Lava Beds Sunset

August 6, 2019

I enjoy visiting the National Park sites near my home.  Even though the closest ones are all about 2+ hours away, I still enjoy visiting them.  I have been to Lava Beds National Monument several times.  The land that became Lava Beds National Monument, as well as the highlands to the south and wetlands to the north, was home to paleolithic peoples for thousands of years. This area is still infused with cultural and spiritual importance for many modern people of Modoc and Klamath descent.

It has some barren scenery and I have thought and tried to make some interesting photographs there, but without much success.  During one of my visits, I started to plan a night visit to try and grab the Milky Way in a photograph.  The area has pretty open terrain with some distant low mountains, so I thought I could make something out of it.  With some scouting around, I think I had found a good location.

I had an opportunity to try and get the photograph in early August.  The first couple of nights I wanted to visit were nixed by other obligations. They even hosted their first ‘Dark Sky Night’ on one of the days I could not make.  But knowing they were hosting such an event, I knew I was on the right track for trying to get my photograph.  I only had a small window now available, so I picked a date and headed out.

As most welled planned events, something is always bound to go wrong.  At my house, the day was clear and hot and I even had concerns for the area I was going to as it is also known to be warm.  I didn’t know how warm it would be at night thus I was wondering if long exposure photos would overheat the camera sensor.  Only one way to find out, so off I went.  Shortly after leaving my house, I looked up and immediately said, “Where did all those clouds come from?”  I swear it was completely clear only a half-hour before.  Not to worry, usually around here the clouds disappear around sunset and the remainder of the evening is clear – usually.

I make the two-plus hour drive to Lava Beds NM and it is now partially cloudy.  It’s still daylight, so this is all good.  When I say ‘partially’ it is actually more cloudy then partially – but I’m an optimist!  I check my pre-planned location and all is just the way I remembered it.  So I drove to the visitor’s center and registered so just in case the Park Ranger stopped by, I was all legal.

It is now sunset and the clouds remain.  But fortunately, the clouds are creating a great looking sunset over the park.  So I quickly change gears and start taking sunset photographs from a few different locations.  I am able to get a couple good spots to view the open expanse of the park with great color from those darn clouds who I have now deemed to be my friends.  One of my favorites is the photograph shown here.  Even though it had nothing to do with what I was hoping to get, I was very happy with what I captured.

So I suppose you are wondering how my Milky Way photos turned out.  They didn’t!  Those clouds just kept hanging around and either partially or fully covering my pre-planned composition location.  But there is always next month or year…

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