Sunday, July 26, 2009
Milosh Is Awesome
One of the guys along on this trip was a professor at the Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic. One of his eclipse pictures from 2008 in Mongolia was on the cover of nature a little while ago. His website is fantastic and his shots of the eclipse strike awe and fear into the hearts of non-believers. Check it out.
An Eclipse Timeline
Here's a rough timeline in local dates and times for how this whole trip turned out.
7-15 Wednesday Honolulu (16th Thursday in Majuro)
Flying to the Marshall Islands
We left for the airport around 4:30am and landed in Majuro around 10am but didn't get in to the hotel until more like noon. Since we crossed the date line, it was noon on the 16th in Majuro. We got a breif swim in and had some time to take in the scenery while the team got an update about the airplane. We didn't yet know whether we'd actually have a working engine on "Amy" yet. And we were told that we were way over the weight limit. I took a walk with Huw around the back side of town (the island is thick enough downtown to support another road) and got my 'sense' of the place.
Beach and Sailing trip
We got word that the plane was on for tomorrow morning so we didn't really have anything to do today. It made no sense to unpack anything so we spent the morning hanging out around the resort and then took a boat in the afternoon over to two nearby islands. The best swimming was on the first island of Enemanit. It was basically a privately owned place with some awesome hangout spots. The coral was fantastic as was the raft with the slide and diving board.
Flying from Majuro through Kwajalein to Enewetak
We got up at 4:30am to get to the airport. Our flight left around 7am for 1 hour to Kwajalein to catch more fuel. After a half-hour 'detention' on the military base we flew another 1.5 hours to Enewetak and landed around noon. We had quite a greeting and then took 'the bus' to the eastern most point of the island and set up camp at the 'dorms', 'radiation lab' and a few of us set up tents on the beach at the point. We set up tents and layed out the gear for the eclipse.
We spent all day outside setting up mounts hardware and other things. I spent a few hours at night doing some astrophotography.
I was mostly useless at this point since Sarah and I had our experiment ready while the main UH tent was quite frantic. I spent the day inside making plots as it was over 100 and humid.
This day mirrored yesterday. The main tent was stil frantic and I was still mostly useless. This was another day spent making plots. The sunset was great.
The day was frantic with preperation. Sarah and I did practice runs in the morning and were ready a few hours early. The eclipse was a fantastic display of nature and I had 3 full minutes to just sit and watch. Fantastic! I set up lots of cameras which in the end proved mostly useless. I had the exposure times way wrong and should have zoomed in more. And I didn'thave tracking mounts, only tripods, which would have killed any zoom shots. Lesson learned. However, after the eclipse we started tearing down the setups and I borrowed a mount for a few nights. This hooked me on real astrophotography. Our European companions had fantastic gear and I learned a lot about this subject from Milosh, Peter and Martin. I think I may have to borrow these mounts for Haleakala in the near future.
We spent the day packing up and cleaning equipment, processing pictures and swimming with some more astrophotophotography in the evening. I tried out the IR Canon.
Enewetak, on a boat
We had chartered a boat ride to the concrete dome where they buried all the radioactive waste. Don't worry, we brough geiger counters and actually detected near-background levels. It was pretty odd considering where we were. Yes the counters worked, we calibrated them at the radiation lab using the stock samples. We got millions of counts from the samples, something like normal counts from Enewetak and nearly nothing out at the dome. You get more radiation flying in a jet at high altitude then you do down here. After the boat ride, we went for a snorkel on the ocean side. Fantastic.
Flying Enewetak through Kwajalein to Majuro
The morning was spent packing and we left Enewetak on Amy around noon. We made it to the resort near sunset, had dinner and passed out.
Sailing back to Enemenit
As a big group (save the Welshman) we took a boat back to Enemenit and spent the day snorkeling around. There were cirrus blocking the sun so it was actually quite pleasant. Cool water and not to hot. The family that owned the place was out so we got some good local stories and even got to go tubing in the lagoon side of the atoll. It brought me back to my summers growing up on the lake and the tube wars that ensued....
Flying Majuro to Honolulu
I'm spending the day in the resort restaurant catching up and posting all this stuff.....
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I discovered the benefits of using expensive equatorial mounts for doing astrophotography. Fantastic. It was easy to take 5-20 minute exposures with many lenses and get stunning views of the Milky Way. I had tried to do astrophotography earlier but was limited to 30-second raw exposures on a tripod. The tracking makes everything better....
I tried out the infra-red modified Canon I've got with the 750nm longpass filter. I used Martins 80mm f/1.8 for this run.
Then the normal pictures with my K20D and a 50mm prime at f/1.2 and f/2.1
This shows a wide-angle 18mm f/3.5 shot. It's pretty striking how big a difference f/1.2 to f/3.5 makes. That's a factor of 8.5 in light received. The wide angle shot catches the milky way but has a lot of noise still.... long exposure with little light.
This is a 30-second exposure recorded raw and highly processed. It's not bad in this compressed 800-pixel wide version but at full resolution it's fuzzy with a lot of color noise.