Thursday, April 21, 2016
Sometimes it just doesn't pay to climb to the top of a tall hill.
On Tuesday, I had to go in to the school to teach at 5 PM. The sky was clear blue, and the near-full moon was starting to climb over the volcano. When I got back out at 7, the sky was dark and the moon was shining pretty brightly. Wednesday, the weather was good and I figured I'd try hiking to the top of Shiroyama hill to the observation point and shoot a time-lapsed video of the moon. Unfortunately, when I got up there and could finally see Sakurajima, the conditions were less than ideal. There was a heavy haze around the island, and clouds coming in from the south and southwest. I set the tripod up anyway, and started the big camera shooting at 30 second intervals. This pointed out a second problem - the camera wouldn't focus on anything unless it was zoomed way out. Even then, it often complained of not being able to auto-focus as it was taking the interval shots. On top of that, it was auto-adjusting the white balance and over-compensating for the changing lighting conditions. Plus, it was really windy at the top of the hill and the camera kept moving around on the tripod.
In the middle of this, a few older Japanese guys arrived at the observation point, saying that they were there because the International Space Station was going to be visible passing overhead at 7:30. I got pretty excited at that, and figured I'd stay past the point where it was too dark for the time-lapse photos, and see if I could get some stills of the ISS. Unfortunately, the sky got completely overcast at 7 PM, killing any chances of seeing the moon, much less anything smaller. I went back home and spent the evening doing color corrections on the 268 frames of my time-lapse because the pictures I'd gotten were so washed out from the haze.
I may have to wait a month to try again. It rained on Thursday, I have to work on Friday and Saturday, and Sunday will probably be too late to get the shots I want. Everything is going to depend on having pristine air, and a full moon rising at about 5 PM...
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