Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Eclipse Movie!

I had the Canon T2i / 200mm EF-L (with Baader Filter on the lens cap) ticking off an image every minute during the annular eclipse this last May 20.  The camera had 140 images on it by the time the sun set behind the eaves of the house.  I focused as well as I could by hand on sunspots but they were pretty tiny at this image scale.

When I had a chance to look at the images I realized I was in for the same spot of trouble I was in for the lunar eclipse movie.   Each time the scope was re-centered the image would obviously shift in the image frame.  This means they all required alignment.  I still don't know of any better way to do this than by hand ... there are no stars in the field to take advantage of normal image registration software.  

So each frame was lovingly nudged into alignment by hand (in PS4).  All 140 of them.  Then cropped in Lightroom, exported as jpgs, and finally sequenced into a movie with Quicktime 7.

It looks a bit nicer if you view it at youtube so you might want to click the link.  At the very end you can see the sun setting behind a tree and finally the edge of the roof cutting it off for a premature end.

I chose to run the movie at 10 frames per second so the motion seems smooth.  The whole clip is only about 14 seconds!  Almost 2.5hrs worth!  And of course much more than that to align all those frames! Ah well ...  I've done worse for less.

The Baader filter gives a neutral white light image.  I noticed many of the images and movies out there are colorized - on purpose or due to the type of filter used.  They are rather more dramatic but I chose to keep any artificial flavorings out of the mix.

It was a good dry run for the Venus Transit on June 5.  I learned I really don't have enough image scale at 200mm and if I don't use the refractor I'll have to get a tele-extender.  Experiments underway!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Hairshirt Goes Social

The Eclipse of 2012 was probably the deepest I'll see in my lifetime - without travel that is.  Part of me was wishing I'd made the 3-4 hour drive to see the full eclipse but it was still pretty impressive from my backyard in the San Jose area.  We had some some friends and neighbors over for a BBQ and in the end it was a wonderful way to enjoy the eclipse.

I set up with my 80mm AT-LE refractor and 12mm Nagler with a Baader filter on the front. An hour before the event I realized that with so many guests it would be best to rig up a projection.  I quickly taped a piece of white paper to the bottom of a cardboard box and then fastened the box to the ball head on my tripod.   Off came the Baader filter, and after some focusing and moving the box to and fro a very nice image presented itself.  The full solar disk about 8" in diameter.  Multiple sunspot complexes were easily visible with the lighter grey penumbra easily visible on the largest of them.  So many sunspots made the eclipse just that much more interesting.

Eclipse equipment with "spokes model"
I had the Canon T2i clicking away a picture every minute through the 200mm lens.  This was a very good dry run for the Venus transit since I learned that I'll definitely need to borrow a friends (you know who you are pal) 100-400mm.  The disk image is just too small at 200mm.

Even so, I'll attempt to assemble a time lapse of the eclipse event - if for no other reason than to practice up for the Transit on June 5.

As written in a post below, the practice of imaging is largely a solitary pursuit.  With other imagers nearby it can be a shared experience but in the end it is just you, the camera, the mount, the computer, and a horrible tangle of wires and cables.

Sharing the eclipse, live, with nearly 20 onlookers was great fun.  The youngest was 18 months, the most senior over 90.  It was satisfying to share something so unique with a group of friends.  Yes, the hairshirt monk does go social every once in a while.

But there was another aspect.  A more intiment moment of sharing.  One that I wouldn't trade for pinpont stars across the field.  Or for the lastest gear.  Or a set of perfect Flats, darkest skies, deepest image.  It is the moment of connection with another over this instance of wonder.

Today's connection: mid-eclipse

 It's when another looks at an image, or through a telescope, or even with naked eyes at a dark sky and gets it.  It's when another sees what I see and there is the ah-ha moment.  Doesn't happen frequently but when it does it makes all the hard work of imaging worthwhile.  I was thrilled that it happened today.