Josef “Jeff” Sipek

First Attempt at Food Photography

Yesterday evening, I decided that making dinner and photography should be combined more often. As a result, I dragged my camera, the 70-200mm zoom, the flash, and the tripod to the kitchen to try my hand at taking some photos of scrambled eggs—or to be more specific, scrambled eggs as they were cooking.

The fully extended tripod left the Arca-Swiss plate about nose-level. With the D750 with the 70-200mm on top, the LCD on the camera was just above my head. The swiveling LCD on the camera was rather useful and made it significantly easier to review test shots, and mess with the flash output.

As far as the food itself is concerned, I prepared two bowls—one with five cracked eggs, and the other with some shredded ham slices and swiss cheese slices.

Here is a (terrible) diagram showing the setup from above to better explain it.

The four-circle thing in the middle is the stove, with the skillet on the bottom right burner (the scribble with a handle sticking out). The camera on the tripod is in the bottom right corner of the diagram. To the left of the stove is the flash. It’s on top of a cardboard box that the 70-200mm came in. Above the stove is a stove hood with a couple of lights pointing down at the stove top.

I used a wooden spatula in the otherwise empty skillet to have something to focus on. After I got the focus right where I expected the food to be, I switched to manual focus. In the process of taking those test shots, I ended up concluding that I need both the flash and the stove hood and kitchen lights to get something resembling the right kind of lighting. Of course the kitchen light color temperature did not match the flash, so I grabbed the orange gel and put it on the flash. (This is the first time I used a gel on a flash!) It worked.

It was time to start cooking! Once the bacon grease on the skillet got hot enough, I poured the eggs in, and quickly moved to the camera to get some more test shots—to make sure that the exposure, focus, and composition were good. I ended up tweaking the focus and flash output.

After I scrambled the eggs a little, I dumped the ham and cheese on top and moved it around a bit to avoid a large mountain of ham and cheese. Then it was time to go back to the camera—to get the final shots.

Even though I was zoomed in near 200 mm, I ended up cropping significantly to get the shot I wanted. I suppose this would have been a good time to use a macro lens (which I do not have).

I set up a gallery for my food photography, but so far the only image there is the one above. Obviously, this means that I have to take more food photos. :)

Sunset over Mount Monadnock

Back at the end of June, I hiked up the nearby Gibbet Hill in Wikipedia article: Groton to watch the sunset and get some nice shots of the western sky. (gallery)

Both times I went, I arrived about 20 minutes before the sunset, and got situated. Once the actual sunset started happening, it was a matter of a minute or two before the sun was gone.

Just before sunset @ 24mm:

Sunset @ 70mm:

The peak that the sun sat behind is Wikipedia article: Mount Monadnock—about 50 km from Groton.

I took a couple of panorama shots. I like this one the best (6 shots):

While hiking up the hill, I spotted this tree against the colorful sky. I had to get a silhouette:

I was surprised at how little time the entire trip took. From leaving the house to getting back, it was about 70 minutes. This is certainly a quick photo shoot compared to the day-long trips like the one to Boston in early June ([1,2,3]).

Stellafane (2016)

Last weekend we drove to Wikipedia article: Springfield, VT to attend the Stellafane Convention. In short, it’s two and a half days of camping, astronomy and telescope making talks, and of course observing. I brought my camera (D750), two lenses (24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8), and a tripod. Over the two and a half days, I ended up taking 400 shots of just about everything of some interest. I post processed about 60 and created a gallery. I’m going to include only some in this post, so make sure to check out the gallery for more shots that just didn’t fit the narrative here.

Thursday

Thursday was mainly about arriving in the late afternoon, setting up the tent, and doing some observing once it got dark. Photography-wise, my primary goal for Thursday was to get some sky images at 24mm. I tried some long exposure (657 seconds) to get some star trails:

There was a decent number of people walking around with red lights (so as not to destroy night vision), so a number of my shots ended up with some red light trails near the ground. (That’s that wobbly red line.)

I also took a decent amount of short exposures (10-16 seconds). At 24mm on the D750, 13 seconds seems to be just about when stars start to turn into trails.

This is the only staged shot—I intentionally left one of our red flashlights on in the tent to provide something interesting in the foreground.

Here is our tent-neighbor and friend looking up at the sky. He didn’t actually know that I was taking a shot of the milky way, and I didn’t realize that he managed to sneak into the frame. The trees got lit up by some joker driving around with headlights on. I expected that to ruin the shot, but it actually worked out pretty well.

Friday

Friday is the first full day. I started it by hiking to the other side of the site, which not only sports a nice view, but also nonzero phone and data coverage:

The original club house is there as well in all its pink glory:

The last, but not least, building there is the turret solar telescope:

Right next to it is the location of the amateur telescope contest. Yes, people build their own telescopes and enter them into a competition to see whose is the best. This year, the most eye grabbing (in my opinion) was a pair of scaled down reconstructions of the 8-inch Alvan Clark refractor. Here’s one of them:

I couldn’t resist taking a couple of close-up shots:

Heading back toward the main site, I walked past the observatory set up in such a way as to be handicap accessible:

After a breakfast, it was time to go off to the mirror making tent. I think that every year, there is a series of talks and demos about how to make your own telescope mirror.

The speaker letting an attendee give mirror grinding a try:

And a close-up of the eventually-to-be-mirror on top of the grinding tool:

Fine grinding demo using a glass grinding tool instead of the plaster one:

After lunch, there was a series of talks about a lot of different topics—ranging from digital imaging, to “crowd-sourced” occultation timing.

Between talks, I noticed that one of the attendees erected Federation flags in front of his tent:

Once night rolled around, it was time for more observing. I took a number of milky way shots. They all look a bit similar, with the only real difference being what is in the foreground. Of all of them from this night, I think this is my favorite—there were a couple of people standing around a telescope talking with their flashlights on.

Saturday

The second full day of the convention began with mechanical judging of the telescopes.

Somehow, I ended up drawn to the twin-scopes; here’s another detail shot. You can see a little bit of motion blur of the governor:

The day program was similar to Friday’s—the mirror making talks and after lunch a set of talks on various topics.

The evening program consisted of the keynote, raffles, competition results, and other customary presentations. The sky was completely covered with clouds till about 1am at which point it started to be conducive to stargazing. Oh well. Two clear nights out of three is pretty good.

Sunday

Sunday is all about packing up and heading home. During breakfast time, I ended up walking around a bit and I got this image—with the food tent in the foreground, the handicap accessible observatory near the background, and the McGregor observatory with a Schupmann telescope in the very background.

So, that’s how I spent the last weekend. I’m already plotting and scheming my next astrophotography adventure.

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