After nearly two months of rain, rain, and cloudy skies — we finally have been able to see the sun and very blue skies. At night, I have been using the time to get night sky images, as well as lunar images through some of my exotic 300, 400, 500, and 600 mm lenses. One of the problems I was having for the overnight time-lapsed images was that the lens would get covered by condensation during the night and ruin the night sky images. ARRG! As the weekend progressed, the temperature rose and the relative humidity decreased. I finally got a full night image set with limited problems with condensation. The first set in the video was taken with a Nikon D3 and 16 mm f/2.8 fisheye lens looking north from my back deck. The second set was taken with a Nikon D3s and 14-24 mm f/2.8 lens @ 14 mm. There was a little bit of condensation that impacted the end of the video from this lens.
Lessons learned: 1) I need to look into a resistive heater to keep the lenses warm enough to prevent condensation. 2) I didn’t know that the 14-24 mm lens would creep if pointed straight up — during one night the focal length changed from 14 to 18 mm. For the last night, I used Gaffer tape to fix the focal length of the lens at 14 mm. 3) My tripod/heads are not strong enough to prevent movement when I change batteries. Look into an external power supply rather than batteries for long overnight image session.
I saw this flock of Turkey Vultures warming themselves in the early morning sun. The population of Turkey Vultures has increased over the past several years. I think their major food source is road killed deer.
Praying Mantis — Autumn Backyard Nature in New Jersey.
I saw this Praying Mantis climbing a weed off my back deck. I initially tried to get some images with the camera & telephoto lens at hand, but the minimum focus distance for the 600 mm f/4 VR lens is ~ 17 feet. I switched to a 300 mm f/2.8 VR lens, with a minimum focus distance of 7 feet. When viewed close up, the Praying Mantis looks deadly. There was a black fly that kept landing on the back of the Praying Mantis. I guess the fly knew where the safe zone is. Ultimately, I think the Praying Mantis got tired of me, and moved further into the shrubs.
With the continuing clear skies, I set up two cameras to record star trails early this morning. I started at 3:00 AM after the moon set. I was still worried about condensation on the lens. I pointed a Nikon D3 with a 16 mm f/2.8 fish-eye lens north, and a Nikon D3x with a 14-24 mm f/2.8 lens at 14 mm pointed south. I used some gaffer tape to prevent the focal length lens crepe on the 14-24 mm lens that ruined a previous star trails session. The Nikon D3 stopped recording after 2 hours. After the fact, I realized that I used a EN-EL4 rather than the higher capacity EN-EL4A battery. The D3x with a EN-EL4A battery ran until I went out to get the cameras at sunrise. Unfortunately, condensation on the lens started distorting images after about 5 AM. Both the North and South facing Star Trails ended up about 60 images (2 hours). The really bright trail in both the Norht and South image is Jupiter.
Doe Portrait Session. Autumn Backyard Nature in New Jersey.
When I got home from work, I noticed a couple of young deer in the back yard. I quickly went in and picked up the camera with the 600 mm telephoto lens that I used last night for the moon. I didn’t have time to set up a tripod or find the monopod, so these images are hand-held. One does not hand-hold this lens for very long. I forgot that the TC-E III 20 teleconverter, so 1200 mm.
With the clear sky, and waxing gibbous moon I did some experiments to determine how to best get a sharp image of the moon through a 600 mm f/4 VR telephoto lens. The lens is mounted on a tripod with a Wimberley gimble tripod head. VR on the lens is turned off, and the camera set for “mirror up” mode. I used a remote release, and let the system stabilize for 30 seconds (time-out for mirror up) before the shutter would be triggered. The first five images are #1 (f/16, 1/50 sec); #2 (f/11, 1/100 sec); #3 (f/8, 1/200 sec); #4 (f/5.6, 1/400 sec); and #5 (f/4, 1/800 sec). I think the best was #4 (f/5.6, 1/400 sec), although all were pretty good. The next two images used a TC-E III 20 teleconverter for an effective focal length of 1200 mm #6 (f/16, 1/50 sec); #7 (f/11, 1/100 sec). Here I think #7 (f/11, 1/100 sec) is best. With the additional magnification, a faster shutter speed is needed to counteract the motion of the moon.
I also made several DSLR videos of the moon, since I was using my Nikon D3s camera body. When I reviewed the videos, I saw that I had captured at least two satellite transits in front of the moon. These transits are less than 1 second long. Subject for another post.
A macro image of a Crane Fly. It looks like an over sized mosquito, but does not bite. It has a hard time flying, and its legs seem to be double jointed. This Crane Fly is missing its right front leg. The green compound eyes are interesting. I guess that this one got in while I was trying to do some night sky photography. The sky has actually been clear for two days straight. For this Crane Fly image, I used my Nikon D300, since the other camera bodies were outside for the night sky project.
Sourland Mountain Preserve, Worldwide Photo Walk 2011.
Convergence. Yesterday I was thinking, weather permitting that I should go the the nearby Sourland Mountain Preserve to see if I could photograph any late season Monarch butterflies. For the last several years I have seen the last group of Monarch butterflies before they fly south to Mexico the last week of September (+/- 2 weeks). Also yesterday, I was noticing some issues with access to my photo blog (speed to load, and searching results). I woke up very early, and access to the photo blog appeared be working. While checking Google+ I saw a reminder from Scott Kelby about his 2011 Worldwide Photo Walk’s this weekend. When I checked online, I saw that one of the Worldwide Photo Walks (led by Frank Veronsky) would be at the Sourland Mountain Preserve. I signed up (it was 4 AM, and raining). When I woke up again at 8 AM it had stopped raining but still cloudy. I got to there early to scout out if there were any thistle blooms left. Unfortunately, all of the thistles were brown and there were only a few yellow wildflowers. The trails were also very muddy from all of the rain we have been having for the last 2 months. I actually went home at this point to switch to a Nikon D3s camera and 50 mm f/1.4 lens since I knew it was going to be relatively dark on the trails. I got back in time to meet up with the Worldwide Photo Walk group at the Sourland Mountain Preserve parking lot and started up on the trails a little after 10 AM. The following images are of some of the woodland forest trails in the Preserve. By the time I was done, I only saw one Monarch butterfly, and it didn’t stay still long enough for me to get an image.
When the conditions are right, you can see the Milky Way in New Jersey. Two views, a 5 minute and 15 minute exposure.
I am back in New Jersey after a short trip to San Francisco. I hate flying and this trip was bad. I spent 4 hours in the plane before taking off in Philadelphia (we did get back to the gate for a short stop to avoid the 3 hour federal regulation rules). Ultimately it took 12 hours from the time I left my office to get to the hotel in San Francisco. I hate flying, and would rather drive. For the return flight, the airline decided there were too many empty seats and substituted a smaller plane (and bumped 20+ passengers). ARRG! I just wanted to get home, and was not interested in a $400 future credit. Ultimately I got a seat on the original flight. It was a middle seat, and I had to force the arm rest down to separate me from the over sized person next to me oozing into my seat. I hate flying. I hate flying. I hate flying.