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I found myself in a unique position today just as my wife called to tell me about the beautiful clouds, looking as if painted upon the canvas of the sky. As usual I was doing some video work but took a second to employ a panoramic app for iOs and nab this shot. Puffy clouds, wispy clouds...they were all there, as if they'd been hand selected and nudged perfectly into place.
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Naturally, once time allowed, I couldn't help but jump into Photoshop for a couple of minutes to make a quick polar (spherical) version of the same shot. Even though I was only able to shoot a 180 degree pan, it still turned out okay due to some Photoshop trickery I learned a while ago.
This year I've developed a new love for September. I love the days which are warm, but not too warm. I embrace the cool mornings and used yesterday evening to follow up the TEA Party rally and sunset with a roaring bonfire. The crisp, clear nights are perfect for stargazing and, as I've noticed over the past several days, the clouds are quite remarkable.
The past six weeks have been a blur due to a hectic work schedule, culminating in a frenetic Week Six that delivered some marathon days but satisfying progress. Now that the major rush has subsided for the time being, I'm grateful for the opportunity to, as Job was instructed, stand still and consider the wondrous works of God. Wondrous indeed.
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After attending the midKnight showing of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES my friend and I meandered out west of town near the Crown Butte area to see what was going on in the sky. As I looked back toward Bismarck-Mandan I noticed a compact thunderstorm bearing down on the cities. There was a distinct band of rain falling from the amber clouds, so we decided to head for high ground and dig out the camera.
Once I was all set the lightning began. I was absolutely delighted to find such an amazing setting: the band of rain beneath the storm clouds, several bolts of brilliant lightning arcing from the ground, clouds aloft lit by cloud-to-cloud lightning, starry sky above the storm, and a celestial alignment of Venus, Jupiter, and the Pleiades ahead of its advance. That's a packed photo!
What a blessing to have such a great vantage point for this storm. Despite going an hour early to the movie, we still had to sit in the absolute front row (albeit in the center). That wasn't really bad seating, but certainly not optimal. Our view of this storm, however, couldn't be finer.
It's a good thing I took Friday off from work, because this storm was worth watching (and photographing) until after four in the morning. Some shots turned out better than others, but this one is pretty close to perfect. I'm so thankful we went out that night, and we had no idea we'd be treated to such an amazing spectacle.
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Sunday night I went out on a limb to stay out late and chase the auroras with some friends. While they went for the wide shots on a hill overlooking our favorite farmstead (which we visit with permission), I decided to brave the dark alone and head toward a pile of old equipment. I knew I wanted another crack at photographing this baby, a nearly hundred-year-old Rumely Oil Pull kerosene-driven tractor!
A curious and somewhat protective owl landed just above me on an old threshing machine as its young screeched in a nearby tree. I used my 6-D-cell "Louisville Slugger" style Maglite to do some "light painting" on the tractor once I was set up in place. I got the tractor, the Northern Lights, and the Big Dipper in the shot, lit to my liking after many attempts. Evenly lighting something in the dark by waving a flashlight at it isn't as easy as it may sound.
If you'd like to see what such a beast looked like in its heyday, check out this video of a restored 1921 model:
I love this machine and hope to photograph it again under different circumstances...thus the title of this post, also a reference to the name of one of my favorite 80's Athens bands.
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From an astronomy point of view, this was a pretty cool deal: two planets aligning with the Pleiades star cluster. To top it off, the Northern Lights were at play as well.
This is actually an even better catch than is readily apparent; right before I snapped it, the clouds were covering Venus. Right after, the auroras faded from the northeastern sky. A sliver of moon appeared above the horizon as well, but only at the expense of the Pleiades fading from sight as sunrise approached. All in all, it was a matter of delicate timing.
No, I didn't really sleep last night. Yes, I did get Northern Lights photos. More on that later.
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My boys and I ventured out to Fort Lincoln on the night of the eclipse to see how visible it would be. I don't own a welding helmet (yet) but figured I might still be able to get a good shot if the cloud cover helped a little bit. It did...sorta. Things were still bright and I found myself wishing for a ten-stop neutral density filter. I ran out of patience and we took off, perhaps a little early, but I felt like it was pointless trying to get a shot while so ill-equipped.
I looked at this shot tonight from the beginning of the eclipse and it's actually not that bad. If I'd waited a little longer for the sun to approach the horizon, backed off a bit to bring the blockhouse and sun closer in size, and waited for the clouds to roll and the eclipse to proceed more fully, I might have had something. This photo isn't a total loss, but sadly it's only a hint at what could have been.
We did run into some folks who had built a neat pinhole viewer out of a long slender box with a window cut in the side. It made it very easy for my little guys to see the eclipse while not being tempted to look at the blinding sun. As a photo trip it was only a partial success, but I think as a father-sons trip it worked out just fine.
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