My March 2013 Photo of the Month is Pan-Starrs, a photograph of the faint but visible comet that visited the Western skies this month.
All eyes were on the Western sky this month as we were visited by a faint but recognizable comet called Pan-Starrs (note: Pan-Starrs is the telescope in Hawaii where it was discovered, so the name is a misnomer since any comet discovered from there could/would have the name attached). The comet’s scientific designation is C/2011 L4.
Many where making great close-up images of the comet. I don’t have a telescope or the sophisticated equipment for that type of photography. I wanted to capture the comet as it appeared in the sky. I chose a location with a lookout looking West that would not be too crowded. This made Mt. Helix and Soledad Mountain out of the question.
My location of chose was in Mission Trails Regional Park in the hills above Tierrasanta. There, I got a great view of the San Diego city lights below, with the Pan-Starrs comet above. While the comet has been visible most of the month, I specifically chose this night because the cresent moon would be setting. This provided another landmark to understand the comet, it’s position in the sky, relative to other phenomena that are easy for the viewer to understand.
This image proudly ran in the San Diego Union Tribune (Thank you to Gary Robbins – note: the link to the page is no longer found).
This photo was taken at dusk, before it was very dark. I focused on the city skyline below. With a long lens, the foreground isn’t always at infinity. While that would make the moon and comet “out of focus,” the focus plane is close enough to infinity that it is barely noticeable.
I think this image is unique to the others made by some great photographers, and I hope it gives the viewer some perspective to what the entire scene looked like. As many of my friends and colleagues know, I also love to use negative space in my compositions. I am happy with the result.
As always, thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy the images.
T.M. Schultze is a San Diego-based photographer, traveller, and writer. He writes, photographs, and draws things of the outdoors that have inspired humans for thousands of years. He co-authored the Photographer’s Guide to Joshua Tree Park which can be purchased here.