Storm clouds flowed overhead at the edge of a storm seen from rural Medina County (Ohio) but light could be seen on the horizon. “Even in the midst of the storm the sun is still shining.” ― Dayna Lovely
On Saturday night, July 29, I headed out to the Medina County Park System’s Letha House Park for a little stargazing and photography. The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association was hosting a public star party and it seemed a good occasion to try some Milky Way photography from their “dark sky” site.
Following a beautiful orange sunset, I shot photos of the assembling sky watchers. I had not planned to shoot photos of the Moon but the waxing crescent dominated the sky with its bright presence. I installed the 2X telephoto adapter to my 400mm lens for a nice 800mm optic. I got decent photos of old Luna but the effort would have benefitted with use of a crop-sensor camera body and its boost in apparent magnification; instead, I was using my full-frame (35mm equivalent) body. I won’t complain too much. The photo looks pretty darned good for an image made on a whim!
Waiting for the sky to darken enough for Milky Way images, I spoke with several small groups of people and pointed out objects of interest in the dimming sky. Many folks had never looked through a telescope before and were thrilled to be doing so that night! Others were excited to learn the names of a very few constellations, and to see the emerging Milky Way. One couple asked whether I’d ever seen strange, unexplained phenomena in the night sky (UFOs, etc.): strange and wonderful, yes; unexplained, no. It’s a little surprising how many people ask, however.
Sky dark enough, I started recording images of the sky. I used a simple photographic tripod, a 15mm diagonal fisheye lens, and my full-frame Canon EOS 6D, wide open at f/2.8, for various lengths of time. The waxing Crescent Moon drown out most of the Milky Way visually – it looked like an area of cloud spread thinly from the south to overhead – but showed up better in photographs. Near the horizon in the photo above, may be spotted the “Tea Pot” asterism of Sagittarius, and constellation Scorpius on opposite sides of the tree (and Milky Way) at center. The bright star above the Moon is Arcturus.
In another shot, concentrating on the Sagittarius area of the sky, I captured a little meteor that I did not see at the time of the exposure! I will definitely want to try shots like this again on moonless nights! Trouble is, however, on the horizon: human-made light pollution! Over the years since the astronomy club built their rural Medina County (Ohio) observatory, light pollution from the city of Medina has grown noticeably worse. My final photo in this post shows just how bad it’s getting. The center of Medina is about 12 miles from the park observatory and the city’s glow is intruding high into the sky. What once was a nighttime glow just above the treeline now extends high above it.
We are losing the glory of the night sky to the form of human environmental pollution that is probably easiest to control and that provide immediate benefits in doing so: turning off unneeded lighting, directing lights downward where they are needed (uses less light and power), and immediately save energy and money. I hope I don’t have to drive farther away from town with each passing year in search of darker skies. I can hope, can’t I?
On a photo walk in the Medina County Parks’ Buckeye Woods Reservation, we happened upon a medium-sized snapping turtle. The turtle had hauled itself out of the water near a small pavilion at the edge of a wetland area; it was likely a female who was on an egg-laying mission. We shot some photos, including this one, and went on our way. After a relatively brief hike, we passed the shelter just in time to spy the turtle trundling back down the bank and clumsily enter the shallow water. This intimate portrait was shot with a long telephoto lens: you don’t mess with snapping turtles!
The first storm (above) was one I intercepted based upon radar tracking the evening of June 20. The gust front or outflow boundary was being pushed along by strong gusts of wind, probably peaking at about 30 MPH, followed in due course by moderate rain. Photos from others, in neighboring Lorain County, Ohio show that by the time the cloud formation reached me it was beginning to dissipate. Fun to watch and, as the gusts rocked my parked car, an exciting experience as well.
The image below was a target of opportunity. I driving to Portage County the evening of June 24 when, from the Ohio Turnpike, I watched a storm developing and dropping beautifully silhouetted rain streamers beneath dark clouds and against a bright horizon. I was frustrated that there was nowhere safe to stop and record the view so, as soon as I exited the toll road, I pulled over and shot what I could. Maybe not as dramatic as my highway views but an interesting sight, nonetheless! This photo is an assemblage of several individual images to create a panorama.
Since moving here late last year, I’ve wondered if the pond drew more than ducks and geese to feed, rest, and nest. This morning we spotted this beautiful Great Blue Heron perched on a tree trunk! I shot pictures as I slowly moved closer; the heron was aware of my presence. It wasn’t until the bird had enough of me that I learned, hidden below the edge of the bank was another Great Blue Heron! Hate to admit it: I was totally unprepared for the pair taking off together over the still waters of our pond. Still, I’m pretty happy with this portrait.
With storms, you never know. Usually, when I am shooting lightning photos my sessions are cut short by the storm’s winds and rain. Friday night, however, was a golden opportunity as a fairly compact thunderstorm producing plentiful lightning passed just to our north. As the storm approached, moved through, and departed I experienced only a light breeze and no rain at all. Wonderful! And so I was able to shoot a good number of lightning pictures, only missing a couple when I had to re-aim the camera. Here are my favorites from the shoot…
A little experiment involving the waxing crescent Moon, our pond, and the lights from neighboring properties….