Bright Objects in the Night Sky—May 2018

The past two weeks have offered several opportunities for photographing the moon in the evening sky. Beginning on May 16, we had a crescent Moon with just 3.7% of the disk illuminated by the sun. During the months of May, June, and July, the thin crescent Moon lines up with the long axis of Upper Lake Mary. This results in nice reflections of the Moon on the waters of the lake—but only if there is little or no wind. The first two images were taken in the early evening with some reflections over portions of the lake. The image also shows the unlit part of the crescent Moon illuminated with Earthshine, also known as Da Vinci Glow. Yes, that Leonardo Da Vinci. Quite an amazing bit of scientific deduction on his part.

A thin crescent Moon above Lake Mary.
A thin crescent Moon above Lake Mary.
Crescent Moon with reflections on Lake Mary.
Crescent Moon with reflections on Lake Mary.

The following evening the Moon was located near the planet Venus. Capturing both of these objects and getting reflections in the water was a bit more difficult as they were higher in the sky.

Moon and Venus above Lake Mary.
Moon and Venus above Lake Mary.

Next up was the day-before-the-full-Moon in Sedona. Using The Photographers Ephemeris it’s not very difficult to determine at what time and in which location to find the Moon rising between the spires of Cathedral Rock. I’ve done this shot before but never get tired of traveling to Sedona to see it happen again. Not surprisingly, I often run into other photographers and friends with the same idea so it becomes a bit of a social gathering as well.

Moonrise above Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona.
Moonrise above Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona.
Moonrise above Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona.
Moonrise above Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona.
A couple watches the Moon rise from Cathedral Rock.
A couple watches the Moon rise from Cathedral Rock.

The first image shows the Moon having just risen into the left gap. The second image is a crop and closeup of the Moon. The third was taken several minutes later after adjusting my position a bit to capture the Moon in the middle gap. A couple can be seen in silhouette gazing at the rising Moon.

The International Space Station cross the sky.
The International Space Station cross the sky.
The ISS and OA-9 Cygnus move across the sky.
The ISS and OA-9 Cygnus move across the sky.

Finally, there was a transit of the International Space Station (ISS) and the resupply ship OA-9 Cygnus—both moving near the North Star. The transit is a 5-minute sequence of images while the star trails is a 30-minute sequence. The second image shows the bright ISS with the faint OA-9 Cygnus following behind. A day later, the OA-9 docked with the ISS.

Lightning and the end of the Monsoon Season

The monsoon season officially ends in Arizona on September 30 but convective activity ended a week or two ago. But the monsoon provided a great “end-of-season” show.

Lightning near Mormon Mt. and reflected in Lake Mary.
Lightning near Mormon Mt. and reflected in Lake Mary.

Several clusters of thunderstorms were moving from the lower elevations up onto the Mogollon Rim on the evening of September 13. I haven’t been able to get any good shots of lighting reflected in water in recent years so I decided to try again—this time along the shores of upper Lake Mary.

I was not disappointed.

Lightning near Mormon Mt. and reflected in Lake Mary.
Lightning near Mormon Mt. and reflected in Lake Mary.

The early storms were distant to the west resulting in images with only small flashes. Another cluster of storms was to the southwest—moving to the northeast. Several flashes produced dramatic branches out the top of the storm and into the starry sky.

Lightning near Mormon Mt. and reflected in Lake Mary.
Lightning near Mormon Mt. and reflected in Lake Mary.

The storms were moving directly towards me and I had to quit when they got too close. My comfort zone on these storms was about 12 miles. Close enough.

Mountain Man Triathlon

Sometimes my photographic plans just have to be thrown out the window and Plan B put into place. That’s what happened recently.

I’ve been renting and testing a telephoto lens (Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D VR) for a week. After getting shut out by clouds three nights in a row trying to get moon rise images I decided to photograph water birds at sunrise along the shores of Lake Mary.

I should have checked the weekend event calendar. The Mountain Man Triathlon event was taking place at the lake. So, instead of shooting birds, I chose to shoot swimmers and bikers (I skipped the runners).

Having not given a lot of thought to shooting athletes, I found myself just winging it with no obvious good locations or setup. Well, that’s what happens when you fall back to Plan B but didn’t actually have a Plan B.

It turns out this lens is a bit slow on the auto-focus speed. That means many of the photos missed sharp focus as the riders were moving fast. Swimmers? Not a problem.

Here are some images of swimmers and bikers from the Mountain Man Triathlon held in Lake Mary near Flagstaff on July 9, 2017.

Men's Olympic swim.
Men’s Olympic swim.
Another wave of swimmers in the water.
Another wave of swimmers in the water.
Waiting for the start.
Waiting for the start.

Triathlon family.
Triathlon family.

Waiting for the Moon at Lake Mary

During the late spring and early summer the waxing crescent Moon will align with the long axis of Lake Mary. The end result is that as the Moon sets it will have a long reflection on the lake. So I found myself on the east end of Lake Mary a few days ago waiting for the clouds to clear and the Moon to put on a show.

Sunset and early twilight over Lake Mary.
Sunset and early twilight over Lake Mary.

While waiting I shot several images of the lake using slow shutter speeds. This produces very smooth water—although it may appear somewhat unrealistic. No matter. I was having fun.

Twilight colors are reflected in Lake Mary.
Twilight colors are reflected in Lake Mary.

Here is an 8-second exposure:

Long exposure at twilight.
Long exposure at twilight.

Finally, the clouds cleared and the Moon appeared with its reflection in the water.

Moon and reflection in Lake Mary.
Moon and reflection in Lake Mary.

The crescent Moon is about 6% illuminated by the direct light of the Sun; the remainder of the Moon is lit by Earthshine which is bright enough to show detail on the shadowed face of the Moon.

Definitely worth it.

Upper Lake Mary—on a cold winter’s day

 

Cold temperatures and a lack of snow brings a sheet of polished—and fissured—ice to the lake
Cold temperatures and a lack of snow brings a sheet of polished—and fissured—ice to the lake

With a series of Pacific storms forecast to move across the area this week, this scene will soon be buried under several feet of snow.