This is my last image of the Comet Neowise this time around. In 6800 or so years, I’ll get it next pass. It is traveling on a big loop around our sun. The bluish ion tail points straight away from the sun. The curved tail of debris off the nucleus is spewing off the curved race track the comet is on. This like so many chunks of gravel from a race cars wheels. Mr. Newton would be pleased to understand that his laws still seem to work. I estimate the light from this comet took about 6 minutes to get to my lens. It was far far away. At .7 Astronomic Unit’s distant from earth, it’s almost as far away as the sun itself when I took this. It is quickly getting further away and is only visible with good gear now. . 📷
Mostly I worked this comet with medium to wide lenses. I did however pull out a big gun for about 30 minutes. First of all let me say, This is a big aperture terrestrial lens (about 6 inches) and very fast at F4. Focal equivalent of 600mm. And I got about 6 seconds of exposure at ISO 3000. Any longer of an exposure and you’ll get long star streaks. I really should have tracked the stars and done minute long exposures at f200. Coulda Shoulda Woulda and all that. I keep pretty busy when I get a once in a lifetime opportunity with such clear dark skies. 👁
Tough to get set up as it was a little windy, big lenses have a high wind profile. A tiny wiggle ruins the image. I couldn’t even see the comet in the viewfinder. I was aiming blind literally. Set the camera in the general direction, take a photo, realign the camera and try again. This took 4 attempts to get it entirely in frame. If you look carefully you can see the tree line at about a mile distant from my camera. Close far perspective lololol.
Yes, Comet Neowise images continue to make it into my work flow. It takes me a week from click to publish minimum these days. I suspect there will be a few more posted as I get to them.
A favorite Antique piece of farm history on ranch is the Deering Seeder. I’ve taken many twilight and sunset/rise photos with this customer. It sit’s very well for photos. Nothing like a toddler. Patient it is. It has been sitting here since the last naked eye comet passed by in 1996. It’s probably 80 -100 years old. It’s seen a few Comets in it’s day. I’ve worked 4 photographically but this is the first one with digital cameras. The others were all film camera work. This is the only comet I could see the two tails with.
I worked this “out of nowhere” new comet for many hours over several nights and morning. That is a long time but these exposures take my gear about a minute each to take. With 30 second exposures and 30 seconds of processing time in the camera afterwards, a minute length each photo session is a long slog.
I’m really fond of close / far perspectives. Here 40 yards and 68,000,000 miles are the close / far figures. The lighting for this kind of work is delivered by painting the scene with flashlights over the period of the exposure. With 30 seconds to sweep the beam around, you can fill in all the important foreground objects. Getting both close and far in focus means high F-stop numbers. The result of high F-stop is deep focus yes. But: It’s a double edge sword taking light making it into the camera away. But then you have a long exposure to compensate for that. Edge of the possible photographic envelope. That is unless you are star tracking…..but how do you keep the seeder from blurring ????? 😜 📸
This is a hybrid technique photo of the Comet Neowise. Here seen stumbling out of the woods. He was lost in there for a while while I was driving to get to this remote location. At least it’s going downhill and after a rough few weeks around the “celestial block” , it obviously needed the gravity assist. Only a three mile diameter ball of ice/rock/dust. They are more like a big hard snowball with some gravel mixed in for good measure. Anybody ever get into one of those snowball fights? Boys growing up do funny things. Survived too…
The lighting here at “Look out Butte” is my way of “painting with light” before the camera. Used a flashlight to systematically bathe the landscape with light from the led’s. Then I tapped my brake lights a few times for just that tint of red in the otherwise brown grass. With a flashlight you highlight what you want. Learning how much to use is the trick here. I corrected for overexposure in the digital darkroom. I tried several different colored flashlights as well. Interesting variations on a theme. I have yet to work on those. Hybrid as I said. Lots of work to get the lighting right with multiple attempts each slightly different. Fun exercise with this often taken comet these days. Challenging.. 😄 📸
Those far trees are at least 200 yards out. 20 second time exposure. f4 lens. 22mm ISO (what ever it takes). F18. Tricky with pointing flashlights over 20 long seconds of open shutter. I hit the Snag twice intentionally with the thumb switched Surefire Flashlight. Made it stand out as planned. I can as I do it keep track where I’ve exposed to LED light mentally. One has to sort of wing it to do this. Wish I could explain better but my memory works in strange ways with images. I’m shooting this out of my Raptors drivers window mounted tripod. (Clamp) It has to be a calm night to do that in a vehicle. The wind profile of a Ford Truck is “enough”. Otherwise a sandbagged tripod is needed sometimes lol.
This spot is about 100 yards from the exact Montana/Wyoming border. 45 degrees north Latitude. Significantly close to 1/2 way between the North Pole and the Equator. This image is looking across that border. Almost straight north at this capture.
The wind was very low but the 30 second time lapse here showed clearly any water movement with the slight blur. It was pitch black with the only light being the Comet Neowise and the star field to the north. I couldn’t have set up my tripod close to this pond if I wanted to. It’s hard to find standing water high enough these days to do this. I had to travel to make this happen. I worked this comet for 3 hours this night traveling backcountry under “fairly” low light conditions lolol.
You can clearly see the ion trail tail pointing directly away from the sun . THe chunky particle trial is leaning off to the right on the outside of the race track orbit it’s on. It will be back in about 7000 years so you better enjoy it now lol. By the time this posts it will no longer be naked eye. Binocs will work though.
Coincidentally I lined up the light pollution from the town of Broadus Montana 45 miles distant on the horizon. This kind of photography is WAY outside my normal operational envelope. It is REALLY dark out here. I essentially can not see ANYTHING in the camera eyepiece when I do this. Mirrorless cameras do this a little sloppily yet and I’m tempted to use an old DSLR for kicks to compare. Time exposures are tough on so many levels.
Old growth pines are some of the tallest things around me here in the backcountry. I get a few miles back off the gravel county road, one pasture starts looking a lot like the next pasture. You really have to have a sense of your position. One wrong turn out here and your in a hole that might take a while to extricate the Raptor from. I try to stick to existing two track roads as to not further any damage to the grass lands. Tall trees are sign posts to me as they and the ridges they live on silhouetted against the sky. It’s easy to get disoriented out in grassy pastures a square mile in size. Fortunately, the stars were quite visible so navigation didn’t require a compass.
I’ve had to resort to using a compass a time or two up here. We don’t have efficient cell service and I really don’t trust GPS very much. I way prefer visual, if not, a good old compass will do just fine. Remember to set your compass for changes in magnetic declination (google this) as the magnetic pole does wander. I’ve had to reset my compass several times in the last 4 or 5 years.
Neowise takes about 20 seconds open shutter (exposure) at f-4 to bring in (say ISO 2000) the image. Your settings will vary depending on your lens and camera. The trees illumination however is the result of a moderately bright LED pocket flashlight being swept over about 10 seconds across the surface of the tree. It was TOTALLY dark for this capture. Just star light, a little “curl” light and a little flash light.
Can you find the Comet??? It’s a big comet plus it is in the photo….👀
Here I caught Comet Neowise trying to hide. I consider myself a landscape photographer…. Images in my mind of mountains and Waterfalls come to mind. Instead I get trees with their own mystical ways of trying to conceal others around them. The comet knowing this, took full advantage to hide from your faithful photographer. In all honesty this is supposed to be a naked eye comet but hiding apparently is a Cometary tendency…. 😜
Using time exposures at night is an interesting pursuit if not outside my preferred work environment. Backcountry at night is an entirely different type of travel. Of course I have excellent lights on the Raptor but they tend to overpower with long time exposures. Instead I used a small handheld flashlight over 20 seconds and hand painted the trees with light. Sweeping over trees I wanted highlighted several times with the beam over that interval. Places I wanted dark, I didn’t sweep the light across so much.
The two dead trees (one standing and the fallen soldier below) were killed when this steep hill side slumped/slid about 20 feet shearing off their deep roots killing the trees. The jumbled surface around them still less than a century old, testifies to the earths inexorable movement toward the ultimate sink, the sea. The newspaper headline reads: Neowise Comet Hiding over Century old Landslide lolol.
NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission first discovered this icy visitor on March 27, 2020. So Neowise the Comet was Named after the space craft that discovered it. It used its two infrared cameras, which are sensitive to the heat signatures given off by the icy core of the eventual comet as the Sun started to turn up the heat.. Many come as close as 62,000,000 (62 Million) close to the earth this pass around the sun for it. The NEOWISE space Craft is going to re-enter our atmosphere as it’s mission ends and will be replaced by the next generation machinery.
This Comet is a surprise visitor at our door. It’s orbit actually brings it inside the orbit of Mercury. That is a very rough ride for a chunk of ice and rock about 3 miles in diameter. It was super-heated (as it were versus deep space) causing a very good display of our celestial wheel turning.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s a naked eye comet and the brightest in over 20 years. Comet Hale-Bopp in 1995 – 1996 which I worked extensively with a film camera from a dark sky location near Jackson Hole. By the time this posts on the 24th of July, Neowise (the comet) will be pointing it’s tail(s) to the left. Look under Ursa Major in the north Sky around the top of Leo Minor. It will be getting dimmer quickly. I’ve only had 2 opportunities to work it. About 5 hours total work under the night sky around here is a change as I tend to sleep between the evening sunset and morning sunrise. What I’m saying is I don’t do a lot of night photography any more with my current schedule.
As with most of my work finished on a big computer monitor, full screen is preferred. Click the image to enlarge.
I’m always trying to experiment with different lighting when I do night time exposures. Here I used my yellow flashing light on the top of my Raptor (I often block backcountry roads for 10’s of minutes at a time so I like a warming strobe). So the flashing strobe is like a flash bulb but in yellow. Of course we are in a drought and the grass is brown anyway. The color cast added to the scene I thought for the Close/far perspective. I have another version of this with LED white light. Just as this, the suffuse foreground lighting diminished up the hill. Stay tuned for that image.
The star field is just about properly exposed, sharp and well populated. Interestingly, the longer you leave open the shutter, the more stars that keep appearing. Our sky here on the Montana/Wyoming border 70 miles from the nearest bright city is as dark as the North Atlantic Ocean according to NASA. One of the darkest skies in the United States. If you have a sensitive camera and a steady surface you can just about fill the frame with stars. There is close to 1000 visible in this photo alone.
When you are leaving the shutter open for 10-15 seconds at a time, ANY movement of the truck the camera is mounted on will ruin the image. It was periodically gusty during this shoot. Therefore MOST of the images I took during this timeline were ruined by the movement. No fixing 1000 stars with blur tails. Ground tripods with really long lenses are better than vehicles due to the smaller wind profile.
You really need to full screen this Colors in stars… you know, seeing a colored star hanging out there….. Cool stuff.
I should have had this tracking instead this is a 10 second time exposure of this naked eye comet. You might note that the comet has TWO tails. The smaller bluish tail that is more vertical is pointing away from the sun. The other tail has a slight “Curl” to it which is why astronauts call a comet a “Curl” in the vernacular. Two early Perseid meteor streaks graced this image on the left side.
The Comet orbits the sun and the large particles it ejects always are “thrown to the outside of it’s orbital ellipse . We are only looking at 2 dimensions of that cloud plus the sun is very large so your also dealing with perspective here. Generally think of a race car on a curved track, throw something out and it’s going to end up on the outside of the track.
The straight tail is almost always bluish. It is made up mostly of ionically charged very small/light particals. It results from the interaction of the suns magnetic field with the comets. That ion tail always points directly away from the sun. You might google this for a complete discussion as this is too lengthly for this forum.. Know that comets have two tails if you get nothing else out of this narrative.
Thought you can see it naked eye as a diffuse rather large object in the northern sky, right under the big dipper more or less. You have to be under dark skies with no clouds of course. Far away from city lights is best. Now if you want to use a pair of big binoculars, your going to get this view or slightly smaller. This is a 110mm lens f4, 10 second exposure. ISO 5000…. (very high thus the grain as it were) The biggest problem I had last night working the comet for 3 hours, was wind. Time exposure of anything is rough with wind around moving things like my truck (which was my tripod. ).
You still have plenty of opportunity to photograph this comet. Look into the north sky under the big dipper past around 10:15… Bring a tripod for sure and a wind shaded spot. I will be tracking it next chance I get. (the camera moves with the stars rotating a little each second.) By tracking the sky I can extend the time exposure to minutes and use a lower ISO (camera sensitivity). This one is a challenge with these mirrorless cameras as you really can’t seen this at all in the camera’s eyepiece….. Occasionally just the nucleus appears in a grainy blackness on the screen. This was a camera mounted to a truck window and me not breathing during the exposure….😜
This full color image taken just outside the north fence of our homestead here in the Montana/Wyoming borderlands. Best tail of a comet I’ve ever taken and I’ve done a few over the decades back to Halley’s Comet in the 1980’s. The surprise Comet Neowise C/2020 F3 is it’s official designation. IT is a naked eye comet in this dark sky environment. Enjoy it as it’s not coming back for another 7000 years. So this will have to do. Let me know what it looks like next pass around the sun. It’s a big one with a 3 mile diameter nucleus. The orange tail totally took me by surprise. I could barely see the windmill in the viewfinder as this presented as pretty much a black screen with a few blotches on it lol. Focusing by instinct really.
I suggest about 3 AM though this was taken around 3:45 AM. I was “working” the comet after doing photography yesterday afternoon AND last sunset. It’s been a pretty short night. I might take a nap today…… Doing night photography is a whole different animal I point out. Not having light makes for a host of issues you have to deal with inside the camera and outside.
With a long lens (this zoom was set to 300mm. Now the hard part with no light, is that turning your shutter speed to 10 seconds makes it VERY hard to focus precisely. Some “messing around” and testing the waters is necessary. Also there has to be some extra camera sensitivity (ISO) to boost the already silly low amount of light coming into the camera. A really good challenge.
Close / Far perspectives are complex during the daylight. This is a 10 out of 10 difficulty image requiring a tripod, proper shutter settings, not too high an ISO and enough F-stop to be able to focus BOTH close and far objects. Razors edge stuff… My lighting source are the low beams on my Ford F-150 Raptor. The LED light bar was TOO bright for the foreground without fogging out the background. So just a little ground light with a 10 second exposure. Any longer shutter with this long focal length, your going to get motion blur on the stars and Comet. To say this was a challenge would be an understatement. I didn’t think I had enough depth of field (focal depth) to pull it off. Got lucky I guess. Good luck trying this.
I have a few more nights to potentially work this comet. It’s all about the cloud cover. Normally I am at least 7 – 10 days out from taking a photo to publishing. This was taken this morning. Front of the line lolol.