Perigee, Totality and Amateur Photography

Back in March we were treated to several celestial events which I blogged about here. I really enjoyed watching the Solar Eclipse through my pinhole camera, hunting for the Aurora Borealis in Mid Wales and looking for the Supermoon.

So I wasn’t going to miss yet another Supermoon here in Autumn. It was rather special and got a lot of press in the days leading up to it because not only was it the largest “Supermoon” or moon at perigee (closest to the earth as it orbits) this year but it was also the Harvest Moon (closest full moon to the Autumn Equinox) and also a total lunar eclipse (sometimes called a Blood Moon). And unlike the solar eclipse it’s quite safe to watch a lunar eclipse with the naked eye. The trade off is that you just have to sit around in the dark and cold to watch it!

I treated myself to a new camera last week. I’ve been pondering this for well over a year and saving up. Some friends lent me a camera over the summer months – it’s far more intelligent than me and way beyond my limited photography skills to use at its full potential but it’s still been a real boon for me to improve some of my product photography. I’ve tried hard to get photography to “stick” in my head over the years but it doesn’t come naturally – I’m quite happy composing pictures and effects but the technical skills come slowly to me. So I’ve recently pulled myself together and made more of an effort to switch from auto to manual photography and the new DSLR was part of this.

I spent some time in the evening after moonrise trying to get suitable settings to take a picture of the full moon. Without success. I very nearly gave up in disgust and then turned to our old friend Google for suggestions on what I should be setting my camera at. I realised immediately I had the ISO too fast, the shutter speed too slow and aperture too wide. Back to the drawing board. But also I had the insurmountable problem that my lens was simply not long enough. The suggestion was 300mm zoom – taking moon pictures was way way beyond the capabilities of my basic 18-55mm. Part of me was relieved it wasn’t me being completely rubbish but also a bit sad that I wasn’t going to be able to take nice moon pictures after all. I don’t have a long zoom lens, I don’t have a tripod. I took a few blurry snaps and put the camera down.

And then I remembered about the camera I’d been loaned now waiting to go back to it’s owners. I hadn’t tried to use it other than as a point and shoot – too many buttons and clever gadgety bits scaring me to even try fiddling with buttons and knobs but since my recent attempts at educating myself it seemed a little less daunting to experiment. And I was pretty certain it had a far longer lens than my new toy. Sure enough it is 14-140mm – so not really long enough for Lunar Spectacular but still it was worth a try. I was back in the running!

I set the ISO, aperture and shutter speed as recommended with adjustments. I still had no tripod but at 1/125 I reckoned I could risk it by bracing myself against the door jamb and bridging my fingers for extra stability. Yessss!!! First ever photo of the moon I’ve taken that looks like a respectable moon photo!

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Not very big and not very professional but for me this was something of a triumph no matter how small. I determined to try to capture images of the Bloodmoon later in the night.

So I set my alarm last night – or rather this morning – for 2.40am. I hastily dressed to the utter confusion of my dogs who hate it when I have a broken night whether because of insomnia, lambing/sick animals or being on call for work. Or even lunar eclipses. They really don’t get the need to be up and about with lights on in the middle of the night and give me reproachful looks and small doggy sighs for disturbing their sleep. Last night, as I popped in and out of my front door, was no exception. Marley was especially unimpressed. No biscuits. No walkies. No chasing for sticks. Rubbish.

When I got outside the moon was partially eclipsed. It was pretty but definitely not blood coloured – it looked like a regular crescent moon really.

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I sat on the bench and star gazed, saw some meteorites, listened to the owls hooting and watched the earth’s shadow slowly slip over the surface of the moon.

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At this point I realised that my new found moon-photography skills had reached their limit – I’d completely forgotten that I’d need to alter my settings for totality. P1100254

The bright moon had disappeared and now I needed fast ISO, long exposure times and a wider aperture. Help!! No tripod, everything was going to look as blurry as I was starting to feel. Luckily you have time at totality of a lunar eclipse to play around – and time I definitely needed. I had no idea what I was doing and I was now getting cold as well as sleep deprived.

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My first efforts started to show some of the rusty colour I could see with the naked eye so encouraged I kept experimenting, pushing the exposure time longer and longer.

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Now it was properly orange but very blurry. I made an impromptu tripod out of my kitchen stool stood on the lawn above  my front steps to give me something nearer head height with a feather cushion on top to rest the camera on (no bean bag) and again braced it as strongly as I could with laced fingers. And shot and shot and shot.

I felt that this one was the best effort I was going to get given the limits of my skills and camera.

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Less detail and colour but not as blurry. I was pretty happy given that a few hours earlier my moon pictures looked like this…!

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And because things of beauty and wonder are meant to be simply looked at rather than just recorded I then put my camera away and sat for a while and took time to observe the bodies moving slowly above me.

At around 4.10am I felt bone tired and chilled and decided to call it a night. The eclipse was starting to move off and away so I took one last photo before heading indoors to my bed again.

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Much to the relief of the dogs!!

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Fall in Love with Autumn @ BarberBlackSheep

Are your ready to snuggle up in wool blankets and hand knits, pile some pine cones up and make a log fibre, toast some crumpets and open that homemade jam?

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Are you ready to search out your chosen seasonal colours, dig out those patterns you’ve been saving all summer when it seemed just too warm to knit and dust off your favourite knitting needles? Is your spinning wheel begging to be fed with all the fibres of the season and pleading to be oiled and loved back into service?

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Are you ready to fall in love with Autumn @ barberblacksheep…?

It’s an open secret that this is my absolute favourite time of year. I’ve been limbering up to this since the first hint of coolness in the mornings from mid August when chillier nights mean heavier dews at dawn. Once the angle of light changes and brings on the sleepy golden glow something comes alive inside of me.

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Over in my Ravelry group for the past 2 weeks we’ve been having an informal Autumn Spin-a-long. It’s not a competition, just a chance to stash bust some fibres ready for those hand knits and hand woven items we’d like to make (and wear!) in winter. It’s always fun to have a bit more incentive to do this as well as have some company. There are some lovely yarns being made from BarberBlackSheep fibres – I’m really enjoying it!

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I’ve not got much production spinning done; lately I’ve been working on some seasonal samples for new Haunui/Merino batt colour ways and they’re almost ready to hit the shop. These are the new 5 batt sets I’ve made as a development of the original Haunui Gradient packs I blogged about in June. By cutting out the final gradient carding and hand dizzing stages I’ve been able to offer them in a more versatile form as well as increase the pack size and lower the £/100g – I believe that’s something of a win-win situation! ;0) So the new Haunui/Merino batts are now upped to 150g for just a couple of pounds more which gives a greater range of options for spinning as well as giving more yardage and value for money. You can still create gradients by carding in-between shades yourself but also spin separately them for colour work. Some of my customers use them for wet-felting too.

So the new colour ways are:

Pumpkin Spiced Latte

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Turning Leaf

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Woodsmoke

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Josie

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The small knitted samples show a gradient made from each of the shades but I’m sure you can think of many other ways of combining these colours!

They will be in stock shortly – hopefully early next week once I’ve made up a few sets of each.

I’ve also been making a Pinterest board for inspiration for this theme and to pin any finished yarns and item pictures onto.

Better fetch those marshmallows out of the cupboard and get toasting! Pumpkin soup anyone…?

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Ego Creo

I am frequently inspired by the yarns my customers make from the fibres that I dye, card and sell. I very much consider producing hand dyed and carded fibre for others as a collaboration between myself and my customers.

I usually start by having an idea for a theme or something visual inspires me and sends colour combinations sparking across the synapses of my design aesthetic. “Seeing” colour is more than simply seeing hues – the way colour interacts with form and emotion makes every new project an exciting unknown journey of discovery (especially where dyeing is involved!!).

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Even now when I spend a large portion of every day with my senses drenched in colour, some shades or palettes make something leap inside of me; I get that swing of adrenaline at the possibilities. As though a thousand colourful butterflies have been released in my tummy and are fighting to get clear and start designing…

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Sometimes things turn out exactly as I envisaged. Other times they just won’t play nicely at all and I can end up lost in tears of frustration that the things I “see” behind my eyes I can’t make materialise in front of them no matter how hard I try.

For me creating – anything – is just a part of who I am and have always been. Creation is a need not a hobby. “I create, therefore I am”. No matter how poor the result or how many times you have to make it over, making – the act of building something with your hands and heart – is merely an attempt to make sense of the world around us, an attempt to understand Beauty or Nature or indeed Love itself.

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Creativity may not be confined to physically crafting an object. It might be a making a delicious meal for loved ones as an expression of your affection. It might be hearing a beautiful song and wanting to meld that music into your own soul too. It might be reading something profound that touches you and perhaps gathers the pieces of your mind and inspires words of your own. It might be simply being present in Nature and feeling that peace or beauty or awe or fear soak into every part of you.

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It might inspire you to nurture the fauna and flora as a gardener, conservationist, husbandman. Creativity inspires us to paint pictures with our daily lives, to make each moment matter however insignificant.

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I make things because I want to see stars; I create because I want to feel the sacred in the every day. Creating is in a sense a longing for a reflection of heaven on earth

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Sometimes a project is something you carry through from inception to the finished article. Sometimes you are merely a cog in the human machine to carry something through to the final stages in someone else’s hands. This is how I feel about the fibres from BarberBlackSheep. I make the materials for someone else to take on and develop further into something new, perhaps something I could never have dreamed of. For someone who likes to be in control this is actually very liberating. I have no idea if I will ever see these things I’ve made again now they belong to someone else and if I do, what form they will take. Sometimes when I do get to see their evolution it gives me so much joy to know they’ve given someone else hours of creative fulfilment and between us something tangible has been explored and made real.

Sometimes this goes even further and I get inspiration back in return. It might be a knitting pattern I’ve not yet come across. It might be a technique that I’ve not yet learned or a tip to make life easier. It might be a new way of combining colour or form, of mixing up the palettes I made and creating something fresh by adding in or leaving out other parts of the spectrum.

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Whatever form it takes, creation is a constant visual conversation that enriches each person that takes part.

I hope in the coming weeks and months to find the time to be able to share some of the things others have made as part of this ongoing work.

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