Leaving the clouds behind: Shooting the blood moon at the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge

We decided to escape from Sacramento. We didn’t know where we’d end up, but just wanted to get out from under the cloud cover that would prevent us from shooting the blood moon eclipse. Laura was our navigator while Linda and I gave suggestions.

We ended up at the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge a little over 100 miles when you don’t take the direct route. We knew there was a viewing area that would give us a perfect view of the moon rise over the Sutter Buttes (a low mountain range). However, smoke from the recent fire was still hanging low on the horizon as if mocking us for traveling so far to shoot the moon! I was hoping to still catch some of the moon rise through the smoke haze.

While waiting I shot some pictures of the wetlands and at sundown, turned my camera around to shoot the sunset. Not a cloud visible. Then I turned my attention to the moon rise. There were five of us with cameras and tripods set to shoot, but we couldn’t find the moon! Finally as it rose slightly above the haze, one of the photographers found it and helped the rest of us hone in on the red sphere.

I went in with the realization that I was only shooting with a 300 mm and I wouldn’t get professional images. But, I was still a little disappointed with what I did get. This morning when I looked at some other photographers’ images, I saw similar quality. So maybe I didn’t do so bad. My lens did what it could. Hindsight, rent a longer lens and use your heavier tripod! But am I into it that much?–I don’t know.

Oh, we really didn’t have to travel out of Sacramento. The clouds dissipated after dark! But, we had fun!  The next morning I iced my foot again! Foot surgery is a bummer.

Milky Way, sunflowers and refrigerators: A week in my life

What do the Milky Way, sunflowers and refrigerators have in common? Nothing really, except I experienced them all in one week.

Let’s start with the fridge. I bought a new fridge on June 9, it was delivered on June 11. By the time the installers were done, they had scratched one of the doors, and the ice maker didn’t turn off after 24 hours. Okay, they wanted to send out another fridge on Sunday. But I was supposed to spend the night up at Blue Canyon Airport with my husband Richard (our observatory is there) and a couple of my photo clubs were coming up to shoot the Milky Way. So I changed my plans and arranged to come home with another photographer.

While the Milky Way wasn’t spectacular, I did learn a great deal. This was the first time I was able to shoot it and not get a light tan background when processing in Lightroom. My fellow photographers were more than willing to help. And, they enjoyed mingling with the astronomers.

Back to the fridge which wasn’t delivered on Sunday because the order never made it to delivery. So the second fridge was to come on Monday, June 15. It did, but by the time the installers left, it had a dented door and again–the ice maker didn’t work. Richard discovered that the water had not been hooked up properly! The third fridge was scheduled to be delivered on Wednesday, June 17.

Meanwhile, Tuesday evening, Marlene and I went in search of sunflowers. By the time we found a field in Woodland, going to Davis first, the sun was low in the sky. Most of the sunflowers were in the process of turning around toward the sun and drooping. This was the first time I actually felt in total control. I decided to do close ups and take advantage of the back-lit flowers. I’m focusing on manual for about half my shooting time now. You’ll see the result. The old car was an added bonus. I shot HDR handheld.

Okay the fridge again, It was delivered on Wednesday and I warned the guys that they were to take care not to scratch or dent the doors. They were told to also install it properly and hook up the water. They thought I was a controlling nut case until I told them that this was the third unit.

No scratches or dents, but when my husband checked, the water was not hooked up! Richard hooked up the water while I thought I was living in a script of the Twilight Zone! This morning, my 72nd birthday, I went downstairs and saw about 10 ice cubes in the freezer bucket. I started singing the birthday song. This was a great present!

So was my week of the Milky Way, sunflowers and refrigerators!

Starry, starry night: An astronomy star party, Lake San Antonio, Monterey County, California

Dry brittle low lying ground cover with lots of fox tails and some wildflowers welcomed us to our campground at Lake San Antonio this past weekend. Some of it was due to the fact that we were in the overflow area where there were few trees, but the drought has also taken its toll.

But the wildlife activity was normal with many chipmunks and rabbits running the campground. They left small to large sized holes that Gem liked to stick his mussel into and I kept pulling him back. But we were there for the stars and there were plenty of them.

This was my first attempt at shooting star trails. So armed with my printed out tutorials, I set up my tripod and camera and did my best. Thank goodness for Lightroom! No matter what I did, my images turned out with a light tan background. Each night I used a different lens and kept the aperture open. I did 30 minute exposures because I didn’t have stacking software.

I brought my challenge to my Toastmasters Photo Club meeting, it was suggested that I needed to close down the aperture because I was letting in too much light. Well, I’ll try that the next time we go up to the observatory at Blue Canyon. It needs to get a little warmer for my body! In the meantime, I’ll show you what I did get.

I was also shooting during the day, catching some of the wildflowers and fox tails, and I’ll show you those images in my next post. On to my starry nights.