I just had the great feeling of signing off of work for the year. It has certainly been an interesting year at work, having been home for the last 9 months or so. Now that I’m off work, the first order of business was to turn off my alarms.
That will be a great feeling — sleeping in. During the break, I don’t really have any plans. No travel planned, nothing really at all planned. I might be able to get caught up on some reading, projects around the house, and a side programming project I’ve been working on.
In an earlier post, I provided some tips on taking photos of a pretty rare celestial event, as viewed by the Earth. Perhaps one of the tips should have been to double check you’re taking the right gear out to record the event. I forgot my longer lens setup in my other car — and what I was left with was my X100F which has a built in 23mm.
This photo shows the conjunction, without a ton of detail, but it does have some other items of interest. On the right side of the photo, there is an owl — which I only noticed when I got home.
On the bottom left, there is a bright “star” which sits on Lockheed Martin’s Waterton Canyon campus. The star was first lit in the late 1950s to mark the holiday season. It turns on the day after Thanksgiving through to the New Year. The star sits at 6,687 feet on Warren Peak. It is about 148 feet wide, and 173 feet tall.
The two planets ought to still be close tomorrow night — I might try going back with the correct gear.
Today is the day for the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. They will appear to be close together in the sky, the closest they’ve been in 397 years. Here are some tips to photograph it tonight (source: NASA):
Jupiter and Saturn will appear brighter than nearly every star. They can be seen easily from large cities, and dark sites.
Dark skies will allow you to see fainter stars, but Jupiter and Saturn are bright enough that you don’t necessarily need to go to a dark site to take compelling photos of them. If you have a clear view toward the southwest, you have the chance to take some great photos.
Think about composition. Jupiter and Saturn will just appear as points of light. To make your photo more interesting, try to frame the planets with something – the silhouette of a tree, an outdoor landscape, the arch of a building, or even a neon sign.
Experiment with both wide-angle and telephoto shots. In early December, the two planets will be about 2 degrees apart, and will get progressively close toward December 21. In order to show them clearly in your photos, you might use a wide-angle composition early in December, and zoom in later in the month as they get closer.
Be sure to go outside on a few different nights, and see how their separation changes.
Using a tripod will help you hold your camera steady while taking longer exposures. If you don’t have a tripod, brace your camera against something – a tree, a fence, or a car can all serve as a tripod for a several-second exposure.
These planets are visible in early evening, and you’ll have about 1-2 hours from when they are visible, to when they set. The color and intensity of the sky changes during that time. Stay out for an hour or more, and try to capture shots with both the bright colors of sunset, and the darkness of the oncoming night. A photo from the same location can look completely different just an hour later!
The crescent moon will pass near Jupiter and Saturn a few days before the conjunction. Take advantage of it in your composition!
Tips if using a cell phone camera
Jupiter and Saturn will be bright enough to detect in many cell phone cameras. You won’t see additional detail by zooming in, but you can frame Jupiter and Saturn creatively.
Some recent cell phones have a ‘night mode,’ which will automatically stabilize a long-exposure, even without using a tripod. This can be great for capturing the dark foreground of your photo. Some phones will let you use ‘night mode’ on exposures up to 30 seconds, if you also use a tripod.
Many cell phones have a wide-angle lens. Try using this to place a subject in the foreground, with Jupiter and Saturn above them.
At the time of conjunction on December 21, Jupiter and Saturn may be too close to separate clearly in your photos. Images taken a few days before or after the conjunction may show them more clearly.
Tips if using a DSLR camera
Set your focus to Infinity (Manual Focus mode), so the planets will be sharp. Set your aperture wide open, to let in the maximum amount of light.
If you have a tripod, it will help you take long exposures. If not, you can still take some great pictures with a short shutter speed (< 1/4 second). If your camera or lens has an image stabilizer, be sure it is turned on.
If your photos show that the camera is not steady, shorten your shutter speed. You can also use a photographers’ trick to get a sharp photo when hand-holding: set up your camera to take multiple exposures, then hold the shutter button to take a series of photos. While some will be blurry due to camera shake, you may find a few that are sharp.
If you use a 200 mm telephoto lens, you should be able to see Jupiter’s four bright moons in a short exposure. Saturn’s rings will usually need a longer lens or a telescope in order to resolve clearly.
To capture Jupiter and Saturn as sharp ‘points’ while using a tripod, use a shutter speed of up to a few seconds. More than this and the Earth’s rotation will smear out the planets and stars. If you are using a wide-angle lens, you can use a longer exposure.
The weather locally looks great, so I’m hoping to get out for some pictures or to at least see the event.
In an earlier post, Portraits without Faces, I talked about the 500px challenge, and how I seem to randomly get pictures of Tommy without him looking at the camera. This is another one of those from a weekend trip to Chatfield. The temperature outside was a little too cold to be hiking in… at this point, we were trying to locate where we were going. This trip was cut short due to the cold weather and incoming snow storm.
There is some debate over the right choice in photo editing software. For years, Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop as part of Adobe Creative Cloud have been the standard go-to for this sort of thing. These products have been around for years, and outside of their new pricing model, which is a monthly subscription, there has never been a need to switch. After using Capture One for the last 30 days as part of a trial — I’ll give my thoughts.
Everyone hates the subscription model for software we use daily. At $9.99/mo, that seems to be right in the area of being annoyingly expensive, and small enough to get lost in the “Subscriptions” category of your monthly budget. When Microsoft’s office products moved to the subscription model, I found alternatives. Apple’s tools are useable, and Google’s free web-based tools are even better. The nice thing about word processing, spreadsheets, and slideshows are that there are viable options to switch.
The price for Capture One varies, but there are some options where you can purchase a license to the software without subscription. This can get as low as $129 for specific camera platforms, such as Fuji. Adobe doesn’t have this option, so you’re looking at $120/yr but you have access to a constantly updating product. This can be both good and bad, since you’ll get the latest features faster, but there have been some quality issues which may not work for people that depend on a stable version.
When it comes down to features, Adobe wins in every category. The combination of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop do everything that Capture One does, but better. Everything from sorting photos, to editing, the user interface, mobile support…. Adobe does it the same or better. Capture One allows for layers in editing, which seems to be its largest feature over Lightroom, but this feature is standard for Photoshop. It seems that the division between the two products for Adobe are gradually converging a bit. For these reasons, I can’t switch over to Capture One without losing functionality. In short, we’re still going to continue to be held hostage by Adobe and their subscription model.
500px is running a quest this month with the theme of “Portraits without Faces”. This is an interesting quest, and I just happened to have this picture available from a recent photo shoot we did in Denver. The quest brief is described as, “Not all portraits need faces! Not focusing on the face can open up a new dimension of interpretation while still allowing the view to capture the personality or mood of the subject.” The quest goes until January 8, 2021. One winner will receive a prize of $200.
During the 2020 pandemic, part of my coping mechanism has been reading a lot of books. I’ve been tracking everything on Goodreads. The site is nice in the way it will connect you to other users and recommend reading based on books you have previously read. I’ll add my Goodreads at the bottom of this page.