Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Starry starry night

When last I left you I had crashed for a nap inside my tent while a thunderstorm rained down and the wind blew the trees above me, brushing clouds across the sky. I fell asleep believing there would be no stars that night, my last night near the Dark Sky Park.

But when I woke, an hour or so later, the wind had stopped, the rain no longer pounded down and there was just a tiny peak of sunshine making the wet leaves glow. Maybe there was still a chance.

Yep, the sun shines to set another day.

But of course, first I had to sit through another sunset. Such an inconvenience.

Everyone was enjoying the warm summer evening.

I was not alone on the beach. Lots of families were settled in for the show, or playing in the water. They were fun to watch. I remember playing like this when I was a kid.

Did you ever walk on your hands in a lake, your legs sticking out into the evening air?

The air was warm and the sky was pretty clear. I began to get excited about seeing some stars. If the sun would ever go down. I posted on Facebook that it was the slowest sunset ever. I messed around taking pictures of nothing much just to pass the time.

I liked the way the light played on the sand filled with footprints.

And then finally. FINALLY!

The sun sighs goodnight.

Soon I was back in the car and headed six miles north to the Dark Sky Park. The parking lot was full of cars and people when I arrived. Everyone figured that tonight was the night we’d see a meteor shower. Of course that pesky moon was still up there, a half moon never shown so bright, but I was just glad there were no clouds.

Once it was dark I grabbed my camera, already set on the tripod, with manual settings appropriate for night photography, and my little red flashlight and ventured out on the walkways through the dunes. Such a beautiful night.

Amazing how many stars there are, even when it’s not completely dark.

I was hoping for lots of shooting stars, and in fact while I was shooting the image below a huge one raced across the sky just off to my right. I hoped the camera caught it but it was just outside the range. People all over the park let up a big cry and applauded. It was soooooo wonderful, it looked like something out of a movie.

The light on the fence and the shadows were created by the moonlight. See the red light over on the right? Another stargazer enjoying the night sky.

I think I saw a couple of other, much smaller shooting stars, but was never quite sure what I had seen out of the corner of my eye. In fact I wouldn’t normally show you this image, but I think it’s interesting if not perfect. You can see the branches lit up by the moon, and what is probably a satellite in the upper corner. I didn’t see any of that when I took the image. I was just practicing getting shots without shake.

Taking pictures at night, you never know what you’ll see when you look at them on a big screen later.

There were lots of people there but by 11 there were only a few of us. I thought I’d wait until the moon set, but that wasn’t going to be until after 2:30 a.m. By 1:00 a.m. I was the only one left, and I decided I wasn’t even sure where the Milky Way was, or if it would be visible and I wasn’t comfortable being there alone…so I packed it in and headed back to my campsite.

A beautiful night.

I wasn’t sure what I had captured, though I knew it wasn’t what I had hoped to get. Still, I’m so glad I went and I’m pretty happy with the few decent images I got. I had to lighten these up quite a bit to put them into WordPress. The original images were pretty dark when I did my preview. I maybe have over lightened them here. I suppose everyone’s computer screen will show them differently. I think a lot of night photography, once you figure out the manual settings on the camera, will come down to figuring out how to process them. I’m still working on that.

I had to stop and take this picture, the barn was so beautiful.

I slept well that night, and in the morning packed up and headed South toward home. Right through all that farmland. With all those barns.

Barn and hawk.

Yep, had to stop a few times on the way. I’m sure you don’t mind.

I’ll go back to the Dark Sky park again someday, preferably when the moon isn’t up all night and the Milky Way is. And meanwhile I’ll mess around with the images I have to see how I can make them even more exciting. So you’ll think you’ve been there!

But you really should try to get there yourself. If you pick the right night you won’t be disappointed!

From the old days, still standing straight and tall.


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Day 2 of camping during a pandemic

I left you at midnight feeling disappointed on my first night of camping, in a dark and cloudy parking lot up in the thumb of Michigan’s mitten, with no stars in sight. After all, the entire purpose of this trip was to watch a predicted meteor shower in a dark sky park.

Certainly the small plot of dirt squeezed between two other equally small plots of dirt that masqueraded as a campsite was nothing to write home about and no reason to visit.

I should have gone into Grindstone City (the city part is a misnomer) because I hear there’s a store that sells awesome ice cream there.

Still.

The night was warm and with no schedule to follow I slept in until almost 10, as did my camping neighbors on both sides. I enjoyed my bowl of cereal and blueberries and spent a couple hours reading undisturbed. Not such a shabby vacation after all.

By noon I was ready to go exploring. After all, I was in farm country!

There’s just something about wide open spaces.

I found myself driving around big country blocks, sometimes multiple times, looking for illusive barns. Which actually weren’t so illusive.

I went around the block twice to get this shot. It’s the sweetest little stone barn with a tin roof. I think someone is living in it as a home.

There were barns everywhere!

This was one of two barns I saw with the quilt square on the side. The other one wasn’t in a safe spot for me to stop.

But eventually I found myself sitting at a picnic pavilion along the shores of the water again. It’s hard for me to stay away from water for very long.

There was a private campground out here, but no one was using this shady spot but me and the birds.

The seagulls shared it with me, after a bit of screeching they lifted off and flew out for an afternoon float on the beautiful blue water.

It was a beautiful day for flight.

I have to admit I didn’t get much reading done there, the view was too pretty. It was nice just to sit and watch the birds bob and the light on the water dance.

The colors of our Great Lakes never cease to amaze me.

And there was the lighthouse here too — even though it wasn’t open it was fun to explore the grounds. Last time I was here with Katie it was raining and we did a mad dash to get a picture then headed right back to the car.

I can never resist a lighthouse.

But mostly I was waiting for the sun to go down, so I headed back to camp in anticipation of a clear evening and bright stars. Before going to my campsite I figured I’d go check the beach, see what was happening.

This is what was happening:

As I walked down the stairs to the beach a bit of remaining sun hit this sailboat and lit it up. I squealed. Out loud.

A storm front was bearing down from the north! The weather guy hadn’t mentioned any storm front moving through! What was this? And had I left the windows of my tent open to the weather?

The sailor and I head for safety as thunder begins to sound the alarm.

After taking a few dozen shots I ran back up the stairs and to my car and drove as fast as I could through the crowded campground to my site. There I found the neighbors hurriedly packing things away and talking about ‘rain in 5 minutes’ I threw my chair into the back of the car, grabbed some fruit and my book and dived into my tent as the rain began.

I have to admit I took a nap while still wondering…

…would there be stars tonight? Would I be smiling in the dark? Or would it be another starless night?

Stay tuned.

Day two. At least I still had the barns.


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Camping during a pandemic

I’m just home from a short 3 day camping trip in the tip of Michigan’s thumb. It was my first camping trip outside my backyard of the season and I went to spend some time at a dark sky park that’s tucked into the dune grass along Saginaw Bay a few miles up the road from the state park campground.

A pretty minimal site, but I wasn’t there for the camping.

It was a last minute decision when our local weather person predicted clear skies and good views of a meteor shower.

I wandered on the drive up to my campsite on Tuesday afternoon through miles and miles of flat farmland which was filled with….you guessed it….barns!

You can’t beat red barns and puffy clouds!

So, while you might think this post would be filled with dark skies and bright stars you’d be wrong. At least for now.

The wheat is already harvested, mostly it’s soy beans and corn waiting to ripen now.

I knew you’d want to see the barns, it’s been way too long since I did a post about barns, and they are one of my favorite things to hunt down.

This was my favorite barn of the trip up, but notice the sky is filling with clouds.

And once I arrived at my campsite I had to go check out the dark sky park, to make strategic plans about where I might want to set up for prime star gazing.

Lots of low dunes and a few trees might make the perfect place for star gazing.

It’s a pretty little park with a huge parking lot and a viewing platform. But I found the low dunes and grasses more interesting.

I didn’t notice this dragonfly when I took the shot. But I like that he photo-bombed my image.

I also noticed all the clouds accumulating and wondered whether I’d have clear skies that night. But the weather guy said I would, so I tried not to worry.

If I weren’t there for stars I’d have been thrilled with the beautiful clouds.

That evening the sun went down amid the clouds in a pretty little show.

Waiting on the sun to sink.

I sat on a platform overlooking the Bay. Last year in June Katie and I visited this park, sat right here to watch the sun set. I was missing my girl, but it was much too hot for her to go camping with me. She was home enjoying air conditioning with her dad.

A nice place to watch the sky turn colors.

I went down to the beach to explore a little as I waited. High water in the Great Lakes have turned the beach into such a narrow strip of sand you could hardly call it a beach at all.

This split rail fence used to mark the beginning of the beach. Now it’s part of the bay.

The sky was pretty, but I was impatient for the show to be over so that I could scoot up to the dark sky park and see what I was there to see.

Just a bit north of the actual sun the clouds were turning pink.

Finally the sun gave up it’s grip on the day and settled with a sigh into the water.

The end of a pretty day.


The clouds seemed to be dispersing, so I was hopeful as I headed up the the night sky park. There were perhaps a dozen cars filled with other people hoping to see some meteor action.

I was hoping for stars.

And as the sky got dark an immediate problem became evident. The half moon was high in the sky and shining brightly. I checked my phone and learned that the moon would set at 1:30. I figured I could wait it out. But the longer we all sat there the more clouds moved in until even the bright moon was obscured. By midnight I gave up and headed back to camp for some sleep, not having taken a single shot.

I had one more night there, and I just knew the sky would be clear! The weather guy said so!

Stay tuned.

At least the barns were pretty.