A little experiment involving the waxing crescent Moon, our pond, and the lights from neighboring properties….
With snow on the ground, holiday lights lit, in a new town to explore, I set out tonight to see what images I might collect. Medina, Ohio’s Public Square and its surrounding storefronts took on a special feeling all decked out for Christmas. Special attention is paid to the city’s ornate gazebo which now is wrapped in glorious lights. Buildings downtown are outlined in white lights, and even the street lights added to the scene. I walked around the square stopping, now and again, to set up and shoot another view; I did that until my hands hurt — too cold (28F) through thin gloves — and I headed home. Here are two of my favorite shots from the night.
After months of searching and work (a story unto itself) we located and purchased an older ranch-style house on a large lot in Medina, Ohio. We had been living in the house for one week and I decided it was high time I take a look at the night sky! The weather was clear and cold Friday night — about 40 degrees when I ventured outdoors — so I had a look around.
The house is situated one mile from the old town square of this small city on a street lit by two orange, low-pressure sodium lights. A big-box shopping district is located about two miles north of the house with a neighboring city beyond. There’s plenty of light pollution and, to the unaided eye, the clear night sky is gray. I could make out the brightest stars of some constellations, however, and easily spotted the Pleiades star cluster rising in the east. I believe I also made out a wisp of Milky Way, as well! I set up my camera on its tripod and did some test shots to assess the photographic sky.
As you can see by the photos here, the camera easily detects stars we can’t visually pull out of the urban nighttime glow. As expected, more stars can be seen overhead — through less atmosphere and less illumination — than near the horizons. While this isn’t a very good spot for astronomy, it’s not impossible. And while the nighttime conditions may not support stargazing, they do offer some artistic potential.
In any event, you work with what you’ve got!
Clear skies have been rare this winter so when a cloudless sky presented itself this night, I had try a little sky shooting. The air was still and that was a very good thing … it was +19F degrees out there. I wanted to try out the new fisheye lens a bit more, even under our heavily light-polluted suburban skies. To my eye, I could make out the brighter stars and planet Jupiter; the celestial objects floated on a field of gray, due to the aforementioned light pollution. To my surprise and delight an eight-second camera exposure revealed numerous stars though, unsurprisingly, missing the clouds of the Milky Way. The photo above is my favorite among the few shot tonight. I’m excited to take that camera and lens to the country and darker skies and see what may be seen from there!
My old friend insomnia came for a visit this morning. No sleep from about 2:00 through at least 4:00 AM. Wandering around the house I peered from our window and could see the sky had remained beautifully clear. I unlocked the door, stepped outside, and stargazed for a while. The Moon was masked by a few local clouds but elsewhere bright stars glowed through. I smiled when I looked southward and saw brilliant lights forming a familiar “T” above the treetops — Scorpius, the scorpion with a glowing red heart! The air was still but cold and I was in tee shirt and stocking feet. I returned to the house, climbed back into bed, and returned to sleep. Calm lamps, indeed.
“Calm lamps within the distant southern sky,
And planet-dust upon the edge of space,
Look down upon the fretful world,
and I Look up to outer vastness unafraid
And see the stars which sang when earth was made.”
— from “Stars” by Marjorie Lowry Christie Pickthall, 1925
Image generated in “Star Walk” for iPad.