Posts tagged ‘night photography’

Jupiter & Venus: Traveling Partners

Jupiter and Venus have been traveling partners in the night sky recently. The bright duo have been visible low in the western sky from dusk to early in the morning.

Here’s an excerpt from MSNBC.com
“Venus-Jupiter conjunctions are fairly special events, occurring roughly every 13 months. This year’s was especially stunning, experts say, because the two planets were visible for so long in the sky and appeared so bright.
Though Jupiter is about 11 times wider than the roughly Earth-size Venus, Venus appears about eight times more luminous these days. That’s because Venus is so much closer to us than Jupiter is.
So while the two planets appear close together in the night sky, in reality they’re nowhere near each other. The orbits of Venus and Jupiter are separated by Earth, Mars and the main asteroid belt.”

So while doing a late night owl survey up in the Sax-Zim Bog tonight (March 13), I decided to try to capture the pair of planets. The moon was not yet up and so the stars were brilliant. I put the camera on the tripod with my 10-20mm Sigma, set the self timer to 2-seconds (to prevent any camera shake from tripping the shutter) and let it go for 25 seconds at ISO 6400. I left the Tamarack low in the frame to highlight the stars and planets. You can see Jupiter and Venus low on the horizon just to the right of the big Tamarack.

TIP FOR NIGHT SKY STAR SHOTS: I like a blue-purple night sky (versus black-orange) so I set my camera to Tungsten white balance. You can also shoot at Auto White Balance and change the color in Aperture/Lightroom if shooting Raw. It is strictly personal preference.

Canon 7D with Sigma 10-20mm lens at 11mm, f5.0 at 25 seconds, ISO 6400, Tungsten white balance, tripod, two-second self timer to minimize camera shake.

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Subaru to the Moon!


I’d once heard that the moon was about 225,000 miles away from little old me (and you). So ever since I’ve used this as the “moon milestone” for my cars. “The Box,” my first car, a 1975 brown Plymouth Valiant, probably made it…but the odometer quit working at about 190k. My 1984 Subaru GL 4×4 wagon made it (then was towed away by the Carlton County Sheriff). My candy apple red 1992 Jeep Cherokee almost made it but the door fell off and mice became permanent residents before it went to car heaven (the crusher). My Plymouth Grand Caravan survived to about 190k before the transmission went out (Ask me about my drive across Minnesota in 3rd gear!).

In reality, since the moon’s orbit is elliptical, the distance from Earth varies from about 221,463 miles at perigee (closest approach to Earth) to 251,968 miles at apogee (farthest point). The average distance from the moon to the Earth is 238,857 miles.

Anyway, I’m sticking with my 225k benchmark, and just last week, on my way up the North Shore, my current vehicle reached this moon milestone. The 1999 Subaru Forester I bought from my DNR boss (Thanks Steve!) after my van died, turned the big 225 near the mouth of Crystal Creek on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior. I took a photo to commemorate the moment.

But I thought I would take the opportunity to post some of my favorite moon images. Enjoy!…and may all your vehicles make to the moon!

Moonrise at Split Rock Lighthouse, North Shore of Lake Superior, Minnesota.
Canon Rebel XTi with Canon 70-200mm f4 at 84mm; ISO 400; f9 at 5 seconds (Long exposure so the moon is blurred due to its/our movement, but this works when the moon is relatively small in the frame.

The full moon setting behind a grove of Red and White Pines. St. Louis County, Minnesota


Moonrise over Lake Superior..Horizon and sky merge. Taken from Billy Lovaas’s 25-foot wood-canvas canoe on an outing out of Grand Marais. The moon is “squashed” due to optical illusions as the moon rises over water.
Canon 40D with Canon 400mm f5.6; ISO 1600; f5.6 at 1/100 Handheld (!).


I really like this image of a flock of Sandhill Cranes flying below the moon. Birds don’t always need to fill the frame to make compelling images. Crex Meadows Refuge, Wisconsin.
Canon Rebel 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6; ISO 400; f8 at 1/1000 (This type of shot is only possible for a short time when the sky is still bright enough to get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the flying birds but dark enough to actually see the moon.)

Crescent moons can be as compelling as full moons. Moonset at Twin Lakes, Superior National Forest Minnesota
Canon Rebel XTi with Canon 70-200mm f4 at 200mm; ISO 400; f5 at 1/10; tripod


Full moon and White Pine, Carlton County, Minnesota.
Canon Rebel XTi with Canon 400mm f5.6; ISO 400; f18 at 1/25; tripod (This is a difficult shot as you need great depth of field to keep both the moon and White Pine in focus…BUT you also need a fast enough shutter speed so that the moon doesn’t blur.)

Exposure Tip: Photographing the moon can be tricky…We are moving relatively fast in relation to the moon, so exposures need to be quite short to render the moon sharp. Also don’t rely on auto exposure or Program mode as the camera will try and make the dark sky medium-toned thereby blowing out the moon. Instead expose for the moon itself by either a) spot-metering the moon, b) underexposing by a couple stops and checking your histogram and adjusting till you get a proper exposure or c) using the “sunny 16 rule” (for full moons)…f16 at the reciprocal shutter speed of the ISO of the film/digital setting used. So the proper exposure of a full moon when camera is set to ISO 400 would be f16 at 1/400 second.

Top image is a “photo-illustration” combining two photos—one of the full moon and one of the Bighorn. Both were taken in Yellowstone. The Bighorn was shot as a silhouette and I immediately thought it would be a cool illustration if I could “Photoshop” in a full moon. Of course, I would always divulge the fact that this image is actually two images combined, and hope that whoever publishes it would also label it as a “photo-illustration.” It’s just my ethics.