Shooting the Moon Again

The moon at 400mm
The moon at 400mm

Last night, I again tried to take a picture of the waning moon with the Canon 100-400mm IS lens I rented from Lens Rentals Canada. I used a tripod of course.

I decided to just try the full range of exposures to find what worked best. I set the ISO to 160 and the aperture to f/5.6 (the maximum for the lens at 400mm).

Based on the experiments from Friday, I started at 1/125s, and then moved down 1/200, 1/320, 1/400, 1/640, 1/1000, 1/2000, 1/4000 and 1/5000.

The first few were ok, but below 1/640, the moon started getting darker – not enough light was being captured.

The sweet spot seems to be 400mm, ISO 160, f/5.6 and about 1/200s. That was for a waning moon, just a little more than half-full. I wish that I had had more time on Thursday or Friday to try when it was nearly a full moon, but my schedule and clouds prevented it.

At 400mm, I can see the large craters along the terminator. This is what Galileo saw that lead him to realize that the moon was not a perfect celestial body, but rather one with an irregular surface – one more piece of evidence that the Earth was not the center of the universe surrounded by the perfect spheres of creation.

The smallest craters I can make out are 17 km in diameter. I can just make out the white dot representing the sunlit side of the Theon Junior crater. Not bad from 380,000km away.

Shooting the ISS and Moon

Tonight, I attempted to take a picture of the International Space Station (ISS) and of the past-full moon. I had the Canon 100-400mm IS lens that I rented for the Ericsson Golf Tournament.

Shooting the ISS did not work. I turned up the ISO to 1600, which seemed to give the right exposure, but I could not really get the ISS in focus. Plus, it was moving too fast across the sky. All I got were zig-zagging lines as I tried to manually track the ISS. The issue was not the tripod, but that I was trying to pan and I was not doing it smoothly enough.

Next, I tried the waning moon. This was also harder than I expected, although I learned enough that I think I can get a better shot next time.

I started with exposure. I continued to use the 1600 ISO setting, and opened the lens wide open (f/5.6 at 400mm). I let the camera determine the exposure. Looking through the viewfinder, it looked fine, but when I looked at the results on the LCD screen, it was an overexposed mess. I tried a few times, thinking that I made a mistake with the image stabilization.

I decided that since it looked over exposed that I should try reducing the exposure. I noted what the camera was attempting to do (f/5.6 and 1/15 second) and started reducing the time. 1/30, 1/60, 1/125s were tried and the image started getting better. I tried two more 1/250 and 1/320 before the moon ducked behind a cloud. These last exposures were better. Still far from perfect but I was getting close to the correct settings.

I’ll try again later before I have to return the lens.

Ericsson Golf Tournament

Today, I was the official photographer for the second annual Ericsson Golf Tournament at Pakenham Golf Course. As with my trip to Florida for the Space Shuttle launch, I rented lens from Lens Rentals Canada.

This time, I rented the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM, as well as the Canon 100-400mm IS that I used in Florida. In reading on the web about how to shoot a golf tournament, it seems that you need to be far back from the participants, as the sight and sound of a big camera can throw off the golfers. So I wanted lots of reach.

I brought a monopod as well, as I wanted to be able to move around quickly and have stability for the long lens. I was given a golf cart for the day as well.

I was very nervous once I arrived, as I was not really sure how to start. I checked in, got the keys to my cart and drove off to the first tee. I had to work out how far back I should be – at first I don’t think I was terribly effective. I also found that the added hassle of the monopod was too much and I removed it – I never used it. It was too hard to carry a camera with a big lens and an attached monopod and get in and out of the golf cart.

Randy, Miles, Jane and Steve
Randy, Miles, Jane and Steve

It helped me settle down and start learning how to shoot when I approached groups of friends from work. That was a lot easier.

I tried both lens during the day, although switching was not a fast activity. I see why pros will use two camera bodies, each with a different lens. I used the 70-200 more. I liked the photos it took, but the downside (if you can call it that) was that I needed to be closer to the participants. I got to talk with everyone for a little while. I tried to only take photos after the swing and tried to find a flattering angle. No one wants to see a bad picture of themselves. A lot of people were concerned that I would be taking picture of their mistakes. So I had to reassure them that I only take good shots and no one can tell if they had a good game or not.

Sleeping fox
Sleeping fox

In addition to the tournament, the course had so much wildlife. There were birds (including vultures), squirrels and even a very cute fox. Everyone saw the fox, because it was all over the course during the day. Near the end of the day, it stopped to sleep in a sand trap. I parked the cart and very slowly and quietly walked up as close as I could to get a good picture. It was a beautiful little fox.

I’ll need to prepare a more professional photo web site to display the photos. I’ve set up a separate web site (Ottawa Photoworks) for covering events and perhaps even to get some professional events.

After the tournament, I went downtown to the Canadian War Museum where the 2009 World Press Photos exhibit was being shown. A local photographer, Harry Nowell, had organized a group of his friends, acquaintances and students (I had taken his Natural Light Portraits workshop) to meet to see the exhibit. A few of us went to a local pub afterwards to talk about photography before the house band started playing and we had to leave.

Sleep study

Last night, I had an appointment with the Sleep Clinic at Queensway Carleton Hospital.

Rosa has told me that I sometimes stop breathing when I sleep, which is a characteristic of sleep apnea. I am often tired (but functional) during the day, and always assumed that this was because of my long work hours. I am frequently working late into the evening – I have conference calls twice a week with the team in Beijing that last until 11:30pm.

I called my doctor to see what can be done. He set up an appointment with the Sleep Clinic at the Queensway Carleton Hospital (QCH). The appointment took a little over a week before I went in to the clinic.

I arrived at 9:30pm, checked in and filled out the required forms. Around 10pm, I was led into a room with a bed and lots of equipment and wires.  Once I change into my sleep clothes, two technicians started applying the wires. I had two wires on each leg, one on each shoulder, one behind each ear, one on the top of my head, two on my forehead and one on each check. These would pick up the electrical activity from my muscles moving.  They secured a strap around my chest and one around my stomach to check my breathing. They put a heart rate monitor on my finger. Lastly, they added a tube with two projections that fit below my nose that measures if I am breathing. In one corner by the ceiling was a video camera that presumably would see in the dark.

Once wired up, I was helped into the bed to go to sleep. It was hard to sleep. The bed was hard, especially under my shoulders. It was surprisingly cold, and I had to ask for another blanket – the A/C was blasting out full! The noise of the fan was also distracting. On top of all of that, I was worried about accidentally pulling out all of the wires, so I could not move around to get comfortable. Normally, I’ll turn on one side and then the other and finally on my back before I fall asleep.

I woke up a number of times during the night. Three times there were balloons that popped just outside my room, as one of the staff had had a birthday earlier in the day shift. During the night, I could feel my headache from the previous day returning. This was partly because I was stiff from not moving, and because the bed under my shoulders felt very hard.

By the time morning arrived, I had a migraine. Wake up was just before 6:00am.

The technicians came back in the room to remove the wires and other measuring devices. I got dressed and walked to the bathroom. I had considered going in to work after the sleep study, but I decided against it before coming to the QCH. I’m grateful for that, because when I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror, I discovered that the wires had been attached to my scalp with this horrible, gooey soft-wax-like substance. My hair (what little I have) was matted and stuck out – I looked like a crazy homeless person in dress slacks.

I tried to pull as much of the goo out by hand, but it made little difference. I just wanted to get enough out that I could walk out to my car without everyone staring at me.

I drove home, took a hot shower to wash my hair and went to bed to get about 30 minutes of sleep before the alarm went off.

I hope that the technicians will find something. They said that they are only there to count the data points (such as survey my breathing rate, count how many times I toss and turn, etc). They send that data to a sleep specialist who will sent a report to my doctor in a few weeks.

Thinking about the night, I don’t think I slept well enough to be able to see some of the issues that Rosa was reporting to me.

STS-132 Launch Video

I’ve been able to get some time to work on completing the video of the launch of STS-132 Atlantis.

This was recorded from the NASA Causeway, about 6 miles (9km) from Launch Pad 39A. I recorded it in HD on my GoPro HD Motorsport Hero. I set it on a book in front of the crowd (thus the very low angle). As there is no LCD screen, I had to guess if it was pointed in the correct direction and angle. I feel great because I basically nailed it.

The audio on my video was not very good. There was a person next to the camera who was screaming with joy. Far too loudly!

So, to deal with it, I imported the video into iMovie ’09 and added the audio of the NASA Public Affairs Officer (George Diller), and then mixed in raw audio of the awesome crackle of the Solid Rocket Boosters. The NASA copyright statement indicates that the audio and video can be used for non-commercial purposes. Unfortunately, I can no longer figure out which YouTube video I used to get this last audio stream. I will keep searching in order to give the correct credit.

The video is hosted on Vimeo.

STS-132 Shuttle Atlantis launch from Richard Muise on Vimeo.