The activities at the Logan Pass Visitor Center died down after sunset. I noticed that I was now alone among a set of randomly placed cars in the parking lot. I wondered where their owners might be. The visitor center had closed hours before. Any day hiker on the trail would normally try to get back before the end of the day. Perhaps they belonged to people deeper in the park, backpackers equipped to spend their nights in truly remote regions.Continue reading
3.1 Follow the light, stay for the night
I thought I would have plenty of time. But I had forgotten about Highway 2. On the map it looked like any of the other roads, but U.S. 2 in Montana was different. Since it was the only way to reach Glacier Park, it had to maneuver through the surrounding mix of grasslands, river valleys and mountainous terrain. Sudden curves were sprinkled along the route to accomplish this, many of them blind to oncoming traffic. White crosses marked points where the risks had exceeded a driver’s judgment, making for a spooky drive at night, when my headlights would suddenly expose clusters of crosses at the road’s gully.
This time I was driving during daylight however, and the winding route kept my speed to a lower number than my accustomed average. I had composed another picture in my mind’s viewfinder, and I needed to get to the heart of Glacier Park before dark.Continue reading
It looks like a daytime picture but there was only the full moon. With enough exposure, what looks like black sky to me becomes sky blue to the film. The dreamy quality is made by the passage of light clouds blowing through during the exposure, and by the cumulative misty effect of waves breaking on the shore. A rogue wave climbs far up the beach and glistens in the moonlight for a moment before sinking back into the sand. A close look will find masts waving as their moored sailboats maneuver against the wind.
The constellation Orion is hiding in the clouds. The three belt stars make a characteristic cat scratch during the time exposure. To the left, undimmed by faint clouds is Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.
Not an ideal night for star pictures! The moon is full, clouds and haze fill the sky, and nearby lights conspire to wash out the darkness. Even so, the pattern of the Big Dipper constellation behind the palm trees is enchanting.
In most star trail pictures a fixed camera records a static landscape and the only motion is from the clocklike rotation of the stars. In this case the palm trees are turned into flowers waving in the wind, even as the star trails keep their sharp focus. The rising full moon and the lights of this Hawaiian island color the clouds, furthering the dreamlike quality in this picture.
The moon is bright enough to show during broad daylight. Here a nearly full moon is framed by branches of palm trees that line the beaches of Kanapaali. As the day progresses to evening the powerful effect of moonlight will add to the already potent romance of this Hawaiian island.
It is an unnerving experience to be looking down at the clouds. In this view the color of the sky seems exaggerated, but it is our proximity to space that gives it the dark tint: there is less air above us at this elevation. The clouds we are looking down upon take on the reflected color of the sky which makes a stark contrast to the rust-red landscape of the volcano’s summit. The island of Hawaii can be seen in the distance, apparently floating among the thunder cells building up around it.
This is a favorite target for astrophotographers. It’s a famous image, but quite challenging to capture, partly because it is only visible during the winter months when Orion the Hunter is up. The weather conditions will always be cold, at least in the northern latitudes, and so winter gear is required.
It is not easy to actually see this target. The nearby bright star, zeta Orionis, is a convenient marker, but its glare easily washes out the faint glow of the Horsehead and another nearby object just below zeta, the “Flame Nebula”.
This is a very large region of sky, but the beautiful red remnants of this supernova explosion are faint. One of the attractive features of the Rosette is the cluster of stars at its center. One of these may be the star that expoded eons ago leaving this signature shell of expanding and glowing gas.
On most winter nights, the distinctive constellation of Orion the Hunter is plainly visible in the southern sky. Orion sports a “belt” from which hangs a three-star “sword”. The Orion Nebula is the smudge of the middle star in Orion’s sword. A closer look at it reveals that it is not a star at all, but a group of stars shrouded in a cloud of dust and glowing gas. This is a stellar nursery where new stars are being formed. As the gas coalesces, it is energized and emits a characteristic red glow, not bright enough to be seen visually, but captured nicely on film.
In the constellation Cygnus, (the Swan) is a large complex of glowing gas nebulas, and this portion has a shape suggestive of a familiar continent. The strong red color is easily recorded on film, but large telescopes and special filters are needed to make it visible to human night vision. The bright star on the left, “62-Cygni (xi)”, dominates this picture, but if you were to look at the sky, it would not be particularly noticable among the dozen even brighter stars in this constellation!