Look at all those friggin stars


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Taking off where I left yesterday: the evening skies above Las Cruces. For a while now I have been eyeballing Wayne Suggs and Jay Hill. Two fellow Las Crucians with mind blowing photography skills. They woke something up in me… I had never thought about shooting the stars back in Europe, but here, with all that sky-neatness, I wanted to have a go at it. In school we learned about the Milky Way of course, but it had never crossed my mind that people can actually photograph it. Another one of the big AHA moments I had over here…

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After looking it up online, noting down numbers, aperture openings, speeds and more of that technical stuff that wreck my brain,  I picked a setting and decided to try it out. With very low expectations, it’s one thing to photograph in day light but it’s another to take pics in the middle of the night in the desert. A lot of secret settings or so it seems, and more questions rising with the minute. I kept reading about using a red lamp and avoid all light. But did not really see why. I need instructions on toddler level.

  • It has to be completely dark for night photography because the human eye needs at least 20 minutes to adapt to dark. Every light spark takes you back to zero and you have to start counting again…
  • The longer you stay outside in the dark, the more stars you will discover, till at one point you see a million of them. And it is WOW to the third degree!
  • Get a good red lamp which does not interrupt or brings your eyes out of darkness mode
  • Turn off preview after every shot on the back of the camera  because that  3inch preview will toss light around and set your eyes back again
  • Get a STURDY tripod – Thank you Derry Brabbs, finally found a second hand one on ebay. Weighs like a dead donkey, but anything for art.

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It comes down to knowing your camera and being able to set it up almost blindly. 59 Years old and finally making the discovery that when out at night, and in darkness, the human eye adapts to it being blackish and one starts to see more stars. Because no photography book tells you that. A wonderful feeling of pure childlike excitement fell like a blanket around my shoulders. After two hours outside we came back in and I could not wait to see what the camera had done. Let’s face it, this was not me, it was just setting up the machine, and remotely pressing the button. After my first attempt I get why you want to be in an area without light pollution. Street lights and lights in houses and parks all show up in the image.

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It was wonderful to find a little lightning strike in the photograph above. In the right lower corner of the picture you can see the strike. Probably not worth a second look for a lot of people, but I have made it my credo for now. I will learn how to photograph lightning and stars and the Milky Way. In doing so laughing at all the desert creepy crawlies that make my life miserable after dark. They bite, they make you itch, and I have to put my mind to zero and try  not to think about all that might be glaring at me waiting to get a bit of my blood. I bought a stash of repellent Lemon Eucalyptus. Smelled like a skunk, and still got bitten. I wonder if I need a diving suit… In short, the photographs are typical beginners pics, with wrong white balance, wrong focus point, I get it, but for my first time I am optimistic. Tonight Mr Wonderful will take me out in the desert away from civilization. See if that gives better results. It will, I am sure of it.

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Diving suits, red lamps, tripods and camera aside, I was astonished to find what I found when opening the pics on my computer. All the tiny white dots far far away. I had never seen stars like that. Life lesson: go out at night, sit for AT LEAST twenty minutes so your eyes are used to peer into the darkness. And sigh in silence. A new world opens. Every single white dottie flies somewhere in space. I felt really small.

I will go where no man has gone before! At least with my camera.
Now to go search for the Little Prince. I will let you know if I see him.

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The cloud whisperer


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That’s what I have become. A cloud whisperer. As a child, in the days when kids could vanish all day and the parents had no idea of where we were hanging out, I would grab my bike, book, and run. I mean, go, explore the big world. I went where my nose pointed me. Often to end up in a field with wheat, on my belly, devouring book after book, week after week. Tired of reading I would turn on my back and watch clouds. Seeing magical worlds.

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Now as a grownup and living in big sky country, I still watch clouds. They have a strong pull on me, fleeting shapes, whales, birds, fluff, spotted… Clouds, my camera, and a bit of wilderness. Nothing beats it, as long as there are clouds above.

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The more threatening they are, the more I am impressed. They have a secret life of their own. Coming and going as they wish. No borders, no crossings, they float in all directions, over land and sea.

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And in the evening, when I am home, I keep an eye out towards the skies in back and front of the house. Waiting for sunset. Desert day endings are often spectacular. Especially in Monsoon season. I still think it is weird to have a monsoon season in the desert. It’s a generally accepted term though. It rains if we are lucky, pours is a better word, and an hour later the drash is over and things get back to their deserty-bluey-sunny skies.

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Nested in my back garden, I watch the greys and oranges and reds, a happy camper in my new life. I am starting to really feel at home. My cloud whispering might have something to do with it. Who knows. And I made a secret vow to start blogging again, for real this time. If life gets too busy, I will still try to post at least one pic a day. The slacking has to stop.

Call on me when I try to disappear again

 

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