Saturday, August 23, 2014

School is back in session

The Sky School that is.  This weekend is our annual training workshop for the graduate student fellows who serve as science instructors at our immersive, residential UA Sky School.  This year we have an outstanding group of 8 graduate fellows who will spend the academic year leading programs at the beautiful campus of the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter.  Below is an image of the group at Windy Point on the Catalina Highway.

As we hiked through the Lemmon Rock and Meadow Loop trails in the afternoon we were treated to some spectacular views of isolated thunderstorms moving across the Tucson valley.  Below is an image of one of these downdrafts.

Final image from the day is a Red Tailed Hawk that spent a few minutes checking us out during our tree identification lessons.  In case you are curious, he is sitting in a Ponderosa Pine, about 20 feet off the ground.  Click the image (or any of the others) to enlarge.

Monday, August 18, 2014

More stormy skies

Captured a few more images tonight, although the conditions were not nearly as favorable as last night.  Below are two images from tonight's storm taken with the Canon T2i and Rokinon 14mm f/2.8.  The first shows the clouds and rain illuminated from above and behind, while the second shows a strike within the falling rain.

Monsoon lightning

This weekend I received a new lens that I purchased specifically for taking exposures of the Milky Way, a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8.  This lens has a very good reputation for night time photographing of the skies and I was very happy with my first couple of shots (posted yesterday).  Despite the lens being fully manual with no electronic connection to the camera making focusing in the dark a challenge, the images are sharp and colors are rendered quite nicely.  Last night we had widespread thunderstorm activity throughout the Tucson valley and while we did not receive much rain at my house there was quite a bit of lightning.  I managed to capture the image below with the new lens; it is a 4 second exposure at ISO 400.  The raw file was processed in Photoshop and reduced in size for bandwidth purposes.  The picture was taken at 7:40 PM and it was quite dark out.  The illumination you see is primarily from the lighting itself.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Summer roundup

3 posts in 3 days faithful readers, I can hardly believe it myself.  My summer is essentially over with the University returning to full swing next week and our programming with the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter and UA Sky School full steam ahead.   I have been promising pictures from Mount Lemmon and without further ado below is an image of several of our domes taken from a very nice vantage point.  I was borrowing a friends Canon 6D which is a full frame camera (and a dream of mine) and using my 24-105mm zoom lens.  The image (as all of them in this post) is presented at a reduced resolution.  Overall I was very impressed with the dynamic range of 6D as well as the low noise when shooting at high ISO.

Any self-respecting blog post sharing images from Mount Lemmon must include a sunset.  No matter how many times I have watched sunset (more than I can count) from the summit, it is far and away my favorite experience on the mountain.  The image below was taken from the northwest area of the summit ridge while sitting quietly with a group of high school students visiting from Fryeburg Academy in Maine.  This was taken with my Canon T2i and a 10-22mm zoom lens.

This weekend we have seen some monsoon thunderstorms of the variety that make 2 months of no astronomical observing worthwhile.  These storms are simply ferocious with winds raging to 60 mph, driving rains, and lightning that can strike fear in even the most seasoned natives among us.  One of the benefits to these storms are the multitude of photographic opportunities that precede and follow them.  Below are two images from the storm we had Friday night.  Both images preceded the sunset storm with the clouds high in the western sky and rainbow in the eastern sky.

Both of these images were among the first I have taken with a new Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lends that I received on Friday.  I had just enough time to open the box, attach it to my Canon T2i and run outside.  I purchased this lens primarily for use in shooting the milky way due to it's fast aperture and reputation.  That being said, I was very impressed with the way the lens handled the spectacular colors in the evening sky and I will certainly be playing with this in the daytime as well.  This summer I had the opportunity to make a new friend, Jon Webb, at the Grand Canyon Star Party and he introduced me to this lens.  He spent the week imaging the Milky Way with this lens and you can see his results below.

Timelapse in Canyon Country from Jon Webb on Vimeo.
This short series of night and day sky time-lapse videos were taken during the summer of 2014 between Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and on the north rim of the Grand Canyon national park. While this video was not sponsored by the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) I would like to thank the NPS and all its employees for maintaining such beautiful locations so that I and others can enjoy the night sky from them. I would also like to thank the Saguaro Astronomy Club in Phoenix, AZ for hosting the star party on the north rim of the Grand Canyon where part of this footage was shot. Finally, while I do not own the rights to the soundtrack I would like to highlight the music, Human Legacy, produced by Ivan Torrent and I highly recommend viewers of this video check out his music.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A fountain of love

Picking up from yesterday's post and trying to build some blogging momentum, here are a few more pictures from the summer travels.  I know I indicated some Mount Lemmon images but I am pushing those to tomorrow.  First up today are a couple shots from our trip to North Carolina to see Beth's family.  While they live in Garner (a Raleigh suburb) we spent the majority of our time on the coast just south of Wilmington.  The weather was not the most cooperative for taking pictures during our stay (add to that that we spend most of our time on the beach) but I did get a couple pictures from Wilmington that are worth sharing.  First up is a picture of the boardwalk and the Cape Fear Memorial Lift Bridge on the Cape Fear River.   It is currently the highest bridge in North Carolina and features a lift span that can be raised 135 feet allowing ships to navigate below. The lift span itself is 408 feet long.  I was hoping to catch it with the lift span in the lifted position and a ship passing below, but no such luck this year.

The picture below was taken in front of the Federal Building in downtown Wilmington.  That sexy woman being swept up in front of the fountain is none other than my dear wife Beth (I am the guy doing the sweeping), and my son Ian took the picture.

Now that you have seen these two pictures, here is something interesting...I forgot to bring my camera with me that night and these images were both taken with my phone!  I have never been one to take pictures using my phone but I am amazed at the results. Keep in mind that these are reduced in resolution for the blog, from around 5000 pixels wide to 1200 in landscape orientation. In case you are wondering, it is a Samsung Galaxy (naturally).

Friday, August 15, 2014

No Parking in the Milky Way

It has been a busy and fun summer and I have gotten out of the occasional habit of posting to this blog. In the last two months I have taken trips to the Grand Canyon, North Carolina, San Francisco and am headed to Denver next week. Sometimes life is just too entertaining to take the time to sit and update the cyber world as to my movements.  Besides, it keeps my mother guessing.  So once again rather than write much I'll share a few pictures with more to follow.

Taken in May from the geology vista pullout on the Catalina Highway is this shot of the Milky Way over the light dome from Tucson.  We were out hoping to observe a newly identified meteor shower (the Cameleopardalids) and while the shower did not pan out, I did laugh at this shot of the Milky Way which actually hatched my plan to get out of a ticket should the Sherriff stop...."well officer, I thought it meant no parking in the Milky Way?"

Hopefully you have seen the time lapse of the Milky Way that I posted previously from the Grand Canyon North Rim Star Party in June, and this is a shot that shows you the veranda which sreved as our home base for the week...clearly, the best place to be on Earth in June.

This summer in Tucson provides few opportunities for astronomical observations...even when it is not raining we are frequently clouded out.  The picture below was taken at my house of some very dirty looking clouds.  I am starting to focus a little more on becoming a better photographer and taking pictures of these clouds was rather challenging, and the result is not too bad.

That's all for this up will be a few pictures from Mount Lemmon.