Before all the rain and flooding came to Colorado I had started working on one area of photography that I am very weak at. That is night photography or photographing the night sky. So a couple of times during September, at two o-clock in the morning, I dragged myself out of bed, grabbed my gear, started up the car and headed out in a direction that I felt would have the least amount of light pollution.
Which meant I headed west. Driving through Big Thompson Canyon at two o-clock in the morning was an adventure in itself. There are sections of that canyon at that time of night that are so dark that you have no sense of what is around you. In those sections it is pitch black all around you. The darkness seems to envelop you and you can experience a feelings of being claustrophobic. But if you pull over and get out of your car and look straight up you will see the night sky just above the canyon walls. In studying the sky you will see both the light pollution of the I25 corridor to the east of you and to the west light pollution from Estes Park.
When it comes to light pollution it seems it is everywhere in Northeastern Colorado. Even after I entered Rocky Mountain National Park light pollution surrounded the park.
Photographing the night sky is really pretty simple. Your camera setting are all set manually. Your camera sits on a tripod. You use a cable release and start shooting. My settings varied. A good starting point is ISO 2400, shutter speed 15 seconds. Aperture 2.8. Then I bracketed the ISO a stop up and down. My big mistake was focusing. I set the focusing ring to infinite and should have used hyper focus. That is why some of my images of the landscape are rather soft. I used a small flashlight to paint with light. Also if you are going to try this to capture the wonderment of the night sky it would be best to use the widest angle lens that you own. That is basically it.
I was also able to do a little night photography in Wyoming. Wyoming has much less light pollution in comparison to Northern Colorado. But as you will see in the image below, the area of Wyoming I was in still had signs of light pollution.
Finally I would like to say being by oneself in the middle of nowhere at night is both a humbling and awesome experience. Yes, looking up at the night sky you do get the sense of just how small our planet is in comparison to the universe. Climbing around on rocks in the dark makes you understand how unequipped us humans are to such undertaking. Being in pitch blackness and hearing an owl hooting is actually an exhilarating experience. Hearing coyotes howl makes you say out loud to nobody there, “Wow, this really is the West”.
Next week I will be spending a time back in Wyoming. I can’t wait to get up by Yellowstone and do this night photography thing the right way.
Hope you enjoy the photos. – CLG
Rocky Mountain National Park at night 1
Rocky Mountain National Park at night 2
Rocky Mountain National Park at night 3
Devil’s Tower, Wyoming