Wednesday, September 30, 2015

'Twas a Gusher of a Day

My, oh my... we got 5.5" of rain over a 22 hour period. I think this is a record rainfall for us in the 15 years we have lived in Maine. There was the normal flooding in the normal places, as waterways were running high. We didn't dare drive out to Hicks-Small Cemetery to check out the old County Rd., but we know it has to be washed out. Maybe we'll swing by tomorrow.
We did walk over to the dock to see if it was underwater, and indeed it was, but only partially, with waves lapping up over the lip of it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Lunar Eclipse Equipment 1 of 2 posts

I used my biggest lens (a Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 lens), that I have named "The Beast." I know, a 500mm lens is tiny compared to what the pros use, but it fits my purposes and doesn't overtax my wallet;-) 

I set "The Beast" atop a Slik Pro 700DX tripod (that gives me great stability which is necessary when shooting the night sky.) Note that Drew extended the center column, above the tripod, due to the sharp angle that the camera had to be situated at to get the moon in view. This lessened the amount of neck pain that I had when trying to look through the view finder. 

You can also see a cord hanging down from the left side of the camera. I had attached a remote shutter release to reduce camera shake when depressing the shutter button. Camera movement translates to blurry photos when taking longer exposures.
Here is a shot of the back panel of the camera as it is angled to capture the moon. Do you see the moon out beyond the lens? You can actually see the left side of it slowly being enveloped by Earth's shadow.
I took some selfies while outside, and found that one of them showed the moon on the back panel. Fun!

Whoo Hooo... This is my 100th post on the new version of Maine Nature Diary (hosted by Blogger!) Let's hope for thousands more;-)

Total Lunar Eclipse 2 of 2 posts

Click on image for a larger view.
What a gorgeous night with a stunning moon. I got photos from the beginning of the eclipse to totality before some thin clouds moved in to obscure the view. Now, if only I had known what I was doing, photographically speaking, I would have gotten a better image of the red moon...But, I goofed. (The last time I photographed an eclipse, I used a telescope, so using a camera for the entire process was new for me.)

Of course, mine looks different from the rest of the world's photographers who got clear images of the red moon at the end (versus my noisy images;-) I can't stew about it, and will just try to enjoy what I did capture...

Click on the Image for a larger view.
Here is how I goofed: For this eclipse, I kept the camera in auto focus, instead of taking the first few shots with auto and switching to manual focus (which would have kept it in focus no matter what.) Had I done that, I wouldn't have had so much difficulty as the moon moved across the sky. As it was, I had to keep re-focusing the camera, which became difficult as the moon got darker, and darker, and darker.. Ahhh...the learning curve. I didn't get to practice with the last 3 eclipses as it was cloudy for all of them over the last year. Darn!

Note to Self - Next time:
• Top Dial on Camera to "M" - Manual Exposure Settings mode
• Force exposure compensation down to -2. )This brings out the darker areas of the full moon.)
• Multiple point focus (to get a lock on any part of the moon)
• Take the first few shots with auto focus.
• Switch to manual focus.
• As time goes by, dial down from 1/500 sec. to a longer shutter speed, down to at least 0.25 sec. or more, until seeing the red moon in playback mode. Will this give me less noise as well as increased brightness? I hope so...
• As time goes by, dial up the ISO from 200 to 1600 or more if necessary. (Although, I saw lots of photos with ISO 400-using a slower shutter speed.)

The next lunar eclipses that we will see are going to be few and far between. For Maine, go Time and :

March 23, 2016 - Prenumbral - Begins at 5:39 AM / Maximum at 6:39 AM / Ends at 9:54 AM (Ummm...we won't see it in our neck of the woods.)
***Feb. 11, 2017 - Prenumbral -  Begins at 5:34 PM /  Maximum at 7:34 PM / Ends at 9:53 PM.
Jan. 31, 2018 - Partial - Begins at 5:51 AM / Maximum at 6:52 AM / Ends at 11:08 AM (Ummm...we won't see it in our neck of the woods.)
***Jan. 20/21, 2019 - Total - Begins at 9:36 PM / Maximum at 12:12 AM / Ends at 2:48 AM (Perfect timing as the 21st is Martin Luther King Day and I'll be able to sleep in after a long night;-)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Barter's Island Swing Bridge

Boat Tour of the Sheepscot River aboard The Beagle
Drew and I visited the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens for the main purpose of checking out the Boat Tour of the Sheepscot River. It is a one hour tour that begins at the new landing situated on the Back River. We accessed it from one of the Botanical Gardens trails. The Beagle is electric and holds 7 passengers. We were lucky enough to get a private tour as nobody else signed up. Sweet!

One of the coolest parts of the tour was our passage through the Barter's Island Swing Bridge, one of two manually operated swing bridges in Maine. Awesome!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Total Lunar Eclipse on Sept. 27th

Sky and Telescope's online magazine
MacRobert, Alan. “Ready for Sunday Night’s Total Lunar Eclipse?” Sky & Telescope - The essential Guide to Astronomy. N.p., 21 Sept. 2015. Web.
I think we are going to have sunny to partly cloudy skies, in Maine, for the final one of 4 total eclipses that have occurred over the past year. The eclipse will occur over a 3.5 hour period, and will be "mostly high in the sky." You will begin to see a small sliver of the moon covered by Earth's shadow, beginning at 9:07 pm. By 10:11 pm, the moon will be completely within Earth's shadow and will remain there until 11:23 pm. After that time, you will see the moon gradually reappear, and brighten, until 12:25 am, on Monday, when it will appear as a fully lit moon. For more information about the total lunar eclipse, read Sky and Telescope Magazine's article.

On Saturday evening, we are going to scope out the track of the Moon to see where we want to set up our tripod. We'll also practice with camera settings to get the best photos we can. Let's hope for optimum photo ops for the event!
Here is a practice photo I took tonight. It took us forever to figure out how to photograph the almost full moon. I must say that this is a rather soft photo. I did better last year hand-holding our Lumix camera at twilight. I hope I can take sharper photos tomorrow evening. After lots of trial and error, I used a 500mm lens with the following settings: M (manual settings), 1/500th sec, ISO 200, Multiple point focus, F9. As the moon goes into the eclipse phase, I'll dial down the shutter speed over time. I will probably put a 1.4x teleconverter on the lens as well. This will yield a larger photo. Tomorrow night, I'll also put a dew shield on the camera as it is going to be rather cool. I would have practiced more tonight, but I am so tired after attending the Common Ground Fair earlier today.

Common Ground Fair

(Click on the map for a larger view.)
'Tis Common Ground Fair Day for me and our buddies, Shannon and Billy. Drew has volunteered to dog sit for four Greyhounds for the day (somebody's gotta do it;-)

This is a big Maine event with 60,000+ people attending from Friday through Sunday. Yowzer! We walked around and took in the sights. The lighting was very harsh, so I didn't do much in the way of photography.
I did enjoy the cattle quite a bit. They are so pretty and gentle. Here is a selection of a few of my favorites.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Foliage Report-Sept. 23, 2015

Check out the Maine Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry's website for this week's Foliage Report. The trees of northern Maine are slowly changing.

Happy Autumn - Mum's the Word!

'Tis mum season...My favorite season of the year. The air is getting cooler, and even though the sun is still strong, it's trajectory will be lower in the sky as the season progresses. The leaves are changing and the resulting colors are transitioning to golds and reds. We bought some mums to celebrate the autumn equinox.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Botanical Gardens in late summer

On Saturday, I visited the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens with three friends, all of whom have a great appreciation of nature. We spent several hours visiting all of the major gardens, and enjoyed the flowers, trees, rocks, trails, and sculptures.
First, we visited the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses. On our way there, we passed the pumpkin pile. I enjoyed the pumpkin trail that lead from the pile. Brown, orange, yellow, and red were the predominant colors in this particular garden.
Because it was a windy day, the kinetic sculptures were in full motion. My friends were kind enough to indulge me as I tried to snap photos of their reflections in one of the sculptures. These mirrors were rotating rapidly in the wind, and were casting bright light onto tiny metal tubes all around the sculpture. Success! After many attempts, you can see Darcy and I in the right photo and Celine and Carla in the left photo! Silly, but fun;-)
Late summer brings the grasses to maturity. These gorgeous red grasses look like a type of rye grass. They were so pretty with their contrasting blue leaves! I just wish that I'd photographed the sign that identified them.
Flowers abound at the gardens, and I was attracted to the shades of red to orange to yellow... Here you see the Red Hot Poker on the left, an unidentified yellow flower with bumble bee in the middle, and a Zinnia Profusion Fire flower on the right. The lower photo shows a bromeliad. Stunning colors...
The Children's Garden never ceases to amaze me. The varieties of flowers change throughout the seasons, and the curving walkways showcase so many stunning views.
There were also gorgeous visions of blue throughout the gardens. Some of my favorites were the Gentian Purple Stem flowers (Gentiana scabra) seen on the left and middle. I was also enamored by the Mexican Blue Bells (Ruellia simplex) seen on the right and bottom. 
We saw a few monarch butterflies, cabbage butterflies, and American Painted Lady butterflies. I was only able to photograph the Painted Lady. I was also pleased to see quite a few honeybees on the Japanese Bugbane (Actaea japonica) that you see in the lower photos. Yay for flowers that support these important pollinators!
There were several varieties of hydrangeas throughout the gardens. Two of them are seen on the left. I neglected to get the names of them, but they really struck my fancy. And, I just had to photograph a balloon flower. I love the purple tip of the pistil!
Part of the fun of visiting the Botanical Gardens is the great variety of rocks throughout the pathways. The rocks are "home grown" from New England, and in particular, Maine. They really showcase the variability of colors and textures that originate from solid Earth!
The Rhododendron Garden sports the only waterfall in the Botanical Gardens. Moving water is incredibly relaxing. The sound of flowing water with the splash at the bottom is very peaceful. I could have hung out there for hours, and indeed, there are benches situated throughout the area for just that purpose.
Rocks, lichens, and moss abound at the gardens. I found this spiral carved into a rock face that we walked past. It was interesting to see that the pebbles seemed to be glued into place. Neato! The lichens and mosses add color and texture to the rock surfaces, as do the different minerals found within the rocks.
And finally, there are sculptures carved from metal and rock sprinkled throughout all of the Gardens. Two of my favorites are seen here. The fish, carved from metal, is titled, "The Codfather" while the pink granite sculpture below is titled, "Mother Earth." Absolutely loverly;-)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Portland Wedding

Nephew Aaron and his fiancee, Kelli, got married at Fish Point, in Portland, on Sept. 13th. I channelled my recently deceased sister, Jane, for this trip and had a number of firsts! I rode on Amtrak (from Brunswick to Portland) for the first time, took a city bus to the Old Port part of town, and took my first taxi by myself. Sis was always the adventurous one of the pair of us and made the most of all the places she had visited around the world. So, I played "tourist" for the day. It was so much fun as I arrived in Portland at 8am, and the wedding wasn't until 4pm.

As I departed the city bus at Monument Square, a clock chimed, at City Hall, at 9am. I passed by some bagpipers playing a fun ditty on a side street as I walked toward the Regency Hotel, where I met my bro-in-law and his lovely daughter, Nan. We hit the road and went to Cape Elizabeth to check out Portland Head Light. Then, we returned to the hotel to watch the bride and her bridesmaids get all gussied up for the wedding. 

After the gussying up, Nan and I toured Fore Street and Commercial Street. We came upon an interesting sight. Hundreds of locks were chained to some fencing next to the water. Apparently, this is quite the rage in Europe and has become a hit in the USA as well. What a neat sight! We were wishing we had known about this ahead of time as we would have loved to have put a lock there for Aaron and Kelli, but it was a Sunday afternoon with no hardware store in sight. So, I took photos of heart shaped locks instead, to commemorate the day. Fun!

Finally, it was time to depart for the wedding. We walked to 58 Fore St. where an historic train was located. "All Aboard!", and we took a short ride to Fish Point. The wedding party followed a short time later and the wedding began. 'Twas a chilly and misty day, but that didn't dim our spirits as the wedding was lovely. The only person missing was my sister. A toast was drunk in her honor before the wedding began. She was there in spirit, and we know that she was smiling broadly from Heaven... Her baby boy has grown to adulthood and has become a married man... Sigh...all is right with our world...

The moral of this story is to take a day, any day, and become a tourist in the state that you live. Make the most of that day and explore, find new treasured places, and fill your bucket list!

Autumn Leaf Color Change is delayed

Foliage Conditions for Sept. 16th
Check out this report by the Maine Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry. Interesting, huh? I get weekly foliage change alerts through about Oct. 16th each year. Go to their WEBSITE for more information.
While Maine is still experiencing the warmth of an extended summer, the foliage in northern Maine is gradually changing, with tinges of oranges, reds, and yellows visible in the forest canopy. However, the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry report reveals very little color change and very low leaf drop.
"Weather plays a significant role in the changing of the season. Sunny days, followed by cool, but not freezing temperatures help move the progression of color along. We have not experienced the cooler evening temperatures in all 7 zones," noted Gale Ross, fall foliage coordinator for Maine.