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VENUS IN TRANSIT

The once in a lifetime event. Photo©Cory

Only two days ago I had never heard of the Transit Of Venus, it was during a coffee break at the local Wainui Beach Store where a young grom was outside selling dark sunglasses, and after I interrogated the poor kid, I learnt a thing or two about this once in a lifetime phenomena, at first I thought, so what! Then once he told me it wouldn’t come again for another 105 years and figuring out that I’m not actually the ” Highlander” Conner McLeod and am not immortal, I thought I better at least check it out! Enter  a storm warning with heavy rain forecast and gale force winds,  so the thought of being able to see the sun on this day was thrown out the window, hopes across the country were dashed, and as I surfed the net looking for info on where to view the event from, all I read were broken dreams of thick cloud and rain across the country.  That is for nearly all, except for at my house, where we had no storm, no rain, and no wind. A clear sky and a fully visible sun about to get it’s glow violated by the silhouette of Venus for half a day. Being totally unprepared for this style of photography I figured the first thing I needed to do was somehow cut down the amount of light that would enter my lens, otherwise I’d burn my eye ball out, or fry my sensor. So it was a mad rush rummaging through my house and shed looking for something dark. I knew I had some dark Perspex somewhere and an old piece of dark glass around but couldn’t for the life of me find them. By now according to the net Venus had began to encroach on the sun and I was starting to stress… I even figured I could rip the tinted glass TV cabinet doors off and use them, but it seemed while I was away in Indonesia recently the kids beat me to it as they were gone. Nek Minute I’m stopping neighbors as they drove down the road “Hey you got any dark glass in your house or cabinet doors”. When all my efforts failed I had one last flash of genius, I could start up the car turn it around and shoot through that tinted piece at the top of the windscreen, well that was a bad idea with a 600mm F4 magnifying the sun, I’m not only lucky I didn’t burn my eyes out, I’m surprised the car didn’t catch alight. If only I could get down the road I could source some material and at least attempt a shoot, but with my 1 year old grommy asleep and without a car seat I couldn’t even wake him and chuck him in car. So I rang a few mates begging for them to come mind the grom, so I could head down town. With my wife coming home earlier than expected, I jumped in the car and was off to the local glass shop, who after my explanation got all weird on me saying they would sell me glass to view sun through as I could burn my eye out and they would be responsible, by now my window of opportunity had began to shrink as the blue sky above was becoming smaller as a front moved in from the north, I headed smartly down to Gisborne Glass doing 70khm in a 50 zone and not stopping at the stop signs, after all the next time this was going to happen was well beyond my lifetime so who cares about a few little rules. After my explanation to the lady at reception she said go out the back and talk to the boys, thing is when I got out back there were no boys in sight and the factory empty, after hearing a few “Oooohs” and “Ahhhhhhs” I found all the floor staff out in the driveway with holding up multiple sheets of dark glass, Perfect! Not only had I come to a place where they had, and would, sell me a suitable medium, they had also done all the homework and after an hour of playing around had worked it out that six sheets of dark glass wedged together offered the perfect density to cut down the intense light. So six sheets cut to the size of my front element on the 600mm lens later, I was flooring it back home to beat the incoming front.  I set up in less than a minute, and with my wife’s help managed to shoot one frame before the dark thick clouds blacked out any further chance of viewing the transit. I was kicking myself for not being prepared earlier, but at the same time remembered that we were never supposed to see any sun, but still, I was disappointed. I sat and waited on my front lawn hoping for a small window to open up and reveal the sun, but to no avail, then off in the distance a huge blue patch showed up but with the prevailing wind there was no way it would pass over me, so my wife and I chucked the baby in the car and took off in pursuit of the much needed angle, we felt like storm chasers and were having a few laughs, while at the same time with one eye on the sky and another on which road to turn down.  Our timing and positioning couldn’t have been more perfect and I managed to capture my first and last ‘Transit of Venus’  which after all that effort actually looked like no more than dust on my sensor, but it was amazing to watch and experience and along the way learn something about a field of photography I have had no prior experience in. Many thanks must go out to the crew at Gisborne Glass, My wife Sarah and good mate Bobby Hansen for coming around to baby sit, even though he gave the coffee he brought me to my wife.

six sheets of dark glass acting as a “SUPER NEUTRAL DENSITY FILTER” enabled the transit to be shot. Photo:©Cory

Tech Info: ISO100, shutter: 3200th, aperture: F32.
Equipment: Canon 1Dmk4 + 600mm F4+ 1.4x mk2 teleconverter.