Wave Clouds over the San Francisco Peaks

New Year’s Day brought some interesting wave clouds to the San Francisco Peaks. I headed west to Brannigan Park to get both good views of the clouds and sunset colors on the peaks. In addition, I shot time-lapse video that shows the amazing motion of the wave cloud above the peaks and the cap cloud that obscures the summit.

Clouds over the San Francisco Peaks.
Clouds over the San Francisco Peaks.
Wave clouds above the San Francisco Peaks.
Wave clouds above the San Francisco Peaks.

Time-lapse video of wave clouds and cap clouds.

And then there were these thin, wispy clouds catching the light of the setting sun.
And then there were these thin, wispy clouds catching the light of the setting sun.

 

A New-to-Me lens for Astrophotography

I recently acquired a used lens that I plan to use for astrophotography. The Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 ED AI-S is well-known as an excellent lens for this purpose—assuming, of course, you get a good copy of the lens.

Pleiades (M45).
Pleiades (M45).

Jerry Lodriguss, over at AstroPix, has this to say about the lens:

The Nikon 180mm f/2.8 ED lens is a legendary lens, and with good reason. It’s performance for normal daytime photography is simply outstanding. And it is pretty darn good for astrophotography also…

I have been looking at used copies of this lens on-and-off for several years but have never actually been excited enough to purchase one. That is, until I saw one listed in MINT condition for an extraordinary price. The lens was offered by Tempe Camera and the store was close enough that I could drive down there in a few hours. Off I went…

And the lens really was in Mint condition. After a bit of checking and a few test shots I bought it. Now it was time for testing. On my first night my results weren’t that great but I attribute that to the fact that it was COLD and my fingers weren’t very good at getting sharp focus and it was windy causing the camera to shake resulting in blurry images.

So, I headed back out again the next night. I sought a location without wind and at a lower elevation hoping for warmer temperatures. Well, it wasn’t warmer but there was no wind.  And the results were pretty good. Comparing the results at various f/stops (f/2.8, f/4.0, and f/5.6) I could see how the image improved with smaller apertures. And a comparison with my very old Nikkor 80-200mm AI-S f/4 showed that the 180mm was better than the zoom lens at equivalent apertures.

I’m pretty happy with the quality of the lens and the price I paid. Now all I need is some clear skies to get out and do some more shooting.

 

Moonrise over Wukoki Pueblo

Moonrise over Wukoki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monunent.
Moonrise over Wukoki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monunent.

Wukoko Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument is an amazing place. Here is what the National Park Service has to say about the pueblo:

An architect today might win an award for designing Wukoki Pueblo. The corners, angles, and lines of masonry are meticulous. From its base, the eye is drawn skyward to a height that inspires awe of this ancient craftsmanship.

The architecture blends so well with the environment that the building seems to grow out of the rock, disguising where nature’s work ends and handcrafted walls begin. Today these walls stand as a silent tribute to prehistoric people.

I have visited this site many times capturing the Milky Way above it, lightning around it, and sunsets. But I’ve never had a chance to capture the rising [nearly] full Moon until yesterday. The terrain is such that the best time of the year is December when the full Moon is farthest north in the sky. At other times of the year, nearby hills obstruct a view of the Moon until it has risen high in the sky. Even in December, the distant Tloi Eechii Cliffs rise above the horizon. But in this case, they add to the drama of the rising Moon. This was taken the day before the full Moon so that the late afternoon sun could still light up the landscape and the pueblo.

Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter

The planet Venus has been quickly rising higher in the sky each evening so that it approached Jupiter in a planetary conjunction.

Venus and Jupiter in November 2019.
Venus and Jupiter in November 2019.

Here are the planets Jupiter and Venus on the evenings of 22 November, 23 November, and 24 November—the evening of closest approach. In this 3-image composite Jupiter is held fixed and the daily motion of Venus is shown relative to the planet Jupiter.

The next image shows the two planets and their reflections in the waters of Lower Lake Mary.

Venus and Jupiter and their reflections in November 2019.
Venus and Jupiter and their reflections in November 2019.

Here is another example of Venus and Jupiter except this was in the morning twilight and the crescent Moon was also present. And then there was this triple planetary conjunction of Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter in 2013.

Mountain Biking on Gooseberry Mesa—October 2019 Edition

It was mid-October and that made it a good time to head to southwest Utah for some autumn mountain biking.

We left Flagstaff around 8:30 a.m. and arrived at the Wire Mesa Trailhead on Gooseberry Mesa about 4 hours later. After a quick lunch, we jumped on the Wire Mesa trail. Good news! They are upgrading the parking lot with a fence and possibly other amenities.

Riding the Wire Mesa Trail. That's Zion N.P. in the distance.
Riding the Wire Mesa Trail. That’s Zion N.P. in the distance.
The view towards the southeast from Wire Mesa Trail.
The view towards the southeast from Wire Mesa Trail.

This was our first time on Wire Mesa Trail. It’s a nice loop with some great views of Zion National Park and the cliffs of Gooseberry Mesa.

View over the edge of Gooseberry Mesa.
View over the edge of Gooseberry Mesa.

The next day we visited the Gooseberry Mesa trails, starting on Windmill, then North Rim and out to the west end of the mesa. This route wanders between the edge and then through ramps, chutes, small hills, all on a high-traction surface. The geologic name for this rock is Shinarump Conglomerate.

North Rim Trail, Gooseberry Mesa.
North Rim Trail, Gooseberry Mesa.
Just follow the dots!
Just follow the dots!
Practice Trail, Gooseberry Mesa.
Practice Trail, Gooseberry Mesa.

The return to the trail head included a quick jaunt on Yellow Trail. Great fun! We then returned to North Rim and connected with Practice Trail. The photos shown here are very similar to photos taken on earlier trips to this mountain biking area. See, for example, the trip reports for April 2015 and October 2016.

Amazing terrain on Gooseberry Mesa with Zion NP in the distance
Amazing terrain on Gooseberry Mesa with Zion NP in the distance

We had planned on a third day of riding but instead opted to do some hiking in Zion National Park.

Zion National Park.
Zion National Park.

Nice!