Let’s see. The last I knew you were all looking at barns because barns are so much easier to photograph than stars. I don’t suppose I can ply you with more of them?
No? I understand–you’re wondering how I could have been at a dark sky park for three days and three nights and not produce something worthy of all that time.
All three evenings we had nice sunsets, and I hoped that the skies might be clear enough to see some stars. But clouds rolled in after the sun went down and we had two nights of torrential rain and wind.
Definitely no star shooting those nights! Though I did see a couple meteorites each night before the weather turned really wicked.
But I really wanted to spend a few hours on a warm summer night watching the sky, and behind those clouds I just knew there were hundreds of meteorites flying. It was frustrating.
Finally it was Thursday night, my last night at the park. Weather predictions were that Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights would be clear. But there wasn’t a campsite or a hotel room to be had over the weekend, so all my chips were on the table for Thursday night.
I walked down to the beach after dark to see if there were stars or clouds. Turned out there was a bit of both. I took a few pictures, but it wasn’t really dark, so I decided to drive to the dark sky park one last time.
And I’m so glad I did.
I arrived shortly before 11:00 p.m. and the parking lot was very full. You could feel the excitement, all those cars, headlights off, dark shadows of people scurying around with tripods and red headlamps.
I finally found a block of three empty parking spots and I quickly pulled into the middle one. Just as I was turning in I realized there was a person in a chair in the first empty spot. That shook me as I could have run right over them!
I got out of the car, intent on apologizing for almost mowing him or her down when I heard snoring. There was a very large man in a reclining beach chair full on asleep. I made a lot of noise, not intentionally, getting my gear out of the car and he never woke up.
I decided there were too many noisy people, including what appeared to be a whole group of school kids at the other end of the parking lot. I was already seeing metorites overhead, so I headed back into the dunes to see what I could see.
Lots of people out there too, red headlights bobbing around, but the people were quiet, more respectful of the wonderful show going on overhead.
As the sky got darker and darker the number of meteorites bursting overhead increased. I was standing at an intersection of two paths and several people stopped by to chat about what a wonderful night it was.
One young man in particular asked me right away what appeture I was using, and we ended up in a long conversation about lenses and iso speeds. He had a camera in the car, shooting film. We debated if it would work, and he went to get it.
Turns out it was color, with a speed of 200 (I can’t remember how we phrased that back in the film days) but he did have a really low f-stop. So I set my camera for 200 iso and shot 20 seconds to see what he might get…which ended up being a big, totally black rectangle.
So he took one picture anyway, just for fun, but didn’t waste the rest of his roll of film. Then we talked about him going to the University of Michigan, and me having done that many years ago, and his road trip to NYC and my roadtrip to Baltimore, and his granparents (who aren’t much older than me), and photography composition, and today’s real estate values skyrocketing, and my dad’s truck crash, and his planned kayak trip the next morning. Then he headed back to his campsite, and I stayed out there and shot the sky for another hour at least.
Just after 1 a.m. the sky lit up with metorites. And I was lucky (and it’s all pure luck) that one appeared to dance right through the frame of one of my shots. I squealed as I am want to do in situations like this, then impatiently waited for the 15 seconds to elapse, and then the long wait for the noise reduction to work itself out before I could check to see if what I thought had happened had.
And yes it did! HOW COOL IS THAT?
I could have stayed out there staring at the sky all night. But by 1:45 I thought I had captured all the angles of the few trees out there. And I had that drive home in the morning. So I started walking back to the parking lot. But then there’d be something else that was pretty so I’d have to stop.
There were lots of other people still out there, too, though some were also packing it up for the night.
I’m sure there were several dozen back in the dunes still gazing up at the sky when I finally left, I hope they weren’t asleep like the three young ladies I found on the grassy berm in front of my car. I woke them up when I used the remote to unlock the back and my headlights turned on. I hadn’t seen them there asleep on a big blanket. At least they weren’t snoring.
It was such a wonderful night I’m having trouble deciding which images to show you. There was still quite a bit of light coming from town, but I guess that just adds to the effect.
I wish you all could have been standing right there with me. It’s really kind of hard to express how awe inspiring it is to be under those stars hanging so bright in the sky with metorites flitting through them which evoked oohs and ahs from people all over the park. It was better than the 4th of July fireworks.
I sweated through three days of heat and humidity and held my tent to the ground by sheer determination in two monsoons in a campground with no bathrooms for that one perfect night, and every bit of all that discomfort disappeared as soon as I was in the dark on the warm sand looking up on a clear night.
I heartily recommend this kind of experience for anything that ails you. And it’s OK if you bring your beach chair.
Just don’t snore.
PS: I recommend you look at the night images on something bigger than your phone, and probably turn up the brightness of your screen.