Lunar Eclipse of 18–19 November 2021

The Lunar eclipse of 18–19 November was considered a “partial eclipse” but with 97% coverage it was pretty close to a total eclipse. But not quite. That last 3% of the illuminated limb of the Moon was enough to make photography a challenge because its brightness significantly overwhelmed the dim red of the remainder of the lunar disk as well as the nearby stars.

Lunar eclipse with the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters.
Lunar eclipse with the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters.
Lunar eclipse.
Lunar eclipse.

What made this eclipse noteworthy is the proximity of the Moon to both the Pleiades (M45) and Hyades star clusters.

I used an Nikon 80–200mm telephoto zoom lens for this astrophotography session. Set to 200mm it was possible to capture (barely) both the Moon and Pleiades. Set to 80mm it was easy to capture all three objects. This legacy lens from Nikon is still a very useful astrophotography lens for me—not least because it has a hard stop at infinity making nighttime focusing simple.

Complicating the setup—and there’s always a complication—was the presence of high, thin clouds streaming across the sky. These clouds muted the brilliance of the stars but also created an illuminated area surrounding the Moon. To capture both the bright uneclipsed sliver of the Moon as well as the nebulosity in the Pleiades required shooting a variety of exposures that could be blended later. Even this was not as easy as I had hoped and I tried different methods (e.g., layers with masks; high dynamic range blending; dodging and burning, etc.) until I was finally satisfied with a good but less than stellar (get it? stellar?) image.

Here are two images. The zoomed in and highly cropped image was shot at ISO 800, ƒ/8, and 4 seconds at a focal length of 200mm. The wider field of view was shot at 80mm, ISO 800, ƒ/8, and at shutter speeds of ½, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, and 30 seconds. HDR blending was done using Lightroom 6 and then further tweaked using various tools to brighten the stars while keeping the Moon dark.

Autumn Colors — 2021

The changing of the colors of leaves continues to march from the higher to lower elevations. The higher elevations and aspens peaked in mid October while places such as Oak Creek Canyon hit their peak a few weeks later. Peak color is just now reaching Sedona and similar locations. Here are several photos of leaves taken over the past few weeks in and near Oak Creek Canyon.

Fruit trees near Cave Springs campground.
Fruit trees near Cave Springs campground.
Maples near the Harding Springs trail.
Maples near the Harding Springs trail.
AB Young trailhead.
AB Young trailhead.
Grape leaves at the AB Young trailhead.
Grape leaves at the AB Young trailhead.
AB Young trailhead.
AB Young trailhead.
Maple leaves in upper Oak Creek Canyon.
Maple leaves in upper Oak Creek Canyon.
Leaves on the water in Kelly Canyon.
Leaves on the water in Kelly Canyon.
Oak leaves in Kelly Canyon.
Oak leaves in Kelly Canyon.

Aspen Leaves and Autumn Color

The changing color of aspen leaves has peaked in many locations — and just now peaking in others. It’s always interesting to see which areas go early and which hang on until later.

Here are some photos of aspen around northern Arizona this past week.

Going, going... (Hockderffer Hills near FR151.)
Going, going… (Hockderffer Hills near FR151.)
Arizona Trail near Hart Prairie.
Arizona Trail near Hart Prairie.
Arizona Trail.
Arizona Trail.
Aspen trees with shadows.
Aspen trees with shadows.
Aspen trees at Aspen Corner on Snowbowl Road. (Notice how many trees have been scarred from folks carving their initials in the bark.)
Aspen trees at Aspen Corner on Snowbowl Road. (Notice how many trees have been scarred from folks carving their initials in the bark.)
Forest Road 151.
Forest Road 151.
A tunnel through the trees on FR 151.
A tunnel through the trees on FR 151.

Beautiful Sunset Followed by Snow

A strong storm system approached the southwest yesterday and moved through the state overnight. Ahead of the storm, clouds began to increase just before sunset and I found myself at the Mormon Lake overlook. The cumulus clouds were fairly shallow so that the sunlight hitting the tops of the clouds was scattered downward and provided some diffuse lighting and color to the cloud bases.

The setting sun faintly illuminates the meadows of Mormon Lake and provides some color to the field of cumulus clouds.
The setting sun faintly illuminates the meadows of Mormon Lake and provides some color to the field of cumulus clouds.
A few minutes later and the sun is now illuminating the bases of the clouds.
A few minutes later and the sun is now illuminating the bases of the clouds.

There was also a thin gap between the clouds and the ground allowing for just a few minutes of direct sunlight.

Here are a few photographs of the sunset and clouds along with some sunlight spilling across the currently dry lakebed of Mormon Lake.

Band of showers and thunderstorms associated with the advancing cold front.
Band of showers and thunderstorms associated with the advancing cold front.

As the storm and cold front approached showers and thunderstorms quickly developed with a line of strong thunderstorms developing about an hour after sunset. There was quite a bit of lightning as the line of storms moved across the area. The sound of rain faded as it was replaced by snow falling in the wake of the front.

New-fallen snow lies on this cinquefoil plant.
New-fallen snow lies on this cinquefoil plant.

In the morning there was snow covering the ground. Measurements were difficult as strong winds during the night had blown the snow such that some areas had a few inches and other areas were bare.

The snow juxtaposed with autumn colors was very pretty but my favorite photograph was the snow on this cinquefoil that still has some flowers.