Milky Way


After breaking my ankle in March, I have not been able to go out and take photos for quite a while.  Of course, I like Milky Way photos and it looked like this would definitely impact my chances of grabbing photos during the summer season for the best Milky Way shots.  But with a little determination and the greatful help of my son-in-law, I was going to get out and grab some photographs of the Milky Way with Mt Shasta.  While I was laid up, I had read some more tips for Milky Way photos and I was hoping to try them out.

Like many mountains, Mount Shasta is featured prominently in Native American legends. Local tribes saw the mountain as the center of the universe and integral to their creation myths. Mount Shasta sits on territories held by the Shasta, Wintu, Achumawi, Atsugewi, and Modoc tribes.  For me, Mount Shasta has always held a sacred presence in my heart.

The goal was to try and get a photograph of the Milky Way along with Mt Shasta.  But to add to it, I was hoping to get a reflection of the stars onto a pond in the foreground.  My son-in-law had taken a daytime photo of Mt Shasta with this pond so I figured this would work.  So off we went into the night, seeking the same spot.

Where I thought he had taken his photo was not the same as where he actually took the photo.  Of course, everything is dark and the fact that he was not sure where the location was either just complicated things.  Without going into all the turnarounds, guessing, terrible prior planning, etc. – we finally came to the right spot.  Unfortunately though, the pond was too much at an oblique and not useable for the shot I had envisioned.  But we were there and I was finally out of the house, so let’s make the most of it.

My foot was still out of kilter and mobility was not my strong suit.  So my trusty assistant brought me a chair to sit in after I determined where the best spot for the photograph was.  Even though we were on a narrow shoulder of a county road, he also brought me the camera and tripod and then I started to try and make the magic happen without falling down the embankment.

I started to take some photos trying to fine-tune the composition and include or exclude things to make the shot as good as possible.  Considering these shots are all 15 second long exposures, I was hoping not to get any car lights traveling by and complicating things.  However, this is a popular road, even at eleven o’clock at night and we were set up next to a curve.  So predicting when a car was coming was not always possible.  My bigger concern was being hit by one due to the narrow shoulder.  Luckily most of the photos did not have any car lights in it and we wrapped up, believing we had a successful night.

After looking at the photographs in Lightroom, I was checking out those I thought I would like the best.  I did the usual fine-tuning and was generally pleased with the results.  I knew I also had a photograph when a car had driven by so did not really look at it that day because I thought the headlights would have ruined it.  A day or two later I revisited the night’s photographs again and took a look at the one with the car lights.  Sure enough, I was very pleasantly surprised that I liked this photograph the best from the night.  Funny how things you think are bad, actually make things better.

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