’s much more info on the web waiting for your DuckDuckGo or Google search.

There is an added complication to watch out for when stitching wildlife panoramas: the animals may move between frames. For that reason, I shoot as quickly as possible. I try stitching the frames together automatically and look for any anomalies along seams. If I find some, then I assemble the panorama manually in photoshop and mask out the issues.

I enjoy making these and have many more collected in this folder on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157637736002816. Take a look to see some possibilities.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – stitch some panoramas!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

The Telescope

Comet Neowise and the Great Conjuction in 2020 made me think about the telescope I’ve had in the closet for many years. I’m happy with the images I made of those two events, but I regret not trying to use the scope to photograph them.

I’d only ever used it for observing. Photographing through a telescope requires a much higher level of knowledge and technical skill. In addition to knowing how to set up and align the scope and camera, you have to understand and balance many more factors: camera (ISO, aperture, exposure time, focus, …), astro (atmosphere, alignment / tracking, field rotation, …) and post processing. So I thought I’d try a couple of shots to see what it could do.

Moon
Earth’s natural satellite. Using a Sony DSC-RX100M3 camera (1″ sensor), afocal through Celestron NexStar6 SE scope and 40mm eyepiece; Thirteen frames, manually aligned in photoshop and blended with smart stack mode median.

I used the moon to get everything set up and tested. Next I wanted to try to photograph a Deep sky object. They’re plentiful, but harder to find or even see. I picked the Orion Nebula as my second target – it’s probably the easiest DSO. Even here in my back yard, Orion’s belt stands out.

Orion Nebula
Orion Nebula. Same setup as above, using six frames instead of thirteen.

I know these aren’t Hubble level images or even very good amateur astronomer images. But I’m pleased with how they turned out. I want to continue exploring photography with the telescope and see how well it can work in my urban (and light polluted) environment. If I make some progress, I’ll share the images with you.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – make some (astro) photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

That Darn Dodging Duck

You may remember my post from late last year (https://edrosack.com/2020/12/13/three-spoonbills/) where I mentioned a Cinnamon Teal that’s been wintering on Black Point Wildlife Drive in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  I didn’t find the bird on that trip and it avoided me on three more tries, although reports kept coming that others had seen it. Finally on my fifth try last Tuesday I actually saw it with my own eyes!

Odd duck
Cinnamon Teal

This is my first sighting and photo of one so it’s another addition to my (relatively short) birding life list.

Another update for today: It’s been a long while since I’ve visited Bio Lab Road. Damage from Hurricane Dorian closed it for a while, but that’s all been repaired now and the road is in very good shape. Howard T. told me they’d driven it a few weeks ago so I decided to check it out too.

A cloudy day on the Indian River
A cloudy day on the Indian River

There are some nice views across the Indian River through breaks in the vegetation. I think this one looking out across that sand bar is very “Florida”.

Bio Lab road is a good place to see large gators. I’m not sure if this is the same one Howard saw, but it’s huge. I was glad it was across the canal!

A big one
A big one

And here’s one last image from the day, also on Bio Lab Road. I don’t often see these little falcons and this one stayed still for a moment so I could make a photo:

American Kestrel
American Kestrel

It was cloudy last Tuesday. Some might think the light was bad and I agree it was dim. But diffuse, even light can be a plus. Direct sunlight can be harsh and create deep shadows and blown highlights. I had to raise my ISO to get decent shutter speeds for some of these shots, but the camera sensor handled it well. So if you’re out photographing on a cloudy day, use your ISO setting!

Thanks, Howard for reminding me to re-visit Bio Lab Road! And thanks to that darn dodging duck for providing such a large dose of motivation to get out, enjoy nature, and keep looking!

Thanks to all of you too for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

(Blue) Spring Into the New Year!

Editors note: Here’s a post from our visiting correspondent MaryKate – this time from right here in Central Florida.  Enjoy!

Manatee Couple at Blue Spring State Park
Manatee Couple at Blue Spring State Park

I recently met a friend at Blue Spring State Park, the “Winter Home of Manatees,” for a nature walk and manatee viewing. With many offshoots and observation decks, the wide wooden boardwalk makes for a safe place to enjoy nature and view wildlife during COVID – – – IF you get there early.

Boardwalk at Blue Spring State Park
Boardwalk at Blue Spring State Park

The manatee viewing was amazing, even with “just” ~150 manatees on the day that we went. The weather was cooler the week before, and manatee counts were ~ 400! Regardless, we saw plenty of manatees, fish, birds, beautiful scenery, and even this upsidedown-atee!

Upside-down-atee
Upsidedown-atee

The park opens at 8 am, and I arrived around 7:55 am, but I was stuck in a line of cars waiting to get in. I’d suggest arriving by 7:40 or 7:45 am to skip the traffic. You can purchase a park vehicle admission pass in advance here, but you can only purchase same day. I recommend buying in the morning right before you head over.

Blue Spring State Park
St. Johns River at Blue Spring State Park Entrance

It was relatively empty at the beginning of our morning, and all park visitors were wearing masks and keeping socially distanced. However, by about 9:30 am, it started to get crowded, and many of the late arrivers weren’t as well behaved.

Blue Spring State Park
Coming Up for Air

Florida Manatees are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. While this status was officially downgraded in 2017 from endangered, the population is still at risk: in 2020, over 600 Florida Manatees died, with 114 of those deaths being caused by humans (i.e. boat strikes). Want to help? Consider donating to Save The Manatee Club, a nonprofit founded by Jimmy Buffet and Bob Graham, and the world’s leading manatee conservation organization.

Blue Spring State Park
Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints.

You can read a couple of previous posts on Mantees and Blue Spring State Park here: https://edrosack.com/2014/01/24/blue-spring-state-park/ and here: https://edrosack.com/2017/01/28/manatees/.

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

©2020, MK Rosack and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Lake Jesup’s South Shore

I doubt many landscape photographers have the south shore of Lake Jesup in Seminole County on their must do list. But local parks are a great resource and we should take advantage of them. At the very least, you can practice your landscape photo skills and maybe spot some wildlife too. I went for a very short drive last week and made three stops. Here are some photos from the trip.

By the shore
By the shore I

This first one is in Central Winds park in Winter Springs, down past the playground and basketball court where there’s a short nature trail leading to the the lake and this view. I used a 16mm focal length (with a variable ND filter to lengthen the exposure and smooth the water) and made two frames (using this technique) to capture both the tree / sky in the distance (ISO 100, f/11, 1/4 second ) and the foreground (ISO 100, f/11, 1 second). Then I blended them by hand in Photoshop using layers.

By the shore - II
By the shore II.

Stop two is a little west, on the pier that you’ll get to when you turn in at the dog park and drive past it down to the lake. Two frames again with the same general approach as the first image. Sky at ISO 100, f/11, 1/6 second; Foreground at ISO 100, f/11, 1/2 second.

By the shore - III
By the shore III

And stop three is east of the other two at Overlook Park in Oviedo. Also using the same general approach (although no ND filter for this one). Sky at ISO 100, f/11, 1/200 second; Foreground at ISO 100, f/11, 1/80 second.

Finally, this Oak tree caught my eye and I made one last photo on the walk back to my car:

Hanging moss
Hanging Moss

I used my phone – 13mm equivalent focal length, ISO 25, f/2.4 at 1/240 sec.

Here’s a map image showing all three locations (yellow markers) to give you a better idea of where they are:

Three Stops

Note: If you clicked on any of the photos, you’ve noticed I’m trying a new way to embed Flickr photos. Starting with this post, a click on a photo will still take you to that image on Flickr, but now it will open in “Lightbox” mode and fill your browser widow. You can still click once (or twice) to enlarge it, and you can hit the escape key to return to the non-lightbox view. Then use your browser’s back button to return to the blog.

By the way, the tree in the center of the first photo has been on the blog twice before, here https://edrosack.com/2010/11/21/local-park-landscapes/ and here https://edrosack.com/2010/05/16/under-the-weather/. I think I like this latest version the best.

And you can review all my posts about Lake Jesup at this link: https://edrosack.com/category/photo-ops-in-florida/lake-jesup/.

Happy New Year! We’re all looking forward to better times in 2021! Lynn and I are waiting to get vaccinated so we can visit family and friends again and life can return toward normal. I hope that doesn’t take too long.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – visit your local park and make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Merritt Island NWR – December 2020

‘Twas the night after Christmas*

‘Twas the night after Christmas and I sat at my desk,
trying to decide which photos were best.

To the refuge I’d been three times in December.
I was writing a blog post to help me remember.

All of these pictures I selected with care.
In hopes that they’d make you feel like you’re there.


This light on the Fish Camp made me pause for a bit.
When the pandemic’s over, we’ll stop in and sit.

Early morning at the Fish Camp Bar & GrillEarly morning at the Fish Camp Bar & Grill. On SR 46 at the St. Johns River.

Going into the refuge the river’s reflection,
painted this scene approaching perfection.

Clouds on the Indial RiverClouds on the Indian River. Just south of Veterans Memorial Park.

Kingfishers on Black Point are loud and brash.
But I managed to catch one, heading off in a flash.

Belted Kingfisher 3Male Belted Kingfisher in flight

A Common Yellowthroat posed in the brush.
Then he flew away in a very big rush.

Common YellowthroatMale Common Yellowthroat

Storks in formation soared by above,
A wonderful subject to make photos of.

Formation flight: Three Wood StorksThree Wood Storks in flight

And what to my wondering eyes should appear?
A pretty pink spoonbill, preening quite near.

Preening SpoonbillPreening Roseate Spoonbill

Other birds to the refuge, they also came.
It’s wonderful to see them and call them by name.

Now Ospreys, Shovelers, Pelicans and all,

Norther ShovelerNorthern Shoveler drake

White PelicanWhite Pelican

Now egrets and herons, with all of your calls,

Reddish EgretReddish Egret

Black-crowned Night-HeronBlack-crowned Night-Heron

Now woodpeckers, cardinals, eagles, owls and more,
So many birds along the shore!

I know I saw a bug in there...Red-bellied Woodpecker. “I know I saw a bug in there…”

Male Cardinal in the MangrovesMale Cardinal in the Mangroves

Nesting Great Horned OwlNesting Great Horned Owl

Large birds, small birds, short birds and tall,
stay for a while, don’t dash away all!

Ibises and SpoonbillsIbises and Spoonbills

Ibises and EgretsIbises and Egrets

And I exclaimed as I turned out the light:
“HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL,
AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!”

Calm HarborCalm Harbor – Titusville Marina


Note:  I ended up visiting Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge three times this month and I had so many unused images from these trips that I decided to re-do a post from December 2019 with updated words to fit the new photos. MINWR is a truly wonderful place – especially at this time of year. I’m very grateful that I live close by!

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope this holiday season brings each and every one of you and your loved ones peace and joy. I know the pandemic has been extra challenging and not being with family is especially hard at Christmas time. Stay safe and take care of each other so we can all enjoy the better times that are on the way for 2021!

This is my last post of 2020, but I’ll be back next Sunday with another one. Until then, have a happy and safe New Year!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

*With sincere apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.

Are you ready for the Great Conjunction?

I’m posting early this week to give you a little advanced notice on an upcoming astronomical event.

A Great Conjunction is when the planets Jupiter and Saturn appear closest together in the night sky. The one happening next Monday (21 December) is the closest they’ve been since 1623. Here’s a Wikipedia article with more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_conjunction

Kevin M ( www.flickr.com/photos/44542650@N08/) motivated me to go out and practice for it this evening. My first attempt is below.

Io, Jupiter, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Titan, and Saturn (bottom to top)Io, Jupiter, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Titan, and Saturn (bottom to top)

These planets are much brighter than their moons, so to get an image with a little detail in the planets and still show the moons requires stacking multiple frames. This one is a total of 5 frames – 4 for the planets (exposed at ISO 800, f/9, 1/250); and 1 frame for the moons (ISO 800, f/9, 1/40). It’s been heavily cropped and then digitally zoomed with ML Super Res in Pixelmator Pro.

Here’s a diagram from the SkySafari program identifying the objects and their positions for tonight.

 And this is the diagram updated for Monday night:

These are at the same scale, so you can see how much closer they’ll be on the 21st.

I’m hoping the weather will be clear. If so, I plan to at least make another image using tonight’s approach. But I’m also thinking about digging out my telescope. I haven’t used it in a long time. If I can get it running and aligned I should be able to make a little better photo. I guess I’ll see…

Are you going to try and photograph this? If so, I’d really like to see your images.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – capture a conjunction!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved


12/22/20 edit:

Clouds last night were challenging.  This was the scene at sunset:

And this is how it looked once it was dark enough to see the conjunction:

I went ahead and made some frames and this is the best of the bunch (same approach as above except I didn’t use ML Super Res in Pixelmator Pro this time).  Click on this one to view a larger version on Flickr.

Great Conjuction, 12-21-2020Great Conjuction, 12-21-2020. Left to right: Callisto, Io, Ganymede, Jupiter, Europa, Saturn

I did get the telescope out and tested. It seems to work fine but given the seeing conditions, I didn’t take time to set up and use it. I think I’ll save that for a future project when those two planets are higher in the sky (although not in conjunction!).