52Frames – 2020-33 – Night Photography

The theme for 52Frames this week was Night Photography, and I kind of intended to submit some astro (which was actually the extra credit theme) – but since we had a bit of thunderstorm this evening, I took that opportunity instead.

This is a composite of two pictures: I was NOT lucky enough to get both the lightning and such nice car trails at the same time 😉 (Also, the car trails exposure is longer than the lightning one). I must admit that Photoshop made it super easy to combine these two – I just set both my pictures as layers, put a “gimme the lightest” setting on my layers merging, and boom, done 😉 Much easier than I was expecting (I was expecting to have to do that manually).

52Frames – 2020-32 – A New Experience

The theme for 52Frames this week was “A New Experience”. It turns out that, for reasons unrelated to 52Frames, I finally got the Pentax 100mm/2.8 macro lens I had been coveting for a while – as far as “new experiences” go, “playing with a new lens” definitely fit the bill in my book.

We went for a small walk today in a woody area – I’m glad I stopped for a little bit to catch this one!

52Frames – 2020-31 – Water

The theme for 52Frames this week was “Water”, with an extra credit for “Using an ND filter”. Turns out that I DO have an ND filter that I had never really used, and that I had wanted to go take pictures of this place on the Sihl (which has been less than 1km from my apartment for the last 12 years…) for a while.

So I got my photo bag, my tripod and my ND filter, and I went to take a few pictures. Turns out, even with said ND filter (which is only a 4-stop filter), I wasn’t able to increase the exposure length as much as I wanted to at this time (it was roughly 6PM). So there’s two things I know: 1/ I’ll probably get a stronger ND filter at some point 2/ I’ll need to go back there on a less bright day/at a later (or earlier?) time.

But anyway, I got the shot, including the extra credit, and that’s yet another one on the streak 🙂

52Frames – 2020-30 – Negative Space

The theme for 52Frames this week was “Negative Space”. There isn’t much of a leap between “Negative Space” and a blank page, and I got myself a new fountain pen this week (first in year, possibly decades) (well. Pilot Parallel Pens don’t really count 🙂 ), so there, a journal blank page with a fountain pen 🙂

Neowise and Jupiter

A friend asked me yesterday whether I was up for an attempt at comet photography – since Neowise is currently visible in our skies. I hadn’t seen it yet, because it was either visible very early or quite late, but these days it’s visible around 23:30, which is… past my bedtime, but we don’t see comets every day, so I made an effort 😉

We went a bit outside of the city and, after a bit of meandering, found a spot where the comet was visible and there weren’t too much other lights around. (Note: roads in Switzerland have waaaay too many street lights.)

After a bit of fumbling (I need to train my camera gear manipulation in the dark!), including a very embarrassing “oh, THAT’S why I don’t have anything on my pictures! <removes the lens cap>”, I finally settled into trying to take pictures of stars 🙂

I don’t have much experience in astrophotography (… yet?), but I’ve shot the moon and the like enough that I do know a couple of things:

  • Earth moves more than I think it does
  • My camera live-view 16x zoom is my best friend when it comes to focus
  • I can definitely expose to the left, the data will be there, and less noisy than if I don’t
  • Wide aperture is my second best friend (I had taken my telelens “just in case”, it didn’t get out of the bag)
  • Shutter remote is my third best friend
  • My tripod is actually my BFF, even though it’s a pain to lug around

So I took some comet pictures, and it was nice, and I have one where you can see the double tail:

Looking in other parts of the sky, well. I had never seen that many shooting stars, and I definitely saw multiple yesterday. Someone mentioned that the two brighter spots we could see were planets – and indeed a quick check on phones established them to be Saturn and Jupiter, quite close from one another in the sky. There were attempts to see Saturn’s rings, but we didn’t have the right hardware for that, but… I HAVE JUPITER’S MOONS.

I am honestly amazed – I would NOT have expected that to be a/ at all visible b/ capturable with a 70mm lens 🙂 When it comes to astronomy and astrophotography, I definitely have more “star-struck” and “starry-eyed” enthusiasm than knowledge – although I actually learnt stuff yesterday. I also know that my camera DOES have an astrotracing feature, but I didn’t manage to make it work properly yesterday, I think. MORE EXPERIMENTS WARRANTED. Also, next time I shoot Jupiter, I probably need to take into account the fact that it’s ACTUALLY SUPER BRIGHT. Aaand I need to read up on astro photography processing, because right now I have no idea what I’m doing and there’s a fair chance it makes no sense (but the pictures are pretty!)

So, there. All in all, I’ll consider this astrophotography session a large success (because it makes me want to do more of it 🙂 ). I have some more pictures available in the full album: Neowise and Jupiter.

52Frames – 2020-28 – Edited by Someone Else

For 52Frames, this week, the idea was to give up some control and to give a picture to edit to “someone else”. There was a handy sign-up sheet with 52Framers offering their services and what they were willing to work with; my editor for this picture of a pretty rock was Mary Lesh.

I usually work better within a set of constraints; the 52Frames constraints are actually usually slightly too loose for my taste, and without a guiding theme, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I considered going outside for a few shots (I noticed a few things I want to get in my camera recently), but my “social budget” for the day was tapped out, so I decided to stay home with my studio.

When it comes to studio, I do like photographing minerals. I also knew that this would give some leeway/freedom to my editor: they could either focus on the details, or take advantage of the space around the rock. And I had this very pretty rock (as far as I can tell, barite & vanadinite?) that hadn’t been in front of my camera yet. This is the image I sent to Mary (exported from RAW to JPG with no settings changed):

CameraPentax K-1 II
Lenssmc PENTAX-D FA 50mm F2.8 Macro
Focal length50mm
F-NumberF/32.0
Exposure time8 s
ISO125

I thought it’d be fun to do a parallel edit to see what could be done starting with the same image 🙂 I must say that I was looking for the same kind of crop as Mary sent to me, but for the life of me couldn’t “find” it. So I flipped the image (and not the table) and went for a much closer crop, and ended up with this:

Mary told me she’d left a lot of white space if I wanted to add a quote or something. I must say that I like the idea a lot, and that it had not crossed my mind ever before. Aaaand I do like the white space as it is too.

This was, for me, a very interesting experiment, even starting with a shot as basic as the one I submitted. Thanks Mary for playing that game with me!

#balisebooks – The Relentless Moon – Mary Robinette Kowal

The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal, is the third book of the Lady Astronaut series, describing an alternate reality in which a meteor struck the Earth in the early 1950s, accelerating and changing the constraints of the space race. While the first two books focused on the story of Elma York, The Relentless Moon follows Nicole Wargin, also an astronaut, and wife of the governor of Kansas. Nicole gets sent to the Moon base, but things do not go as expected: there’s multiple suspicions of sabotage, and a lot of ways thing can go awry in a small base in a very dangerous external environment.

I was very happy to be selected for the NetGalley of this book, because I had loved the previous ones, and I was absolutely looking forward to the third installment. I really like the setting and how the alternate history is fleshed out, and I love how believable is the whole space program.

I was a bit disappointed to not get the story from the point of view of Elma (the main character of the first two books), but the social group is still very similar, and I came to love Nicole as well. Nicole, like Elma, has her own set of personal struggles, and she’s very likable, competent and has a unique set of skills that is delightful to read about.

The plot felt maybe too eventful (are these people, that I start liking, going to catch a break at any point, PRETTY PLEASE?), but my perception of this may have more to do with my own state of mind than with the plot itself.

All in all, this was a thrilling and engrossing read – and Lady Astronaut #4 is currently planned for 2022, it’s going to be a long wait!

52Frames – 2020-27 – Complementary colors

The theme for 52Frames this week was Complementary Colors (I chose Red/Green) – which works particularly well with colorful board game pieces such as meeples. I grabbed a couple of these, and I saw my Rubik’s Cube in the shelf – so I threw it in the picture as well. And then I did something I hadn’t done yet: I used Lightroom to edit the picture.

I had a profound lack of motivation for this week – which means that I started shooting around 21:30, which may well be a new record. My goal was to “Just Shoot Something” and not break the streak – and the very first version was just the three meeples on the cube shot with a phone on the table. But I realize I couldn’t even manage to click “take the picture” on the phone – I felt the need to grab the softbox (which has a white background, at least) and a Lume cube (see previous remark about 21:30 – even 2 weeks awy from the solstice, it’s getting dark!). And then I tried to take the picture again with the phone, grumbled a bit, grabbed the camera and took a couple of pictures.

And then… well, then, I installed Lightroom. I’ve been experimenting with switching back to Windows after 15-20 years of Linux usage. And one of the reasons for that (by far not the only one) is “this way I can give Lightroom a try”. I’ve been using Darktable on Linux for quite some time now, and I do love the project and the software. They’re really doing a terrific job. Buuuuuuuuuuuut. I don’t particularly enjoy processing pictures (unless I’m doing specific creative edits). And I must admit that “dammit, Lightroom streamlined that thing A Lot.” I very much enjoy Darktable’s creative options, but when it comes to speed and automation of edits, I cannot deny that Lightroom does a great job, at least as far as my first perfunctory tests go. I was also expecting to fight and sweat my way through it… and I didn’t.

All in all – no, it’s not a great picture – it’s neither very creative nor technically flawless. But I still learnt more today than I expected, and it started with “I’M NOT LOSING MY 52FRAMES STREAK”.

52Frames – 2020-26 – Flashlight

The theme for 52Frames this week was “Flashlight”, with a secondary theme of “Light painting”. I will admit I cheated a tiny bit – I didn’t use a flashlight per se, but a Lume cube – because my Lume cubes have easy-to-snap-on color filters, and I wanted purple, because why not.

Very straightforward shot – setup camera in a dark room, setup long exposition, draw infinite symbol with a purple light, choose best among 12 (which was the number I managed to do before the Lume cube became uncomfortably warm), edit and ship 🙂