Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lost Mesa Nightscapes

Over Labor Day weekend, I went west to visit the Lost Mesa.  This is an area of New Mexico that is a million plus acres of vast desert grasslands and a few lonely mountains.  It is a place that is all but unknown.  There are no paved roads and no signs.  You have to both know about it and want to get here to visit.

It is one of my favorite places to photograph.

Late summer is the rainy season here.  If there have been good rains, you get a lush grassland that is seeing a second spring (the 5th Season).  It is a good time to visit and I have made several trips around the long holiday weekend over the years.

This year I was looking forward to not only seeing the mesa but photographing it at night.  I knew the moon phase would give me some dark sky to work with and I hoped to be able photograph the Milky Way over the mesa and some petroglyphs I knew.

Knowing that the Milky Way would be more in the south of the sky we set up our camp more north of the mountains.  We hoped to work them into the images as the night sky over mostly flat land would be boring.  The day was mostly clear and there was little chances of great daytime images, but we had hopes for night.  We waited for dark.

There was not much of a moon but it turned out to still be too bright once it was dark.  We got in a few images but really wanted to wait for moonset to have darker skies.

A few clouds were now in the sky (coulda used them three hours earlier) but they were not enough to interfere with the view of the Milky Way.

I was working with three different cameras (never the smartest thing to do) my Canon 5D Mark II with Bower 24mm f/1.4, a rented Sony A7S with adapted Bower 14mm f/2.8, and my Sony NEX6 with Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 fisheye.

Luckily at night the exposures are long enough (15 or 30 seconds) that I was able to move between tripods, review images, and start the next one.  Still three cameras kept me very busy.

Here are a few from the evening.  At top is an early view with moonlight lighting up the grasslands.  This is with the Bower 24mm.  Second image is from my little Sony NEX6 and fisheye showing the incredible view of the Milky Way it can do.  I really like this lens and the ultra super wide view.  Finally an image of camp out on the dark, lonely Lost Mesa.

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