Painted Quaking Aspen

The early morning session featured in the Mount Thielsen Stars post was a bit of redemption for what I had considered a poorly executed star shooting session a couple of weeks earlier.  During that earlier session, I did quite a bit of experimentation, which is good, but came back with very little that I considered worthy of sharing.

Twenty-five years at this game and I’m still learning.

I like that.

I was hoping to get some more late night images this weekend.  I was down in California doing some work for the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA).  It was trail work in the mountains during the day, but I’d have free time after dinner to get out and shoot the stars some more.  Since we were in the area, I was really looking forward to getting this tree in the foreground.

Instead, it was cloudy and rainy.  Snow had fallen in the area the night before we set up camp.

That made for poor photography options, but made for a memorable trail work weekend.

It was great to see so many people out enjoying the mountains, regardless of the weather.  It was the second weekend in the deer hunting season, although none of the hunters we talked to spotted anything other than does and a few fawn.  In other words, no luck.

There were also plenty of hikers, including a father and his young (7-8 year old?) daughter, out for her first backpack trip.  We talked to them on Saturday, then again on Sunday as they returned to the car, no worse for wear after a rainy and cold night at their back-country campsite.  She was all grins.  There just might be a lifetime of adventure for that young lady.

Anyway, what does any of that have to do with this photo?  Well, I had some time to let it set after giving up on it a couple of weeks back.  That was plenty of time to remove any notions of what I wanted to get out of it, which let me experiment.  Considering it’s the result of a night of experimentation, that was perfect.

Shot a little bit after the moon rose in Fish Lake Moonrise, I turned my attention to the south in the direction of the Milky Way.  There was also a single Quaking Aspen on the hillside which had, luckily enough, already popped to its full autumn color.

The moon lit the ground and I used an LED flashlight to paint the aspen.  Meanwhile the stars and Milky Way did their thing, occasionally masked by cirrus drifting across the sky.

Painted Quaking Aspen

Messy, but quite a bit of fun.

Thielsen Stars

About an hour and 15 minutes prior to the image that I posted last, the hints of dawn were already visible.

After an hour of trying to get star images through the moving clouds, the first hints of light started at astronomical twilight.  This image unfolded half an hour later, just a few minutes before nautical twilight, as the sky really started to brighten directly behind Mount Thielsen.

The rapidly changing light was quite a treat, but nowhere near the treat as watching Jupiter (just left of frame center) rise in the eastern sky, visible well after sunrise.

Thielsen Stars

The surprise in this image was the airplane directly over the peak.  I don’t recall seeing it when I took the picture, but there were quite a few out that morning.  Their low rumble was the only man-made sound I heard for a few hours.

That alone made getting up to watch this worthwhile.

Happy Autumn

My favorite season of the year.

Anywhere in the world.

Thielsen Autumn Sunrise

The first sunrise of Autumn (northern hemisphere) 2014.

Mount Thielsen (aka “the lightning rod of the Cascades”), reflected in the waters of Diamond Lake, Oregon, just a short distance from Crater Lake.

We were hoping for similar skies at sunset over at Crater Lake the night before.  It didn’t work out that way, since the clouds were too dense for the sun to stream through and give us the color we wanted.  A few glimmers of hope, but nothing worthwhile.  Other than the fact that it was still a sunset at Crater Lake.  There isn’t a bad one to be had.

Quite a crazy couple of weeks coming up.  Having this view to myself was a nice way to get myself ready.  I would have loved to have shared it with Goddess in person, but she was snug in her sleeping bag in the tent some 100′ behind me.

Wildhorse Lake

We were disappointed in the lack of clarity in the sky, as there are several wildfires in the region.  Luckily we got there when we did, as a thunderstorm rolled through two days later and started a wildfire on the slopes.

Wildhorse Lake

Steens Mountain, Oregon.

Unfortunately, we didn’t make the hike down to the lake.  You can see the trail extending down from the lower left, using switchbacks to drop down the steep slopes toward the lake.  It’s only about two miles round trip, but in our haste to pack the car and drive out to southeast Oregon, we left all of our water carrying bottles and bladders at the house and the water filter was back at the camp.  So at the elevation (~9,000′) on a hot day, we wisely decided to not make the jaunt.  Oh well, a good excuse to return to the lake.

Perhaps even camp.

Fish Lake Moonrise

Early last week, there were a few very large flares on the surface of the sun.  Each larger than the one prior, the flares ejected enough energy towards Earth that there was a promise of aurora.  Some forecasts even had aurora visible as far south as northern California and Nevada.

Late Thursday evening, Goddess and I discussed the opportunity, and the likelihood that we’d be skunked, but it was a chance to get out into southeastern Oregon.  The part of the state that most folks out this way don’t talk about.

“Because there’s nothing there”.

Some folks just don’t know how to look at things.

After a long day’s drive to Steens Mountain, we got out there just in time to start setting up camp before it got dark.  After astronomical twilight passed, we had but 45 minutes before moonrise.  That was our window to catch a glimpse.

We noticed a very diffuse glow along the northern horizon, from northwest to northeast, but nothing that would stand out as a definite observation.  While taking pictures, I started to notice the moon rising to the east, some 20 minutes before we saw it.  It wasn’t really visible to the eye, but quite obvious on 15 second exposures.  The clouds over that direction helped with the effect.

Fish Lake Moonrise

The picture doesn’t do justice to the amount of stars we were able to see out there.

Our camp was at 7,400′ and, as is typical of a desert, very dry.  Unfortunately, there was quite a bit of smoke and haze in the area, thanks to the many wildfires burning in the surrounding states.  You can catch a hint of that smoke in the reds near the moon and along the ridgeline to the left.

So while the aurora was a wash for us, the trip wasn’t.  It’s an area I’ve been looking at for a while, trying to figure out a good reason to make a road trip out there.  Well, other than making it a road trip.  The promise of aurora was the trigger and even though we didn’t catch but maybe a hint, we’re glad for the trip.  Many firsts for Goddess (like driving alongside a herd of wild pronghorn antelope) and hopefully enough of a hint of the beauty and history that she’ll be willing to go back.

Speaking of hints, that tree line is a grove of quaking aspen.  Our campsite was among them and the mountain was covered in a patchwork pattern, each grove in a different stage of color, from normal summer greens to bright yellows to deep reds.  An autumn worth of color in one spot.

Perhaps I’ll share.


With a couple of projects in the works that are taking up quite a bit of time, I’m going to have to focus on a different project for you all this month.  I’ll give some details on the other projects later this month.

It’s a bit of fun, looking back at photos I’ve taken in the month of September over the years.  Well, at least the digital years.  I’d really have to do some digging into the negatives and log books to determine which analogue photos were taken in September, but that kind of defeats the purpose.  So we’ll stick to the last 9 years or so.

That means that some of you will recognize some of these photos but a large majority of you will not.  So it’s fun for me to hear new thoughts on images I was producing years ago.


Cosmos in Showa Kinen Park, Tachikawa, Japan, a suburb of Tokyo.  We loved that park.  Every season had a season-appropriate garden display; spring had tulips, autumn had cosmos and other plants.  We’d walk for hours and enjoy the different views.

Unfortunately, our cosmos in the yard aren’t giving a showing quite as nice as these.  It has been a dry summer, even with irrigation.

This photo was taken on September 19th, 2005.  I haven’t reprocessed it since then.  I think it stands on its own as originally presented.

What are your thoughts?

Fuji Flare

Not Mount Fuji, but Fuji Mountain.

It’s in Oregon.

We were looking to get there early enough in the day to set up camp, then watch sunset from the summit, but it didn’t work out that way.  And we didn’t have enough time to watch sunrise from the summit, as any hike up a Fuji should be spent, whether it be Mount Fuji or Fuji Mountain.

Instead, we watched the sun set on Fuji Mountain from across Waldo Lake, which is apparently the clearest lake in the United States, having recently beat out Crater Lake in clarity.  It’s a beautiful lake, with no motorized conveyance allowed.  Even Crater Lake allows the gas-powered tour boats, which may just be enough to affect the clarity.

In the photo below, Fuji mountain is the one with the rounded top and the sharp precipice on the right (west) side, just to the right of the furthest left lens flare.

Fuji Flare

If you look close, you’ll see a bazillion spots.  That’s not a dirty sensor or lens (I got rid of those nasty spots), but a bazillion flying insects.  Thankfully they were just gnats, not mosquitoes or any other nasty biting bugs.  They were noticeable only when you focused on them, otherwise you could enjoy the scenery and not be bothered.  But they sure show up in the photos.

We need to get up to the summit of Fuji mountain.  It’s not an impressive mountain, topping out at just over 7,000 feet (compared to Mount Fuji’s 13,000’+ summit).  But from all accounts, the view is just as marvelous.

We’ll report back.

Rock Bench

It’s amazing what a change in a viewing angle will do.

This was the opposite direction from last Friday’s view of the smoke from the wildfires to our south.  In contrast to that view, this is looking north and a bit earlier in the day.

Rock Bench

I liked the way that these rocks were lined up.  It sure looked like a comfy place to sit, lean back and enjoy the view on both sides of Big Red Mountain.

Rocky Point Cloudscape

Rocky Point Cloudscape

Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon.

Red Mountain, Red Smoke

Keeping with the wildfire theme, here’s one from last evening’s sunset on top of Big Red Mountain, Siskiyou Crest, Jackson County, Oregon.

The mountain happens to be the spine of a botanical interest area that Goddess and I adopted a few months back.  We’re responsible to monitoring the area for any damage to the ecosystem, as well as keeping an eye out for any new or invasive species.  We’re asked to visit the area several times a year and report any findings so that nothing goes unnoticed for too long.

The area is worth a blog post of its own, which it will have to be.

It does not break my heart to have to go up there and monitor the area.  Just a short 20 mile drive from the house and I’m completely alone.  Very few people visit the summit and while I can see some activity on the roads and trails below, I rarely can hear them, so I’m effectively alone up there.  It’s quite nice.

To our south, in northern California, a wildfire complex called Happy Camp has pushed over 45,000 acres, adding over 12,000 acres on Thursday alone.  Goddess and I were able to see that explosive growth from our house, even though there are a few mountain ranges and quite a few miles (~45 miles) between us and the fire.  The smoke was visible above the closest mountains, but with no real development.  Then about an hour before sunset, it appeared as if a thunderstorm was growing over the fire.  But it was pyrocumulus, a billowing cloud that develops due to intense heating on the ground.  I mentioned to Goddess that its appearance was a bad sign for the firefighters.  We found out today how true that was, as the local weather office passed this info:


Happy Camp Complex (image courtesy of US National Weather Service, Medford, Oregon)

I had already planned on visiting the botanical area on Friday, but that looked iffy, as the smoke drifted in and out of the area that I needed to be.  Luckily, the smoke stayed clear the whole time I was there, with the plume passing just to my south and east.

All I needed was sunset.

Red Mountain, Red Smoke

Well worth the effort, although the whole exercise seemed a bit frivolous considering the hundreds of families who may lose their homes in the coming days.


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