Meeting Strange Men at Night

That’s where I’ve been.

Really where I’ve mostly been is buried in work. Re-launching a major product at work, which required a major work shift as my normal pile of stuff continued to mound up, has meant that I’ve been badly behind since April. I’m still not entirely caught up, but I’m close enough and it feels good! I’ve even started to visit blogs again, and that feels even better 🙂
(Are you feeling nerdy and want to know what I sound like and perhaps what I do for a day job? Part of that re-launch included me creating tutorial videos, etc. for the new product roll-out. Feel free to have a look/listen if you’re feeling especially bored 😉 )

iPhone collage of some of our recent moody skies

But, I lured you here on the promise of seamy intrigue, and so:

The other day, one of my Flickr buddies, Aaron, posted a cool photo of a shipwreck. Thinking it might’ve been the one we hiked to last summer, I inquired about its location. The short version is: “Yes it’s the same shipwreck, and would you like to shoot together sometime?” To which I replied: “Sure! I have no idea who you are besides some Ephemeral Internet Person, this sounds like a great idea! Let me grab the bear spray!” We hashed out a plan to keep an eye toward the weather, and – naturally – meet up for some star time.

We’ve been having a rather Pacific Northwest-like summer, so when yesterday brought both clear skies and a new moon, I contacted Aaron and another visiting photographer friend (who we bumped into while walking Petey the other morning – she’s in the area from her home northern Illinois), and we settled on a loose plan. Golden hour rolled around, and the three of us met up in the parking lot behind the maritime museum in Glen Haven.

Star trails over Sleeping Bear Point

We hiked between the poison ivy vines and over the dunes, and landed on a stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline that we called home for the next few hours. The conditions weren’t as idyllic as we had imagined they would be, but we had such a nice time together – chatting over image creating, thoughts on editing, funny stories. Landscape photographers, preferring the company of Mother Nature over fellow humans, tend to be loners. I’m no different, but for a few hours, it was nice being among friends – even new friends who feel like old friends thanks to a shared passion. I didn’t even bring the bear spray 😉

The iconic DH Day Barn under stars and light pollution

Milky Way Monday

Tony and I sat out under the stars one night last week for about an hour and a half, taking well over 100 pictures. I pointed the camera at several different places in the sky, moving just in time to miss meteors every time I relocated. But you knew that; that’s how those things go.

We spotted loads of meteors – from quick and short-tailed to slow and long-tailed. It was a gorgeous night of sky watching. Eventually deciding it was bedtime, we packed up my gear and trekked back up to the front of the house for one last set of shots. Tony had the idea that it would be cool to have a shot of our house under the Milky Way, and I didn’t disagree. I dialed in my settings (f/4.0, 25-sec, ISO 4000, 18mm) and then lined up my shot. I photographed the house, and then panned up to capture more of the sky, and a bright meteor streaked directly into my frame. Jackpot!

I guess it’s true what they say: when you’ve stopped looking is when you find what you were looking for.

Image is linked to my Flickr, so if you click on it, be warned: it will take you to a larger version on Flickr 🙂
Our house is a very fine house

And all I got was this mug

Growing up, my parents had some friends who would go to Michigan to visit family (Big deal, I thought at the time – having been to Lake Erie. Ironically, the family they visited lives about thirty miles from me now!). Being good friends, they brought my parents back souvenirs on at least one occasion, one of which was a coffee cup that read “My friends went to Michigan and all I got was this mug.” Or something like that.

Last night we drove up to the tippy top of Old Mission Peninsula, armed with beach blanket, bug spray, camera, spare batteries, and an open view of the sky. We camped out under the stars for three hours watching the occasional meteor blaze by. Other sky gazers oooohed and aaaaahed when a particularly long-tailed one trailed through the Milky Way – like a really good firework, but more magical for being more elusive.

The night sky is like that. Countless stars fill the inky space, surrounded by even more planets. You can only see just a tiny fraction of it. It is So.Big. And we are a part of it. Little old us. How miraculous.

So anyway, we’re out there having our spiritual moments, taking dozens of pictures (using a remote), each of which takes 25 seconds to collect. We oooh and aaah and were truly amazed by the meteors, but all I got was this:
one meteor

One photo out of nearly 100 with a meteor.

Also, I took these when I gave up on the shooting stars:
Click for a bigger version (on Flickr, since I get practically unlimited storage there)
North Star

Old Mission Lighthouse under the Milky Way

The Perseids will be peaking for at least another night, so I’ll try again. And it’s not like I walked away empty-handed. Some things you only get to see when you’re not behind the lens – like all the meteors we simply watched.

If you can, get out there tonight and look up! Perhaps we can watch the stars together 🙂

In a Galaxy We Call the Milky Way

“Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned,
A sun that is the source of all our power.
The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
Of the galaxy we call the ‘Milky Way’.
Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
It’s a hundred thousand light years side to side.
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
But out by us, it’s just three thousand light years wide.
We’re thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
We go ’round every two hundred million years,
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe.”
The Galaxy Song, Monty Python, The Meaning of Life

Under mostly clear skies the other night, I took my first on-purpose images of the Milky Way. Hoping for more, and for some decent shots of the Perseid Meteor Shower this weekend.

Images link to my Flickr account, which has much bigger versions…click if you want to examine in more detail 🙂

Milky Way-3
Milky Way
Milky Way-2