The Middle of It All

Center of Milky Way galaxy, Randolph, NH. 30 second exposure, ISO 6400, 18mm, f/3.5
Center of Milky Way galaxy, Randolph, NH. 30 second exposure, ISO 6400, 18mm, f/3.5

Ventured out tonight, because it was clear and warm. Got one okay shot of the Milky Way. Focusing in wide angle remains a problem. I also should have used my hat to cover the lens at the beginning and end of the exposure.

Still, a gorgeous evening.


Dead Man’s Curve

NH Route 16, looking north, 30 second exposure.
NH Route 16, looking north, 30 second exposure.

Seriously. They call it that. It’s dodgy even in summer, but the view at the turnout (looking the other way) is pretty nifty.

Andromeda Galaxy (M31), NASA photo.
Andromeda Galaxy (M31), NASA photo.

Unfortunately, not only was it cloudy looking south, the trees have grown in so there’s not much to see for another couple of months when the foliage thins out.

I’m still trying to work on my wide angle focusing for shots like this. Stars are either in focus or they aren’t. I did so-so tonight. I like that a few late-night travelers were heading toward Gorham or points north, east, or west. I notice that one of the cars’ brake lights is flickering. Maybe all taillights do that, and it takes a long exposure to see the pattern that our eyes miss.

My favorite part of a north-facing summer sky shot is the Andromeda Galaxy, shown here above and a little to the right of the mountain peak. Stars in the frame are anywhere from, I don’t know, 20 to 1,000 light years away; after they trail off, there’s another 2.3 million light years of empty space before we run into Andromeda, itself about 150,000 light years across.


Nearby stars Altair (left) and Vega, 20 second exposure, ISO 6400.

I really wanted to enjoy shooting last night. I hadn’t done any shots of the sky in several weeks, but it was warm and clear. Knowing such days are literally numbered, I set up in the back yard and started taking exposures. I didn’t stay out for long.

As you can see from how blurry the tree is, the breeze was strong. It was strange: warm and unrelenting. The bright glow on the branches is misleading. To regular, non-time-exposure human eyes, it was pretty dark. The hiss of the breeze made me feel like someone was watching me. Twice I sensed something approaching, thinking it was the neighbor’s dog, and clapped really loudly. When I did that, I didn’t hear whatever it was stop moving—more like I heard it stop being silent.

I got five or six exposures, none of them very good, and finally gave up. I hurriedly collapsed the tripod with the camera still attached and got the hell out. I have to admit I walked a bit too quickly back to the porch. Just as I was walking up the back steps, I heard something heavy walking behind me. I turned around and yelled “Hey!” into the dark. There were two unmistakable sound of footfalls in the shadows by the garage, then whatever it was scampered away.

On that note, I saw my first bear this morning. I was driving to the nearby town of Milan for a meeting. About 200 yards ahead, I saw a black blob ambling across the road. It had disappeared into the brush by the time I reached that point.

New rule: No more going outside by myself in the dark.

Open Shutter

Milky Way, ISO 3200, 18mm, f/3.5, 62"
Milky Way and Cygnus the Swan (left of center), ISO 3200, 18mm, f/3.5, 62″

Tonight was perfect—70 degrees and clear. The skies here are the darkest I’ve ever seen. Many of my images contained a satellite trail or two, including this one. If it weren’t for the streetlights across the highway, I’d be in heaven.

Destination Moon

IMG_2509I used to shoot photos of the moon with my iPhone. I used a mail order bracket and my lousy old Sears refracting telescope. The quality wasn’t the best, but I like how it evokes the old Chesley Bonestell artwork from the 1950s. Years before the Apollo missions, we figured that the lunar maria were smooth, ringed with jagged peaks, based on how they looked through earthbound telescopes.

We found out later that the moon looks completely different when you actually visit. The maria  are strewn with boulders and pocked with smaller craters, while meteorites have worn the mountains into rolling hills. I like Bonestell’s version better.