GO Moon, GO!

August 23, 2017

The ‘diamond ring’ effect, just before totality.

I found a nicer ‘diamond ring’ effect photo I’ll post here. It’s when the moon is just about to cover the face of the sun and the bright light shines on one spot of the disk. This one is more dramatic than the previous photo. Some random observations from eclipse day and after: Rich Krueger, the Flagstaff teacher leading chants of “Go moon, Go!! Eat that sun!!!” as the eclipse was in its early stages. A headline in the Argus Observer, the newspaper for southeast Oregon and southwest Idaho: “Man describes viewing eclipse as ‘caveman like’.” Hard to make any of this up. About five minutes before totality the light was a very eerie orange and dim, unlike any I’ve seen. I took a photo of Steve Kaltenhauser of Calgary, Canada, and the rest of the crowd in the stadium under this odd light.

Ann and I are on a three-day road trip to Colorado and have seen lots of interesting sights from Oregon, Idaho and now Wyoming. Lots of the country that we haven’t seen before and great landscapes. We’ll post more updates.

Rich Krueger watches the partial phase.

Steve Kaltenhauser of Calgary, Canada in the eerie orange light five minutes before totality.

Comments (0)

TOTALITY!

August 22, 2017

Totality, 10:21 a.m.

We’re a day late, but here’s the eclipse. I was working for Agence France-Presse and sending to Space.com and  a couple of other astronomy websites that I didn’t have time to post to the blog. It was quite a sight, incredibly surreal to see a black dot where the sun should be. The corona extended far from the sun as seen with the naked eye. It did seem very different from the Svalbard eclipse in 2015. The corona looked like some creature surrounding the sun that came out just during the eclipse. I can see why ancient people might have been terrified of the sight. The temperature dropped 20 degrees F in Madras, as measured by some scientists who were taking readings of all sorts of things.

There were cheers and gasps from the crowd gathered at Madras High School as totality began. Darkness descended on the town as the eclipse proceeded above us. The football scoreboard clock counted down the seconds to the end of totality. I was operating 4 cameras  and changing the controls on 2 of them but managed to take my own advice and watch the eclipse for many long seconds. Here’s a selection of photos and I’ll post a bigger page in a few days.

Now Ann writes her impressions:  As it got closer to totality, the temperature dropped 20 degrees from 77 to 57. About 10 or so minutes from totality, the sky was washed in darkness but it was a kind of bright darkness, not like anything I’ve ever seen. You look and you think, it’s dark. But it’s not. It’s like looking through sheer navy blue or black fabric in daylight. Then, at totality, it was twilight, very chilly. All eyes were on the sun. People were spread out over the football field, cheering and clapping. There was a brilliant, diamond white light around the sun, glowing with a terrifying intensity. People were staring wondrously, like a spaceship was landing, Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It was dazzling white light, the whitest of whites, like a Broadway musical, showgirls in rhinestones, a thousand klieg lights going off all at the same time. It brought tears to my eyes.

On the field at Madras High School.

The “Bailey’s Beads” effect is seen and red solar prominences. The bright sunlight shining through the moon’s mountains and craters create the bead effect.

My friends Wally and Rush from Albuquerque during totality.

The entire eclipse path from the Madras High School football field. The scoreboard counts down to the end of totality.

The entire eclipse path from the Madras High School football field. The scoreboard counts down to the end of totality.

Comments (2)

Madras camping

August 20, 2017

Our campsite on the baseball field. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

The students cooking their dinner.

Here’s our campsite at the Madras high school. We are here with the Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy (FALA), a great group of high school students led by Rich Krueger, the astronomy and physics teacher. We circled our tents and have a nice space, with a few canopies making shade. The students are in charge of the cooking, so they gather at meal times and prepare the food. Our group of seven includes my friend Rush and his brother, Wally, who brought the usual truckload of camping and cooking supplies.

Today Aubrey, myself and Peter, a San Francisco photographer, went out to test our equipment on the football field. I was having problems with some remote triggers but will figure out a solution. James, one of the students, is assisting me and that’s a big help. We saw high clouds come in off and on during the day so that’s a worry although people are pretty confident the sky will be clear tomorrow.

The star party is this evening, and it’s an early morning tomorrow.

 

Comments (1)

E minus 2 days

August 19, 2017

UFO cloud on western horizon in Madras.

We’re at two days and counting to totality.

We’ve moved from our comfortable hotel to camping on a baseball field at Madras High School. It’s not too bad. We’re on grass fields, away from the throngs of campers on big dusty fields around the town. Since we are with a Flagstaff group helping Lowell Observatory with the eclipse event, they let us pitch a tent. Last evening after setting up the tents, we saw an amazing display of clouds at sunset, including one shaped like a UFO.

I went out today with Aubrey, the NASA photographer who is here, to find interesting pictures around the town. At the local Safeway, we stocked up on ice and food. We found a giant stack of Ecliptic Brewing Co. beer (Official Eclipse Beer?) and saw that Lay’s wants you to “Enjoy the Moment: BRING LAY’S WITH YOU TO WATCH THE ECLIPSE ON AUGUST 21.” (Official Potato Chip?)

We noticed an increase in traffic as people head into the area. Predictions say 100,000 people will invade Central Oregon by Monday.

Official beer of the eclipse.

Official potato chip of the eclipse.

Comments (0)

Arrived in Madras

August 18, 2017

Great design on the Madras town sign. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

For those wondering where Ann and I are viewing the eclipse, we have arrived in Madras, Oregon, apparently the center of the total eclipse universe for Central Oregon. We’ll be helping out at the Lowell Observatory Eclipse Experience at the high school over the weekend. First we needed to obtain the essentials, such as a hat, nicely designed postcards and the eclipse rock—all purchased at the Black Bear Diner. Two T-shirts completed our set of souvenirs, those purchased at Antlered Teepee Espresso. (See photos below.) Various estimates say 100,000 people will descend on this area. Madras is a town of just over 6,000, mostly agriculture. The diner had very nice eclipse-themed menus, and the waitress gave us copies for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We saw lots of signs welcoming eclipse watchers on street lights and storefronts.

Black Bear Diner menus, collect them all.

Official Eclipse Rock, a must-have.

Stan is set for the total eclipse with hat, T-shirt, postcards and Official Rock.

 

 

 

Comments (1)

Eclipse News

August 2, 2017

Photography tips and links for the upcoming total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017. Follow the blog as Ann and I travel to Madras, Oregon to view the eclipse.

Totality in the Arctic: March 20, 2015, Svalbard. Vernal equinox total solar eclipse.

NationalGeographic.com interviews me and astrophotographer Babek Tafreshi on How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse.

Photos: The 2015 total eclipse in Svlabard

NASA Solar Eclipse Map: Where to see totality

Stan’s tips:

First advice is to take time to look at the eclipse with your eyes. It will be the most surreal and fantastic thing you will ever see. And if you are messing around with the cameras too much, you will kill yourself if you didn’t see much of the totality. Remember to look up and experience it, you won’t regret it. (It is perfectly safe to look during totality without the filters or glasses, you aren’t looking at the surface of the sun, just the outer atmosphere (corona) which is about as bright as the full moon). The total part of the eclipse only lasts between 2 and 2 ½ minutes, so it is quick.

To be safe, get eclipse glasses and if you plan to shoot the partial phase of the eclipse leading up to totality, get a good solar filter. Thousand Oaks Optical has both, order soon to prevent any delays. http://thousandoaksoptical.com/shop/solar-filters/silver-black-polymer-sheets/

On the NASA map in the link at the top of this page, you can zoom in to your location. Between the blues lines you will see a total eclipse. Get as close to the center red line as you can to see the maximum in that area. Outside of the blue lines you see a partial eclipse, so you want to avoid that. Zoom in and click on a town, a box comes up with all the times. It’s in Universal Time, or GMT so you convert to your time zone. Main thing to pay attention to is “Start of total eclipse”.

On the center path, I’m pretty sure all hotels are taken. Best to get to your location early Sunday at the latest, early Saturday if you can. There will be huge crowds and many states are predicting gridlock on highways and especially side roads. If you can camp, that should work or even sleep in your car- which I think lots of people will be doing. If you have friends or relatives near the center line, stay with them. If you can stay inside the blue lines, you’re good in case of heavy traffic Monday. Get up real early Monday (before dawn) if you are driving anywhere.

There are mainly two kinds of eclipse photos- wide and telephoto. The telephoto is the tight shot you see all the time, for the most part every eclipse looks the same shot this way. The wide shot is more interesting since you see details of your surroundings. If you have only the one lens that came with the camera, then use that on the widest focal length setting. The sun will be high in the sky- the box on the NASA Google map also has the altitude (ALT) in degrees. So you can shoot real wide horizontally, or less wide vertically. You can do a test by seeing what lens focal length you need to also get the ground in the shot. Go out just before noon or around 2pm and see if the sun and the landscape fit into your viewfinder. Unfortunately the wider you go, the smaller the sun gets. But the sight in the sky is so spectacular, it won’t really matter. Plus if you don’t get the landscape, that’s ok, you’ll probably get some trees or people in the photo.

Don’t try to changes lenses during the totality!! There isn’t enough time and you will miss quite a bit of the eclipse. Just stick with one lens and take in the whole experience.

Exposure can be tricky. I did one total eclipse, in March 2015 in Svalbard, which is north of Norway, way above the Arctic Circle. Very wild. I shot the whole eclipse, from start to finish. That includes the partial phase which lasts about 1 hour on each side of totality. I used safe solar filters on a telephoto and wide angle and later did a time-lapse sequence still image of the whole thing. You definitely need the solar filter if you are planning to shoot before and after totality. With the sheets I recommended, you can cut them to the diameter of your lens and use tape to hold it in place. Make sure you can remove it quickly, you’ll have to do that right at totality.

You might want to concentrate on just the totality. Then you can get shots of the people around you before and after and enjoy the partial phases of the eclipse with the solar glasses. If you want just the totality, put the camera on the Manual mode a few minutes before (people will tell you when it is getting close), set the camera at ISO 400, f8, 1/500 second. Take a couple at that setting (you don’t need a filter for totality). Then slow down the shutter speeds to 1/125, 1/60, 1/30 and 1/15 sec. You should have the camera on a tripod. Then you can go as slow as 1/8 sec. Take a couple at each setting. It will get very dark, you may have to turn on the light in the camera to see the settings. Try all of this at night to see if you can see everything. But also make sure to look up at the eclipse when it happens!

Most of all, have fun and enjoy the experience.

 

 

 

Comments (0)

Weather

September 12, 2016

Burned Juniper trunk.

Burned Juniper trunk. (click on photos to enlarge)

While the subtle colors are nice at Mesa Verde, the impact of natural forces are sometimes best seen in black and white. We walked the Long House Loop trail on a hot day which took us through vast areas of burned juniper and pinyon pines from the Pony fire in 2000 that closed the park for 10 days. The stark landscape of tree trunks looked like modern sculptures. During our stay we saw several distant rainstorms opening up on the landscape. The sheets of rain coming down, the cumulus clouds building overhead and the lightning from the clouds really give you a sense of how powerful nature can be.

Next: Four Corners

Late afternoon storm south of Mesa Verde.

Late afternoon storm south of Mesa Verde.

Evening storm to the north of Mesa Verde.

Evening storm to the north of Mesa Verde.

Comments (0)

Desert Varnish

August 24, 2016

Desert varnish and limy cement

Desert varnish and limy cement (Click on photos to enlarge)

Aug 24

We set out on a big drive south from Rocky through central Colorado and spectacular mountains. Making our way down Rt. 24 we stop in Silverthorne at La Perla Carneteria, a restaurant/store/butcher that had some of the best Mexican food ever. There must be a pretty large Mexican population there, we saw lots of construction workers and families eating. Our first night on the road we stayed at the Crested Butte house of our friends Don and Vicki. They bought the place a couple of years ago and are slowly renovating it and eventually will move there. The next day we drive back through Gunnison, then Montrose and took an alternate route to avoid construction on 550. It took us through breathtaking mountain passes and torrential rain. We end up late in the afternoon at Mesa Verde National Park, where we stayed at the Far View Lodge in the park.

The cliff dwellings and pit houses at Mesa Verde are incredible and tell an amazing history of human history going back to the 6th century. We took the Petroglyph Point Trail hike, passing Spruce Tree House on our way into a canyon. Ann picked up the trail guide which was very helpful. It explained the dark desert varnish we saw on the cliff faces which is caused by the dissolving of iron oxide and manganese oxide in water during spring rains and snow melt. The water evaporates leaving the mineral deposits on the rock. The white substance is calcium sulfate (“limy cement”) dissolved in water and then deposited on the surface when the water evaporates. All this looked like modern art installations on the cliffs when you looked closely at the details. Not to mention the wild looking rock erosion and the multi-colored lichens, a fungus that actually grows on the rock absorbing minerals and water.

Next: more weather and fire remnants

Multi-hued lichen

Multi-hued lichen

Water erosion that resembles the cliff dwellings

Water erosion that resembles the cliff dwellings

The side of a cliff

The side of a cliff

A vertical hole eroded in a cliff

A vertical hole eroded in a cliff

Comments (0)

The Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet-“Saves Steps”!

August 19, 2016

Staying at the William Allen White cabin at Rocky Mountain you could almost think you were living in the early 20th century. Built in 1887, it was the summer home for the famous Kansas newspaper editor and writer. In present day form it had a few modern conveniences—running water, electricity, lights. No phone, no internet, no real cell phone service. The beautiful view of Moraine Park was occasionally interrupted by the noise of internal combustion engines from Bear Lake Road, which was below the cabin. Best of all was the Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet (“Saves Steps”). It really looked like an original from the 1910s or 20s. It was a multipurpose device where many things related to meals could be kept or worked on. Click here for some fascinating information on the Hoosier.

The Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet with door open

The Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet with door open (Click on photo to enlarge)

The tall wood cabinet had two large top shelves, drawers and storage and possibly a zinc workspace. What looked like a flour mill was integrated into the two top shelves. Inside each door were detailed directions, instructions and places to put things like your cook book or ice book. Mrs. Christine Frederick had her “Housekeeper’s Food Guide”, “Suggesting Perfectly Balanced Meals According to Healthful Food Combinations”. Click on each photo to see the detailed suggestions and instructions. Mrs. Frederick has your complete diet planned and an explanation of the elements that make up food, what those elements are and what your body requires.

Mrs. Christine Frederick’s “Housekeeper’s Food Guide”

Mrs. Christine Frederick’s “Housekeeper’s Food Guide”

Moveable hands on the Hoosier Want List covered most everything you’ll need, as long as you only need six items at a time.

Hoosier Want List

Hoosier Want List

Door for Flavoring Extracts, etc.

Door for Flavoring Extracts, etc.

The White cabin and the view of Moraine Park

The White cabin and the view of Moraine Park

One door had racks for small bottles or Flavoring Extracts. Below those you put your ice book, which I found was a book of tickets for blocks of ice, bought from an ice company, of course. And a milk lid pick (not in the picture), which looks to be a device to open up the old glass bottles of milk. They really thought of everything. We hated to leave the cabin and the park, but early on Aug. 4 we set out on the road for our journey south through Colorado.

Next post: Mesa Verde

Comments (0)

Thank you Albert Bierstadt

August 18, 2016

Moraine Park, July 28, 2016

Moraine Park, July 28, 2016  (Click to enlarge photos)

One evening, I think as I was going to eat dinner out on the front porch at the Rocky cabin, I see this amazing scene across the Moraine Park meadow. I mentioned before the atmosphere is constantly changing so it’s possible to see amazing things everyday. But this was really amazing, the scene appearing like an Albert Bierstadt painting with dramatic lighting and everything! The real spectacular clouds/light only lasted a few minutes before the scene became just an ordinary amazing sight. It’s interesting to click on the photo to see the enlarged version and see the different cloud formations and the streams of light.

Coming back at 6:00 am from shooting the moon rising at the Tundra area I saw this scene of Longs Peak lit by the rising sun and a bank of fog lurking in the meadow below. Individual clouds of fog dotted the meadow, this one looking like the wash from a watercolor brush. It was incredible to see the peak, at 14,259 feet, catching the first rays of the rising sun, well before the lower mountains and the surrounding valley.

Sunrise, Longs Peak, July 29, 2016

Sunrise, Longs Peak, July 29, 2016

For a few days there was smoke from fires north and west of the park that created an orange haze on the horizon. It was especially heavy one evening, before I gave the artists evening program talk at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. I got out of my car and saw this orange sun low in the sky surrounded by the smoke.

An orange sun from the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center

An orange sun from the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center

Comments (0)

Moose!

August 16, 2016

A female moose

A female moose

We’re back home after an extended trip from the mountains to the high desert. I’ll post a few updates from Rocky, Colorado and New Mexico over the next few days.

Ann arrived at Rocky on Monday, Aug. 1, via the Estes Park Shuttle van from the Denver airport that dropped her off right at the visitor center in the park. We had a few more days in the White cabin before heading off on a southwest adventure. Tuesday we set off to the west side of the park in search of moose. They like aquatic  vegetation and riparian areas and lakes. As we drive Highway 34 in the Kawuneeche Valley we see several cars pulled over on each side of the road. Moosejam! The Colorado River meanders through this area and comes very close to the road at points. We see a female moose feeding on the ground cover and bushes near a bend in the river. Through binoculars in the bright sun we see details of the large mammal. I forgot to bring my Nikon with the longer telephoto lens, but I have my small Sony camera with a short focal length zoom. I get a few interesting semi-close ups and a nice wider shot showing our moose under the towering lodgepole pines and the mountains in the distance. We end up seeing two more moose in the area. (Click to enlarge photos)

Moose feeding on the Colorado River

Moose feeding on the Colorado River

Early morning Milky Way at Upper Beaver Meadows Trailhead

Early morning Milky Way at Upper Beaver Meadows Trailhead

Comments (0)

Rocky weather

August 1, 2016

Double rainbow over Moraine Park.

Double rainbow over Moraine Park. (Click on images to enlarge)

 

Monday

The atmosphere is changing constantly at Rocky providing sublime to spectacular landscapes. As the late afternoon rain continued Sunday, the sun peaked through some clouds. Going down the hill to check on something in my car, I looked to the east to see part of a brilliant, almost fluorescent rainbow and a second, lighter rainbow. I ran back up to the cabin to grab my camera and ran back down the hill to see almost the whole arc over the trees and mountains. The clouds behind it were very dark and the contrast was stunning. The rainbow lasted quite a long time and it seemed to be almost a solid beam. After a while it began to fade so I headed back to the cabin. Looking out a few minutes later I see again a small slice of color in the sky and run back out with my camera. Only part of the arc is seen but it’s as bright at the first sighting. It’s an amazing sight against the deep green trees and the dramatic lighting on the background mountains.

I had a couple of busy evenings as part of the Night Sky Festival. Friday I gave a talk about the night sky photos at the Moraine Park campground amphitheater and a hands-on photo workshop Saturday at the Glacier Basin campground. Both outdoor amphitheaters are a real experience as the sky darkens during the program. At Glacier Basin we went out to a meadow in the campground to photograph the Milky Way and the distant mountains.

My friend Richard Haro from Ft. Collins visited Saturday. After the workshop we drove to Sprague Lake, he wanted more practice at the night sky photography. We were surprised to see several cars in the parking lot at around 10:45 p.m. People on the trail around the lake turned out to be “students” from the workshop who apparently took my advice to shoot from Sprague, one of my favorite spots in Rocky.

Touches down just beyond the cabin.

Touches down just beyond the cabin.

Another picture from the alpine adventure on the tundra. Giant rocks illuminated by the rising moon.

Another picture from the alpine adventure on the tundra. Giant rocks illuminated by the rising moon.

Comments (0)

Above the clouds

July 30, 2016

Saturday

Thursday night (or rather 1:00 a.m. Friday morning) was completely overcast at the cabin. Driving up to the Tundra Communities trail I wasn’t sure if I’d see any sky. I was hoping at 12,000 feet in altitude at the trail I would maybe be above the clouds, which looked very low from the 8,000 feet level of the cabin. On Trail Ridge Road it seemed like a drive through heavy fog. This must be the cloud layer, I thought. Approaching the Rock Cut turnout where the Tundra trail starts, all of a sudden I saw stars. Most of the sky was clear! I was amazed. I was also cold, the temperature dropping to around 42 degrees from the mild 62 at the cabin. I put on several layers and headed out the short trail along the tundra. This area is above the tree line so plants are low to the ground and the main landscape features are huge rocks and the surrounding mountains.

I had planned to be there for the 2:05 a.m. moonrise and found the spots I had scouted out earlier in the daylight. An orange moon started to peak out between distant thin clouds in the east and lit up clouds that were below the ridge I sat on. It was a sight to be above a cloud layer that surrounded the lower elevations. The combination of the moonrise, wispy clouds above, the bright stars, a cloud layer below and the dramatic mountains made for an unforgettable scene.

Many daytime activities for the Night Sky Festival happen at the nearby Moraine Park Discovery Center. I met up with “Dark Sky” Ranger Cynthia Langguth who was helping children make sun clocks, simple sundials to see how to tell time by the sun. A group of amateur astronomers from the area set up solar telescopes to view the sun.

Moonrise above the clouds.

Moonrise above the clouds. (Click to enlarge photos)

Amazing rock formations on the tundra. If you look closely, above and to the left of the center of the image is the Andromeda Galaxy.

Amazing rock formations on the tundra. If you look closely, above and to the left of the center of the image is the Andromeda Galaxy.

Ranger Cynthia Langguth helps a junior ranger with the sun clock.

Ranger Cynthia Langguth helps a junior ranger with the sun clock.

Comments (0)

Alpine living

July 28, 2016

Thursday

Small, fat, furry animals are irresistible to humans and this photographer. Me and many visitors saw this very cute marmot crawling around the rocks at the Tundra Communities trail Thursday morning. The yellow-bellied marmots live in the alpine ecosystem, in this case at over 12,000 feet.

So far every night has been clear and the sky here is pretty remarkable. Monday I saw that the International Space Station was to fly over Rocky just before 10 p.m. I headed to Sprague Lake to get a clear view of the south-southeast horizon. This 2 minute, 41 second exposure starts just below an orange Mars on the right as the ISS cuts through Scorpius, grazes the top of Saturn, heads  across the Milky Way through the constellations Ophiuchus, Scutum, Aquilla and goes just below the star Altair where the shutter closes.

The second night photo was taken right when I heard the splashing of an animal in the lake, as I described in the previous post. I asked some rangers and the theories varied that maybe I heard an elk, moose, coyote, mountain lion or even a human. Aside from that, the rising moon provided beautiful light on the lake.

(Click on photos to enlarge)

A yellow-bellied marmot

A yellow-bellied marmot

 

A time exposure of the ISS flying over Rocky

A time exposure of the ISS flying over Rocky

Moonlight illuminates Sprague Lake

Moonlight illuminates Sprague Lake

 

Comments (0)

Back to Rocky Mountain

July 27, 2016

July 27, Wednesday

I’m here at Rocky Mountain National Park for the next week for their 2nd annual Night Sky Festival. The rangers invited me back to give a talk and a night sky photography workshop. It’s a chance to come back to the park where I was an artist-in-residence in 2013. The interpretive rangers have generously allowed me to stay in the William Allen White cabin, where the artists stay, since it is vacant for a couple of weeks.

It’s hard to beat the views from the cabin, either from the large main room window looking west towards the mountains or from the expansive covered porch looking south towards more mountains and Longs Peak. We’re in the Moraine Park section and there is a vast meadow at the base of the mountains.

This stay will allow me to re-visit some of the locations I was at in 2013 and shoot more of the incredible night sky here. I arrived Monday and both night so far have been clear. I had a mild scare last night at Sprague Lake around 1:30 a.m. as the moon was rising. I heard something running a few steps by the shore and then a huge splash in the water. Some splashing around, almost like someone swimming. It seemed to be right in front of where I was photographing a dead log and the lake. The splashing continued off and on with a few grunts. I shot one more picture and decided to head out, not wanting to see what kind of animal was taking a midnight swim.

View from the cabin’s main room. The dining table is here, so you get this great view at all meals.

View from the cabin’s main room. The dining table is here, so you get this great view at all meals.

They made a nice flyer on display in the Beaver Meadows visitor center where I’ll be giving talks each Wednesday as part of the scheduled Art in the Park series.

They made a nice flyer on display in the Beaver Meadows visitor center where I’ll be giving talks each Wednesday as part of the scheduled Art in the Park series.

Comments (0)

Botanicals

April 3, 2016

The Big Dipper pointing to the north star Polaris in the Little Dipper.

The Big Dipper pointing to the north star Polaris in the Little Dipper. (Click on images to enlarge).

April 3

I’m back home after the incredible experience of working at Chaco for a whole month. Thanks to all the rangers, volunteers and staff for their help and advice. And thanks to the landscape and the great houses for being great subjects. I’ve done some rough editing of images during the past few weeks, which have been posted here. At some point I’ll gather all the good ones up and make a separate page on the website.  

Meanwhile, here’s some of the close-ups of plants and well-known constellations.

Orion dominated the south sky in March, with the bright stars Sirius (lower left), Procyon (upper left), orange Aldebaran (above plant) and The Pleiades (upper right).

Orion dominated the south sky in March, with the bright stars Sirius (lower left), Procyon (upper left), orange Aldebaran (above plant) and The Pleiades (upper right).

Scorpius and its tail, the central Milky Way and Sagittarius (at left).

Scorpius and its tail, the central Milky Way and Sagittarius (at left).

Cassiopeia (on the right) and Perseus (at top).

Cassiopeia (on the right) and Perseus (at top).

Comments (0)

View from Alto

March 29, 2016

Cliff at work at Pueblo del Arroyo, an airplane trail intruding on the photo.

Cliff at work at Pueblo del Arroyo, an airplane trail intruding on the photo. (Click to enlarge photo)

March 29, Tuesday

I’ve gotten to know Cliff and Jane, a very nice couple from northern California, who have been volunteers at Chaco for several years. They are our neighbors in the next duplex and arrived a couple of weeks ago. Cliff does a really informative tour of Chetro Ketl and Jane has been assessing the park ‘app’ for tablets and smartphones. They’ve been very helpful with tips about Chaco and shopping and eating in Farmington. Cliff is a photographer as well and came out with me for two nights in the canyon. I was setting up a shot and got one of him in action at Pueblo del Arroyo.

On Sunday I told Jim, who is chief of natural resources here, I was interested in photographing Pueblo Alto, which is on top of the mesa on the north side of the canyon. He had also been interested in going up there at night and asked if he could come along. Normally it’s a steep hike to the mesa top then a relatively flat trail to the site. Jim said there is an access road for rangers and preservation crews so he got his heavy duty four wheel drive truck and we drove up to Alto. After a really rough road, we parked and hiked in the last ½ mile or so. At alto, it’s really alto. It’s one of the highest parts in the park and you can see 360 degrees from the pueblo site. The bad news is the glow of the towns is seen but also lights, many fairly bright, of drilling operations outside the park. In the past few years oil and  gas drilling has increased with many wells burning off excess gas. At night these flames are bright lights that can be seen for miles. Or some of the drill sites are lit, much brighter than an outdoor house light.

I photographed the ‘new’ Alto site, a structure built after what’s called ‘old’ Alto, looking north. You can see the Big Dipper and the two stars in the ‘dipper’ pointing to Polaris the North Star. Pueblo Alto was a junction of several prehistoric roads, some aligned due north/south. Wonder what the ancient Chacoans would think of the string of lights along the 21st century horizon?

Today is my last full day at Chaco and it’s been an incredible experience. I’ll continue the blog for several more installments with the work from the canyon.

The moon lights up “New” Alto, at the Pueblo Alto site looking north with a view of lights on the horizon.

The moon lights up “New” Alto, at the Pueblo Alto site looking north with a view of lights on the horizon. (Click to enlarge photo.)

Inside a moonlit New Alto.

Inside a moonlit New Alto.

Comments (1)

Black and white

March 27, 2016

Dramatic clouds over Fajada Butte.

Dramatic clouds over Fajada Butte.

The environment around Chaco Canyon is fairly stunning on its own. During the day I often do scouting trips to the various sites or small hikes to check out locations that would make good photos at night. Sometimes the hikes take longer than usual since I stop often to take a picture of something that looks interesting. Here’s a few of these photos, converted into black and white since many of the sights look nice done that way.

One more Chaco mystery: Thursday night my headlamp vanished. I believe I had it with me coming back from the canyon that night, but then couldn’t find it the next day. I don’t think an animal took it from my head, sometimes I’ll put it in my pocket when driving out of the canyon. Well, a good reason to go to REI to get another one.

This plant looked almost silvery against the sand.

This plant looked almost silvery against the sand.

A great curling plant, which I must find the name of.

A great curling plant, which I must find the name of.

There are many of these small ‘caves’ of eroded sandstone on the way to Peñasco Balanco.

There are many of these small ‘caves’ of eroded sandstone on the way to Peñasco Blanco.

Comments (0)

Bernie and more moons

March 24, 2016

March 24, Thursday

Bernie sign on Ford Ranger pickup truck in Farmington

Bernie sign on Ford Ranger pickup truck in Farmington (Click to enlarge image)

On the way to the Natural Grocers store in Farmington I saw a resident has placed a huge sign for Bernie Sanders on the back of a classic Ford Ranger pickup truck. The paint job of the truck (blue and white) matches the colors on Bernie’s sign, which appears to be well bolted onto the bed of the truck. So far it’s the only campaign sign I’ve seen out here.

Continuing with the moon theme, I went out Wednesday evening for the full moonrise at Fajada Butte. I chose a spot where I could see the moon rise and then would be able to position myself on the road to get the butte. Around the predicted time there was a definite orange glow on the eastern horizon. I took a few photos before the rise of what looked like a fuzzy ball surrounded by a deep blue sky. Then suddenly I saw a bright light, the top half of the moon clearing the mesa in the distance, slowly rising. In the deepening twilight with Fajada looming close by you could almost hear Richard Strauss “Also sprach Zarathusra”. As the moon gained altitude I moved south to try to get the butte in the picture. I timed it so the moon cleared the top of the butte right at one of the well-known rock formations at the top, which made for a nice silhouette.

I’ve wanted to do a series of early/late sun and moonlight on Fajada from our porch. I got up early Thursday for the sunrise and as I’m lining up the shot of the butte I look to my right and see the big full moon setting. The light was perfect as the western sky was still in twilight and the moon was bright. In a few minutes the sun rose, painting the cliffs and the top of Fajada in a brilliant orange light. In the quiet of the early morning it was a serene sight.

Full moon rising behind Fajada Butte formation

Full moon rising behind Fajada Butte formation

Moonset and Fajada Butte on Thursday morning

Moonset and Fajada Butte on Thursday morning (Click to enlarge image)

Comments (0)

Moonrise

March 22, 2016

Moon, plane and bird.

Moon, plane and bird.

March 22, Tuesday

The wind started up this morning and is blowing steady now with huge gusts. The air is filled with dust and you can see clouds of it in the distance. I was walking back from the visitor center today and thought I heard a faint mechanical sound. I kept hearing it as I walked closer to the apartments and realized it was the wind blowing through and off the high cliffs that are close to us on the north side. A different sound than the wind going through the ponderosa pines at the Grand Canyon or at Rocky Mountain and an interesting experience.

Monday evening it looked like there would be a good sunset so I walked out in front of our duplex. As they say, sometimes the best picture is behind you and behind me the nearly full moon was rising over a cliff near our duplex right as the sun was setting. A while later the sky was a deep blue in the east and some detail on the rocks was still visible. I shot various compositions and then saw a bird flying through the frame. What luck, I thought, maybe I’ll get one shot of the bird. As I was editing the pictures I saw what I thought was a dust speck on the moon- ugh. I enlarged it and saw it was an airplane, in the same frame as a nicely positioned bird. Complete luck! Nothing to do with skill!

Continuing with the moon theme, I include a shot of the moon setting behind Pueblo Bonito. Click on the picture to see it bigger and you see all the stars visible even with a crescent moon on the horizon. The Milky Way is on the right and about in the middle is the Andromeda Galaxy (fuzzy thing just above the great house).

Moon rising on Monday.

Moon rising on Monday. (Click to enlarge)

_DSC7192jsm-w

Moon set behind Pueblo Bonito.

Comments (0)