Sunday, July 19, 2020

Photographing Comet NEOWISE


Wow, a comet visible with the naked eye! This is one of the better things of 2020! I started seeing photos of Comet NEOWISE on my Facebook newsfeed, so started paying attention to the weather. The morning of July 13 was calling for relatively few clouds, so I got up early and looked for it in the northeast sky. It wasn't too hard to find, but it was a lot higher above the horizon than I was expecting. Which meant I would need to photograph it with a different lens to make it more visible in a photo. I struggled with my tripod and camera, but managed to get a decent photo of it.

Soon after that, the comet started being visible in the evening skies, to the northwest, below the Big Dipper. Except in our area, clouds usually build up in the afternoons, so viewing it in the evening can be tricky. On July 15, I went to Silver Creek reservoir because I thought it would be cool to get a comet reflection. Except the clouds didn't cooperate and I didn't see the comet. But the Milky Way was nice. And it felt great to be outside on a beautiful summer evening.

Two nights later, the forecast was good, and I had an image in mind. I drove up to the trailhead and started hiking, realizing the trees were blocking my view of an amazing sunset. And when I got to where I wanted to go, it seemed that the comet would be below the horizon (later I learned it might not have been). So I turned around and hiked back, then stopped along the road to take some photos of the comment. I used my 100-400mm lens, which was a little tricky for me to focus, plus it was really windy. Nevertheless, I got some views of the comet I was willing to share from the turnoff to Mather Overlook.


I even did a little happy dance when I realized that the ion tail (the thin tail) was visible.

As I got farther down the road, the clouds came in. For this photo from the Ranching Exhibit, the comet was still visible, but not by much.

On July 18, we found ourselves south of town. I couldn't wait to share the comet with the kids. But I had forgotten my regular astrophotography lens and the 100-400 mm lens wasn't good. So I tried my 50mm lens, which again was a little tricky to focus. (I have it so easy with my astrophotography lens, turn it to infinity and f/2.8, and everything 5 feet away and farther is in focus.) Here's Desert Girl up on a fence pointing out the comet.

I've wanted to photograph this tree for a long time, it has such a neat shape. But there's usually nothing of interest in that area of the sky. Now there is! The kids helped me with light painting the tree during the 8 second exposure.

Then we went to Pruess Lake. The comet was high enough above the horizon to make it a little challenging. It will keep moving higher above the horizon in the next weeks.

From the dam we can see the comet above Baker, Nevada.

The kids were tired, so I took them home. But the comet was still up, so I went to another place I had been envisioning, the Great Basin Observatory. The comet was just barely above the horizon.

Looking the other way, the Milky Way was amazing.

I was a little surprised that the telescope wasn't out looking into the dark skies. You can see some amazing photos taken at the Great Basin Observatory website.
I still have several compositions in mind and am planning on camping a couple nights this week to make them possible. Here's hoping for clear skies and great views of the comet. If you haven't seen it yet, it is really worth the effort. Here's more info from NASA about this solar object that won't be back for another 6,800 years.

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