June 19, 2015
On Thursday I took a short hike on the Widforss Trail to scout out some views. At the trail head a woman with hiking poles was just coming out. She said, “The grouse is loose.” And pointed to the information board. It indeed had a sign that said, “WARNING Aggressive Blue Grouse”. “Like a mother hen,” said the woman. I had heard about this grouse from the park employees who live next to me, they said to arm yourself with hiking poles. The trail sign said the grouse’s nesting area is blocked off and to take the trail detour. Which I did and after rejoining the trail, I see a chicken sized bird with dark feathers. The grouse! Soon as I aimed my camera, she bore down on me. Even though I was past the pink tape the park set up to designate her nesting area, she chased me west along the trail. I snapped a few more pictures as she screeched a couple of times and hopped up on a log. I guess her territory is quite large.
After recovering from that ordeal, I headed out in the evening to Cape Royal, about a 45 minute drive. I made it just before sunset where dozens of people had gathered to watch. The viewpoint juts out far into the canyon and you have a good look at formations named Wotans Throne and Freya Castle. There was thick layer of haze on the horizon and in the canyon, something that would affect the photos. People generally leave a viewpoint after sunset and as I gathered my equipment and walked back out to the point, the visitors were streaming to their cars.
I’ve been experimenting with close-up shots of plants and the stars. One requirement is that the air has to be completely still for the 30 seconds it takes for the exposure. Gusts of wind were coming up from the canyon swaying the trees and plants. I found a small clearing that seemed to be protected from the wind that might work. After going through a few contortions, I managed to frame the Big Dipper and Polaris with an interesting branch of a juniper tree. Occasional breezes would move the plant and I kept altering the composition. Fifty minutes later I think I had a shot. Fellow astrophotographer Dean Ketelsen pointed out that the subtle color differences between bluish and yellow or reddish stars are more apparent when they are out of focus. You can definitely see the differences in this photo.