Blue Mesa

November 2, 2011

The last few days I’ve gone out about 4:30 p.m. to shoot the sunset and catch the incredible light afterward for about 30 to 40 minutes. Then I have my dinner of a sandwich in the car. But I also pack fruit and snacks since I’ll be out for a while. By then, it’s about 7 p.m. and almost dark enough for the night photos. Since it doesn’t get really dark until about 7:30, I have enough time to get to the location where I’ll be shooting. I’ll usually shoot until the moon sets, which has been about an hour later each night this week. That gives me extra time each night, but makes for a longer night.

For last night’s sunset, I walked into Blue Mesa canyon, with its striped hills and fields of petrified wood. Earlier, there were quite a few clouds out, but most had dissipated by then, except for a few on the western horizon. One pink cloud over some of the hills made an unusual photo. I ate dinner in the parking area and waited for darkness. Then I walked back down a steep but paved trail to see the canyon lit up by the moon. It was bright enough to walk without a flashlight.

Focusing can be really hard in the dark. The autofocus in the camera is no help since it’s too dark to work. So it’s back to the old days of manual focus; often, I guess, shoot a picture and look to see if it’s in focus. If not, I adjust, then shoot another.

The final shot I planned was back at the Tepees, the series of hills shaped like tents. I did a long exposure to catch the star trails over the hills. I do this by taking a series of 3-minute exposures, then combining them in the computer to show the long trails. If I take 10 photos, it’s equivalent to a 30-minute exposure. Last night it was quite windy. I usually stand next to the camera to shield it from the wind, but last night, after setting up the camera, I put my camera bag on one tripod leg to steady it. Then I sat in the car to stay warm for the 30-minute picture. As you can see in the photo, the wind must have moved the camera because a few of the star trails are out of alignment. And a plane flew through the first photo. Well, better luck next time.

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