A week ago one of my childhood friends came home for a visit. Like me, Nathan is always down for an adventure, so when I suggested we try our hand at photographing the night sky, I knew we agreed to a crazy night.
We started our night in Westminster, we parked the car and opened the doors.
It was only then did I hear the rustling. It grew louder on my side of the car. And seeing how Halloween was only a few days out, all that seemed to run through my mind was some type of crazy chainsaw hick out here in the middle of nowhere just waiting for unsuspecting visitors to sit in the park at 10 PM....it sounded legit in my head anyways.
After hopping back in shotgun, locking my door, and refusing to venture out, Nathan clicked on his large flashlight and we surveyed the family of deer eyes glowing in response to the light. And just like that, my mind switched from a Friday the 13th scene to Bambi in a millisecond. Fearless award of the year does not go to me.
In the middle of this photo, more in the center, you can see a falling star. Pretty cool, right?
But Nathan wasn't satisfied.
"Too much light pollution" were words I would familiarize myself with for the remaining part of our adventure.
And so, to satisfy Nathan, we traveled West.
As we traveled, we chatted about life, our "five-year plans", and munched on Doritos...which taste 5x better at 10 PM. I relayed the story of the Snarly Yowl, the fabled ghost dog that roams the Maryland roads, and Nathan told me to get better stories.
We arrived in Gettysburg around 10:30 and Nathan remarked, "the moon sets at 11:30 which will help with the light pollution." 11:30? Hold up. I had a wedding the next morning.
There was no holding up. Contrary to popular belief, shotgunners have little say in life.
After this shot, I was satisfied with our adventure and still in awe over the countless twinkles above me.
Once again, Nathan was not.
Are you kidding me.
We traveled onward, stopping at selective areas that seemed to fit Nathan's liking. The wooden fence and all the monuments visible on the road made for intriguing foregrounds.
At one point, Nathan clicked on his flashlight while my camera held the long exposure. With a steady hand, he shone the beam from one end of the foreground to the other. "They call this painting the picture" he explained, after I had stared at him quizzically for an uncomfortable amount of time.
The moon had set.
My eyelids were setting.
My bum was cold.
The pictures looked beautiful.
I turned to see if Nathan was GPSing the way back home.
I did not see Nathan GPSing the way back home.
Instead, what I heard was, "Hey there's a lake right up the road."
I wish I could tell you what part of Pennsylvania we exactly traversed. My cellphone reception was as rocky as the road we climbed towards some long-awaited hypothetical lake.
We encountered deer.
We encountered sharp bends.
We almost lost a tire in some pothole.
But we never stopped.
As the car stopped and my door opened, I heard more creatures of the night. But that's the beauty of 1:45 AM, you no longer care about maniacs, crazed deer, or snarly yowls; instead, you tell yourself to be grown woman and set up the camera. Because grown woman stay out at 1:45 AM in the wilderness....
Nathan was right. The scene was spectacular.
I'm calling that brighter spot in the bottom right corner another galaxy. Don't argue with me. I was up at 2 AM. It's my galaxy.
And that was our night capturing stars. As we "painted" the foreground with a light, I stood in awe over how the sky was already so beautifully painted. And in the middle of the Pennsylvania wilderness, standing on one little planet encompassed by falling stars, roaming satellites, and galaxies far, far, away, I never felt smaller.
As sarcastic as this post was, it really was a fun night and definitely not something we can do often.
So if you're going to "paint a night picture":
Grab someone you can tolerate at 2 AM
Carry a big flashlight
Purchase the family size Doritos bag
Bring your tripod
Use a wide angle lens if you want to capture the entire scene and not just the sky
Use a long shutter speed (we used 30 seconds and 10 seconds)
Use a self-timer so your shaking hand doesn't blur the picture when you click the shutter button
Play with the apertures and ISO
Don't go the night before a wedding
Educate yourself on the Snarly Yowl beforehand so you can tell a more realistic ghost tale
Those were our mottoes for the night, and it was nothing short of "out of this world." Ha. Ha....
Alright, I'm done.
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