Spring Milky Way

Fog rising
We live in strange times.  The "new normal" of social distancing has changed many things in life.  For me as a photographer it has made spring different than I had planned.  When state and national parks closed that took away the travel I like to do.  With so much unknown travel became all but impossible.  I want to be outside and I want to be responsible about being socially distant.

My way way to do this is to go out and photograph alone.  Actually I go alone most of the time anyway, so in a way it is nothing new.  In normal times I do occasionally have a few friends who may go along but when I start wanting to depart at 0230 to go stand in a river to photograph the Milky Way, my list of interested friends gets much, much smaller.  Like I said, most of the time I go alone.

So this past spring I have visited a few areas I can get to and photograph without being in a park.  A place I can drive to, see the stars and not encounter another person.  Drive there, photograph and drive home.  Zero interaction with people.

High water
So that has been my plan this spring.  Get out and see the stars when I can.

Now with the stars you have to have several things go right for some of the areas.  Dark sky near the new moon, which means maybe 2 weekends a month.  The right location to face the Milky Way, since it moves throughout the year and a location that works in March tends not to in August.  Clear sky to see it, which is probably obvious.  Lastly, not too much recent rain, most of my locations are along rivers and high water means it is not safe to access.

Luckily I have been able to make a few trips over the last several weeks and got images each new moon cycle.  The rain and high water limited some access.  Clouds made another night difficult too.  Actually pretty typical what you deal with as a landscape photographer-always at the mercy of nature.

Through the trees
What I have found over the last several years are a few different places to go.  All within a one hour drive of home.  With some 6 million plus people in the Metroplex I have to get away from town.  What I have found is that if I can drive about an hour, I am far enough to see the Milky Way and get some images.  There can be some local light pollution but generally I find being along a river keeps most stray light away.

This year I even added two new places to go.  High water blocking some of my spots led me to using some maps and making some visits.  Then making the drive in the dark hoping it would work and being thrilled when it did!

Each trip out was a small victory, if for nothing more than to be outside.  Even the night the clouds blew in before I could wade down the river to my spot, it was still a fun adventure in the dark.

As we move into June, I know a couple of my spring spots will no longer be any good but I know some different ones reach their prime in July.  I will keep watching the weather and river levels so I can be ready for that next new moon.


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