Welcome to the blog for Thomas Parry Photography. My purpose is to inform the public about photographic projects I have recently completed as well as those in progress and planned for the future. I will periodically post articles about different aspects of photographing nature, people and places. As I work with new hardware and software tools, I will pass along lessons learned that may aid other photographers. I will periodically write reviews about photographic equipment with which I have experience and books I read that may be helpful to others. I hope you enjoy reading my blog and return frequently. I invite your thoughts, good ideas, opinions and feedback.
| 09 December, 2013 06:41
Thomas S. Parry, Field Contributor, Nature Photographer Magazine
The following article was published in its entirety in the Winter 2013 electronic edition of Nature Photographer Magazine. You may visit the Nature Photographer Magazine website at www.naturephotographermag.com for more information on the issue and/or to download a copy of either the app edition for iPad or the PDF version.
For nearly seven hours on Tuesday, June 5th (or Wednesday, June 6th if you were in the eastern hemisphere), much of the world's attention focused on a rare and beautiful astronomical event as our nearest planetary neighbor Venus passed directly between the Earth and the Sun. Known as a planetary transit, such an occurrence is similar to a solar eclipse by the Moon. While the actual diameter of Venus is more than three times that of the Moon, Venus appears much smaller, and moves more slowly across the face of the Sun, because it is much farther from the Earth.
Composite of eight images of the transit showing the movement of Venus across the sun's disk during a five-hour span of time beginning with the moment of first contact (upper-left image) at 3:09 PM PDT yo near sunset (lower-right image at approximately 8:10 PM PDT.
Above: Sunset view of transit of Venus at approximately 8:20 PM PDT in the Monterey, California area as the sun dips below the horizon. This was the last view of the transit before sunset on the U.S. West Coast.
This extraordinary event was the last time most of us will ever see this happen in our lifetimes as it won't happen again for another 105 years until the year 2117. If Venus and the Earth orbited the sun in exactly the same plane as the sun, transits would happen frequently. The orbit of Venus, however, is inclined to the orbit of earth so when Venus passes between the Sun and the Earth every 1.6 years, Venus usually is a little bit above or a little bit below the Sun and is not visible in the Sun’s glare. Earlier transits of Venus helped astronomers determine the Earth-Sun distance, estimate the scale of our solar system and measure the speed of light.
Transits of Venus have an unusual but highly predictable pattern of frequency. They occur in eight-year pairings every 105 to 121 years. The last transit occurred in 2004 but prior to that it was over 121 years earlier in the year 1882. It will be 105 years before the next pair of transits occurs, separated by eight years. Then the pattern of 121, 8, 105, and 8 year intervals will again repeat. Since the invention of the telescope, transit of Venus pairs occurred four times to include 1631 and 1639, 1761 and 1769, 1874 and 1882, and 2004 and 2012.
Having never witnessed a transit of Venus (the transit of 2004 was not visible in North America) and knowing I would never see another one in my lifetime, I was very excited to experience and document this event. Fortunately, the California central coast where I live was graced with beautiful clear skies and optimal viewing conditions. I set up my telescope for viewing and my camera gear to photograph the transit. The Sun’s disk displayed several impressive sunspot arrays.
Starting time for the transit was 3:09 PM PDT. I watched through my telescope as Venus took its first tiny bite out of the Sun at first contact. Over the next few minutes, Venus gradually moved further onto the Sun’s disk and became completely visible silhouetted against the limb of the Sun at the time of second contact at 3:29 PM PDT. From that point on, Venus floated slowly and majestically across the face of the Sun reaching the point of mid-transit at 6:29 PM PDT. The Sun set at 8:15 PM PDT before the transit ended so I was not able to see or photograph third and fourth contact but I was able to capture some sunset images revealing the silhouette of Venus as the Sun approached the horizon.
Like the annular eclipse of the Sun a little over two weeks ago, witnessing this transit gave me a very real sense of the scale of our solar system and the dynamics of celestial motion. It also provided a sense of perspective of how small in size we are on a cosmic scale as we journey through space on this small blue planet we call Earth yet how significant we are in the eyes of a divine creator who manifests to us the majesty of his handiwork through this and countless other events each day.
Included with this article are some images I made of the transit. All images were made using a Canon EOS 40D DLSR equipped with a Canon EF 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM telephoto lens set to 400 mm and operating at an effective focal length of 640 mm. A special glass solar filter was used for all but the sunset images.
First contact 3:09 PM PDT. Venus takes the first tiny bite out of the sun at the top of the image.
Second contact 3:29 PM PDT. The full disk of Venus is visible against the sun.
Venus' position approximately two hours into the transit.
Mid-transit position of Venus at 6:29 PM PDT.
Sunset view of transit of Venus at approximately 8:15 PM PDT Monterey, California area as the sun dips below the horizon.
Additional Information and Links
For additional information about the 2012 transit of Venus to include images and outstanding videos, please visit: