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Updated January 8th 2018

Mavic 2 Pro Impressions - UPDATE

It has been a great Christmas and New Year period which coincided with a very strong ridge of high pressure. Unfortunately for photographers and Astronomers this resulted in what's known as anti-cyclonic gloom which meant that the majority of the HP set-up resulted in grey days with very little if any sunshine, in fact, the entire festive and new year period was a complete cloud fest. Although this was bad it did present me with a rare and sustained period of no rain and little to no wind at all which allowed me to test out the new DJI Mavic 2 Pro.

I undertook test flights on as many days as I could until I became acquainted with the main features of the drone, I was immediately struck by how good the still photographs were using the Hasselblad 20mp camera with 1 inch sensor. Even the full jpeg files were extremely detailed, sharp, of high resolution and I was astonished how much of a crop the files could take, it really felt like a DSLR in the air. I only got one brief interval of sunshine during the new year when we where visiting the Gortin Glens outside Omagh in Co. Tyrone, here's one of the images showing that rare blue sky reflecting on the lake. I have a nice video sequence of this scene which will be posted on my youtube channel shortly.

Late December offered us a chance to test out the low light capabilities of the camera. My Dad and I did a 125 mile round trip to the Donegal side of Lough Foyle where a major shipping operation was underway, it was the perfect excuse to pressure test the drone. This is bulk carrier Yasa Sparrow anchored of Moville Bay, the ship was too heavy to enter Foyle port so a lightening operation was underway, when this happens the onboard cranes are used to empty cargo - in this case grain - into two smaller cargo ships adjacent to the bigger vessel. These smaller vessels would then take the cargo to Foyle Port to discharge then sail back up the lough to the waiting Yasa then repeat the process all over again, this would go on for many days until the cargo holds are emptied or the draught of the vessel is high enough to enter port, it's quite a fascinating operation to watch. The two green cargo vessels are Arklow Brook and Arklow Resolve.

This was taken during evening twilight just as the sky was about transition to darkness under an overcast sky. Aperture was F/2.8 wide open and ISO at 4000with shutter at 1/30th of a second. I was astonished at just how good the image came out, the low performance was not only impressive but much better than what I expected and a major jump from my Phantom 3 Advanced, the latter could never perform like this in such low light, I can crop straight into the windows and the image still holds detail.

Almost complete darkness now, this was ISO200 at the same settings as the previous image, look how clean and sharp the results are, what a beautiful scene to witness from a drone after Christmas, the Mavic 2 Pro has confidently passed my low light test. I now wonder about low light imagery and video of storm clouds this year, I will certainly be trying my best anyway. There will be a total lunar eclipse on January 21st and a new amateur comet discovery which should become a binocular object this February so more about these later.

'ASCENT ' - 2018 Video & Time-Lapse Showcase - WATCH

'Ascent' - the Nightskyhunter 2018 storm, sky and nature showcase featuring twenty minutes of DSLR video, drone footage and time-lapse cinematography of storms, weather, winter scenes, heat wave fires, night sky scenes, NLCs, sunsets and much more. Please view in a new window at 1080p HD for the finest experience. I hope you enjoy the various skyscapes N. Ireland had to offer during 2018.

The new addition to my photography equipment. This is the DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone. Thanks to Roisin for taking this image during a brief night test flight after the latest firmware had been installed, the landing light is quite an experience to see in the flesh. This drone features exceptional video quality using a Hasselblad 1" CMOS sensor and a 20MP still camera with full manual control (including aperture control) and a host of smart features. I intend on capturing more in the way of aerial storm and convective photography during 2019 with the intention of obtaining aerial hyper lapses, thunderstorm panos, better low light performance for the kind of scenarios I always find myself in, and for capturing exceptional video of snow and stormscapes from this always fascinating perspective so stay tuned. I'm very impressed by this drone's performance so far!

Startrails, 46P/Wirtanen & Church Island - UPDATE

A quick update before Christmas. On December 19th/20th clear skies were forecast so I spent the day undertaking aerial filming with the drone then arranged a last minute photo shoot at the north coast. Exceptional clear skies were anticipated and we all wanted to get another look at 46P/Wirtanen and acquire further time lapse sequences. The moon would be bright at waxing gibbous phase which would do wonders for our time lapses however the moon would greatly affect the appearance of 46P, we were keen to make the most of such a good night regardless. I met up with Nigel McFarland and John Fagan to shoot a specific location on high ground however the wind was too strong which affected our tripod's stability, we ended up trying several locations above Lough Foyle, one of which was Duncrun Church which over looks the Foyle, this was the first time-lapse/star trail result, I was shooting 10 sec exposures at ISO1600, this was approximately 1 hour 15 min's.

Second star trail, 15 sec exposure for perhaps 2 hours, I much preferred this composition, it's not often we get skies so clear for so long in recent times to be able to shoot a star trail of this length with no clouds at all.

Hunting Celestial Wraiths - An Observing Guide To Comets - EBOOK

Welcome to the first ever ebook from Nightskyhunter. This book is aimed at the amateur astronomy enthusiast who is interested in observing comets with the assumption that the reader already has some basic knowledge of the night sky and is competent with observing through binoculars and telescopes. Through 'Hunting Celestial Wraiths - An Observing Guide To Comets' my aim is to cover many of the most important and interesting aspects of the visual comet observing spectrum with the intention of allowing the reader to choose which level of skill he or she may wish to invest within this fascinating field with the information and confidence to take things to the next level and provide valuable cometary observations which could be of scientific value.

The book is complimented with many of my own comet sketches including detailed extracts from my observing logs showcasing many comet observing sessions over the years which is the heart and soul of the book. It is my hope that these sessions will make you feel you are looking through the eyepiece with me. The book is 119 pages with 28463 words and 4.050KB in size and available as a pdf document which costs £5.99. I can accept payments through paypal or direct transfer, simply EMAIL ME if would like to make a purchase, thanks very much. - READ MORE.

Night Sky Photo Shoots - September to November 2018 REPORT

New Report

A selection of photo shoots from September to November 2018 covering two visits to the moonlit waterfall at Dunservick along the Antrim coast, an observation of a newly discovered comet from Maghera and a cave with transient waterfall at Ballintoy harbour and moonlit convection. A combination of moonlit and dark night shoots covering still exposures and star trail photography and time lapse shooting. One page report with 22 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT.

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Image Reports

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Reports

Astronomy is not the only subject I'm interested in. One other such area is severe weather which will be playing a major role on nightskyhunter from now on in conjunction with my other astronomical pursuits. Check out my new N. Ireland Storm Chasing section and view the chase reports and images which detail not only storms but other phenomena such as a moonbows, noctilucent clouds and aurora displays.

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Martin McKenna