Night Photography

Lessons Learned, and Oh Look, Saturn!!

500mm shot of Saturn - My first I've been shooting pretty consistently for a little while now.  Some of those images end up here, some just go to Facebook, and others still just remain sitting quietly on my hard drive, hoping to see light another day.  I don't know if it's true of all photographers, but out of a session's work, I typically only like a handful enough to want to display, the rest I'm not thrilled with and if space were an issue, I'd delete.  More on that later.

I've been using a place called Mono Cliffs a few times lately as my location to shoot the night sky.  It's fairly dark, fairly remote, but still not too far from home.  There is still a lot of city lights so it is far from pristine, but it beats sitting at home and getting nothing.

To the left is one of my more thrilling accomplishments.  It doesn't look like much, but this is the planet Saturn which is roughly 1.2 billion km from the Earth, captured on the 500mm lens of my Canon T2i.  The past few times I have been out, with the help of a handy iPhone app, I knew that one of the dots among the millions overhead was Saturn, so I took some shots in hopes of taking a recognizable picture.

I can't describe in words how much luck is involved.  A clear sky, away from the horizon, a moonless night, a dark location and managing to get the focus right are just some of the issues.  Speaking of focus, that's a funny beast.  Just breathing on the focus wheel too hard (you can't use auto focus) could blow the shot out.  This picture is at 200%.  When you're setting up, the best you can do is focus until what you see looks like a sharp dot in the sky.  Then click it, and then have a look, zooming in to max, adjust focus just a fraction, and try again.  But it's so very rewarding when all of those tumblers line up.

With that accomplishment described, I now come back to my first paragraph.  Storing the photos that I either like or love.  Do you remember the topic?  The lessons learned?  Here we go.

No matter how confident you are in your computer, you need to back up anything you value.  At least once.

The past couple of days I'd been having issues with my computer.  It boots off a solid state "C" drive, so Windows loads lightning fast, as does Photoshop and a few other apps I use.  The other hard drive is your typical drive, and is where I store my work.  Like I said, most of my pics are fairly mediocre, but a few I truly value.

This morning when I turned on my computer, I was greeted with a flash, a bang and a hint of burning in the air.  Not a good sign.  I unplugged it, went to the basement and flipped the breaker and prepared to bring the computer to the shop.

Video cards can be replaced, as can memory, motherboards, and power supplies, but not hard drives.  Correction, not the stuff on them.

A couple of hours after dropping it off at the store, I got the call.  Motherboard, CPU, RAM, Power Supply and Cooler are all history.  I won't even mention the price tag to replace them because it's irrelevant.  It has to be done.  But they are confident that both hard drives survived.

As the tech started entering my days purchases into the computer, I strolled on over to the backup hard drive section and picked out a nice unit and added it to the bill.  I'll pick up a second one at some point just to be extra sure I'm not in the same position again.

Do your backups folks.  Think about the time you spend in good places, bad places, hot places and cold places and then think about it all being for nothing when you lose it all.

Remember that title again? "Lessons Learned"? The other lesson is, when you're out shooting, make sure you take in what you're seeing because if all you walk away with is a picture, but no memory of the experience, you really do have nothing.