Monday, May 28, 2012

Lightning and light pollution

On Friday 5/25/12 our area was hit with some very severe weather but it was supposed to clear quickly afterward.  So, not willing to waste a day off, I decided to head out to the observatory to wait out the storm.  With the 360 degree view at a nice elevation it is perfect storm watching site as well.  The storm was in full swing when I arrived but it wasn't on top of us yet.  I quickly set up the tripod and using my shutter release to  keep the shutter going at 30 sec exposures, it was dark so no need to worry about over exposure.

Lightning is one of the most impressive and surprisingly one of the easiest things to photograph if you don't over think it.  Don't waste your time trying to snap as it happens, you'll only frustrate yourself.  If you have a nighttime storm just set up a tripod and shoot continuously at 30 sec with a wide aperture, pour some wine and get comfy (and safe).  For a daytime storm close the aperture and use shorter exposure times.   Just make sure to grab your gear when the rain hits if you don't have a rain cover (link is the super cheap one I use).

As the night went on the storm moved south and the stars were visible above the thunderheads. Saturn and Spica are the most prominent objects above the clouds. All these shots were taken between 11pm and 1am.

Here's best shots out of 200 or so:

This is the shot I was waiting for!

Bright stars on the left are Saturn (upper) and Spica (lower)

When the sky finally cleared it was such low transparency and seeing was so poor that we didn't even bother opening the observatory roof.

With summertime nearing, the Milky Way has been rising in time for some interesting photo ops.  I've been trying to get a shot of the Milky Way arching over this particular dirt road or weeks and after 3 different tries I have something finally worth showing.   Last night (5/27/12) I returned to this site located near the very rural Spartansburg, PA.  While very rural you can still see the dramatic effects of light pollution.  I'm anxiously awaiting the airing of the documentary The City Dark on PBS on July 5.  I strongly urge you to watch and in the meantime, if you must have glaring property lights get some motion detectors or sky friendly fixtures and bulbs.  Reconnect with the stars, there's a whole Universe out there.  People need to realize we're part of something much bigger.

180 degrees, from Cassiopeia to Scorpius

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