ISS Brightest Line Crossing the Night Sky

Watching the International Space Station zooming across the night sky is truly awe inspiring. Have you ever thought about the technical know-how required to build such a complex research station in space, not to mention the coordination and cooperation needed among peoples of different nations to achieve this feat? I find it fascinating!

Last night I was so excited to see if I could do this…I had a plan to go out and photograph the ISS crossing the sky. We had a 4 minute viewing window at our location in the mountains of Pennsylvania.

With about 15 minutes to spare I got the tripod set up right outside in our driveway and the camera focused in time to capture a couple of 25 second exposures. I was thrilled!

This is my new desktop image…

International Space Station Looking West
International Space Station Looking West

…and the space station as it traveled to the north.

International Space Station Looking North
International Space Station Looking North

Canon T4i camera with wide angle lens EFS 10-18mm, 25 sec., f/4.5, 1600 ISO using a tripod. Looking West, then North at 8:41pm, 26Sep2017.
(Click on any image to see a larger view.)

Images were processed in camera using ‘Long exp. noise reduction’ feature in the menu settings, but they weren’t post-processed in any way other than cropping to a much smaller size for posting here and emailing to a few friends.

These long-exposure images accent the brightness of this heavenly body, don’t they? When you look for the ISS you’ll know you’ve spotted it as it’s the brightest moving object in the night sky. And, it moves fast, like 17,500 miles per hour!

How did I know where to see the space station? Couldn’t do it without NASA’s Spot the Station website to find out where to look for ISS. It’s also mind-blowing to consider that someone figured out how to calculate where to look to see ISS and when – to the minute – for anyone standing anywhere on Earth!

Airplanes will make sound and have flashing lights that distinguish them from satellites, including the space station. With their proximity to Earth airplanes only reach 600 miles per hour or so, so they move slowly compared to ISS.

Jumbo Jet Airplane Flying West
Jumbo Jet Airplane Flying West
Blow up that image and you’ll see the intermittent red and green dots across the path of the plane. Those are the flashing lights that let us know it’s de plane!

Another streak across the sky that you might not notice at first when taking long exposures comes from satellites, other than ISS. (Photo taken 25Sep2017.)

Unknown Satellite Streaks Across the Night Sky
Unknown Satellite Streaks Across the Night Sky
Most satellites don’t have huge solar panels that reflect sunlight back down to Earth like ISS so they appear faint in photographs.

You can still see satellites with the naked eye, but you do need to concentrate your gaze in one direction.

So, the next time you’re out after dark, look up at the stars and see what else is out there!

Milky Way First

My first foray into photographing the Milky Way ended up with a respectable image, but there’s lots more to learn!

A good first photographic image of the Milky Way.
Milky Way First

This shot was taken in our driveway about 11pm on 23 September 2017. If I waited a little longer the image could have been improved slightly just by having more time pass since the waning crescent moon had set. I wonder if it’s still casting light into the image.

I didn’t use the ‘Long exp. noise reduction’ feature in the menu settings, but will attempt that on future astro-photo nights.

With a tripod and wired release the camera settings were 30 second exposure, f/4.5 and ISO 3200 using a wide-angle Canon EFS 10-18mm lens with stabilizer off and manual focus on.

The red cast on the leaves at the top left was produced by the red tank light that I had inadvertently left on during the exposure. Those leaves are still in green in real life. Accidental light painting at its best!

To be fair the image was slightly enhanced via GIMP by layering the camera-provided jpg image over the RAW camera image with a ‘grain merge’ filter at 36% opacity.

Purple and White Yard Flower Anemones

On my way to an Amish market in late March I was surprised to see some color in somebody’s front yard. Late March is a time when we’re wanting the land to get green already.

Large Grouping of Purple Anemones in the Yard
Large Grouping of Purple Anemones in the Yard

After that long Winter these purple and white posies made a delightful sight! They made me pull over right away to stop and take a closer look.

Purple and White Anemone Blanda
Purple and White Anemone Blanda

White, light purple, light purple with white center, and dark purple flowers complemented each other with the brown lawn for a backdrop.

At first I didn’t know what kind of flowers they were, but I did realize they must be bulbs as they had come up so early. The hellebores and daffodils were also blooming at this time and the star magnolia flower buds were getting bigger but not yet opening up.

With a little help from a bulbs catalog I flipped through enough pictures to learn that these posies are known as Grecian Windflowers, Anemone blanda.

Early Spring Purple Anemones
Early Spring Purple Anemones

The foliage was low to the ground – barely taller than the curled blades of grass. Each leaf was divided into three leaflets having deeply notched edges and a central cleft. The dark green leaves die back in summer.

The daisy-like flowers are perennial and act like a Spring Ephemeral. They would look great planted with narcissus or tulip or just about anywhere you’d like a little color in very early Spring.

See a full-size version on my site at FineArtAmerica:
Art Prints
(Photos taken 24 March 2016.)

Trees of the Forest on the Mountain Top

Wandering around the woods looking for signs of Spring isn’t likely to bring out the posies, but many cool things abound in nature. You just have to look for them!

Trees. I love trees. Would love to have a greenhouse, but can’t bare to cut down enough trees on the land to make it a reality.

Here’s a couple shots of trees. Just trees.

The Old Leaning Tree Has No Bark
The Old Leaning Tree Has No Bark
The Widowmaker Will Eventually Fall to Earth
The Widowmaker Will Eventually Fall to Earth

Woodpeckers and other critters that hunt insects will soon get to work on the horizontal tree branch and the bark will fall away.

Until another wind storm comes along to bring it down, the half-a-tree could be a widowmaker if it fell on someone walking under it.

To view full resolution images visit my site on Fine Art America:

Art Prints

Photography Prints

The Beautiful and Omnipresent Dandelion

Dandelions are not yard weeds. Some people like to think so and try desperately to get rid of them in any means possible. Wasted time and money, I say.

Why? Nothing in nature was ever meant to be a mono-culture!

People around the world recognize dandelion flowers for they seem to grow everywhere. As kids we’d pick them and hold ’em under someone’s chin. If we saw a golden reflection from their skin we’d say, “You like butter!

Dandelion Petals Have Jagged Edges
Dandelion Petals Have Jagged Edges

Have you ever looked at one close-up? I mean really looked?

Check out the complexity of this composite flower.

I love the jagged edges of the yellow petals and the centers that seem to reflect the sun’s rays.

Let the dandelions grow and attract some bees. We need bees.

Pick the greens before the plant flowers and have a salad. Serve with a ham dinner. Juice the leaves or batter and fry the flowers.

Dig the root and use it for its healing properties.

Watch the children play with them and bring you a bouquet.

Make some wine!

So many uses for a simple weed, don’t you think?

Dandelion Blossoms Open in the Daylight
Dandelion Blossoms Open in the Daylight

We tend to think of plants as sedentary and only able to move with the wind. One cool thing that dandelions display is a daily movement. Sure, the plant stays where its tap root is, but the flowering parts move every day. They actually have a behavior called “nyctinasty“, where they close up at night and re-open with sunlight.

Dandelions Open Up At the Start of a Sunny Day
Dandelions Open Up At the Start of a Sunny Day

One theory as to why dandelions move like this is that the flower protects itself from the nighttime cold temperatures by closing itself up into a cup. Come morning, the petals will relax out to receive the warming sun’s rays.

(Photos taken 5 May 2015.)

See a full-size version on my site at FineArtAmerica:
Photography Prints

Look For Tulips To Flower Before May

Going through some old photographs — yah, what else to do on a rainy day? — found only a couple of tulip photos that I really liked.

Creamy White Yellow and Red Tulip
Creamy White Yellow and Red Tulip

(Sunny Yellow Tulip photo taken 29 April 2015.)

Gotta love the BRIGHT colors that tulips lend to the landscape in the end of April. My favorite month!

Study their centers and you’ll see a lot going on. Pollen strewn about with a variety of colors you may not notice at first.

Red Tulip with Yellow and Purple Center
Red Tulip with Yellow and Purple Center

(Red Tulip photo taken 8 May 2014.)

Seems that I didn’t take much control over the exposure in most of the tulip pictures I located from the last two years. That’s something to remember for this Spring.

Sunlight seems to bounce around the inside of these bowl-shaped flowers. Tulips aren’t really as open as a bowl, more like a glass, shotglass?, shape. Smaller than my hand and cupped fairly tightly until they’re older and many insects have explored the inside seeking pollen.

If you want to photograph some tulips, look for them to bloom before the beginning of May and a little earlier into April, especially if you’re south of Pennsylvania or have a cityscape to contend with.

I did find two photos of tulips that I liked well enough to post to my artist site on FineArtAmerica – here are links you can follow to see the larger images:

Art Prints

Art Prints

Icy Crystals Like Feathers Inside A Bay Window

It’s not too surprising that the garage windows freeze up with ice crystals when it’s super cold outside. It doesn’t get cold enough in the garage to freeze a bowl of water for the outdoor cats, but it’s not heated either.

What is surprising is that the bay window in the Great Room gets frosty. You know it’s cold outside baby when the bay window freezes up moisture on the inside!

Frosty Window On A Frigid Morning
Frosty Window On A Frigid Morning

Without plunking down a sum of coin for a set of thermal curtains to keep out the cold, we came up with a lightweight method of insulating the window side of the great room. It was an inexpensive way to ‘make curtains’ without covering up the bay window completely.

The Great Room has hardwood flooring and lots of wood trim plus a huge beam that runs the length of the room. We loved the wood look and hated to cover it up with curtains or take away the lovely sitting area for the kitties (and us!) to look outside by hanging a large swath of material in front of everything.

Two one-inch thick Styrofoam sheets were glued together to boost the insulating properties and then fabric was cut to fit and glued to the boards, as we call them. The fabric-covered boards are like lightweight curtains that can be left in place to block out the cold (or the sunlight and its heat in the summer) or moved one at a time to allow as much or as little daylight into the room as desired with maintaining an enjoyable temperature in the room.

On the coldest mornings you can see how well the boards insulate the room from the cold. Move aside one of the boards in the early morning, and if its down into the teens outdoors there will likely be ice crystals on the inside of the bay window.

Frosty Window Feathers
Frosty Window Feathers

I thought it was pretty dry indoors, but moisture from the room is obviously high enough to allow ice crystals to form.

Last year in January (8 Jan 2015) the conditions were right for capturing photos of a heavy frost that formed on the window panes.

Frost Is Fleeting
Frost Is Fleeting

The ice crystals looked like compound leaves, fern fronds, and feathers.

It’s very interesting to study the crystals. You can see many shapes among the chaos of seemingly random geometries. Faces, birds, leaves and lots of other things can be imagined in the frosty images.

Photographs had to be taken before the sun peeked over the trees for when that happened the sunbeams hitting the window melted the ice.

It was fun while it lasted. Reminds me of the fleeting nature of life…and so many phrases we use to describe that, “Do it now. Press on! Just do it. Move it! Move on.” You get the idea.

Full-size views of my best images are now available for viewing on my site at FineArtAmerica:

Photography Prints
Sell Art Online
Art Prints
Art Prints

A Bokeh of Hearts for Valentines

Hearts aplenty, Valentines. LOVE is in the air!

Special Hearts for Valentines
Special Hearts for Valentines

I can’t believe how much fun I had with this project, making custom bokeh lights – hearts just in time for Valentines.

How do you make custom bokeh hearts?

You need 3 things to make bokeh hearts appear in your photographs.

1. Point sources of light that stand out from the environment

Curious Helper and a String of Christmas Lights
Curious Helper and a String of Christmas Lights

A string of Christmas lights creates colorful point sources of light. Yes, I have a curious kitty helping me! Continue reading A Bokeh of Hearts for Valentines

Foggy Morning in the Mountains

We usually see a lot more fogginess in the Springtime when there often is rain and cool nights. This Winter has so far been a little topsy-turvy, warm then frigid then warm again, so we’ve seen our share of fog lately. No snow to mention except for a little dusting one time.

Yesterday, I ventured out to see what cloud formations I might find to photograph after a rainy night with a partly cloudy day promised by the weather forecast. It was mostly cloudy for starters then it became overcast.

Looking down the mountain ridge and across the valley from a higher vantage point than the road, you could see how the fog settled in the low areas.

Foggy Mountain Morning
Foggy Mountain Morning

Can you see the car headlights on the country road that snakes through the hills?

A black and white treatment seemed fitting for this very grey scene. A light rain rolled in and stopped the fun, but I now know a place to return to for more photo ops!

This view of the valley between mountain ridges is wonderful to watch as the seasons progress. Check out a color version of a similar scene as above that was taken a little higher on the hill.

Foggy Morning in the Valley
Foggy Morning in the Valley

In the color version barns are more visible and the colors of the planted and tilled farmland come out of hiding on the left.

As a landscape image I think it gives a pleasant relaxed feeling, and I can’t help wondering where the people in those cars are going.

To see either image in full size, visit Liz’s site on pixels.

Art Prints

Dirt Lane Posted ‘No Trespassing Allowed’

Private property in rural areas is often posted with signs to let wanderers know that one more step means they’re trespassing on somebody else’s land.

Not something to be taken lightly in places where hunting is the outdoor activity of choice. Ya, be on your best behavior where so many people own shotguns.

Posted Sign Says No Trespassing Allowed
Posted Sign Says No Trespassing

I liked the image because of the posted sign warning trespassers to beware. That, and the dirt road going up the mountain, begs one to ask, “What’s going on up there?!”

The drab colors of this early winter shot screamed for a black and white finish.

Creepy thoughts abound when Halloween looms…what smart kid would walk up this lane at dusk hoping for a treat when they got to the top?

The posted sign that’s nailed to an old oak tree warns,

POSTED
PRIVATE PROPERTY
HUNTING, FISHING, TRAPPING OR
TRESPASSING FOR ANY PURPOSE
IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN
VIOLATORS WILL BE PROSECUTED
Name ___________________
Address ________________

Around these parts don’t think that ‘prosecution’ always involves the authorities either!

This No Trespassing image is available for greeting cards or prints from my site on Fine Art America.

Art Prints