Posts Tagged: astrophotography

The Setting New Moon and Mt. Tom

The Setting New Moon and Mt. Tom

Tues. 02.28.17 – Last evening I went out to my photography corner of Brockman Lane and Dixon Lane*, so that I could take photos of the New Moon as it set behind Mt. Tom to the west. I used the US Navy Observatory Moon rise and set calculator to figure out when it would set and when civil twilight would be so I could take the above new moon photo and attempt to take a photo of the Mars & Uranus conjunction.

When I drove out at 6:30pm, it was approximately 42F / 5.5C and there were frogs singing their little hearts out. Odd but true. Frogs trying to get laid in February when it is still dipping below 32F / 0C at night. By the time I finished nearly 40 minutes later, it was at least 5 degrees colder, a wind had picked up, and the frogs had wisely retreated. My gloves** were not equal to the task at hand and my fingers were sending mayday alerts.

The good news is that I was able to take a series of photos of the Moon and Venus (Instagram), the Moon setting behind Mt. Tom (Flickr), three photos of Mars & Uranus.

Why no posted photos of Mars & Uranus with the used Nikon 70-200mm f4 lens taken with my Nikon D800? Post-processing is my achilles heel. I love to shoot, but I hate post-processing. Working in Lightroom and Photoshop bring out the worst of my personality and work habits. I am normally a patient person who can spend hours crafting a thing, but not in photo post-processing.

Last night, the Flickr version of the Moon Setting on Mt. Tom was my favorite of the three photos I took within a minute and then processed the RAW files to jpg. This morning, the photo I posted above is my favorite. But the truth of the matter is that only the Instagram photo that I took with my camera phone captured the color of the late dusk sky correctly.

No matter how I fiddled in Lightroom last night, I could not get the RAW files to have the right two tones of the late dusk sky. I had to resort to using split tone highlights and shadows – this feels like it is too much processing. But that is the point of shooting RAW, I get to do my own processing and not let the camera generate the jpg.

Anywhoo, forgive my grousing. If you have a clear horizon, do go look at the new moon as it sets tonight. Astro Bob has a nice blog post on the new moon for the 27th & 28th of February, as well as how to find Mars & Uranus with binoculars.

*Do you all sense a theme here? Local high point with low sagebrsuh so the view of the Eastern Sierra, the White Mtns., and the Owens Valley is good.

** I wonder how my Finnish photo friends shoot at night and dawn in winter with a tripod? I must inquire what gloves they use that allow for dexterity & flexibility but keep one’s hands warm.

Orion Rising over The Moovalya Keys

Orion Rising over The Moovalya Keys

Sun 12.18.16 – A photo of Orion Rising over the Moovalya Keys taken from the boat ramp looking east this evening by Ms. Jen with her Lumia 950 camera phone. This was handheld at 4 seconds and 3200 ISO, there was a bit of post-processing to get rid of the glare from the lights on the house.

Double click on the photo for the larger version.

Dusk Tonight or The Almost Super Moon

The Moon that in 12 Hours Will Be Super and Full Bolsa Chica Wetlands at Dusk Triangle of Airplane, Venus, and Mercury - along with Emmy, Eva, and Catalina Island

Sun 11.13.16 – Late this afternoon, I drove down to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve Station at the corner of Bolsa Chica Ave and Pacific Coast Highway to take photos of the Almost Super Moon as it rose in the late 4 o’clock hour. After all the photos were taken, I drove to the Huntington Cliffs parking lot at the top of Dog Beach to take photos of Mars, Venus, and Mercury in the last of the dusk. Afterwards, I walked Belle le Cane along the Cliffs. It was a lovely start to the evening.

All photos taken by Ms. Jen with her Nikon D800 and a Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lens. Please double click on the thumbnails for the larger lightbox gallery.

Comet Catalina and the Big Dipper

Comet Catalina and the Big Dipper
Close up of Comet Catalina
The Stellarium map to Comet Catalina

Mon 01.18.16 – Yesterday, the 17th of January, Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) was closest to Earth before it departs for the outer solar system.

For the last few evenings, I have been duly trotting out around 10 or 11pm to see if the cloud cover has cleared enough for me to see the rising of the Big Dipper in the northeast.

Last night, I got fairly lucky with a patchy sky and the sky opened up to mostly clear in the northeast. The first photo above is my photo of the rising of the Big Dipper, the second photo is a cropped close up to show the small fuzzy turquoise cotton ball that my camera captured of Comet Catalina (top left middle), and the third photo is a screenshot from Stellarium to map out / illustrate where one would find Comet Catalina in the sky last night at the time I took the photo.

Not too spectacular, but I was shooting with my 50mm lens and not my telescope. Through my binoculars, I could see a faint tail. Very faint.

Photos taken with by Jenifer Hanen with her Nikon D800 camera and a Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lens.

From One Not-So-Great Photo, Three Good Photos – or How Astrophotography pushes me to up my Lightroom Skills

1. The last of the Summer Section of the Milky Way - The Original
2. The last of the Summer Section of the Milky Way - Warm Tones 3. The last of the Summer Section of the Milky Way - Cool Tones 4. The last of the Summer Section of the Milky Way in B&W

Sun 11.01.15 – Those of you who have read this blog and/or have spoken to me in person about photography know that I get my joy from the taking of the photos and the moment thereof, not in the post-processing activities that are such a part of digital photography. It is the drag and lack of joy of the processing of a digital photo that sent me squealing with joy into the arms of mobile photography in December 2004 – OMG – take the photo and post it to the internet directly from my phone – How Marvelous! No Photoshop! Thank all the minor deities ruling over silicon wafer chips and camera phones from Finland!

By and large in my current photography practice, I use Lightroom to organize, add metadata and titles, and to catalog all of the photos I take, be it with my mobile phone, my Nikon D800, or a real live film camera (negatives scanned to digital files). Other than a few tweaks to white balance or exposure or a crop here or there, I rarely spend much time in the post-processing of my photography. I prefer my photos to look as much as possible as what I and others would have seen at the scene.

The big exception to this workflow is my astrophotography photos that I take with my Nikon D800. While I follow many of the common best practices for how to best shoot my astronomy photos, I currently don’t have a working Equatorial Mount (the one I have is gimpy and makes me want to poke my eyeballs out), thus if I want to have my stars show up as pinpoints, which I do, and not trails I have to keep my exposures to under 15 seconds and on top of that, I prefer to keep my ISO set to 1600 or less to limit pictorial noise.

The short exposure times plus the lower ISO means that I do need to do some post-processing work, more than just exposure and white balance, on my astro photos to bring out the night sky and so artistic choices need to be made – of which the biggest is how much do I let the Nikon sensor do the talking (colors galore!) and how much do I desaturate the photos to make it look more like what my eye saw in the moment.

The human eye for reasons to do with biology sees the night sky in blacks, whites, grays, and occasional light pollution glow. The fantastic colors seen in most Milky Way and Nebula photos your eye will never see, but your camera’s sensor will esp. with filters. Through a telescope the Orion Nebula is in black and white to our vision, but in a photo with minimal through to maximal processing it is a riot of pinks, reds and a panoply of rainbow colors.

I find myself frustrated by the Milky Way photos that I see out and about as they look fantastical – a world my eyes will never see. So, when I am post-processing the astro photos I take, I find myself in a quandary to how much do I reveal what the camera’s sensor saw or do I spend more time at a process I don’t like to desaturate to get a photo that looks more like what I saw?

Most of the time, after working on a photo or two, I get completely overwhelmed and I just stop and tell myself I will come back later, which I rarely do. And so the vicious cycle starts again, the blackhole of my computer eats up my photography.

Last night after I returned from photographing the Milky Way and imported the photos into Lightroom and after working on a few photos, I found myself working on one of the more mediocre photos to see how much I could push it and I did. I created three versions of the photo and posted two to social media, one to flickr and the other to Instagram, leaving my preferred photo for here.

Instead of just posting the preferred photo to this space, I decided that I would post all four photos: 1. The original photo as it came out of the camera, 2. The photo I like best but feel it is still too ‘colorful’, 3. The blue tinged desaturated photo I posted to flickr, and finally, 4. The black and white rendition that I posted to Instagram.

All the same original not-so-great photo, but all processed differently and thus each turned into a pretty decent if not good photo of the Milky Way. It is the joy of the alchemy of this transformation that I can see how many people find their joy in the post-processing of their digital photos.

I still don’t think I will ever spend hours on one photo in Photoshop as I have seen some do, in fact, blasphemy ahead… I don’t have Photoshop installed on my machine right now, just Lightroom and Fireworks.

Gasp. Shock. Horror.

Don’t even talk to me about star stacking software. Gah.