Abandoned Ranch


About a year ago, I saw a post on Facebook showing a couple guys doing drone videos of an old abandoned ranch in Southeastern Oregon. As I was looking at their video, I thought it would be a great candidate for some night photography. I did some research and found the location, which is far removed from almost everything and everyone. I also looked at a dark-sky map website and saw that because of its remote location, it was within a dark sky region.

Because of several factors, I had not been able to go to the location. I never lost sight of my desire to go there and my opportunities to go this summer were also closing. So I decided my only possible chance this summer was upon me and I had to act. So I convinced my wife to come along and off we went.

My research into the area naturally included Google earth for location not just of the site, but also the direction of buildings as they relate to the night sky and what the sky had to offer. I also checked the moon phase and how long the moon would be visible to either help in photography or when it would set and disappear – along with its lunar light. I also checked the weather forecast to hopefully ensure a clear sky so I could see the Milky Way and all the stars. As the saying goes, everything was looking good for a good experience.

Several hours of driving later, we arrived at the destination. It is very remote and nobody was even close to being in sight. It was everything I had thought it would be. The ranch has a main house and several outbuildings and has apparently been abandoned since the 1940s. Walking around, I was considering several different compositions for night sky photographs. Also, checking Photopills, I was taking into consideration the Milky Way locations for the evening.

The one thing that was bothering me was the clouds in the sky. The forecast was for clear skies, but that was not the case. The sky was not completely covered in clouds, but there were some light clouds covering a lot of the east and extending to the south. Naturally, this covers the area which would include the Milky Way – one of my main attractions.

Hoping the clouds will break up and go away, I started to set up my camera to include the main house and eventually see the Milky Way over the top. My plan was to have my tripod, camera and low-level lighting all set up so I wouldn’t have to stumble around in the dark. All tasks were completed and as the sun was starting to head for the horizon, now I would just wait for darkness.

Of course, you know what they say about best-made plans. The camera was on the tripod and positioned for the impending darkness when I saw those clouds I was complaining about start to light up with the sunset. I sat for a few moments as the color was getting better and better. I foolishly tried to ignore it (but enjoy it) because my camera was already set for a night shot. I told myself how much of an idiot I was to not take advantage of the sunset. Finally, I grabbed my camera off the tripod and was able to capture this photo.

P.S. After the sunset, the clouds hung around for another couple of hours. Long enough to block the Milky Way for my original desired composition. By the time the clouds did clear, the Milky Way was no longer in position for my hoped-for photograph.

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