Sunday, November 18, 2012

Last night's banana moon

One of the benefits of having a new puppy is that I am forced to go outside for 5-10 minutes every hour and a half. Yes it's a lot of work, but the silver lining is that I've never been more familiar with the night sky than I have these past 2 weeks.

A few days ago, as the new moon began to reveal a small crescent of light, I didn't get a photo and have regretted it since. Last night the moon was a solid crescent banana shape, which isn't as mystical as the hair-thin crescent moon - but still good target practice for my camera.

banana moon
ISO 400 (I think), 1/1000sec, handheld
I took this picture after getting home from the gym, and I was worried about moving the camera too much - but the moon was about to slip behind the apartment roofline so I decided to go for it without a tripod. At 1/1000sec exposure, the motion blur is minimal. I would have liked to try some different exposure settings to capture the earthshine on the dark side, but longer exposures would have required a tripod or an extremely steady hand. Maybe next time!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Star trails over Bowling Green on a cold November night

After my excitement over the Orion Nebula and Jupiter in my last post, it's good to get back to some fun star circles - except it was freezing outside tonight! Where Jupiter is a quick pic, I forgot how boring it can be making star trails (especially when it is 28 degrees out).

star trails with canon rebel xt
98 stacked images, 25 sec each, ISO 200

This was my first stacked star trail image on the Canon Rebel XT. Since there was no moon to auto-focus on, I tried focusing on the apartments about 200 yards away. It seemed to work, plus focus isn't as critical with trail pics anyway. Notice how the trails aren't as dotted with the Canon Rebel XT! That's because the camera doesn't have to process for 10 seconds between each photo. Woo!

light pollution and orion
Beautiful light pollution (an oxymoron?)

This was one of my test images before I taped the shutter button down. I think it's pretty cool! It's almost like an inverted Northern Lights. Parking lot light pollution never looked so magical.

star trails over bowling green ohio
Rather messy, stacked right over myself in the foreground

self portrait with orion
Self portrait frame from previous stack

portrait of my camera
Photo of the Rebel XT from the PowerShot

photo looking up below tripod at stars
Looking up below the tripod

Friday, November 9, 2012

Orion Nebula, Jupiter's moons, and the Pleiades on an early Winter morning

At around 5:00am ET on November 6, 2012 I was taking my new puppy out to piddle. When I looked up, I saw a brilliant clear sky with Orion, Taurus, and the Pleiades just over the roof of my apartment complex. It was about 30 degrees out, but I figured since I was up I'd jump on the opportunity. I went back inside to get my Canon with 300mm lens to take my first night sky photos since September.

My biggest problem the last time I tried using the Canon was the inability to focus on the stars. Through trial and error, I know it's possible to get the focus right after shooting a picture, viewing it and zooming to see the result. Luckily, I had a 25% moon that allowed me to auto-focus at a good distance, so these steps were not required.

I snapped a few pictures at a lower ISO and longer exposure time, and noticed since the zoom was so tight, the stars would form trails much sooner than in a wider frame. I cranked the ISO up to 1600 and reduced the shutter time to just 3.2 seconds. This gave me almost round stars (rather than lines) and a clearer view of the nebula clouds.

orion nebula with canon Canon Digital Rebel XT 300mm
Orion Nebula, ISO 1600, 3.2 sec, 300mm

orion nebula taurus and pleiades with Canon PowerShot A3100IS
Orion Nebula, Jupiter, and the Pleiades, ISO 400, 10 sec

Pleiades with Canon Digital Rebel XT 300mm
Pleiades, ISO 1600, 3.2 sec, 300mm

Jupiter with Canon Digital Rebel XT 300mm
Jupiter and 3 moons, ISO 1600, 3.2 sec, 300mm
orion nebula instagram
Crop of the Orion Nebula with HDR and filter on Instagram