Sunrise over the Parthenon

posted: 2972 days ago, on Friday, 2009 Jun 05 at 06:13
tags: astronomy, astrophotography, atmospheric phenomena, Sun, Anthony Ayiomamitis.

Sunrise over the Parthenon

Contributor: Anthony Ayiomamitis

I have finally found closure in relation to a long-term and most difficult project, namely the photography of the rising sun against the Parthenon in central Athens.

In spite of the fact the sun is not as intense when one to two degrees above the horizon, it still represents a very formidable object when attempting to capture it through a telescope at a focal length in excess of 1000 mm and especially if we have a foreground object of interest which, of course, is only lit by astro twilight.

I tried every means possible to strike a balance between the foreground sacred temple and the rising sun so as to be able to use a single exposure for my desired photo. In addition to prime focus with the camera set at the most conservative settings (ISO 100, 1/4000 sec) , I also tried using a lunar filter which reduces the transmission to 12.5% (i.e. ND 0.9) as well as a pair of stacked lunar filters yielding a transmission of 0.015625%. I also attempted using Baader's photographic filter (ND 3.8). The end result was always the same, for there would be no balance in lighting for both foreground and background (the sun) simultaneously.

The solution to the above dilemma was to wait for mornings characterized with slight haze or very thin clouds, for the haze and/ or clouds were able to diffuse the brightness of the sun sufficiently so as to allow me to pursue a single exposure. Since haze and thin clouds vary from day to day, I had to learn to estimate the effects of a particular day's haze/thin clouds on my final result and which was accomplished relatively quickly.

Once the issue of balanced light was overcome, I had to identify a location which not only provides me with a clear view of the Parthenon but which allows for the sun to rise as close to the sacred temple as possible due to the fact that Athens (and the Parthenon at its centre) is surrounded by seven hills up to nearly 1000 meters in height.

To complicate matters, we also need a "proper" distance when shooting the Parthenon and the rising Sun so as to have a proper and balanced aspect ration between these two subjects of the photo. Using the angular diameter of the Parthenon as viewed at a diagonal so as to have an apparent diameter of approximately 30 arc-minutes, purposely equivalent to the apparent diameter of the rising sun, nine different locations were eventually identified for this project.

These nine locations all involve a different azimuth involving the rising sun, on purpose, which allows one to pursue an alternate location a few days later in the event a particular day of interest is characterized with undesirable conditions such as perfectly clear skies where the rising sun would be way too bright or very thick black clouds which would obliterate the sun.

I am delighted to present you with four impressive samples of our star rising against the 2500 yr-old Parthenon and which is often characterized as the symbol of western culture and society.

nothing more to see. please move along.