Coffee Table Nightscapes Resume

I have used this blog as a vehicle to “pre-publish” the pages for what I call “Coffee Table Nightscapes”. I’ve been reviewing the night sky pictures and astrophotos that I have taken over the last few decades, selecting my favorites, annotating them, and preparing them to be published as a photo book. They begin with pictures of comet Hale-Bopp in 1997, include many from my Nightscape Odyssey taken in 2001, and I had worked my way up through the 2004 pictures from Yosemite.

I will now pick up from there by posting pictures of Monument Valley during a trip to Arizona in 2005. The full story of obtaining these photos has already been presented in earlier blog entries. Here is a portrait of the distinctive landscape at sunset, one I have included among the banner images on this site.

As I approached the Navaho Nation, the sun set and I was able to take this photo of Monument Valley from afar, silhouetted by the glowing sky

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Utah, northwest of Monument Valley
2 November 2005
Canon EOS 20Da

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Monuments at Night, Nov 6

Mitten at midday

I am at the end of my designated time for this expedition.  I must now return from whence I came, to a civilization density that can host a technical conference, and will also develop the latent images captured on my film from this remote beautiful place.

As I reflect on the past few days I realize that there are more things that I would like to do.  I never did get to the Goulding Museum, or to the trading post near there (which I was told by the traveler couple was closed on the weekend).

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Monuments at Night, Nov 5

The Orion Nebula, the central star in Orion’s sword.

On this day, I manage to travel to Four Corners, a geographic location that is only meaningful to cartographers marking the human-made political bounds of different territories.  There is certainly no physical or geographic rartionale behind it, as the view from the constructed concrete platform holding the National Geologic Survey brass benchmark is the same in all directions.

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Monuments at Night, Nov 4

Moon over Monument

It had been a late night with an unexpected adrenaline rush at the end, and so it was predictable that after finally settling down, I would sleep well into the next morning.  After showering and shaving, the next order of business was to upload the photos from my digital camera and assess my success at the guided exposures from last night. 

Unfortunately, my laptop did not recognize any of the raw (.CR2) image files from the camera’s memory card!  This was a setback since I was planning to copy the images to the computer, and then reuse the memory card (I only had two of them and the second was filling rapidly). 

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Monuments at Night, Nov 3

An accumulation of light.
Nov 3, 2005, Monument Valley AZ
Pentax 6×7, E200 push 1-stop, 90 minutes at f/4

I am staying at the Hampton Inn in Kayenta Arizona.  It is not your usual traveler’s stopping place that I have become accustomed to in my business travels.  It is an attractive contemporary adobe building, tastefully appointed with beautiful Navajo art and artifacts.  Gentle native music is piped to the public areas.  An interesting Navaho outdoor exhibit is also well presented.  The native American flavor is augmented by modern conveniences—full breakfast, wireless internet, pool, patio, and an attractive and comfortable lobby.

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Monuments at Night, Nov 2

San Juan River Goosenecks, UT

In exchange for the aborted photo session, I enjoyed a full night of sleep and awoke recharged and ready to further explore the area.  After last night’s efforts, I recognized a few more things I am in need of:  AA batteries (of course), a blanket or tarp, and a stool, adjustable, for help while guiding the telescope at awkward positions.  I also needed to fix the too-tight declination gear on my telescope mount.  I noticed that there was dust on my digital camera sensor; I needed something to blow it off.  These are things I should be able to accomplish during the daytime hours while doing reconnaissance for my next nighttime excursion.

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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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Cows and other hazards of astrophotography

I have encountered various unexpected events while photographing the night sky.  Some are spectacular, like the flash of a brilliant meteor exploding in the sky and lighting up the landscape.   Some are startling: the crash of a tree felled by a nocturnal beaver.  Some are annoying: the competitive calling of amorous ducks and their disruption of the mirror lake surface I was trying to photograph. And some are downright dangerous. 

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