The Winds, The Seas, and The Stars

Only the third link of this post is about photography, but I think many of you, like myself, are also interested in natural phenomena as well as in different ways of displaying visual information, and that sums up the appeal of the first two items in this post perfectly.

If you’ve been bouncing around the Internet the last week or so, you may have already seen this – but I can’t tell you how much I love this real-time map of the winds over the continental US. I found myself spending way too much time of late just staring at the wind patterns, and then I discovered on accident that if you click on it you can zoom in quite a bit.

NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio has produced their Perceptual Ocean visualization and it is a stunner (you can download hi-def ones here), which gathered different types of scientific data to create a visual feast – an animation of ocean currents across the globe.

Lastly, and coming back to fine art photography more directly, the Bates College Museum of Art has produced a very slick video promoting the upcoming Starstruck show (a show which I’m very excited to be in) and discussing the art of astrophotography. You can view the video, which is less than 3 minutes, below:


And now for something completely different…Space Station photos

Yesterday Maine-based astrophotographer John Stetson invited me to a shoot of a rare opportunity – photographing the passage of the International Space Station across the face of the sun (called a transit) from a location near Waterville, Maine. Basically, when everything lines up just right, you can see the silhouette of the space station (which is between 200 and 250 miles away) in front of the sun (approximately 93 million miles away). It’s over quickly – less than 2 seconds for it to cross the face of the sun!

John has a variety of telescopes with the appropriate filters to safely view the sun, and we were able to hook up my D3X to one of the telescopes in order to capture the scene. We actually captured 4 separate frames of the ISS crossing the sun during that very brief window. My favorite of them is included below (along with a zoomed crop of what the station looked like, reminiscent of a TIE fighter). You can clearly see the solar panels of the space station as well as a few sunspots on the surface of the sun (though sunspot activity was pretty low, so there isn’t much of that).

It was a phenomenal sight to see and I’m very glad to have the opportunity to shoot it with John – and, of course, I’m happy that we were successful!

ISS Transit of Sun (top center to see the space station)
Close up of the International Space Station



Hunger Moon

February brought the Hunger Moon, one I’ve been looking forward to for many months as it is one of my favorite full moon names. I was able to photograph moonrise from the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park (Hunger Moon I and III below) and moonset from a location here in Camden. (As a reminder, at the time of the full moon, moonrise happens near sunset and moonset happens near sunrise.) The moon was stunningly beautiful as it rose above Schoodic from my vantage point on MDI and I love the resulting photographs.

You can find out more about my Adventures in Celestial Mechanics project on my website (and can also see many more images). Please let me know what you think, as always!

"Hunger Moon I", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
"Hunger Moon II", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
"Hunger Moon III", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
"Hunger Moon IV", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

Wolf Moon

January’s full moon was the Wolf Moon and I’m very pleased with my photographs from this latest full moon. Weather conditions were not good for the actual moonrise, and life conditions were not particularly good either as I was also watching my 5-year old daughter, but the end result was worthwhile. (Even if Eliza had to stay up past her bedtime a bit.). Below you’ll find four images from that shoot. As always, please let me know what you think (and in particular if you also see a wolf amongst those clouds!). You can find all of my full moon photographs that are part of my Adventures in Celestial Mechanics series here.

"Wolf Moon I", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
"Wolf Moon II", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
"Wolf Moon III", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
"Wolf Moon IV", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

Long Nights Moon & New Edition Sizes

"Long Nights Moon", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

First up is a new image from December that you may have seen in my 2011 Favorites, Long Nights Moon. December’s full moon has many names but my favorite (and the one most appropriate for this photograph) is Long Nights Moon. I really don’t know how this image will look on everybody’s monitor as dark images such as this one are particularly susceptible to monitor variations, but the print really sings. The print also is an incredibly tough one to print – one of toughest I’ve ever done – because when you are printing in the shadows everything must be perfect for the print to feel right. I’m still fine-tuning the print as I live with the image on my walls right now. Next up in my Adventures in Celestial Mechanics series is tonight’s full moon, the Wolf Moon – I’m pretty optimistic with the images I took in the last 24 hours for this one. More on this soon…

In other news, I’ve tweaked things a bit on the business end for 2012. Most importantly, I’ve reduced my edition sizes significantly for any new editions (i.e., new photographs and editions that have not yet had any sales). My new edition sizes are 10 16″x16″ prints, 8 24″x24″ prints, and 5 36″x36″ (along with a sub-8″ open editions). The prices have also changed accordingly for the 16″ and 24″ sizes.

Beaver Moon

Last month’s full moon was the Beaver Moon (also called the Frosty Moon) and I was unfortunately on the road and unable to seek out photographs of the full moon here in lovely Maine. I did create two photographs I quite like from a few nights before the Beaver Moon as the moon was waxing. Those two images are below, along with one other – a photograph I made of the actual full moon from my hotel room in Austin, Texas. You can find the entirety of my Adventures in Celestial Mechanics project on my website. By the way, the second photo is incredibly sensitive to monitor settings – on one of my monitors it looks fabulous, on my laptop it is horrible. But the print sings, which is what ultimately matters.


"Beaver Moon, Waxing I", Copyright Jim NIckelson
"Beaver Moon, Waxing II", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

And the photograph from Austin…this was completely serendipitous as this was not a photo trip – but my daughter woke us up early and our hotel window was perfectly positioned.

"Beaver Moon, Austin", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

Adventures in Celestial Mechanics

Adventures in Celestial Mechanics” is the name of my new body of work based on capturing moonrise of each full moon of the year. It is also the name of the textbook (see cover to the left) of my favorite college course, the intro orbital mechanics course with Dr. Victor Szebehely. (Way back when, I majored in aerospace engineering and specialized in orbital mechanics).

The delightfully-named textbook (by Dr. Szebehely) captured the beauty and majesty of the equations underlying orbital mechanics, making it appropriate for this series on moonrise of the full moon. For moonrise of the full moon results from an important phase of the celestial dance between the Earth, Sun, and Moon – when all three bodies are aligned and one can stand on the Earth with sunset at your back and moon rising right in front of you. I had been agonizing over a title for this series for a while, but once I looked at my shelf and saw this now 20 year old textbook sitting there, I knew that I had found my series title.

Dr. Szebehely was a great professor because of his knowledge of the subject and this enthusiasm for sharing it with students, and frankly because he seemed to care about us undergraduates far more than many of my other professors. He was also funny, with a dry humor that his deep Hungarian accent only enhanced.

In our aerospace engineering program, the workload was relentless with homework in each class every night. Notwithstanding that, Dr. Szebehely had a long-running joke where he refused to give us any homework on the night of a full moon and he would instead tell us: “No homework tonight. It is full moon. You have more important things to do.” I’m not sure I did then, but I certainly do now – every full moon now finds me out there with tripod and camera, seeking out the rising moon.

Nightfall, The Bubbles

Another recent entry in my Nightfall series is this image, entitled “Nightfall, The Bubbles”. This image required an exposure of over 12 minutes, which of course resulted in the visible star trails (you can still pick out the Big Dipper and North Star, though). This image also required me to balance precariously – with tripod, obviously – on some small rocks on a very dark Jordan Pond. You can see other night landscapes of mine here. As always, please let me know what you think!

"Nightfall, The Bubbles", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

Harvest Moon

The most recent full moon was the Harvest Moon, which is the full moon closest in time to the autumnal equinox and is also perhaps the most famous of the full moons. Its name comes from the harvest season in the Northern Hemisphere, naturally, and specifically from the fact this full moon allowed farmers to work late collecting the harvest because of its brightness and rise time. Part of the cultural impact of the Harvest Moon also arises from the fact that the difference in moonrise times varies little each night around the time of the Harvest Moon, so the days just before and after the Harvest Moon have similar conditions (i.e., the moon rising pretty close to sunset). So, while every full moon rises close to sunset, the Harvest Moon provides this effect for several days in a row, effectively giving us more full moon conditions.

For this year’s Harvest Moon, I traveled two successive nights up to Acadia National Park. The weather conditions were not particularly cooperative, or so I thought. In the field I was relatively pessimistic about the photographs I captured this full moon, but once I returned home I realized that I actually struck gold.

The first photograph below is from the top of Cadillac Mountain shortly after moonrise. I love the soft sunset light on the clouds above the moon, as well as the configuration of those clouds themselves. That’s Schoodic Head out there in the distance as I’m overlooking Frenchman Bay.

"Harvest Moon II", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

The second night I stationed myself on the Park Loop Road looking again towards Schoodic Head. Because of mist/fog on the water, the moon wasn’t immediately visible after moonrise and I was worried that the evening would be a washout. Instead, the mist created a beautiful soft blue light and the moon did indeed peek through, as did the islands and trees in the bay. The scene was amazing but I feared the resulting print would not convey the magic of that moment, but I was happily wrong. The print of this image has become one of my all-time favorites already. I have learned that initial enthusiasm can fade, but I’m optimistic that this one will remain a personal favorite. Let me know what you think, as always!

"Harvest Moon I", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

Thunder Moon – updates to Adventures in Celestial Mechanics (Full Moon) series

I just added to my website four new images from July’s Thunder Full Moon. For this moonrise, I was stationed at Popham Beach State Park ready to catch moonrise over the Atlantic from, well, sea level. Let me know what you think, as always!

I also have finalized a name for the series instead of Full Moon (which is a bit too generic) – Adventures in Celestial Mechanics. More about this soon, but here is the short version. My favorite college textbook was the delightfully-named Adventures in Celestial Mechanics (for my orbital mechanics class). Night photography has become my recent passion in part because it gives me a way of rekindling my love of space. This series of full moon portraits takes advantage of one of my favorite dances of the celestial bodies – the alignment of the Earth, Moon, and Sun that happens at moonrise of the full moon. Once I looked at my shelf and saw this now 20 year old textbook sitting there, I knew that I had found my series title.

"Thunder Moon I", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
"Thunder Moon II", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
"Thunder Moon III", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
"Thunder Moon IV", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.