The Eclipse, and All That

I really wanted to see the full solar eclipse, but I was stuck at home in Maryland, where we had a partial eclipse with 80 to 85 percent coverage of the sun. I knew that I wasn’t going to travel for the event, so I never got around to ordering sun viewing glasses. Instead, I put together a makeshift projector from a sturdy cardboard tube. I folded a piece of aluminum foil over one end and poked a small hole in the center of the foil with a frilly toothpick (class act, and all that!). Holding the tube with the foil-covered end toward the sun, I projected the image of the sun onto a piece of white cardboard. It’s nothing fancy; just a shipping box that contained pretzels, but the white coating on the box was perfect for this makeshift project. The timestamp on my camera was not set correctly, so I’m guessing this photo was taken between 2:30 and 2:45, or close to totality.

 

What was also interesting was finding little crescents everywhere. We don’t normally notice the shapes that are projected onto surfaces as sunlight filters through leaves, but during an eclipse the small gaps between leaves actually behaves like a lens and focuses the shape of the sun onto the ground and everywhere else. Usually it’s circular and we just aren’t aware of it, but here you can see the crescents scattered on the road surface. I also had crescents dancing on my living room floor where the sunlight was being filtered through the tree leaves and my Venetian blinds.

So, I’m hoping to catch the next solar eclipse. I want to experience the quality of light as well as the astronomical event itself. Perhaps by then I’ll be ready with a telescope and tracking mount for my camera, too. But in the meantime, there are some very interesting effects from the eclipse that are easy to photograph with basic equipment. I took both of these photos with a Nikon Coolpix, and these images could easily have been captured with my cell phone’s camera, too. I’d rather do some serious photography with my SLR, but my work schedule — and admittedly, my lack of preparation — meant that I had to grab things at the last minute and run out the door.

The worst part of the eclipse photography for me was that my yard is full of mosquitoes, and so now I am full of mosquito bites — and still scratching, one week later. Ugh.

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Ah, August. I’m melting.


I’m back from vacation and have almost managed to survive the first week back at work. It wasn’t even a full week, it was four days — but that didn’t stop it from feeling like forever. A week of vacation isn’t enough!

This was my second year going to the Maine Astronomy Retreat. I still haven’t reviewed all of my photos, but I do have some Moon shots and Milky Way shots that are nice. I was surprised at how relatively easy it is to get a photo of the galaxy or Moon, but how difficult it is to get them in focus. You’d think that taking pictures of stars you’d just set the camera to infinity, right? Yeah, it doesn’t work like that.

It’s become obvious that I need some kind of focusing aid for astrophotography. No matter if I look through the eyepiece or at the live view display on my camera (a Sony alpha 7), the stars are just so dark and tiny that I can’t see anything well enough to set the focus. I basically have to take a picture and review it and keep twiddling the focusing ring until I get something. But even that is difficult; I can’t see the focusing ring without a light, I can’t tell by touch how far I’m moving it, and it’s very hard to move the focusing ring in tiny increments. Plus, the Earth spins pretty darn quickly, and any exposure that’s too long results in streaks known as star trails (which in my case look like Good ‘n Plenty-shaped lozenges).

Since I’ve been approved as a Shutterstock contributor, I’ve uploaded about seven photos. If my star photos are good they might end up there, otherwise, I’ll post a few in the next blog post. And, on to the weekend. Seems like a good time to avoid the heat and humidity and hole up in the A/C and look at photos. Stay cool, readers!

Almost Vacation

Writing is a long, hard slog this year. Work has been so difficult that when I have time off I just can’t bear to sit at the computer and do any more thinking. I feel like all of my creative energy, and the desire to do anything, has been sucked out of my soul.

But my vacation starts at the end of next week, so I’m hoping a week away from the insanity will restore some mental energy and I’ll be ready to pick back up on some projects. My steampunk story for Corrugated Sky’s second anthology is at the editing stage, and we’re expecting to get the book out in the next month or so. In other news, I’ve been approved for Shutterstock and and I have uploaded five images so far.

F-stops and All That

I’ve been wanting to get back into photography for quite awhile, but between work and work and more work I’ve been so creatively drained that’s it’s been a major chore even to finish reading a novel, for crying out loud. Well, no more. I signed up with Shutterstock to do some stock photography work. That was something I considered years ago, but the business model required so much time that I wasn’t able to meet the Big Guys’ specifications (travel, submit hundreds of photos at a time, etc.).

The business model has changed a lot in the last few years, and now there’s something called microstock photography. You don’t have to be a full-time photographer or submit hundreds of images — but of course, you still need to submit good work. By giving myself a “job” I will spend more time with my photography. I haven’t uploaded any images yet as I’m still filling out some paperwork and I need time to go through my portfolio and decide what will make good stock photography. Since I have some background in editorial work I have a bit of an idea what to expect, and I hope that works for me.

Approaching photography with the idea of purposely shooting stock means that I will also spend some time coming up with compositions. I don’t expect to do portraits or events; landscapes, buildings, and things that don’t move are more to my liking. I spent a season at a ski resort in New Hampshire taking photos of skiers and snowboarders, and it was pretty hard to get everyone posed without having them slide down the mountain while I was fiddling around with aperture settings!

So, I’m off to read up about stock photography (and get sidetracked reading about new camera gear and camera bags). I’ll be going to the Maine Astronomy Retreat at the end of July, and I’m hoping to have some more Milky Way photos that maybe I can turn into works of art or at least earn enough to buy myself a cup of coffee. So, I’m off to charge my camera batteries and scout out things around the house that would be interesting subjects for some still life compositions.