Tag Archives: moon

Moon Moon: Phone vs. Camera Revisted

Flowers with moon and jupiter

I spotted this view of the moon and Jupiter bordered by flowers while at the Orange County Fair last week. While I love the look of the shot, it’s terribly grainy and full of compression artifacts. My phone isn’t great at things like zoom or low light conditions. I’ve been using it as my main camera for the past year, since it’s great in bright daylight, and my old camera is riddled with dust I can’t get rid of. But this, plus plans for a vacation where I knew I’d really want a working zoom, combined to be the last straw.

Major criteria:

  • Serious optical zoom
  • Low light
  • Long exposure
  • Wi-Fi would be nice, but not critical

I checked out a bunch of cameras and settled on a Canon PowerShot SX710 with 30x(!) optical zoom. They’ve automated a lot of the mode settings the older models used to have, but there are still a few specific modes you can use and you can still take photos with manual settings. And yes, you can transfer photos over Wi-Fi, to a device, a computer, or a cloud service.

One of the first things I did after charging the battery was go outside to see how it handled night shooting. Then I looked up and saw the moon.

Moon

So far, so good!

Amusingly, this happened the last time I bought a camera too.

Moonrise

The full moon hung low in the east, rising pale yellow against a shadowed sky. A cluster of lights floated next to it, airplanes lining up for approach to the runway I was driving past. I’d glanced over just as I passed under their flight path.

Above the moon and the lights, a band of pink crossed the sky. Above that, it shaded into blue.

To the west, past a chain link fence, past the tracks being laid down for a rail extension, past the expanse of the runway itself, the sky was orange. Bright yellow clouds, the only clouds in the sky, shone with light from the sun that hadn’t quite set for them yet.

I drove on.

Eclipse on the Hill

Clouds and timing squashed the “supermoon” and “blood moon” effects here, but it was still the most unusual lunar eclipse I’ve experienced.

Usually I’ll stay up late or get up early and go outside to watch the eclipse by myself. Last year I took my then-three-year-old son out to watch an eclipse around midnight.

Tonight’s eclipse got underway before local moonrise, and I wanted to see it as soon as possible. So J. (now four and a half) and I went out to an intersection in a residential neighborhood near the top of a hill with a clear view of the eastern horizon. We arrived at sunset, and two other people were looking eastward: a woman with a camera and full tripod, and a man with binoculars. The four of us all set up on a triangular traffic island on the northern side of the intersection.

Flat layers of clouds streaked the sky, and we worried that there might not be much to see at all, but it was only a few minutes before a slightly-off crescent moon rose due east of us, right in line with the street. Continue reading

Supermoon Rising Through Clouds

Supermoon July

Last night’s “supermoon” rising through light clouds. Spotted, oddly enough, while walking past a Supercuts.

It wasn’t quite as cool as a week ago, when I was driving home late at night and watched the first-quarter moon setting like a giant orange slice near the horizon. But I didn’t have my camera, and wasn’t sure about stopping somewhere unfamiliar at midnight to take photos.

As it happened, last night I did have my camera in the car. I took a few shots bracketing the clouds and the moon face. I combined them with Luminance HDR, mostly to see if I could. It’s not fantastic, but it’s better than my phone would have managed (though it actually takes better photos in broad daylight than my camera does).

Times like this make me wish I had a DSLR camera, but I have to be honest: Chances are I wouldn’t have had it with me.

Speaking of HDR, my brain decided that it needed to be pronounced as a word instead of initials. Three guesses as to what vowels it decided to add!

Lunar Eclipse = Front-Yard Astronomy (Photos)

One of the nice things about a lunar eclipse is how accessible it is. You don’t need binoculars or a telescope (though it helps). You don’t need protective gear. You can see it from a city street with lights on. You don’t need to be in exactly the right spot to see it, since the viewing area is measured in multiple continents rather than a narrow track. And since it lasts longer than a solar eclipse, if the clouds roll in moments before totality (which they did), you can wait a few minutes and you might still be able to see something!

The last time a lunar eclipse was visible in our area, I woke up at ridiculous-o’clock in the morning and went out to watch, first across the street, then trying to find a clear view in the west before sunrise and moonset drowned everything out.

This time I just walked out into the front yard.

Lunar eclipse mosaic
Four stages of the eclipse. I’m not sure what the star next to the moon is. As Sam points out, the star is Spica. The phone line bisecting the second view looked interesting, so I went with that rather than an unobstructed shot. In retrospect, I should have tried to frame it to look like the Death Star trench.

My son is almost 3 1/2 now, just old enough to appreciate this sort of thing, so I spent the last few days talking it up. We went out to look at the full moon early in the evening. We read a kids’ book on stargazing that he likes. I showed him pictures of what to expect, and diagrams showing how an eclipse happens. He’s been wanting to play with a tent ever since I mentioned the phrase “camping stuff” a few days ago, so we found the tent in the garage and set it up in the front yard. He had as much fun playing in the tent as he did watching the earth’s shadow move across the moon.

Katie stayed inside most of the time and came out a few times to check on progress.

At one point, an airplane flew across the sky leaving a sharp, bright contrail just next to Mars.

Moon Mars Power Lines and Contrail

We were all out just before totality around midnight…when a cloud started forming right in front of the moon. Mars, not too far away in the sky, was perfectly clear, but the moon got blurrier, and blurrier, until the razor-sharp sliver of a few minutes before was a blob of white. It reminded me of the time we saw about that much of an eclipse in San Simeon on the way up to (coincidentally) WonderCon when it was in San Francisco.

Fortunately the cloud started breaking up again after a few minutes, and all we had to do was hold up our hands to block the streetlight across the street and we had a clear view of the fully eclipsed moon. (We could see it without blocking the light, but it was a lot clearer without the competition.)

I should probably mention that while the pictures here look red, it looked brown to the naked eye. Maybe it was because the streetlight kept our eyes from adapting to the dark. Maybe the camera is more sensitive to red light. Katie remarked that without the sunlight shining on it, it really does look like what it is: a big ball of rock.

Eclipse Lineup

After a few minutes we went back inside. Neither of us wanted to stay up until two to watch the same thing in reverse…or manage an increasingly tired and distracted three-year-old while doing so.