The Roman emperor Herod decreed that every citizen return to their home town to be counted in the census. Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary made the long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census. Many other people also came to Bethlehem. When Joseph and Mary arrived, there was no room at the Inn. They were allowed to spend the night in the stable. Mary was very close to giving birth to her child. They filled a manger with straw to prepare for the birth of the child.
An angel appeared to the people and said “Fear not, for I bring you tidings of great joy. In Bethlehem, in the stable of an inn, Jesus, Our Savior, has been born.”
This was the first Christmas!
Merry Christmas everyone!
The Basilica di San Nicola in Bari Italy. The tomb of Saint Nicholas is in the lower level of the basilica. Saint Nicholas gave everything he could to the poor. His reputation and stories grew. The Dutch celebrated him every year on December 6th, the day of his death. They brought the tradition with them to New Amsterdam (New York). The Dutch name for Saint Nicholas translated to Santa Claus. Over the years the story and the traditions morphed into the Santa Claus that we know and love today.
I was in downtown Titusville to photograph a night rocket launch. The rocket launch was scrubbed. So I started roaming around town taking photos. I really like this old Hotpoint sign. I have photographed it several times over the years. The woman’s clothing boutique that is now located in the old appliance store was named for the sign. It is called Hotpoint Boutique. I was happy that they restored and kept the old sign.
SpaceX sending four astronauts on their way to the International Space Station. Photographed from Space View Park in Titusville Florida.
I have been following photographer Hudson Henry for a while. Hudson has been doing a live Zoom/YouTube session called Office Hours. The subject of the last episode was shooting a full moon. You can see the recorded session here. Hudson Henry Office Hours Hudson and a few of his friends discuss how they photograph the moon. On August 1st the moon rose about an hour before sunset. This provided an opportunity to photograph the moon while the foreground is still illuminated by the setting sun. The moon wasn’t quite full yet, but it is the best night to photograph the moon before sunset. Not only will the foreground still be lit, but the moon and the foreground will be similarly illuminated. So the moon and the foreground will have similar exposure values. Normally after sunset the moon is much brighter than the foreground. This makes it very difficult to balance the exposure for the moon and the foreground. So either the moon is overexposed or the foreground is underexposed. That’s why this full moon cycle is a good one to photograph. So a challenge was set for everyone watching Office Hours to photograph the moon on August 1st. Hudson will be showing and talking about everyone’s photos on the next Office Hours on August 4th. So I thought it would be fun to give it a try.
The best night for photographing the moon is Saturday August 1st. Enter hurricane Isaias, expected to hit Titusville Florida when? You guessed it, August 1st! I did some planning, using The Photographer’s Ephemeris to locate where the moonrise would be. I was able to determine that the moon would be rising just behind the Apollo Moon Mission Memorial. I thought the Apollo Memorial would be an appropriate moon subject. I wanted to do a practice run first. So I went out Friday night July 31st, to give it a try. With Isaias on the way, it could be my only chance. My results on Friday night were less than stellar. I did learn a few things though. Moonrise on Friday was two hours before sunset. This proved to be too early. The sky was still too bright; the moon looked small and dim. The monument was still in some pretty harsh light as well. The other thing was focal length, I needed a longer lens so the moon would appear larger. Being a starving artist, I only have two lenses. My main lens is a 24-70mm. It’s a great lens. I use it all of the time! For this photo of the moon though 70mm was not quite cutting it. My other lens is an old Sigma 50-500mm that I break out once in a while to photograph birds at the wildlife refuge. I didn’t bring the Sigma with me on Friday. I hung around until sunset hoping for a decent sunset photo. The sunset was not so great. There were some interesting clouds, but no color.
Hurricane Isaias was moving through the Caribbean on its way to Florida. Luckily Isaias weakened and slowed down. Isaias wasn’t predicted to make it to Titusville until Sunday August 2nd. With Isaias a few hundred miles to the south, Saturday night was a beautiful night to photograph the moon. Using my Sigma lens at 135mm I was able to get good composition with the moon a bit larger than before. If I were to do it again, I think I would try to get farther away and use maybe 200mm. The sky was a bit darker so the moon contrasted against the sky better. The monument was lit by nice warm golden hour light. I used ISO 100, f11, my shutter speed ranged from 1/30 to 1/6 of a second. I was much happier with my results from Saturday. In the end, Isaias moved offshore and never really made it to Titusville.
Comet NEOWISE visible over the Indian River Lagoon in Titusville Florida. NEOWISE is a newly discovered comet. It was just discovered this past March. It was discovered by the NEOWISE space telescope (Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Explorer). The comet is visible from just after sunset until about 10:00pm. In Florida anyway, I think it’s visible later farther north. NEOWISE is low in the north sky just under the Big Dipper. The comet is pretty dim and hard to find without binoculars. Once it’s located with the binoculars, you can see it with the naked eye. NEOWISE will be visible until July 22. Happy comet watching!
A huge dust cloud from the Sahara Desert, floated over Florida’s east coast. I thought this may have an unusual effect on the sunrise. I woke up early one morning to find out. One of my favorite times of the day to photograph is blue hour. I got going extra early so I wouldn’t miss it. Blue hour turned out to be nice and blue. I’m not sure what I was expecting from the Sahara sunrise. It turned out to be a bit dull and lifeless. You can definitely see the haze from the Sahara dust. The sun was a few degrees above the horizon before it was visible. It was definitely not a typical Florida sunrise.
Florida’s Space Coast is launching humans into space again! After a scrub due to bad weather, SpaceX launched two astronauts into space. Demo 2 is a manned test flight of the SpaceX Dragon Crew Capsule. Demo 1 was an unmanned test flight of the SpaceX Dragon Crew Capsule. Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley successfully docked with the International Space Station 18hrs later. They will spend several months working on the space station. After finishing their duties, they will board the Dragon and test the re-entry and splashdown capabilities of the Dragon Crew Capsule.
My main objective was to document the spectators that came to see this historic launch. I visited several of Titusville’s launch viewing hot spots. It’s very interesting to see how people come prepared to watch a launch. Most of them had been here for hours. A lot of them had tables and chairs and a pick-nick lunch. The big thing today was umbrellas. There were big ones and small ones. Umbrellas of every color of the rainbow. We were having small light showers, with bright sunshine in between. The umbrellas were keeping everyone in the shade and dry.
Photographing spectators is much different than photographing a launch. So I was not equipped to get awesome photos of the launch. I did take a video of the launch. You can hear the roar of the crowd cheering as the rocket lifted into the sky. Unfortunately I can’t post it here.
SpaceX Dragon Crew Demo-2, 1st attempt on May 27th. I went around to a few of the popular Titusville launch viewing locations to take some photos. I took these photos between 11:30 and 12:30. The launch time was 4:33pm. The east side of the Max Brewer Bridge was pretty full and filling fast. Sand Point Park was still pretty open. I wasn’t able to get to Space View park, but the parking areas were pretty full. All of the popular spots along US1 were pretty full. I stopped at the new Kirk Point Riverside park across from El Leoncito. The parking was full but there was still plenty of space for watching. Parking on side streets was available. El Leoncito was open as well as having an outside takeaway taco bar and a Kona Ice truck. So Kirk Point not only has a great view of the launch but refreshments close by! I was a little early and the weather was not great, although there were a lot of people, I was expecting more. I think the weather may have been a factor. I have to admit that I was pretty sure of a no go due to weather. So after I took these photos I went home and stayed home. I do plan to visit more locations for the Saturday attempt. I really enjoy getting around to watch all of the people that come to see launches. I like to see all of the equipment that people bring with them, from just an umbrella to a motor home. All types of cameras and all types of lenses. Telescopes from tiny to huge. There were people from all over Florida and the country. It’s almost better than the launch. I’m hoping for much better weather for Saturday, although rain is in the forecast. Fingers crossed!
I was liking the texture of these wilting sunflowers. Naturally I had to photograph them.
After Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he underwent a series of trials. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to death by crucifixion. He was humiliated and taunted as he carried his cross through the streets of Jerusalem to Calvary. On Calvary hill he was nailed to the cross, he hung on the cross until he died. After his death he was removed from the cross and anointed with spices and oils and wrapped in linen cloth. After his body was prepared for burial, he was placed in the tomb. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven; he is seated at the right hand of God the Father.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is built over the sites of Calvary and the tomb. On the lower level is the Stone of Unction, where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial. Upstairs is the Rock of Calvary. The tomb of Jesus is in the main rotunda.
After celebrating the Passover feast, that would come to be known as the Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus moved to a rock to pray and agonize over what was to come. Jesus wanted his disciples to share his sadness and agony, but they fell asleep. Jesus was disheartened that they could not watch over him for only one hour. Jesus was betrayed and then arrested in the garden.
The Church of all Nations known as the Basilica of the Agony was built next to the Garden of Gethsemane over the rock that Jesus prayed on. The rock is visible by the alter.
Robbie and I visited the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida for my birthday. The Brevard Zoo has an awesome giraffe exhibit. The giraffes are free roaming in a large open field. On the edge of the field there is a large platform for humans. From the platform you can get eye to eye with the giraffes. You can buy some lettuce to feed the giraffes. If you are lucky one will come and eat the lettuce out of your hand. Giraffes have the strangest tongues. They are very long and it feels very weird to be licked by a giraffe. I was able to feed my new best buddy Greg the giraffe. He was very handsome and enjoyed posing for the camera. We had a great time with the giraffes at the Brevard Zoo.
We had a great day at the Brevard Zoo. When we go to the zoo, we like to visit the bird aviaries. They have two, one for lorikeets and one for cockatiels. You can just walk in with the birds or you can buy them a treat. We like to get some treats and feed them. They know you have a treat and you have several buddies as soon as you walk in the aviary. We actually have two cockatiels a budgie and an African grey parrot at home. We still like to visit with the other birds though.
My wife Robbie and I had an awesome day at the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida for my birthday! The Brevard Zoo is a great little zoo. You can take a walk through Africa, Australia, wild Florida or the rainforest. There are lots of really cool animals from each region. The zoo is involved with lots of great community conservation efforts like, collecting oyster shells from area restaurants to make oyster mats. The mats are placed in the Indian River to bread oysters to help clean up the river. They help with the endangered Florida scrub-jays. The zoo also has a sea turtle healing center. There are many other conservation programs that the zoo is involved in. We didn’t do it this time, but the zoo has a really cool Treetop Trek. There are zip-lines and treetop trails. We had a really fun day at the zoo!
First, the rocket launch was a total success. It was my image of the launch that was a failure. The other night Space X launched a Falcon 9 rocket on a resupply mission to the ISS. Night launches not only make great photographs, but they are really cool to watch. You can watch the glow of the rocket engine all of the way into space. Photographing a night launch is very tricky. You only get one shot, literally one image. So if everything doesn’t come together, the photo is a failure. Photographers always like to share our amazing images that were a success. I think it’s also important to talk about the failures.
When you photograph a rocket launch at night, the idea is to use a long exposure. As the rocket climbs into the sky during the exposure, it makes a light trail through the image. It makes a really nice image. Using the cameras bulb mode, when the rocket ignites (trust me, at night, there is no question that the rocket has ignited) you open the shutter. As the rocket rises into the sky, you keep the shutter open until it goes out of sight, approximately 3 minutes. When it works, it’s awesome, when it doesn’t it’s not. This time it didn’t work.
The other part of the image is location, location, location. The rocket launch is really pretty on its own. To make the image even more interesting, I like to add something else. This can be either a silhouette of something interesting or something interesting that is illuminated added into the frame. A reflection would be great as well. For this launch I chose the Exploration Tower in Port Canaveral, Florida. It is several miles south of the launch pad. The tower is a unique structure that was designed to look like a sail. At night the tower is illuminated and stands out really well in the night sky. The tower is also lined up with the launch pad. If you line everything up properly the rocket makes an arc over the top of the tower. I looked up some launch photos from this location, so I knew where the rocket would be in relationship to the building.
The next hurtle is getting the correct exposure. The shutter speed is fixed at the duration of the flight of the rocket, approximately 3 minutes. This makes the aperture very important. Rocket engines at night are very bright. If your aperture is open too far the rocket will overexpose. If your aperture is too small the rocket will be underexposed. Typically I end up at f18, this works most of the time, especially for the rocket with a silhouetted foreground. When you add an illuminated subject this makes things more difficult. A 3 minute exposure will severely overexpose an illuminated subject. To overcome this I used a neutral density filter. After testing different apertures with a 3 minute exposure, I found that f11 and a 4 stop ND filter at ISO 100 exposed the tower properly. The rocket exposure would fall where it may. The important thing was to expose the tower correctly.
So what went wrong? I don’t really know for sure. To get the 3 minute exposure I needed to use the bulb setting. I made many test images that all worked perfectly. I was there with a fellow photographer friend, Chris. We also wanted to photograph the tower before the launch, so we arrived pretty early so we had some time to do that. After my final test shot, I didn’t touch my camera until the launch. We finished up a little early, so quite a bit of time passed between my last test and the launch. We had been talking with another photographer from Orlando. I think maybe something timed out and I was no longer in bulb mode or my remote switch may have timed out, I don’t know. The viewfinder indicated that I was still in bulb mode, but the shutter would open and immediately close. It was very frustrating to say the least. Several colorful words were going through my head. By the time I corrected the situation the rocket was over half way through its flight. At about 8 minutes before the launch, a voice in my head was telling me to do another test photo, I didn’t. If I had, I would have encountered and corrected the problem during the test. I will be doing that in the future. Once I got the shutter to stay open, I left it open for approximately 3 minutes. The rocket was still going so even though I wasn’t going to get the whole light trail. I wanted to see how my image would have looked if everything had gone as planned. The rocket flew right where I wanted it to be and the tower was properly exposed. I will need to try this one again.
I also made a mistake when I was photographing the tower before the launch. It makes me crazy because I have made the same mistake several times in the past. I am not a very technically disciplined photographer. I tend to concentrate more on the subject and composition. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in that and I forget about the technical side of things. Apparently the last time I used my camera I was using ISO 800. I never checked the ISO, I wanted to be using ISO 100. Once again my little voice was asking me, “Roy, why are your shutter speeds so fast?” I should have been smoothing out the water more. I was almost done when I realized what I had done. ISO 800 probably helped the shadow areas. If I would have used ISO 100 I would have been able to control the highlights better and I would have smoothed out the water with a slower shutter speed. I always promise myself that I will remember to check the ISO, and/or remember to return it to ISO 100, but every once in a while I forget. These are some of the things that make photography a challenge.
Space X did an interesting launch today. They were testing their Crew Capsule Abort System. The last step towards an actual manned flight. Basically they launched a rocket, then blew it up. They wanted to make sure the crew capsule would separate and splashdown safely. My favorite place to watch a rocket launch is from the A. Max Brewer Bridge in Titusville, Fl. I got there early for the 8:00am launch to photograph the sunrise. That worked out well. The launch was pushed back to 10:30 due to rough seas in the splashdown zone. Sometimes good things come to those who wait. At that time of the day, from that location, the light is horrible for photographing launches. So I did not plan on photographing the launch. I really wanted to watch this one anyway. The rocket launched at 10:30. I had a great view of the rocket until it went behind some clouds. I thought that was the last time I would see the rocket. Luckily there was a hole in the clouds. Just as the rocket went into the hole, it blew up! It’s not every day that you get to see a rocket blow up on purpose. Very cool launch! After the launch there was a car show at Sand Point Park. So I photographed some of the cars. It was a full morning of photography.