Astrophotography Retry with Orion






As promised I wanted to have a retry on my initial attempt of capturing the Orion Constellation, as part of an online course I’m taking on Future Learn. I believe I’m starting to get the hang of it! Here is a link to my first attempt:

Male Blackbird


Last weekend my family and I took part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. We spent Saturday morning preparing our bird hide, food for birds and for other wildlife. The children were super excited, and we managed to see three magpies, two blue tits, a wren or a female house sparrow, as well as a male blackbird.

The male blackbird is still hanging out in our garden and we’ve seen it before a few times, so we’re starting to wonder two things: 1) has it made a nest somewhere close by?, and 2) perhaps the wren or female house sparrow we saw may have in fact been a female blackbird?! We’ll keep investigating! We’re new to bird-spotting, so still learning our birds.

It was a lovely time relaxing together, talking and enjoying the free entertainment of nature. We’re already looking forward to getting our garden ready for Spring in our bid to stay as close as possible to nature.

The Big Garden Birdwatch synced nicely with our ‘No Electricity Day’, which we do on the last Sunday of each month. A lovely detox and reminder of the beauty of nature and how much fun you can have only by using candles.


Astrophotography First Attempt with Orion Constellation

Orion Constellation

My first attempt at some astrophotography (astronomy photography) was a successful failure. Packed with my old Canon EOS 450D, an EFS 55-250mm lens and a tripod, I took flight to the back garden with plenty of enthusiasm whilst playing about with the settings in the winter cold air.

I say failure because I couldn’t quite get a clear and focused fix on the Orion Constellation, and success because I managed at least to capture it. I tried to capture Jupiter, but that ended up being more of a star trail capture. Learning and improving through failure is definitely going to be the way forward on my combined hobbies of amateur photography and astronomy.

After some post-photography research it seems like the following settings should work well:

Programme: Manual
Focus: Manual
Stabilisation: Off
Red Eye: Off
White Balance: Daylight or custom
Drive: One shot
ISO: Switch between 1600, 800 and 400
Aperture: f2 – f4.5
Metering: Spot or Auto
Shutter Speed: 30 Secs or Bulb
Quality: Raw, Large
Self-timer: Do use

Looking forward to having another go sometime soon. Next time I’ll try to capture the moon on a clear night also. Note-to-self: ISO 100, aperture f8 – f16, shutter speed 1/125 to 1/250. It was quite windy on the night I was taking some snaps, so next time I’ll weight down the tripod for better stabilisation. Below are some more photographs from a freezing night.

Man’yōshū, Book 11, verse 2, 513 & 514

なるかみの, すこしとよみて,

[A faint clap of thunder,
Clouded skies,
Perhaps rain will come.
If so, will you stay here with me?]

Man’yōshū, Book 11, verse 2, 513


[A faint clap of thunder,
Even if rain comes or not,
I will stay here,
Together with you.]

Man’yōshū, Book 11, verse 2, 514
I recently came across this tanka (short poem) whilst watching the visually beautiful short anime ‘The Garden of Words‘ (言の葉の庭 Kotonoha no Niwa) directed by Makoto Shinkai. It’s a short call and response (question and answer) written in the Man’yōshū. So beautiful in its simplicity I wanted to share.

Shooting Star – Short Story

Soul mates I laugh out loud in my head. For me it was just a magnificent myth, a whisper carried in the wind and narrated in films, but then she came and stirred me like a pebble that skims across water, creating ripples in my once stagnant pond.

She scans my face with her hand in mid-air as if to imprint my image deep within her mind. I let her into my quarters for only the second time. We stretch out on the electric mat staring deep into each other while the ethereal sound waves of Uehara Hiromi split through the warm fabric air setting the mood for what is to be our last evening together.

“I should go,” she said closing her eyes.

“Don’t, I want to hold you for the night.”

“But I’m afraid I can’t control myself.”

“Don’t worry.” I pull strands of her long black hair away from her lips. I look at her being reminded of the time we spent at the seaside in Makuhari where we both fell in love.


With hands clenched together and hearts blazing like school children we walked along a narrow path onto a grey beach. Seashells that once ebbed and flowed with the tide had claimed residence on the higher banks of the sand. We glanced up at the dancing kites that were painting the sky in a silhouette of arrowed colours. I turned to catch a glimpse of her smile.

“This is perfect”, she whispered. The nimble wind gently stroked her short bleached hair. I could hear it, nature’s melody in sync with the flapping kites, the waves, the dog barking and children giggling. The air by the seaside always carried with it extra blankets of sounds and messages from a grand voyage at sea.

It is said that we have six soul mates scattered across the globe, north, east, south, west and central. The sixth is someone we create, someone who over time we develop and nurture into our soul mate and is perhaps the most precious one of all the six. She is the sixth one.

On this day she wore converse trainers, a black jacket with faces of people neither of us knew, a black flat top hat, black shirt and black trousers. It was apparent that she loved black. As usual she wore a thin sheet of makeup, just enough to give her that added glow, but not so much so as to revive the dead. As I looked out to the sea with her, it felt crazy to go ahead and say something like I love you, and so for that moment just to be safe, I opened my mouth and said “I’m really into you without reservations”. She crouched down still holding my hand and absorbed her fingers into the soggy velvet bedding and placed two small seashells side by side. I watched the whole ceremony in silence, attentive to her every movement.

“You and I,” I said while looking ahead as she moved to stand up. “We’ve laid our eggs just like crabs do.” Not the most romantic thing to say I realised as the last words dripped off my tongue.

“Yeah,” she replied.

The kites were now playing hide-and-seek behind some trees. The Aten still in descent from the blue sky moved with authority, giving life and light to all things on Earth. The once forgotten Egyptian pharaoh, Akhenaten, knew very well the quality and importance of the sun. I saw it too, I warmed to it, and I wanted to be apart of its rays, lighting up dark passages in her life. Often people like to divide things so-to-speak, the sea is separate from the sky, and this division helps us to form an understanding. But for me, and at that moment, everything was whole.


As we stand waiting for the train the next morning, high school students laugh and joke as cold white clouds drift into the winter air from behind their teeth. The moon’s flat milky outline begins to fade as the sun stretches its almond rays across the pale rooftops.

The train arrives and we board to stand next to the opposite door. Two teenage girls are chattering away but not deeply enough so as to allow themselves time to give us a descriptive glare. Holding hands we begin to talk about how perfect the evening was. She takes fluff off from my cheek and I stroke the side of her face. We look at dried rice fields outside the window. We agree at the possibility of seeing each other after she returns from a brief trip to visit family in Korea. The train was now beginning to pull into my station. I remembered how we stood this close together while gazed in awe and fascination at the six-layered lunar coronae a few weeks before. It illuminated the sky beautifully with shaded colours beyond the imagination and shone down upon us like a spotlight searching for earth’s children. Time halted, as people drifted slowly around us like a special camera effect.

“Kiss me one last time,” she asked. She snatched the words from right out of my mouth. I step forward and our lips meet for what would be the last time. People are no doubt watching this scene light up for it is most definitely not your usual morning episode. The train stops. I reach out my fingers separating her hair and rest my hand on her warm cheek.

“Goodbye,” I whisper. She smiles with watery eyes and whispers back. I disembark the train and merge into the crowd.


B. L. Crisp
*This is an edited version of a previous three-part short story I wrote titled ‘The Seaside’. Recently, I’m revisiting some of my old work to do some ruthless editing as necessary practice as I re-edit my novel this year. I may share some here from time-to-time albeit it this is a digital space of unedited work.