Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Venus transits the sun. Time stands still.

Heavenly rarity
London, ON
June 2012

About this photo: We're continuing Thematic's exploration of the natural world. You are, of course, invited. Just follow your mouse here. And enjoy.
As I write this, the planet Venus has now completed its six-ish hour trek - aka the Transit of Venus - across the surface of the sun. It didn't really crawl across the sun's surface, of course. It only seemed that way, as the smog-choked planet made its second of a twice-in-a-lifetime trips directly between our planet and our nearest star. It was like an eclipse, only way the hell cooler.

I was out for dinner with our little man, and we were excitedly talking about how history was taking place in the skies over our heads Right Now. I pulled up some live photos on my BlackBerry and we oohed and aahed for a bit. I'm sure the elderly couple out on a date beside us thought we were a little imbalanced. We smiled meekly at them as we continued our discussion. We looked up the world's oldest folks online - 115 years-old - and figured somewhere in the world there are babies and young children out there who will also lead super-long lives and live to see the next transit in 2117. He thought that was cool. So did I.

Eventually, we finished up, headed home, made nice to the dog, and then I headed to my office to string together a bunch more words, as heavenly show or no heavenly show a deadline awaited me. Then the phone rang: Our friend was a few blocks away, watching the show in the sky. As the sun was going to set in about 15 minutes, it was either now or never. We dropped everything and scooted the few blocks to meet him. Yup, that's me: Responsible dad and journalist. But that whole once-in-a-lifetime thing resonated in my head. So we went.

Admittedly, shooting the scene was a bear and a half. Even at minimum aperture (f40), minimum shutter speed (1/4,000 sec), minimum ISO and minimum exposure compensation (-5 stops), it was still overexposed. So we waited. And waited. And waited some more for the sun to drop toward the horizon. I figured it would soften as it got lower. And I was shockingly right.

Little man excitedly watched the scene through filtered glasses. I rather stupidly composed, focused and exposed the camera away from the sun, then blindly pointed it toward the ginormous gasbag, said a little prayer and tripped the shutter. I kept my eyes closed because going blind would have likely ruined the experience for all of us.

Why did we do this admittedly irrational thing? Because sometimes, you just have to drop all semblance of responsibility and just enjoy the moment. Because had I been a good little soldier and stayed home for the 30 minutes it took us to watch history, it would have been just another night for our son. Thanks to a friend who thought differently, it ended up being a night he'll remember for the rest of his life. May he live long enough to see it again.

Your turn: A time you threw caution to the wind, just because. Please discuss.

Related: Watching our son watch Venus (the meta-photo) - August 27, 2012


kenju said...

And you did it because you are a wonderful dad! That's a great photo, Carmi.

Tabor said...

Great memory with your child!! I will have to think about the last time I threw caution to the wind...although I think it happens every day when I get in my car.

Hilary said...

Wow, Carmi! I'm so impressed. I went out around the same hour but there was some cloud coverage. It made for a colourful sky but nothing more. I was happy with that. I'm thrilled that you were able to capture it. Your boy must be beaming.

A bit late on this subject, but I'm glad we were finally able to connect at Jordan's bar mitzvah.

Life is interesting. :)

Mark said...

Wonderful thing to do, and you got a great shot while sharing it with your son. My son was at the pool with his mom when I concocted my setup to take pictures of the transit. The clouds were killing me, but a few times it peaked out. Here it is, on a Nikon D200, through a 32 year-old sun filter from an old telescope. I taped it in the center of a hole I cut into a circle of four layers of black construction paper, then taped all that over the end of my 200mm (300mm effective) lens. The green cast is from the filter.

fredamans said...

So glad someone got a shot. I tried but couldn't get a worthy keeper. I also couldn't wait till the end of the sunset either... low patience level. :-)

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Nice pic, Carmi.

We had cloud cover here in Columbus, so I didn't have to try. I don't even have any filters, so just as well...And I can still see!

Glennis said...

Wow, that's awesome! Both the fact that you went and the fact that you caught such an amazing photo! And it was the chance of a lifetime!

I was here in Southern California, where the sky was absolutely clear, but my viewing methods weren't up to capturing the phenomenon. The pinhole camera couldn't get sharp enough; the sun's disc through a welder's mask was too small to catch the detail.

Still - I'm glad I tried, and just knowing what was happening up in the sky was part of the magic.

Dianne said...

that is a spectacular photo!!
little man is a lucky little man thanks to you

congrats on POTW

Kerry said...

You did it: got an amazing shot of the transit! Thanks for the directions on how-to. I got a pic too, but nothing like this.

Congrats on the potw.

Anonymous said...

Wow - how amazing and gorgeous.