Thursday, June 9, 2016

Dark Winter Night in Big Bend

Big Bend has some of the darkest skies in the country.  Being the end of the road and a long way from anywhere makes it a great place to truly experience the night sky. Add in the long dark nights of winter and you can really see the stars.

On my December 2015 trip we were lucky enough to have part of the night without the moon allowing a chance to photography the winter night sky.  Now the galactic core is not visible then as it is below the horizon then you can still see the spiral arm of the Milky Way and even if it is not as bright as the core it is still very visible in the dark skies of west Texas.

Since my journey into the park took so long because of the snow it was very dark by the time I got to the Sotol Vista overlook.  It was also very windy with winds well past 50 mph.  I could see the sky somewhat clearing and I wanted to try a pic.  So I carefully set up my camera and tripod and got all of three images.  The conditions were just so brutal with the cold and wind I was not sure I could even get a non blurry shot.  So I hoped for the best and drove to camp.


Luckily I got one good one!

In camp it was less windy and also dark and cold with snow on the ground.  There was one other camper there!  I put up my tent and did a few customary tent shots.  

My tent, at night, on snow, with fall color in the trees.  What a great way to spend the night!

Over the next two nights I did more nightscape images.  I revisited some of my favorite parts of the park and captured the night sky as best I could.

The rugged volcanic landscape on the western side of the park is a great foreground for night photography and I put the fisheye lens to good use.  In fact, every image in this post is a fisheye lens image.  I love wide angle and I find the fisheye is truly the best way to capture the size of the Milky Way in the night sky.

With the long dark December nights it was easy to get some night images and still be asleep by an early hour.  That is a real plus as one of the things as often happens after a week of night photography is you then need a vacation to get caught up on sleep.

Over the three nights I was in the park, I got lucky enough to make some great images and see some good views of the night sky.

Many people would have missed it as they only look for the Milky Way during the summer not realizing it is visible year round.

I am already looking forward to the dark skies of December 2016 with the new moon between Christmas and New Years it looks to be another good time for a winter trip!
  

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