Tag Archives: photo adventure

Moonrise With Mars

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

Source: Astronomy.com Stardome tool

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.

Macrophotography Adventure Along Skalkaho Road

South of Hamilton, Montana there’s a left turn onto a road near a powder coating and manufacturing shop with a small gravel parking lot on the right hand side of the road before you cross over the railroad tracks. That turn takes you onto Montana Highway 38 – Skalkaho Road or Skalkaho Highway. (All pictures used are taken by me. The gif from the Disney movie Mulan is from WordPress’s gif plugin)

Built in 1924, this winding drive through the Sapphire Mountains is inconsistently paved for approximately 50 miles. This is not unusual for many state roads in Montana – it’s expensive to maintain road surfaces through freeze-thaw conditions. The most harrowing portion of the road, a 15 mile section from Daly Creek to a little past Gem Mountain is closed late November through Memorial Day as it is inaccessible to snow plows and rescue workers.

Speaking of…

Through this stretch signs specifically state no vehicles towing trailers are allowed on this road. This is because rescue vehicles won’t be able to get to you, or your horses (or snowmobiles, or whatever other tomfoolery you get up to). Even so, I still encountered someone torturing a pair of terrified quarter horses in a cramped single horse trailer as they were speeding through a pot hole ridden muddy narrow back switching little more than a single lane with blind corners mountain road that, again, specifically states towing trailers is specifically prohibited. I should emphasize that, having driven this road in its entirety, this individual behaved in a way that was not in the best interest of themselves, rescue workers, or their horses. For Shame. There are pull off areas for parking your toy trailers and horse trailers and disembarking on your trip prior to entering this more intense part of the roadway. The only reason someone would take this reckless behavior is to try and use this road as a shortcut between Philipsburg / Anaconda and Hamilton. Given that you could kill your horse, yourself, and others on the road doing this, please don’t. I was not amused by almost being run off the road down a sheer cliff with no guard rail.

I beg anyone that decides to explore this beautiful part of Montana to please GO AROUND to Route 43 or to I-90 to Route 93 with your horses for their safety unless you’re trying to run up a very large equine vet bill at the least. Listen, it’s only a problem for you and your family if you die from your behavior, but it’s a problem my family has to deal with if your recklessness kills me. Got it?

Now that’s out of the way.

I look forward to sharing the scenic drives of Montana with readers. Route 38 is a special one. I was able to capture some of the color changes and this is an early sample of some of the photographs.

We begin this journey forking away from Sleeping Child Rd.

Hang on little dude! I found multiple species of lichens in the forest.

On Instagram I went on a rant about plastic disposal and microplastics. I was a little sad to find plastic on the forest floor in the middle of nowhere.

I found an old coffee can that seemed to have been lit on fire during a wild and crazy camping trip. I wish I had been there. I bet it was a great time when this happened years ago.

Practicing with the new macro lens I zoomed in on bark and explored the secret language of trees.

I also discovered a lichen forest inside a little cavern hidden within the trunk of an ancient tree at least 200 years old based on the trunk diameter (though a coring sample is the better way to determine its actual age).

This picture was fun. I got bits of spider web and my brain fills in the image of a skull in the tree bark, do you see it too? I tried to add it at an angle.

Not to get too sappy, but I’ve needed to get out on an adventure, and even though I may have worsened my tendon injury during this exploration session, I managed to find all kinds of beauty. I also collected a lot of animal bones for some future art projects!

On the left side of the road is Skalkaho Falls. It’s a lovely waterfall with a roaring chill soaking your senses through.

I pulled off at the Fuse Lake trailhead for dinner. Here, after reading some and preparing to embark toward Fuse Lake for sunset I realized my right leg was… not going to cooperate.

So I got back on the road and found that the weather system that moved through downed some tree limbs. If you see this, please pull over and take a moment to move the limb out of the road. As previously mentioned, services don’t get to this road very often, so you’ll be helping protect the safety of your fellow humans.

This branch was easy to drag to the side of the road. It’s never a bad idea to keep a hatchet or saw with your camping supplies for larger branches and fully downed trees on these backcountry roads. There is no cell service here, so don’t expect anyone to come along and help you.

The sunset on the eastern side of the Sapphire range was worth it. The saturated colors as the sun brushed over the mountain tops to the west created cotton candy lemonade and blue raspberry hues. It looked like a landscape scene from James Twitty.

As the sun finally set behind me I reached Potter’s Corner. From there I turned left (North) on MT Route 1 and proceeded to Philipsburg and then to I-90 back home.

I hope you enjoyed this photo adventure! You can follow more of my photography over on Instagram. If you would like to see more write ups of my photo adventures with early previews into the photo sets, please like, comment, and share this post. I would love feedback on my photography.

If you see these photos posted elsewhere, please let me know. At this time they are only posted on my instagram or on this page. I am still developing a unique watermark. If you would like to use any of my photos:

  • For unpaid projects, simply credit me and link back to this website.
  • For paid projects please send me an e-mail and we can exchange a fair use contract with more details.