I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.
Vincent Van Gogh
In a new study one third of the world’s population cannot see the milky way galaxy while light pollution affects eighty percent, and for four out of five Americans light masks the milky way.
Why does this matter?
In ecosystems everything is connected and the effects of artificial light can be devastating to migratory birds, hatching sea turtles, nocturnal animals, and plants to name just a few. The International Dark-Sky Association has a wealth of information on the effects of light pollution and on ways that we can help to reduce it.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I can step outside on a clear night and see the milky way with my naked eye as it arches across the sky.
This image was taken from my backyard.
It is not just a feast for the eyes but for the ears! It’s a nocturnal symphony in my little corner of the world when on any given night I can hear owls hooting, bullfrogs croaking, the haunting call of an occasional loon, and the coyotes howling.
It goes far beyond the sheer beauty of the night skies and speaks to the health of our planet.
As digital cameras advance its my hope that images like the one above will inspire people to think about light pollution and ways that they can reduce it.
On this special eclipse night, the fourth eclipse in a tetra, I wanted to do something more than just photograph a large frame filling blood moon. I kept being drawn to the idea of photographing the stars AND having a full moon in the shot. It just doesn’t happen very often that you can see the full moon and not have the stars washed out by its glow. I also knew that at 8:11 there would be an iridium flare visible for a brief moment. Not a very bright one but having shot these before I hoped that it would be bright enough. Could I capture this trifecta?
A great deal of planning needed to take place. First there was scouting out a location and figuring out where each element would be at that one moment necessary to capture all three. For this I turned to a wonderful ap called Photopills. It gave me all of the tools necessary to plot the placement of the moon and the milky way in relation to the direction and elevation of the flare. Taking some test shots showed me that shooting at 11 mm on my wide angle lens should just barely squeeze these three elements into the shot. What settings I would be using needed to be decided close to the time of the shot as I really did not know how much light would be present.
The one thing that I was certain of was that I would have one shot, just one frame, to get this. The girl likes a challenge though and certainly I filled my time before and after with capturing the beauty of this extra large moon, the likes of which will not occur again until 2033, as it rose behind the mountains, already partially eclipsed.
It was a beautiful night, with perfect weather and even a shooting star that exploded during a test shot. How lucky can one girl be? Or is luck when opportunity and planning come together…you be the judge!
More images can be viewed in the gallery idaho after dark by clicking on this link to my website.
Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.
I felt very lucky this week to have clear and dark skies for the Perseid Meteor showers and it was quite the show!
These showers occur as Earth crosses the orbital path of the comet Swift-Tuttle and bits of debris hit the atmosphere creating these fast-moving meteors. The radiant point for the showers is the Perseus constellation.
I set up early for the event anticipating a long night and dragged a camping cot out into my pasture. Much nicer than laying on the ground and easier on the neck too for hours of viewing!
I got butterflies in my stomach as my eyes adjusted to the dark and I waited to see the first of many meteors streak across the sky. Some were brief flashes while others left wonderful trails that lingered for several seconds. While viewing my images the next day I was excited to see several shots with double meteors in them. One even had two streaking along on a parallel course.
I was grateful that my Nikon has a built-in intervalometer so that I could set up sequenced shots and be shooting while I kept my eyes on the stars. The first image is a compilation of over 100 shots as the stars moved across the sky.
Was I tired the next day? Perhaps a little. Was it worth it? In the words of a friend…indeed!
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.
Edgar Allan Poe
I have never been accused of lacking in imagination and while sometimes I wake up from a night’s sleep and wonder what on earth?!? other times I wake up with a smile thinking about a grand adventure.
While I find pleasure in the long days and warm nights of summer watching the milky way arc across the night sky my thoughts do begin to drift towards winter. Perhaps that was where this idea came from…not powder but light, not snowflakes but stars.
I recently added a layer program called Perfect Layers to my Lightroom which allows me to blend a couple of images into a composite. I have not been a fan of composite images unless they have been true double exposures and not images intended to trick the viewer but this program allowed me to construct an image that represented a dream…pure fantasy.
I think a vivid imagination is a gift to be treasured and nurtured and honestly …who wouldn’t want to carve out a line spraying stars across the night sky?
Nothing is ever the same twice because everything is always gone forever, and yet each moment has infinite photographic possibilities.
Tempting as it may be to shoot things like heavily saturated sunsets that draw gasps of delight from the general public I think it is important to stay true to what you personally find to be moving. If you sacrifice that inner voice, your own personal je ne sais quoi in the hopes of a sale, you will lose the joy that comes with picking up a camera.
It’s strange but when I find myself editing an image with just the smallest of adjustments using an almost exaggerated light touch I know that the image holds more meaning for me.
Likewise when I see the work of another photographer and it makes me hold my breath even for a moment I know that their work has resonated with me and it then becomes important to find out why.
Michael Kenna is one such artist who when I happened upon his work it was like time stood still. So many of his images were utterly simple and at the same time complex in their composition and tone.
I battle with color and sensory overload at the best of times so I do find myself drawn to black and white. As a young girl I was petrified of the dark with its enveloping blackness and things that might lurk in those shadows. Never one to give in to irrational fears I pushed myself to be in that darkness and I have found it to be meditative and calming in a world that has exploded with connectivity. Now I find myself more often than not, waiting for the sun to go down so that I can explore the night using long exposures. Certainly not something that I would ever have imagined doing but if you are willing to try new things and keep an open mind, you might find your journey taking a new direction.
I do still shoot color but I find myself doing so less and less and when I look back on photographers whose work really moves me, it is almost always minimalist and black and white.
For me it is about being authentic in your work and presenting an image that is true to your own personal vision and this year as I shoot the fireworks to celebrate America’s day of Independence they will more than likely be in black and white…