They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

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For Once The Stars And The Universe Align...

For twenty plus years we've been in West Michigan, I cannot tell you how often the West Michigan weather has conspired against me seeing anything of an astronomical nature (DW) (LJ). So with a lunar eclipse coming up this morning with the setting Moon and the rising Sun -- it seemed impossible. Still, Mrs. Dr. Phil had a workshop at GVSU today, so we got up at the normal work time. And at 6:40am, I was able to peek out the bedroom window and lo and behold, there was a chunk of the Moon missing.

Even better, it turned out that the neighbors to the west didn't seem to be in the way. Now it was a race between the darkening Moon and the Sun coming up as the Moon went down.

Once I was assembled for the day, with the leg brace and all, I dragged out the heavy duty Nikon D1H. It goes up to 1600 ISO sensitivity -- and not too bad in color. More importantly, the 24-120mm f3.5-5.6G VR AF-NIKKOR. At 120mm (180mm FX equivalent) that's the longest lens I have right now with VR Vibration Reduction. I ended up shooting at 1/20th of a second and 1/25th. The heavier mass of the D1H over the D100 adds to the stability. No point in putting on the 70-300mm non-VR or the giant 200-600mm f9.5 AIs Zoom-NIKKOR (DW) (LJ), without a tripod.

The significance of VR is that the usual thumb of rule states that the slowest handheld shutter speed you can hand hold is 1/(focal length), so that should be 1/120th of a second for a 120mm lens. We're roughly 2½ f-stops slower than that here, with the lens wide open. But this lens promises 2-3 stops of extra stability with the little "jiggle" elements in the VR system, compensating for the movement of my hand. I could have set the D1H to HI-2 (6400 ISO) and gained two shutter speeds, but the cost due to noise in the image wasn't something I wanted to try. Someday I'll spring for a D3 or D4 FX fullframe or a later generation DX digital camera which work better at high ISOs -- But This Is Not That Day.

(Long ago, I was the master of "available darkness" handholding, and 1/20th of a second at 120mm would have been no real problem -- one or two out of four shots should have been usable. Alas, between my leg and less stamina, I cannot hold that steady any more. I'm always shocked when I look at the EXIF data from shots with either of my VR lenses and see "how low I can go" and get great or acceptable images.)

Picture 4. Leaning on side of garage, looking just south of west. 120mm 1/25th sec f5.6, tweaked focus manually. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Inset of full size version above at 300%. With the full moon at max totality some time later -- unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are slow and long -- you would not see this configuration of light and dark at this hour just at sunrise. As an interesting aside, TIME Magazine was running a live stream of the lunar eclipse, and the images from the Australian observatory were reversed. As they should be. (Turn your head upside down to know why. I am not talking about the normal telescope reversal, they had already corrected for that.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

I did no corrections to the images -- no brightness, contrast or color adjustments. One thing I did do was switch the meter from centerweighted to spot. Probably the first time I've used any of the Nikons so equipped in spot mode (F4s, Kodak DCS Pro SLR/n, D1, D1X, D1H, D100).

These are not great pictures, but they are the first time I've tried to take a lunar eclipse picture with a modern camera ever. Lens too short, only a 2.7MP image, a lot of noise at 1600 ISO from a first generation DSLR. But I got the picture. Yay me.

Here's the rest of the set:

Picture 1. All the first three were at 1/20th of a second and 120mm, autofocus. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Picture 2. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Picture 3. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Anyway, given that most of the show happened later, below the horizon, I am pretty pleased to have been up, dressed and equipped on an early Saturday morning and had anything to show for it.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
Tags: astronomy, lunar eclipse, nikon, photos
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