“The day becomes more solemn and serene
When noon is past: there is a harmony
In autumn, and a lustre in its sky,
Which thro’ the summer is not heard or seen,
As if it could not be, as if it had not been!”
—Percy Bysshe Shelley, Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, 1816/7
About three weeks after the meteorological start of fall, today sees the astronomical beginning as well. While last year it felt like we plunged straight from August into November, this year the change is more gradual. There were a few colder days but also days that were still nice and warm.
We owe the seasons to Earth’s axial tilt. As Earth does not orbit the Sun in an upright but in a slightly tilted position, one of Earth’s poles is sometimes tilted more toward the Sun during the orbit and sometimes tilted away. When a pole is tilted toward the Sun, this part of Earth gets more sunlight so that daylight hours are longer and average temperatures higher. In short: it is summer. When a pole is tilted away from the Sun, this part of Earth accordingly gets less sunlight, so that there are fewer hours of daylight and average temperatures are lower; it is winter.
Twice a year there is a time when day and night have the same length as the Sun equally illuminates both the northern and the southern hemisphere. The spring or vernal equinox occurs in March, the fall or autumnal equinox in September. Equi means “equal” in Latin and nox “night”. This year’s autumnal equinox takes place on Sunday, September 23 at 01:54 UTC. Because of time zone differences this is some time today (Saturday, September 22) in the Americas, depending on where you are.
“Kids these days, eh? Always wandering around with their noses in their iPhones, up to no good. Well, maybe not. Because lots of them are using an app called Wattpad which might just be the biggest revolution in reading you’ve never heard of.”
—David Gaughran, What’s Up With Wattpad, 2012
Any Wattys here? I have to admit I had been one of the people who had never heard of Wattpad until a little while ago. When I took a closer look though, I sort of liked the idea. A platform not only for reading but also for writing and sharing. And while there certainly is a lot of teen and fan fiction on Wattpad, they also provide access to thousands of Project Gutenberg’s eBooks.
I am not really sure yet if Wattpad makes sense for the kind of books I publish: not so text-heavy but with a lot of photographs. And most Wattys read on their cell phones while I think cell phone screens way too small to really enjoy my photographs. Also, when I publish eBooks, they have a fixed layout and are not reflowable. But as Wattpad lets you insert photos, I decided to give it a try anyway. And to find out what Wattys think about my stories and if they will follow me on my journeys through the skies…
I have started with uploading chapters from Skies/Himmel and more will follow. If you’d like to take a look, you can check it out here:
“A book cover is a distillation, a haiku, if you will, of the story.”
Chip Kidd at TED2012
I had a hard time with this cover, more specifically with the cover image. As the title of my book was going to be Sun and Moon, I naturally wanted both the Sun and the Moon on the book cover. While we usually observe the Sun during daytime and the Moon during nighttime, it is actually possible to see them both during the day. However, at and around new moon we most of the time cannot see the Moon as the Sun is not able to illuminate it. And at full moon, the Moon only rises at sunset and sets at sunrise. So I was hoping to catch a Crescent Moon and the Sun together. But I had to find out that either when both orbs were visible they were too far apart for a cover image or it was too cloudy to even see them.
Then I thought an aurora picture with the Moon in it would work too as the solar wind causes the polar lights. If you have followed my aurora adventure though, you know that this did not happen either. I missed the only chance I got for this picture on my first night in Yellowknife as I had traveled since the early morning hours and was simply too cold and tired to stay up any longer for the shot. The next night was too cloudy for any picture and afterwards the Moon was too far away from the lights for a cover shot.
I started to get desperate. Unexpected help arrived, however, in the form of my foreword author Daniel Reisenfeld. Dan is a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Montana and an absolute expert when it comes to the sky. I am deeply grateful that he not only wrote the foreword for Sun and Moon but also provided a lot of insights and thereby helped making the book more accurate. In his foreword he shared what profound impact the first solar eclipse he observed had on him, back when he was still in high school. When I read his foreword, it just hit me: a solar eclipse image! That was to be my cover image.
So what you see on the cover of Sun and Moon is an image from the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse over North America. The bite taken out of the Sun in the lower left corner is the New Moon partly covering the disc of the Sun at the end of the eclipse. I am really happy with this cover image. Experts on Sun and Moon will know right away what they are looking at and people not so familiar with these two orbs will hopefully get a little curious and take a closer look. Open the book. Read Dan’s foreword, look at the pictures, and maybe want to follow me on …another inspiring and informative journey through the world above.
“Summer gathers up her robes of glory,
And like a dream of beauty glides away.”
—Sarah Helen Power Whitman (1803-1878), A Still Day in Autumn
Meteorologists say it’s the first day of fall tomorrow. Though I have to say, it has almost felt like November already a couple of days ago. But I am not complaining; this summer has been so much better than the last one. Warm but not hot and accordingly a lot less wildfires and smoke. There still was, and every now and then is, some smoke from fires north and west of here, but breathing has been so much easier this summer!
Though for me every season has its own charms and I do love them all, I am nonetheless sorry that summer is over. I still cling to my flip-flops and avoid socks and real shoes whenever possible. I wonder if it’s because we wear so much less clothes in summer than in winter that everything seems lighter and easier when it’s nice and warm outside? And with the Sun shining from a deep blue summer sky, the world looks so much friendlier and …well… warmer. So, farewell to thee fair summer and until next year!
When I started out photographing skies, I tried to capture the atmosphere of a certain sky-moment, the feeling I had when looking at the sky right there and then. I was fascinated by clouds and the structures they formed. Back then, I avoided having any luminaries in my pictures. I felt that any bright objects would dominate the photographs and distract from what I wanted to show.
But lately I experimented with incorporating the Sun and the Moon into my photographs. And I also became curious about these orbs. Why does the Sun rise and set farther north in the northern hemisphere in summer? What are the darker and the brighter areas on the Moon’s surface? What happens during solar and lunar eclipses? And then these fascinating light displays, the aurora polaris or polar lights. What are they and what does the Sun have to do with them? So I did some research on Sun and Moon and some of the small and big solar and lunar events.
Slowly but steadily my new book Sun and Moon / Sonne und Mond emerged. It will be published in early December. I learned a lot along the way, about photography, astronomy, software, the publishing industry. While the road has been bumpy sometimes, I enjoyed working on this project a lot. I will share more in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!