After several outings to photograph Comet NEOWISE with varying success, I gave it one more try on Monday night. And it paid off.
I returned to the same place I shot at on Saturday night. I got there earlier to first catch the sunset. For a minute, it seemed that the sunset was going to be a dud. The clouds weren’t right for one of those picture-perfect Florida scenes. But then something happened.
Wow. Not the sunset I thought was going to happen. Unexpected and spectacular.
On this trip I met up with a two photo friends, Jennifer and Jack. We shot the sunset from an observation tower at a park. Then we went across the road and hiked out into the marsh to shoot the comet.
Once we got out in the swampy bits and set everything up, we were able to quickly find the comet. The skies were clear and crisp. Not a hint of the typical summer haze you get in Florida. We were worried that the storm from the sunset would drift over and block our view.
For the first maybe 45 minutes, the comet was high enough in the sky that we had to get creative if we wanted anything else in frame. I used the brush of the marsh to add a little extra to my shots.
As NEOWISE dropped closer to the horizon, that storm from the sunset drifted far enough over to be in frame. But it was also heading away from us.
What we saw happening in the sky was one of the most spectacular and outrageous things I have ever witnessed. In the direction were shooting, there was virtually nothing. There were a few houses some miles away with lights, but besides that, no real sources of light pollution for over 200 miles. We were shooting into one of the darkest patches of sky in the south.
The comet was clearly visible to the naked eye. The star field was stunning. Below the comet, some 80 miles out in the Gulf Of Mexico, that storm from the sunset was firing out lightning non-stop. I have about 250 pictures of it and there is lightning in every single one. Non-stop.
It was pure pandemonium in the sky. The three of us are out in the marsh just screaming with joy. My voice is still hoarse. It was bonkers.
We watch this happen for around 90 minutes. The storm finally started to burn out just as the comet was about to drop behind it. We were in disbelief as to what we just saw. It was so beautiful. I’ll never see anything like that again. If I didn’t have the pictures, you’d never believe that it happened.
But it did. And here are the shots.
Pics or it didn’t happen, right?
I shot all of these with my Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens, The Pancake. I haven’t gone though these to clean up all the hot pixels yet, so please excuse any that you see. That is a whole project unto itself.
This week will probably be cloudier, so I have no plans to shoot NEOWISE again. Though I may if it happens to be clear and the comet is up high enough to shoot it from the driveway or in the park around the corner from my house. Big thanks to my wife for putting up with this nonsense over the last week or so. Last minute trips, pre-dawn runs, bolting out of the house right after dinner and returning in the early morning hours... I owe her big time.
This night was pure magic. I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I did taking them.