Here is a small selection of images from Comet Neowise that I photographed in the past week.
If there is one time to not be an Instagram user, it’s the time when everybody is shooting the exact same thing. A momentary visit from a comet would be one such event.
I created images in two locations. The first was from the Mast Blvd bridge over Santee Lakes near my home. The second was from the Oriflamme overlook on Sunrise Highway in the Laguna Mountains.
Looking At Neowise Differently
The last thing I wanted to do was focus on shooting a close-up. Other people have much longer lenses than me. And like lunar eclipses, the close-ups generally look the same. Getting an image of the comet in some kind of environment was more important to me. I was reminded of one of my favorite photographs of the 2018 lunar eclipse over the community I live in. I find those images more appealing.
The thing about comets though: for the most part, they are small. I was not in a mood to do the “double exposure” trick to make it look larger.
My favorite evening was probably July 18th, when the comet formed a triangle with 2 stars that I cannot identify (my astronomy is as good as my skill in botany). This formed a great pattern that I enjoyed imaging.
Life With Infrequent Visitors
Thinking back, I could come up with just a few experiences with comets, some of the most infrequent visitors to our night skies. In 3rd grade, Halley’s Comet made its regular orbit and was seen by many. I never got to see it (although I have watched it’s associated Eta Aquariids and Orionids meteor showers), but I distinctly remember our teacher telling us that most of us would be dead by the time it came back in 2061. I took Hale-Bopp in 1997 for granted. Leaving the clothing store I worked at then, I looked up, and went about my evening. I wasn’t into photography at the time.
I finally photographed a comet, Pan-Starrs, in 2013. This was actually picked up in the San Diego Union Tribune, and for reasons I don’t know syndicated in other newspapers all the way to Baltimore. They only wanted to link to my Facebook Page, which is deactivated, so think twice if somebody only wants to link to your social media.
Comet ISON was supposed to be our generation’s “Great Comet”, but it did not survive the journey around the sun. As has become the norm, it was built up with a lot of hype, only for hopes to be dashed when the science got around. It was later determined that had it survived perihelion, it would not have been nearly as bright as predicted.
Trying To Appreciate Our Night Skies
I am not too passionate about night sky photography. I do enjoy these celestial events though. It is hard to get pumped up with so many people viewing and imaging the same thing (like coastal sunsets!). My July 2020 Photo of the Month will likely be another cloudscape I created.
But I do enjoy a beautiful dark sky. The Milky Way is truly beautiful, if not one of the most over-photographed subjects in the history of photography. Viewing the elliptic, even teaching my child how the planets more or less align along it, is a lot of fun. So, I do appreciate our night skies, even if they’re not the first thing I have in mind to photograph.
As always, thank you for viewing, 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.