Happy Christmas

For this years Christmas Photo I wanted to be able to use the Great Conjunction of Jupiter & Saturn as a Christmas Star so came up with the idea to use it with the amazing cliff top church of “Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Rocha” near Armaçao de Pera.

There was no way it would work without the help of a little Photoshop manipulation, but I was determined not to completely cheat.

I shot a photo about 20 minutes after sunset from the opposite cliff to the church and then waited for complete darkness to fall. I could have easily just painted some white dots, but instead, I shot the planets at 1000mm (500mm f/4 with 2x teleconverter) and in Photoshop I resized this photo to the correct ratio compared to the church. Then with a little bling added it was blended into the sunset shot.

I’d like to wish everyone a Happy Christmas wherever you may be and lets all wish for a much better and safer 2021!

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Jupiter & Saturn (Terrible) Close-Ups

You have probably heard about the “Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn this coming Monday (21st December 2020). This is where they align in our line of sight with them making it look like they merge. Some people are of course calling it the Christmas or Bethlehem Star. Rather than me write all about this great event, Space.com have a great guide on their website which you can read HERE.

I do have a shoot planned and I will be scouting the location tomorrow, but of course, we are going to need some clear skies which have been quite unusually rare here in the Algarve in recent weeks. Tonight, however, was a very clear night and Jupiter and Saturn are already quite close. So I thought I’d grab my 500mm f/4, throw on a 2x converter to take it to 1000mm f/8 and point it. I wasn’t expecting great results, these planets are a long way away remember! However, it was great to actually see the not only 4 of the large moons of Jupiter but also the rings visible on Saturn.

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Milky Way Above The Algarve Hills

Last night at 10:45pm I headed north, deeper into the Algarve Hills to one of my favourite locations, an Abandoned Windmill near Fitos.

This was the time that the Galactic Core of the Milky Way would be visible in the sky. On arrival, I soon realised that I wouldn’t be able to get the shot I had hoped. To get the Windmill in frame, I would have to be lower down the hillside than the height of the windmill. Also, the distant bright lights from the Algarve Coastal Holiday resorts would create a glow. However, as I had made the trek, I decided to get some shots and head back.

Although not what I was hoping for, here is the shot I managed.

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Milky Way Above An Abandoned Windmill In the Algarve Hills
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Moon: Waning gibbous (82%)

It was a really clear night here in the Algarve Serra tonight and the Moon detail was clear to the eye, so couldn’t resist the urge to grab the camera with 500mm lens.

The current Moon phase is Waning gibbous. Of course, it was the Blue Moon a few nights back (it was hazy here so didn’t venture) and now the Moon is illumination is getting smaller, this is called Waning. Gibbous means less than a full circle but more than a semi-circle. For close-up shots, I much prefer a non-full moon because the shadows really show up the craters. This is why my Full Moon shots normally have something else of interest in them.

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Moon: Waning gibbous (82%)
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Don’t Forget The Supermoon Tonight!

Just a quick reminder that tonight (Sunday 3rd December) there will be a Full Moon, it’s also called the Cold Moon as it’s the first Full Moon of the winter. Also, as the Full Moon is at its closest distance to the Earth (357,495 km!) it’s 2017’s one and only Supermoon.

Here in the Algarve, the Moon is due to rise 18 minutes after sunset but 10 minutes before Civil Dusk.

Sunset: 17:16
Moonrise: 17:34
Civil Dusk: 17:44

This should hopefully give the sky a nice colour and may even provide a purple hue giving the bright white Moon (or it could rise a red/orange colour) a stunning backdrop. We have clear skies forecast and I hope to photo the Moon rising above the Mountain ridges here in the Algarve Serra.

Wherever you are, if you’re lucky enough to have clear skies, remember to get out to watch and even photograph! Hopefully, I’ll have a photo for you later.

If you are getting out to photograph it, here’s a quick tip: Use a long focal length to squash the perspective, it will make the Moon look bigger.

Here’s a photo from the last Supermoon rising above an old ruined building on the 14th November 2016. I used a 300mm lens to capture the ruin in the distance with the Moon behind giving the same visual impression your eyes have. If I was close to the ruin with a wide lens, the Moon would appear smaller and further in the distance.

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Supermoon - 14th November 2016
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International Space Station During Twilight

This evening, the International Space Station (ISS) passed over right at Civil Twilight (the time of sunset where humans required artificial lighting) which made a perfect scene.

It was due to pass to the North-West so I setup the camera on the front terrace and took a guess of it’s path, using N2YO.com tracking website as my guide. I also have pass notifications configured to email me in advance of passes.

This photo is 5 separate 20 second exposures stitched together in Photoshop. The long exposures give the light trail as it moves at almost 28,000kph on it’s orbit.

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International Space Station (ISS) Above The Algarve Serra
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