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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Pluto or Mars and tshoo-tshoo’s

South of Deming, driving on that small road to American Standards, still considerable to UK norms, all of a sudden I have landed on Mars. Well, it could have been Mars. Or Pluto, or wherever in our solar system….

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Hmmm, New Mexico is famous of course for Alien extra terrestrial phenomena, am I in Area 53? Area 51 is near Vegas, maybe this is big brother.
Are these scanners scanning the unscannible?

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Can’t be sure, I think they are solar panels. Power feeding for greedy humans. Energy wise. Googling it learns me the following:



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Luna County Solar Farm Officially Online
By Associated Press on Thu, Aug 18, 2011

DEMING (AP) — Luna County’s largest solar array and latest alternative energy project has officially kicked off.The 50-acre, 5-megawatt facility owned by Public Service Company of New Mexico is located south of Deming. The 78,000 solar panels comprising the Deming Solar Energy Center are capable of producing enough energy to supply about 1,600 average New Mexico homes. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports the solar farm is the third of five solar facilities PNM is constructing across the state. Facilities in Albuquerque and Los Lunas have been online since spring and two more facilities in Alamogordo and Las Vegas are scheduled for completion this fall. PNM officials say the five facilities will generate enough emissions-free electricity equal to taking 4,500 cars off the road.
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Trying to find comfirmation about what I am actually seeing is hard to find, so if anybody knows if this is the Luna County Solar Farm let me know.
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We have arrived in Deming. Where the annual Duck race is the highlight of the season. Don’t ask me how they perform duck races in the desert. It baffles me beyond words. A lizard race would maybe be better suited.

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And here here… I meet up with my first train for the day. Huge monsters, making me feel very tiny. The driver saw me and we have a 3 second eye contact. A big smile.

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Starting my game of getting ahead of them, drop the car on the side of the highway, hoping that no trucker will kiss me or my car, and look to the right till the monster appears. 3 Huge lights mark it’s coming, one can spot those lights even before the train is visible.

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I am standing on a respectable distance this time, not as close as a few years earlier when the drag of a passing train almost pulled me off my feet. Watch this memorable moment here. Beware, it’s loud and looooooooong. Crank up the sound, put on headphones, and feel the thunder of the machine…

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Two drivers waving at me, sadly enough not clearly visible because the windows are tinted. Needed in summer when the sun is scorching the earth and train rails, mirages have to be boxed in.

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Driving a Tchoo would in fact be the perfect job for me. I could go up and down in the desert, hours to go and hours for the retour, camera snap ready and present, it would give me an opportunity to learn the talk of the desert and the mountains.

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The ever changing light and viewing angles when clouds are moving in and colour it all in a different palette. In 2012 I see water along I-10. Not a common sight. And no, they are not mirages. It’s real water.

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I need gas and decide to stop in Lordsburg. One of my many favorite places on earth. I think I discovered a small museum. Closed for winter. It’s high time that I can drive I10 in summer.

Maybe next year!

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