I'm happy to say that the drought with the camera has come to an end.
After the past several months of cleaning, purging, storing, renovating, packing and moving, I am out of the old house and into the new and a few nights ago I had an opportunity to take a trip north to get back under the stars.
Following a day at work, I had been loosely watching the weather report for the evening, and all signs were good that it would be a clear night. Taking a little vacation time, I pulled the plug abut mid-way through the shift and headed home to gather up the essentials:
- Camera - check
- Lenses - check
- Tripod - check
- Remote - check
- Batteries - check
But this was to be no normal night. For the past year I had been doing a lot of research on telescopes, mounts and astrophotography. After several months of waiting, all of the parts arrived and were unpacked and read to go.
The new rig consists of a Sky Watcher EQ6 motorized mount and an Orion 10-inch Newtonian Reflector. The goal with it is to use it's on-board computer to teach it where it is pointing and then from there, it can track objects seamlessly as they slowly move across the sky with my camera attached.
With this type of setup, you can photograph the planets and very, VERY distant celestial bodies that you couldn't hope to see with the naked eye. It is a test of patience, endurance and knowledge.
Sadly, I appear to be lacking on all three fronts.
Patience: I already know I am a pretty impatient person and because I was so far north, the bugs were bad. Very bad. The kind of bad that drive me to the edge of sanity. It caused me to retreat to my car several times during the setup, ultimately to wait them out until it became dark enough for them to go away.
Endurance: I have a lot of endurance but when it comes to the mosquitoes that followed after the big flies went to bed, I didn't last long. Back in the car. Outside I applied generous amounts of bug spray and tried another fancy gizmo which ultimately proved useless. Back inside I went and I waited them out, fully expecting to have to retreat with my tail between my legs and accomplishing nothing. Fortunately, the mosquitoes too went to sleep and left me alone eventually.
Knowledge: What I thought I knew simply wasn't enough. First, I left one piece at home, which meant I was not able to balance the telescope. It must be balanced because otherwise it will simply fall over in one direction or another if there isn't sufficient counter-weight. Strike 1. Strike 2 came when I couldn't figure out how to attach my camera to the scope. Thank you Google for solving that from the middle of nowhere, Ontario. Strike 3 came when I simply couldn't get the telescope pointed at anything worthwhile. It's fairly easy when you're looking through an eyepiece, but not so easy when its through a camera.
Because of this, I gave up on the scope and simply took pictures of it and the sky as I always have.
A funny thing about looking up at the stars at night - You don't see some things by looking straight on. It's the peripheral where you see. While trying to find one thing in particular, I noticed a dark spot in the sky. It wasn't dark because of cloud, because I could still clearly see stars. But there was an absence of light. There was a very defined line where the light began and the darkness ended though.
It took a moment, but I realized instantly what it was. A quick search of www.softservenews.com confirmed what I suspected. The Northern Lights were coming to life!
In the past, I had driven up here in hopes of seeing them, but consistently left disappointed. While this is still much too far south to get the spectacular views that are possible, there was just enough of a glimmer to recognize it.
While it wasn't the thrilling show I'd seen in the past, I was happy to at least see it. It's possible if I had stayed longer they may become more intense (they typically peak around 2 or 3am), but at this point I was closing in on 22 hours of being awake and I knew I had a long drive home so I decided to call it a night - but not before taking one last shot.
The new house has one large, tall wall that is desperately crying out for a shot. Flipping my camera on it's side, I got this one which I think will do very nicely. If you look carefully you'll see the Big Dipper, and a little more carefully, you'll see it's companion Little Dipper as well.
It will be very expensive to print this one, but I'm looking forward to it.
Until next time..