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Unfortunate Glory.

Yellowstone Lake

Unfortunate Glory. The day at Yellowstone National Park had been an interesting mix of sun and clouds. As night approached large thunderheads filled with lightning passed overhead. Rumbles echoed throughout the park. The prediction was clearing at 7 pm.  As 8 o’clock approached the sky remained ominously dark and cloudy. 

I had driven by this smallish lake earlier in the day and noticed its excellent alignment with the Milky Way. As I got out to check I was accosted by mosquitoes down by the shoreline, enough to drive me back to the car. After exploring the park further, I returned as night began to creep in. The clouds had begun to retreat from the east to the west (overhead). The bad news was now the wind had kicked up to 20-30 mph. The surface of the lake which had been a mirror earlier in the day now was opaque other than brief moments of stillness. I went to the water’s edge where the wind was much calmer and 50 or so feet below the top edge. 

Again I was driven back by a swarm of mosquitos. I decided to retreat to this spot and shoot instead where the wind would be an ally in keeping mosquitoes off of me.  As an added bonus there were tons of little blue flowers to cheer me on. I setup my equipment to shoot the ground and retreated to the car. There were still a few minor wisps of clouds up high and some got reflected in the edge of the water where being more shallow the reflections were much better. Looking at the camera I could see the tinge of color from the sky reflected in the water. Wow was it really that strong?

The answer was yes, another amazing night of airglow color at Yellowstone after storms. I think it has to be related. 

This photo was proof of something, the wind had dismayed me and I almost got back in Jimmy and departed, due to the wind messing with the reflections, but sometimes the best shots can be those you think least likely to succeed.

Anyway, the sky was enough to make me literally do a little dance of joy and yell out a couple of expletives that were apparently heard by a nearby wolf, just across the road behind me. There were no answers to his cry so I howled back my pleasure loaded my car and departed.

42 images, (some replacement of blurred areas with extra flowers), ISO 8000, f1.6, 55mm

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Kaboom!

I really like this picture. Maybe my favorite, at least at the moment. While much of this is a visual extravaganza the really missing aspect is the sound. The noise here was deafening. I stood maybe 2 feet from a 30-40 foot drop to the pounding ocean. This is Cook’s Chasm. Here the Spouting Horn and Thor’s Well put on fantastic shows (you might google them) and the ocean going up into this chasm is amazingly loud and powerful. Every thirty seconds or so there would be an incredible whomp that literally shook the ground I stood on. 

I had done a panorama at Thor’s Well before this shot, but the tide was low enough and ocean calm enough (light wind and clear skies) that the Well was not going to cooperate. I think it will be a cool picture but I was impressed after looking at the camera with the ethereal nature of the ocean splashing against the rocks in this shot. 

The ground was encrusted with small black mussels here which crunched under foot as I walked over to do this shot. There was a slight spray and mist in the air that made the shot quite nippy while I waited for the shot to finish. I drew my coat around me tighter and hoped the dew heater would keep the lens clear of water droplets. Sitting this close to the edge, I normally sit as standing on the uneven ground in the dark for long periods, because it is way harder than it sounds. I stared into the chasm and watched the brightening and darkening of the waters as they surged in coupled with the sound, it was almost mesmerizing. The shot ended and I wasn’t even thinking about it for a period of time watching the waves break. 

At last, I stirred and realized I was done and retreated back to Jimmy to end a fantastic evening of sensory delight.

Lens kept totally clear with the Dew Destroyer and Perfect focus with the Reveal focus filter both available at:

Home

42 Shots clipped left a bit, ISO 8000, F1.6, overexposed clouds added back properly

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Antares Rho Ophiuchi Region

antares region

 

The clouds surrounding the star system Rho Ophiuchi compose one of the closest star forming regions. Rho Ophiuchi itself is a binary star system visible in the light-colored region on the image right. The star system, located only 400 light years away, is distinguished by itscolorful surroundings, which include a red emission nebula and numerous light and dark brown dust lanes. Near the upper right of the Rho Ophiuchi molecular cloud system is the yellow star Antares, while a distant but coincidently-superposed globular cluster of stars, M4, is visible between Antares and the red emission nebula

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Double Falls. Cave Falls, Yellowstone National Park

 

Many people have seen the double rainbow Youtube video, it’s fun. Here we have a double fall. One that is a waterfall and one is a star fall. 

Here’s a video of it in the daytime.

Finding Cave Falls was a real treat. Although it nowhere near the size of most of the falls at Yellowstone National Park, it’s a hidden gem you can get right up to and lines up perfectly with the Milky Way This top view of the falls was the one that really got me excited. The flow of the picture is so visceral. The contrasting arches of water and stars and the roar of the water standing there in the dark made this an all senses experience. 

There had been puffy clouds earlier that rapidly dissipated as day turned to night. I shot the falls below this one called Belcher Falls first, then captured the Milky Way as the last of the clouds vanished. Finding this particular spot was a bit of luck. I had not seen it in the daylight but moving Jimmy up from the lower falls caused me to get disoriented and take the wrong path through the woods. I ended up here and the view was amazing. There were tree branches on either side of me though and I was unsure how to get the unobstructed shot I wanted. There was also a split rail fence guarding the edge. 

Finally, it hit me. Stick two of the tripod legs into the fence then let one rest on the rocks below. It was precarious, but I kept one hand tightly on a leg of the tripod to keep it from falling in while the pano-head and camera captured the scene. It actually worked! I should have taken a picture of this crazy setup but was too afraid of losing my gear into the roaring waters.

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Oregon Coastline with Stars, Shooting Star and Star Fish.

Oregon Star Coast

Well, Jimmy and I went on the trip of a lifetime, 6900 miles in 12 days.  After Jimmy’s recent resurrection with a $1,000 of new front end parts, we headed out in search of new images and great adventures.

The weather patterns over the SW dictated that I not head there as clouds and monsoons swirled about covering all the normal areas I visit. Looking at the forecast it appeared the North West would be clear almost indefinitely.  Many of my followers had recommended Oregon to me but the drive was staggeringly long. The Painted Hills in Eastern Oregon were 29 hours of driving. And the coast much further still. 

Along the way, there were multiple stops at fun places. As I neared the ocean, several people had suggestions of where to try the coast. South of Yachats seemed to be the consensus. So Jimmy and I drove to the coast of Oregon starting south of Yachats. The Oregon Dunes were beautiful, but large gates and signs that the area would be closed at night deterred my interest. So I headed north with a follower inviting me to stop by for help locating a spot to shoot. I stopped in to meet some of the most interesting and fun people on the planet. There was food, plenty of talk and then it was time to go shoot.

I had scouted on my way up the coast and it had surprised me how few locations were actually possible to shoot the coast, get any water and still frame the Milky Way correctly. As I started to leave I invited one of my new friends to accompany me, watch and maybe get a tip or two on how to do this. With the offer accepted we headed out to this first spot where this moderately small pool had caught my attention. 

I took two shots here this being the second of the two and by the end of the image my friend had nearly frozen and we retreated to the cars. 

That night was fabulous overlooking the Pacific Ocean and sitting talking during the image and solving the world’s problems, well that and looking out for car headlights on the hidden highway. 

Focused with the Dave Lane Astrophotography Reveal Filter and protected from dew and mist by the Dew Destroyer both available at:

http://davelaneastrophotography.com

42 images cropped on left due to house lights, ocean water color enhanced and starfish added from cell phone picture earlier in the day.

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The Equestrian Trail

 

The Equestrian Trail. Normally I wouldn’t have produced this image. There were clouds moving in and an hour after this image the entirety of the sky was covered and there was lightning playing about in the sky. Any rain that may have accompanied the clouds rolling into the Moab area evaporated before reaching the ground, although it would have been welcomed in the 106-degree heat. I was headed back home after 10 days on the road, sleeping at the highly rated, if somewhat damaged, Hotel Jimmy Envoy. 

The next night I would be in Victor Colorado and then home after 5,200 miles of driving in 11 days. I had seen this scenic little spot the day after descending from “On Top of The World” the scene of Jimmy’s near death experience. I made a note to try to catch this spot on the way back home if possible.

This is actually taken from on top of about a 500-foot ridge that has a horse trail that leads up to it. You can see the horse trail continuing on to the right. To the left, there was a jeep trail that went to parts unknown. I would have explored it but with the damage to Jimmy, he was in no condition to go trail riding.

As I had climbed up the steep ridge to get to this spot the clouds and storm were rolling in with distant lightning flashing occasionally on the right side of the picture. I quickly set up to start imaging before the clouds rolled in. As I was watching the camera working, I saw lightning silhouetting the left plateau. I was curious how it would look and figured it would make the image not usable. When I looked at the camera after the image finished I was shocked at the flashes and how interesting they looked in the images, truly a picture worth processing after all. 

Focused with the Dave Lane Astrophotography Reveal Filter and protected from dew by the Dew Destroyer both available at:

http://davelaneastrophotography.com

42 images ISO 8,000, f1.4, 50mm Sigma Art

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The White Throne at Zion National Park. 

 

The White Throne at Zion National Park. 

Two years ago I came face to face with failure. I had gotten a pass arranged through the Department of the Interior to go into Zion after dark. I was excited to set up and get some great shots. Having been super convinced I would ace this and nail some shots so I didn’t really even make a plan. Then I started shooting. Now, most people who have followed my images know I can get light out of about anything. I’ve used dozens of tricks and ideas from my deep space imaging to pull light up that was pretty feeble.

One look at the images in the camera though told a scary story. They were extremely dark and unusable. 

This was my first attempt to shoot from the bottom of as steep a canyon as Zion. The narrow gap exposing the sky had cut a huge amount of the starlight in the sky from getting into the canyon. Probably 75% or more of the starlight I normally use was being blocked. I tried upping the ISO dramatically and the image was peppered with green,  red and blue “hot pixels.” While it was close to bright enough the pixelation was dramatic. I tried all the ideas I could think of and only managed one so-so image that took dozens of hours of work to just look “pretty good.” I bet I spent 50 hours on that one image. 

As painful as that was, as frustrated as I was, I learned some new ideas to try. So I’ve been biding my time, waiting, learning, remembering what Zion had done to me. It wouldn’t do to just do the area by the visitors center that is fairly lit up and more wide open. It would have to be the depths of the canyon to be able to claim victory over the dark side. 

So in June, I was ready. Luckily I took this right before a massive fire started just north of Zion. I missed that by a scant few days.

I arranged for the permit and waited. The last buses didn’t leave the area till long after dark, which surprised me. I had ridden the bus up to scout earlier in the day which had topped out at 96 degrees. I headed to my first location which was Big Bend with a peekaboo view of the White Throne (white on the right) and waited. I heard a clicking noise as dark gathered about me and I clicked on my headlamp to see a fox no more than 20 feet from me coming over the top rim of grass into the parking lot I was sitting in. We eyed each other for a moment and then he turned and disappeared back over the curb and into the grass. Big Bend is a little more wide open than many spots in Zion so I decided to use that to my advantage and to test if I could suceed.

Finally, it was pitch black in the canyon. Time to get to work. I took a couple of test shots. Yes, the detail was there I was running the ISO at an astounding 10,000 opened up the lens to full 1.4 and started exposing. I was getting the detail I needed, but the green, red and blue speckle was there when I zoomed in. I had new ways I knew would at least help ameliorate the issue. As it turned out it did it quite well.

So this image is a personal triumph for me. For 2 years I plotted the demise of Zion National Park and ultimately I made it happen to my satisfaction, and hopefully yours as well.

 

42 images ISO 10,000, f1.4, 50mm Sigma Art

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Airy Reflections at the Great Fountain of Yellowstone

Airy Reflections at the Great Fountain of Yellowstone. It was a still, cool night with temperatures the lowest in the entire US after a very hot day. The mercury was hovering at 34 degrees. Fortunately, the air was still and sullen. The reflections were impressive but the airglow in the sky was literally insane. The airglow was the best I have ever seen. It happened one other night on this trip in a place called Toroweap or Tuweap. The airglow there was strong but here at Yellowstone, it was almost impossible to describe. The Tuweap image needs some work but it will be a spectacular image when finished in my opinion.

The bleachers that are seen in the distance give a great view of the fountain at sundown, when occasionally it coincides with an eruption it can be a glorious view.

This late evening/early morning shot turned out really well, I think. It would have been awesome to catch an eruption in the image as they can be up to 200 feet tall. The reflections were blown out so it is enhanced and shifted right.

After this shot, I went to a flat area without trees or geysers to take some more shots of just the Milky Way. I took several panoramas of just the Milky Way because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing in the camera. The airglow was off the charts. As I was finishing up the last image, I was sitting in Jimmy with the camera/tripod just outside the door.

I had heard some earlier thumps. Now thumps and gurgles at night are nothing new in Yellowstone. I hear them constantly while filming. Splashes and seemingly close pops can mimic bears or other critters so it’s enough to keep one on edge in the dark. Now, however, the thumps were growing in sound and volume. I thought something was wrong with Jimmy.

As the last panorama (42 images) finished up I got out of Jimmy and turned on my headlamp and was shocked.

I was surrounded. Surrounded by a herd of bison. 100s of them were around Jimmy in all directions, some as close as 15-20 feet. They had come in the dark to drink from the river I was parked near. Since they seemed to be paying no attention to me I grabbed my gear, threw it in Jimmy and wove my way to safety,

I should have taken video on the way out. After having done $1,000+ worth of damage to Jimmy going to Top of The World, I decided discretion was the better part of valor and escaped before Jimmy could be headbutted into oblivion.

42 images f1.6, ISO 8000, 50mm