Wolf Moon Eclipse–Partial?

As was well noted by the media, January 20-21, 2019 presented a total lunar eclipse, visible in the Western hemisphere. So, what’s the deal? Why am I only talking about a partial eclipse? Let me explain. When the opportunity to photograph this astronomical event arose I did research. Lots of it. How do you focus on the moon? How does the exposure change as the eclipse progresses? What equipment is needed for the best result? Can you hand-hold the camera for a good exposure of the moon? Lots of information, some very helpful, is available on the internet. I had my ideal images in mind, and had scouted out the location I hoped to go to. Then things changed–like a very unfavorable weather forecast. Snow. Single digits. Wind. And the AFC Championship game between the Patriots and KC Chiefs. What else could go wrong?

Let’s begin by comparing these two photos from the slideshow.

Partial Lunar Eclipse
Waxing Gibbous Moon

The image on the right was a practice image. Using my Nikon D500 camera with the Nikkon 300mm f/4 PF lens, could I get an acceptably sharp image of the moon hand-held? Well, yes, this is acceptable, but hardly good. The light from a full moon is essentially the same as a landscape during daylight. That is, you could start testing exposure using the Sunny 16 Rule. However, a much longer shutter speed is needed during totality, when you can see the stars along with the moon.

The image on the left is from the partial phase of the eclipse. This was taken with the same camera-lens combination (both images are cropped), using a tripod. So, if I could get this image, why not the total eclipse?

Well, after the football game I decided to see if the weather had cleared. Indeed, it had! Hardly a cloud in the sky–or a degree on the thermometer. So, I bundled up carefully and ventured into the back yard to give it a try. What follows is here as a lesson of what can go wrong, even when you do the research and prepare.

I knew the moon would be at a high elevation–over 80 degrees above the horizon. But, it did not register in my aging brain that the moon would therefore be nearly overhead. That means the camera must point directly up. Try that with a camera on a tripod! Then try to see if you have the moon in focus. Clearly, I did get one image in focus, the one of the partial eclipse above.

Further, I had intended to modify my schedule for changing the exposure so that I didn’t have any shutter speeds faster than 1 second. With the lens and camera I was using, the 600 Rule for astrophotography called for an exposure no longer than 1.3 seconds (600/450, the full-frame equivalent) . I had not done this, however, because of the ominous weather forecast. So, I ended up going with the exposures on my carefully planned sheet–8 seconds during totality. Way too long to avoid motion blur. My cold brain didn’t think to move my frigid fingers to make the adjustments necessary. Here is the result. Lesson learned–but no chance for redemption until at least 2020.

The Moon and the Stars (Lunar Eclipse)
Partial Lunar Eclipse

Click HERE to learn about this image.


My Winter Front Door–Framed

Sunroom Lights

I have been wanting to photograph these lights, which run along the edge of the ceiling of my sunroom and reflect magically in the various panes of glass. I just couldn’t come up with an interesting composition. One evening recently I was exploring the multiple exposure feature of my Nikon D850 camera body. This allows the photographer to make several exposures, which the camera then combines into a single image–and a raw file, at that. The D850 allows for three various ways of merging the images–average, add, or darken. Previous Nikon cameras only averaged the gain, or brightness, of each image. With the darken mode, the camera chooses the darkest parts from each frame; conversely, with the lighten mode, the camera chooses the brightest parts from each exposure. Here is the result of a composite of six exposures, using the lighten mode and aiming at the corner of the ceiling.

Sunroom Light Flower

This experimentation led me to try multiple exposure of my front door in its winter dress. I tried two exposures, adjusting for the brightness of the light and wreath. I then wanted to frame the door with the sunroom lights and two additional exposures. The result was not pleasing, since I needed to do some perspective control on the doorway. So, this final image is actually a post-processing composite of four images: two of the door, controlled for perspective and blended for exposure, and two of the lights, one along the side and one at the top.

Winter Doorway-Framed

New Additions to Providence College Campus

PC Science Complex

This new building, the Science Complex, opened with the Fall 2018 semester. Shown here in its night-time illumination, the building contains the administrative offices for the science departments, as well as new, state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories. One room that I use occasionally houses the confocal microscope, about which you will hear in a later post.

PC Torch

This torch sculpture reflects the significant character of the Dominican Order’s founding of Providence College. While pregnant, Blessed Joan of Aza, Saint Dominic’s mother, had a dream of a dog holding a torch. She understood this to signify that her child would light a fire across Europe with his preaching. Early saints in the Dominican Order include, of course, Saint Dominic, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Saint Albert the Great. Albert, for whom the Albertus Magnus science building is named, would have appreciated the following image of the torch and the waxing crescent moon.

PC Torch With Moon

Ruane Center for the Humanities

Ruane Window

This magnificent window graces the Great Room in the Ruane Center for the Humanities at Providence College. The window was designed by artist Sylvia Nicholas, a stained glass master who lives in New Hampshire. Sylvia Nicholas also designed the stained glass windows in the St. Dominic Chapel, as well as several sculptures located throughout the campus. This masterful display of major figures in philosophy, history, science, and other areas of the humanities, was installed in the Fall 2017 semester, following the building’s dedication four years earlier. To see details of the individual panes, simply explore the galleries for each row, below. How wonderful to see Darwin next to Gandhi and Shakespeare next to Galileo! These are the sorts of juxtapositions one has the liberty to explore in a liberal arts education.

Row 1 (Top)


Row 2 (Second from top)


Row 3 (Second from bottom)


Row 4 (Bottom)