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Hot Dam Night

I have always enjoying looking up into the night-time sky, and following the rhythms of our solar system is something I follow daily online.

Lately, I have been keeping my eye on the rare alignment of Jupiter, Venus and Mercury in the west-northwest about 30 minutes after sunset. The next time this will happen, is in 2026.

Being Friday night, I had to go out and try to see this!

The whole week has been hotter than normal for this time of year, and I hoped the cover of night would help.

The dam parking lot had two other cars when I arrived, and as I unpacked, a jogger going downhill, turned and entered the park.

MCSP Sunset & Fishing
MCSP Sunset & Fishing

Because of the heat and humidity, I packed my equipped vest into the daypack, and threw it over my shoulder, along with my camera and tripod, and headed into the park.

Heading down the hill, it got darker because of the overhanging trees and leaves, but the light grey colored maintenance road made it easier to follow with the ambient light.

When I got to the opening at the bottom of the dam, and I could see I was a little late in getting there, but I still had time.

I took the steep dirt path through the tall grass to the south-eastern corner area of the lake. The ‘flea and tick season’ phrase kept repeating itself in my head.

I finally reached the dirt road at the top, panting heavily and thinking that I should have brought along a second water bottle, while the jogger I had seen earlier, passed by me, and off into the increasing darkness.

Once setup, I could see that most of the sky was clear, but there was a thin bands of clouds, hovering in the distance, just above the treetops, in the northwest sky, right where my compass was aimed at 300°.

I was a little bummed, but as the 30 minute mark began to approach, I did see a bright spot right where it should be, and not moving. Could this be one of the planets?

I took numerous pictures of the sunset, and rising ‘planet’, and then started to focus my attention on the various fishing boats with lights, motoring silent around the lake.

Light Fishing at MCSP
Light Fishing at MCSP

As one boat crossed in front of me, I heard –

“You can not take his picture. He is in the witness relocation program.”

Followed by chuckles from the boat.

Responding back, with a smiling tone, I said that my camera did not have the resolution, and that they were going to fast.

Little do they know… Tee hee…

I also followed the various airplanes crossing my vision. It did not seem like a very busy night, especially compared to other times I have stood in the boating parking lot, staring up into the night sky on other photography expeditions.

As 9:30 approached, and fending off the mosquitoes was becoming impossible, I packed up, crossing over the rest of the dam, turning sharply to my left, and down the diagonal road.

Jupiter and Venus over Marsh Creek State Park
Jupiter and Venus over Marsh Creek State Park

Walking next to the marshy area, I saw fireflies signaling their presence, and at the bottom, I could see that I was going to need my headlamp, as I started back into the darker section of the road. I had not been here before at night, so I did not know what I might encounter.

When the light flashed on, I was greeted by a thin fog that reflexed back the bright light, making it more difficult to see. I turned the lamp down, be it did not help. Maybe next time, I’ll get the headlamp with multi-colors.

Finally, I reached the brown swinging gate at the top of the trail, and headed into the parking lot, where I threw my gear into the car, and headed home.

Note to Self – Next time, bring two water bottles and bug spray…

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After processing several series of images, it seems that I might have ‘caught’ Venus and Jupiter in my captures, with Jupiter being just too faint to see with the naked eye.

We’ll try again in 2026!

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Astronomy, Photography & Marsh Creek SP

During the past several CCPaPhoto meetups, one of the more common questions has been –

Where is it legal for Astronomy and Photography types allowed to group during the night?

I finally sent an email to “PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources” asking…

A couple of days later, I got the following back –

“The park manager said that basically any approved parking lot can be used at night – the Dorlan Mill lot, the west side lot, or the Chalfant Rd. lot. Just make sure that no one is parking on the grass, or blocking a gate!”

which is great news, especially with the Summer months coming up!

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Lyrid meteor showers

Lightning Boat
Lightning Boat

I had been publishing details about this event for several days on both Facebook and Google+…

and I was also hoping, that this being the third time, it was going to be a charm for the Chester County PA Photography group…

A hardy group gathered on this Sunday night (4/21)…  the temps in the low 40s, with a slight breeze… to bear witness to the fable Lyrid meteor showers…

  • Shannon Chambers McMahon
  • Margaret Smith Reif
  • Daniel Potter
  • Brian Arters
  • Andrew Seymour

Around 20:30 PM, we setup our camp of tripods, near the middle of the parking lot, on the Boat Launch side of Marsh Creek State Park, and started to peer North-East, looking for the elusive light trails in the night sky.

We knew that the constellation Lyra would be rising around 22:00 PM, and the darkest hours where hours away, at 03:37 AM Monday (4/22), just before the moonset…

A potentially long ‘school’ night for the Parents…

Group Picture of Light Painting
Group Picture of Light Painting

Light Painting

During the general chatter of a meet-up, someone mentioned that they had sparklers with them… knowing, that I have been wanting to do a Light Painting session!

With giddy delight, we lit some of the sparklers, and started to trace words and shapes in the night air.

With a little further guidance, the apprentices took over, and the light ‘markers’ began to dance in the darkness.

Lightning Signature
Lightning Signature

And we experimented!

  • Sparklers – A tried and true favorite of every celebration!
  • LED Head Lamp into Glass Jar –  Please Post the “Heart Beat”
  • LED Flood Light – The magic marker of the night

Many ideas and jokes were tossed about as folks tried different things in an effort to capture something new and different.

Finally, as the Phillies baseball game ended, the last of the group backed up and headed home!

Light Logo
Light Logo

Once again, no new discoveries in the skies of Chester County, but Light Painting maybe the next big thing!

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No Super Moon – Still had a good time!

120505 Super Moon 007
120505 Super Moon 007

Last Thursday, May 3rd, Nina Downing Cazille posted on the Chester County PA Photography Facebook page, a Yahoo! News story, that suggested on Saturday night, that not only was the Super Moon going to be visible, possibly Saturn and maybe a dusting from Halley’s comet!

There was some spirited discussion on who might attend, and much speculation about the weather, since much of the past week or so, has been very cloudy and rainy.

When I woke up on Saturday morning, and looked out the window, only to find the skies still thickly clouded.

This was not good.

With coffee in hand, I went to the Chester County PA Photography page, and started a new thread, trying to finalize the details for our rather impromptu meet-up, later in the night.

Throughout the day, I kept looking at the sky, and try to figure out which way the clouds were moving.

In the mid-afternoon, I took both my kids down to East Ward elementary school, to burn off some energy in preparation for the evening, and when we started to leave, I was beginning to see increasingly larger sections of blue sky, which was very encouraging for a night of photographing the Super Moon.

By the time dinner had been prepared and consumed, the cloudy skies had returned.

Just before I left, I quickly checked the radar for clouds, and the hourly animation strongly suggested that there were big clear pockets of clear sky, coming down from the north, and would be over us within an hour or so.

Using Creek Road (Rt. 282), I got to the boating side of Marsh Creek State Park, within 20 minutes, and was able to find easy parking because many people were already packing up and leaving for the night.

After parking, I started to get my gear, but hesitated from getting it all out, because I still feared that no one was going to show up.

When I reached the predetermined meeting point, I was very delighted and relieved to see several other people standing there with their cameras!

  • Nina Downing Cazille
  • Shannon Chambers McMahon
  • Tony Babcock
  • Elaine Erwin-Babcock
  • I know I am missing some folks!

It was very nice to know that I am not the only crazy one!

After the various introductions, I headed back to my car, and grabbed my gear, heading back to the group to setup for the rest of the evening.

As the night wore one, we talked about various topic, and exchanged various stories about photography, family and life.

We also tried to identify which towns were glowing against the sky line, as well as experimenting with flashes and flash-lights.

At 23:35, when perigee finally arrived, the clouds were still as thick as when we started, but it did seem a little brighter, which could also have been from us standing in the dark for the past three and half hours.

It was not long after, that we packed up our gear, said our good byes and headed home. In reading the subsequent posts on the Facebook page, it seems that everyone had a good time!

– Andrew
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2010 Winter Solstice – Lunar Eclipse

Winter Solstice - Lunar Eclipse - Composit 01
Winter Solstice-Lunar Eclipse - Composit 01

It was a cold early morning with a steady wind blowing across the area, but the night sky was crisp and cloud free!

While waiting for the event to start, I was reading various Facebook posts from friends talking about how the clouds in their area where making in nearly impossible to see the moon.

I was also using “The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE)” software program to figure out a particular capture I had in my mind.

Finally, at about 1am, I packed up my car with my camera bag, tripod and extra clothing, and set off to my secret location.

Driving to my location was very easy, and I was surprised not to see many people out looking into the sky.

After getting to “my” location, and setting up, I realized, “my shoot” was not going to happen with the event occurring nearly straight over head.

Oh well, I was going to get some picture no matter what.

What really surprised me was how bright the moon was!

I did take a few early shoots from “my secret location”, but then packed up and headed back home because the wind was cutting right through me.

At home, I setup again, but used the garage to block some of the wind, and I was able to go inside to warm up a little between captures, and have a beer!

Initially, I was able to shoot at ISO100 at 1/15-1/80 in the ƒ8-11 range, but by the full eclipse, I had to push the CCD sensory speed up to ISO1600, and focusing was becoming very difficult.

By 3am, I packed up for the morning, and went inside.

I was too tired to download my images, and went to bed.

After a night to recover, I finally transferred my 150+ images my computer, and used Adobe Lightroom to sort though all of them.

Even with a tripod, I was able to notice, the wind moved the camera just enough to cause many rejects.

I ended up shooting a 50:1 ratio, which is not very good, but if I had been using traditional film, I would have gone broke with processing charges!

Yeah Digital!

I did spend some time looking on Flickr to see what others had captured before I created my final composite, and finally posted everything to my “2010 Winter Solstice – Lunar Eclipse” Flickr set.


NASA – “Eclipses During 2010

Flickr group – Lunar Eclipse December 21 2010

– Andrew
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