Friday, October 22, 2010

Shooting the Moon

 I've always enjoyed nighttime photography but I've never had the advantage of a telescope. So I always made do with a camera. My current model, a Canon SX20IS is perfectly suited to "shooting the moon" and I've been following the phases through the last couple of weeks. Now that we've passed full, I'll not be getting up later and later to follow what's ahead ... but it's not much different than what's behind.

 This moon is 3.2 days old. If you'd like to see how the "age" of the moon is figured, follow this link. There isn't a whole lot visible when the moon is this young but I like the earthy coloration at this stage.

 A 5.2 day old moon begins to cast some light and even with a camera and a zoom (about 20x), you can see some craters.

 I've opened the shutter up a bit and a 6.8 day old moon shows lots of pock-marks. The two "mares" (seas) at the top right are Serenity (top) and Tranquility (bottom). The latter is where the first moon landing took place in July 1969 (Apollo 11).

 A moon that's 8.2 days old shows a wide assortment of craters along the terminator. Hanging in a clear, jet black sky, the moon never fails to fascinate me. How lucky we are to have a moon! I watch its shadow creep across my bedroom walls many nights and I am happiest when I can see it.

 At 9.2 days, the moon shows its best face. I love to watch the craters at the lower left become visible and then begin to fade again as they are lit head-on when the moon is full. Unlike lovers, a full moon isn't of much interest to photographers; it's too flat and featureless.

 And a 12.2 day old moon is close enough to full that I begin to lose some interest. Only Tycho, the prominent crater at the bottom with the "rays" extending northward, shows much relief.
 Last night (10/21) I watched the sun set and the moon rise at the same time, proof of the moon being full. It's like a teeter totter. The sun presses down on the western side and the moon pops up on the east. It was a brilliantly clear night and the moon seemed a floodlight across my bed. A neighbor's dog loves the full moon and never ceases to celebrate it with his howls.
 Follow this link for a wonderful atlas of the moon.

A Day's End

 The air was still pleasant as I stepped outside at about sunset and walked across the field to our east. Because the moon was close to full, it was opposite the sun and was rising at the sun set. I was hoping for a few clouds to help bring the sunset shades to light and even looking east, through the mostly blue sky, I could see those slight wisps of moisture that promised to give the sky color. It is not perfection that makes a scene - that is boring - but imperfection that brings out the best of the world.
 And so, with a rising moon on one hand, I turned and walked back towards Pinehaven and looked to the western sky instead.

 There, above the cut corn, were the tenuous clouds waiting for ignition, ready for the fire of sunset. The ice crystal cirrus, common "mares tail" clouds, streaked the entire sky and began, as both the sun and the temperature dropped, to come alive with pastel color.

 Minutes later a jet contrail, one of many, coursed through the sky, a still-white plume in the sun's direct rays. But look below as the sky begins to glow with pinks, warm reds and oranges and gold.

 And but a few minutes more and the telltale red of the setting sun now casts that warmer light on the jet, too. The pure light of the sun is angled ever higher as I, down here in the field, stand in chilling shadow.

 Now the true colors of sunset take over. The sun is well below the horizon and the strip of orange becomes thinner. The blue above returns; the cirrus are lit by red as night approaches.

 But zooming in on the tree to the left, that sky is still afire. The embers are still alive; the sky is awash with gold.

 Moving back, the clouds and contrails do their job, offer themselves up to reflection. It is like looking at a golden plate, held to the light and almost too bright for mere eyes.

 At sunset's peak, the bright oranges fade and reds begin to appear. Night comes pressing down from above. The corn stubble at my feet darkens and my steps must be more carefully placed. The nighttime animals begin to stir while the birds take to their roost. All is silent.

 When I cross the field and again step onto my own property, I look back towards the sun, through our row of pines, and see night falling like a curtain. The pines become mere silhouettes.

 Finally, as I approach the house, the moon has grown brighter and competes with the maple for attention. In the day, the maple with its fire-engine leaves takes your breath away. But now, as it fades in darkness, the moon commands my last view.
 "Where have you been?" Dad asks as I step back into the warm house. I had planned no more than a short walk across the road to watch the sun set behind Pinehaven. But I had become so taken by the spectacle that time had slipped away. I pull off my jacket, put away my shoes and smile at my absolute good fortune.

 The world turns. Day slides into night. It is all good. Tomorrow it will all begin anew.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Here's the Church and Here's the Steeple

 Time for a childhood dream to come true!

 I can remember asking my father, time and again, to take me up in the steeple of the St. Jacob Lutheran Church in Miamisburg. This wasn't a one-time request but something I repeated over and over. It's also something I never got to do and Dad is now too old. But sometimes dream do come true, only later.
 A note from Dan Poffenberger, a former Miamisburg High School grad with me (1967), made the offer. Pick a time, I'll take you up, he said. Today was that day.

 Hard to believe these windows go back to the 19th century. There is history in every turn.

Begun in 1861, the church was dedicated in 1864. Notable dates were a Good Friday service in 1865, the date of Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Then, the Easter Sunday service two days later. Just finished with the Civil War, the people must have knelt in these pews and wondered if the carnage would ever end.

 This plaque is above the font door of the church, noting the 1861 genesis of the building.

 An exterior view of the building (from the rear, facing southeast), shows the steeple in the front. In my opinion, this is Miamisburg's crowning glory.
 Have a look at this shot! Taken in the 1890's (they think) and stored in the church, a glass plate negative was found with this image upon it. Yes, there's a man standing atop the steeple! Imagine holding on up there, fifteen stories above the ground!

 Don't believe it? Here's a view of just the top of the steeple cropped for greater resolution.

 So here's one of the early openings as we moved upward through the steeple. Dan stuck his head through and told me to go on (he's had a hip replaced).

While still in the bricked section above the main part of the church is an old bell, first cast in 1839 (below). It was made at the John T. Miller foundry in Miamisburg. According to church historian, Kim Izor, "When first cast. the bell was not successful because a flaw marred the tone."
 Silver was suggested as a way to improve the sound and so church members collected "silver spoons, candlestick holders, tea sets, silver coins and jewelry." The bell was recast into a "high treble bell."

And here's a shot with flash added:

 Through a louvered window, this is the view looking north. The Miamisburg Civic Center can be seen on the left. The rope which passes in front of the window is probably due to renovation work being done on the steeple. It was leaking.

 Still in the section with bricks contracted for in 1862, the wood superstructure extends above. The entire steeple tops out at 150 feet, the highest building in Miamisburg. How many bricks does it take to build a church? This one took 336,000. They cost $5 per 1000.

 This is as high as I got as the ladders ran out! It is now an all-wood structure and becomes narrow quickly. Who knows where I actually was? I believe I had passed the set of louvers on the steeple itself so there's no doubt I was quite high.

 And so a dream is realized! That's one to check off the bucket list.

Note: the story continues here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

First Frosty Morn

 Over night. I knew the temperature was falling, even lower than predicted. How? The furnace (a heat pump) ran longer than usual. I remember waking up about 2:30 a.m. and I heard the compressor (which is below my south bedroom window) whining away. It seemed that I lay awake for an hour and a half before I heard it cycler off. But Dad says no, it cycled at 3 a.m. I must have fallen asleep for a short while. You can't trust a sleepy brain.
 Then, too, sometime during the night I pulled my blanket high and followed it with a throw I keep on my feet. It felt good. I knew it was getting fairly cold (we don't have the second floor furnace turned on at all).

 When at last the sun rose - about 8 a.m. - I was standing on the north lawn waiting for it. I watched as the orange glow spread across the horizon and then the first rays scatter across the sky. Within mere minutes the sun had risen high enough to cast long shadows across the cold wet grass at my feet. In this shot, the field of cut corn is lit by the early rays ... low, long and orange as hot coals. But it was all a hoax; the air was a chilly freezing.

 As proof, walk with me to the western edge of our property and gaze upon this corn stubble, white with frost ... frozen! A light fog lays wispy above the corn and is pushed about by the weight of mere sunlight. Not a breath of air is stirring.
 And so the first frost - though very light - was recorded on 10/16/10 this year. The date of the average first frost (through 36 years of my own records) was 10/04; it is now pushed later to 10/06 by this later date. Cold weather and frost is late this year. Will that signal lower heating costs this winter?
 I marvel at the difference between an eastern gaze and a western one. The one gives a warm glow; the other a cold shoulder. Our view of the world is artificial. It is modified sometimes by merely turning around.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gatlinburg Hike

 Each year my brother and his friend, Sam Owens, travel to Gatlinburg, Tennessee for a hike and R&R. This year they were able to share pictures daily and I've posted them all here with a brief caption. They left on Wednesday, October 6 and they're returning today, Sunday, October 10. In fact he's already sent a text message that they're on the way (8:30 a.m.). I suppose the trip was preceded by a visit to the famous Pancake Pantry, a place I dearly love but have not been able to visit for many years. Wow, French Toast with homemade cinnamon syrup: it can't be beat!

 First here's Sam with some snow showing. Apparently as much as 3" fell in some parts of the mountains.

 Here's a view from Mt. LeConte.

 Mt. LeConte cabins

Snow on cabin roofs at Mt. LeConte

 Unusual root formation

 Sam on the trail

 Rock formation

Bob on Mt. LeConte

Sam at Andrew's Bald

Bob at Andrew's Bald

Friday, October 8, 2010

Another Mailbox Bites the Dust

 I was sound sleep last night at 11:30 p.m. when I heard a horrendous crash and raised myself on my pillow so I could look at the window facing Clayton Road. I knew what I had heard; our mailbox getting smashed. It was too late to do anything about it so I laid back down and listened to the car (or more likely truck) zoom away in the distance, gunning the engine all the while. The neighbor's dog, which had finally quieted, began barking non-stop.
 This morning, while I was brushing my teeth, I looked out towards Sam's lane and saw his grandson, Jared, placing his mailbox back beside the road. Now, with daylight, I looked out the window to see ours and saw only a hole in the ground!

 When I finally got dressed and went out, here's what I found. The post had been smashed and pulled wholly from the ground. Even the mailbox was mangled. So, I grabbed a hammer and nails and a shovel and went out to work beside the road rather than get my other scheduled tasks done.
 The post is shattered but I managed to press-fit the pieces together long enough to get some nails driven in. I used a couple of logs from our woodpile as a sawhorse. The mailbox is again vertical and will accept today's mail but it's a bit of a mess. Splinters of wood are hanging out. Nothing is straight. And though I bent the mailbox back into a reasonable shape, you have to close the door carefully and line it up with the box.
 Naturally I called the police and a patrolman came and took a report. He showed me where the car, traveling north, was off the road from Sam's property and through the edge of our front yard. "I imagine he was drunk and hurrying home. Kids don't usually hit mailboxes with their car because they don't want to damage them," he said. Baseball bats are the weapon of choice.
 We lose about one mailbox per year and it often happens about the time school starts. School nights are less likely than weekend nights, though. In any case, we're back together ... somewhat. But where is the regard for personal property and individual responsibility? I suppose both have been missing from our lives for a long time.