1.2 Preparations

My family has never travelled light. The weeks prior to my scheduled departure were hectic as I figured out how I could transport all the usual camping equipment plus telescopes, cameras and tripods. I had a very ambitious list of photography projects which required nearly all of my accumulated gear. I might not be able to try every experiment on my list, but at least I would have the right stuff with me.

A mental calculation showed that all of it couldn’t possibly fit into my minivan, even using the cartop carrier that we had overflowed into in previous years. I also had to keep in mind that I would, for part of the time, have two passengers, including my teenaged son who had recently grown into a large-scale young man. Hauling a trailer was a skill I didn’t want to master. Acquiring a larger vehicle was not an option. So I decided to add additional cartop storage. I went out to find a left-handed version of the  “Yakima Rocket Box” I already owned so I could carry them side-by-side on my roof. Alas, they no longer made them in their original white color; the new ones were black.  I hesitated, but after learning that there was only one remaining in stock, I decided that this was actually a desirable feature; I would be able to distinguish them by their color… for all those moments where I might otherwise be confused about where I had stowed what. Ok, maybe it’s not a strong benefit, but I didn’t need much to make the purchase decision.

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Monuments at Night, Arrival

Mars over Mittens, Twilight at Monument Valley
Nov 1, 2005, Monument Valley AZ
Pentax 6×7, Provia 400, 30 sec at f/3.5

I have long been fascinated by the landscapes of the southwest, and in particular the peculiar rock formations found in Monument Valley, a unique area straddling Arizona and Utah.  I am not the only one that finds them intriguing: it is a very popular photographic and film-making target.

When a business trip took me to a conference in Phoenix, I decided to prepend a personal trip to this Navajo Nation Tribal Park to take pictures of the night sky.  My plans were ambitious; I wanted to take wide angle star trail photos featuring the famous buttes, but also, knowing how remote and dark this area would be, to take guided astrophotos of some deep sky targets. 

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