Rehearsing for the eclipse

27mm f/4, ISO 1600, 5 sec.

Less than 24 hours to go and I’m on Scout Scar, checking conditions for the eclipse the next morning.  Under a full moon, the “Mushroom” is as bright as day – only Orion in the background betrays that it is 9pm in December.

Full Moon 500mm

500mm f/8, ISO 400, 1/2000 sec.

The Moon looks good through a Nikkor 500mm reflex telephoto, but this lens does not have a “hard stop” when focused at infinity, so focus adjustment is by eye.  As this involves rotating the full barrel of the lens, it is very trying.  There is no easy fine-tuning, and the aperture is fixed at f/8, so there’s no stopping down for depth of field.

The most productive option is to use the “Live View” display on the D90, which can be zoomed and panned while focusing.  That can’t be done while wearing gloves, however, and it’s already well below zero.  Tomorrow morning is forecast to be minus 15.

Full Moon 1000mm

1000mm f/16, ISO 400, 1/800 sec.

With the Sigma 2x converter, the lens doubles up to a 1000mm f/16.  Focusing difficulty doubles up too.  I’m never really sure whether it’s in focus at 1000mm.  Perhaps the image is slightly soft, even when in sharp focus.

Contrary to expectations, the Moon isn’t an inspiring subject when full.  The light is just flat and there’s no detail.

First night out with the D90

This was the first night out with my Nikon D90 – and its remarkable 18-200mm lens – in December 2010.  I wanted to get a feel for how it would handle at night time, as I was planning to capture the total lunar eclipse coming along in a few days.  Almost a full moon, snow-covered ground and clear skies.  For a newcomer to digital SLR, the functionality of the D90 just blew me away.  Even by moonlight, the D90’s autofocus worked like lightning.

18mm f/22, ISO 1600, 30 sec.

18mm f/22, ISO 1600, 30 sec.

A quick capture of Orion rising behind Kendal Castle.  18mm, 30 seconds exposure and the star trails are just noticeable when viewed at full size (much more on that to come later).

Pleiades

60mm f/4.8, ISO 1600, 1/6 sec.

  An audacious shot direct into the Moon, cropped to show the Pleiades.  Not quite astrophotography, but the possibilities are starting to show themselves.