Here are a series of images taken from June 1 through June 5, 2012. The primary subjects are the Full Moon and the Venus Transit. I have also included some lessons learned. I sized all the images for this slightly larger than what I have been using; 1200 x 800 versus 1074 x 768. Enjoy!
June 1 – “Almost” Full Moon
This was my first time shooting with a tele-converter. Although not 100% full, I really like the way this moon image turned out; particularly the craters/shadows on the left hand side. They’re great! This is slightly over-exposed to give you some brightness, as it was all of that on this night.
June 3 – Full Moon
A look at my D7000/Tamron set-up atop my honkin’ Bogen 3033/3047 tripod combo. The old warrior (vintage ’97) is big, bulky, and heavy, but it’s a must for long focal lengths. I half-thought about selling it but glad I didn’t. Listen closely and you’ll hear it…honk…honk…honk…
Nikon D7000 with a Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD lens/Tamron SP AF 2X tele-converter shot at F/29 and a 1/20 of a second shutter speed. ISO 100. Focal length: 600mm.
100% full moon. I had to wait it out a few hours for some clouds to clear before I was able to take this. I followed many of the guidelines I noted here (May 7, 2012 Moon Images). I like the “Almost Full” moon image better, but I’m happy with this shot.
June 5 – Venus TransitNikon D7000 with a Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD lens/Tamron SP AF 2X tele-converter shot at F/36 and a 1/250 of a second shutter speed. ISO 100. Focal length: 600mm.
The Venus Transit is underway; the time is 6:16 p.m. CDT, from my backyard in Fridley, MN. This was an incredibly difficult shoot. The blue color was caused by the variable Neutral Density filter, which I wedged into the lens hood to hold it because it was too large for the lens. It was at a slight angle, which is probably why this turned out blue. That also softened the image. It was a make-shift attempt that really didn’t work, but I had to use that in order to darken things enough to shoot into the sun. When I look at this image it reminds me of how tough this shoot was.
Later in the day I joined Bob Adams and we set up near a church in Crystal, MN. Bob is directly observing the Venus Transit by using special safety glasses (he’s holding them up to his regular eyeglasses).
Nikon D5000 with a Nikkor 18-70mm F/3.5-4.5G ED lens shot at F/9 and a 1/320 of a second shutter speed. ISO 200. Focal length: 31mm.
Our presence drew in some locals, and this couple is enjoying Bob’s set-up to view the Venus Transit. It’s an old 1960′s telescope which projected the view onto the back of a white 3-ring binder. The setting sun played havoc with the skin tones, so that’s why everyone looks so orange/red. What can you do?
A look at the action via Bob’s set-up. You can also see why Bob was using that piece of cardboard. It blocked out the ambient light so you could see the projection. It was a simple set-up, but it worked!
Bob went from an observer to a full-fledged educator/entertainer as more locals showed up. Good thing they asked him, as I was just the camera guy! Bob gave them an excellent run-down (ala’ Chuck Doswell) on the event. Speaking of which, as the sun started to set, I saw things were starting to get interesting, so I grabbed my gear and vanished from the gathering (ala’ Al Moller), and came away with the following presentable shots…
Nikon D7000 with a Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD lens/Tamron SP AF 2X tele-converter shot at F/51 and a 1/8000 of a second shutter speed. ISO 100. Focal length: 600mm. IMAGE CROPPED.
Before Bob and I left for our filming site, we saw some high clouds on the horizon. I knew those were going to come into play, so I said to Bob and his wife Catherine; “those clouds are either going to help us, or hurt us…” Similar to Bob’s eclipse image, I think we lucked out, but you be the judge…
Nikon D7000 with a Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD lens/Tamron SP AF 2X tele-converter shot at F/40 and a 1/8000 of a second shutter speed. ISO 100. Focal length: 600mm.
The sun is a bit over-exposed, but it had to be in order to see the surrounding clouds. Full disclosure; I used Photoshop to darken Venus on this, and the previous image. Otherwise, no image enhancement was done. This is pretty much what came out of the camera. Because of discoloration and softness issues, I didn’t use the ND filter. I know it’s just a black dot, but it’s Venus crossing the sun, which I think is pretty cool.
Nikon D7000 with a Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD lens/Tamron SP AF 2X tele-converter shot at F/90 and a 1/8000 of a second shutter speed. ISO 100. Focal length: 600mm.
A properly exposed sun and Venus Transit shot, but in order to get it, I lost almost all of the surrounding clouds. I could have Photoshopped this image onto the previous two but decided against it. Please note how dark Venus is; that was my guideline for adjusting the two previous shots. You can also see the sunspots better. By the way, that’s not a typo on the aperture metadata; it really is F/90. That’s because the tele-converter doubles everything, and the Tamron’s highest F-stop is F/45. These images were cropped a bit, but not substantially so, since I was shooting at 600mm.
I learned some more things about these types of shoots, in addition to previous lessons learned. You may want to read those first if you haven’t already:
• For Your Eyes Only. I cannot stress enough the importance of eye protection. I am still having some issues from the eclipse shoot from May 20. I must emphatically state that I did NOT look directly at the sun that day; but sideways exposure still zapped me. I took extra precautions for the Venus Transit shoot and didn’t have any issues. I used the safety glasses designed to look at the sun, my sunglasses, and the ND filter on the camera to allow me to look into the viewfinder to frame and focus. It wasn’t easy juggling all that, but it beats getting zapped again. Please be careful.
• The Heat is On. The sun has a lot of energy with it so to protect your gear from getting too cooked, it’s wise to cover the lens with something between shots. Dan Miller suggested that, and I used a NASCAR cap between images.
• Low Rider. The sun’s intensity goes down as it gets lower in the sky, so if you have an event such as an eclipse, or Venus Transit, hopefully they will take place near sunset, so it will be a somewhat easier shoot.
• A Convert. My first go with a tele-converter was a decent one. You will lose some image quality but that’s a fair exchange to increase your focal length for subjects like these. John Shaw and Galen Rowell have images using tele-converters, so there you go.
• Where’s the Beef? If you want to get sharp images at these ridiculous focal lengths (600mm in APS-C format, juxtaposed 35mm film camera standards, is equivalent to 900mm!) you had better get yourself a meaty tripod, such as my Bogen Honker. Larger and beefy tripods are definitely better suited for this type of photography than smaller, lighter and clearly less-stable units.
• Bad Vibrations. I used my remote release for all of the moon and Venus Transit images, and the “Mirror Up” feature on my D7000. Any vibration at a 600mm focal length range can introduce softness to your images.
• Focus-Schmocus. At these focal lengths, especially using a tele-converter, your camera’s auto-focus is useless. The aperture is simply so small that there’s not enough light for the auto-focus to function. So don’t expect it to work for crap (no matter what the advertising says) and prepare yourself for manual focusing.
Images of the Moon are fun to do and I encourage you to try them. You can get very good results with regular equipment (you will need a lens to at least 200mm, however). Give it a shot!
Images of the sun, however, is a different ball game. I found the Venus Transit, and the Annular Eclipse, to be the most difficult photo shoots I can recall. In order for reasonable images to be had, you will need some higher-end equipment (even my gear fell short here) and some experience to pull them off. Although I am pleased with my work here, if I never shoot into the sun again, that would be fine with me. This will be the last Venus Transit in my lifetime, so I don’t have to worry about that again…although we do have another eclipse in 2017….hmm…we’ll see…
all images © Scott Woelm – June 2012