astro, history, nature, night, photography, travel, world

A space trip

Andromeda galaxy – the galaxy next door – only 2.5 million lightyears away


This past week, the Canadian actor William Shatner flew to space after getting invited by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.  At the age of 90, he finally crossed the so-called final frontier. Shatner got famous for playing Captain James Tiberius Kirk from 1966 to 1969 in 79 episodes of the US TV series “Star Trek”. Later, he took over the role again in a couple of sequel cinema movies.

Although NASA investigated space travel and space exploration at that time, I assume, William Shatner never ever assumed to be once in space himself. He was an actor playing with other actors in a movie studio set-up like a (at that time) hyper-modern and futuristic command bridge of a star sheep. But, times are turning. “Being” the captain of a spaceship made him famous and can be considered as the foundation of his international career. Although there were a couple of further movies dedicated to space travel at that time, I’d consider this one as the archetype of space exploration movies. In my opinion, the egalitarian philosophy (gender and skin color are not important at all – for that time, these sets were extremely progressive although you can see from today’s point of view, that there is room for more) among crew members as well as between crew and aliens: observe but not interfere.

On Twitter, I saw a screenshot showing Shatner after having left the spaceship and quoting him, that would have been the dream of his life. Another commenter was quite upset about it. Why he could have done this at that age and it would have been better, a scientist or at least a younger person were shot to space.

I can understand Shatner and why he had not refused to accept the invitation. Since I’m a child I’m interested in space exploration. In my children’s room, I had a huge poster on one of the walls showing the Space Shuttle in all of its glory while riding on a cushion of fire and smoke up to the stars. I’m admiring the images taken from outside of our planet showing our planet, stars, or deep-sky objects. Over the years a couple of books found their way onto my bookshelf, starting from my childhood. Jesco von Puttkammer and Carl Sagan are among the authors and in the 1990s I started collecting digital images published by NASA on their quite new web page. One of the most impressive images I’ve ever seen is the rising earth about the moon surface taken by the Apollo 8 astronauts as they came from behind the Moon. You see the image on the NASA homepage. When I’d get such an opportunity, I’d try everything to be part of that special party. My perfect destination would be a stay at ISS for a couple of days. I’m so jealous of Alexander Gerst (Astro Alex) and the views he had during his spare time on ISS. You can see some of the images he took while on ISS on Twitter.

I know, I will never ever get such an invitation. Nor will I ever have enough money to pay for my own tourist’s flight. And, to be honest, currently, these tourist flights are only up to about 106 km above sea level and allow only a very short stay. The flight up and down lasts longer than the stay. So, it’s more like a “hey, I was there” than enjoying the experience.

On the other hand, it’s a huge amount of waste and pollution necessary for making such a trip possible.

I took that image above showing the Andromeda galaxy in February this year. I’m not totally happy with the result, but I guess, it’s quite ok. Photographing deep-sky objects from the earth is very challenging. They are not very bright, but very small and light pollution is a serious problem. OK, when knowing where and when to look, you can recognize Andromeda with your bare eyes as a tiny patch different in size, brightness, and color than the surrounding stars. But it’s still a challenge photographing it and for having a view, I’d definitely recommend using a binocular or better a stabilized telescope.

Take care!

history, landscape, night, photo-of-the-day, photography, urbex, work, world

Throwback Thursday: revived for the night

You can consider this as a follow up to my post from Monday. An old railbus parked in a former steel plant, now a museum. That night, they illuminated the remains. It was a great opportunity for a photographer to expore a known area under way differernt conditions.

Take care!

art, astro, long exposure, night, photo-of-the-day, photography, postprocessing, star, travel, winter, world

Throwback Thursday: Orion Nebula

As I proposed last week: the Orion nebula. Orion, the hunter, is present in the winter sky in the northern hemisphere and the nebula can be found in the sword hanging. Orion is located left of the Pleiades.

You can see the nebula even with your bare eyes, but better with a spyglass or a telescope.

Take care!

art, astro, long exposure, night, photo-of-the-day, photography, postprocessing, star, travel, winter, world

Throwback Thursday: A path to the stars ….

… or on my way to Orion.

I was out that night for photographing the Orion nebula a couple of days ago (ok, literally it’s two weeks tomorrow). It’s located in the sword hanging of Orion right ahead. I liked the situation, how the path leads you directly to Orion. So, I took a wide-angel image first. Next week, I’m showing you the nebula.

You can easily see, how much light pollution we have here. And this is a location with only very little light pollutions in comparison to the situation in the wider area. You might remember my complaints from the past i.e. when I talked about the comet Neowise.

Take care!

architecture, art, cityscape, long exposure, night, photo-of-the-day, photography, postprocessing, travel, winter, world

Throwback Thursday: On a winter hike

I took this image on Saturday before last. Near the end of this year’s winter. But starting in the beginning.

Friday night two weeks ago we got severe ice-rain. For a week we had temperatures below 0°C. So, the ground was frozen everywhere. The upper areas in the air were warmer than the lower so that we were supposed to get rain instead of snow. But, because of the frozen ground and the low temperatures in the lower air areas, the rain would freeze as soon as it reaches the ground. Very dangerous conditions, when out in the streets. All plants got wet and encased inside the ice because the rain started freezing right after coming to rest on the ground or on twigs as well as on the streets and passways.

The next day, the rain changed to snow and from Sunday the landscape turned into a winter wonderland. Very soft and quite dry snowflakes were laying everywhere, even in the lowlands. You know, I’m 200m above sea level. So, we get about 15-20 cm of snow that weekend. The next few days only a few additional flakes came to accompany those already arrived. Starting on Thursday, the weather changed again: the clouds vanished and the sun came out more and more. On Saturday we had a stainless blue sky, temperatures around -10°C (up -20°C at night).

Perfect conditions for a winter hike!

At around 16:30, when the sun was already quite low (sunset at 17:42), I noticed this golden glow in the trees. Do you remember, I told you about the ice-rain. These ice encasings are the reason, why the trees are capturing all the golden light and glowing so much.

Yesterday, I already showed you an image, how the ice encaged the twigs.

Take care!

architecture, art, cityscape, long exposure, night, photo-of-the-day, photography, postprocessing, travel, winter, world

Throwback Thursday: One night in Frankfurt

Recently, I was talking with someone about photography. Because that guy is living near Frankfurt, I was checking, where and when I published my images taken in Frankfurt. Surprisingly, they are not here on my blog. The posts are still online but don’t have any images in. I put the images on a separate gallery server that doesn’t exist anymore and set only a link to that location in the post. So, this is kind of a repost.

I was in Frankfurt for a training in November 2009. As I would have been alone in a hotel each night, I took my tripod and my camera with me and planned to go out after the training for taking some night shots in the city. That was my first trip for night photography. The difficulty is to balance the bright lights with the extreme darks while having quite long exposure times.

First I went to a certain skyscraper where you can go on top of the building to have a view over the city. The sky was proposing, unfortunately, it was extremely windy. Setting up my tripod as planned was impossible. The wind simply moved the tripod away. So, I dialed in a quite high ISO to get my shots hand-held without the tripod. The ultra-wide-angle lens allowed me to use a quite open aperture to get a good depth of field and still have the exposure time on a handleable value for hand-holding the camera despite the heavy wind.

APS-C camera, 10mm, f7.1, 1/30s, ISO 3200
APS-C camera, 10mm, f7.1, 1/20s, ISO 3200
APS-C camera, 10mm, f4, 1/30s, ISO 1600
APS-C camera, 10mm, f4, 1/13s, ISO 1600

 

At that time, I wasted a lot of quality not only because I had to use high ISO instead of my tripod. I also relinquished to photograph in RAW instead of JPG. For this post, I took out the original images and retouched them as much as possible. But, there was not much possible to recover.

Whenever possible, go the extra mile and photograph in raw. You have so much more quality.

After leaving the tower I also walked a bit through the city. Now, I was able to use my tripod. These images are taken at ISO 200 and aperture times of several seconds each.

 

What have I learned from that trip?

  1. use RAW!!!!!
  2. I should have split that trip into parts to have the nice blue night-sky in all images
  3. I should have closed the aperture more to get nice stars around the small lights
  4. I should have taken more than one shot with different exposure times while leaving the other settings unchanged (bracketing)

Take care!

architecture, art, cityscape, culture, landscape, leisure, night, people, photo-of-the-day, star, street, urbex, work, world

Throwback Thursday: connecting lights

This image is taken during our photographer’s roundtable in January 2010. It’s 11 years old. But I guess, it’s a symbol for this year: a vaccine is available, distribution of the vaccine hast started and the bright area in the sky is proposing a “back to normal” to come soon. Until then, keep safe!

Take care!

architecture, art, cityscape, culture, landscape, leisure, night, people, photo-of-the-day, star, street, urbex, work, world

Throwback Thursday: 2020 – what a year!

December 31st, the last day of the year! Time for a look back. I guess all of you are happy, this wired year finally came to an end. All of us are tired of the regulations, limitations, and lockdowns we were faced this past year and had to follow even if we didn’t want to.

Right before Christmas, I got my 2020 yearbook. During the lockdown in March-May, I feared, my 2020 yearbook would be quite thin, there was no possibility to go out and take photographs. But, I was wrong. I even had to work very hard, to reduce the number of images to fit in a book. So, I want to name the major topics now:

March      - forest animals
April      - blue forest
May        - birding + stars
June       - Iceland
July       - comet Neowise
August     - birding (bee-eater)
September  - heathland
October    - fall

In the end, I created 4 books this year Iceland, Iceland monochrome, Iceland wildlife, and my yearbook. So, 2020 was a very productive year and without the limitations, it wouldn’t have been possible to have all my 2020 images developed up to now.

But, there were also a couple of downsides this year. Our vacation at the sea in April was canceled because of the lockdown. Our family vacation in May was also canceled because of the lockdown. The extended weekend trip end of September for visiting my brother in Switzerland was also canceled. But this time for bad weather (first heavy snowfalls and closed streets).  Our plan was to make a trip to a wine-growing area in October. But, because of the increasing number of infections. We didn’t book a hotel in advance to be able to react short-term to the weather conditions. So, we stayed home instead. Around the first of Advent, my wife wanted to visit a couple of Christmas markets. You guess it: canceled – no Christmas markets were planned or set-up. Visits for Christmas with my parents or our moved-out children??? Very distributed and no gathering.

When looking at my job, it came out, I’m not affected by the lockdown and the limitations to go out for work. I can do my work perfectly from home. All I need, is my company notebook, a headset to telephone, and a connection to the internet. Lucky me! My wife is working at a pension home to keep the inhabitants mentally active. So, she’s working in a secure place.

All in all, it’s good to know, the first vaccines are already approved, and also the pop-up vaccination centers are ready. So, the most endangered people are getting their vaccines now (if they want) and all others will follow during the next months following a priority plan.

 

In my personal life, there were also a couple of changes. I started a completely new job. I changed from being a project manager for IT projects to vendor management. Instead of reporting to clients, I now get the reports from our vendors. A very interesting change of view.

My daughter also started working again in February. Back in 2016, she started getting educated in nursing but had to quit because of her baby. Despite being a single mum, she’s working shifts (early and late, but no nights) as a nurse in a pension home. She got employed in March after 4 weeks of working voluntarily in that pension home. For 2021 she’s planning to start again to get educated in nursing so that she will be able to earn a bit more money. She also moved to a new apartment in June (after living again with us for about 9 months, because of some problems with her apartment and since February because of her work). Now, she lives only 300m away from us, so that we can take care of her son when he’s not in kindergarten.

Our older son was able to convert his fixed-term contract into an unlimited one and our youngest wasn’t limited too much by the lockdowns to learn for his job. By the end of 2021, he has to pass the written exam and in January 2022 he has to pass the oral examination.

My wife is currently recuperating from the lung inflammation she got surprisingly early December.

So, 2020 was a bad year in many perspectives, but it wasn’t a complete disaster. There is always some light in the dark.

This is the sun at noon on Dec. 24th. That’s a very typical winter sky here in my region. You can see, how low the sun is in the sky. It’s taken from your bathroom window on the second floor. From the street, I would be unable to see the sun at all. The trees are not that large and are about 100m away from our house. But the sun is standing so low during winter.

The image above is also a good illustration of my year 2020: there was a lot of struggling and complicated situations. We were pained by strict regulations to fight against SARS2-CoV. But, there was still some light. Think about your past 12 months. I guess you are also able to find some enlightening memories. Keep them well and let them carry you through the remaining time of the pandemic.

See you next year! Happy New Year!

architecture, art, cityscape, culture, landscape, leisure, night, people, photo-of-the-day, star, street, urbex, work, world

Throwback Thursday: industry on magic mushrooms?

8 years ago! What a day. Perfect weather. Even stars above the scene!

Our monthly photographer’s roundtable led us to this closed former steel plant in the north-western Ruhr area. Instead of tearing it down, the area was converted into a park and many parts are accessible for the people. This was neither my first, nor my last visit. Unfortunately, it’s nearly a 100km drive.

Take care!

architecture, art, cityscape, culture, landscape, leisure, night, people, photo-of-the-day, star, street, urbex, work, world

Throwback Thursday: November blues in December?

I took this image a couple of years ago, but it could be taken today.

This image is illustrating, how I currently feel: bored, annoyed but at the same time lacking drive. I have so much to do, but I’m not motivated to do anything. So, I’m waiting for the time passing by when I’m back from work.

Only three weeks until winter solstice. Today, sunrise was at 8:24h and sunset is at 16:22. On Dec. 21st the sun will rise at 8:33h and set at 16:22h. But, when having so deep hanging clouds and fog, the days don’t get bright. People living further north even have way shorter days at the moment.

The weekend before last, the temperature was below 0°C even during the days with crisp blue skies. But, on the next Monday, the temperatures rose again and brought this uncomfortable weather: slightly above the freezing point, drizzling rain (with the ability to create black ice on the frozen surfaces of the streets), and the bad sight. A thick, warm jacket or better coat is important. Not because of the low temperatures, but because everything feels colder because of the moisture in the air. An umbrella does not help much. The drops are so fine, they find their way under the umbrella and make your clothes wet.

Unusually we have this kind of weather during November (but with much more rain). This year, November was way too dry. Forests are dying because of the lack of water. Lakes, and especially the artificial lakes for ensuring we have enough drinking water, are dramatically empty. Three hot years in a row without enough rain to refill all the reservoirs have consequences. Nature is fighting back!

We need more large forests to make sure, the rain will come back. But, without water, no forest can grow. Even, if it could, it would last decades.

This is flu weather. Keep yourself warm and take care of not getting infected by any of the bad viruses roaming outside at the moment. You know, there are a few viruses around much worse than flu.

 

 

architecture, art, cityscape, culture, landscape, leisure, night, people, photo-of-the-day, star, street, urbex, work, world

Throwback Thursday: Rear Window

Today’s subject is inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s famous movie as I kind of felt like the main actor of the story (played by James Stewart) might have felt. No, I’m not sitting in a wheel-chair, nor I’m handicapped otherwise. But, the remaining parts have some similarities.

Last Sunday morning I was attending a personal video conference from our living room. I was sitting on the couch with my notebook standing on the coffee table in front of me. So, I was able to easily watch out of the big window when I suddenly recognized a movement in the garden. That day was already winterly: cold (around 3-4°C), a gray covered sky and it was drizzling. Very uncomfortable being outside. Fortunately, I was sitting inside.

I tried to discover, what kind of movement I recognized from the corner of my eye. It was different from the regular bird’s movements. About 20 meters away from me I saw a gray subject laying on the lawn. But, I was still unable to determine what it was. After staring a couple of seconds on the subject, I got the idea, it could be a bird of prey with its prey after a successful hunt which it now covers with its wings to hide it from greedy competitors. Hurring upstairs for getting my camera, but I was too slow. The gray patch was already gone when I returned.

But, after a couple of minutes, it flew into our apple tree for a short rest. This time my camera was ready.

sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) / Sperber

Here he sits, still having the prey in the left claw. I’m not perfectly sure, what it is (was). I guess it could be an Eurasian blackbird.

Btw. the German name “Sperber” is derived from the Old High German words Sparo (sparrow) and Aar (eagle). So, we have a sparrow-eagle 😊

Btw2. The German title of the movie is “Das Fenster zum Hof” and translates to “The window to the courtyard”, which is in my opinion a better description for the movie. But, as it is Alfred’s creation he has the right to name it whatever he thinks is right.

Take care!

astro, landscape, nature, night, photo-of-the-day, photography, star, summer, travel, world

Throwback Thursday: a rare visitor

Currently, we have a rare visitor from outer space next to us: comet Neowise

Here, where I live the conditions are quite bad for astrophotography. In the past, I already told you a couple of times, light pollution is a serious problem all over Europe and especially here in my region because of the big cities Cologne, Leverkusen, Wuppertal, Dortmund, Bochum, Essen and the rest of the Metropolregion Ruhr Area emits so much light even to the sky that you can see hardly any stars at night. When looking up to the stars, you could count them on 3 or four hands.

The second problem is the time of the year. In July sunset is very late and sunrise very early. and in the time between the sky is still a bit enlighted from the sun, even it is already below the horizon: the twilight zone. The above image is taken at 23:45! The sunset was at 21:42  and the sunrise at 5:30.

The third problem is the direction: the comet is located in the north-western direction. The western part of the sky is the part, where the sun sets and where the bright parts remain the longest. (in addition to the huge lights from the cities in that direction, as long as they are less than 70km away)

An we have a fourth problem: during summer the moisture in the air is much higher than in winter. So, thin cloud layers in the upper sky filter some lights. Winter nights are much better for astrophotography.

During the first two weeks when Neowise was already visible from the earth we were left out because of bad weather. But, last Sunday the weather was great at daytime and that was quite proposing for a try and I did, even the could forecast for the night wasn’t good. Nevertheless, I tried. Although I read, the comet should be visible with the bare eye, I was unable to see him. The first photo instead made him visible! Hooray! A second try during the next night, unfortunately, didn’t bring better results despite the cloud forecast was better. Reality proofed the forecast wrong. So, I’m still hoping for a third chance. But the weather forecast proposes lots of rain and clouds for the next weeks. I guess I won’t see him again.

Take care!