By way of personal inventory, our home has two types of woody peonies in different hues. Last posting I gave you red, au natural. Today, you get yellow in a studio setting, back-dropped by black velvet. There is a story behind that long sheet of fabric. Back in the day, a nephew of mine named Chris and I used to hang out together in the Catskills and Adirondacks. Later, I offered to photograph James, his first born. In preparation, I purchased this six foot length of fabric. It served well for that job and, since then, has done double duty as a wintertime cage cover for the parakeet.
This week, I told Pam our yellow wooden peony was in bloom. A largish bush of full leaves that tend to cover the drooping blooms, Pam harvested six blooms to created an arrangement. These “babies” look great against the black velvet.
Yesterday I used the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USB lens and a tripod to capture the following two portraits of Pam’s Yellow Wooden Peony arrangement. In deference to the unanimous reader choice for crisp flower petals the following two versions differ in the crispness of the velvet backdrop.
My timing was fortuitous, last evening the petals started to drop. Pam reports 12 more blossoms are hidden in the bush, so we’ll have at least one more bouquet to enjoy.
Click either photograph for a larger version.
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills
May 2019 Pam and I visited the New York State historical site of Olana, the former home of Fredrick Church of the Hudson River School of painting. Off the walk was a small planting of flowers, among them a type of “woody” peony in full bloom on Memorial Day weekend, well before the “herbaceous” type that is setting flower buds at that time. These were a striking reddish hue.
On returning home we were pleased to find our own “woody” peonies of the same hue in full bloom as well. On Memorial Day I used the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USB lens and a tripod to capture the following two macros of the flower center with the lens aperture fully open (f 2.8) and at its smallest (f 32).
Question for readers: Which do you prefer, and why?
Click either photograph for a larger version.
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills
You will find I replaced photographs in the original post and well, all the major elements of Cancer are labeled. Here is an explanation of the new elements.
You can now trace the “Y” constellation pattern, with Alpha and Beta Chancri (Latin for “of Cancer”) the two claws and Iota the tail. Both elemetns of Iota, a visual binary star system, are there. They are wonderful viewed with a telescope. Near Alpha is M67 (Messier Object 67), another galactic cluster of gravitationally bound stars. It is quite faint in this photograph.
Colored lights of our skies are a trigger for the imagination. The sky is a storybook to be written by the mind and passed along in language. The 3,000 observable stars and planets visible on any one moonless, clear night away from artificial lights draw on the human obsessional skill for pattern recognition.
Over millennia, stars along the path of the planets and sun through the sky held a special place for careful observers. Twelve patterns were imagined, each a named constellation. The word “constellation” means “to know from the stars.” Indeed, we can know much from the constellations. For example, it is winter in the northern hemisphere when the constellation “Cancer” (The Crab) is high in the night sky.
On the evening of January 20/21, 2019 the full moon climbed from the horizon (Click this link for the first post of this series “Total Lunar Eclipse of 2019…”) to a point high overhead were it appeared to float among the stars of Cancer, the crab. On the way, the disk darkened as its orbital path brought it into the earth’s shadow. The surrounding stars emerged from the darkening full moon glow. I captured the sight using a Canon dslr, the Canon EF 24 mm f/1.4L II USM lens mounted on a tripod by setting the ISO to 3200 to reduce the exposure to 1.3 second and placing the auto exposure area (a feature of the dslr/lens combination) away from the full moon.
Additionally, the moon is overexposed on the original image, for the following I used Photoshop to cut and paste the moon from the last photograph of this blog, reduced it to the approximate angular diameter of the moon and pasted it over the overexposed disk. There are better astrophotography images of this event, this image is mine to use and adequate for this purpose.
The Moon on the Crab’s back
Cancer is difficult to trace, the constituent stars are all dim. Hint: click on any of the following photographs and a new page will open with a larger resolution image. What is striking in the following photograph are the number of apparently paired stars. Our sun is an exception, it is not part of a star system; even so, most of these pairings are line of sight, not physical star systems. For example, starting from the “red” moon there is a faint star, “Delta” of Cancer. Trace an imaginary line between the moon and Delta, in your mind move the line down and a little to the right to a pair of dim stars, “Nu” and “Gamma” of Cancer (left to right). The two are not a system, being 390 and 181 light years away. Each is a multiple star system in itself as is Delta. The three are on the back of Cancer, with two stars on the upper right being “Alpha” and “Beta”.
A most interesting object of this photograph, well worth the price of binoculars, is between Nu and Gamma and a little higher, towards the moon. It was what I saw the first time viewing this photograph: a cluster of stars called “The Beehive.” This was how I identified the location of the moon on the back of this crab.
For the following photograph I cut/pasted/enlarged a square with the (enhanced) Moon, Delta. Nu and Gamma, below, with the Beehive between them. See that the stars, though “fuzzy”, have colors. Delta is a orange giant, also known as the “Southern Donkey”. Gamma, the “Northern Donkey,” and NU are white. The back of the Crab holds a two donkeys eating from a manger, a Galactic Stellar Cluster name “The Beehive.” This night the moon joined the feast.
With binoculars (or telescope with a wide field eyepiece), the Beehive is a glorious spectacle of 1,000 gravitationally bound stars, a mixture of colors from blue to red. It was one of the first objects Galileo viewed through the telescope, picking out 40 stars. In later years it was here we found the first planets orbiting sun-like (i.e. having the characteristics of our yellow star) stars within a stellar cluster. In spite of being 600+ light years distant the Beehive was known since ancient times, being visible without a telescope in clear, dark skies.
The Total Eclipse
A glorious moon at full totality is captured in the following two photographs. I used the dslr at 3200 ISO with the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L lens at 300 mm. Setting the exposure area to the Moon, the exposure was 3.2 seconds.
In the first photograph, I especially enjoy the effect modeling of the shadows does to make the disk appear round. The field of view does not include Delta, Gamma, Nu or the Beehive. At this time I was not aware how close the Beehive was, or even that the Moon was in Cancer. The beauty of the moon floating among the stars is apparent.
For a change of scene we visited Cape Canaveral, the beach at Cherie Down Park were an informal gathering of Kite Surfers was underway. Here is a series of action shots, one second elapsed from first to last.
Conditions were excellent: good northerly wind, the sun overcast and, it being afternoon, in the west. Surfers stayed relatively close to shore, near their starting point. I had packed the “heavy gun” camera with a tripod.
Panning the scene (swiveling on the tripod), the camera in rapid exposure mode, I pressed the shutter release and held it down.
Driving to Cocoa Beach from Ithaca, Pam and I missed a horrendous storm because we did a side trip to Louisville, Kentucky, avoiding I95 January 4th and 5th and a rare and treacherous ice storm.
We met people who were stranded overnight near Savannah, Georgia while, on the same days, we drove Kentucky Hill Country for an overnight at Macon, Georgia all in excellent, dry, cold weather.
The storm itself, was a stroke of luck. The first Space X launch of 2018 was delayed by the weather until the evening of Sunday, January 7th.
I was in place, in the dark, on Cocoa Beach with my Canon DSLR on bulb mode, securely mounted on a travel tripod. My choice of lens was the 24 mm “wide angle.”
Proximity to the Kennedy Space Center is a reason we return to Cocoa Beach. A year ago, March 2007, we did the “Launch Director Tour” offered once a month (if at all) and had a fantastic day. I’ll need to blog about it.
For now, here is a shot from the former Space Shuttle launch room.
I planned camera placement well for this night launch. The view held the entire parabola of the trail. Camera placement was based on researching the launch complex, finding it on Google Earth, using the line feature to determine the orientation of the complex from my location on Cocoa Beach.
Live, the start of the launch is like a dawn in the northern sky. I broke off the exposure to somewhat capture the effect.
The human eye, only the Falcon 9 flame is visible, as a single point of bright light ever rising, lighting the beach and clouds in a soft glow.
The long exposure blends the flame into a bright parabola, at one point the rocket engines throttle back, eventually the color changed to reddish from bright white. I held the exposure until the rocket flame, in the image, turned to blue and faded away.
We waited for six (6) or so minutes, the camera mount and orientation unchanged, and then the incredible returning booster briefly lit up to land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. I missed the beginning of the burn. In retrospect, I should have timed the launch and opened the shuttle 5 minutes or so after “blast off.”
Followed by a TWO sonic boom finale. Kabooom….Kabooom.
We read in the news the secret military satellite, named “Zuma”, on top of the Falcon crashed into the Indian Ocean. SpaceX claimed the launch was a success (??), that the protective fairing jettisoned successfully. No mention was made of the secret payload. The failure was with the Northup Grumman built “Zuma” satellite? Hmmmmm.
Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.
The angels of our Christmas tree and home remind us of the Jesus birth stories of scripture and the force of love in our own lives.
What comes to mind with the sudden appearance of Gabriel to Mary and that astounding message? Unlike the attempt of Jonah to avoid his calling, the subtext to Mary’s ready acceptance is the risks faced by an affianced woman who becomes pregnant. The book of Deuteronomy (Chapter 22 verses 13 – 21) calls for stoning a woman who presents herself for marriage as a virgin, when she is not.
When learning of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph’s reaction, as a follower of Mosaic Law, was to divorce her quietly to avoid exposing her to shame. It was a visit from an angel, in a dream, that convinced Joseph to accept Mary (Matthew Chapter 2, verses 18 – 24).
An angel visited shepherds, announcing “today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is the Messiah and Lord.” Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God.” Luke Chapter 2, verses 8 – 13.
Was it an angel who warned the Magi, in a dream, not to return to King Herod with news of Jesus (Matthew Chapter 2 Verse 12)? Scriptures clearly state (Matthew Chapter 2 verse 13) “the angle of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt.”
People can be angelic in expressing love for others through action. I am thinking of a movie Pam and I viewed last evening, “The Theory of Everything.” Jane Wilde, in her love for Stephen Hawking, stays with him when, shortly after their romance began, he was diagnosed with ALS. The prognosis was death in two years. In all likelihood, Jane gave Stephen his life and work through loving him. He is alive and working today at 75.
The love of our parents is more common, no less precious.
A note on the photographs, I used a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III dslr with Canon lens EF 50 mm f/1.2L, Canon Speedlite 600Ex-Rt, Manfrotto studio tripod and hydrostatic ball head. Some of the photographs were hand held. When the flash was used, it supplemented ambient light from a large north facing bay window.