Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) floats in a clear summer’s night sky, reflected in lake waters.
Comet madness continued Friday night, July 17, as the region was finally blessed with clear skies. I ventured to a county park which extends after-hours access to my astronomy club, set up my gear, and waited for darkness and the emergence of Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE). Twilight seemed to take forever to fade but finally I spotted the comet, and at a decent elevation above the horizon.
I shot many images, experimenting with stacking, using my 400mm telephoto, etc. but the shot I was hoping for and that I finally got was the comet above a glowing horizon, reflecting in the still waters of the park’s lake. Attempts at depicting the expansive and complex tails of the comet gave largely unsatisfying results; in part because our clear night sky wasn’t quite clear, or dark, enough to allow best imaging of the delicate details.
A portion of the Milky Way, above constellation Sagittarius. The bright “star” to the left is planet Jupiter.
When the comet finally faded in the west, I made a number of shots of the beautiful night sky itself. We rarely see the Milky Way these days. I grew up in a small town and, at that time, I could step out into the back yard, look up, and see the beautiful star trails of our home galaxy. It was a pleasure to see the Milky Way and get a half-way decent photo of it. I’ve included a labeled copy of the image below, in case you’re interested.
Annotated Milky Way image labeling some major features.
As a storm rolls away and sun breaks through, a double rainbow appears over Medina, Ohio’s old Town Hall and Engine House on Public Square. Dark streaks, anticrepuscular rays, cross the bright rainbow arc.
Returning from a storm interception last night (June 10) and watching the sky from a red traffic signal, I saw a brilliant rainbow glowing against the dark background of clouds. The receding severe thunderstorm was rolling off to the east and the late evening sun was shining through clearing skies in the west. I hoped I could reach Medina’s Public Square before the rainbow faded, since there was the possibility of shooting landmark buildings with a rainbow above. I parked and trotted with my camera across the Square’s green and in light rain, with occasional cloud-crawling lightning overhead, I found my spot. That late sunshine was lighting the bright red top of the city’s old Town Hall and Engine House, dark sky in the background, and — yes! — that brilliant rainbow with a companion arc making the picture. I stood there for a while, shooting the rapidly changing lighting and rainbow intensity and when the sun went away, so did I. I’m very pleased with the resulting picture, which The Medina Gazette published today (at unfortunately low resolution), and I hope it brought a smile to many people who saw it.
May 10 Shelf Cloud as it clears a tree line to my west. This one was silent until it arrived with 34+ mph winds of very cold air.
It’s “shelfie” season: the time of year when springtime convective weather generates strong thunderstorms and picture-worthy shelf clouds. The popular term for shelf cloud photos, playing upon the term used for smart phone self-portraits or selfies, is shelfie.
May 10 was the first opportunity. I took up position and awaited the storm’s arrival in the parking lot of a public park. As the storm approached I could see only the separated top of the shelf above the treeline; that gave it the appearance of a wall of cloud (not a wall cloud) looming in the distance. The feature came closer and finally made visual separation from the trees and I knew I wasn’t about to be swept away!
Looking like a wall of clouds, the separated top of the approaching shelf cloud is visible above a tree line.
The storm was silent, no thunder, until it drew closer and I could hear the roar of wind in the treetops. A 34 mph peak wind was plenty strong, however, and ushered in a steep temperature drop. I was glad to have a jacket with me.
May 14 Shelf Cloud. You can see the rain curtain in the distance. When the view of the far woods turned white, I knew it was time to get into the car or get very wet!
Another photo-op presented itself with a squall line of severe thunderstorms on May 14. I thought I’d given myself enough time to reach a selected observation point in a city park in Lorain County but as I drove I realized I wouldn’t make it in time. So I bailed to a rural road and found a likely spot: a farmer’s access drive from the road to an wide-open field. I parked, got out of my car, and there it was! There was thunder and lightning with this one so I had some concern; nearby objects were better targets than me so I told myself I was okay. The shelf rolled over my location quickly. Intense rain arrived with 43 mph winds. And then it stopped. The rain and wind simply stopped. That was a very intense, concentrated line that moved along very quickly. A strange experience.
After the Storm. The rain abruptly ended, the wind calmed, and the sky to the west became bright. A strange experience.
Pre-flight Stretch. A Great Blue Heron stretches one of its impressive wings as it prepares to visit our pond on a fishing sortie.
A Great Blue Heron has occasionally been seen perching on a branch of a nearby dead tree. Yesterday I spotted the bird in time to grab my camera and, as discreetly as possible, shoot photos of it. I watched as it sat, then preened a bit, stretched, then took flight down to the edge of our pond. Frogs, fish, and other prey attract the random heron, and our neighborhood Red Shouldered Hawk.
The day was beautiful for a Sunday in early March — sunny and mild with a high temperature of 60ºF — so we headed out to a couple of favorite, easy-to-access spots for a little walking and bird spotting.
Sunlit iridescent plumage of a Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) makes the bird an uncommon beauty.
The F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm, a part of Summit (County) Metro Parks, features a beautiful visitors center with an observation room viewing a large bird feeding area. Today Common Grackles were the dominant presence. Bright sunlight and our angle of view brought out incredible iridescence in the birds’ plumage changing them from common to uncommon beauties.
A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), on a nest-building mission, glides overhead in the afternoon sun.
Following a short walk on paved and dry pathways at Nature Realm, we made a little visit to the Bath Road Heron Rookery, at the northern city limits of Akron. There seemed to be fewer nests this year, one formerly-inhabited tree was entirely vacant. Seen in other trees were the stick nests and mated pairs of birds standing upon them. Occasionally a heron would glide down from a tree to search for nest-building materials, then loft them back to their waiting mate in the tree. I shot a good number of photos but this overhead view is my favorite of the day.
These are common, everyday birds going about the business of living; if we look at them closely and well we will discover the uncommon beauty of the commonplace.
Somewhere Across the Waters
Our wanderings today took us close to my beloved Lake Erie shoreline. The sky near the horizon was dark but the lake reflected a mystical light of green-blue. A few minutes well-spent gazing upon the mystic lake waters.
Into the Mystic Waters
Saturday night I spent imaging very large objects: Earth’s Moon and craters measuring nearly 60 miles in diameter. Sunday I photographed a lovely Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) as it sampled nectar from a flowering plant; then, during editing, I cropped in close creating an image depicting an area of only an inch or so square on that insect’s wing. I do love exploring things from the very large to the very small.
Even smaller details, an unexpected bonus emerged in the cropped image. The swallowtail’s wing was at a severe angle to the morning’s sunlight enhancing the view of the individual scales that cover butterfly wings.
And yes, the butterfly was photographed alive and well, and left in that condition!
A Most Impressive Shelf Cloud
It surprised me. We were expecting rain and thunderstorms but the approaching weather looked disorganized and “wet” — that is, plenty of rain leading the way and blocking views of the storm clouds. Suddenly I got indications from observers to my west that something was cooking, so I fired up my radar access and saw a well-defined monster of a storm approaching. I grabbed a camera and headed out, knowing I couldn’t get far before meeting the storm.
Under the Shelf Cloud
Finally getting through town and out into the countryside, I saw on the horizon hints of the approaching line. I quickly located a farmer’s field access path and pulled off. I got there just in time to watch the shelf cloud develop, roll toward me, and pass overhead.
Deluge: The Rain Arrives
As the ominous clouds passed overhead, I knew to what to watch for: torrential rain! I strolled to my car as the wind began to rise, got in, and enjoyed the arrival of the downpour from dry, air conditioned comfort!
This was possibly the most impressive shelf cloud I’ve seen; bear in mind I don’t chase in the Great Plains. I nearly missed this one and, as it turns out, I grabbed the wrong camera — could have done with the wide-angle lens left behind!
Thanks to the unnamed property owner who drove over to see what I was doing and generously allowed me to stay put on her drive!