Looking Up at Stars [and Over at Wildfires]

Star photography produces interesting glimpses of our skies, almost like pulling back a thick, dark curtain from your eyes. My favorite way to think of long exposure photography is, instead of unrealistically portraying a scene, it shows a world in which we live, but don’t see due to our perception of time.

Fires are at our pace–quick to burn, their duration is measurable within our frame of reference. This fire in particular might burn until winter, but likely we will be able to mark the end on our calendars.

On the other hand, stars are not as measurable. They may burn out during our lifetime, but our perception of those events are delayed. When we look up at the sky, we are seeing the past, not perceiving the present moment. An example is the North Star, known also as Polaris [a group of five stars, actually!], that currently serves as a pole star, ‘around’ which the Earth’s axis of rotation currently spins. The star group is 323 light-years away, meaning the light from those stars is 323 years old by the time it reaches us. Not only is it old light, but its role as pole star has not always been so. In 100 years or so, the axis will shift to another star, as it has in the past. In fact, somewhere around 300 BC, the axis rotated around an area of space without visible stars!

It is amazing to think that, as a free natural resource that inspires wonder, awe, and provokes us to think about the possibility of life off of our planet, the night sky isn’t seen by nearly 80% of Americans due to light pollution from suburban areas! [from: http://www.darksky.org/assets/documents/Nightscape/NS89%20news%20high-res2.pdf] And on a more altruistic level, our light pollution affects many species of wildlife, from lightning bugs to sea turtles.

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Frozen Boughs

We found ourselves in our oldest car, since our newer [read, not near two decades old] one has wheels that are too big for snow chains.  Pondering whether we could safely make it to Crater Lake, we settled on the idea that if we couldn’t, we’d just go as far as possible, maybe settling for Redding or Mt. Shasta.  Of course, I was really looking forward to seeing Crater Lake in the snow with a calm, reflective surface.

Snow was definitely around, but luckily by the time we hit Interstate 5, chain restrictions were dropped along our route. We went along Highway 97 up to Klamath Falls, dropped stuff off at the hotel, rented snowshoes [nowhere in town had any to sell!], and headed up to the lake.

By that description, it sounds like we rushed to get up there. According to Google Maps, we didn’t.  It was an all day excursion in which the scenery threatened to enchant and ensnare me before reaching our destination.

We arrived just in time for the tail end of sunset. It would be the only day we could clearly see the lake, so we braved the cold and hung around at the rim by the Lodge.

 

Surprisingly, there were a fair amount of people up there for the middle of winter.  Even a happy puppy ran around in the snow. Deciding to brave not only the cold, but the wind that was howling down into the caldera, we tried for some nightshots. Unfortunately, shielding the camera and tripod from the wind yielded no good results [nevermind the fact that I am not able to focus in the dark at times]. I still have a bit of a learning curve with the new camera as well.

You can see a plane in the photo above! There were so many flying over that night–the jetstream must have been just right.

I really like what the high thin clouds did to the stars in this shot. I’m not sure if that’s a plane, iridium flare, ISS, or meteor on the left.

The next day, when it was just a little lighter, we snowshoed a few miles out and back. It snowed as we traversed the rim, filling the previous passerthroughs’ tracks. It was as if we were the only ones there. On the return, ski-strapped folks and a few snowshoers headed out.

We ended up ON another lake the next day, since the weather repeated its gloomy self. We had a lucky break and found some sun, fog, and a nicely frozen lake. With such a short window to visit, being flexible with locations and weather worked out in our favor! Many more photos to share from this trip!

Appraising Parks

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  As long as parks are appreciated and beauty on some level is found within them, I assume they can withstand economic hard times.  I’m not sure I could say the same when natural resources and land become extremely scarce.

Sometimes my appreciation for a park isn’t immediate. Crater Lake, after the cold numbed me and the snow fell, grew on me. I appreciated the Badlands immediately. Redwood is slowly but surely growing on me, too. But it’s the smaller urban parks that take me the most time.

Hiller Park in McKinleyville is near my home. I walk through it nearly daily. It features a dog park full of dug-out gopher holes, baseball fields, and a sometimes rancid smelling set of water treatment ponds. Sounds like paradise, right?!

This park is neither exotic, overly scenic, nor free of invasive species, but I have to say, it’s growing on me.  I’d attribute this growing love to toting my camera and dog around so much in it. It seems to me that the more you spend time in a place, the more you like it. In fact, that probably could be said about many things; the more time, the better the appreciation.

Here is my photographic appreciation for Hiller Park:

A West Coast Lady [thanks Katie!] enjoying the January sunshine.

An American Robin gobbling a worm near a treatment pond.

A Chestnut-backed Chickadee hunting for pine seeds.

A female Northern Shoveler getting ready for a dip in a treatment pond.

Goats and geese are fenced in and trim the grass around the treatment ponds.

Enjoying the view.

There are various forms of the Canada goose tribes inside the fence. Most have broken wings, like this fellow, who might be a Aleutian goose. [Supposedly, the white band has to be 10mm wide. I never have a ruler on me!]

The ravens are skiddish.

Sunbeams and Sitkas.

‘Old Man’s Beard’ looks lacy in the canopy.

Mass Commute of Mallards

An Anna’s Hummingbird in December. I saw my first hummer at my feeder today [1.9.2012].

A cold shoulder from a Red-shouldered Hawk.

Some ninja needs to come knock the camera out of my hands when I go for sunbeams again–they’re going to eat up half my hard drive!

Mad River View. I believe that is Pampas grass to the left. An invasive pain in the neck.

Same view at night. I think that’s Venus.

A sunset on the riverbank

That large log has long washed out to sea by now.

A drying sandbar under a fiery sky

A Cormorant enjoying a dip in the river.

Back up on the trails.

Banana slugs cross over the trails often. They don’t withstand feet well. That hole you see is where the slug exchanges gases [breathes] and its feces also exit through that same hole. Rough life.

To sum up this overwhelming bombardment of pixels; the land surrounding the treatment ponds could have remained unaltered forest, or they could have been developed, but instead they serve as one of the rare accessible green spaces. While maybe the wildlife would have preferred untouched land, this little urban park offers something for everyone; little leaguers to dog park goers. And while many may not consciously appreciate the park on the same level as others, I’m sure they have at least one fond memory within its boundaries.  Perhaps enough fond memories are what it takes to keep parks large and small off closure lists!

Old County Courthouse ~ Sepia Scenes

Oops! A little late!  We are in the throws of packing to head to South Carolina.  Might not post next week, but I’ll try!

Took a couple night shots of Wichita.  Didn’t get a lot of time because it was really late [1am] and my husband was rather nervous about being in that part of town.  I like this one though.  It’s the old Sedgwick County Courthouse, in use from 1888 to 1959. 

Please Visit:

More Sepia Scenes

Thanks for visiting! Hope the New Year is going well!