Sun Spots

In the weeks before the solar eclipse, I practiced taking photos of the sun. The first question was whether to use a telescope or a camera lens. While the telescope provided greater magnification, it was incredibly difficult to target the sun for two reasons. First, the solar filter rendered everything except the sun as pitch black. Without any contextual background, I had no idea whether the telescope was pointed too far left, right, up or down. The second issue was that the finder could not be used. Obviously, I could not look directly at the sun through the finder. Additionally, if I wore solar glasses, I couldn’t even see the telescope. Eventually, I was able to target the sun by looking at the direction of the shadows cast on the telescope.

However, this approach was too unreliable so I resorted to using a wider camera lens for the big day.

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2017 Solar Eclipse

I was a bit late in preparing for the 2017 solar eclipse. I didn’t start shopping until a few weeks before the event, and at that point many retailers were already out of stock on solar filters and glasses. Fortunately, I was able to purchase a BAADER solar filter and solar glasses in time.

Since Northern California was outside the path of totality, some of the more exciting photographic opportunities were not available. The more pressing issue was the persistent morning cloud cover. I started noticing this about two weeks before the eclipse, and really got worried as the pattern repeated each passing morning.

The night before, I was looking at weather reports on ClearDarkSky. I was also scouting locations on the PhotoPills, which showed the direction of the sun during the critical morning hours. I had a couple locations in mind, but headed south to Shoreline Lake in Mountain View after some morning recon. The sky looked the clearest and brightest in that direction.

While a telescope would provide the greatest degree of magnification, I opted for a long camera lens and a 2x teleconverter. During the week before the eclipse, I practiced photographing the sun with a solar filter. Trying to find the sun with the telescope was exceedingly difficult because only the sun was visible through the solar filter. Everything else was black. With the wider camera lens, the process was much more forgiving.

So, on the morning of the eclipse, the sky was severely overcast. As I recall, Mountain View was supposed to have 60% cloud cover at 9 a.m when the eclipse started. I could see the sun for a few seconds as the clouds traveled through. The clouds did eventually clear as predicted, and I was able to see the entire second half of the eclipse.

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San Francisco

San Francisco was a touch hazy, and all too drab. That’s what happens when the skies above are absolutely overcast. The wonderful dehaze function helped. However, what really recovered the city colors was adjusting the RGB levels. Works wonders when fixing old photos that have shifted orange. Tried it here and it worked as well.

Of course, 1/250s is not the standard shutter speed at 300mm. However, I was using a tripod with a shutter release.

Camera: Nikon D750
Lens: Nikkor AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 300mm
Aperture: f/8.0
Shutter: 1/250s

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Sutro Tower

From Seal Point Park in San Mateo, I had a relatively clear view of San Francisco that was free of rain and fog. Usually, from this vantage point, I will focus on the planes flying over the San Mateo Bridge and landing at San Francisco airport.

However, I spotted Sutro Tower off in the distance and wanted to see how well the lens performed. This lens is certainly capable of producing crisp images, but the Sutro Tower located almost 20 miles away proved to be quite challenging. The mountain range behind Sutro Tower is Mount Tamalpais.


Camera: Nikon D750
Lens: Nikkor AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 300mm
Aperture: f/8.0
Shutter: 1/500s

This United Airlines airplane flying over the San Francisco bay was more within its zone of competence.

United Airlines

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Morro Bay

When I arrived at Morro Bay, not too many people were around. I headed straight to the water’s edge and found an unobstructed view of Morro Rock. Around the harbor, I could hear the morning chatter coming from the birds and sea lions that called Morro Bay home.

I was excited to see the sliver of blue sky emerging from behind Morro Rock. However, the promise of good weather did not materialize as the sky darkened later in the day and turned light sprinkles into pouring rain.


Morro Bay

Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
ISO: 50
Focal Length: 52mm
Shutter: 1/60s
Aperture: f/2.8





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Old Mission Santa Barbara

Old Mission Santa Barbara

I arrived at Old Mission Santa Barbara at sunset. The last golden rays of the sun showered the church in a warm glow. The fountain attracted some attention from people looking to make a wish or seeking a place to plant themselves for a few minutes of rest. The church stairs was another popular location with two Christmas tree on each side of the church doors. Took a lot of patience to get a clear photo.

Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 24mm
Aperture: f/8.0
Shutter: 1/40s

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Flight Over San Mateo Bridge

Tried a new location along the coast to catch planes descending into San Francisco airport. However, along this stretch, overhead power lines mar the view. I’ll have to revisit and try some different subjects and angles.

San Mateo Bridge

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SFMOMA and Yerba Buena Gardens

SFMOMA

I only had the Really Right Stuff Pocket ‘Pod with me tonight, so I had to resort to using whatever flat, stable surface was available. This photo was an exercise in focus stacking with one frame on the water feature and the other on the large buildings in the background.

Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikon 24mm
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 24mm
Aperture: f/8.0
Shutter: 4.0s

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Dos Amigos Pumping Plant

The Dos Amigos Pumping Plant helps transport water in the California Aqueduct. The water is lifted 113 feet, and then descends to the next pumping station 164 miles away.

I suppose a sunrise or sunset shot would be more interesting, but with the plant located half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, reaching this location by mid-day is about par for the course.

California Aqueduct

Camera: Nikon D750
Lens: Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 58mm
Aperture: f/8.0
Shutter: 1/400s

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The Morning Rush

I just returned from the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama. Visually, the location appeared to be quite remote with large swaths of trees flanking Interstate 459. U.S. Route 280, a six-land highway, baffled me. I didn’t understand why there were no crosswalks or sidewalks for pedestrians to travel along or across the highway, which felt more like a city street.

I was even more surprised when cars flowed onto 280 in the morning and left that route quite congested. A quick glance at Google Maps revealed all the residential areas hidden behind the trees.

Birmingham Alabama

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