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, all during the day.  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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