Sunday, July 26, 2015

Snowy Range Nightscapes

One of the great off the beaten path mountain locations is the Snowy Range of southern Wyoming.  Incredibly scenic with easy access and basically no crowds.  Imagine an area with steep granite peaks rising right out of pristine alpine lakes.

It's the type of location you normally have to backpack for three days to get to.

At the Snowy's that is 50 yards from the parking lot.........

Yes, seriously.  

How can something super scenic like this not be jam packed with people?  Easy, it's in Wyoming and not Colorado.  Just a couple hour drive and thousands of less people than you would find in Rocky Mountain National Park.

I have visited several times and when a recent opportunity came for a visit I jumped at the chance.  I had to be in Fort Collins, Colorado (just north of Denver) and arrived a day early.  My plan was to drive up to the Snowy Range, see sunset, see the Milky Way, campout, watch sunrise and then drive back to Fort Collins.

That is not a lot of time yet I had hopes for enough clouds for a big sunset, clear sky for the Milky Way, and then a great sunrise.

I got up to the Snowy's and found a NFS campsite right near the top of the pass.  Afternoon clouds were building and some developed into showers off in the distance.  I caught a few interesting images (I will post those later) but was really waiting for the night.

Darkness takes a long time to arrive this far north and at this elevation.  In Texas you need about 90 minutes between sunset and astronomical twilight.  Here it is two+ hours.  Meaning it did not get dark enough to see the Milky Way until almost 1030pm (and with sunrise at 530am it meant the stars were fading by 330).

Being a morning person it was a struggle to sit through the gathering darkness but after ten as the stars shined in the sky I began to get energized to start making images.

There is a great view at the Snowy Range where a little creek exits Lake Marie with a mountain rising out of the far shore.  The view is north-northeast.  That is the opposite direction where the best part of the Milky Way is but I was hoping I could still pick it up.  

However, I was too late in the summer and the view was not there.  I was able to do a few images with the fisheye lens but it was not the shot I wanted.

I moved around to a couple of different angles and then a few other spots nearby.

The sky was outstanding, the Milky Way was shining brightly in the dark mountain skies above Wyoming.  Green air glow was also seen as streaks in the sky.  It was so bright that it almost looks like an aurora.  


I photographed a few different views at some lakes and then visited a small alpine lake with pines on the far side where it all came together.  The Milky Way was bright and the air glow with it combined into the scene of the trees and reflected water to truly wow me with what I was seeing on the back of the camera.  It is the top image here.

I also kept seeing occasional flashes and when I headed back to camp saw it was very distant thunderstorms that were easily 60-100 miles away and the lightning was causes flashes in the sky.

The night was everything I was hoping to find staying up here on top of the pass and it did not disappoint.

I went around and was up until about 1am.  By then I was very tired having been up almost 24 hours.  I made my way back to the tent I had set up and fell quickly asleep.

I would be up and out again by 4am.

You can see more nightscape images from this trip in my galleries:

http://www.wildernessphotographer.net/Galleries/Nightscapes/



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