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To Be Clear…

I want to be open and clear in my endeavors about moon sighting.  I do not want anyone to feel any doubt or lack any certainty about the reports that I give regarding the sighting of the new moon.

Let me start by noting that I have been involved in sighting the moon since 1993, and I have gone out nearly every month since then. I have studied the moon and its motion in the sky.  I am well-read on the science behind its motion and the mathematical technique employed today on predicting where the moon could be seen.  Over the years, I have developed my own set of criteria as to whether or not I think the moon will be seen. I also contribute to making final decisions almost every month as to the beginning of the Islamic months with other moon sighters and committees across the United States.

Over the years, I have noticed that the following minimum parameters are needed to easily see the new moon:

Age: more than 18 hours old

Lag Time: 40 minutes or more

Elongation: 12 degrees

Altitude at Sunset: 5 degrees

Crescent Width (or Percent Illumination): 19 arc seconds or 1% illumination

 

The parameters for the new crescent on June 5th were as follows at the time of sunset:

Age: 27.5 hours

Lag Time: 42 minutes

Elongation: 14.8 degrees

Altitude: 6.5 degrees

Percent Illumination: 1.7%

The moon was not going to be easily seen because the lag time and the altitude at sunset were very close to the minimum values needed to see the moon easily.

Predicting the visibility of the new crescent moon has been an endeavor that dates back thousands of years.  In 1997 and then updated in 1998, B.D. Yallop working for the HM Nautical Almanac Office, surveyed the methods used historically and those used in the twentieth century and developed a new criteria to predict new crescent moon visibility.  if interested, Yallop’s paper can be obtained HERE.  Every numerical moon prediction method used today works off of the Yallop method.  Among the parameters that I mention and use above, Yallop determined that there was a mathematical functional relation between the geocentric difference in altitude between the center of the sun and the center of the moon for a given latitude and longitude on the earth, ignoring the effects of refraction, and the topocentric width of the crescent moon.  In fact, Yallop found that the difference in the altitude was a cubic function of the topocentric crescent width.  Let me explain some of these terms.

First, let me explain the altitude.  Altitude is a measure of a celestial objects distance above the horizon as seen by an observer on the surface of the earth.  There are two ways to calculate it, geocentrically and topocentrically.  The geocentric calculation assumes that one is at the physical center of the sphere of the earth and the line connecting the center of the earth and the moon.  This altitude is measured off of the equator of the earth.  The topocentric calculation assumes one is standing on the surface of the earth and the line connecting the location on the earth and the moon does not necessarily pass through the center of the earth. The following diagram shows the two different angles.

Diagram showing Geocentric and Topocentric altitude.

The angle delta, δ, indicates the Geocentric altitude and the angle phi, φ, indicates the Topocentric altitude.  The topocentric altitude is of course easier to measure as one stands on the surface of the earth.  The difference in the geocentric altitude between the sun and the moon requires that this quantity be measured, or calculated, for both the sun and the moon and then the difference between those two values determined.  If the sun happens to be on the horizon it will have essentially a zero altitude by definition.  If the moon happens to still be in the sky above the sun then the difference in the altitudes will be a positive number.  If the moon had set before the sun, then the moon will be below the horizon and the difference in the altitudes would be a negative number.  Thus, the difference in the altitudes is always computed at the time of sunset for any given location on the earth.  The resulting number is then just the actual altitude of the moon above the horizon.

The altitude is measured in degrees and one can use a clinometer to easily measure the topocentric altitude of any celestial object, including the moon.  Check here if you would like to make your own clinometer.  To determine the geocentric altitude of the object one would need to employ trigonometry and some algebra, which is beyond the scope of the article at this time, but can be found by searching for it online if one desires.

Next is the topocentric crescent width.  This parameter measures the width of the visible portion of the moon.  The width of the moon is measured by an angle that subtends the moon as measured from earth.  In the figure below it would be the angle given by W.  From the earth the moon’s width measures approximately 0.5° or 30 arc minutes. It varies slightly from month to month depending on the distance between the earth and moon as the moon follows an elliptical path around the earth, sometimes a bit closer and sometimes a bit farther.  The width of the crescent is of course less than the 30 arc minutes and will continuously grow from zero to a full 0.5 degrees when the moon is full.  In terms of arc seconds, the moon is 1800 arc seconds wide (60 arc seconds in every arc minute).  A one percent (1%) illuminated moon corresponds to a crescent width of only 18 arc seconds wide, and a 19 arc second wide moon corresponds to roughly 1.05% illumination.

Measuring the Width of the Crescent

The crescent width is directly related to another parameter mentioned above and that is the Elongation.  The elongation is also an angular measure that determines the position of the moon relative to the earth and sun.  At conjunction the moon lines up with the earth and sun along what is known as the earth-moon-sun conjunction line.  The diagram below shows the new moon orientation with the moon on the conjunction line, as well as showing the moon in two other positions later in its orbit around the earth.  As the moon continues to move away from the conjunction line, the elongation angle continues to grow.  As the moon moves along in its orbit past conjunction, the visible portion of the moon gets larger as more reflected light from the sun can bounce off and find its way down to the earth where we can view it.

Elongation Diagram

Yallop had also discovered a mathematical functional relationship between the difference in the geocentric altitudes and the elongation and the difference in the azimuths of the moon and sun.  With this other relationship Yallop was able to come up with quadratic function that related the difference in the altitudes to the difference in the azimuths of the sun and moon.  So how are the probability curves generated?

Using a data set of 295 sighting reports in the past, the locations of where those sightings occurred were plotted on a map of the earth based on their latitude and longitude.  Then for a given date the necessary parameters, altitudes and azimuths are computed using astronomical calculations.  Given the values of the altitudes and azimuths along with the result of each individual sighting from the data set, whether the moon was seen or not seen, and whether it was seen by the unaided eye or with an optical aid, a parabolic curve is plotted on the map to fit the data as best as possible.  The parabolic curve is used as it will best fit the quadratic function determined by Yallop.  The technique used is called Least Squares Curve Fitting and it is a statistical method that uses pre-existing data to fit a line or other curve, such as a parabola in this case, to the data that gives the best possible fit while minimizing errors.  The larger the data set used the more accurate the curve fitting becomes.  Yallop initially used 295 data points and from that set determined six visibility zones; Zone A – Easily Visible to the Unaided Eye, Zone B – Visible Under Perfect Atmospheric Conditions, Zone C – Visible to the Unaided Eye After Found with Optical Aid, Zone D – Only Visible with Binoculars or Conventional Telescopes, Zone E – Not Visible with Conventional Telescopes and Zone F – Not Visible Below Danjon Limit of 7°.  The Danjon Limit is the minimum elongation angle that will allow sunlight reflecting off of the moon to reach the earth. Below a 7° elongation there is not enough light reflecting off of the moon that it could be seen by any means.

Numerically the six zones are determined by the following values: Zone A – q > +0.216, Zone B – +0.216 ≥ q > -0.014, Zone C – -0.014 ≥ q > -0.16, Zone D – -0.16 ≥ q > -0.232, Zone E – -0.232 ≥ q > -0.293, Zone F – q ≥ -0.293.

Note that in moving from one zone to the next, the values of the determination parameter have common borders. Zone A and B have a common border along the 0.216 parabola line, Zone B and C along the -0.014 parabola line, Zone C and D along the -0.16 parabola line, Zone D and E along the -0.232 parabola line and finally Zone E and F along the -0.293 parabola line.  Even though the above inequalities are designed to ensure any given location can be in one and only one zone, there is no margin of error between the zones and this raises many questions.  What if one was standing exactly on one of the parabola lines that delineates one zone from the next?  What prediction does one rely on?  How far into any given zone must one move to ensure that the zone one is in will be the predictor of the probability indicated?

Again, the Yallop criteria, a statistical method using past sighting data to predict probable future sightings and the larger the data set the better the curve fit and the better the prediction of probable sighting.

The Yallop criteria for the moon on June 5th indicated that my area was in Zone C;  that sighting the crescent was possible after using an optical aid to first  locate the moon, however my location was very close to the border line of Zone B, crescent visible under perfect atmospheric conditions.  Aside from some wispy high clouds in limited portions of the sky, we had great atmospheric conditions for sighting the moon as I had ever seen.

So what happened this past Sunday evening? Our group arrived at our viewing location, Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve along the Ridge Trail, with the following coordinates 37.3247 N 122.2087 W at an elevation of 2359 feet around 7:45 pm to 8:00 pm local PDT.  We waited for the sun to set before we started to look.  I knew the moon’s azimuth would be about 10 degrees to the left of the sun, approximately 1 hand span, and 6.5 degrees above the horizon, approximately 2 to 3 fingers above the horizon at the time of sunset.  I directed everyone to concentrate on that location of the sky. We all looked intently.

The prime time to see the moon occurs at a time that is 4/9 of the lag time after sunset, a time determination that was also discussed by Yallop in the same above mentioned paper.  At our location sunset occurred at 8:26 pm PDT.  The moon set was at 9:08 pm PDT, and 4/9 of 42 minutes is 18 minutes and 20 seconds.  This placed the best viewing time at 8:44 pm.  Hence, as soon as it was 8:44 pm,  we all started to double our searching efforts.  One from the group at this time thought that he saw its lower limb poking out from the clouds that were perched right where the moon was supposed to be. Then, a few moments later, another of the onlookers thought he saw it as well.  The first person though had lost sight of it.  Neither could confirm with certainty.  At about 8:50 pm PDT, I pull out a pair of small low power 7 x 35 binoculars (see note below), and I search the sky along the bottom edge of the clouds that obstructed our view.  Within moments, I confirmed what the other two had seen with their naked eyes: the bottom limb of the moon was indeed sticking out from the clouds.  I moved the binoculars from my eyes, and I could clearly distinguish that the lower limb was visible and directed others to where it was.  Within 5 minutes, the moon had completely dropped out of the clouds.  At this point, I was able to see it clearly and at the same time faintly.  It was a very thin moon and one that was difficult to spot.  However, when I directed the rest of the group to where it was in relation to clouds around it, the first two who had seen it, were able to see it once more, and they were followed by a third onlooker, then a fourth and then a fifth in addition to myself.  It was then that I trained my camera on the moon and made four photos, starting at 8:58 pm.  By that time the moon had dropped to about 1 or 1.5 fingers above the horizon, approximately 3 degrees above the horizon in altitude.

In all we were about 15 in number; most had a difficult time seeing it, but those of us who did see it, were certain we had seen it.  We continued to watch it until just about 9:05 pm PDT when it had dropped so low that haze along the horizon was now obscuring the view.

I made the first photo of it just as it dropped out of the clouds at 8:58 pm; however, I did not set the camera controls correctly, and the moving reflex mirror in the camera caused a vibration that blurred the moon.  I then made the second of four photos immediately afterwards, this time locking the mirror in place before tripping the shutter.  That second photo was the photo displayed on the June 5th post.  The third and fourth photos were made in the same manner however, the second photo showed the moon best.  Furthermore, I have been photographing the new crescent moon with a digital camera for the last 8 years.  I set the camera to photograph in RAW mode.  A RAW file is not actually an image file, rather it is a file that records the CCD image sensor data as it was captured.  An additional piece of software is needed to read the RAW file and covert it to an image file.  In the RAW converter, I have control over the data, and I can set the exposure, brightness, contrast, highlight and shadow levels, color temperature as well as the saturation so that the image appears as best as I can recall at the time I made the photo.  I cannot however, add an object that was not there, nor can I remove something that was there.  Those operations can be accomplished, if so desired, in an image editing program like Photoshop.  When the RAW file is opened in the converter it is very dull and with very low contrast and, in most cases, looks nothing like the actual scene.  This is by design to ensure the darkest part of the image and the lightest part of the image contains actual detail.  Pure black and pure white in a digital image contain no details at all.  The four photos shown below are the four that I made on the evening of June 5th, without any adjustments made to the RAW files other than opening the files in the converter and then saving them as JPEG files for displaying on the web.

Initial Photo with Blurred Moon, 8:58 pm PDT

Photo used on June 5th post, 8:58 pm PDT

Third photo made on June 5th, 9:00 pm PDT

Fourth and final photo of June 5th; 9:03 pm PDT

 

Note on Binoculars:  I have not used binoculars to search for the new moon since September of 2003.  On that particular occasion, I was able to see the moon with a pair of 10×50 binoculars, but I could not see it with my naked eyes.  I had a group with me at that time as well, and they could not see the crescent even with the binoculars.  It put me in a difficult position, as according to the Shari’ah, the sighting obligated me to start the new month but not so for any others.  I was instructed by one of my teachers to stop using optical aids in searching for the new moon.  Hence, this past Sunday night, on June 5th, was the first time I had used binoculars in thirteen years.  My children have grown up with moon sighting, and while they were all to young to understand the use of binoculars thirteen years ago, they grew up with hearing about that incident 13 years ago and have been with me consistently over this time.  Three of my four children are all considered adults now under Shari’ah and these three were all among the five besides myself that saw the crescent on June 5th.  As I pulled the binoculars out, they all urged me to put them away.  They all said, “Don’t cheat!”

Earlier that evening I was in contact with other colleagues that I work with in determining how to respond to other sighting claims from the United States and abroad.  Positive sighting reports had come in from Peru and Chile but did not include the details that would have allowed us to evaluate the sightings.  I was fairly certain that we would get reports from either Arizona or South Texas based on the Yallop probability curves for those areas, and sure enough, we did get a report from Frisco Texas.  I personally interviewed the man who made that report, and it sounded like a valid report.  He was not alone but had his wife and his adult daughter with him, and all three saw it.  Furthermore, he did indicate to me that there were others in his area that had seen it as well.  In discussing this report with my colleagues, we had decided to declare a positive sighting had been made but that we would wait until after sunset PDT to make the final call once we had a chance to search for the moon.  I was already convinced that the month had started, and thus my “cheat” was more of a self edification than anything else.  Once I established its location with the binoculars, I was able to direct others to seeing it, and once I pulled the binoculars from own eyes, the moon was there, faint, but clearly there, seen with my naked eyes, just as the Yallop curves had indicated.  The other naked eye sightings were just that – naked eye sightings, as they did not use the binoculars, something the Yallop curves did not indicate.

Finally going back to my criteria based on my sighting experience.  The moon of June 5th at the location of our observation met all the criteria indicating that we should have been able to see the moon.  Since the lag time was very close to the minimum of 40 minutes and that the altitude of the moon was very close to the minimum of 5 degrees needed, it was going to be a difficult moon to see.  Indeed it was a very difficult moon to see.  However, had we not had clouds to contend with that covered the portion of the sky at 8:44 pm where the moon should have been, we might have seen it earlier while it was at its optimum contrast.  The first of the sighters who did think he saw the lower limb but then later lost it, did think he saw it at just about the time of optimum viewing of 8:44 pm.

I would like people to understand that I would not have made the claim of seeing the moon if we did not actually see it with our naked eyes.  The responsibility of making such a claim when it is not true carries a great burden; in fact, any time I make a claim to have seen the moon, a great burden comes along with it.  I do not take moon sighting lightly.  The worship of billions of Muslims sometimes rides on my sightings, and I am very careful with it.

I hope this post settles any questions anyone might have had with the sighting that we made on June 5th.  I ask that you all keep me and my team of moon sighters in your prayers and pray that we can continue to keep this Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) alive and well and that we can once again re-establish it as the dominant method of determining our religious months and holidays.

Until next time, Peace to All and Ramadan Mubarak!

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A Moon So Fine!

Ramadan Mubarak!

The new crescent moon of Ramadan 1437 (2016) was seen this evening by a group of crescent chasers on top the northern Santa Cruz Mountains in Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve.  The sky was somewhat foreboding as it laced itself with clouds right where we expected the moon.

At about 8:45 pm, one of the chasers thought he saw it but he lost it in the clouds as the clouds moved.  Then at about 8:55 pm we re-established its sighting as it once again re-emerged from the clouds.  Several in the group of about 15 to 20 onlookers were able to see it.

A fine a moon as I have ever seen, it was incredibly thin in a dim sky.  Once we had it in our sites, I trained the camera on it and made four images.  This one shows it best.

A Fine Moon

The sight of the new moon never ceases to amaze me.  This one literally took my breath away when I saw it.  I wish the photo could convey what I felt.

Ramadan Mubarak!

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Here We Go Again

It has been too long since my last post.  Much has transpired since then, but more on that later.  For now, the moon sighting for Ramadan is again quickly approaching.  To prepare for what is coming and to ensure, or try to circumvent any confusion for Ramadan, sighting the moon of the preceding month, the month of Sha’baan, becomes necessary.

Astronomically, the probability of seeing the new crescent was very good.  All the parameters needed to easily see the new moon were to be met.  I had put a plan in place to take my astronomy class on its last field trip to the James Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton just south east of San Jose.  The weather outlook was good for most of the preceding week and early in the week of the planned trip.  However as we approached our sighting day, May 7th, the weather took a turn for the worse.  The skies clouded over and rain was forecast.  In fact on the morning of the trip it was raining throughout the S.F. Bay Area!  The hopes of all the students, and mine as well, were washing away with every rain drop that fell from the sky.

In spite of the weather, we continued on with our planned trip.  In addition to being at roughly 4200 feet in elevation atop Mount Hamilton for the sighting, I had also arranged for a tour of the observatory.  So even if we did not see the moon, we were in store for a great tour of many of the telescopes used up there.  When we arrived at the observatory we were actually in the clouds!  We could not see the sky, the mountains, or the valleys below, a near total whiteout condition, and it was cold, very cold.

Our tour guides met us with over-flowing enthusiasm.  It was infectious and soon we were all excited about seeing the various telescopes.  The one disappointment was that due to the high humidity the observatory was most likely not going to allow us to view anything through the telescopes.  I learned, even though I kind of already knew, that with a humidity above 91% the telescope lenses would fog over with condensation and then later require a costly and laborious cleaning.  I’ve been in conditions where the humidity was very high at night and seen what it does to my camera lenses.  But I was still surprised and saddened that viewing something like Jupiter or Saturn that night was not going to happen.

As we finished the day time portion of the tour we were headed back to the original observatory building when suddenly the cloud we were in started to break and blue sky was seen for the first time that day!  Everyone on the trip turned to me and asked if I thought seeing the moon at least would be possible.  I was hopeful.  By the time we arrived back to the main building, the cloud we were in had completely dissipated and we could see the fog that had settled in the valleys below.  However the sky was still covered with patchy high clouds, and the portion of the sky where I had expected the moon to be was covered as well.

I told everyone to just be patient.  We wait until we are sure the moon has set before we give up.  Sunset occurred around 8 pm that night.  We prayed our sunset prayer as a group and then we ate our evening meal that we had brought with us.  The clouds kept playing with us as they moved across the sky allowing for openings where we would search intently and then to just have that portion of the sky close up once more.  Then it happened!

Just a few minutes pat 8:30 pm the moon suddenly broke out of the clouds and the gasps of excitement rang out!

Peek-a-Boo

It was very refreshing to finally see the new moon after months of failed attempts this spring.  The weather was a hindrance each time I had gone out his spring.  The rain was very important this year here in California and while I am grateful for it, it was starting to weigh on my patience.  But finally we saw the moon!  It was a nice capstone to the end of the astronomy class that I was teaching.

The following day I sat down to edit the photos I had made of the Sha’baan moon.  While I was working on the image made with my 400mm lens, I noticed a small white spot very close to the crescent itself.  Intrigued, I opened my star charting software and set up the location and time when the photo was made to determine what star it might be or if it was just an artifact.  To my surprise it was actually a star!  It was Hyadum I, or otherwise known as Gamma Tauri, a star in the constellation of Taurus the Bull and it is only 158 light-years away from Earth!

Shabaan and Hyadum I

It was a fabulous evening that resulted in a great capture of the moon and this time with a star!  I think this is the first time that I have captured the crescent moon with a star in the same image.  Seeing stars on the western horizon at the time when the crescent becomes visible is very rare.  Venus, yes. Mars, yes and maybe even Mercury or any of the other five naked-eye planets but stars not so much.  The coolest part is that I did not see Hyadum I when we were out there, but the camera did.  I am still to this day, more than 20 years after picking up a camera to ‘see’ the world, still get floored at its ability to capture things that slip by our own eyes! It is quite humbling.  I think it is imperative that we reflect on that.  What we see with our eyes is not all that is there.

Until next time, Peace.

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Speaking In Silence

Each month this lone natural satellite of ours cycles through its phases always returning to the waxing crescent and appears in its performance after the sun has gone down. Each month, it seems, that its performance falls increasingly on an ever growing number of deaf ears.

Crescent Moon of Dhul-Hijjah Setting over the Santa Cruz Mountains

Speaking In Silence

Now you might be asking, how can we hear the moon when it is a visual experience? And to that I would reply, do we really hear with our ears? I had a teacher once who gave me advice. Be careful about what you do, people are listening to you with their eyes. In an age that is filled with imagery, actions speak much louder than words. And in an age where truth has been tipped on its head such that lies are believed to be truths and truth taken as lies, it is becoming harder to ascertain the truth. Nothing man touches anymore is free from the corruption of lies.

Twenty years ago I ventured out with a camera in my hand determined to vindicate the veracity of my tongue by photographing the new crescent moon as solid proof that I was seeing it. Along the way I became enamored by the natural world and have pointed my lens at much of. The world is vast and it has kept me occupied in preserving the moments it presented to me. In all that time, however, I never stopped photographing the moon. I rarely, if ever, shared the photos of the moon with many as I thought they would be of little interest; to simple for the sophistication of the modern mind, to boring for the eyes vexed by the virtual chicanery of our time. Yet in the past couple of years I have started sharing the photos of the new crescent moon and to my surprise they have been welcomed with a refreshing enthusiasm. Perhaps simple is best. After all was it not Albert Einstein who said “Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler”?

These photos of the moon cannot be any simpler with regards to the subject and still call them photos of something. A sliver of reflected light set against a colorful post sunset sky. As simple as they may seem, they are a far cry from having nothing to say.

At times the color of the sky is vibrant while at other times quiet and tame. The color moves the eye up and down the frame touching upon all the emotions associated with the spectrum from passion to power to peace and sadness, stopping only for the pearly-white glow of the small sliver of light that interrupts the flow. The subject is always the same but placed in the specific context the photos take on many levels of complexity. At times I am treated with a varied sky mixed with silhouetted clouds giving the photo a sense of mystery or a dastardly ominous presence and the crescent provides a glimmer of hope that balances the image.

I also see the moon as a marker of time.  Each day it waxes larger until it becomes full and rises as the sun is setting and then wanes away into a crescent once more before it vanishes for  day or two as it interludes with the sun hidden to our naked eyes.  Its mansions in the sky remind me of the passing of time, or more starkly the running out of time.  I only have a fixed amount to time in this life as do each of you.  Once my time, and your time for that matter, runs out, we cease to exist here.  Our ability to do something to effect change for the better comes to an end.  So it reminds me each month to get busy and not waste the precious amount I have left.

The Moon, Venus and Spica

The Trio

Rarer still, are those times when the moon is hanging in the sky next to other celestial travelers, such as Venus or Mars or other orbs of light that reach out from deep in the galaxy or from other galaxies that are light years away. These little sparks of light not only grace the image with another point of light to aid in giving the eye a place to rest but also giving us a glimpse into the past. For many of the stars that do show up, are so far away that their light reaching us now left those stars long before we ever existed and in some cases their light is as old as the universe itself. For us, looking up at the sky, these celestial beacons all appear the same distance away. Light reflected from the moon however, reaches us in a little over 1 second. From Venus, a regular companion of the Moon in the sunset sky, its reflected light reaches us in as little as 2 minutes or as long as 14 minutes depending on where it is in its orbit around the sun relative to where we are in our orbit. Light from the sun, which on average is 93 million miles away, reaches us in just over 8 minutes.  The next closest star to us is Proxmia Cantauri which is 4.3 light years away, meaning light from that start reaching us tonight left that star 4.3 years ago.  The additional star that showed up on the evening that “Trio” was made, Spica in the constellation Virgo, is the 15th brightest star in the sky and the light that left that star did so 250 years ago!  That was before anyone of us reading this article right now was even born!  And the faintest object that we can see by the naked eye under a sufficiently dark sky is the Triangulum Galaxy M33 which is 3 million light years away from Earth.  Its light seen tonight left it 3 million years ago!  When we look up at sky we are seeing the ancient past.

Then there are those times when I decide to not only include the moon’s neighbors in the sky, but also Terra Firma.  I will place it as an anchor at the bottom of the frame, silhouetted against the colorful sky.  Most times I will wait until the moon is close to the horizon allowing the diffraction effects of the atmosphere to play its magic in making the moon appear bigger than it really is.  And yet, by doing so I emphasize the size of the moon to indicate that it is much more important than we esteem it to be.  Without the moon, the tides on the oceans would not exist as they do.  The variation of high tide and low tide would not be present.  And although the sun and wind would still send waves onto our shores they would be tame compared to what we now see, and coastlines for the most part would remain static, much like those of any lake.  By virtue of the orbiting moon, we have dynamic oceanic coastlines that team with a variety of unique life accustomed to the cyclic nature of the rising and dropping tides.

Further yet, the moon was the first means of marking time beyond a day, ushering in calendars into the human civilization that were used to mark sacred days as well as the counting of years.  Through the discovery and understanding of the cyclic nature of the moon, the cyclic nature of the rising and setting locations of the sun and stars soon followed allowing our ancestors to learn about the changing and cyclic seasons – giving rise to the understanding of agriculture of knowing when and when not to plant.  The relationship of the Moon and Mother Earth is one that runs very deep and the two are intimately connected through an invisible force now known as gravity.  It was the sight of the moon up in the sky and simultaneously seeing an apple fall from a tree that prompted Sir Isaac Newton to question – if an apple falls from a tree to the ground, why does the moon up in the sky not fall to earth as well?  It led him to the rationalization of what we now call Newton’s Laws of Motion which describe the very nature of the motion of our world and those objects in it as well as the motion of heavenly bodies. Through Newtonian mechanics, the motion of objects described by Newton’s Laws of Motion, humans have walked on the surface of the very moon that prompted Sir Isaac Newton to formulate those laws some half a millennium ago.  And yet, to this day, we still do not know what gravity really is.

Yes these photos of the new crescent moon are simple, but by no means are they empty.  The prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, spoke succinctly with few words but with much meaning.  His blessed face was described to shine more than the full moon on a dark night.  He changed the world for the better and left for us in the moon a tradition of going out each month in search of it.  Each month the moon appears is a reminder of the character building lessons that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, came to teach us.  I see the moon as his final lesson.  If he spoke succinctly in his lifetime he is now speaking to us in silence – through the silence of the moon.  These photos of the moon as simple as they may be, speak volumes, without even saying a word.

New Crescent Moon

More Than Words

Till next time, peace.

 

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Sha’baan 1434 Begins

Just a quick note to announce the beginning of the eight month of the Islamic calendar, Sha’baan, has commenced this evening.  We tried to view this moon from our normal sighting location atop Russian Ridge in the Santa Cruz mountains, but fog, wind and a thick marine layer had completely obscured the view from there and any hope of seeing the new crescent.  We rushed back down the mountains and directly to the top level of a parking structure of a local hospital.  From there we had a clear view of the horizon and we waited there until we sighted it.

Shabaan 1434 Crescent

Shabaan 1434

Sha’baan is known as the Month of The Prophet.  In this month the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing upon him, used to fast more than in any other month outside of Ramadan.  It is also a month in which there is a night where those seeking forgiveness of God will find it if they ask.  It is the night of the 15th day.  So seek out your good fortune in this blessed month and   until next time, Peace.

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Organic Light Photography 2012 Favorites

In wrapping up the year many photographers try to pick their best photos from the year.  I am not sure what makes a ‘Best Photo’.  Is it the photo that was the most technically challenging?  Is it the the photo that is artistic in either its composition or color or lack of color?  Is it the photo that sold well or was the most popular with an audience?  Some photographers ask other photographers to pick for them.  Some photographers ask their audience to pick for them.

For me, its about what the photograph means, why I made the photo, how it makes me and others who look at it feel.  Did the photo bring a sense of wonder, or awe or delight?  Did it make me think or my audience think?  Did it help me to form a bond with Mother Earth or with those that are dear to me?  Those are the photos that would qualify as best.  So what follows are my favorites from the past year and why.

At the start of the year the full moon was rising over Half Dome in Yosemite and the high country was still accessible due to a lack of snow fall.  The crew and I made the trek and it was a moving experience for all.  Its the experience that makes a photo what it is sometimes and this one carries a lot with it.

full Moon Rising Over Half Dome

Another Day In The Park

Later in the year, in early autumn, the crew and I ventured out to the coast at a low negative tide and discovered what lives under the water.  We spent the afternoon gathering sea stars and made this fabulous arrangement.  the interactions that occurred that afternoon and on the evening ride home showed me something that I knew was inside of my crew but hardly had the chance to make an appearance.  I saw stars, real stars and it was in the making of this photo that brought them out to shine.

An Arrangement of Sea Stars at Low Tide

Seaing Stars

I also struggled this year with photography.  Trendy photos, trendy ways of displaying them and trendy marketing all designed to persuade the viewing public to think mediocrity is something special.  It was troubling me greatly and then by a strange twist of fate I found myself standing over a raging torrent of water at a location that attracts many tourists.  Those who stop marvel at the water but I was looking in the opposite direction.  What impressed upon me was that standing firm on what has a real foundation is the only thing that lasts.  When all the madness has passed, what has remained is morality, character and tradition.  That is what my photography rests on and hopefully others will see that as well.

 

Torrent of water in Cascade Creek

Standing Firm

The heavens in 2012 were also produced events of amazement and wonder.  Most memorable was the annular eclipse of the sun.  I planned a trip, determined a location prepared all the equipment both for the trip and the photography only to it all vaporize and morph into something entirely different. On the one hand it seemed like the endeavor was all in vain, but what resulted were some photographs that were as unique as the event itself.  Many photographers produced interesting renditions, but I saw nothing like what I was given.

Annular Eclipse of the Sun at Second Contact

Broken Light

It was amazing to see the moon and sun married in the sky together like that for several minutes.  Intellectually I know that the moon passes in between the Earth and Sun each month. I know this because each month I am out trying to find and photograph the new crescent moon once it has passed conjunction and starts to reflect the faintest amount light back to the Earth.  But seeing conjunction happen during a solar ecplipse brings seeing the new moon to a whole new level.  A day later, after ‘Broken Light’ was made, it was the moon’s stage and the moon’s alone.  I ventured out again to capture this elegant crescent that was only 26.3 hours old from the moment I saw it pass in front of the sun.  Needless to say it was quite awe inspiring.

New moon of Rajab 1433

Rajab 1433

The moons last year did not disappoint.  However the debates that revolved around the most certainly did.  The Islamic calendar is a pure lunar calendar.  It is based on sighting the new crescent moon each and every month.  In our modern world this seems to have become an inconvenience.  It is unfortunate because it is a most cherished tradition.  It is a tradition that helps us ground ourselves in reality rather than further immersing ourselves deeper into abstractions. The unadulterated mind sees things as they are not as they are conceived. Marking time by physically seeing an event occur is real, while marking time by a contrivance of the mind is not.  The moon is real and when one looks to the sky and sees nothing one moment and then suddenly in the next moment sees the moon appears it has to leave that person’s heart in awe of the creative power that brought all of the universe into existence.  At least it does for me.  And so, these moons are a affirmation of the existence of a Creator and the photos of these thin ribbons of light hold great weight with me.

Shabaan 1433 crescent Moon

Shabaan1433

 

Crescent Moon of Shawwal 1433

Guarding Mercy

Crescent Moon of Dhul Hijjah 1433

Hearing The Call

There was one other heavenly event that was of worthy note, the transit of Venus. A transit of a heavenly body is when that body passes between the Earth and Sun.  The transit of the moon could completely eclipse the sun due to its size and distance from the Earth.  Venus on the other hand, is so much further away from the Earth and when it passes in front of the Sun it looks like a small dot. Nonetheless, the transit of Venus only occurs once every 105 years.  Due to this rarity, the 2012 transit of Venus was an event that most of us alive on Earth today will never see again.  Making sure I photographed it was imperative and was a pleasure to witness.

Second Contact of Venus and Sun

Second Contact

As summer waned my thoughts started to focus on autumn.  I made it a point to make a trip to the Eastern Sierra imperative.  As October rolled around I dusted off the camping equipment and gathered up the crew and headed off.  We spent three days exploring and photographing that awe inspiring landscape.  At the time I was feeling somewhat flummoxed about how my photography was perceived. Among the questions the raced in my mind was one that continues to bother me. Do people understand my photography, do they see what I see, does my photography move people the way it moves me?  Then one morning while standing at the foot of the youngest mountains in North America, ‘Among The Dead’ was made as that very thought came to mind.  I wondered if me heart was dead and I was among the dead, or if the hearts of others were dead and I was among them.  Either I could not express my message, or it was not being received due to dead hearts.

Burned Sage on pumice fields of the Eastern Sierra

Among The Dead

Later that same morning as the sun started to hit the Sierra Nevada range, they acted like giant reflectors bouncing this warm light onto the pumice field I was standing on and the burned sage started to take on an incredible appearance. These burned twisted sangs were all that remained giving the feeling that I was looking at relics from an ancient time.  When light, subject, color, and texture all come together as they did when ‘Relic’ was made, it is hard to come away with anything but a winner.

Twisted and burned sage on pumice fields in the Easterne Sierra landscape

Relic

It was not long on the first autumn trip for my heart to find its winds and soar to great heights of  joy with the glowing colors of the Aspens.  As I was wandering I came upon this stand of young Aspens in the warm afternoon light.  They seemed to be dancing, in fact with the subtle breeze coming and going, the leaves would begin to shiver and almost twinkle in the sun.  I wanted to dance in the light with them.  I could not pass up the scene, and ‘Dancing In Light’ was made.  One of my all time favorite autumn images I think I ever made.

Aspens in warm afternoon light in the Eastern Sierra landscape

Dancing In Light

Autumn has to be my favorite season of the year and there is no place that I like in autumn better than in Yosemite Valley.  I make the trek there every year and this year I made it alone.  The crew, despite their pleading were left them behind.  I love having them along, but the dynamic of making photos with them and without them is like night and day.  Being alone allows me to wander and take my time without interruption.  I can focus on the light and how it plays with the trees, the grass, water and rocks.  My first morning in Yosemite Valley was strange.  I needed to wander for sometime allowing my heart to unfetter itself from the virtual reality of the manufactured world with all its worries and demands to the true reality of the natural world with all it awe and wonder.  Once that happened I came upon this stoic Ponderosa Pine and I came away with ‘Anchored’, probably my favorite photo of the year.

Ponderosa Pine and Black Oaks, El Capitan Meadow

Anchored

I spent three days in Yosemite this past autumn and it was quite productive.  I exposed 60 sheets of film.  Of those 60 about a third made to the scanner and were developed for print.  Of course ‘Anchored’ has already been printed as well as ‘Among The Dead’ and ‘Dancing In Light’.  This next photo was also made on the first morning of my Yosemite trip.  It was a photo that I have always wanted to do, and have always suggested to workshop clients, but for some reason it never was made.  Well this year I did.  I walked into this small grove of Black Oaks in El Capitan Meadow known as the Cathedral Oaks and looked up.  The light was perfect as the sun had just crested the tops of the peaks that surround the Valley and lit the tops of these trees.  It was as if I was standing in a great cathedral looking through a stained glass window, only this cathedral was made, not by the hands of men for the sake of the glory of the Shaper of Beauty, but made by Shaper of Beauty so that our eyes may see and marvel at its glory.

Black Oaks in Yosemite Valley at sunrise.

In The Cathedral

On the last night of my trip the campground I was staying in was empty.  It was a Sunday night and I guess everyone that was there for the weekend had left.  It was dark, somewhat cold and very lonely.  As I was making my way back to camp earlier that evening, I decided I would try another photo that I had in mind for years.  I always wanted to photograph star trails while looking up through trees. When I returned to camp it was already dark.  By head light I started my campfire and then set up my camera pointed straight up again.  It is difficult working with film in the dark as the exposure times needed usually run into the time frame of hours and film starts to lose its ability to record light faithfully after about a few minutes of exposure.  This is called reciprocity failure.  But I wanted to try it out.  I focused as best as I could in the dark, removed the dark slide and opened the shutter.  I let the camera sit there for three hours as I burned off the remaining wood I had while I ate my dinner and read a book.  Around midnight the fire started to die.  I closed the shutter on the lens and called it a night.  Of all the photos I made in 2012, it was ‘Star Fire’ that I was most anxious to see when my films returned.  The light from the campfire produced an eerie glow among all the trees in my camp, and the long shutter worked well capturing the streaking stars in the sky.  A photo that I am very happy with and one that I will try again in spite of reciprocity failure.

Star trails through pine trees lit by campfire

Star Fire

The very last photo I made on my Yosemite trip was also the last photo I made for 2012.  I photograph this stretch of the Merced River almost every time I am in the Valley, and it is a location that I visit each time without fail.  I call this spot Happy Place. Everything that I love about the forest is found there along this small stretch of the the river.  In the past the photos that I have made there concentrated more closely on either one or two trees and with or without the water of the Merced.  This year I decided to try to capture the whole thing in one epic photo.  This photo, ‘To Be Happy’, was made from two separate sheets of 4×5 film and stitched together in software and then developed.  The resulting image has so much detail and resolution that a 40 x 90 inch photograph could be printed without any loss in quality.  It has captured both the stoic grandeur of the pines and cedars that line the river as well as the delicate qualities of the dogwoods and maples that give Yosemite its autumn blush in some very soft and flattering light.  I wish I could show you all the fine detail in this image online, but alas if you wold like to see that detail, it must be done in person.  ‘To Be Happy’ will certainly have a spot in my exhibit shortly.  Stay tuned for more information about that.

 

Autumn color along the Merced River in Yosemite Valley

To Be Happy

Well, there they are.  My favorite photos of 2012. I would love to hear your thoughts about these photos and leaving me a comment here on the web journal would be most appreciated.

I hope you all have a wonderful and prosperous year in 2013, and maybe our paths will cross.

Til next time, Peace.

 

 

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Seaing Stars

Last July, that would be in 2011, I came home from a long day of teaching a summer camp in the midst of heat wave in the San Francisco Bay Area to find my intrepid 4 photo assistants flailed about the home studio sweltering in the heat.  It was still hours before sunset and so I suggested a trip to the coast for a little heat relief and possibly for some photography.  With that intent we headed out.  The result of that outing, if you are a regular reader here, you might recall was narrated in The Gathering. That photo turned out to be one of the most popular photos at my exhibit in the last year and a half.  It prompted me to think up of other similarly gathered items from locales that I photograph.

One year after ‘The Gathering’ was made, I found myself with my 4 assistants again trampling around on Pescadero beach on a day that not only had a low tide, but a substantial negative tide.  I stood on portions of the beach that I have never been on, seen creatures in tide pools that you normally could not see, and touched rocks that for most of the year remained constantly under water.  About an hour before sunset, I started noticing the number of starfish that were clinging to the exposed rocks.  Too close to the surf for me to set up and operate the large format camera without getting completely soaked and ruining the camera my mind suddenly flashed to the ‘The Gathering’ once more. I rallied my assistants and instructed them that we were going to make another collaborative photo but this time the subject was to be sea stars!  They were gung-ho and off they went.

We managed to gather about 10 sea stars and arranged them further up on the beach away from the surf and made a photo.  We felt that the number of sea stars seemed sparse and we needed more but unfortunately the sun was setting, the surf was rising and we needed to call it a day.  After putting the sea stars back on the rocks at the water line, we headed back to the car and I consulted a phone application I have on my phone called Tide Graph and found that 10 days later another negative low tide would occur that was even lower than what we had just experienced. So we set the date and made a plan to return.

On our second trip I gave clear instructions to my assistants that we had one goal – gather as many sea stars as we could possibly find.  We gave ourselves three hours of gathering time and I further instructed them that they should stay as dry as they could, it was after all mid September and the Pacific Ocean along the Northern California coast is not exactly heated to a comfortable swimming temperature, and I let them loose. I set up my camera further up on the beach away from the water and started to look for sea stars myself.  I found a few but my team started to bring even more.  With each new batch my assistants returned with more and more of their bodies soaked in seawater.  I reminded them about staying dry but the response was that they needed to reach the starfish!

At one point I looked around the beach and did not see the team anywhere.  Suddenly a small head pops up out of the water followed by two others!  Mind you they are fully dressed wearing waterproof rain jackets that are now water soaked.  Moments later I had three assistants running up to me completely soaked from head to toe, each toting several sea stars. The youngest of my assistants offers up the excuse that the pool she was in did not seem so deep, but then slipped and fell face first into water and it was so FUN!  My youngest son, rushes up and says with emphatic curiosity “Baba, Baba, it does not hurt when you open your eyes under the ocean! Why?!”  I explain to him that the salinity of the ocean is the same as that of our blood and our tears and so it is as if you opened your eyes in a big ocean of tears.  He continues, “its amazing down there, you can see so many different plants and animals all over the place on the rocks, it is the coolest thing I have ever done!” I then ask him “are you not cold?”  He replies “Yes I am but its so fun swimming in the ocean and I can hardly feel my giblets anymore.  They feel like ball-cicles!” and off he went back to the water and searching for more sea stars.  At one point a couple walking along the beach saw my intrepid team neck deep in a large tide pool and also asked them if they were cold.  My team replies gleefully “it used to be, but now we we can’t feel it anymore”.

Soon the number of sea stars became significant and the arrangement started to look very full.  My oldest son comes up the beach with his small pouch filled with not only sea stars but two live purple shore crabs and suggested we include them as well.  His reasoning was that they too were exposed by this low tide and that is what this photo is really about.  He had a great idea.  So we placed them in the arrangement and remarkably they did not run off, at least not right away.  His suggestion about what was found at low tide was exactly what this photo needed to make it interesting.  So as the team continued with finding sea stars I started to comb the beach for detritus either washed up or left behind by the receding surf.  I collected interesting stones like those in the ‘The Gathering’, muscle shells, other shore crab shells, some complete and some partial, black turban sea snails, Dungeness crab claws, and I even found one complete half of a Dungeness crab shell with a claw and four legs.  When they all finally came up the beach with their last haul of sea stars they noticed all the other items and were both shocked and impressed.  To finish it off they insisted on including a feather, a single feather that they found rolling around on the beach pushed by the breeze.  We debated its inclusion for a bit, but in the end, as it was found on the beach below the normal tide line and we included it.

The whole day had been overcast so the light was flat, perfect for this kind of photo.  However it was also somewhat bland as well.  Then about 20 minutes before sunset, the fog above us started to glow with a faint reddish-pink tone that warmed the arrangement just perfectly.  It was then that I made the photo.  We then began taking the sea stars back to the water line and placed them back on the rocks and in the surf where they could reattach themselves and continue on with their patient existence.

We walked back to the car exhilarated with the experience.  Suddenly I realized that my car seats were about to become as soaked as my assistants.  They were all shivering now, with sea water dripping from their chins and fingertips, feet covered up to their ankles in sand.  My car was about to become an extension of the beach.  They climbed in as I started the car and tuned on the heater to help warm them up.  The windows quickly fogged up and so I started to alternate between the heater and the air conditioner to defrost the windshield so that I could see where I was driving.

Normally the return drive from the beach with my assistants usually devolved into an argument about who is going to shower first when we arrived at home.  On this occasion however, something magical happened.  Because the experience they had of ‘swimming’ in the ocean was so powerful, all they could do was recount their intrepidness to each other.  Each trying to out do the others’ stories.  I heard things from them like I had never heard before.  Snippets about how they all would charge into the water to save their youngest compatriot when they saw the her fall down, how they would sit at the edge of a pool and reach out to grab a star only to get washed over by a wave, and then giving up to the water and just going headlong into it.  Recounts of how the water was so cold that they could not feel fingers and toes; but that it was so fun they were certainly not going to come out.  My oldest daughter summarized it best; “this was the most fun I have ever had in my entire life!

Once we came upon the town of Davenport, I pulled over and decided to stop at the Davenport Roadhouse to surprise my team with some hot chocolates to help them warm up.  I had them stay in the heated car as I went into the restaurant; all the while they had no idea why I had stopped.  What I had seen from them and what I would continue to see on the remainder of our return home were the stars that they are when they can get beyond themselves and their self-interests.  When I walked back with the hot chocolates, I heard a cheer from the car.  Now with warm fluids flowing through them, my oldest son finally exclaims “I can finally feel my middle toe again!”  The rest of the ride home they worked out who would shower first when they got home, started ranking themselves with titles for the various actions they took at the beach; things like most wet, most coldest, biggest splash falling, most sea stars collected, most sand in pockets, coldest toes, and so on.  It was the most enjoyable ride home that I can ever remember.

When it came to naming the photo, I only had to think back to that ride home and the four stars that I saw shining in that car.  ‘Seaing Stars’, the photo below was, once more, the result of a collaborative effort of five souls whose love for the natural world brought them to that beach and through their individual and unique efforts gathered all these amazing creatures that are normally hidden from view.

Go out and find some magic for yourselves and your loved ones.  The natural world has much to offer and the stories you come back with will be priceless.

Seaing Stars

Seaing Stars

 

Peace

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Disappointment Deals Delight

The Sun

The Light Source

This past Sunday was dedicated to photographing the annular eclipse of May 20th, 2012.  I had prepared for it on many levels from what exposure to use to where I would drop my tripod to how I was going to make what I captured unique, and had done so for weeks ahead of time.  The one thing that I failed to plan for was equipping my four photo/travel assistants with what they needed to view and keep themselves entertained for its duration.  Despite my earlier attempts to find solar viewing glasses I could not find any vendor who was not sold out.  In addition, the day before the eclipse I found myself in a discussion with another photographer who was making plans to photograph and produce HDR (high dynamic range) photos of the event showing both the eclipsed sun and landscape as they would normally appear to our eyes.  I contested his claim but he was insistent that it could be done.  This caused me to waiver in my plans, and coupled with the possibility of a mutiny on my hands with my assistants forced my hand to change my plans nearly entirely.   I found myslef the night before, rather than getting a good night’s rest, up late scouring various sites on what was capable while still maintaining a real look to HDR photography.  Then I happened to land on a news page about the museum and visitor center at Turtle Bay Exploration Park / Wild Bird Sancturay in Redding, Ca.  The article stated that they would be selling solar viewing glasses for $1 and the article was only written that day, the information had to be accurate, right?

Crescent Sun Ecplisped by the Moon

Crescent Sun

In the 11th hour, I changed all my plans.  My destination was now Turtle Bay Wild Bird Sanctuary in spite of the fact that there would be hundreds if not thousands of people there.  Redding was not that far off the annularity line that it would change what I actually had in mind, and park environment would placate my assistants should the need arise.

We awoke Sunday morning and prepared our supplies for the day’s drive and viewing.  We were out the door with plenty of time and the  four and a half hour drive started out pleasant, however the further we drove the more tense things became in the car.  The tide of pleasant anticipation in my assistants was starting to turn.

We arrived with two and a half hours of buffer before the start of the eclipse.  The plan, buy the viewing glasses, eat lunch, find a suitable viewing location and then wait.  Disappointment met us from the beginning.  First the museum under estimated the response for viewing glasses and was sold out the day before.  Not to worry the employee told me, they will have 500 more glasses arriving at 4 pm, and will be available at the annex store by the famous Sundial Bridge.  By the time we arrived we found a line of about 100 people standing in the hot sun in 90° weather waiting to get in to the store at 4pm.  The roving employee there let us know we were in a part of the line where we might not get any glasses as each person could buy up to 5 glasses, putting us in a risky part of the line.  So with great hope we waited.  Slowly patience began to wear thin among my crew. One wanted to light a fire just because it was so hot, his incredulous claim was he could do it with just a focused pinhole of light.  Another wished he did not leave his water in the car.  Then the other wanted to play, and sleep and be carried on my head at the same time.  My patience was starting to wane.  By 4:45 we were inside and we made our purchase – lady luck smiled on us.

Solar Eclipse Obscured by High Cirrus Clouds

Obscured

We had less than 15 minutes before the start of the eclipse.  I announced that everyone should evacuate bladders and such for once I start the photo sequence there was no stopping.  No one heeded my words.  I was suspicious.  By the time we finished eating and squelching some sibling rivalry fires, the eclipse had started and I missed the initial contact of the moon with the sun and disappointment found its way into my head.

For the next two and a half hours, it was one dispute after another, one distraction after another, one question after another.  My mind was not focused at all on what I was doing.  My photos were not being timed carefully and I would miss the twenty second mark I had planned for each photo more times than I could keep count of.  I was also plagued by clouds, thin nefarious clouds that were just thick enough to keep the light levels jumping all over the place.  I could not make a sequence of more than 4 or 5 photos that had the same exposure level that I needed to make a time lapse sequence possible.  I also saw in my view finder this very odd haloing and glow around the sun nearly the whole time.  Something I did not notice in my practice photos.  It brought me great concern that I might find flares in all these photos making them useless in the end.  My mind started slipping into thoughts of inadequate equipment syndrome, something that did not torment me in more than a decade.

The Annular Eclipse of May 20th 2012 in total annularity

With This Ring

As the moon continued its encroachment of the sun, the anticipation of my assistants increased.  The arguing vanished into amazement, the prevailing thirst quenched with wonderment, and I as well was awe struck by the magnitude of what was occurring before my eyes.  Here was the moon, an entity in our sky that could not be seen if not for the light of the sun, moving in front of the source of what makes it existent to our eyes and blocking it out.  However, rather than overshadowing the sun it instead forms a ring of heavenly light as the the two wed in the sky for nearly 4 minutes in a display that had no beginning and no end.  It was as if time stood still and the world became dim and humbled in the grandeur of their union.  Being so close to a multitude of people, even though out of eyesight, we were not cheated out of hearing the cheers that belted out throughout the park as the ring became complete.  It was a spine tingling moment not to be soon forgotten.

The moon breaks the ring of light as it exits totality

Broken Light

Nonetheless, being created things that had a beginning so long ago, their nature is to end and they exhibited their primal nature with the moon breaking the ring of light as it continued on its way past the sun and ending totality.  Again a second cheer rings out among the crowd.  The event everyone came to see had happened.  In my exhilaration any thoughts I had about not capturing the eclipse the way I had intended had vanished if not for just a brief time.  I continued until the dreaded clouds that obscured the sky and mustered havoc with my exposures obliterated the light of the sun, just 10 minutes before the eclipse concluded.  A disappointing end, and one that brought question if I would have any usable photos at all.

After a long drive to Turtle Bay, and sitting square in the sun and heat for nearly five hours, I had to look forward to another long drive home unsatisfied in my work and with no hopes of a return on the investment made.  We arrived home just past midnight and my first act was to see and download the photos.  At first glance all were useless.  Not more than 4 or 5 photos in sequence were exposed at the same settings, making the probability of a time lapse sequence happening slim to none.  So I turned off the computer and retired to bed  hoping to come up with something in the morning.

The next day I started to process the photos to find almost all of them have a glowing halo around the sun that I could not remove without great difficulty.  In my desperation I start to process the photo Broken Light in a manner that I would never normally do to discover that the halo I was seeing was nothing more than the clouds that were obscuring the sun glowing in the light.  The use of the solar filter on my lens allowing me to view and photograph the sun had made the clouds so dark that they did not appear as clouds when normally processed against the brightness of the sun.  So with my modified processing suddenly the lost photos became as surreal as the momentous eclipse itself.  I searched the net for other photos of the eclipse to find that no one had anything like what I had been given.

My disappointment was suddenly transformed into delight.  Maybe someday I will have the opportunity to produce a time lapsed sequence of the moon eclipsing the sun.  However in hindsight, what I had envisioned would not have been very interesting and what I was given instead has pleased me much more.  Funny how things turn out.

Now I am looking 5 years ahead to the next eclipse that will cross over this neighborhood of the Earth, maybe then I will see my original vision come to fruition.

Peace to you All!

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Remembering Spring

Spring Wildflowers in Carizzo Plain

Remembering Spring

It seems like such a long time ago that the flowers were blooming yet it does not take much to remember them when a photo is looked at.  Every aspect is remembered from the aromas to the feeling of the sunlight caressing the skin. Thoughts re-emerge about how the photo will finally look once it is processed and the excitement of eventually seeing it.  Much goes into making a photo and the rewards of finally finishing it are great.  Good things come to those who wait, and hopefully all who see this photo now will have as much pleasure looking at it as I had re-living the moment and processing it.

Peace.

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New Year Moon – Muharram 1432

The new Islamic Year has commenced. The year 1432 on the Islamic calendar began for me just about 1 hour ago here on the West coast of the United States in the San Francisco Bay Area. The new moon was seen by myself and three of my children, all future moon sighters, God Willing, the youngest being only 4 years old.

Muharram 1432

Muharram Crescent 1432

As usual, my youngest had a hard time seeing it at first, but then finally asked “does it look like a little hair?” To which I replied “yes” and she gleefully said “I see it!”  A moon sighter in the making, I’d say.

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