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Tag : stars

19 Jun 2020

Milky Way fun in New Hampshire

I decided to head over to New Hampshire last night for some Milky Way photos. The state is only 15 miles from my house in Vermont and has a very different look than where I live. Finding good places to shoot the Milky Way is tough, I always want to have something interesting in the foreground and not just stars overhead. Getting away from light pollution is very hard and I use a couple of websites and apps to help but you never really know until you’re there on a moonless night. So finding a place with those two main criteria requires a lot of snooping around in daylight and then going back at night to see how it really looks. I went to one pond that I spotted an island on Google maps yesterday but there were houses along the shore and no place to park so I’ll have to go back during the day and make some friends to gain access. I went to another large pond, Goose Pond, to a spot I had scouted before. As soon as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could tell there would be a lot of light pollution to the south east, which is where the Milky Way is located. It was bright enough to light the water and some of the sky to diminish the Milky Way’s colors but the stars reflecting on the water looked cool.

Then I went over to a boat launch on Mascoma Lake, which I guessed would be bright and I was right. I street light in the parking lot lit up the moored boats which ended up looking rather good. Finally I went to a small pond I had scouted and tromped out into a wet field in the darkness. Again there was plenty of light pollution on the horizon which reflected in the pond but the area was open enough to photograph the entire Milky Way’s arch. After processing the photos today I was liking them more than when I shot them. That makes for a good night.

05 Aug 2018

Bonus night for night skies workshop

My three night Vermont Night Skies and Light Painting Workshop finished last night and since the weather didn’t cooperate on Friday night, I added a bonus night for those who could stick around.

We started with another visit from the International Space Station. It is crazy to imagine being able to stand outside and see a space craft flying past and making photos of it. Catching a ride in that thing would be the ultimate thrill! I took us to a large open field that had some trees to use as a foreground and a cool stone wall.

We finished the night photographing a secluded barn. It isn’t easy to find a red barn that doesn’t have any light hitting it, which is essential since I like to light them with a flashlight. Friend Bob Wagner told me about this one and asked the landowners if we could photograph it. A great way to end the workshop.

04 Aug 2018

Shooting stars and the ISS

We got a special treat tonight during my Vermont Night Skies and Light Painting Workshop, a visit from the International Space Station. Using a couple of iPhone apps we could see where and when the ISS would fly over and leave a bright streak in the sky. I took us to an old hilltop cemetery where we photographed the Milky Way and did some light painting while waiting for the flyover. It came right on schedule and we were able to make exciting photos of it passing in front of the Milky Way. I was lucky catch a shooting star at the same time. Pretty cool.

I am fortunate to have a neighbor in Woodstock who allows me access to her beautiful property in nearby Pomfret, VT. The pond is marvelous and it is dark there, so it is a great place to take the group. We did several shots around the pond of the Milky Way and light painting on the shore while. Adding a little light from flashlights always adds a nice touch to astrophotography. I like seeing something in the foreground and just having stars in the sky.

While we were shooting the Milky Way, some people tried doing star trails spinning in the photo. The trick is to find Polaris, the North Star and over a period of time it will look like other stars are circling it due to the earth’s rotation. This is actually 120 photos during about one hour and then put together in the computer. The result is very cool and I got the lights from people on the other side of the pond photographing the Milky Way.

15 May 2018

Covered bridge under the stars

I spend a lot of time in Vermont, though not nearly enough. It seems like whenever I’m here there are plenty of clouds so I can’t go out to make photos of the stars. The reality is there are plenty of clear nights but I’m probably too lazy to stay out late! I usually like to shoot sunrise and I can no longer burn the candle on both ends so I pick mornings over staying out late. Yesteday the sky was perfectly clear the forecast for the next few days was for rain starting this morning, so it was the perfect time to stay up late.

I wanted to shoot a covered bridge during a long exposure and put some light on the bridge to make it stand out. The trick is that there can’t be any other lights nearby or they will ruin the shot. Middle Bridge in Woodstock is only a few blocks from my house but it is right in the village and there is a ton of light hitting it, so that won’t work for stars without a lot of work in the computer. I didn’t want to make a computer generated photo so I went to the Taftsville Bridge on the east end of Woodstock town. It was severely damaged by the remnants of Hurricane Irene a few years ago and they added lights inside it during the renovation. There are also lights on both ends so that didn’t work. I went to Woodstock’s other covered bridge, Lincoln, west of the village.

Lincoln Bridge is pretty secluded although right off Route 4, a major road through the middle of Vermont. There is a nearby hotel that has some lights but I knew if I got on the opposite side I could block out those lights and be in darkness. There is a path down to the river below the bridge and I went upstream a little ways and set up my tripod. The stars were shining bright but I could see clouds moving in quickly. I used my headlamp to illuminate the bridge and tried several shots. I went back up on the gravel road and shot from there but the clouds were coming fast and it wasn’t long before I wasn’t capturing many stars and I was done.

23 Nov 2015

A night of fun photos in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua star trailsOn a quick trip to southern California, my friend John invited me to go out to Joshua Tree National Park and spend a day in the desert. I hadn’t been there before but I knew a good bit about it, I’m not sure if it was because of Jim Morrison’s legendary trips there, or U2’s famous album (that was really in Death Valley) or just reading about it from lots of other photographers.

The park is a unique area with Joshua trees, sand and big sandstone rock formations. Some feel mystical powers emanating from the rocks, it was a cool place, but I didn’t catch any special vibes.

We got there yesterday afternoon and went to the main areas that everyone seems to visit. Being the weekend before Thanksgiving, it was pretty crowded, more people than John had seen on his many trips there. People were climbing the rocks, most of the big formations had people on top of them. It made getting a clear show without humanity pretty hard, but it was still great to see.

Joshua MoonAs the sun was getting low, we went to a standing rock monolith that has a cool old juniper tree nearby to get shots after dark. I had found the spot while doing research before my trip and it looked like a great place to do light painting after sunset. I brought a couple of large flashlights with me, so I had John light up the background a bit while I illuminated the tree and rock.

The moon is going to be full in a couple of days, so it was pretty bright out in the clear air of the desert. We could walk around with using our headlamps and see perfectly well. We stopped at another rock formation and I did a few shots with the starts and moon. I love the look of moonlight shaping the rocks.

Since there were no clouds, I want to do a star trail shot, but I didn’t want to do an all-nighter in the desert, so I set up a camera on a tripod with a 15mm fisheye lens, hooked an old iPhone to it with TriggerTrap and started shooting. The moonset was around 2:30 a.m., so I wanted the camera to start firing then so there wouldn’t be any light in the sky. Earlier at the hotel I worked to get a delay going with TriggerTrap but I couldn’t make it work. So my only option was to let the camera fire all night and hope the batteries would last until well after the moon went down. I set TriggerTrap to fire a 30 second exposure, wait one minute, make another 30 second exposure, wait, fire, wait, fire for the next six hours.

I set the camera up about a hundred yards off the road, not too worried that someone would spot and steal it in the middle of the desert. We went back to the hotel and planned on getting camera after coming back out for sunrise. We got up at 4 a.m. and headed back into the park. It was still dark and we thought we knew exactly where the camera was but we drove right past it and got back to the place where where we did the light painting last night. Since the light was coming on fast, I decided to hike a little and shoot the sunrise there and we’d find the other camera later.

Sunrise in the desert is a lot different that what I’m accustomed to in the East. The light came very quickly and since there were no clouds, it didn’t take long for the sunlight to be very harsh. I tried lots of shots but wasn’t too thrilled with any of them.

It was time to go find the other camera and see what I got. We went back through the park and watched for a pulloff near a large mound of rocks. It was farther than we thought but I recognized it and could see my camera from the road. I don’t know which died first, the phone or the camera battery, but they both were dead and the last shot was taken at about 3:30 a.m. That gave me plenty of images to stitch together to make the shot I was hoping for. The moonlight shots gave me nice light on the Joshua tree and surrounding landscape and also good color in the sky.

I look forward to getting out there again and perfect some things that I learned.