DOH! Lesson Learned!

So, how did it go with YOUR pictures of the Venus transit? Mine? Don’t ask!

In my post on Sunday, I said I was going to try something a little different and photograph the transit just as I do when shooting sunstars. I had this vision of a tiny black spec on the face of the blazing sun. The weather cooperated beautifully, with nice clouds that had plenty of openings for the sun. I headed up on the Blue Ridge Parkway to a favorite overlook  and shot the first image.

Sun star on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Sunstar above layered mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway


See that tiny black spec on the sun? Neither do I. For over 2 hours I tried to photograph that dang planet, but nothing I tried worked. I suspected that the sun’s brightness was just too much to allow Venus to show up, so I tried shooting at ridiculously scant exposures, like 1/8000 sec, stopped down all the way, and ISO 100. Still no Venus.

I headed to another overlook in the Smokies, where I kept trying with no success. A few minutes before sunset, Paul Hassell, a friend of mine, showed up with his lovely bride Nora and started shooting the transit. Well, I’ll be danged if he didn’t capture the transit right off! I was not a happy camper, to say the least, especially since he wasn’t doing anything differently than I was. I walked back to my camera and tried again, and there it was!

My suspicion about the sun’s brightness was correct. Only when the sun had gotten close enough to the horizon was the brightness level low enough that I could capture the transit. The first shot where I got it was at 1/8000 sec, f/40, and ISO 100. Fifteen seconds before I made that shot, I took one at 1/8000, f/32, and ISO 400 and Venus didn’t show up. This was only a few minutes before sunset, so there was no way I was going to get that black spec on my sunstar image! As the sun got very close to the horizon, it got darker and I could open the exposure more. I shot the image posted below at 1/500, f/22, ISO 100.

Transit of Venus

Venus transits the sun


So, as it turned out, I ended up making a photo just like everyone else’s. (I did shoot a wider-angle view that included the landscape, bracketing exposures widely. I’ll work on blending those in Photoshop when I get a chance.) Had I known what was going to happen, I would have scouted a better location, perhaps somewhere that I could silhouette another object in front of the sun to add extra impact.

Oh well, the important thing is that I got out there and tried,  learning  a lesson along the way. Come 2117, when the next transit of Venus occurs, I’ll be ready!

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