6.1 Forest Fire Crater Haze
Though it doesn’t seem so from the maps, Crater Lake is not an easily accessible park. It is tucked away in a zone straddling forest and desert, and only a few roads provide access.
I stopped in the town of Roseburg, the exit point from the I5 freeway to start the blue-highways route to Crater Lake. This was the last town of a size that might have an adequate camera store. I needed a cable release to replace one that had failed. A cable release, the mechanism that provides long duration exposures by keeping the shutter open, is essential for astrophotography. It works by using a flexible wire inside a sleeve. One end has a pushbutton plunger that is used to push the sliding wire down the sleeve, acting as a “finger extender” to trip the shutter. This allows you to take a picture without actually touching the camera with your shaky hands. When the camera is set to “B” (a reference to the now obsolete flash bulb-mode), the shutter remains open for as long as the cable is pushed in. For really long exposures, there is a convenient feature on the cable release that lets you lock it in place, allowing you to walk away from the whole setup while the shutter remains open. Come back in an hour and unlock it to finish the exposure.
The hiatus from my astrophoto odyssey came to an end. The two-week interval of visiting college campuses, spraying sand from dune buggies on the Oregon coast, and hiking the Mt Hood wilderness had reached its terminus at the Portland airport. A mixed set of goodbyes were exchanged: my teenage son, eager to return to his real life as defined by his peer group, and my wife, knowing it would be more weeks before I would be returning, and her real life could resume.
It was an empty moment driving away after dropping them off. I wandered back to the hotel and took advantage of the guest laundry. I hadn’t really firmed up my plans and waiting for the rinse cycle gave me time to resolve an inner conflict. I was “near” (a few hours’ drive) to the place where an old high school friend had finally settled and made his home. As with most high school friends, I had lost touch over the years, but remarkably, he had hunted me down and made contact with me a few years before. Here was a chance to return that interest, complete the exchange and perhaps set the stage for a future relationship. This is not my usual inclination. I too often fail to recognize the opportunity, taking instead the natural passive response of an introvert.
Compatible with this usual choice was the immediate resumption of my astronomy interests. Tonight was the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, an annual event of graceful falling stars, sometimes dozens per hour. I could drive east, away from the Portland lights and try to photograph their bright lines across the sky.