A Conspiracy of Clouds

Ash Wed Sunset - Tree and clouds.I should have known not to get my hopes up while driving westward home from work.  I so wanted to see Mercury (something I’ve never observed with the naked eye, a camera, binoculars or a telescope) and a tiny sliver of a new Moon – both within five degrees of each other. I had hyped myself up earlier in the day thanks to a blurb from Sky & Telescope. The sun kept teasing me, peaking out between the clouds just enough to make me squint as I dodge traffic and dropped off my vanpool riders.

The first thing I did when I arrived home was to call my father and ask him if he knew of a hill with an unobstructed view to the western horizon within fifteen or twenty  minutes driving distance of my house in Lansing.  He delayed his response, since he needed to put up some wood cutting and splitting equipment, but promised to call me back in five or ten minutes.

Terry, my completely awesome husband, already had dinner ready.  He prepared the most amazing steak fajitas, with perfectly grilled red onions and red peppers.  I so wanted to eat more of them, but restrained myself so I could savor the leftovers another day.

I checked over my camera equipment and secured it in my camera backpack.  I collapsed the tripod.  I stowed the gear in the back of the van and said farewell to Terry and the dogs.  I pulled out of the driveway and stopped at the Fawn Valley stop sign.  The decision point.  I surveyed the western sky and decided my best bet to capture the most of what was left of the sunset would be from Mt. Muncie Cemetery.

Aw, finally, some other color besides gray.
Ash Wednesday Sunset (click photo to see entire album)

About five minutes later, I had my camera on my tripod just west of the large Stillings monument (a circular plot with the cemetery access road encircling it).  I took a few photos, experimenting with different aperture settings, letting the Canon decide how long to exposure through the shutter.  I left the AWB setting to cloudy since, obviously, the landscape before me consisted mostly of clouds.

I called my dad back, since he hadn’t returned my call and discovered he was driving down the center of Leavenworth County on County Road 5, personally investigating sites he thought might have worked for observing Mercury and the Moon (had there been no clouds).  I sighed, not meaning for him to waste his gas driving all over county back roads.  I told him I was at Mt. Muncie and he said he was on the way.  I continued to take a few photos, but for the most part, both the sunset and my prospects for observing the conjunction seemed an exercise in futility.  Dad arrived and we chatted for a few minutes, eventually spying both Venus and Jupiter through the thinner clouds above us.  I packed up the photographic equipment, showing dad the nice camera backpack Terry had bought me last year.  I had offered to let him use it during an upcoming trip he was planning.

East from Parking Garage
Sunrise Today

I woke up to another gloomy day this morning.  On the bright side, it’s my mother’s birthday (and I finally remembered to mail her birthday card yesterday).  On the dark side (and it was dark when I thought about it), today is trash day in Lansing and the first time for us to use our new trash and recycling bins.  Terry, being the wonderful husband he always is, had already dealt with both the trash (taking it out of the old trash can and placing it in the new one) and recycling.  Since it was spitting rain at 5:30 this morning, I was even more grateful than normal.  I left my camera and tripod in the back of the van overnight, so I had ready access to my camera this morning during the commute, just in case the sunrise surprised me.  Until Daylight Savings kicks in, the sun just starts to turn clouds pink and orange when I pick up my last rider near the Kansas Speedway.  My final opportunity to take a photo until I reach my destination near the Country Club Plaza.  The sunrise disappointed me this morning, just like the sunset did last night.  More gray, with a glimmer of gold, but completely lacking in pinks and oranges.

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