As winter approaches and the Milky Way core takes a vacation in the southern hemisphere our friend Dave Ward reminds us that “clear frosty nights bring out the brightest stars of the year to dazzle us”. One must say that watching Orion’s Belt rise just after dark in the east is awe inspiring and checking out the details of the Orion Nebula with binoculars is an incredible treat for our eyes. Check out Dave’s winter sky blog post: https://www.friendsofgoldbutte.org/2020/11/30/gold-butte-winter-star-gazing/
As November arrives, I begrudgingly pack away my Milky Way passion for a few months and focus on the North Star (Polaris) and the shadows our moon casts amongst the many willing objects in Gold Butte National Monument.
So how about the North Star. Our North Star Polaris sits above the North Pole.
You can sit in your camp chair all bundled up on a new moon evening and with some patience watch the other stars all circle around it. I like to take a time lapse of this great circle procession then use software to create a star circle photo or video. My method is to point my camera at Polaris and using the interval timer feature take a 20 second exposure shot every 30 seconds. After a few hours you have 240 shots and enough movement to create a cool Ferris wheel of stars. I use settings: ISO: 5000, F/2.8, White Balance: Auto, 20 seconds with the lens set to infinity. To note: I always shoot in raw mode so you must use a good editing program like Adobe Light Room to edit and then export your 240+ photo’s to a .jpg format. I take the .jpg’s and use StarStaX to create my final dizzying picture.
or Time-Lapse video
This calls for an Edward Abbey quote
“The function of an ideal is not to be realized but, like that of the North Star, to serve as a guiding point.”
Moon Shadows. Besides star circles my next favorite wintertime photography project is taking pictures of shadows cast by the Moon. Our creepy features found in Gold Butte sure make it fun. Required is a good-sized Moon, a nearby Joshua tree and/or goblins found at Little Finland. As the Moon travels across the night sky it treats us with moving shadows. Enjoy taking some pictures or if you are adventurous setting up a time-lapse to capture those creeping scary shadows. The link below provides a fun example.
The bottom line is bundle up and enjoy a night of camping in Gold Butte National Monument. If you feel frisky set your camera up on the tripod and turn on automatic mode. When you get home after a hot chocolate you can enjoy editing some pictures for fun.
A Joshua tree quote to end my blog
“It is the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty.” — Jeannette Wells
Enjoy the cool crisp nights at our favorite National Monument, thanks for listening – Steve