All photos and text by John Woike / The Hartford Courant
I spent most of May on the Picture Desk at the Courant, a job we all share as our duties get spread among those that remain at the oldest continuously newspaper in the country. It sure feels good to be back in the field.
Today was a transit of Venus, a rare astronomical event that will not happen again until December 11, 2117. Overcast skies across the state caused the website at the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium at Yale to post a message stating the likelihood of viewing the transit would be poor. That didn’t stop over three hundred people who came out to witness the event, they were not disappointed when the clouds broke. I’m grateful for being able to have witnessed this since I’m sure I won’t be around the next time it passes Earth.
When I arrived the clouds were packed in and greyish but there was a buzz as the crowd began to gather around 4pm. The staff at the observatory were kind enough to loan me an 8″ neutral density filter that they use on some of their telescopes, it worked perfect. Not sure what my exposure was since I was rapidly changing the shutter as the clouds rolled past but my best guess is around 2000 ISO, f2.8 @ 1/1000th shutter. I used shutter priority as the camera setting. This image was shot with a 400/f2.8, on a tripod and then cropped in Photoshop afterward.
After taking a few shots of the Sun and Venus I turned my attention to the crowd that was in amazement as the sun went in and out of the clouds. While I was packing up my lens Jason Archer had picked up the neutral density filter I was using and began to view the transit. I first met Jason on another assignment at the planetarium at the Connecticut Children’s Museum in West Hartford a few years ago. I love how the sky is reflected in the filter, a group of people wearing eclipse or neutral density glasses leaned in while trying to get a view and the clouds behind them are dark and ominous. The contrast works beautifully.
Rabbi Avi Hack holds his son Tzvi Yehuda Hack, 5, up to the telescope so he can get a better view while a line of people wait their turn.
Scott Bombroski of Wallingford, a member of the Astronomical Society of New Haven, demonstrates how a “Sunspotter” works to a small group of people. The image of the Sun and Venus past through a lens on the front then get reflected off a series of mirrors until it shows on a piece of paper at the bottom of the triangular device.
(L to R) Simon Jacobs of New Haven and Laurie Guenther of Meriden stood outside one of the observation telescope rooms at the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium in New Haven to get a better view of the transit. The two didn’t know one another before tonight but they, like many that attended the event, started talking about the beauty of the night and how lucky they were to have witnessed it.
Pro Tip: It paid off getting to the assignment early, even though the weather forecast was not cloudy skies, it gave me a chance to talk with the staff at the observatory which eventually led to me being able to use a neutral density filter they had, it proved to be very fruitful. Patience, patience, patience. Waiting can be frustrating but when you hold out hope for a break, sometimes your wishes are answered.
Cameras used – Nikon D300s and D300. Lens – 17-55/f2.8, 70-200/f2.8 and a 400/f2.8. Metering set Matrix and camera set on shutter priority.