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The Sun - May/June 08 Target Tutorials

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#1 Erix

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 02:39 PM

The target for this thread is the Sun. Observations can be in any of the bandwidths, using any media that you choose. Please add any tutorial/tips contributions to this thread so we can use it as a handy reference.

The sketching forum has grown so much this past year, thanks to all of you who have shared their techniques, encouragement and enthusiasm. This forum has become yet another invaluable source of information, allowing us to learn from each other and improve with each sketch and observation.

CN already has a contest for images/sketches that is a way for us to have fun and show what can be accomplished through our observations. We continue striving to “create a range of options for members to explore as they use CN to develop their skills and interest in this hobby” (a quote by Tom Watson that I certainly couldn’t have worded better).

With this in mind, we have set up a monthly thread with a common target. You are encouraged to supply any or all of the following within these threads, creating a valuable tool for learning how to observe and render that object:

- tips on how to observe that object, filters or other equipment used

- media tried and tested for your renderings

- mini tutorial with an explanation and or/photos on how you did created the observation sketch

- link to any reports involved with the target, after all, these are observation sketches and links to reports will help all of us learn the object better as well as learn what to look for and how to optimize your viewing/sketching session

- or finally, just the sketch itself so we can all see each other's works in progress

#2 Erix

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 02:42 PM

To get the ball rolling, here is an easy way to get started with prominence sketches in H-alpha.

I use a combination of the following:

Black Strathmore Artagain paper
White Prang watercolor pencil - dry
White Conte' pencil
White Conte' crayon
Black or gray pen and/or charcoal pencil
white vinyl eraser if needed
compass for full disk
exacto knife for sharpening

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#3 Erix

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 02:44 PM

I start off my notes with a small full disk using the compass so that I can quickly mark any features I see on the Sun. Equipment, time, date, location, etc are written down as well as any notes about the observation itself.

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#4 Erix

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 02:48 PM

I'm going to concentrate first on that lower faint prominence as I didn't want it to slip away from if the transparency got any worse.

I create my limb arcs freehand. The compass and most other templates, such as plates, etc, never give me the arc that I need and usually ends up with the arc too curved making my prominences appear huge.

I do this with either the Conte' crayon or pencil. In this case I used the crayon because if feels more natural in my hand for large strokes.

After spending quite a bit of time studying the prom so that I can catch as much detail as I can, I then add the brightest features to the sketch using the Conte' pencil. This provides anchor points for the rest of the sketch. And later, when I add the Prang, it will self blend, softening up the prom more to what it really looks like in the FOV.

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#5 Erix

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 02:54 PM

Observation tips to pull out more detail would include blocking out any stray light from around the eyepiece. I use both a black cloth as well as a sunshield.

I try different magnifications if seeing permits, the FOV gets moved around to find the best area in the FOV for the view, and I also tweak the Etalon for maximum bandwidth for the limb.

Then I finish up with quickly adding finer details with the Prang watercolor pencil. It's very waxy and produces light markings. Because it's waxy, it is hard to mark over it with the chalky Conte'. It does, however, mark nicely over the Conte'.

I rarely blend, but if I do, I do so with my fingertip. Usually it would be just to push my fingertip gently on the marking without rubbing so ever so slightly smudge it. In this drawing, I had to rub back and forth with my fingertip on the large faint markings to the right. This are was very faint visually and I accidentally rendered it too bright with my Prang.

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#6 Erix

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 02:56 PM

And here is what it looks like in person, only slightly larger and grainier from the scan. Strathmore paper is a rich black color. The sketches above were taken with my camera in full sun and of course looks much lighter than it really is.

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#7 Erix

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 03:18 PM

This next one is a quick tutorial on surface features using the same media listed above.

I saw an area just east of center on the solar disk that looked like it was just shy of being an active region.

To begin, I use the flat edge of my Conte' crayon and softly rub an area on my paper to represent the surface. Then I gently use my fingertip to quickly blend the area, making sure I don't overblend, otherwise I would loose the textured feel of the surface that we see from mottling.

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#8 Erix

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 03:19 PM

Using the Conte' pencil or crayon (depends on how large my sketch area is. Today it was fairly small so I used the pencil.) I draw in the brightest areas which are plage.

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#9 Erix

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 03:20 PM

Quickly, and just as a reference, I sketch in some of the chromospheric network starting with the light areas and then sketch in the darker areas with a charcoal pencils.

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#10 Erix

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 03:23 PM

Finishing up on it, I fine tune the surface details, using a black pen for the thinner darkest ares representing filaments or sunspots. I usually use the black pen sparingly and in conjunction with the gray/black shade of charcoal, otherwise it would be too monochrome and flat in appearance.

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#11 Erix

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 03:25 PM

Scanning it in then once I come inside....

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#12 Erix

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 03:30 PM

As an example of what my ordinary sketch sheet looks like at the scope, here's a photo right before I came back inside from my session today. I turned off tracking on my scope so that I could watch for drift for solar orientation. I'll write up my report, use Tilting Sun for relevant solar info and to use the disk insert for fine tuning position angles, etc, and then make my collage.

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#13 Erix

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 03:34 PM

Here's a photo of the area that I generally observe from. Each sketch takes only a few minutes. Observing time, however, is much longer. Comfort is a key ingredient as well as having everything handy next to me.

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#14 atoptics

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 03:41 PM

Thanks Erika. There is much experience and much food for thought there.

One quick comment: You say "After spending quite a bit of time studying the prom .. ..I then add the brightest features to the sketch using the Conte' pencil." That's fascinating because you seem to start with the lightest tones (not detail) and then work them darker or break them up? I do just the opposite - this is going to be interesting!

#15 Erix

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 09:46 PM

I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone's techniques for solar sketching.

Creating anchors at the beginning of a sketch is very helpful for me, such as drawing the most prominent brightest areas of the prominences first, or the plage. I do the same for DSO with the brightest stars before I add the cluster, comet, nebula. And with lunar, The anchors are the outline of the object and then main smaller crater outlines surrounding the object. It's the only way I can easily layout the correct shapes and sizes afterward.

Sometimes I need to touch up on the brightest areas afterward, but not very often.

Here is a typical collage that I just finished to make the finished sketch more presentable and easy for me to understand later if I want to refer back to it in my files. This will accompany a typed out report based on my notes plus memory of the session.

I do this in Paintshop Pro. The digital Sun insert is of course from your excellent program, the Tilting Sun, Les. That program has been so helpful for me ever since you introduced it to the solar forum.

I have a new printer/scanner. This past year has been an expensive one for me with a new printer and a new computer since the old ones kicked the bucket this winter. I'm having to learn all the little quirks that go with this new computer as well as with the scanner part of the printer. It picks up all sorts of artifacts and there's got to be a way to eliminate them easily.

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#16 Erix

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 10:03 PM

Just to show a little progression of the past few years:

Colored watercolor pencils on white paper: Dec 05

Earlier charcoal sketches on white paper: Dec 05

Pastels on white paper with charcoal thrown in: Dec 2005

Combined sketches for earlier solar collages: Jan 16 2006 and Jan 19 2006

Pastels on black construction paper: Jan 2006

Charcoal on white paper with some graphite thrown in. March 2006

Here's the first time I tried Black Strathmore Artagain paper for h-alpha. Arpil 2006

First eruptive prominence: April 2006

Solar animations: July 2007

Watercolor pencils on Strathmore paper: August 07

Current collages and full disk renderings: 2008

I have some projection/white light/h-alpha combined sketches threads here somewhere. They were one disk with all three added together.



#17 atoptics

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 09:54 AM

Erika’s prominence sketching account inspired me to put down a few thoughts about it, we have different techniques and looking in detail at hers is going to teach a lot. But also, my thanks to Erika for getting me into solar sketching in the first place. My first view of live prominences was a quick peek through someone else’s PST in Turkey just a couple of hours before the magnificent 2006 total eclipse. Bitten immediately by the bug I bought a SolarMax60 that same summer, luckily the astro store did not have an SM90 to demonstrate or I might have left my car with them and walked home with that scope. I soon started doing tiny little graphite pencil sketches and it was immensely comforting on finding Erika’s fine work on SpaceWeather to know that there were other sketchers out there. Erika was immensely encouraging and soon got me into ‘proper’ pastel sketches on black paper.

#18 atoptics

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 09:55 AM

Equipment in order of increasing expense:

Derwent Watercolour pencil (white and black)
White Derwent Studio pencil
White Derwent Drawing pencil

There are other types of pencil in the box and it’s nice to experiment. However, the above are my current favourites. I have migrated completely from pastels to pencils because they make precise marks and a high degree of control is possible with them.

Pencil sharpener - I like to keep the pencils very sharp.

No erasers or blending stumps.

Black Canford A4 pad

(Not shown) Hood cloth black on one side, reflective white on the other. This was made exactly to a design of Sally (The Chemist) and is really excellent.

Vixen PortaMount altazimuth. Very quick to set up and steady.

SM60 single stacked. TV zoom eyepiece, TV 8 and 5mm Radians. I need eyeglasses to see to sketch and the Radians have the needed eye relief.

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#19 atoptics

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 09:57 AM

A session always starts with the whole disk through the zoom at 10 - 12mm. After enjoying the view - the sun is always different - a quick graphite pencil sketch is made of the main features. Nothing special and the blanks are only 2.5 inches across. These are just a memo. Afterwards indoors the North-South meridian and the sun’s poles are added using TiltingSun and a protractor. Once that’s done the position angles of proms can be measured. The act of doing the little sketch helps avoid overlooking any interesting detail and leads pretty naturally to deciding whether the seeing is good enough to draw and what to draw.

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#20 atoptics

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 09:58 AM

Fairly large proms are the easiest to get started with but avoid selecting too large an area to sketch, better to concentrate on a smaller area and get all the details correct. Proms change quickly and if a sketch takes longer than 10 minutes the features will likely already be different.

Now, today is typical England gloom and so a live sketching sequence can’t be done. Since I like to work entirely under the black hood it would be very bitty and distracting anyway.

Instead I will try to reconstruct a sketch made on 7th May ’08. This was the “1st CN International day of the Sun” when expert photographer Pete Lawrence selected a prominence and everyone agreed to take synchronised images (plus a sketch!) every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour. Knowing that Pete’s Rolls-Royce 70mm Solarscope was imaging at exactly the same time just 150 miles away focussed the mind wonderfully but made the pencils tremble! He also selected the bittyist uglyist fastest changing prom we had ever seen!

Here are two of the original sketches (I will try to re-do the upper one). Flash photography on a dull day is not flattering to sketchwork! The thread showing all the images and sketches plus at the end a giant montage of most of the results is here.

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#21 atoptics

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 10:00 AM

Before starting a sketch I like to just sit for 10-15 minutes and take in the area switching sometimes between the 8 mm and zoom eyepieces and, if the seeing is good enough, the 5mm.

As well as having pencils sharp and eyepieces dust free its fun to prepare the mind. It’s good to imagine that you actually are the prominence. If that sound mystical it isn’t meant to be. A stage actor tries to become the character they are portraying to better interpret and reveal it to the world. It’s the same with painting or drawing. Whether it’s a portrait, a landscape, a cabbage or a solar scene, shift your mind to become one with the subject, mentally move around it, feel it, experience it. Somehow the results on paper are always better. Imagine that you really are that skein-like mass of cool glowing neutral hydrogen and plasma. Look at the boiling incandescent surface 50,000 miles below you. With your all seeing eyes check out the magnetic field loops arcing upwards and around you. Feel their support and then the lack of it as they change with your gas and plasma then twisting and sliding in streams and globules towards the cauldron beneath. At some stage during this trip you will want to actually start drawing! Don’t rush into it, plan carefully…

#22 atoptics

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 10:00 AM

OK, I’m going to try reconstructing the 10:00 UT sketch using the original as a basis and not looking at Pete’s excellent photograph that appeared later that afternoon. As in the original, it will take half a page of A4.

As Erika says, getting the right curvature of the solar limb is not easy. I tend to make it too strongly curved (as I did in the original 10:00 sketch) and try to guard against that.

I lightly freehand draw in the limb with the Derwent Studio pencil. Use your arm to get a smooth curve rather than wrist or fingers

The next step is to map out the ‘flow lines‘ and directions of the major features, again using light sharp lines with the Studio pencil. A figure drawing tutor once told me to look for lines and curves that flowed right across the figure and off to the edges of the paper. That works for most compositions, it provides anchors, helps with the proportions and unifies the sketch.

Below are the proms with the (at that time) mental flow lines highlighted in green. You notice distance and size relationships. The distance from the man’s foot at right to the base of the next faint ‘V’ shaped prom is slightly more than the man’s height, and so on. The lines anchor down the way the proms curve.

Another tricky thing is getting proms to tilt relative to the limb at the correct angles. At the time I probably imagined the red line perpendicular to the man’s foot . His head was to the left of the red line and this fixed the tilt of the ‘body’. Human heads are normally firmly over the feet - this guy was either walking fast or about to fall over!

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#23 atoptics

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 10:01 AM

That’s all the hard work all done! Now for the sketching, the really fun and fast bit.

I’m going to scan from now on because the flash photos don’t show the faint lines well.

Here are the first marks showing the outline shapes and positions of the proms

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#24 atoptics

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 10:02 AM

I remember that the bright inverted ‘V’ at left was changing quickly so I filled in more detail of that - still using a sharp Studio pencil to make fine lines.

Then the ‘head’ and ‘feet’ went in. The foot of the ‘V’ had a little twist to it that flashed up during good seeing.

Hmm just remembered something else - the etalon tuning. My preference is to leave it well alone during a sketch because retuning the etalon can change a prom’s appearance. Some regions of gas move fast and are Doppler shifted. It’s sometimes useful beforehand not to tune to maximum prom brightness - that sometimes makes bright proms opaque and hides their inner detail. Photos can do that too - runs for cover from the wrath of the imagers.

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#25 atoptics

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 10:02 AM

Now some more of the tones are put in and while all that was being done the eye noticed the faint surrounding threads and tendrils - they go in too.

One or two details were corrected using a sharp black pencil rather than an eraser. I don’t like erasers because they can soften the lines and are less controllable. Well I’m sure they are, it’s just my prejudices showing!

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