Meet Kona Beans, my stargazing Boxer! If you've followed along or spent some time on my social accounts, there's a good chance you've already seen some photos of Kona. He just recently turned 3 and has already been on so many fun adventures. We've been back and forth across the entire country together three times and have been stargazing in just about every scenario you can come up with.
As with most Boxers, he has an endless amount of energy and is always up for an adventure. The second he sees or hears my camera bag, he starts go get very excited and assumes he's coming along. In most cases, he's not wrong!
I know everyone thinks their dog is the best, and I'm definitely a bit biased, but I'm not sure there's another pup out there that's better at posing for photos under the night sky.
I've been working on a special post about our adventures together, but since Kona made his 2nd appearance on the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day site this week, I thought it would be fun to share a bit of the journey so far and give a little insight to the photos.
All the photos with Kona in them are all single exposure images. That means, we sat still for the entire duration of the exposure which is anywhere from a few seconds to upwards of 10 seconds. That's no easy task for anyone let alone an excited boxer! But, after a bit of practice, I think it's safe to consider Kona a pro at it.
The First Image Under the Stars
This was the first attempt to get a photo with Kona under the stars and will always be a favorite because of that. We had a friend with us and Kona was a bit concerned that he wasn't standing close. So, he insisted on facing the camera to watch. It ended up working out quite well and really helped show the silhouette of his face off which might have been lost if facing the other direction.
A really fun addition to this photo is both Orion and the star Sirius visible above us. Sirius is not only the brightest star in the night sky, and the 4th closest, but it's also commonly called the Dog Star! So, it's a fun little hidden bonus in the photo.
Here are the technical details for the photo:
Sony A7RII - Sigma 14-24 f2.8 ART | 6 sec | f2.8 | ISO 3200 | 23mm
The arrival near the Anza Borrego Desert. This is just outside of the park, still in the high desert area near Ranchita, California. Since a lot of the locations we go to require a bit of a drive, I always try to leave enough time to get some quality play time in before we get down to business. It's a nice way to disconnect a bit more than normal and really enjoy the surroundings. It can be easy to get super focused on a shot and almost have to remind yourself to take it all in. When I'm out taking photos with Kona, shooting almost becomes secondary. I'm always making sure the places we go are safe for him and keeping an eye on things. Which is kind of funny, because I think he believes he's doing the same exact thing for me.
These photos were a bit different than a lot of the other photos we've taken together. Normally, I place us far enough to have Kona and I in focus as well as the stars in the same exposure. It generally splits attention between us and the night sky as kind co-subjects of the photo. For this shoot, I really wanted it to illustrate our night sky hang outs. We took this pretty close to blue hour as the stars were becoming brighter and brighter. Shooting at this time allowed for a slightly shorter exposure time.
So, this is pretty representative of what a night out shooting is like for Kona and I. Although, at some point, Kona will generally settle down and curl up on my lap.
Sony A7RII - Sigma 24mm f1.4 | 4 second exposure | ISO3200 | 24mm | f1.4
SpaceX Falcon9 Launch - Kona's first NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day
While living on the East Coast, I used to love taking photos of the rocket launches from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. I'd have to drive a few hours in the middle of the night and hope everything worked out with the launch. Sometimes that meant heading back to the same location for multiple nights in a row. Not terrible, but it can be rough when that location is 2 hours away and you need to be there for a launch window that opens at 2am.
When we moved to San Diego, I was excited to occasionally be able to photograph launches from the Vandenberg Airforce Base. I had some locations a bit closer that I'd be able to shoot from which was definitely nice. The hours were still a bit all over, but I'm pretty used to that.
For this launch of the SpaceX Falcon9 a launch time just after sunset meant Rachel and Kona could both come with me! I had no intentions of trying to get a photo of the 3 of us, but after I set one camera up to shoot a timelapse, I figured, "why not try?"
So, as you can see from the outtakes to the right, we got really wet. But we ended up getting an unforgettable photo of all three of us. I love getting to share moments like this and having a photo makes it even better!
I shared two of the photos from the launch online and they both became the most "viral" images on my Instagram account.
Topping the social media recognition, the larger photo above was featured as the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day! I have a full write-up on the SpaceX launch you can check out here.
Here is the technical data for this photo:
Sony A7RII - Sigma 14mm f1.8 ART | 1/4" ISO 3200 | f1.8 | 14mm
Sigma 40mm f1.4 ART - First Images & Comet 46/P
Because Kona is involved in absolutely everything, he loves when new packages arrive as much as I do! Well, to be fair, he loves the package, but is not a fan of the delivery trucks!
When the new Sigma 40mm f1.4 ART lens showed up, Kona was sure to help me upbox. He was also sure to stay near my camera bag as I got ready to head out. He has some serious FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to adventures.
So many of my trips are planned around being able to shoot at locations I know he can come with me. We hit a few spots near the desert before the Moon came up so I could test out the new lens and then made our way back.
Capturing Comet 46/P
While Comet 46/p was still visible, it seemed like the perfect time for a trip to the desert. Since dogs aren't allowed on trails in Anza Borrego, I knew a spot that we could hang out right in a large parking area and still get a great view of the sky.
Like other trips, we arrived early so we'd have time to relax and get some solid playing in (note the sand on Kona's face!). You can see from the first two photos below, that it took a couple of tries to everyone lined up, but we were able to work it all out. Kona is always on high alert at night, so noise in the distance might grab his attention. He still wants to stay close, but sometimes it means he might want to stay a little closer than normal. It's often started with him standing next to me and followed by a 65 pound boxer on your lap. If I'm being honest, I'm never going to stop him from doing that.
Here's the final shot. You can tell Kona's attention is still on something a bit off to the right of the frame. I think there were some people camping out in the distance.
Here are the technical details for this image:
Sony A7RII - Sigma 40mm f1.4 | 8 second exposure | ISO3200 | 40mm | f1.4
You can check out my full post on the Comet and Sigma 40mm f1.4 ART lens here
Big Sur Bioluminesence - Kona's Second NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day
Although this photo break the chronological order of when the photos were taken, it is the latest to be posted. On July 8th, 2019, this photo was featured as the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day! This was such an incredible experience and such an important photo to me that I waited to post it. For some reason, I felt like I needed something to go with it or for it to be part of a bigger story. In early April, I finally shared the photo as part of my TEDx talk. When I had decided to wait to share the photo, I wasn't sure exactly when or where I would share it, but I never imagined that the first two outlets would be at a TEDx and on the NASA APOD site! Wow.
With all that said, it's not always easy to take photos with Kona : )
While my Dark Skies and Dog Parks will continue to grow in to something bigger, I really enjoyed putting this post together. I love getting to share and capture these moments under the stars.
Although my family always had dogs growing up, I never really had one of my own. That doesn't mean I didn't love the ones we had, but it's different in a way that's hard to describe. We waited a long time for Kona. He is 100% part of our family and he definitely knows it. I could ramble on and on or share a million more photos, but I won't, for now.
I'm so thankful that I get to take him along on as many of my adventures as possible.
For more photos of Kona and all our adventures together, be sure to follow along on Instagram