Winter Nightscapes in the Guadalupes

The Guadalupe Mountains with fresh snow are a sight to behold.  After arriving in the park during a winter snow, I awoke at 1am to still, clear skies.  Instantly, I was up and was soon out photographing the stars and the Milky Way over the fresh snow.  I know what a rare opportunity this would be to see the snow and I wanted to get every image I could before the winds kicked up and the snow began to melt.

I started in camp just grabbing images of my tent (see my last blog post) and then moved out to photograph El Capitan with a spiral arm of the Milky Way over it.  Having several hours to dawn, I visited several spots and got some different angles on the mountain.

Some close, some farther away.  I was using my Bower (Samyang) 14mm and 24mm lenses on the Canon 5D2 and the little Rokinon (Samyang) fisheye on the Sony NEX6.

That is a very good combo and I was putting them to use in the cold air.

As the night went on ice fog began to form.  I photographed around the edge of it but when it passed over me and the tripod that had the Canon with the 14mm it froze on the lens as soon as it hit it.  Lens frosted over.

I went back and put the lens in my camera bag to warm up some and then switched out to the 24mm.  I made sure to keep the lens hood on as that helps keep the lens from freezing over.

I kept moving about every 45 minutes to a new stop.  Each one to get a different angle on the mountain.

After the spiral arm of the Milky Way set, I kept photographing and despite being out in 15 degree weather for close to seven hours I was still surprised how quick it went.

As the stars began to fade before the sunrise, I finally stopped to wait for dawn at a little rest area.  I set up the camera for a long star trail image and then set up my little stove to warm up some hot water for a little breakfast.  I had been so focused on taking pictures for several hours but as the dark of the night slid toward twilight I realized I was getting hungry.  Oatmeal and hot chocolate were the order of the morning and both were great out there in cold dark of west Texas.

Cooking up breakfast waiting for sunrise
I knew the clear sky that gave me some great nightscape images would mean just intense light at sunrise so I planned to photograph the first ligght on El Capitan and then after the sun came up to make the run up to McKittrick Canyon so I could be there when they opened the gate.  I hoped to make it up into the canyon before the the snow was gone from the trees.

It was already a good day, and I was ready for more!


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