Monday, December 20, 2010

Tired of all the rain!

I am getting way restless!

So, while couped up in the house today, I spent some time digging through my boxes of photos, looking for my box of slides. I finally found them. Then I scanned a few.

I "bought" a scanner about two months ago. Since I don't have much spare money laying around, I used frequent flyer miles. I actually lucked out, in that it was "marked down," and cost about 10,000 fewer miles than I thought it would cost. It still cost nearly as much as a round trip coach ticket. But since I can't afford to rent a car or pay for a hotel room after I got where ever a ticket would take me, I have instead been converting my miles into things like restaurant gift cards and the scanner. (I did use a bunch of miles back in September to take me to a professional conference in Washington, DC).

Scanning slides is a surprisingly slow process. If I knew how slow it was, I might not have bought a scanner. It works out to about five minutes a slide or negative. No way I'll have the patience to work through the thousands of pictures I have on slides or negative, but I'll probably try to get at least a few of my favorites scanned.

The first thing I wanted to get scanned were my Halley's Comet pictures. I took these back in 1986. They're actually taken on print film (Kodak's VR1000), but I had them processed at a place called Seattle Film Works. They used to be a major mail order firm that was pretty cheap and could give you both prints, slides, and your negatives back. Somewhere in my house, I still have the negatives. In the meantime, I DO have the slides, so I was able to scan a few.

On longer exposures, VR1000 had a very distinctive reddish tint. Of course, back in the day, most film did something a little weird when you took long exposures. In the case of Comet Halley, I'm talking about 30-60 seconds, with either 35mm or 50mm lenses. The camera was sitting on a standard photographic tripod. With that setup, 45 seconds is about as long as you could take before the stars start to trail too noticeably.

The first picture would have been taken in March 1986. At the time, Halley was rising in the early morning hours, and located near the constellations Sagittarius. If you follow the comet's tail, you might notice it points to the "handle" of the Teapot of Sagittarius. Further off, to the right of the spout, you're looking to the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Halley was naked-eye visible (but far from striking). This was from Anza-Borrego State Park.

The second picture was taken a few moments later, with a slightly longer lens and slightly longer exposure. You can see the stars starting to trail a little bit more, but the longer exposure shows more tail length.

The third one was taken several weeks (or possibly months) later. I don't remember when, although if I wanted to, I could look up the data. At this time, Halley, was high in the sky later in the evening. I drove out to Joshua Tree with a bunch of friends. We stopped at a pavilion, and ate a midnight snack in the dark. I mounted my camera on my telescope tripod and took longer (several minute) unguided shots. Halley was much dimmer then, but still easy in binoculars or a small telescope.


  1. That's cool how many stars turned out in those old pictures. I vaguely remember Halley's comet as a kid. I remember there was all this hype, and the comet was hardly visible. I think my brothers and I took the telescope we had onto our driveway and tried looking at it.

  2. I am old enough to have grown up at a time when 1986 seemed impossibly far off. I spent years looking forward to the return of Halley's Comet. It had left a real mark on the world because its last appearance was so spectacular. The earth actually passed through its tail. With its regular, once-in-a-lifetime clockwork, seeing it seemed like a chance to connect with a large chunk of recorded history.

    Unfortunately, the 1986 apparition was pretty poor. When it was closest to the sun (and, therefore, brightest), it was far from the earth, and way down in the south. It was easy naked eye in spring 1986, but not spectacular. On the other hand, any sort of magnification (even a telephoto lens, and definitely binoculars) made its otherworldy nature obvious.

    The sad thing is that the next return of Halley's Comet will be even worse, so even if I were to make it to 2062 or whatever, it will be tough for my old-man eyes of the future to make anything out.

  3. Funny, when the apparition was occurring, people were saying 2062 would be poor. Now, they're saying it'll be great. Still a moot point for me, though.