There were two events I wanted to try to photograph this evening. One was an Iridium flare which was to occur near the star Sirius. It was predicted to be mag -8.1, one of the brightest and I definitely wanted a pic. The other event was the appearance of Comet Pan-STARRS.
The flare was to occur almost exactly at 7:30 pm. When I finally noticed that the time was almost upon me, I had only about four minutes to rush my camera and tripod outside and get it set up and pointed in the right direction. A friend stood nearby as I framed the camera just to the east of Sirius and made sure the lens was in focus. I then turned on the camera and was greeted by a message on the view screen…”No card present.” On, no! I had removed the card earlier in the day to transfer some files to my laptop and left the card in the computer’s slot. So, I ran into the house and retrieved the card. By this time, I had less than a minute before the scheduled flare. I tried desperately to get the card into the camera, but fumbled it and watched it fall between the boards of the wooden deck on which we were standing. “Shit!” I yelled and ran into the house to get another card. As I was racing back outside, I heard my friend, who was standing patiently by the camera and tripod, yell, “Oh, man, that was great!” “What?” I asked as I ran to the camera. “The flare,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It was so bright!”
Damn, I missed it. But, there was still the comet. By now, the sky had darkened enough in the west that I thought it surely must be visible. I looked though my 7×50 binoculars and, after 2 or 3 minutes trying to locate it, I finally spotted it. Trouble was, there were several dark clouds nearby and they all were slowly drifting toward the comet. I quickly changed lenses on the camera and zoomed in on the comet using 200mm. I fired off a 3 second exposure and then checked the pic on the camera’s monitor screen. I had forgotten to set the focus. I reoriented the camera toward Jupiter and focused in, then quickly moved back to the comet. It was disappearing behind one of the slow-moving clouds. So, I waited. And waited. Meanwhile, my friend had wandered back into the house to check on the pizza that was cooking in the oven. Still, I waited but the cloud was not moving. Maybe, I thought, the comet will drift toward the horizon far enough to clear the cloud. So, I waited some more. Another cloud, slightly lower than the one currently hiding the comet, drifted under the cloud obscuring the comet. I knew then that I was doomed. No photos of the comet tonight.
So, I bombed out on two events this evening. One because I had not prepared far enough in advance and one because of Mother Nature interfering with my plans.
I have to work on the first issue and make sure I allow enough prep time when I venture outside. The other problem, Mother Nature, I just have to live with.