Greetings from New Mexico!
I will be editing this and the next couple posts to include photos... My laptop has decided to stop functioning fully.
This is the first time I've tried to post from my iPad, so we'll see how this goes.
As I mentioned before, this Philly boy has left the east coast for the first time in an embarrassingly long time for a photography trip. I spent a good portion of yesterday driving around Albuquerque trying to find a decent view for this evening's annular solar eclipse, and the latter portion of the day catching up with family that live out here.
When I got back to the hotel, I put in for a 3 AM (!!!) wakeup call, to try to get far enough out of town to shoot the particularly bright flyover of the International Space Station. That little trip was a total bust. All I can say is NEVER try to use unfamiliar equipment in total darkness. Due to the short duration of the flyover (roughly 6 minutes), there is very little time to correct any error in composition, exposure, etc. My problem (entirely my own fault) was that in the center of the Nikon MC-36 programmable shutter release cable/intervalometer is a four directional touchpad- think the digital pad on a game console controller- with a button in the center. In my rush to get the shot in total darkness, I didn't realize that the center button is not the shutter release button where I would have put it. It was awesome to watch, though. I'll have to make another attempt at that one at a later date, and also write about how to find out the details of when it will be visible.
This evening's shoot should be interesting. An annular eclipse is much like any other solar eclipse in that the earth's moon falls between the earth and the sun. This type is different from a total eclipse in that while the moon is centered over the sun, it is too far away from the earth to totally block it, leaving an annulus (ring) still visible. I've brought far too many toys with me, leaving a great debate. Do I go with my questionable quality Sigma 300mm lens on my D300, giving me an effective focal length of 450mm; or do I use my 80-200 on the rental D800 with its 36Mp, which will let me crop out a good portion of the field and still have a pretty good size file?
I should also mention that you should NEVER point your camera (much like your own eyes) directly at the sun with no filtration. After a couple hours online, I found a company in Arizona called Thousand Oaks Optical that manufactures astronomical filters of all kinds, including the screw on type needed for your camera.
On a totally separate note, I'm loving the food out here; and the official state question, "red or green." It seems that everything comes smothered in chile "sauce," being some concoction of chopped or pureed red or green chiles. I've even heard that you can get chile burgers at McDonald's, which I may have to check out. I've just discovered that for some reason (lack of flash?) that I can't upload photos using my iPad, so I'll have to post those later.