Transit of Venus

Below is the the thought process I used to plan to take photos of the once-in-a-lifetime event – the Transit of Venus across the face of the sun. The event occurred on June 5, 2012. For some background, read here.

This is an especially useful tool:

A Goal

Get a recognizable foreground silhouetted against a large solar disk featuring the “dot” of Venus. To be useful, the sun needs to be large and the foreground recognizable. Here is what I actually achieved.

Drift Mode [composite]

With a Recognizable Silhouette (Here the Golden Gate Bridge)

Peek a Boo [C_037975]

Of course the sun would have to be higher so that the recognizable tower foreground would be visible as a silhouette. It should be possible to also process the shot like this one:

Rise and Shine [C_037951+77]

Imagine the “dot” on the face of the sun.

All this is possible if we catch the sun near sunset.  Sunset configuration rules out the Lick photo since that is facing east.

Important Factors

  1. Weather!
  2. Recognizable foreground
  3. Good distance from the target (to get a large sun diameter relative to the target)
  4. Long focal length.
  5. Weather!
  6. Sun azimuth will be about 300 degrees near set.

Possible Locations

  • Pigeon Point Lighthouse – alignment works. Fog might be a problem. NOTE the Lighthouse will be much smaller than shown here. Indeed, nearly the entire lighthouse will be present against the face of the sun due to the distance of two miles to the lighthouse.

  • Transamerica Building – probably won’t look like much in silhouette
  • Sutro Tower – wonder if it has the recognizableness, and if the thin towers will really show up against the sun.
    • Bristlecone Pine Tree – almost certainly doable somewhere!
    • Washington Monument?
    • US Capital Building?
    • Seattle Space Needle (Anything in Seattle is unlikely due to trees everywhere)

Locations Ruled Out

  • Most “mountain tops” as they are not easily recognized in silhouette – especially e.g. Half Dome (on the wrong side of the valley and so huge it’s not possible to get far enough away)
  • Golden Gate Bridge North Tower (mountains behind)
  • Coit Tower (unlikely – vantage is on Alameda and the Marin Headlands will be behind.)
  • Golden Gate Bridge South Tower (for the same reason as the North Tower)

3 thoughts on “Transit of Venus

  1. Phil McGrew

    Hopefully I don’t get kicked out of the group for being unimaginative but does a once (technically twice) in a lifetime astronomical event really require foreground? To me, the most interesting shot is a composite showing the transit (or a time-lapse) and not a single black dot on the sun. If you have foreground, you can’t have a composite and vice versa. And, since this event is so rare, do you really want to flirt with the coastal fog and risk missing it altogether?

    Another location up for discussion is Point Bonita Lighthouse from Baker Beach. I have tried getting the sun behind this lighthouse on several occasions last summer but it always slipped into the marine layer before getting there.

    Or, the Stanford Dish from the hiking trail or slightly further back near the main road.

    As suggested, most SF icons don’t work well because the sun sets too far north but you could get the Golden Gate Brige from the Marina Green area (~2.25 miles away).

    1. Steven Christenson

      That’s it. Banned for life. 🙂 Your question is a good one, however here is my thought: Every person with a camera and a slightly clear sky can get the sun with a dot on it. If animation were the goal, the place to go would be somewhere where the path of Venus forms a loop (it does – drop the marker on Manila in the Philipines for example!).

      However how many people will be able to get a recognizable silhouette? Takes a lot more planning. And, there is no rule that says it has to be a silhouette only – I’m just thinking that the more purist sites like APoD and APotY are less likely to accept a composite shot like my “Rise and Shine”.

      Stanford Dish is an interesting idea, but it isn’t at the top of the hill. Even less than a mile away from behind it’s not visible.

      There will be time to get the “dot” when the sun is higher in the sky anyway. I’m talking near sunset.


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