Almost missed them

The lights were a dancing again. I checked my app and saw that the auroral oval was right overhead at about 11:30pm. Off we went, and yes, they were out. Driving up the Steese Hwy we could see them right outside the car windows. Trying to get to our spot before they fade away. We had passed up the local viewing spots at the top of a hill. It was fairly busy for a small area plus I wanted to see if I could get reflections by the pond.

The lights are still dancing at this point but, the sky was getting cloudy, and we were driving straight into fog. So, we pull in the pull out and realize the fog is just getting thicker no lights out here. I was amazed what 15 miles makes in weather and clouds. We decide let’s turn around and head back to the place where the locals hang. I’m glad we passed it by the first time because this time we had one pullout all by ourselves.

Roy’s lights

We shot here for about an hour before I got too cold, and the lights started to fizzle out. The fizzle didn’t fizzle for that long, as I was getting ready to put the camera away. I go and snap a picture right as Roy turned on the car lights. Here is the result of that picture.

headlights and taillights

There are some disadvantages to shooting in a pullout near the road and I also took a few of those pictures.

light painting

There is one picture where Roy flashed headlights.

I enjoyed watching the lights ebb and flow. The clouds wisps in my opinion put some added personality to the lights. Once everything was packed back in the car it was time to head home. We did do a detour because the lights came out again a stop by Creamer’s Field explore Fairbanks said this was a good place for viewing the lights it was. I stayed in the car and just enjoyed the view. It was funny seeing people pulled off the side of the road out of their cars to watch the sky.

Enjoy the slide show of lights.


Yes, it did happen. We have had almost two weeks of clouds and rain at night. I was starting to give up hope of seeing the Auroras this trip. I looked at the forecast for possible lights it looked promising. (Just like 5 times before) The next thing was to find out if it was cloudy or not. I found an app for that windy the clouds were not overhead. Time to pack and go outside I look up and see stars and what looks like a small green cloud. I will give you a clue stars don’t shine through clouds. I knew the lights were coming out. We had plans of driving off the base to a spot northeast of town plans changed. The lights were out and did not want to drive for an hour. We went right down the road from the camper and set up the camera. After a few pictures we noticed that a tree was blocking some of the light so, we changed locations.

The next location had an added bonus of a beaver dragging a tree to his lodge. It was cute but made me paranoid of every noise I heard when I was outside. I was imagining that a beaver was right next to me with every sound I heard.

bigger than him

I took a few more pictures here and decided to head back to where it all started for the night. The whole show lasted about two hours and the lights were gone.

Enjoy the slideshow.

The Mountain

magic bus
needed the power today

I have gotten lucky this trip I consider myself in the 7.5 % because this is the third time, I’ve seen Denali in all its glory. We spent the week in Nenana Alaska and decided to head down to Denali it is only a 61-mile trip. Hell, in 5 weeks on the Kenai we put 2,500 miles on the car. I’m not sure how many of you have watch the movie or read the book ‘Into the Wild’ Here is a background article of Chris McCandles who inspired ‘Into the Wild’ I go down this rabbit hole, because I wanted to visit the replica of his magic bus. We did just that when we ate at the ‘49th State Brewing Company‘ in Healy.

which one do I want

Roy and I decided let’s get the scooter and chair out to go eat. That was a great plan until we get inside the restaurant. The bar area has booths and high-top tables (not that handicap friendly). The other area of the restaurant had low tables, but you had to go down a step. I have to give a shout out to the manager and the owner, because they brought a low table into the bar area so we could sit and eat. The manager came over and apologized for the oversight and that they might try and figure out how to keep on low table over in the area. I had a soda flight and Roy had a beer flight. He also had some smoky popcorn used to clear the palette. I tried one; smoky does equal hot here. I kept my mouth shut until Roy asked how I liked the popcorn. I liked the root beer and the spruce tip soda, the cola was ok, and the fourth flavor was not memorable at all.

After lunch we head to Denali there were no clouds in the area, so I knew there was another chance to see the mountain in its glory. We drove until the visitor center where I got back in my chair and decided to explore the visitor center campus like never before.

close as I could get
no clouds ever

In that way I am loving my chair. I had never thought about exploring museums or visitor centers before I actually was able to travel on some of the trails.

flag outside visitor center
inside cabin

After zooming around the campus, I got back in the car, and we drove as far as we could which was mile 15 on the Denali Highway. We decided not to take a bus further into the park because of the landslide that occurred at mile 46.

no clouds

We did not see any animals on this trip into the park. We did, however, see the mountain clear as day again. The other thing that was intriguing was the snow level and how it just stopped.

winter’s coming

One of the close mountains had a fresh light layer of snow. This is as close as I would like to get this year to any snow. I love seeing it from the distance.

dusk at 11pm

After a full day of sightseeing, we headed back to Nenana. My aurora app said that there was a chance for sightings that night. So, the skies were clear, it wasn’t that cold, and we found a good spot. All that was needed was some lights.

Roy light painting LOL

I did get some pictures of the barge that was right in front of the car. After a lit bit we decided maybe a change of scenery was needed. I also was getting cold. Back inside the car we head up the road to a wayside with a different view.

The new view was more profitable in the fact that the auroras had appeared. These were the first we had seen this trip. They were fleeting and very short. The most interesting thing was seeing the lights at twilight. I am hoping to see more of the lights this year but, the clouds are hanging around. This is not good. Here are three photos of the lights from that night.

Mount Rushmore revisited

I think I have seen this carving from a bunch of angles this trip. (I have pictures) It has given me an appreciation for how large and small in perspective this sculpture is. I say this because one picture I zoom in and the Presidents take up a large portion of the photo. In real life if you focus on just the sculpture it is large. Think for a moment and let your eye pull out and see the whole mountain.

Just so small
So large

I saw the size difference when I took the first picture of Mount Rushmore from a pull out on the way to the Mount. If you zoom in you say wow that is big to be able to see it from here. As you see from the zoom out you see it only covers a small piece of the mountain. I read facts like the faces are 60 feet high that is ten six foot tall men stacked one on top of the other. The noses are 20 feet long. That is very large in the scheme of things. Here is a good look at the profile of Washington. At this particular pullout point Washington is all you see.

Strong profile

Compare that to the fact these are all carved into granite that is 5,550 feet tall. The mount does dwarf the presidents, but it does not dwarf the achievement of the people who created Mount Rushmore. Here are 75 facts about Mount Rushmore

Different Perspective
Nice Color

I have to say the ability to be able to photograph Mount Rushmore at different times of the day and night has been fun. I was able to capture a sunset and wait twenty minutes and capture the nightly lighting of Mount Rushmore. It is amazing how one National Park can change a perspective.

Solid as a Rock

Maybe there is a deeper meaning here; that if you pull back and take a look at everything IT is not so big. Or maybe my mind’s eye and camera’s eye has gotten better at noticing the different perspectives of an object. Your choice.

The Dark of Night

After clouds, a thunder storm, some campground lights, and wrong locations I was finally able with Roy’s assistance to get some Milky Way pictures. June 11th was the night that both of us realized how dark the night is.  We even got lucky and had just a tad of light from a building which allowed for some semi natural light painting.  I will take any help I can get when it comes to lighting up the dark scenery.  We are returning tonight to the same area just a different position. 

I was spooked by the quiet of the night.  It was funny we were near water so every little plop I heard the hairs on my neck would rise up.  I lived in Florida so water + plop equals Alligator just saying.  So there were no gators only maybe a turtle or two, we did see a sign for turtles not gators.  I will say there were a couple of times during the night I did feel like I was being watched and it was not Roy’s eyes.  It was just almost like whatever it was might have been just curious, if not I would have been eaten.  I am not sure if this was intentional or not but I found that both of us were talking in hushed tones, it almost felt like when you were a kid and did not want to get caught talking in church.  Very peaceful and strangely refreshing.  I also tried my hand at some night landscape  that I need to work on that is also another beast in it’s own way. As we were getting ready to leave Roy asked if I wanted to leave my tri-pod there until tomorrow, I said no. Well I get all packed and put me seat belt on and say I’m ready to go. He asked are you sure. I had left my tripod I am so glad he looks after me. (this is after he couldn’t stop laughing).

So I am finding the internet does not work very well during the day, maybe that’s when we are supposed to be out exploring.  I did do a little bit of exploring earlier in the day due to internet not cooperating.  Custer State Park is broke up into three scenic drive areas 1. Iron Mountain Road (twisty turning) leads to Mount Rushmore.  This road also has pigtail bridges and one lane tunnels.  2.  Wildlife loop here you will find bison, burros, Prairie Dogs, and an occasional deer.  3.  Needles Highway there is a tunnel that feels like you are being threaded through a needle.  That isn’t how it got it’s name.  We will be driving each of these and I know I will have some pictures.

So before our night adventure began we decided to drive into the town of Custer. Yes, I bought a t-shirt. I also stopped in the visitor center where I got more travel books. I was also warned tongue in cheek – not to hang here during Sturgis unless I enjoy mega crowds. They are looking forward to it after last summer. After browsing through them I see a trip to Wind and Jewel cave in the future. Plus I found info on what to do when we are in Rapid City. After the adventure of the ‘big’ city we decided to head up to Sylvan Lake lodge (we were thinking dinner). The lodge was just too crowded and lacked parking. I was able to practice some landscapes and people scapes. So we took a short drive down the needles highway.

I do want to share a snippet or preview of one way traffic.  Coming down the Needles highway we approach a one lane tunnel, there is a little bit of a bottle neck. We could have gotten on the end of this round of going through the tunnel but we waited. So after four cars went through coming towards us we decide to inch forward. Picture this we are inching our way in the tunnel and this little car enters the opposite end. A true game of chicken. (Roy did not back down). It was cute watching the little car creep out in reverse.

So for dinner we ended up at the Blue Bell Lodge, they have the sweetest lean Buffalo. (Which probably roamed the grounds at one point. ) They advertise that it is from South Dakota. From here we headed home did some web surfing and started our night adventure.

I am posting some photos of the buffalo from our first night in the park


Yes, summer 2021 is here and we will be off like a herd of turtles. We have five days of one night stands and then we are onto Custer State Park for a month. I really hope to capture Mount Rushmore in all it’s glory. There will be lots of night photography and I hope to capture some animals along the way.

I am posting pictures of May’s full moon. It was extremely cloudy and due to some issues these were taken from our patio. Enjoy.

Can’t wait to hit the road.

People of the Night

I do not mean vampires, although I do hear the howl of coyotes when I am out at night. We decided to travel out on a night with no moon it is the best time to see my new love, The Milky Way. Roy does not need to get jealous because I need him to drive on these dates. If you are interested in finding out when the best time to go and see the milky way is check out the Photopills App Our first stop of the night was off the I10 on Box Canyon road I had a great view of the milky way but any panoramas I would attempt would not work. So plan B head up to Joshua Tree National Park, there is a parking area near the Cottonwood Campground. This is becoming my go to spot when I’m in the park. So what about those people of the Night I mention.

We pull down the road and see one other car and see he is stargazing so we think. After I get set up, and take some photographs I notice that my foreground is not quite in sharp focus. I am also working on nighttime panoramas. I have my nodel rail which keeps the horizon in line. I added a rotator that allows me to advance my camera by a certain number of degrees so it is easier to stitch the pictures together. Before I had this I had to turn on a light and make sure the camera was moved correctly. Special gadgets make life easy. I then notice my foreground wasn’t quite in focus. So I pull out the big light so Roy can illuminate a tree I can focus on. I think at this point I captured the curiosity of the Night person I hear foot steps and a voice what are you shooting? I explained the milky way and some light painting. Like every night time person I’ve met out here in the night he was very friendly and helpful. I asked him what he was doing, he said is is more into astrophotography. He mentioned his set up was to photograph nebulas. Here is his website Orion Bear Astronomy enjoy his awesome pictures. His timer went off and Roy said when you come back he wanted to know what every nebula was.

Pointing at the a Star Cluster

He did return with his pointer and some amazing explanations, Roy said he was only joking he just can not see the shapes in the sky. I on the other hand said please go ahead. The Picture on the right shows the Sagittarius Star Cluster I think. I was just amazed at his knowledge. Unfortunately I got a lot of information all at once and some stuff did not stick. The cluster that I always bring out the pink purple colors is called the Lagoon Nebula. I also learned a few of the constellations that surround the milky way, one of this is the scorpion it does pop out once he traced it for me. I am interested in getting a pointer not sure I am ready to upgraded my camera for an astro set-up. We did talk that I might be able to use my long lens on a tracker and get some of the Nebulas out there. I will make that a next summer project. (JK)

Jupiter rising

Just talking in between shots we looked over and were able to watch Jupiter rising. I was able to capture it just coming over the mountain.

Epic light fail

Later in the evening I was trying to capture Cassiopeia I was not very successful I will however try that constellation later this summer. We also tried some light painting to see if that could bring more attention the the stars, that was an epic fail. I also had as you can see a plane fly through the scene. This was towards the end of the night of the night and the cold was effecting my brains. (my story).

I enjoyed meeting Anthony and was glad that he wanted to share his knowledge with me. We did call it a night and I went over to check his setup and thank him for opening my eyes to the night sky. I am now excited for the Griffith Observatory to open so I can get up close to the stars.