Journey to Antarctica – Part 4

First, a quick update on the Herndon ArtSpace Fine Art Photography Competition.  I was quite pleased on Saturday evening to receive a 3rd Place Award for my “Clearing Storm, Yosemite Valley” image (see my previous post here).  Maybe I should do this more often…or should I quit while I’m ahead?   Anyway, back to the saga of the White Continent……….

Antartica Map 03 Version 2

It seems that every Antarctica trip veteran we met before our departure had a different story about the weather.  Although we’ve been there only once, it’s pretty easy to see why.  Even when conditions are not extreme (i.e., enormous waves, huge storms), the weather is still volatile and often localized. This combination can make things very interesting. The following sequence of images on our passage through the Lemaire Channel is just one example.

Antarctica 19

Lemaire Channel, Looking South at Sunrise

Antarctica 20

Lemaire Channel, Looking East  (One Minute Later)

Antarctica 21Lemaire Channel (25 Minutes Later)

Lemaire Channel is about 7 miles long and a mile wide at its narrowest point. Because of the closeness of the sheltering mountains, it can be as smooth as a lake.  Icebergs, however, can block the passage especially earlier in the season.   Our destination was Petermann Island, home to another colony of Gentoo penguins and no iceberg congestion interfered (two images below).

Antarctica 22

Gentoo Penguin Surveys His/Her Domain

Antarctica 23

Gentoo Penguins on Petermann Island

Petermann Island was the southernmost point of our expedition, even though we would not have complained had the captain decided to break ranks and continue on. But such was not the case and that evening we retraced our route through the Lemaire Channel. On the positive side, we were treated not only to some very nice evening light by the setting sun but also the spectacle of a rising full moon (images below)

Antarctica 24

Sunset, Antarctica

Antarctica 25Alpen Glow, Antarctica

Antarctica 26

Moonrise, Antarctica

Next—Paradise Bay and Beyond

Full Moon?

Moonrise D-09-02-09-0133

Moonrise, Lincoln Memorial

Every so often, the full moon will rise perfectly aligned with an architectural icon, rewarding photographers who happen to be in the right place at the right time.  Such an opportunity may occur on November 6th here in Washington, DC but only if the weather forecast is wrong.  The prediction calls for an 80% chance of rain, which means that an opportunity for an image like the one above is slim.

The above image was taken on February 9, 2009 and while conditions were not perfect, we still had a chance for a nice image. (Technical data: Nikon D200 on tripod with 18-300 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens extended to 112 mm; exposure: 2.5 sec. @ f/7.1, ISO 200)  On that night, the time of the moonrise was 42 minutes after sunset, which is usually a little later than perfect. Tomorrow night, the moonrise is scheduled for only 6 minutes after sunset, which is a little earlier than perfect.  In addition, the location of the moon will be slightly to the left (north) so one would need to be a little farther south to get the same proximity with the Lincoln Memorial.

About five years ago, it was difficult to calculate the right time and place to catch the moon as it broke the horizon line.  You needed to know how to use a compass, something that was invented 800 years ago. But the appearance of “apps” such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris have made this quite easy. So check your weather forecast, and if the prospects are favorable in your area, get out there with your tripod and get the shot.

Lunar Eclipse and Lincoln Memorial

Lunar Eclipse 02

Well, I’m sure everyone is putting up their take on the lunar eclipse that occurred a few hours ago. This is my first attempt at a  multiple image composite showing the process of the eclipse.  This sequence began at 5:35 AM EDT and ended at 6:45 AM after the moon became obscured by clouds or haze near the horizon.  I used an intervalometer to control the camera sequence, taking one image every 60 seconds.  The combination here is a selection of every fourth image.  A few taken after the moon disappeared were also included in order to get a little more detail on the Lincoln Memorial and a better blue in the sky.   The brightness of the illuminated crescent during the early exposures unfortunately blew out the portions of the moon in shadow.  Nevertheless, the entire moon was visible to the naked eye.  But if the weather cooperates on September 28, 2015 I’ll have another chance.  In the meantime, I have 11 months to play around with this set to see if I can tease out more detail.

Hidden Gem: Bartholdi Fountain

Bartholdi Fountain Blog 01

Bartholdi Fountain, Evening Light

Last Friday, a photographer colleague and I went into the city to take some photographs of the Bartholdi Fountain, located directly across Independence Avenue from the US Botanic Garden.  The fountain is located in Bartholdi Park, a two-acre garden managed by the US Botanic Garden. It is named after Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the designer of the 30-foot tall fountain which is the central feature of the park.  Bartholdi is best known as the creator of the Statue of Liberty. The fountain was originally commissioned for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and was brought to Washington afterwards.  It fell into disrepair but a 3-year restoration was completed in 2011 and the result was well worth the wait. (Technical data for above image: Nikon D800E on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens @ 24mm; 5 sec. @ f/16, ISO 100; 5 separate images photomerged)

Bartholdi Blog 02

Bartholdi Park, April 2012

The park features a wonderful horticultural display that changes with the seasons.  Tables, with folding umbrellas and chairs surround the fountain and benches are placed among the plantings where one can enjoy a few moments of serenity a short distance from the US Capitol Building. The park’s website can be found here. (Technical data for above image: Nikon D700 on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 70mm; 1/100th @ f/16, ISO 400)

Bartholdi Carla Steckley

Bartholdi Fountain by Carla Steckley

The best time, at least in my opinion, to photograph the fountain is during the evening twilight as shown above in the image taken by my colleague about 25 minutes after sunset.   (Technical Data: Canon DSLR on tripod with 13-85mm EF-S  f/3.5 lens; 1/20th sec  @ f/13, ISO 100)

It was an excellent evening for a shoot.  The weather was perfect, the fountain was illuminated and flowing normally, a fresh bed of pansies had been planted in the circular plot, creating a floral necklace around the basin.  The glass dome of the Botanic Garden across the street was being illuminated from within by a  green light.  A few people passed through the park while we there, but we were quite impressed  with a group of five (see image at top) who brought in a tablecloth, silverware, sparkling water, an assortment of cheeses, and other good things and had what looked like a wonderful evening as we moved around photographing the fountain.

Bartholdi Fountain Blog 03

Bartholdi Fountain, Looking Southeast

Twilight lasts only a short time, but sometimes the lights of the city will illuminate the clouds overhead with an interesting color.  The image above, looking in a southeasterly direction toward the Rayburn House Office Building, was photographed just before we left, about 45 minutes after sunset. (Technical data: Nikon D800E on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens @ 48mm; 5 sec. @ f/16, ISO 400)

And on nights when there is a moon, clouds are less desirable as shown in the image below taken last year. (Technical data Nikon D800E on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens @70mm; 3 sec. @ f/16, ISO 800, 5 images photomerged)  This could have easily been a single image by bringing the extension back to about 35mm, but the moon would have looked quite small with that approach.

Bartholdi Fountain Blog 04

Full Moon and Bartholdi Fountain, June  2013

 

Super Moon: Always Have a Plan B

Spoiler Alert:  There will be no moon photograph in this post; hence you will have to skip down several paragraphs if you just want to see the pictures.

Last week, the weather forecasters and other media were touting the so-called “Super Moon” that would be rising as a full moon on Monday evening.  I am always looking  for images that have a full moon nicely aligned with one of the iconic scenes in Washington, DC but a quick check of the details on time and placement were not encouraging.   The moonrise was timed to occur about 10 minutes before the sunset, so the moon would be pretty high before the deep blue twilight colors would be at their best. The best location seemed to be at the Tidal Basin with the moon coming up adjacent to the Jefferson Memorial but the placement wasn’t ideal.  But, you never know for sure, so it’s best to show up just in case.

But clouds began to appear in the afternoon, so prospects were getting dimmer by the minute. But one of the benefits of the location is that the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial is right along that side of the Tidal Basin and I had been intending to check some evening to see if the fountains were running and illuminated.  This would be Plan B.

Arriving at the Tidal Basin, it was quickly obvious that the media’s flogging of the Super Moon story had the expected effect: At least 3 dozen tripods were strung along the sidewalk of the Tidal Basin, with their cameras all pointed at the Jefferson Memorial.  But for a change, there was no consensus on where the best spot would be.  I joined the group closest to the Memorial (about 6 shooters) and checked The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) app which confirmed this was the best spot.

With 15 minutes to go, I strolled about 100 yards up the sidewalk where a larger group had congregated (seeking safety in numbers?).  Here TPE was saying the moon would rise way off to the left of the Memorial while the PhotoPils app indicated the moon would be much closer to the Memorial and if it was right, this was the place to be. What to do? Well, the clouds looked really bad, there was a very nice bench right next to my tripod, the other photographers were friendly, and the FDR Memorial  fountains were only a 2-minute walk away.  The bench tipped the decision.

Ten minutes after the scheduled rise, one of the other shooters pointed out a faint pink circle almost completely covered by the clouds and it was way over to the left, exactly where TPE had predicted.  But it didn’t matter because it was hardly visible and soon was completely gone from view.  While my neighbors picked up their gear and started to migrate toward the other spot, I chose Plan B and went directly to the FDR Memorial.

The image below is a quick pick from the night’s take but I was pretty happy with all of the results.  It turns out that the light is very nice during a brief period of 10-20 minutes after sunset.  After that, the lighting tends to blow out and detail in the rocks becomes difficult to pull out.  The Memorial is loaded with fountains so this implies a number of future visits will be rewarding.

FDR Memorial Blog 01 (D-14-08-11-2995_98

FDR Memorial Fountain (2 seconds at f/16, lens at 38 mm)

When finished with the fountains, it seemed appropriate to check on the folks who had cast their fate with the moon.  It is entirely possible that there was a spectacular moment while I was away, but the scene below indicates that nothing was going on at 8:35.  It seemed best not to ask.

FDR Memorial Blog 03 (D-14-08-11-3035

Jefferson Memorial at Twilight

Paris: Saturday Night Lights

Weekend nights are pretty lively in this city. Even before the sun has set, the party spirit is gearing up. The banks of the Seine are lined with thousands of young people assembled in small groups sharing food and various liquid refreshments and generally having a great time. The expansive lawns of the Champs des Mars and Esplanade des Invalides are similarly packed, but populated mostly by families and Frisbee tosseurs (not a real word). The streets are filled with tourists, stopping every 20 meters or so to photograph the city’s icons and the now obligatory “selfies.” And this photographer heads to the Pont Alexandre III, considered the most elegant bridge in Paris.

Image

Waxing Moon, Pont Alexandre III, Paris

This was photographed from the Right Bank at the entrance to Pont Alexandre.  The entrances on both sides are flanked by a pair of pillars such as the one shown here, each with a sculpture of Pegasus, the mythological flying horse.  It was shot at about 10:40 PM.

Image

Pont Alexandre III and Les Invalides at Night

This was also photographed from the Right Bank, about 25 feet to the left of the previous image.   In the bottom left, you can see the groups of young people celebrating the evening.  In the distance, the illuminated dome of Les Invalides sits astride the massive Esplanade des Invalides.  The two pillars on the left bank flank the entrance on the opposite side. Photographed at about 10:50 PM.

Image

Eiffel Tower, from Pont Alexandre III

And, of course, the obligatory image of the Eiffel Tower.  Photographed at about 10:25 PM.  As you can see, I am steadily working my way downriver.

My travels about this city have been facilitated by the incredibly useful (and free) app by the Paris Metro system.  It knows where I am and I just tell it where I want to go.  It directs me to the right bus stop and tells me which bus to take and where to get off.  So I knew when I was taking that last shot at 10:50 PM that I could get across the bridge to the bus stop on the other side and catch the 11:00 PM 63 bus that would drop me off abut a block from our home base.  If you are coming here and don’t already have it, you must get a copy.  Just go to the App store and ask for the RATP app.

Looking Back: June 6, 2009

Five years ago today, I was visiting the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC,   hoping to capture an image of the nearly full moon rising over the Memorial to coincide with the anniversary of the Normandy Invasion.

Readers who have visited the Memorial know that its central feature is a large oval pool with a ring of small water jets and anchored at each end by two towering fountains.  A plaza surrounds the pool and at the north and south ends of the plaza there are two pavilions, the northern one dedicated to the Pacific Theater and the southern dedicated to the Atlantic Theater. I planned to position myself near the Atlantic Pavilion and shoot northeast across the oval pool as the moon came into view.

 

Image

 

The image above shows the moon rising just next the flag about 20 minutes before sunset. It is a photomerge of 3 images with the camera in the vertical (portrait) orientation. (Technical Data: Nikon D700 with 18-200 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens set at 55 mm; exposure 1/5th sec @ f/4.8, ISO 200) While the angle was good, I felt that it was still too early and decided to try again shortly after sunset.  It was a warm summer evening and a gentle breeze occasionally rustled the flags.

I turned toward the Atlantic Pavilion which can provide a very nice scene in early twilight after the lighting is turned on.  For example, the image below (taken a  few years earlier) shows a section of the fountain basin. The inscription on the back wall is the message General Eisenhower communicated to  the invasion forces as they were embarking for Normandy.  The sloping capstone in the right foreground is engraved with the major World War II battles in Europe such as Hürtgen Forest shown in this image.

Image

 

But on that night, the 65th anniversary, the Memorial had become a kind of pilgrim’s quest for individuals with deep personal connections to that terrible day.  Some had come and departed already, leaving small mementos behind.  I approached the capstone to take a closer look and spotted a pair of dog tags, one of which had a tiny picture of the soldier to whom they had belonged. Small bouquets were positioned carefully along the capstone and I imagined that their location was chosen with care, resting on the place where the name of a particular battle was engraved.

I became aware of a woman standing next to me, just in front of the Normandy engraving.  She carried two small bouquets and seemed hesitant, uncertain of her next move.  I stepped away, allowing her to be alone at the capstone.  From a distance I watched as she placed the bouquets with attached ribbons on either side of the Normandy engraving, carefully spreading out the ribbons as if arranging a display.  She stepped back a few feet and stood silently for a moment contemplating the bouquets.  Then she turned and walked away.

I waited a few minutes, mesmerized by what I had just witnessed. All thoughts of the moonrise photograph had evaporated.  I walked back to the capstone and looked at what she had left.  There were handwritten inscription on the ribbons.  I bent down to read the words and realized  I was being given a glimpse into the past and that I had to take a completely different photograph than I had originally intended.

 

IImage

The inscription on the ribbons in the foreground said:

“In memory & honor of the 316th Troop Carrier Group,

left Cottesmore, England on the evening  of 6-5-44 for the Normandy invasion.”

 

There was a name on the second set of ribbons, a birth date and a date of death, June 6, 2008.

Postscript: Wanting to know more, I did some research. On that night, the 316th Troop Carrier Group carried about 1,300 paratroopers and combat equipment of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division to its designated drop zone close to St. Mere-Eglise and returned without losing a single plane.  The Group’s precision provided the 505th with the most accurate drop of the night.

Tonight, five years later, I’ll be thinking of her, wondering who she was and wishing I knew more about the message on those ribbons.