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.
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.
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.
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.
Taking pictures at night is often a
solo experience, and while it is true that there are times when one is quite
alone, there are plenty of times when the abundance of humans on the planet provides
company, desired or not.
I was 16 years old when Apollo-11 landed on the moon. Color television had been invented but most TVs were still black and white. I had seen a few color televisions on display and in other homes, but the color was usually awful, partly because the broadcasting signals had to be compatible with black and white sets.
I have encountered various unexpected events while photographing the night sky. Some are spectacular, like the flash of a brilliant meteor exploding in the sky and lighting up the landscape. Some are startling: the crash of a tree felled by a nocturnal beaver. Some are annoying: the competitive calling of amorous ducks and their disruption of the mirror lake surface I was trying to photograph. And some are downright dangerous.