I Have Been Doing It All Wrong

How dark are our night skies

So wrong have I been, what an eye opening experience it was for me the other night. My very own perception of things were wrong. What I saw the other night totally changed my perspective and processing techniques.

 

What am I talking about? This

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and this

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What is wrong with these?

Almost everything about the skies. They are totally black. Isn’t that what the night sky should look like? Yes and No. To our eyes looking up with no reference our eyes and brain translates a black sky, but using a reference against the sky, we see a whole new perspective of our night sky, it is literally glowing throughout the sky. Try this experiment, and this requires an extremely dark sky with no light pollution. Sorry everyone who lives in a city, you will have to travel a good long distance, and sorry to those living on the east coast of the US or most of Europe, you are going to have to travel for a couple days by car or hours by plane to get skies dark enough. To truly experience this effect you will need to travel to a location that has skies rated at a Bortle Class 2 at minimum. For  more information on the Bortle Classification of sky darkness go here http://www.bigskyastroclub.org/lp_bortle.html. For a link to a listing of the darkest skies go here http://darksitefinder.com/maps/world.html, this site allows you to zoom in really close. Notice how bad Europe and the East Coast of the US is? Now back to the easy provided you are in a dark location experiment, hold your hand up to the sky, notice a very dark void against a brightly glowing sky? That is air glow, the light of all those millions of stars filling the whole sky, your hand literally looks like a black hole against brilliant light (the glow of light pollution does not count, don’t try to be sneaky). Just that experience has changed my whole processing of the night sky, I always attempted to build a contrast resulting in a black sky. NO MORE from me, It is far more impressive to include as best as I can the amazing star glow I am witnessing every time I go out.

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The above shot is a simple silhouette of the foreground. The sky really does glow enough to create a clearly defined silhouette when viewed against it. If you notice to the right of the center of our Milky Way are the planets of Mars and Saturn as the two brightest “stars”.

The other night I was at Vega State Park which is at the foot of Grand Mesa far from the slightest light pollution, the air glow was able to illuminate the ground enough for me to walk without needing a light. The kicker is that we are so accustomed to artificial light, either through light pollution of the cities, house lights, electronic equipment or dash/headlights from our cars it takes a couple of hours for eyes to adjust to that level of darkness, it is best to be at these dark locations from evening and allow our eyes to gradually adjust to the darkening skies naturally to enjoy the benefit of seeing the night like we were intended. I am by no means recommending going on a hike at night or a stroll through the woods at night without the proper illumination, so don’t even think of doing such, but the next time you have an opportunity to spend a night in a truly dark location do it, put up your tent and pull out your camp chair and sit back watching the stars move across the sky, your eyes will clearly make out the dust lanes in our view of the Milky Way

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to view all of these photos at their uploaded size just right click on your mouse and click on “view image”. All above photos were taken about 15 miles north of the tiny town of DeBeque in western Colorado, you still get a slight glow of the city of Grand Junction in each of these images, but the overall sky is rated a Bortle Class 2. Vega State Park, images will be posted in an upcoming blog post, is about 40 miles south of that same tiny town of DeBeque. Again with each photo above Mars and Saturn are also visible to the right of the core of our Milky Way.

So how many of you live in a region that gives you an opportunity to see truly dark skies? How many of you are on the US east coast or Europe? Wanting to experience these amazing dark skies? I am considering doing photo tours and perhaps some workshops coming up in the future if anyone is interested.

Back to McClure Pass

I was happily able to return to the McClure Pass region, this time during our recent massive spring storm that dumped several feet of snow in some mountain areas. Luckily it didn’t drop that much in the McClure Pass region, but it definitely had a wonderfully wintry feel. Two aspects of spring storms in the west that makes it an exciting time to get out is the wetter snow, it clings to trees better than the dry powdery snow of winter, and the fact that it is warmer so snow will not accumulate on roads as much. The drier Winter snows may be better for skiing, Colorado and Utah are known for this and is what brings millions of skiers and billions of dollars to the states economies, and the spring storms have a tendency of dropping significantly greater amounts of much heavier snow which can still create major travel issues. So it may not be all unicorns and puppies. For this photographer these spring storms are the opportunities to get out to capture some of the missed winter scenes that the slight colder winter temps kept me inside next to a heater.

I ended up with almost 500 photos that day and could have gotten more. Here is a hint, try not to forget where you put your extra memory cards, or better yet, don’t forget about those memory card pouches on the main camera compartment flap on your camera bag. It sure could save you some headaches, especially when those slots are staring right back at you.

Below are a few examples of that day. It’s been a long process of going through these and fine tuning the photos to fit exactly my experiences of the day. Each one of my photos is given it’s own personal touch as each photo was taken with a new and unique experience, even if it is taken from the exact same spot. It’s a long process to go through all 500 photos and with many more to be discovered in addition to the ones posted here, the post processing journey is as exciting as the trip itself.

The above two were taken at a small unnamed lake just west of Marble, it was a constant change of lighting almost the entire day with periods of snow and periods of sunlight with periods of snow with sunlight. A common experience in this dry western climate

A couple of scenes along the Crystal River further down from McClure Pass and much lower in elevation taken during sunrise, the opposite time of day from the above two photos

The dramatic weather and scenery along highway 133 between Carbondale and the town of Marble which is situated at the foot of McClure Pass.

The last two above are the exact same spots of the same mountain peaks. One minute the sun is shining and the next I am getting snowed on. The top photo shows the falling snow

 

 

Spring is Approaching

More of western Colorado with the first signs of a Springtime thaw.

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This above photo was taken during the last snow that we had. It’s finally starting to warm up now and the snow on the mountain side is almost completely gone. Apparently February and March is mud season in this region. It sure is feeling like spring here despite it officially not arriving for more than a month. Sorry to those living in Denver who won’t see spring until probably mid April, at least based off my experience of the typical weather in Denver, but who knows what will happen, this year has been a weird year for weather in Colorado.

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There is still lots of snow left and the higher you go around here the more there is

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looking south west in the above photo taken with my 70-200 with the 1.7X converter, a 180 degree different view from the above two photos

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The hillside from the above two photos but with the same 70-200 1.7X

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The above Roan Plateau at dusk with Highway 6, as a very rural frontage road, leading to the distant plateau.

Many more photos on my:

Website

 

 

Winters Can be Amazing

Even in the cold, it is cool to shoot in the winter.

Sure your fingers and toes may get cold

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but who would argue that some of the best light occurs

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in the frigid winter weather

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whether you are high up

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or down low

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it is always cool to shoot in the winter

looking forward to shooting more of these winter scenes

 

Even though the Patron program ended Prints will always be available.