Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Journey to Big Bend

In December of 2015 I decided to plan a trip west between the holidays.  The year before, in December 2014, I had done a winter trip to the Guadalupe Mountains and arrived in the park in a blizzard.  It was a spectacular trip where I got to photograph snow as well as the Milky Way over the winter peaks.

My hope was to do something similar in 2015 and I made plans to go again.  As I watched the weather another blizzard was making its way across west Texas and it looked like I would have similar conditions.  With the way the weather looked, Big Bend seemed to be the better option as it would get snow but be more on the edge of the storm.  

Snowy Roads in Texas
On the morning I left the blizzard was stretched out across west Texas.  I started west from Fort Worth on I-20 but could see on the weather and Google Maps that west of Abilene the roads were at a crawl, so I decided to to to go south and stay east of the snow line.  I turned south at Cisco, then followed US 377 southwest to I-10 at Junction.  I started west again, but soon found myself in the snow and worsening roads.  I exited 10 in Sonora and headed south to US 90.  I still passed through snow but now on empty roads and I was able to make progress.  I drove past the Devil's River with trees in fall color and eventually got to 90.  Then I turned west into a 50mph wind and made my way to Marathon.

Devil's River
The snow was blowing there and I turned south on US385 to the park.  I made the park entrance at sunset.  From there it was still almost a 2 hour drive to Cottonwood campground which I found almost empty and I set up my tent in the snow.

What was normally a 10 hour drive had become an almost 14 hour day of zig-zagging to avoid the snow but I had made it.  The drive was interesting and seeing the fall color on the Devil's River was a big surprise that I was glad to be able to photograph.  Now, here I was in a national park that I had almost all to myself and there was snow on the ground in Texas!  Talk about a great way to start a trip!!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Zion Canyon Nightscapes

When I was in Zion National Park last fall, I was there right around the full moon.  Not really the best of conditions for the Milky Way.  Well just 3 days after the full moon you already have a short time of dark sky in the night as the moon rises about an hour later each night.  So by the end of my trip I could go out after sunset and have two hours or so of dark sky before the moon rose in the east.

I made the most of those two days I had the chance and that short amount of time to photograph a few locations in Zion Canyon.

In the fall the Milky Way is already in the western sky in the evening so that helped as the moon would be rising on the other side of the sky.

Deep in the canyon the view is mainly up and sure enough the Milky Way was visible.

On a trip the year before I had made one image with my NEX6 and fisheye lens where I looked up and you could see both sides of the canyon with the Milky Way.  I really liked that image and decided to do something similar.  This year I had my Sony A7S and full frame 12mm fisheye lens which give me much more capability than the little NEX6.

I visited a couple of different spots in the canyon and really was wow'd by the images.  Standing in the canyon looking up with the fisheye was like being in a bucket looking out.

While I mainly used the fisheye, I did try my 14mm and 24mm lens but kept going back to the fisheye lens as I always seem to at night.  Once you find the huge view the fisheye lens gives of the night sky, it is really hard to go back to a narrow slice of the sky of the 24mm.

So for each of those two nights I was out there for two hours until the rising almost full moon rose and the Milky Way faded.

It was really the perfect way to end my week in Zion, standing deep in the canyon looking up at the stars.