Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


Starry starry night

I’m taking an online Milky Way photography course. There are many modulus, lots of basics, but lots of details too. Our homework this ‘new moon cycle’ was to take a single image of the Milky Way. I’ve been trying to get somewhere dark on a night when there are clear skies.

March 12 at Katie’s park. Clouds AND too much light! (Bortle 5)

It hasn’t been easy. There is so much light pollution where I, and most of us, live. You can check out the amount of light in your area using a light pollution map. There are 9 levels of light pollution, from a bortle 1 (darkest) to bortle 9 (the most light).

Friday late afternoon I drove a couple of hours up into the thumb of Michigan, with a specific destination in mind. Though we were under heavy cloud cover the weather people said the sky would clear by 9 p.m. and stay that way up till 3 a.m. The Milky Way wasn’t scheduled to rise until 3 a.m. But I was running out of nights when there would be no moon, so I decided to hope and headed north.

I reserved a hotel in Bad Axe, and thought I’d shoot in the Dark Sky park which has an elevated platform and pretty close to 360 degrees of sky and was located ten miles away in Port Crescent. Imagine my despair when, after checking into the hotel, I arrived at the park to explore before sunset and found it closed for the season! OH NO!!!

March 27. Too much light, and so cold my fingers froze after only 7 shots. (Bortle 4)

I drove up and down the thumb coast looking for another location as the sun began to sink. I slowly came to the realization that any open access to the beach was going to have me pointing my camera in the wrong direction. I needed to be able to see the horizon in the southeast. I’d be looking north or west on the western side of the thumb.

Downtown Port Austin. Too much light, and looking northwest.

So I drove over to the eastern shore, remembering two spits of land at Grindstone City that Katie and I had explored three years ago while camping up there. I needed to see if I’d feel safe there alone at night.

April 1. This looks promising. (Bortle 3)

Turns out one of the spits of land is a boat ramp, and the houses at the top of the ramp didn’t appear to be inhabited in this offseason of cold and wind. I didn’t see a street light either. I figured it was my best chance. I drove back to the hotel for a nap, setting my alarm for 2 a.m.

But at 2, when my phone started chiming I was so nice and warm in a comfortable bed I considered just rolling over and letting sleep claim me again. After all, the clouds were supposed to be moving in and what were the odds I see the Milky Way anyway? Plus it was a half hour drive to a dark boat ramp. Kind of scary. Maybe I’d just stay in bed.

But that would be a waste of careful (and not so careful) planning. It was my last night of clear skies before the moon put in an appearance. My last chance this moon cycle to try. So I convinced myself to at least get in the car and drive up there. And I gave myself permission to not get out of the car if it didn’t feel right.

On the drive I could see stars overhead. I never saw another car the entire trip. Arriving at the boat ramp it felt comfortable. Twenty-eight degrees, no wind, I could set my tripod up right next to the car, facing out over a small bay and Lake Huron.

I decided to sit in the car and let my eyes adjust. Also to make sure that I was alone out there. So I turned off the headlights and waited for the dash lights to dim They stayed on. And on. I thought maybe if I locked the car doors they’d turn off. So I clicked the button and the doors locked and the dash lights still stayed on. I sat there waiting and they shone brightly back at me.

Well darn.

Maybe I’d just get out and set up the camera and wait for my eyes to adjust out there. I pulled the interior door handle to release the lock and the car alarm went off. Well double darn. Here I am trying to be inconspicuous and the dash light won’t turn off and now the headlights are blinking and the horn is blaring and I’m fumbling trying to get it all to just stop!

Deliberately overexposed to check star focus. Is that the Milky Way near the tree?

I finally click the right thing and the horn stops, and I sort of fall out of the car, slam the door and begin setting up the tripod. But one of the top sections of the tripod isn’t tight, and the camera flops around and in the dark I can’t figure out what I have to turn to stop the flopping.

I take a deep breath and tighten up everything I can figure out to tighten and wonder why nothing seemed loose in the hotel room. I take a test shot, deliberately overexposed, to help me check the focus of the stars. I think I see the Milky Way in that shot, but frankly, it’s hard to tell.

Whatever, there are stars so I’m happy.

I take several (ok, 50+) images, moving around a little bit, but finding that if I move away from the car I’m in even more light from the streetlight over on the other spit of land, and hope that maybe at least one of them is exposed correctly while also in focus without tripod tremor. (At one point my camera slowly sank to the right because something still wasn’t tight!)

I never felt nervous, never got cold, and I lost all track of time. I packed it up around 4 a.m. I was pretty much taking pictures of the same tree the entire time, but I was never bored. That’s what getting lost in the stars does for me.

April 2, 3:00 a.m. Lots of light everywhere. Not even sure that’s the Milky Way, but it was pretty!

I wish I could do more of this, but it’s just so hard to find a place that’s dark enough but where I still feel safe. I’m going to start planning for the next new moon cycle. Where to go, where to go…

And a side benefit? There were lots of barns around Bad Axe. Lots and lots of barns.

Stay tuned.



Katie here.

I can’t even believe I have to tattle on mama again. It’s not as if I haven’t discussed time management skills with her before. I even thought, these past couple of years, that she was finally getting the hang of paying attention to me and only me.

But she fell off the wagon yesterday.

Deuce and his little brother Ace on the shores of Lake Huron.

While I was home napping supervising my daddy she was off galivanting with other dogs. And worse, they were boy dogs! She can’t fool me, I might be old and deaf but my nose still works just fine!

I can’t believe it! Seriously, I am too old for these kinds of shenanigans. Mama should know better.

Ace is only 2, and he likes the water. Silly boy.

She says she thought about taking me but decided the drive would be too scary, what with how I shake when I have to go in the car these days. I told her that she’d shake too if the only place she ever got to go was the vet!

Deuce is 10 and smart, like me. We don’t like our feet getting damp.

So she said she was sorry, and she made me my supper and tickled my ears and tried to play lovey-dovey.

These guys will pose anywhere for a treat. I need to tell them about my one image, one treat clause.

But I told her there was only one way she could make it up to me, only one thing she could do to make me consider forgiving her this time.


That’s how I got to go on a nice long walk with my mama in my park right after supper while the sun was setting.

You owed me mama, and you know it!

But shhhhhhh. Don’t tell mama, but I didn’t mind staying home all that much. I got lots of loving from my daddy and lots of naps and I didn’t miss a single meal either.

That was your one picture, mama, now lets get to walking.

PLUS I got to make mama feel guilty.


Me and mama are a team.


Evil waves !

No it’s not mama who thinks waves are evil. It is I, Princess Katie, who doesn’t trust those noisy, ever moving, elusively wet things. Not at all. And mama knows I don’t like them, yet she took me on an adventure where there were lots of waves! Sometimes I don’t understand my mama. At all.

Our home away from home.

Our home away from home.

But you know what? I had a really good time anyway. You know how much I love to camp with my mama and we went to a park we’ve never been to before, way up north, on the shores of Lake Huron. Mama scored a beautiful campsite with our own private path to the beach (and those pesky waves!). Lucky for me it was a ‘no dogs allowed’ beach so I didn’t have to spend much time out there!

Some people ask me what I do all day when we’re camping. Well! Let me show you! We go on lots of walks around the campground where I can show off my beautiful self…

Not too many people around to admire me!

Not too many people around to admire me!

…and we take lots of naps. When my mama is reading in the tent I like to nap up on her bed, right next to her…

Reading is boring mama!

Reading is boring mama!

…unless I’m busy keeping watch on my private pillow from my own private window.

What's going on out there?

What’s going on out there?

And when my mama is reading in her chair outside I like to keep track of the world while keeping cool under the picnic table. It’s my secret hideaway. Nothing gets by me!

My secret hiding place!

My secret hiding place!

But we explored lots of other places too. This campground has a dog beach and the first evening we went to find it. The path went through some tall trees and the sun was getting low which made the trees (and me!) just glow. Mama spent a long time in there taking pictures of everything.

Isn't the light cool in here?

Isn’t the light cool in here?

When we finally got to the dog beach I made it very clear with my flat ears that I did not like it mama! I especially didn’t like when the noisy waves were behind me. Mama tried to tell me that these were just little, harmless waves and she wasn’t going to make me get my feet wet but I was still very glad we didn’t stay there long.

What IS that mama?

What IS that mama?

The next morning mama almost missed the sunrise! I slept all night, hardly moving at all, while my mama shivered under four blankets while wearing layers of clothes. She finally fell asleep in the early morning hours and expected that I’d wake her up at the usual 5:30. But I didn’t! It was so nice sleeping in the cool night air that I just rolled over and kept sleeping. She woke up at 5:45 and woke me up! She wanted to go out on the beach to see the sun? Is she crazy?

The sunrise was nice but I didn’t want to be there, so she brought me back to camp, put me on my long leash and gave me breakfast to keep me busy while she went back out on the sand to take more pictures.

Morning light on my fur.

Morning light on my fur.

Well. I do not like to be separated from my mama! So after I finished my breakfast (You didn’t think I was going to leave that in the bowl did you?) I figured out my leash wasn’t really attached to my collar and so I walked casually right back out to the beach to find her!

Hey mama!  Whatcha doing out there?

Hey mama! Whatcha doing out there?

She turned around to check on me and there I was, standing next to the path (I don’t like the sand in my toes.) watching her! Mama came running and I got hooked up to my leash really good. I think she was sort of surprised that I came back out on the beach on my own. I like surprising my mama. Keeps her on her toes.

Later that day we went on a little road trip. And guess what? I got to see a real lighthouse in person! This is Sturgeon Point lighthouse. It’s very beautiful. Mama would have walked up to the top, but the tower was only open on the weekends. And she had me. As you know I don’t do stairs.

What is more beautiful than a lighthouse?  Why ME of course!

What is more beautiful than a lighthouse? Why ME of course!

Of course there was a beach there too, with even bigger waves and I didn’t like it. So mama and I walked around the grounds of the lighthouse instead of out by the water like she wanted. She’s good about compromise, my mama.

There is also a one room school, the Old Bailey School, on the site. Mama said that since there weren’t any waves nearby could I please sit and look pretty so she could take a picture with me and the school. But I was more interested in what that thing was over to the right of me. Plus there were two people on the other side of the school and I could hear them talking and I wanted to go see what was over there. So all my mama got was this.

What  IS that mama?

What IS that mama?

By the time we got back to camp I was exhausted! I slept all night again, and mama shivered all night. She put on all her clothes and even wore a pair of socks on her hands and she was still cold! I don’t know about you mama! I was wearing all my clothes too and I thought the weather was perfect for sleeping! Anyway, this time my mama set her alarm to wake us up at 5:30 so we could go out and see the sunrise. It was spectacular. I couldn’t stop looking at it.

The sun's got nothing on me!

The sun’s got nothing on me!

Wouldn’t you? Out on the horizon was a fishing boat which made it even more interesting. The sky was just gorgeous. Everything was gorgeous, and this time I didn’t even act scared of the waves! I let mama enjoy everything!

Colors beyond description!

Colors beyond description!

But then the clouds started rolling in….

Uh oh...

Uh oh…

…and it began to rain. And rain….and rain. Mama and I hung out in the car. We drove into town so she could check the radar. We drove back to camp. We hung out in the car again and it continued to rain. And the wind picked up and the waves were getting bigger and noisier.

Getting noisier out here!

Getting noisier out here!

Mama thought about another night of sleeping in the cold. And now we were both wet from me making her take me on walks to do my thing. Even if she wore all her clothes again she’d be cold. And she didn’t think we’d ever be dry again. So she packed up camp. She didn’t even ask me if I wanted to go home! And I did not!

Goodbye lake!  We'll be back!

Goodbye lake! We’ll be back!

Sometimes mama uses that old excuse “because I said so” and I have to just go with the flow. But I have to admit I was really happy to see my Dad when I got home. I guess it’s nice to be here too. I slept upside down on my king sized bed that night. But now I want to know….what are you going to do to top this one mama? Huh? Huh?

What's next mama?

What’s next mama?

It better be good, that’s all I have to say. Because a princess has certain expectations you know. And it’s very bad if she’s disappointed. I’m going to go take a nap now, in preparation for the next royal event.

I like the woods best!

I like the woods best!