Archive for April, 2010

Last of the Winter Illuminations Time-Lapse

21 April, 2010

Finally, I got around to creating and uploading the time-lapse movies from the Auld Chapel, Longfield, Dunrossness. These were all taken on the same day, 1 March 2010, there was snow on the ground and a beautiful deep blue sky with a few clouds as backdrop. I think these are some of my favourite, partly because my technique has developed over the set, but mostly because of the gentle fade through dusk to dark, especially in video no. 2. Video 1 was slightly spoiled by an artificial light source becoming visible to one side during the take – it wasn’t illuminated at the start, let alone visible, and resulted me in moving the rig for the second series.

I don’t intend to create any more time-lapse movies of the Mirrie Dancers Winter Illuminations project but fully intend to post time-lapse works of other projects in future.  I’ve created a number of time-lapse projects in the past but this series has certainly concentrated the mind and helped develop my technique, both on site and in production.

Best viewed full screen and 480p to see the subtle cloud movements and sky colour change.

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

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Best Aurora for 2 years

12 April, 2010

After a tip off I went hunting aurora tonight – I have to get out of town because of the light pollution if I want the best experience so I headed north to a few favourite sites. I got a few photos and enjoyed seeing the aurora again after such a long wait but cloud began to roll in and I thought that would end the display. But as I headed back into town I thought it seemed to be getting stronger again and hoped it might even be bright enough for some in town shots. Sure enough it continued to brighten at silly hours o’clock but I was ready to take a few shots I’ve wanted to get (or improve upon previous attempts) for a while. So here’s just a taster and hopefully I will post more tomorrow. But I might not go to bed even yet because since I got home it’s got really exciting with streaks, flashes, shooting ars and rays; it’s now highly active but not yet a storm. It’s also just green in colour – so far I haven’t been able to discern any other colours.

Star trails

9 April, 2010

This winter has gone too quickly. I had high hopes of getting some new star trails photos this year but here we are in April with proper darkness now only available for less than 2 weeks! I’ve had a few attempts this winter but every time I’ve had the time (if you know what I mean) it’s been cloudy or raining and every time it’s been crystal clear I’ve been otherwise occupied. So I’ve only got a couple of attempts this year and I’m going to have to wait another year for another serious attempt.

In the meantime, here are a couple of versions that I took the other night. As so often is the case it started off clear (though seeing wasn’t perfect with some very thin high cloud) so I set the camera up and left it. Unfortunately after only about 45 minutes or so cloud began to roll in, little scuds at first then bigger blotches. It soon became clear (!) that there would be no more startrails, because the stars were disappearing, so I brought the camera in and downloaded the images. Here are the results, one with all the clouds and the other with some clouds removed – in that one you might just see a satellite streak.

Despite the clouds I think both are quite pleasing results in their own way. What do you think?

At Last! A clear view of Venus and Mercury.

5 April, 2010

I was particularly keen to get some photos of the conjunction of Venus and Mercury happening at the moment but every day after sunset has either been wet and miserable or, at the very least, thick cloud. But yesterday showed promise, with a clearing sky in the afternoon and little wind. In between rebuilding a couple of computers I kept my eye on the sky as things continued to improve. Alas, as late afternoon turned into early evening, thickening cloud rolled into the west and my heart sank as I thought that this was going to be yet another astronomical delight denied to me by the weather. This winter has seen more than it’s fair share of those! Undaunted, and having reviewed various weather and satellite websites, I thought there might be a chance of clearing skies (or at least views between clouds) if I headed west and south.

As I drove south it remained cloudy for quite some time then a few glints of the setting sun appeared and my hopes rose. I decided to try the view from the Ward of Scousburgh, the highest place in the south Mainland; once there the sky began to clear and, as I watched, Venus became visible, first with the binoculars then with my unaided eyes. It was perhaps another 20 minutes or so before I found fainter Mercury just barely visible with the binoculars. There were still quite a few clouds around, thick clouds low on the horizon, high clouds covering large areas of the sky and various clouds in between. I waited anxiously, hoping the two planets would remain visible long enough to get some photos. Eventually I took a few photos with the telephoto lens showing Mercury just 3° away from Venus but at a very slightly higher level

With a few shots on the card I felt confident enough to try another location at a lower altitude so as to add some landscape features for scale and character; the sky was still hit and miss, with large areas of cloud around but it was as good as it was likely to get – the forecast for the next few days was pretty poor with extensive rain showers starting the next day. Coming down off the hill there are superb views of the beach at Scousburgh and I stopped there for a few photos, with some good results. But what I had really been hoping for with this conjunction was to get a photo of the planets together with the Auld Chapel at Dunrossness, still illuminated as part of the Mirrie Dancers winter illuminations, so I headed there – though without much hope as I could see from Vanlop that the area west of the Chapel.

As I pulled up I could see both Venus and Mercury, both free of cloud but thick cloud was moving in from the south – the Chapel was still illuminated, as I’d hoped, now just bet into position! I walked up the hill and positioned my kit and shot off a few images – I managed to get both planets and the Chapel in shot, just before the two planets dipped into the horizon cloud, not to be seen again – or so I thought. My last shots of the night were at Spiggie beach – a sudden, last minute inspiration took me there. I knew the alignment would be perfect but didn’t hold out much hope of seeing the planets because they had already gone below the horizon cloud and because it was getting to the time when both would set – in fact it was nearly 10 PM by this time. As luck would have it, both planets shone through gaps in the cloud just long enough for me to get a couple of photos, the last one just 6 minutes before Venus set below the horizon. This all rounded off a more successful night than I could have hoped for and that was a real bonus given the conditions earlier. As it happened the night became fully clear for the next few hours before clouding over with the rain coming in the next day, as forecast. Here are some of the images I captured.