In July we stayed at a cabin outside of Salmon, Idaho in a pocket of true dark sky. Before the wildfires started we had the benefit of high clarity photography conditions, giving us the opportunity to witness a “Galaxy Rise” as the Milky Way galaxy came into view after the moon set around midnight/1 am.
Under dark sky conditions, our exposure conditions were kept more constant. We weren’t having to worry about the changing light conditions associated with the moon even though a lot of light is emitted by a light sky. This is more a matter of human perception of light (I have better night vision than Jacob, he still struggles under dark sky conditions) and less a matter of the actual light produced.
The moon is a heck of a lot brighter. We’re talking the difference between a 30 second exposure maximum and a 6-8 second exposure maximum. The Milky Way was visible both during the photography trip in July and the recent hop over to Alberton, Montana to catch the moonrise. The issue is that the moon is so much brighter than many other celestial bodies.
With that in mind, there are techniques for getting around these issues. Dark sky photography has the unique benefit of being able to pick up details that can be missed by the human eye, plus you can take advantage of telephoto and telescoping lenses to capture celestial bodies that could otherwise be missed.
With the moonrise (waning gibbous inside Taurus) with Mars from 5 October 2020, I wanted to mention using Adobe Lightroom as my preferred method of photo editing compared to other photo editors. That said, this is not a free program. It was also all Jacob’s idea to invest in decent photo editing software that wouldn’t piss me off.
*Insert standing ovation to Jacob*
Often times I find that I turn up the “highlights” and “dehaze” tools the most in these pictures when editing all of the long exposure shots from the Canon Rebel.
I mentioned previously when I was giving an example of the moonrise picture edited using Instagram.
Comparing this to what I uncovered in Lightroom is a little stark. That said, Lightroom isn’t perfect. It won’t get rid of the noise that’s the result of us using a camera with limitations associated with the electronics. This is why some photographers use film, then a film scanner, instead of direct digital. There are also dual digital and film cameras that shoot film with a digital back up (though these have tended to have short lived generations on market).
It’s important to note that I don’t “photoshop” – I don’t add details to photos that weren’t captured with the original image.
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed these dark sky photos! If you want to see more posts like this, please like, comment, or share.
Thank you for spending time with me today!
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.
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.
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.
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.