Next week something rare and special will be happening in the cosmos. The planet Venus will pass directly between Earth and the sun. This last happened in 2004 and will not happen again for another 105.5 years. Observers in North America will see the transit during the evening of June 5, 2012 from 6 p.m. until sunset for those of us on the East Coast. It is NOT safe to look directly at the sun, even with sunglasses or through your telescope or telephoto lens. But you can watch a transit webcast, get eclipse glasses or make a pinhole projector.
Photo Geek Footnote: ISO 160, 1/13 second at f/13 with a 300mm lens.
But all this talk about the sky made me think about how to best photograph the sky and the many wondrous things we can see in it.  When photographing a sunset or the moon it would be great if you had a tripod and a long lens. The image above is the waxing moon last night. I used a 300mm lens on a tripod. I set my ISO as low as possible because the higher the ISO the grainier the image. I pre-focused the image and then set the timer. Often you will need to use shutter speeds of 1/15 second or lower which necessitates a tripod. I always use the timer as well, as I find that even pressing the shutter button creates some camera shake resulting in a blurry image. I made very sure that the light part of the moon was exposed correctly by looking at my histogram.
Photo Geek Footnote: ISO 1000, 1/640 second at f/7.1 with a 200mm lens.
This image of a sunset and two egrets was photographed at Sunset Beach, North Carolina. I did not have a tripod with me so I used a faster ISO and shutter speed. Large lenses can be heavy, so I braced myself against the dock railing, held my breath and shot. I was sooooooo pleased that I happened to catch the silhouette of these two beautiful birds as they passed through my shot.
Photo Geek Footnote: ISO 320, 0.6 second at f/2.8 with a 55mm lens.
Finally we have an image of a red moon taken at Ocean Isle, North Carolina. On June 15, 2011 the longest total lunar eclipse in 11 years occurred. This turned the moon a dusky, blood red. I did have my tripod with me this time, as well as my 200mm lens. Again, I went for the slowest ISO possible and was very careful to not let the highlights get overexposed. I wanted to see the texture of the moon as well as the reflection on the water below. So pretty! These photos make me want to go to the beach now! Thank goodness summer vacation is almost here.
I hope that everyone gets to see the transit of Venus safely on the evening of June 5, 2012. Venus is roughly the size of Earth. It will be amazing to see how small it is in comparison to the sun. Have fun photographing the sky! If you have any questions or comments just write to me at