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Old March 16th, 2006, 07:18 AM   #1
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MOON ECLIPSE & A Missing Jumbo Jet...

Last night, around 20:40, my partner remarked that there would be an eclipse of the moon at 21:00. So I grabbed a Canon XL1s body from one of my bags, bayoneted on a heavy Nikkor 300mm F/2.8 ED-IF, clamped it all onto a big and heavy tripod and then rushed outside in the cold night air.

A full moon shone down on me from the cloudless darkness, seemingly tiny in the vastness of the heavens.

First, I switched on the camera, and then spent ages trying to find the moon in the viewfinder (have you ever tried to find a needle in a haystack, in the pitch dark?). Eventually, a bright globe almost burnt out my eyeball…then faded into crisp details as the Canon’s AV mode kicked in, and auto adjusted the shutter speed.

“Wow! You look beautiful tonight…” I shouted at the moon.

It was going to be a partial eclipse, with mother earth painting a faint shadow across the moon’s surface for the next 5-hours. The moon already looked a faint orange-pink in the viewfinder, enhanced partly by the XL1s itself, but also naturally by the distant sun on the hidden side of earth.

I clicked the AV dial to ‘M’ for full Manual control, and balked back from the viewfinder yet again as the moon suddenly turned into a bright white ball… 1/60th …Jeez!
I fumbled for the shutter speed buttons in the darkness and quickly watched the viewfinder numbers rise to 1/2000th sec. and then saw the full moon in all her glory…white and sharp…with the Nikkor showing its high class by bringing out the surface of the moon in stunning detail.

I could count each ancient crater as the gigantic moon raced across the viewfinder, as if it was on a mission to catch up with the sun.

For the next ten minutes I took a series of moon footage at varying aperture settings between f/2.8 and f/5.6, combined with different shutter speeds.

I worked quietly and excitedly, only occasionally bursting into a fit of swearing when sudden gusts of wind began to buffet the tripod, and sent the moon into a wavy, wobbly dance on its journey across the viewfinder.
I tried to shield the wind with my own body, and also slid back the lens hood, which both helped a little, but I knew from experience that the best footage would be the short periods between gusts, when the rustling whispers of the trees above my head fell silent.

I controlled the camera using the Canon wireless remote, so as to maintain a stable sequence of shots through the telescopic 2,160mm lens that greatly magnified the image...and the slightest touch, or even breath of wind.

Suddenly, as I stood alone in the darkness, the dark silhouette of a huge jumbo jet raced across the bright surface of the giant moon…WOW!

What is the likelihood of framing a Boing 747 jetting across the surface of the moon during a partial eclipse faze, through a 2000mm lens?

It was something that would be extremely difficult to fake convincingly with even the best digital post-editing techniques…but here it had happened naturally, right in front of my eyes!

It was late in the night by the time I’d finished filming and returned to the welcoming warmth of the house, so I left the task of downloading the footage via firewire to my computer until early the following morning.

Today, I watched the moon slide across my PC screen in even greater detail than I’d seen in the XL viewfinder. It looked incredible, and I was well pleased with most of the footage and already knew that the clips would work great with other moon clips I already have…yet this is probably the best I have ever produced.

I sat in front of the PC reliving the previous night’s events, and patiently waiting, with refrained excitement, for that mind-blowing moment when the big jumbo Jet would fly across the giant white orb of the moon.
But wait…suddenly the moon vanished and a black cloth masked the screen…

The time code had disappeared.

During the previous night’s filming, a warning “heads dirty, use cleaning cassette” had flashed in the viewfinder. I was in the middle of an important sequence, so just waited for the moon to finally slide out of view, before finally stopping the video and rushed back to the house to collect a Cleaning Cassette, and then ran it through the camera for the normal 5-seconds. Everything seemed fine, and I continued to film sequences of the moon for another 15-minutes.

For some strange reason, there is a few minutes of footage at the beginning of the tape, then about 3-minutes of missing footage, followed by some seconds of double-exposure and banding (during the head-cleaning faze) and finally the end sequences of moon shots.

You’ve guessed it…I can’t find the clips where the jumbo jet raced across the moon!

How could someone be so daft as to loose something the size of a jumbo jet?

I ran all the captured footage three times…until, finally, I slumped in my chair and stared dejectedly at the black screen, my head held low, and wept in silence.

Life can be so cruel sometimes…
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Old March 16th, 2006, 07:29 AM   #2
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Wow Tony, sorry to hear about the lost jumbo jet. I think you have the makings of a great sci-fi thriller there. Love your writing style BTW. The story you wrote would make a great beginning scene for a movie. Then the rest of the plot involves trying to figure out what actually happened to the jet. A ghost flight...yeah that's the ticket. :-)

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Old March 16th, 2006, 07:43 AM   #3
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It was NOT a UFO... You saw NOTHING.

wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
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Old March 16th, 2006, 07:52 AM   #4
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I guess you are right Keith. I live on one of the Heathrow flight paths, and tend to see many jets each week, and fly around the world in one many times each year... so that there is probably a jumbo etched on the tapes of my memory banks...

It's such a pity that it wasn't etched on my DV tape...
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Old March 16th, 2006, 07:59 AM   #5
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I've lived near a small airport, so I understand what that is like. What annoyed me the worst, wasn't the roar of the jets all day and night, as much as the tower's radio bleeding over my stereo.
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Old March 16th, 2006, 08:12 AM   #6
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Very nice short (story) you have there Tony. I was thrilled - but then I might fit the target audience... Thanks ;-)
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Old March 16th, 2006, 08:31 AM   #7
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Man, sorry Tony! I would have loved to have seen that footage.

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Old March 16th, 2006, 08:46 AM   #8
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Some of the captured footage is great, Mike, so at least I've got something out of it, and will probably use a clip sequence in a film I'm editing at the moment.

It would have been SO nice to have been able to use the Jumbo jet & moon clip as part of the opening sequence, though! Life's a bitch and then you die...

(I must thank you once again for the loan of the radio mic equipment in USA last year, Mike...Cheers!)
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Old March 16th, 2006, 09:11 AM   #9
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"I SWEAR Guys, the fish was THIIIIISSSS BIIIIIIGGG!!!! And then the line BROKE!"
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Old March 16th, 2006, 09:40 AM   #10
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crazy...the shots that i usually miss are the shots that i miss, not the shots that i get....
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Old March 16th, 2006, 12:00 PM   #11
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Maybe it was meant to be your moment and no one else's.
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Old March 16th, 2006, 01:58 PM   #12
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I think that you are right, Bob. Treasured moments are sometimes shared...but this time my visual treasure was not for spending...just to be savored in my memory banks. Thank you for reminding me…
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Old March 16th, 2006, 11:15 PM   #13
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Well done.Excellent story.It is such a thrill when these fleeting moments happen that I'm sure it was well worth the effort you went through that night.
I do have a question if you would't mind.
I also have a selection of Nikkor lenses.They are the old Nikkor Q's without the auto indexing.I use the Canon XL1s and wonder what gear I would use to attach the Nikkors to my XL1s?
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Old March 17th, 2006, 03:05 AM   #14
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I use the Les Bosher Canon XL to Nikon mount.

You need to work with the manual aperture control on the lens and let the XL control the shutter speed either in AV auto shutter priority on the dial, or on 'M' and use the XL shutter speed control up & down buttons.

The normal Nikkor to Canon XL mount should be OK with the old Q mount. Double check with Les (contacts on his site). Les will also make adapters for other lens mounts. Here is the Url to his website:

http://www.lesbosher.co.uk/
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Old March 17th, 2006, 11:04 AM   #15
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Didn't David Copperfield lose a Jumbo Jet? Good story Tony
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