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Jupiter & Venus

Jupiter & Venus

During May 2011 four planets gathered in the sky, that’s known in astronomy as a “conjunction”. There were infinite conjunctions during may as the planets moved along the ecliptic showing many different configurations. The event favored observers in the southern hemisphere as the planets were higher in the sky and the nights are longer during May. The first photo shows Jupiter (top) and Venus just before sunrise, daylight made the other planets fade but Jupiter & Venus were still very bright.

Venus vs the Sunrise

Venus vs the Sunrise

In this super-wide view bright Venus is still shining in the sky even if only a few minutes before sunrise. The waves are from a river: Rio de La Plata, the widest river on Earth. In a windy day the river can be quite similar to the ocean choppy and wavy.

Conjunction at Night May 5

Conjunction at Night May 5

At the beginning of the Month we had Venus high in the sky with Mercury on the side. Jupiter and fainter Mars are below. It’s quite a sight to see Mercury that high in the sky and during the night and that is only possible in the south hemisphere where Mercury is further away from the Sun and the sky is dark at 6am.

Dawn of the Planets

Dawn of the Planets

The same configuration from May 5th at Dawn. Venus and Mercury at the top with Jupiter and Mars below them. Jupiter is going to rise fast later in May.

May 15th at Night

May 15th at Night

By the middle of May (15th) Jupiter was high in the Sky, Venus, Mars and Mercury gathered below, starts from Pisces and Cetus are also visible in the photo.

Conjunction at Dawn May 22nd

Conjunction at Dawn May 22nd

One week later Jupiter was escaping fast from the conjunction while Venus, Mercury and Mars were shining even a few minutes before sunrise. In this photo some thin clouds were covering the sky and the first light of the morning lit them in several colors. Venus is so bright that it can shine thru the cloud layer.

4 in Line

4 in Line

On May the 28th the thin Moon joined the Conjunction. Jupiter, Venus and Mars follow the moon in a straight line. Mercury was still below the horizon. Several stars from Pisces, Aries, Cetus and Triangulum are visible in the photo. There is a small satellite trail just in the middle of an asterism known as “the circlet” in Pisces. If you look close you will see the stars make a circle with the satellite trail just in the middle of it.

The Great Alignment

The Great Alignment

At the end of the month, May 31st the moon was very thin and on the side of the 4-way conjunction. The four planets are in a straight line here, Jupiter is at the top left and then Mars, Venus and Mercury.

Venus by the Moon

Venus by the Moon

A few minutes earlier only Jupiter had risen from the Eastern horizon and the moon was a lot brighter, they formed a beautiful conjunction in the sky.

The Show Ends

The Show Ends

The last photo is from May 31st just seconds before sunrise. The thin Moon and Venus are still visible and the first rays of sunlight coming from below the horizon create a shadow in the sky. The last display of a nice set of planetary conjunctions.

I have more images from the Conjunctions on a special set in my website:

http://www.luisargerich.com/may2011

And a Slide show:

http://www.luisargerich.com/conjunctions-2011

One of the photos was published as NASA’s Astronomy Photo of the Day:

http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110507.html

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Sunrise at La Azul (60 mpx)

Sunrise at La Azul (60 mpx)

When doing panoramas I usually try to avoid really thin images as they are hard to visualize, hard to print and usually look like a color ribbon more than a photograph. That’s why I usually shoot panos between 2:1 and 3:1 ratios. Nevertheless in this article I will present some 6:1 panos and some ideas I’ve had for them.

Volcanic Sunrise at La Azul

Volcanic Sunrise at La Azul

The first obvious advantage is that I can choose from many sub-compositions from the big pano, for example from the first image I chose this composition to make a standard 3:1 panorama. With a high megapixel camera and a pano there are really plenty of megapixeles to choose from, sometimes details that are not easy to see on the field appear when you review the images and you can think about the best composition for the format and use you want for the image.

La Azul Lagoon (420 mpx)

La Azul Lagoon (420 mpx)

Another advantage of a gigapixel panorama is that you can use a Zooming tool to look for very detailed things while at the same time keeping the very wide view that you have in the panorama. A zoomable version of the photo where the viewer can look at very fine details is a great way to preview the level of detail you can get with a big print. Try zooming at the lagoon pano by following this link.

Plateau's Profile (150 mpx)

Plateau's Profile (150 mpx)

Finally you also have some creative ideas for printing. Like dividing the big panos in several smaller prints. From two 3:1 prints for opposite walls to many vertical shaped prints that can be put one after the other to create the visual flow needed to see the whole panorama.

With modern cameras a huge panoramic image is not difficult to make you just need to take the photos and then use a good software to assemble all the images, there are many nice advantages in a super-resolution image.

The Images in this article were stitched with PtGUI pro.

The Light of the Milky Way

The Light of the Milky Way

In my trip to the Somuncur√° Plateau in Patagonia, Argentina I found that a very dark sky can be a very good and very bad thing at the same time. The Plateau is one of the most isolated places on earth, the nearest town is more than 200km away and there are no light sources of any kind. On a moonless night you can’t see a hand in front of your face. It was also for me the first time without battling against some kind of glare in the horizon, even if you are at the countryside a city 100km away can create a nasty glow in the horizon making starry landscapes difficult to expose.

So this is probably one of the best skies in the world, dark, dry, at 1000 meters of altitude and without any light source,¬† that’s the good part. The bad thing is that the total absence of light makes exposures much more difficult, even in dark locations there is always “some” light to make the landscape show up in a long enough exposure, here I could expose for minutes and minutes and all I could get was darkness.

The photo is titled “The Light of the Milky Way” because that is the main light source for the landscape, averaging magnitude -5 the Milky Way can be used as a light source and can even cast small shadows if you are in a really dark location. I used the brightest part of the Milky Way at Scorpius-Sagitarius as the light source for the lagoon here, that’s the brownish reflection you see on the water.

The photo is a panorama made from 5 portrait oriented shots at 14mm 30” F2.8, Orion and the Milky Way are at the center, the Magellan Clouds on the left. You can even see the Tarantula Nebula as a bright spot next to the Large Magellan Cloud and the cumulus 47 Tucanae as a diffuse star next to the Small Magellan Cloud. The Magellan Clouds are satellite galaxies of our own Milky Way and even if they are bright they are also very diffuse and impossible to observe from a light polluted place.

Image at my website

Infrared Tricks

White Lagoon

White Lagoon

Besides having a nice effect on foliage and achieving a long exposure effect at daytime an infrared filter can make a scene look completely different than what it really was. Infrared light is invisible to the eye so what the camera is getting with the infrared filter is something that you can’t imagine or preview thru the viewfinder, sometimes the result is just a disaster, I’d say 80% of the time but from time to time the filter does make a scene interesting.

A Very Cold Summer

A Very Cold Summer

In this photo the idea was to turn a hot summer scene into a winter landscape, the lagoon was covered in vegetation and the IR filter made it white so it seems frozen but is only covered in green. The muted colors in the rest of the scene contribute to the winter-effect. Taken at 10:00 am and 38C on a hot summer morning.

The Night at Day

The Night at Day

The idea here was to simulate a night shot, the photo was taken at 11am in the morning under a blasting sun. The Infrared filter makes things reddish and if you swap the blue and red channels reddish becomes blueish. Blue hues are usually linked to night scenes so our brain may think this is a night-time photo. The whiteish foliage simulates the effect of moonlight over the scene.

Not an Ocean

Not an Ocean

In this scene the infrared filter makes the green vegetation red and the brown water blue, this along with the long-exposure effect makes the scene simpler and more beautiful than what it really was. The shot is a panorama made from 9 vertical shots stitched together.

The infrared filter is a nice way to make photos with “bad” light and is also a nice way to see a scene in a different way, you just put the filter and roll the dice to see what the result is. If you have the patience to discard all the failed experiments you can find a nice result here and there.

Photos taken With a Canon T2i, 28mm F2.8 lens and Hoya R72 Infrared filter.  Exposure times around 10-30 seconds at ISO 400.

Some of these images are now part of the Fantasy Gallery on my website. A collection of real photos that don’t look real, or something like that…

My 2010 Selection

Yes, this is the mandatory “best of the year” blog post with the photos that I liked the most. You must be tired of tweets, RSS feeds and blogs announcing “best of 2010” features so I appreciate your visit to this post.

I’ll start with the image that I liked the most from 2010

Our Galactic Neighborhood

Our Galactic Neighborhood

I took this photo at the hills of Azul, 300km south of Buenos Aires. The skies were dramatically dark and the sight of the Milky Way was impressive. I had never seen a shot with the Milky Way and the Magellan Clouds in the same landscape and this was my chance to do it. It won some astrophotography awards with this picture, including picture of the week at Ice In Space and Amateur Photo of the Day.

The Forest's Energy

The Forest's Energy

This photo is from a small forest near Miramar, Argentina. The forest has allegedly some magical powers, there is a geomagnetic anomaly that produces energy and people go there to embrace the trees, do new age rituals and heal their minds and bodies. I went to take pictures and this is the way I depicted the “energy” that this interesting place has.

Strike One

Strike One

I was trying to photograph distant lightning at the horizon from the beach. I never noticed I was under a huge storm cell until I saw the cloud in the camera LCD!. The storm came my way and believe it or not I had to run. It wasn’t fun to be chased by a storm while carrying a big metal tripod. The photo was chosen by Flickr staff and featured in the Flickr blog. Works for me!

Moonrise by the Candlelights

Moonrise by the Candlelights

This photo shows the moon rising above rocks at the beach, the light on the rocks comes from a nearby fire. It was chosen by Scott Bourne to introduce me as one of the finalists for emerging photographer of the year. I didn’t win but I’m very happy I got that far. When I took the photo I didn’t see it as something very special but everybody seems to like it and it has grown on me.

Miramar Equinox

Miramar Equinox

I was happy to find these rocks because they looked like fingers and I thought it would be a good idea to point them to the sun as it was rising. What I didn’t expect was the reflection from high clouds in the tidal pools at the rocks. I think I took thousands of photos and this was the one I liked the most. It’s what it is all about.

Geyser Rock

Geyser Rock

This rock has a hole at one side and another one at the top. When the waves hit the front hole water enters the rock and the pressure makes the water exit thru the top hole as a Geyser. The conditions for this are not very common and I think the shot was never tried at night. I used a flashlight to paint the splash and let the camera do the rest. I think I will try again with a closer framing for now I just like this shot.

Here we go again!

Here we go again!

After 4 days waking up at 5am wanting to photograph the sunrise only to find clouds and nothing interest it finally happened. I got a nice sunrise with some beautiful clouds and the luck to find two crossing waves just in front of my camera. This is why the photo is called “here we go again” because no matter how bad the conditions are there is always tomorrow and the only secret is to be there when it happens.

Thank you for reading this boring post and happy 2011!

More photos at my site: http://www.luisargerich.com

The last time a total Lunar eclipse took place on the 21 of December was 1648 years ago. In 2010 the event repeated, a total lunar eclipse was visible in most of the Americas during the summer or winter solstice depending on which hemisphere you live.

The 2010 Solstice Eclipse

The 2010 Solstice Eclipse

From my location: Buenos Aires, Argentina the eclipse started at 3:27am in the morning with the moon setting, moonset was during the totality stage so we only saw half of the eclipse. Fortunately the other half is just symmetrical to the first part but in reverse order and as the moon approached the horizon an optical illusion made it seem bigger than what it really was. A giant red moon looming over the horizon, that’s something you have to see!

Totality

Totality

I took photos every 2 minutes with a Canon T2i (550D) and a Canon 400mm F5.6 lens, the 1.6x crop factor of the 550D combined with the 400mm lens gave me a field of view of 640mm. I decided not to use the 1.4x teleconverter as it would make my lens go from F5.6 to F8 and the totality phase of the eclipse would take a long exposure time resulting in a blurry photo due to the Moon movement. The moon moves quite fast in the sky, I had to chase it with my camera from shot to shot. A micrometric head like the Manfrotto 410 helps a lot in that task.

Before and After

Before and After

During totality the moon is in the Earth’s shadow so it is not lit by the sun but from Earth’s own light, when the atmosphere is clear the moon turns very red, in years with volcanic eruptions the moon can turn brown chocolate or be completely black. During this eclipse the stratosphere was very clear resulting in a bright red moon during the totality phase.

Solstice Eclipse Starscape

Solstice Eclipse Starscape

It’s very difficult to take a photo of the stars with the moon included in the frame, the moon is so bright that gets totally overexposed producing flares glare and diminishing the stars. During the totality phase of the eclipse the moon was very dim allowing the capture of the moon against a background of stars in the same field of view.

You can check more photos at my site: http://www.luisargerich.com

The 2010 Geminids

Geminid Bolid at Mercedes

Geminid Bolid at Mercedes

A meteor shower is produced when Earth glides across debris from a comet or asteroid, the tiny fragments that are only a few inches long burn in the atmosphere producing meteors. Sometimes a bigger fragment grazes thru the atmosphere producing a bolide: a bigger, brighter meteor but even those are not big enough to reach the surface. In the case of the geminids the debris was originated by an asteroid named 3200 Phaeton, it’s the only meteor shower not originated from a comet. The first photo shows a bright bolide above the setting moon.

The Geminids are usually the best meteor shower of the year. In the southern hemisphere the radiant is not very high in the sky but high enough to produce many meteors and the temperatures are warm as the event takes place on summer time.

The Geminids at Orion

The Geminids at Orion

The photo shows the Orion belt with the flame nebula and horsehead nebula and the big and bright M42 nebula. 10 meteors crossed the field of view in a 20 minutes time span. That’s a high rate and was probably the peak of the meteor shower from my location. The gaps in the meteor trails are produced by a 1 second delay between exposures and in some way help to see the speed of the meteors. The one in the top left corner was specially bright and fast.

Geminid Meteor at the Pleiades

Geminid Meteor at the Pleiades

This meteor crossed the pleiades cluster M45 coming from the Geminids radiant in the Gemini constellation. It has a notorious green tint, geminids are usually yellow/green. Not all the meteors came from the radiant there were many errant meteors. The best way to make sure you don’t miss a meteor is to use a fisheye lens pointed straight up at the zenit to make sure you cover as much of the sky as possible. I’ll try that approach next time to see how many meteors I can get.

Geminid Meteor at Mercedes

Geminid Meteor at Mercedes

This ultra wide view shows a bright bolide near the horizon. The sky features several constellations and objects including Orion, Taurus with the Pleiades and Hyades cluster, Gemini, Hydra and more. This was just before dawn and the horizon was starting to get bright so the meteor must have been really big and bright.

Meteor showers are fun to watch and fun to photograph, it’s a hunting exercise as you have the camera constantly shooting trying to get a meteor, they are so fast that the only way to get them involves a little luck. For unknown reasons the Geminids are getting better and better year after year so we can just start to wait for the 2011 show.

For more photos you can always check my website: http://www.luisargerich.com