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Vanderhoff Images of Comet Hale-Bopp

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Observers: Dewey Vanderhoff, Mack Frost, Andy Frazier
Location: Old Trail Town, Cody, Wyoming
Date: April 7, 1997 03:00-05:00 UT

We had a great run of comet hunting last night. The caretaker of the Old Trail Town frontier museum on the outskirts of Cody, Wyoming allowed us to shoot photos from within the ghost town buildings. It was an absolutely clear night; a storm pulling off left behind a crisp sky.

Using a combination of existing light from high powered sodium vapor lamps on the next property, and our own enhanced lighting tools, we lit the rustic old frontier buildings beneath Hale-Bopp and the star fields. Normally, sodium lamps are a photographer's curse ( the monochromatic light cannot be filtered or color balanced ) , but on the old weathered wood of the Trail Town buildings it added a golden patina.

At 8:58 PM before we started the serious comet photography, we observed the MIR space station pass nearly directly overhead, right on time and precisely within the plot of the Orbitrak satellite prediction program and the Voyager-II planetarium program that we had run earlier in the evening on the photographer's Power PC Macintosh. ( Weather permitting, there are several early-evening "conjunctions" of Hale-Bopp and Mir this week visible from Cody Wyoming...the one on Thursday April 10 is especially sweet as the comet and Mirt will be only three degrees apart, and the Moon will be occulting Aldeberan at the time in the same general vicinity..Stay tuned !)

The photos were done with a Nikon F2AS camera and 35mm f/ 2.0 Nikkor lens on Fuji Super G- 800 print film and scanned from handprinted 8 x 10 color glossies with little correction in Photoshop , except to remove a greeenish cast in some shadow zones, owing to a vagrant mercury vapor lamp shining in from a nearby trailer court...aaarrrggghh!!!.

Exposures were in the 25- 45 second range at apertures from f/ 2.0 to f/4.0 and we lit parts of the scene with a powerful flashlight filtered with studio gel filters to convert tungsten color back towards daylight. The buildings were "painted" with the light using 4 second brush strokes, exposure determined with a Minolta-IV incident light meter.

Special thanks to Terry Edgar, caretaker of Old Trail Town in Cody for allowing us access to the museum, normally closed during winter. Trail Town is a magical collection of genuine old West buildings and memorabilia by any reckoning, but at night with a comet hovering nearby, some of the romance and majesty of the West is recaptured in very visual metaphors. All photos taken Sunday evening, April 6 , from 9:00 till 11:00 PM-MDT ( UT 3:00-5:00 04/07/97 )

Dewey Vanderhoff
deweyv@trib.com


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