Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Moon, Mars and Torchlight Ghosts

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I got an email on Friday from my stepdaughter pointing me to a news item about Mars being very close to the Moon in the sky that evening. So after dinner I took the telescope, the camera and the kids up to the back of the garden to see what we could see.

Sure enough Mars was clearly visible to the left of the moon.



Although I did find it with the telescope, I couldn’t make out any detail – it was just a slightly larger dot in the sky. I’m not an expert with the telescope and to be honest it took me the best part of 10 minutes just to be able to line it up with the moon.

Despite my varied attempts last night, and in the past, I have never yet managed to figure out how to rig the camera up to the telescope, so in the end I have no decent photos to show for the half hour we were freezing our toes off out there.

However, it did cross my mind that we could have a bit of fun with the torchlight and long exposure images.

The way it works is by setting up the camera on the tripod for a 25 second exposure – so the shutter is actually open for that amount of time. Usually, photos are taken with a shutter speed more like 1/125th of a second . Then, by moving around with a torch, the person holding it is so blurred they don’t actually show up, but the torchlight creates wee trails that are burnt into the final image.

This one was created by Rogan dancing around with the torch pointing in the general direction of the camera. The result is you can see the light trails, but not him



Once we’d established this worked we tried variations on the theme. So in this one, I sat as still as I could, while Meg moved the torch around on one side of me, leaving this ghost-like figure leaning over me.



Rogan thought he might be able to hold a particular expression for the full 25 seconds, so once he was ready I got Meg to click the camera, then circled the torch around him, looping it back and forth.





Finally we decided to have a go at writing in light, which is far harder than you think it’s going to be. Not only can you not see where you had the torch previously, but in order for it to come out the right way for the camera, I had to stand behind and over Rogan and write his name out backwards.



By the time we went in, everyone’s fingers and toes were completely numb, but Maggie made us all a hot chocolate, which we supped as I downloaded the images onto the computer for us to look at.

I also think my Dad rating improved very slightly...

As always, you can click on the images for larger versions
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45 comments:

jackonius said...

Hey, I just loved this post!
So is that how many a times people fake ghost sightings is it?
I liked the best where Rogan wrote his name. Ans trust me, that kind of thing will make any Dad rating go shooting up the ceiling!!
\m/

TechnoBabe said...

This looks like so much fun. Worth the cold toes for sure.

thingy said...

That is sooo cool. I'm gonna try it, when it's warmer.

Brenda Grolle said...

Good pictures as always. It's amazing what you have presented here with your camera and a healthy dose of imagination.

Star said...

Fascinating camera work!
Blessings, Star

savannah said...

i LOVE it! torchlight ghosts! very impressive, sugar! xooxox

Fay's Too said...

Very cool!

Travel Bug said...

Nice work!! I took a very basic photo of that beautiful full 'wolf' moon myself, but was unaware that Mars was nearby until the next day. Love the torch experiments! I will be linking to them on one of my posts soon!

Cindy said...

Fun post! We went out to see the Wolf Moon and Mars! And YES, took pictures too. It was party cloudy here but still SO very bright. Would've been such a nice night to go for a long walk but, it was 5 degrees or something frigid!

Thrup'ny bits said...

Brilliant . . . in every sense of the word.

I went out to catch the setting moon this morning . . . and when I caught it . . . what did I do with it???

Alan

Pat said...

What a clever Dad you are. I pointed out to MTL on Friday night that we had a full moon but didn't attempt any photos. I'd have been happy with the one you took.

Miss Blue Sky said...

Hi Kim
Sean was really interested in the sky that night, it took ages explaining!
That was a good picture of Mars and the Moon you took, I think it will make it much clearer to Poppy and Sean.
Love the other photos by the way!(I'm sure Sean will ask how you did it - you know Sean!)
Layla :)

Hungry Kitchen said...

hi, my friend is also a photographer. you might want to check her site since she caught very nice photos during the solar eclipse. if you got the time, you can visit her post

http://mjax08.blogspot.com/2009/07/solar-eclipse.html

therextras said...

So has your blog-fun rating!

Barbara

Charlie said...

Time-lapse photography can produce amazing images, and you've given us a nice taste of it.

As far as connecting your camera to the telescope, any Peeping Tom can tell you how it's done . . .

emma said...

love it!!!

Katie Roberts said...

Ohhh, I wish I was there.... just so Maggie might make *me* a hot chocolate too! :)

starrlife said...

Ooohhhh! I wish I knew how to get good pics of the moon, sigh. I love the trails- so cool- super cool Dad you! I've only done that by accident.

Dan said...

Those photos came out perfect, kind of new noir in appearance.

Think I might give it a go myself matey.

Gillian said...

I've never seen anything like this before. Its so unique and so intruiging...lovely stuff!

Kathy M. said...

Hi. I found you via My Sacred Insanity. Cool photos. My experience with telescopes sounds a lot like yours. lol.

Deidra said...

That was amazing, especally Rogan's name in lights! Definite "cool dad" points shall be alloted.

Deidra said...

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Meg said...

I love those pictures! How neat!

Pat said...

Kim hon there's a challenge for you on my today's post - but only if you feel like it:)

Mary Witzl said...

Those are fantastic, Kim.

And I can imagine your Dad rating is right through the roof.

Kim Ayres said...

Jackonius - you know the saying, "The camera never lies"? Well, always remember it's a lie

Technobabe - it was, and cold toes can be endured when there's a hot chocolate at the end :)

Thingy - nothing to stop you trying it indoors with the lights out :)

Brenda - thank you :)

Star - thank you

Savannah - maybe it's something to do at Halloween :)

Fay - thank you :)

Travel Bug - I tried leaving a comment on your site, but for some reason the word verification disappears under the box and I can't verify it. But on the offchance you come back to read this reply, I noticed you'd linked "Ramblings of the Bearded One" to someone else's site :)

Cindy - let me know if you post your images!

Alan - you could make a feature of it in the garden...

Pat - the trickiest thing is the auto-focus doesn't seem to know how to cope with the moon, but with digital cameras you ust keep clicking until something works :)

Layla - thanks for letting me know about the Moon and Mars. When we come up in a couple of weeks, I'll try and think of something I can do with the kids and the camera :)

Hungry Kitchen - I'll pop over and take a look, thanks :)

Barbara - until my next post about depression... ;)

Charlie - I went to peepingtom dot com, but it looked like a rather unsavoury site...

Emma - thank you :)

Katie - she does make exceptionally good hot chocolate...

Starrlife - the most important thing is a tripod, and a camera where you have some control over the shutter speed

Dan - let me know if you post some images!

Gillian - I've seen a technique before called "Light Painting". It's the same set up, but you shine the torch at the person (or object), rather than the camera, just for a few seconds in different palces - it's an interesting effect too

Kathy - welcome to my ramblings and thank you for taking the time to comment :)

Deidra - thank you :)

Meg - thank you :)

Pat - Just got some domestic things to sort out, but will be over later to take a look :)

Mary - thank you :) Dad rating disappeared the following day when I wanted to drag the moody teenager out into the sunlight for a walk on the beach...

emma said...

OK - I'm going to be an annoying know-it-all, a long time ago I saw in Life magazine (actually book) pictures of Pablo Picasso doing light painting which was kind of funky. Sorry, had to tell someone. (this is not meant to distract from your own funky pictures - I'm just liked an over-excited kid)

http://www.life.com/image/50695728/in-gallery/24871

Attila The Mom said...

Oh those are sooooo neat! The moon was absolutely enormous here that night.

Eryl Shields said...

You did a damn good job of writing Rogan backwards!

Kim Ayres said...

Emma - well, he and I both share our birthday :)

They're cool photos. I was trying to work out why he's not blurred in them, but of course a flash would have been used at one point in the time, capturing him most strongly in that position. Nice idea.

Mind you, he didn't write his name backwards... :)

Attila - surprisingly , the moon isn't perceptibly bigger at any point in the sky - it only seems so when it's near the horizon and you're comparing it to distant trees or buildings.

Another thig about the moon I was extremely sceptical about when I heard, until I tried it out for myself, is that the moon is no bigger for us than the size of the fingernail on our little finger with our arm stretched out as far as it can go. Try it :)

Eryl - thank you :)

Postman said...

I, too, heard that the moon would be 17% larger than normal that night (from my geologist father)...and that Mars would be next to it. Stood in the back of the truck outside in the driveway and had a look for a while. Of course, it was about 49 degrees or so here...

Those photographs are absolutely amazing. Beautiful, clear, sharp, and weird in old witchy sense of the word. (Particularly the ghost-like figure bending over you.) I bet if you made posters out of those you could sell them for a fortune. I'd buy one. Neat work, thanks for posting.

Jasmine said...

The one with Rogan's name is AWESOME. That will be neat for you all to look at down the years.

Tiffin said...

Love the torch photos, especially doing Rogan's name like that. What a cool photo for him to have - and a great memory.
T.

hope said...

Very cool! [No pun intended].

I haven't tried that photo method in years and you made me want to run out in the cold and give it a go.

You know I love your photography but the second one of Rogan, where his face looks as if it's framed by light is stunning! What a handsome fella. [Yes, I know...gets it from his Dad] ;)

LegalMist said...

Wow, what fun! And cool photos, to boot. I have a tripod, I may have to try this with the kids sometime.

emma said...

(re Picasso)I was wondering why he wasn't blurred too.

Here is an amateur photographers confession - after possessing my "posh camera" since last June, just discovered something called RAW (well, the handbook was in Greek, she said making excuses). I like the results but my Luddite nature is still afraid of all the buttons on the camera and making alterations on the computer. Confounded machines!!! :) - (I have a habit of going off on a tangent).

Kim Ayres said...

Postman - ah well, I will bow to the knowledge of your father. And I take it your 49 degrees was F rather than C... :)

Jasmine - so long as they don't end up on a WANTED poster...

Tiffin - it was fun :)

Hope - you don't have to get cold - try it indoors with the light off :)

Legalmist - let me know if you post any photos!

Emma - to be honest, I dabbled with RAW a bit, but haven't really managed to get it to do anything I really wanted to.

emma said...

I'm trying it out as is supposedly better to take photos of paintings?

Tara Marie said...

It is so interesting to see the samething from different place on our earth. I saw Mars, but at a slightly different angle from you! We have an observatory near me,,,,,,,my Otto and I love to go look to the galaxies and wonder.

Kim Ayres said...

Emma - I think it all depends on your camera and the lighting

Tara Marie - now that sounds like a lot of fun :)

Falak said...

Those pictures are so breathtaking!I always used to wonder how people managed to take picture with the light like that. Thanks for the wonderful pictures in the previous post too.

Kim Ayres said...

Time to get your own camera out, Falak :)

Fat Lazy Guy said...

I freaking love this! Reminds me of a picture a friend of mine took.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2071/2213489937_3e95a3ed05.jpg

There's also a flickr group for light painting. http://www.flickr.com/groups/lightpainting/pool/

Kim Ayres said...

FLG - thanks for the link, that looks really interesting :)