The X-MAS Comet that wasn't

A short film about a little expedition out of the inversion fog, to the Zillertal Alps - to watch Comet ISON rise... (for my earlier Comet PanSTARRS Video go here:

As usual by the time of year in the Alps, the villages in the valleys lay under a thick layer of fog called inversion, and on November 15th it was no different.

But I had enough of the fog and wanted to catch a peek of comet ISON. Also I had to travel to Vienna the next morning to hold a timelapse workshop on the day after. Vienna = fog.

So, after packing, I grabbed my gear and drove east to go high above the Zillertal to escape the fog. The road that would lead me high enough, I knew from an earlier session in 2010. But I was a bit anxious: The road would in the upper part be icy and snow covered, would I need to mount chains? No. I arrived at the place – located 1800 m high – around 1:30 a.m. And finally there were the clear skies and a great view to the east.

I set the GBT rig for a time-lapse comet transition, estimated where ISON would appear and programmed a pan/tilt move to the right upwards (6D with 24-70/2.8 at 70 mm). It would later turn out that the pan was too slow so ISON would climb out of the image, but at least it’s in there for a while as I could see from GBT’s live preview.

After the GBT Rig was running, I polar aligned the Polarie and dialed in the D800 with my dear old AFS Nikkor 80-200/2.8.

The time was now 4:00 a.m. At around 4:30 a.m. my energy and concentration was clearly starting to fade and I somehow couldn’t spot the darn meteor. So I took a couple horizontal shots with the D800 and the 80-200 set to 80 mm, and there the comet was in all it’s early glory.

My first sight was at 4:50, 16.11.13. Probably the comet had already been there for a couple of minutes, but I didn't recognize it.

Amazing, how much more cameras do see. Around 6:00 am I was weary enough to let things run on automatic, and took a nap until 9:00 a.m. Packing gear up and after a careful drive down I was back home at 12:00 noon – with some ISON images for the family!

After leave for Vienna, the fog had me again. But this time, with a smile.

Sleep well little comet, it was a pleasure!

Filmed with
- Canon 6D, AFS 24-70/2.8 Nikkor (w Novoflex NT Adapter)
- Nikon D800, AFS 80-200/2.8
- Vixen Polarie
- Emotimo TB3 Black
- GBTimelapse

Christoph Malin

P.S.: Check some of my other short films:

"Astronomer's Paradise",
"Island in the Sky",
"Urban - Mountain - Sky",!/christophmalin

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