Eclipse / the "sun eating dragon"

Astrophysicist David Dearborn notes, "In many ways it makes sense that eclipses would be seen as bad omens. For most early cultures, the sun was seen as a life-giver, something that was there every day, so something that blots out the sun was a terribly bad event, filled with foreboding.

…a recurring and pervasive embodiment of the eclipse was a dragon,
or a demon, who devours the sun.

The ancient Chinese would produce great noise and commotion during an eclipse, banging on pots and drums to frighten away the dragon. The Incas, too, tried to intimidate the creatures who were eating the sun. In India they took a different tack — people would immerse themselves up to the neck in water, an act of worship they believed helped the sun fight off the dragon.”

For a look at some literary reactions to eclipses,
and a look at the feelings of modern scientists themselves

return to:  Robert Howell Photography.com              
for more information drop me a line
"See you out there"


Visualization | Annular Eclipse & Old Faithful

 Click here for a quick timelapse of the eclipse, taken just before the clouds returned...  

Annular Eclipse over Yellowstone National Park on May 20th, 2012

The goal was to make a single image of the Eclipse AND the Geyser eruption occurring at the same time.

A scene with a sense of awe --- bright day, blue sky, white geyser steam and movement or gestures of the onlookers straining to see the flow or connection of these two phenomenons.

The challenge was shooting 'into' the direction of the bright sun.

This image is a composite with two frames
1. A filter-less shot of the eclipse/geyser/onlookers and
2. A shot with a .9 ND filter capturing the bright sun being eclipsed,
using the steam as an additional filter.

Old Faithful erupts nearly 130 feet high (40 m) every 90 minutes.  The previous eruption was at 4:50pm.  The eclipse would begin at 6:12pm and peak (71%) at 7:22pm, ending with the moon passing out of the sun's way around 8:25pm.  The eruptions last only 2 minutes and stay at peak height for less than a minute. This means my exposure timing would be crucial.  So, I practiced the shot(s) a day earlier.

The day before the eclipse I scouted the area around Old Faithful and watched the path of the sun from 5pm until it set.  It was windy and the same was predicted for Sunday’s weather.  I found a spot to set up with the side of Old Faithful Lodge as a wind block.  I setup the tripods and cameras, framed the scene and practiced shooting. Shutter speeds and ISO’s were adjusted to compensate for the bright sun and neutral density (ND) & circular polarizing filters.

Visitors watch Old Faithful Geyser erupt
as the moon partially eclipses the sun.

On Sunday, I found my mark and setup the tripods in the same place around the corner of the Lodge out of the breeze…and watched the cloud filled sky begin to dissipate.   (I’d patiently saved up all my cloud busting thoughts for this particular hour.)  The clouds continued to disappear, the breeze died down…

The Shoot
I setup two cameras and tripods.
It was a way to have both a close-up of the eclipse and a wider ‘story’ shot of the geyser eruption with the eclipse.

The D300 w/ focal length of 1200mm on board was shot every 5 minutes through a 4” mirror-front Orion Solar Filter.  Using ‘live view’ I easily followed the sun and readjusted the composition for each shot.

The D700 w/ focal length of 200mm was composed to catch the sun & moon above the geyser and the onlookers.
Fitted with a .9 ND filter, it was not strong enough to hold back the sun by itself.  The eclipsed sun was still too bright. The top of the scene was still overexposed.  With a circular polarizer attached to the ND, the filters were too strong.  The sun and the silhouette of the passing moon could be captured but everything else in the scene was darkened.

As the geyser peaked and the thick steam rose to cover the sun you could see the silhouette of the passing moon, but the sun was still very bright.  I quickly bracketed exposures with the ND filter on & off and shot through the geyser steam.  The composite of a good exposure of  the Eclipse (with bottom of the scene dark) and a good exposure of the Geyser eruption with onlookers (with top of the scene light) was made. 

A 'shout-out' to everyone who stopped by to have a chat & look at the live view while I shot two cameras.

Hi to Steven at the campground, chopping & riding  x-country on his Harley.  And a special shout to new friends, Freya & Claus.  
The best part of the event was sharing the moment, the conversation, the Guinness and the mosquito chasing with you...

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"Keep Looking UP"



Star Trails Diverging / Opposite Directions

Ancient Rock Art | Petroglyphs / Utah ‘Basketmaker’ nomads --- pre 750A.D.Star trails diverge in two directions over “Birthing Rock”. A nine-foot tall, red ‘Navajo Sandstone’ boulder that holds fragile, etched petroglyphs on all sides. This carving is thought to be the oldest known petroglyph depicting a mother giving birth. Perhaps, giving notice of a journey/trail to a grand fertile canyon and river ahead. For more interpretations of ancient Rock Art check out the writings of LaVan Martinaeu; •http://www.rocklanguage.com/http://www.amazon.com/Rocks-Begin-Speak-Lavan-Martineau/dp/0916122301 

Why do these star trails diverge in two directions?  

Because in both the northern and southern hemisphere the earth's rotation cause stars to appear to rotate around the axis of the earth, (a line projected out into space from the north and south poles). These are known as the north and south celestial poles.In the northern hemisphere this imaginary line points to Polaris -- the north star. We in the northern hemisphere can see the north star at all times / we can't see the southern celestial pole that is below the horizon. Photographs taken toward the south can capture part of both circles formed by the stars rotating around their respective celestial poles.These are two separate circles, curving in opposite directions.

This image is aimed toward the southwest. The view was wide enough to encompass portions of both the northern and southern celestial hemispheres, and so recorded portions of both rotation circles, as well as the "neutral zone" in between.

return to:  Robert Howell Photography.com              
for more information drop me a line
"See you out there"



Listening to the Scene

On the surface you might notice the color, lines, swirls or textures that seem to tickle your fancy.  But, the real beauty, is in the conversation.  

That night the sky seemed darker and quieter than usual.  And it was cold out.  Finger and toe numbing cold. The Milky Way was rising parallel to the horizon.  But, I could barely see it.  

I just wasn’t ‘into it’. 

Maybe my thoughts were on yesterday or next week.  Wherever they were, they were so loud I couldn’t hear the sky.  I realized I wasn’t making an effort to appreciate the scene. 

So, I backed away from the tripods and stared at the heavens.  I walked to the end of the boardwalk, out of sight of the cameras… and listened.  Then I walked some more, watching and listening.  (I've done this before.  It’s actually easier to do at night... fewer distractions.)  My thoughts moved toward the sky.  Not all of them.  Some of my thoughts were behind me,  wondering about bears.  But most of my thoughts traveled up to where I was staring…   

A recent German supercomputer estimates there are 500 billion galaxies. That means there could be a galaxy out there for every star in the Milky Way. I wondered about the insignificance of-it-all… And then, the significance.  I was stepping back to get a better view… and then I heard it. 

It sounded like a breeze through the pines and felt like a pat on the back, or maybe, a gentle push.  The scene spoke to me and in some way smiled and challenged me, “You’re ready.  Let's go.…”

I walked back to my (carefully covered) cameras and frosted tripod legs.  Checked my watch, just for the heck of it.  I knew I was ready to start shooting with the sky...just wondering how long it took me, this time?   Two hours. 
Just right… apparently.

It was a beautiful conversation.  I can still hear it in this image.  Do you hear it?

return to:  Robert Howell Photography.com              
for more information drop me a line
"Keep Looking UP"