This month of February, probably bleeding into much of March, is consumed by recuperation. I had total knee replacement February 6. That was for the right knee; the left was done last August. Just trying to keep them a matched set! All is going well, as it did the last time. I highly recommend the total joint replacement center at Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, as well as the talented physicians of University Orthopedics. My doc is Dr. John Froehlich, about whom I have only good things to say–as does my physical therapist.

Cyclamen At Home

This beautiful cyclamen is a gift from a very dear and generous friend who has been helping me recover. The photo was a challenge in lighting and background, given my limited mobility at present. I set the plant on my kitchen counter and used a distant wall as the background. The wall is yellow, though, and that color combination did not please me. Also, I needed more light on the plant itself. So, speedlights to the rescue. For the main light I used a Nikon SB-5000 flash and reflected it off of the pink aluminum foil that came with the plant. I used a small Nikon macro flash with a diffuser for a secondary light on the right. To address the wall color I used a third flash, a Nikon SB-600 with a green gel, directed on the wall.

Thanks again for good friends who help make life more cheerful.

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)

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

Biological Imaging–Part I

Newborn squid

Retirement has its perks. In my case, I can audit courses at Providence College tuition-free. I decided to take advantage of this benefit during the Fall 2017 semester, and enrolled in Biological Imaging. “What’s that?” I’m frequently asked; “Photography through microscopes” is my answer.

Grass seed head

So far we have used stereo, or disecting microscopes and compound microscopes. How it works is that you remove one of the eyepieces on the scope and replace it with your camera. I have been using a Camranger to control the camera from a computer.

Sand dollar

We have mostly been photographing marine organism, but did get some early practice with prepared slides and flowers.

Scallop eyes

There are several challenges in this type of photography. First, controlling the light and white balance can be difficult. Another challenge, due to the extreme magnification, is that depth of field is extremely shallow. I have found good results with focus stacking, however, which provides one way of overcoming this limitation.

Enjoy this initial collection of images under the microscope!

Fun on a Snowy Day

Thursday in Rhode Island was a very snowy day, with over a foot of snow arriving at my house. I have always wanted to try to photograph snowflakes, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to try. Got out my 105mm macro lens, put it on my Nikon D500 crop sensor camera, stacked on all the extension tubes I could find, and even added two close up filters to the front of the lens. After all, snowflakes are really tiny little things. Well, I discovered that I will need lots and lots of practice with that rig, since the depth of field is practically nonexistent. Will try again another time.

As I was standing in the sunroom, which is not insulated, I noticed that globules of snow had formed on the door. I stripped down the rig to just the macro lens, and illuminated the globules from an angle with a strong LED flashlight. That yielded a couple of interesting photos, which I share with you here. Enjoy.