This Tuesday was the last chance to see a solar transit of Venus in my lifetime (unless I live to be 145, which I plan to do, by the way).
So, being the astrophotography enthusiast that I am, one would figure that I had spent months planning for this event.
Unfortunately, the procrastinator in me took over, and I didn't get my act together until Sunday night, which was too late to acquire the necessary equipment to observe or photograph the transit.
I did have a plan, however.
You may remember that a while ago I built a pinhole lens for my Rebel XT.
I decided to try to photograph the transit "ghetto-style", so I used a paper towel tube to convert my pinhole lens into a telephoto pinhole lens.
I figured that with some experimentation, I might be able to get the image sharp enough to image venus against the glare of the sun.
What follows is a case study in not being prepared, and not thinking things through:
- The transit was set to begin at 6:05pm on Tuesday.
- Angela had a massage scheduled for 7pm, so I had to be home by 6:45pm to take care of Aila.
- I left work at 6pm, and on my way home I stopped by the side of the road to try to take a photo of the sun.
- My first photo attempt was way out of focus. I thought this would happen because my pinhole was too small for the focal length of my ghetto-telephoto lens.
- I continued home to look after Aila so that Angela could go to her massage.
- I took Aila out to the front yard with some paper, cardboard, and a push pin, and tried to build a pinhole camera so that I could at least see the transit with my eyes, but I couldn't get the rig set up properly with Aila climbing all over and crumpling up my sophisticated paper equipment.
- I decided to try photographing the transit again. I used the push pin to enlarge the hole in my telephoto pinhole lens until it looked like I had the sun properly in focus.
- However, now that the hole was bigger, it was letting in too much light, so even at ISO 100 and 1/4000th of a second exposure time, it was too much light and the sun just looked like an overexposed disc.
- Time was running short because I had to get Aila to bed soon, but I really wanted to see the transit.
- On my way home from work, I had seen some photographers set up at Pilkington Overlook, so I quickly packed Aila into the car, threw my camera in the passenger seat, and drove over there.
- As we approached Inverhaugh, I realized that I could probably solve my exposure problems by stacking my neutral density filters together with my circular polarizer.
- Unfortunately, I had left all my filters at home, and Aila was starting to get annoyed so I didn't want to turn back. I hoped that one of the photographers would have some spare filters.
- When we arrived, we met a nice guy named Jansen. He didn't have any neutral density filters, but he did have a telescope with a solar filter on it.
- I wasn't able to take a picture through Jansen's telescope, but after much trial and error he was able to get this incredible shot using his iPod.
- While I was trying to view the transit, Aila had fun playing in the long grass and trying to pull over Jansen's telescope.
- I drove home and got Aila ready for bed. I figured if Angela came home before the sun went down, I would have one more chance to photograph the transit.
- When Angela did get home, she reported that the sun was still in the sky, so I rushed downstairs, grabbed my filters, and ran out the door.
- I couldn't see the sun, but I could see that the water tower still had sunlight on it, so I drove up there. When I got there, the sun was just barely above the horizon.
- I took one test shot without any filters to make sure that my ghetto telephoto pinhole lens was still working properly, and then I held my filters up to take the "money shot". And that is precisely when my battery died.
- In my rush to leave the house, I had grabbed my filters, but I hadn't bothered to grab my spare battery, so I was completely hosed.
- I actually did rush home to get my battery and rushed back to the water tower, but I knew it would be too late, and sure enough, the sun had set by the time I got back. :(
So, I will probably never know if my ghetto telephoto pinhole lens would have worked.
It won't ever be good enough to pick up sunspots or Mercury transits, so I will have to wait 105 years until the next Venus transit to try it again.
From now on I will make sure to bring my entire kit with me when I'm trying to take an important photograph.
If you made it this far through my wall of text, please enjoy Jansen's photograph of the Venus transit of 2012!
Technical details: This photo was taken by Jansen Winkler with his iPod Touch looking through the eyepiece of a telescope with a solar filter.
Cool drama. You can see the full transit by going to the NASA site.-- dad at 12:43am, Monday June 11, 2012 EST
Nice try, Mike! Sorry it didn't work out.
But, um, Venus Transit > massage.-- Aaron at 3:10pm, Monday June 11, 2012 EST
Haha, well I didn't give Angela much notice... I didn't mention it to her until
Sunday. Also, I didn't give it much thought even then because I figured it
would be overcast that day anyway.
As the sky started clearing as the work day was ending, it became a more
desperate and futile struggle on my part to try to get a photo (or even view
If forgot to mention that before I left work that day, I helped Norm set up a
pinhole camera in my office, but I had to leave before the transit started. As
I was at home trying desperately to see the transit, I kept getting text
messages from Norm saying things like: "It looks pretty cool... taking some
pictures and videos of the transit..."
So while I was on my front lawn struggling with crumpled pieces of paper and
cardboard, people were in my office back at work enjoying the transit using a
pinhole camera that I helped build. That is the ultimate reason why I jumped
in the car and drove to Inverhaugh to try to find someone with a telescope.-- Michael at 3:58pm, Monday June 11, 2012 EST
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