Monuments at Night, Nov 5

The Orion Nebula, the central star in Orion’s sword.

On this day, I manage to travel to Four Corners, a geographic location that is only meaningful to cartographers marking the human-made political bounds of different territories.  There is certainly no physical or geographic rartionale behind it, as the view from the constructed concrete platform holding the National Geologic Survey brass benchmark is the same in all directions.

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Monuments at Night, Nov 4

Moon over Monument

It had been a late night with an unexpected adrenaline rush at the end, and so it was predictable that after finally settling down, I would sleep well into the next morning.  After showering and shaving, the next order of business was to upload the photos from my digital camera and assess my success at the guided exposures from last night. 

Unfortunately, my laptop did not recognize any of the raw (.CR2) image files from the camera’s memory card!  This was a setback since I was planning to copy the images to the computer, and then reuse the memory card (I only had two of them and the second was filling rapidly). 

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Monuments at Night, Nov 3

An accumulation of light.
Nov 3, 2005, Monument Valley AZ
Pentax 6×7, E200 push 1-stop, 90 minutes at f/4

I am staying at the Hampton Inn in Kayenta Arizona.  It is not your usual traveler’s stopping place that I have become accustomed to in my business travels.  It is an attractive contemporary adobe building, tastefully appointed with beautiful Navajo art and artifacts.  Gentle native music is piped to the public areas.  An interesting Navaho outdoor exhibit is also well presented.  The native American flavor is augmented by modern conveniences—full breakfast, wireless internet, pool, patio, and an attractive and comfortable lobby.

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Monuments at Night, Nov 2

San Juan River Goosenecks, UT

In exchange for the aborted photo session, I enjoyed a full night of sleep and awoke recharged and ready to further explore the area.  After last night’s efforts, I recognized a few more things I am in need of:  AA batteries (of course), a blanket or tarp, and a stool, adjustable, for help while guiding the telescope at awkward positions.  I also needed to fix the too-tight declination gear on my telescope mount.  I noticed that there was dust on my digital camera sensor; I needed something to blow it off.  These are things I should be able to accomplish during the daytime hours while doing reconnaissance for my next nighttime excursion.

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Monuments at Night, Arrival

Mars over Mittens, Twilight at Monument Valley
Nov 1, 2005, Monument Valley AZ
Pentax 6×7, Provia 400, 30 sec at f/3.5

I have long been fascinated by the landscapes of the southwest, and in particular the peculiar rock formations found in Monument Valley, a unique area straddling Arizona and Utah.  I am not the only one that finds them intriguing: it is a very popular photographic and film-making target.

When a business trip took me to a conference in Phoenix, I decided to prepend a personal trip to this Navajo Nation Tribal Park to take pictures of the night sky.  My plans were ambitious; I wanted to take wide angle star trail photos featuring the famous buttes, but also, knowing how remote and dark this area would be, to take guided astrophotos of some deep sky targets. 

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Third Tail

Third Tail
Lake Zumbra (Victoria MN), 9:00 pm 8 April 97. 
Kiev-88 80mm, 5 minutes at f/4 on PMC400.

Notes from Thor’s astrophoto journal:

On April 8, a friend joined me to observe Hale-Bopp at my nearby and nearly-dark site at Lake Zumbra.  We enjoyed watching the very young moon set, then went about preparing to take some pictures. I was hoping to get a shot taken at a smaller lens aperture so the stars would have less distortion than in my earlier photos.

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City Cometscape

City Cometscape
Lake Calhoun looking at Minneapolis, 4:00 am 23 March 97. 
Kiev-88, 80mm , 20 seconds at f/4 on PMC400.

Notes from Thor’s astrophoto journal:

I thought that the view of comet Hale-Bopp over a cityscape would make a striking photograph.  There were only certain view angles and observing times that worked however.  To get the comet to hang over downtown Minneapolis in March, the time worked out to be around 3:00 am along a northeast line of sight.  Surprisingly few vantage points existed; the streets headed off in the wrong direction, or the view was obscured by trees,  buildings or streetlights. 

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Hale-Bopp over Hyland Tower

Hale-Bopp over Hyland Tower
Bloomington MN, 4:00 am 15 March 97. 
Kiev-88 80mm f/2.8, 30 second exposure on Tech Pan 120 film.

Notes from Thor’s astrophoto journal:

This picture was taken with a Kiev-88, which is a Russian-made clone of  a Hasselblad (a high quality  camera that was taken to the moon).  It uses the larger size 120 format film.  A colleague suggested that this unused camera should be stored in my office  instead of his.  And since I had no use for it there, I decided I should try it out on one of my comet photo outings.

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4.3 Please show your permit

Another challenge in making photographs of the night sky

On a summer camping trip with my family some years ago, I attempted to make a star trail picture showing Mt Hood in Oregon as reflected in one of the nearby alpine lakes.  Unfortunately, that remote location was not quite remote enough, and I found that other campers were intruding on my composition. 

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