Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.

Sky high


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?

Look! It’s a barn! (From my drive home on Friday.)

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.

Packing up my campsite Friday.

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.

This little guy had to be presuaded not to hitch a ride home with me.

Definitely no star shooting those nights! Though I did see a couple meteorites each night before the weather turned really wicked.

Wednesday night’s sunset.

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.

Thursday night’s sunset.

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.

The stars from the campground beach about 10:30 p.m.

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.

No that’s not a meteorite. It’s just a plane.

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.

Light from town interferes with the Milky Way.

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!

So many stars.

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.

The other end of the Milky Way.

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.

Most of the Milky Way was directly overhead.

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.

There were a few clouds but they just added to the interest.

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.

It was such a beautiful night.

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.

I still can’t believe I got this curly que meteorite!

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.

This is what it looks like when a whole group of people with flashlights and headlamps walks through your 15 second exposure.

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 don’t know what planet that is on the left, but it was soooo bright!

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.

Hard to describe.

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.

Author: dawnkinster

I'm a long time banker having worked in banks since the age of 17. I took a break when I turned 50 and went back to school. I graduated right when the economy took a turn for the worst and after a year of library work found myself unemployed. I was lucky that my previous bank employer wanted me back. So here I am again, a long time banker. Change is hard.

41 thoughts on “Sky high

  1. I am so happy for you! What amazing images! I was floored by the sunsets and then I saw your night images. Wow! The Milky Way and the curling meteor, awesome! I haven’t had a chance to get back out there, maybe this weekend.


  2. How fun for you! And everyone else too. Great pictures!
    We always enjoy when we return back to AZ just to sit in our backyard and look at the stars. I have seen the Milky Way in our backyard… But star gazing is even better when we get away from the city lights.
    Happy Saturday!


  3. I am so pleased for you, that in the end, you were rewarded!


  4. Oh, Dawn!! These are amazing, awesome, beautiful. I’m so glad that you were rewarded for your patience and perseverance. ♥ Your shot of the Milky Way nearly took my breath away (in a good way). Your curly que meteorite is very cool. When I get a new camera (and I think I’m going to need to in the next year or so), we’ll have to talk about photographing night skies. Winter is the time to do that here.

    I should note, too, that I very much enjoy your storytelling and that the young man was willing to stop and chat about this, that, and the other thing. 🙂


    • Thank you, Robin! I enoyed the conversation with the young man as well. Typically if someone was standing there talking to me while I was trying to do photography I’d end up annoyed, but this young man didn’t annoy me at all. In fact all the people I met that night were interesting and very nice. That makes storytelling easy.

      What makes you think you’ll need a new camera? Your photos are always beautiful!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you. 🙂 This one is getting old and I’m thinking about upgrading to something a little more professional. What my current camera and lenses really need are a good , professional, cleaning. Unfortunately, I can’t find a place around here that does that (and I don’t trust the mail service so I won’t be shipping it out to have it done — so much has gotten lost or destroyed on its way here or on its way elsewhere). I’m in a debate with myself. It’s possible that a new lens or two (something other than what I currently have) might do the trick. The lenses I’m looking at, however, cost more than the camera did. Much more. The camera, at this point (it’s ten years old), is worth about $150. The lens I would really like costs about $1,100, on sale. Also, the camera has been a little glitchy lately. I work around it, but I don’t know if that’s a sign it’s lived its best life or it just needs cleaned.


        • You deserve a new camera. So much to decide though, as to what you might want. Would you be able to get a lens like the one you want that costs $1100 still if you get a new camera too?


  5. So worth the wait. These are wonderful, Dawn.


  6. Your sunset photos were so beautiful, I didn’t think I could want anything more – but then, the night skies, the stars! And the curly que meteorite – awesome! Totally and completely awesome! Also awesome is your dedication and determination.


    • It was so much fun. I hope I get to do something like that again. There’s always next August, right? But THIS August was special because there wasn’t moon interference. The star experts said that next year there will be a moon up and that dims the stars. So I was so hoping that I’d get a clear night this year when it was REALLY dark…I was lucky to get Thursday night!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Nice photos. I liked the sunsets too, very pretty. It would be amazing to see the night sky with meteors. Lately, in California the meteor showers come in the wee hours of the morning and the light pollution or clouds can block the view. I think you really need to get out in the country like you did to see them best. You are an adventurer, camping in a tent with no bathroom.


  8. Beautiful sky photos! I went out with my brother and his wife about 11PM we saw a number of Persids,,,some very bright…it was awesome. So glad you got one clear night!


  9. Very cool! What amazing photos! A dark sky park is on Jeff’s bucket list. Will definitely have to make sure we plan a few nights when we go.

    Jeff and I almost cancelled a post vaccine trip to NYC in April because of a bad forecast. So glad we didn’t, because it was amazing to see NYC with so few people/no tourists in it. Yes, it was too windy to go up in the World One Observatory (the elevator shut down), and we got sprinkled on a few times, but having the Amtrak train car, 9/11 museum, Ellis Island and the High Line all to ourselves was an experience of a lifetime. One we will never be able to replicate. I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

    Sometimes (usually) it is worth taking a chance!


  10. That is incredible!!! We need to send you to Hovenweep National Site in NM. It felt like I could reach up and pluck the stars with my hand. We need to send you to Yukon to capture some Northern Lights. Great work!!!


    • I bet you have pretty dark skies where you are too. But I’m always up for a trip to NM….and I’m sure I’d love Yukon too…but it sounds cold, so maybe not in winter. I’ve never seen northern lights…and that’s on my bucket list for sure.


  11. Star gazing is breath taking. One has to wonder. Such a beautiful universe we live in. Awesome night skies.


  12. Reading this, looking at these photographs, I literally felt like I was right there with you—with chills running up and down my arms. Oh how I would love to have my camera in hand on a night like this one! Great photographs!!


  13. Such a fabulous post! I’m rarely in a place of total (or almost) darkness, but even if I were, I wouldn’t know how to capture all that you did. Such great images and a story to tell, too.


  14. MUCH better than the Fourth of July … and not nearly as noisy!! You got some beauties, Dawn. I wanted to see the meteorites, too, but we had really wicked storms, so no luck. I wouldn’t have been able to capture them with my equipment anyway. And what was up with all those sleeping people?? Good thing you didn’t run them over!


    • The noise was kind of sweet, the soft voices, then some raised in joy when a particularly large meteorite flew by. But mostly just the lapping of the water and the noise of the night bugs. It was pretty special. Extra special because I didn’t feel nervous, there were so many people about I felt really relaxed.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Oh my. I’ve never seen anything like this. Oh my. I’ve saved that 11th photo, the one of the Milky Way. Life is so great isn’t it! wow.


  16. Your photos are spectacular on my desktop computer screen. The curlycue meteorite is amazing. I tried to see the meteorite showers here, but it was overcast. Thanks for sharing your photos here.


  17. Beautiful, beautiful photos!! I just Love that you got such starry, starry nights!! ❤️


  18. So happy you were able to see and get such a great shot! What a beautiful night!


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