Thursday, March 5, 2015

Mexico Sunsets!

Our 900th post! Who knew we'd get this far when we started 6+ years ago, and that I'd have this much to blather about, but it has all been fun, and I hope you are enjoying our little corner of the Interwebs!

I was thinking I'd milked all the posts from our recent Mexico trip save for this last one, but once I started looking at some of the mosaics taken from Margie's house, I knew it was a post. We've posted some great sunsets before, and even theorized what it is about Arizona sunsets, but as this last trip to Puerto PeƱasco  attests, we've got little over Mexico - and they have beaches to put in the foreground! It started with my first beach visit an hour or so after our arrival on Saturday. My goal was to photograph the Venus/Mars alignment, but clouds conspired to make me sit through a spectacular color show. A single shot appeared in that post, but didn't do it justice. At left here is a 9-frame (!) panorama of the sunset, covering nearly 90 degrees of sunset colors. Note particularly there are NO breaks in the wave action or clouds. The secret, if there is one, is that I shot as fast as the XSi would (about 3 frames/second), while panning slowly. The 200th of a second exposures froze the motion fine, but the main thing is that it went together pretty seamlessly.  I really like the subtle colors at far left in the image.  A few minutes later the image at right was taken, all these with the kit lens, a 17-85mm zoom lens, but zoomed in for a single shot.  Be sure to note the distant mountains below the sunset which are across the Sea of Cortez on Baja.

The next evening, I was set up on Margie's roof, an astronomy deck, so to speak. The main imaging instrument was the William Optics (WO) 110mm diameter APO, F/7, so 770mm focal length - a very strong telephoto! The image at left shows the disk of the sun. With my new observing position the sun set directly behind the peaks across the Sea of Cortez. These highest peaks on Baja are part of the Sierra de San Pedro Martir, the tallest peak being Picacho del Diablo (chair of the devil) which at nearly 10,200 feet is the highest point on the Baja peninsula. Interestingly, we'll be building a 6.5 meter telescope mirror at work to be placed atop that mountain. The observatory is already in place with a 2.1 meter telescope, about 5 miles NW and 1,000 feet below the peaks shown here. I was hoping to get a twilight profile of the mountain profile, but the clouds chose not to cooperate (don't forget we had a major storm system moving west a couple hundred miles to our north). However, using the 700mm telescope, I took a 5 frame (shot vertically) mosaic that showed a very nice display of crepuscular rays!  The double-peak of the mountains is at left (barely visible), and is likely responsible for the wide shadow cast into the sky at left.  Note that in compositing these shots, the few seconds between frames resulted in non-perfect alignment of the sea, though the clouds (which software likely used to align) are pretty good. The clouds likely were moving pretty fast, so aligning them mis-aligned the sea surface.

This Sunday night sunset was spectacular too, though not much a field could be photographed with a 700mm lens!  Then a small bright section of brilliant color appeared, and I shot a few frames with the telescope.  Shown at left here is the full-frame with the telescope.  And while in the normal course of cropping and manipulating the images for the blog I usually adjust the brightness, contrast and sometimes saturation and sharpness, this image is absolutely unadjusted except for downsizing for the blog.  These colors are straight out of the camera!

Finally on Monday night, our last night, did we have just an ordinary sunset.  Clouds blocked the horizon, so no mountain shots.  But I did have the camera on the WO scope again in case anything appeared.  I did notice that the seeing was quite good, and looking far out to sea, noticed a shrimping boat or two as specks near the horizon.  Now Margie's house is up on a hill and we were on the top deck, so a good 30 meters above sea level, so I didn't expect to see any curved-Earth effects, but being that the boats were a good 5 miles or more out, I was amazed at the resolution - clicking on this full-resolution image, you can see birds lining the rigging, and many details on-board.  I've never looked for shipping before, but might have to add it to the list of observations to look for while we're there!

No comments: