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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Tick, Tock….Tick!

Time has been in very short supply in my life as of late.  Teaching has consumed almost all of it.  It has had me so tied up that I failed to post the new moon of last month and only realized it this evening when I began preparing the image taken earlier this evening.

Last month, however, the moon was not seen on the critical 29th day due to bad weather, but none the less, I did photograph it the following day.  So for those of you interested in it here is last month’s new moon taken on January 24, 2012 marking the beginning of Rabi Al-Awwal.

New Moon of Rabi Al-Awwal 1433

Rabi Al-Awwal 1433

Today was a hectic day but I did manage to secure the afternoon off and make it out to see and capture the new moon of Rabi Ath-Thani.  With my four assistants in tow, we made it to the top of the local mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean just after the sun dropped below the horizon.  The usual quiet was broken this time by the peals of laughter and tom-foolery of my assistants.  It was not long before we spotted it.  The particulars: initially seen at 6:13 pm PST with an altitude of 6 fingers above the horizon (approximately 9 degrees) and just over the sunset point or possibly just to the right of it (a rare occurance here in northern hemisphere for the moon to be to the right of the sun at sunset).  Its limbs were at 4 and 8 pm as best as we could tell with our naked eyes.

Within twenty minutes of the first sighting, this is what we were fortunate enough to witness.

New Moon of Rabi Ath-Thani, 1433

Rabi Ath-Thani, 1433

I would have had this photo up here on the journal much sooner, however about four hours after being up on the hills my oldest son, one of my four assistants, notices a bump on his right arm and goes to inspect it by lifting his sleeve.  To his surprise and all of ours as well, we discover a tick has sunk it ugly head into his arm and is feasting.  An adult female deer tick was the specimen as best as I can tell.  It was not engorged at all, as far as I can tell.  We pulled out our tick removal tools from our first aid kit and began working.  Those buggers really hold on tight.  It took a couple of minutes, but we finally got it to let go, only leaving a small mouth part still in the skin.  A few more minutes of work and we think we got all of it out.  However, this is nothing to take lightly and tomorrow we do plan on a visit to the doctor to make sure everything is ok.

As I worked, a sense of urgency came over me.  Time was of the essence in removing the tick.  The fear of infection with a myriad of illnesses, the least of which Lyme Disease, made it imperative that it be removed quickly and cleanly as soon as possible to avoid any infection.  We kept the bugger in a moist paper towel in case a test needs to be made on the tick to determine if it indeed is a vector for any disease.

Be vigilantly aware regarding the safety of what you love.  It does not take much, physically or with respect to time for your beloved to be taken away due to oversight or neglect.  While we live on a perfectly peaceful planet, there are elements that can bring great hardship and in some cases in very small packages.  Take care and make sure to stay safe while wandering.

Peace to you All.

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Ramadan 1432 Begins!

Ramadan Light

Ramadan Light

Well it was a long night.  Reports came in from many locations and they needed to be tracked down and confirmed.  Reports came in from as far away as South Africa, and several locations in the Caribbean and South America.

Here in the States, the best location astronomically was in San Diego, which by the way suffered like we did in the Bay Area with cloudy or foggy skies.

Fortunately there were two separate sighting groups in south Texas that helped us confirm the beginning of Ramadan this year.  In one case there was a group of 16 individuals that saw the moon initially with binoculars and then of the 16, 3 were able to see it again with the naked eye.  In the second case we had four individuals that saw the new crescent with their naked eyes alone, not far from the the other group but completely independent.

Here in the Bay Area, the day played out nicely.  Fog in the morning that burned off by mid morning and mild temperatuers and clear skies for the remainder of the day…that is until the temperature started to drop.

We headed out with a group of nearly 40 adult individuals and counting the children we had to number well in to the 60’s.  We headed up to Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve hoping for clear skies there, but as we neared, the fog started to climb up from the coast and covered us over.  The marine layer had to be nearly 2700 feet thick!

The above photo shows the full extent of the light we saw on Borel Hill, the highest hilltop in the Bay Area’s Peninsula region.

Nonetheless, we managed to get the sighting confirmations we needed to mark the start of Ramadan.  To all my Muslim readers, Ramadan Mubarak.

Peace.

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Shabaan 1432 Begins

Shabaan 1432

Shabaan 1432

This evening the new crescent moon of the 8th month of the Islamic calendar known as Shabaan was sighted marking the beginning of the month.  It was not a very young moon, thus making it very easy to see, but none the less it was a beautiful moon.  Every month has its appeal and its beauty, and this moon is no different.  The light was sublime and thankfully again, I did not need to go far to see it.

Shabaan is also known as the Month of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) and it was in this month that he fasted the most of any of the months other than Ramadan, which begins on the next new moon.

Make this a special month of remembrance and peace.

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What We Can’t See

The new moon is upon us once again.  As I write this post, it is about 6 hours before it will be visible in the western sky provided the sky is not cloudy.

Last month I photographed a new crescent moon that moved through the sky in varying light over a twenty minute period.  As elusive as the new crescent moon is in its own right, making it difficult to see,  some times the camera manges to pickup light that our eye just cannot perceive.

Pictured in the photo below is the new crescent moon of February 3rd, 2011 taken 10 minutes after the photo that was posted in the Rabi Al-Awwal Begins post.  It was a toss up for me as to which photo to actually post for that entry in the journal.  I chose the former due to its sharpness, as the photo below used a shutter speed that was a bit longer than I normally like to use and the moon blurred ever so slightly due its motion in the sky.

The shadow of the Moon

Ghost Moon

However, what fascinated me about this image was that after I had processed the RAW file, I could actually see the entire shadow of the moon in the sky.  There was just enough variation in the light from the moon to be recorded by the digital sensor.  Now this is not unique to digital cameras as I have recorded the shadowed moon on new moon nights before using film, however what is intriguing is the fact that my eyes could not see these subtle variations in the light.

Our eyes do not accumulate light the way a camera does.  As light enters our eyes the cones and rods on the retina become activated and immediately send their impulses down the optic nerve to our brain where in interpret what we “see”.

In contrast a camera opens its shutter to allow light to enter it.  The light hits a piece of film chemically treated to react to light, the longer the shutter is left open the more chemical grains on the surface of the film become activated and retain visual information.  The same is true with digital sensors however in this case the sensor is electrically active and starts to record light as charge build upset up when the photons of light cause current to flow through the micro-sized photo transistors on the digital chip.  The longer the shutter is left open the more charge is built up and interpreted as brighter light. In this manner the camera is able to “see” things in dim light that our eyes can never see.  As long as there is some visible light the camera can record it given enought time while the shutter is open.

Darkness has always been symbolic of mystery, the unknown and all that these ideas bring with them, like fear, terror, evil and so on.  And while there is nothing out there in the dark that does not exist in the day, our inability to see in the dark conjures up fear of the unknown.  Today however, with modern digital camera technology night time photographs have never been easier to make.  And for those brave enough to venture out into the darkness of night to make such photos, we can all marvel and rest assured, there are no monsters in the dark and to know that what we can’t see won’t hurt us.

Peace.

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Shawwal 1431 & Eid Al-Fitr

The new crescent moon of Shawwal 1431 has been seen as far east as Australia, marking the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Shawwal and the festival of breaking fast Eid Al-Fitr. I will be updating this post as the evening progresses with photos from our local area. Please come back here again. For the reports from other locations you can check Here at Crescent Watch and also Here at the Australian National Crescent Sighting Coordination Center.

Expect a West Coast update on this site at about 9pm PDT.  Till then go out and look for the crescent moon, its an uplifting experience.  It will be setting approximately 30 minutes after the sun sets, it will be approximately 3 fingers wide above the horizon (about 5° altitude) and about 2 hand spans wide to the left of the sunset point on the horizon (about 24° to the left).  Best time for it to be seen this evening on the West Coast is 7:39 pm PDT.

Stay tuned.

Update:

The new crescent moon was sighted by yours truly along with about 30 other Individuals at approximately 7:35 pm PDT from Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve. Eid Al-Fitr has commenced! Eid Mubarak to all Muslim readers. Photos are forthcoming…Stay tuned.

Update:

Here is the image of the new moon for Shawwal 1431.  It was a beautiful evening with over 30 individuals attending the sighting.  Eid Mubarak to all!

Shawwal 1431

Shawwal 1431

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I Can’t See It

Every month for the last 20 years I have gone out to look for the new crescent moon.  Sometimes I see it and other times I don’t for one reason or another.  It has become a family tradition and my kids love to go out to look for the moon as much as I do.  Hopefully they will continue on with this monthly tradition after I am long gone and that they will will pass it down to their kids.

Shabaan Hilal, 1431 - July 12, 2010

This evening we went out to sight the new moon for the Islamic month of Sha’baan. It is the 8th month in the Islamic year and it is a crucial moon to see as it helps mark the beginning of Ramadan, the 9th month and the month of fasting. I saw it first among my family this evening as the kids were playing around. When I called out ‘There it is!’ of course they all ran to me and started probing me so they could see it. One after another, like dominoes, the lovely sound of “Ahhh, I see it I see it!” All but one. My youngest daughter, only 4 years old, and so determined to see the moon cries out – “I can’t See it!” “Where is it?!” After about 2o minutes of pointing to it, and helping her find landmarks where she could cast off into the sky to see it, we still were no better off.

I told her to relax, it will get brighter and you will see it. As we sat there, she suddenly asked, “what’s that black thing up there?” She had noticed a jet liner coming into the Bay Area to probably land at the San Francisco International airport. It was flying directly at the moon. I told her to, “keep watching the plane, and it will fly right next to the moon and when I tell you, look real hard.” Suddenly I say – “Now!” “I see it, I see it!” she yells out in glee.

It is the strangest thing, seeing the new moon. It brings great joy to my heart, and to everyone who has ever come out with me and saw it. One moment you are looking at blank sky and then the next, there it is, as plain as day itself. Its as if it suddenly comes into existence from nowhere, its born into the world – somehow almost miraculously.

Next month, for the month of Ramadan, we are expecting the moon to be seen on the evening of August 11th. Go out an experience a miracle. Your heart will thank you for it.

Peace.

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Eid Mubarak!

Congratulations on Eid Al-Fitr! The moon was seen this evening, September 20th 2009, marking Shawwal 1, 1430 and the beginning of Eid Al-Fitr.

Shawwal Crescent, 1430

Shawwal Crescent, 1430

 

Eid, as the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him said,  is a day of Eating and Drinking and Remembering God.  So lets!

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Simple

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
~ Albert Einstein

Sometimes the heart is moved by the simplest things. Because in those simple, unobtrusive elements of creation the soul finds deep solace and recognition of the creative powers of God.

I can’t think of a way to put it any simpler than that.

The new crescent moon of the 4th month of the Islamic year – Rabi’ Ath-Thani 1430. The new spring moon of 2009, it is as simple as it gets.

New Crescent of Rabi Ath-Thani, 1430

New Crescent of Rabi' Ath-Thani, 1430

Peace – Youssef.

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