Photographing the Transit of Venus

Venular Eclipse, June 2012This week’s big story for me was the Transit of Venus.  I took advantage of this once in a lifetime photo opportunity to capture it in reasonable detail.  I like challenging photo opportunities and this one proved a very worthy one!  I had been discussing it with a more knowledgeable veteran photographer and friend who had warned me of the potential of burning my sensor. This is much like the trick we did growing up of taking a magnifying glass and a piece of paper outside and burning a hole in it by focusing a concentrated beam of sunlight into an extremely powerful laser beam.  I decided to avoid that risk by doing some practice shots with the camera on a tripod pointed at the sun.  With the camera turned off I then held an index card behind the viewfinder while adjusting the camera until the sun shone clearly through onto the paper.  I tried different exposures until I ultimately ended up with a “minimum” by setting the camera to the lowest possible ISO (100) and fastest shutter speed (1/6000″) and the lens fully stopped down (f32).  The sun was still too bright and flaring, so I added one, then two polarizers, then my red filter until I finally got a nice solid solar disc surrounded by pitch black space with no flaring.

The big moment came shortly after five pm Tuesday evening.  I set everything up just as I had for the practice shots and snapped away with the focus ring fully focused to infinity, then repeated several times moving the ring back a “hair” each time.  I also tried backing the F-stop down a click or too until I had numerous captures to examine and compare.  I did end up with one that stood out from the rest and you are looking at it here now.

Venular Eclipse at SunsetI repeated the process shortly before sunset, but experimented with both opening up the lens and reducing the shutter speed, as the sun’s brightness rapidly decreased.  Some high clouds also made an unwelcome appearance just as the sun was reaching the horizon, which reduced the light even more rapidly.  At this point I was using the LCD screen without much fear of frying it, as the sun was now setting.  I ended up being a bit disappointed with the sunset shots because the clouds prevented me from getting the sun as it set and, for reasons not fully known, I managed not to get any that were really well-focused and sharp. The best one (shown here) was just before sunset as the clouds began rapidly ascending above the horizon obscuring the bottom part of the sun (the effect I was seeking from the horizon though).

VIDEO:  NASA provides rare images of transit of Venus.
By Pueng Vongs, The Lookout, Jun 6, 2012.
Other interesting stuff from this week’s stack:

Senator Asks DOJ to Investigate SWAT-ting Attacks on Conservative Bloggers
By Arlette Saenz, ABC News, June 6, 2012.
me:Guess I’d better start worrying a/b that wee-hour knock at the door!

State Reports Show Speeding Not a Significant Cause of Accidents.
Analysis of data from twenty-five states confirms exceeding the speed limit is not a significant cause of accidents.
by TheNewspaper.com, May 25, 2012.

85 Mile Per Hour Speed Limit Seen on State Highway 130!
by WOAI Radio News, June 6, 2012.
me:I love Texas!

Power searching using UNIX grep!
by Open Source Hacker, May 29, 2012.

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