Jacob and I went for a walk last night around the neighborhood and noticed how clear the sky was. Luckily, we live a short drive away from dark sky, so when it’s clear enough with city light pollution that the Milky Way starts to be visible, we hop in the car. Capturing a moonrise with stars and no layering is a difficult challenge. While these aren’t all the pictures from last night, I wanted to share a few of them.
For planning dark sky photography I use a couple websites:
The majority of dark sky locations have insufficient GPS/cell service to use my constellation sky map app, so I can’t recommend it at this time. That’s not a bad thing. Maybe with their next update I’ll include it in another dark sky post. Plus, it was a paid app and I’m currently trying to recommend free services.
5 October 2020 – Early Evening Photography
The view that the Stardome tool produces is a bit off since the place where we stood on the surface of the earth is not Milwaukee, but it gave us a bit of an idea of what we were looking at. I hope this helps as a reference guide for some of the photographs below.
For the month of October 2020, Mars is visible to the east in the early evening sky. On 5 October we photographed Mars with a rising 87% waning gibbous moon.
To the north of the moonrise over the mountain crests a cluster of stars is visible. I believe these may be part of the Taurus constellation containing Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster, but it is important to note that I am a novice and that is most certainly washed out by light on the horizon.
Post processing of dark sky photos allows for the revealing or obfuscation of information within the photograph. I’ll include a second processed version of the above photo as an example.
Due east and more visible in this next picture is the red color of Mars. We attempted to use a telephoto lens to reduce the exposure and focus on the unique aspects of the trees in front of the moon, but ran into an issue of condensation as the temperature and humidity started changing rapidly.
One of the fascinating things about taking pictures during a moonrise was that I was constantly adjusting the exposure time to prevent starlines/streaking. Before the moonrise exposure time was at 8 seconds and after moonrise I reduced this down to 3.2 seconds. One of the streakier examples is shown below.
One of the incredible things about taking a camera out at night and pointing it in a direction, then setting the aperture open is just how much you can see.
At less than 3.2 seconds the darkness of the shot makes it hard to make anything out without post processing.
At greater than 5 seconds once the moon had risen the star lines were intolerable.
But that moonrise? Beautiful. Except I’m dealing with noise – that’s all the weird blotchy discoloration instead of there being a smooth transition across the sky.
The above image is the one I posted to Instagram. The noise issue is one that Adobe Lightroom handles well, but Instagram amplifies.
It can be seen here too. Look along the bottom edge.
In future posts I look forward to exploring some apps for editing dark sky photos on the go, and ranking based on which ones make the same pictures that start out looking like mostly void and partially stars the best.
In the meantime, if you enjoyed this post and want to see more dark sky photos please like, comment, and share. I have a lot of photos to edit and play around with, plus I enjoy getting out and taking new ones. I’m excited to try and get some aurora pictures this winter.
Thanks for reading 💕
If you would like to use any of our photos from this post:
For unpaid projects, simply credit us by linking back to this website.
For paid projects please send me an e-mail and we can exchange a fair use contract with more details.
Lo had a medical appointment in San Francisco, and normally we’d fly there (sometimes there are even direct flights) and stay with friends, but these are not normal times. As if a global pandemic weren’t enough, the whole west coast has apocalyptic forest fires and apocalyptic air quality, so we brought along our whole-house air filter in the back seat:
Lo: At least I got to take some pretty pictures while we drove and take advantage of my love of photography and composition as a type of story telling.
Here’s Red Rock, Montana in a drive-by black and white.
Jacob: Heading south on I-15 we passed something that looked like a dozen McMansions jammed together. Turns out it’s the headquarters of a shady multi-level-marketing company.
Lo: Except they claim to not be that shady. That’s the fun part about all of these. Every one always claims to be better than the other. Every poison less toxic. Every one ignoring the rules around dosage dependency.
Jacob: This was the last blue sky we’d see for a long while.
Jacob: The charger we stopped at in Twin Falls was right next to the Snake River bridge and visitor center. It was incredibly smoky. The landscape here is beautiful, but felt so alien under an orange sky.
Lo: When we made it to Twin Falls we decided to stop and actually look at the Snake River. It’s this beautiful green color slithering its way through a deep gorge in the Idaho plateau.
Lo’s mom and her siblings lived here as children. She told us upon seeing this picture that this is not the original Perrine bridge. She remembered, even though it has been over 50 years. Human memory is amazing.
This is the eighth highest bridge in the United States with an elevation above sea level of around 3,600 ft (1,100 m), and an approximate height of 500 ft (150 m) above the Snake River. Idaho is an optical illusion – it’s flat because it’s the top of the plateau.
Yeah, that little dot is the sun.
We passed by this strange fence facade again. We’ve drive by it a few times – before on our way to Rigby for the solar eclipse. Lo was happy to grab a picture of some of the more unique features of the drive.
Jacob: This was one of the longer and more desolate stretches of drive – US 93 from Twin Falls to Elko. Most of the drive was on interstates, but sometimes you just can’t get there from here…
On the second day the road out of Elko felt like it could have been endless.
Power lines stretch across the desert and yet traces of agricultural activity and taps into aquifers are still obvious amongst the windblown landscape.
We pulled off the highway in the Nevada desert and drove around a little. This is the smallest underpass I’ve ever seen, barely wide enough for one car at a time.
Jacob: I have to wonder if they put up the sign just in case, or in response to someone escaping…
This was just a few doors down from the charger in Lovelock, NV. It was very convenient to access, just off the highway, but the town has seen better days. This yard and garden must have been beautiful once. The house itself was once a lovely, small two story.
I guess this exit just doesn’t have any capacity right now.
We missed the sign, but apparently there had been a rock slide?
For those that know Lo, there’s a hidden message she’s been trying to catch a picture of for years and finally succeeded.
At the Truckee charger a dog lounged and slept in the parking lot while his owner sat and picnicked nearby. Would not be moved for cars – nope, nope.
The Donner Summit rest area picture has no filters. That’s the color of the light filtering through the smoke.
So of course we looked up what in the world was going on. And… Oh. That makes sense.
There were *a lot* of portapotties along I-80. We suspect this might be due to all of the rest stops in Nevada along I-80 having been closed.
We got to Vallejo and wandered around the parking lot while the car charged. Here Lo managed to snag a few pictures.
We saw no shortage of interesting vehicles on our journey. Some chose unique intimidation tactics to keep other cars out from in front of them on the highway.
Our AirBnB in Richmond, California had the unpleasant surprise of a broken window. We managed to create somewhat of a seal and set up the air filter. It had the lovely benefit of a garden with citrus trees hanging over the fence.
Even the caution signs have opinions in California.
While in Richmond we did see a pack of wild turkeys taking over an Arco. Perhaps all of the humans staying home has lead to wildlife reclaiming its territory.
The sun continued on its tangerine and purple haze way.
And Back Again…
After the UCSF appointment we drove through the Castro. This was once our neighborhood.
Though there are many things we don’t miss about San Francisco, there are many things we do miss. There’s a sense of membership to a community here that is lacking in other places we’ve lived. This is where Jacob and I joined NERT. This is where we attended neighborhood watch meetings. A part of us will always be here.
It wouldn’t be the Bay Area without ridiculous and impractical, yet eye-catchingly hilarious furniture design. Seriously.
We saw a variety of interesting vehicles. This one might be an M1117? Someone that knows these better than we do, please confirm.
We ended up getting right behind the vehicle. These weren’t the only military vehicles we saw on the road being shipped places. Who knows where they’re going *shrug*.
By Tuesday afternoon, the air in San Francisco had finally started to clear up, just in time for us to leave. We had originally planned to head back Wednesday morning, but we both were itching to get home, and hitting the road Tuesday night let us get home a full day earlier. So off we went.
On I-80 on the way out of the San Francisco area, there was a brief traffic slowdown caused by, uh, this. Batteries can be scary if they catch fire, but not as scary as a gas tank…
As night was falling, we stopped to charge at a mall in Roseville, CA.
Lo got out and walked around. There are huge differences between the levels of permanency in the signage and overall social compliance to mask wearing and social distancing between California and Montana.
All around the stores were reminders to social distance, including Xs on the ground like one may mark up a stage for rehearsal.
Lo: An installation that struck me reminded me of The Freedom Of Speech Wall in Charlottesville, VA near where I went to undergrad.
What I Missed The Most:
Late Night Movies
The Bars 😦
My Wedding 6/6/20 😦
Jorge Angel-a (?)
andar con los compas
school and friends
CC and Damien
I miss go school
By midnight we were in Reno. The charger here was in a casino parking lot, so we had to maneuver through the disorienting maze that every casino town seems to be. So much neon…
Reno was a ghost town compared to its usual self. Admittedly, we’ve only been through a handful of times now, and we try to avoid stopping because of the crowds and traffic. Even the parking garages have the gates removed and no longer cost money. It’s surreal.
Lo: More like 1960s/70s with strong elements of preserved mid century Americana at its best in my opinion. The rooms were very clean (though we also did a surface/touch-point disinfecting for our own sanity). This place would be great to use for photoshoots and as a filming location. I should have taken pictures of the swimming pool!
We saw this truck in Nevada. Thanks to my trucker friends and those that are familiar with Cyrillic languages, it means “drivers wanted” or “drive for us.”
At one of our charging stops in Idaho the car hit its peak charge rate of 250 kilowatts – about the same as the average power usage of 200 houses.
It being September, the tunnel was not icy.
Lo: I find Nevada beautiful. I know the American desert isn’t exactly what most people think of as magical, but I’ve seen rainbows from thunderstorms over this desert. Extreme weather creates gorgeous landscapes. I’m not experienced enough at photography to capture lightning yet.
Into Idaho from Nevada farming gets interesting. The suspicion is that Lo really wanted a picture of that horse.
We’re welcomed back into Montana by this mansion of a fixer upper off of I-15. Lo keeps joking that she wants to move in.
Finally home! The smoke had followed us the whole way back, so we got the air filter back into the house in a hurry.
Jacob: After we got home I added up all the statistics for the drive. In just four and a half days, the total was:
2,449 miles driven
39 hours, 47 minutes on the road
705 kWh of electricity used by the car – as much energy as in less than 20 gallons of gasoline
20 charging stops at an average of 19 minutes each
We hope you enjoyed this whirlwind travel adventure post about driving to and from San Francisco in an electric car for a doctor’s appointment at UCSF. Road tripping during global pandemics is ill advised and we recommend anyone considering repeating this to take all necessary precautions to protect your own health and well being, as well as the well being of others.
Lo: If you want Jacob to author more posts, please drop a comment and leave a like. Let him know what kinds of posts you’d like to see.Your feedback is valuable ❤
If you see these photos posted elsewhere, please let us know. At this time a few are posted on Lo’s instagram, but mostly they are on this page only. Lo is still developing a unique watermark and is dealing with photo-stealing. If you would like to use any of these photos:
For unpaid projects, simply credit Lo and link back to this website.
For paid projects please send Lo an e-mail and we can exchange a fair use contract with more details.
Today we did something crazy. We drove from Missoula, Montana to Eureka, Montana and back to give a friend a ride back to civilization from their family’s compound after they tested negative for COVID-19. What a great chance to show everyone this amazing place I live!
I am blessed to live in a place of wide open spaces and the optical illusion that creates a bigger sky
Where glaciers collide with clouds
Flathead Lake is always a welcome sight
Flathead Lake is a gem
We hit a bit of rain on our way, but it eventually subsided.
As with any good Montana road trip you have to stop for the wildlife.
Don’t worry – they move eventually
Nearing Eureka as it begins to get darker
Blue sky still visible at 9 PM? Not for long!
Near Trego, Montana the last bits of day find their way into this beautiful night
We managed to catch the sunset on our way in to town
As I’m pleased to share with you some of the magnificent clouds we witnessed about 15 miles south of the Canadian border at the port of Roosville
As we return from Eureka we see signs reminding us to social distance and stay close to home. Missoula County and Lincoln County both have 0 active cases. Our friend safely in tow, they are also high risk, have been isolating, and need to get to Missoula for a doctor appointment that cannot be done over a video chat.
Whitefish looks desolate. There’s no one on the roads here. It makes sense – Flathead County is among the hardest hit in the state – every case that’s been traceable has been connected to travel. Flathead County is where the airport for West Glacier and Whitefish is. We head south toward Kalispell.
We stop in Kalispell to charge the car and use a disposable barrier for handling the charging cable. Charging will require a couple of hours.
It’s dark, so the pictures aren’t going to be very interesting for the rest of tonight. We will be safely back in Missoula soon.
And there’s your Montana road trip during this crazy time. The world is a mess. Stay safe – hold your family close.