The past few days have offered several opportunities for photographing objects in the sky.
Mercury (Magnitude –0.2) and Venus (Magnitude –3.9) are very low in the evening twilight right now and a bit difficult to see with the unaided eye—but a camera can do a better job at picking out the small but bright planets. The two planets are separated by about 7°.
At the same time, Jupiter (Magnitude –2.0) and the Moon made a close pass last night with about 2.5° of separation. These, of course, were much easier to see.
And, a few days ago, the International Space Station (ISS) flew in front of the Sun as seen from my house. I didn’t even have to travel—just set up the camera in the driveway. The entire flyby takes less than one second. Warning! A proper solar filter is required. I use a filter made by Kendrick Astro Instruments.
Earlier in the morning I was shooting images of the conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter. I had noticed that there were early morning clouds draped across Mount Elden. I wasn’t ready to put the camera away yet so I headed over to Buffalo Park so that I could get a better view of the clouds, mountain, and the quickly changing light as the sun began to rise. I was rewarded with this image of the clouds obscuring the peak of the mountain while rays of light were intersecting the clouds at different points with amazing colors.
It’s the middle of July and the North American Monsoon is in full swing now with near-daily thunderstorms across northern Arizona. It was time for another photo shoot in Sedona in hopes of getting great lightning shots with Sedona’s famous redrocks as a background. A few nice sunset photos wouldn’t be too bad, either.
After a quiet afternoon in Flagstaff with little in the way of thunderstorm activity, clouds finally began to develop in the late afternoon. A quick check of the radar data using RadarScope showed that thunderstorms were developing over the higher terrain of the Mogollon Rim and were moving slowly to the south-southwest. This would put some of these storms near or over Sedona in an hour or two. Time to jump in the car and head south.
It began to rain as I drove down the switchbacks into Oak Creek Canyon. This was the site of the Slide Fire in May and the threat of flash flooding exists whenever moderate-to-heavy rain falls in the area. Luckily, rainfall remained light and there was no threat.
My first location was on Upper Red Rock Loop Road with a view to the east so that I could capture lightning along with some of Sedona’s famous rocks — Courthouse Butte and Cathedral Rock. No luck today — but I did get some good images the previous day from this same location. Still, I was able to get several lightning strokes over the cliffs and create a composite image.
As the sun began to set, the activity shifted and it was time for another location and I headed to the Sedona Cultural Park. The sunset colors just got better…and better…and…well, you get the idea. And there was also plenty of lightning to shoot as twilight unfolded.
The full moon was yesterday (04/25/2013) so today was a good day to capture the setting moon at sunrise. With the moon setting about 3/4 hour after the sunrise I had hoped that Cathedral Rock would be bathed in early morning direct sunlight.
Because of the higher terrain to the east, the light from the sun did not strike the rocks until after the moon had dropped behind the rocks. Instead, I was able to capture the pre-sunrise colors which were a lot more muted and subtle. It wasn’t what I was hoping to photograph but may, in fact, be better!
Several days of snow have come to an end and the skies cleared just before sunset to allow the low sun to bring a fantastic glow to the Kachina Peaks. A few lingering clouds add to the dramatic effect.