Crater Lake at Night   5 comments

I wanted to revisit my visit to Crater Lake National Park recently.  I spent quite a bit of time up at night, testing out my new camera mount.  It tracks the apparent movement of the stars.  I am still getting the hang of it, but the first results are promising.  I am certain I will figure out ways to use it so as to get even better starscapes, and can foresee using it for moon, eclipse and other types of shots.  It is called a Vixen Polarie.

I actually entered the park at night, after getting caught up photographing a really cool waterfall I’ve never been to near Diamond Lake.  It’s called Toketee Falls, and it spills in such a beautiful way over a columnar basalt flow.  But I digress.  I entered the park from the north entrance, which is closed most of the year because of snow.  This evening was warm though as I motored my bike up the highway and right past the entrance gate.  I did pay later, not because I thought I had to, but because I wanted to.  National Parks are virtually starved of funds by Congress, and they need every penny they can get.

Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, arcs over Crater Lake in southern Oregon.

Upon reaching the lake I stopped right away, at a large overlook near Llao Rock.  I worked my way out onto a promontory over the lake, getting a nice tree in the foreground which happened to be angled in the same manner as the Milky Way cut across the sky (image above).  This is a composite of two shots.  The tracking mount follows the stars as they appear to move across the sky.  Of course it is the Earth that is doing the moving, rotating so fast  (700+ miles/hr. at mid-latitudes) that you’d think it would make us all dizzy.  This means that any foreground you include on long exposures will be blurred, while the stars remain sharp.  So you have to take another shot with the tracking mount turned off, just so you can later combine the starry sky part with the foreground part.  I did this in Photoshop Elements later.

A view of Crater Lake in late dusk.

I camped nearby, right on the rim with a gorgeous view of the lake.  A couple nights later, I was back at it.  I found a blue-hour shot at Phantom Ship overlook (above), and then after munching on dinner as the stars came out traveled around the lake to nearby my secret campsite.  I found a lone whitebark pine snag overlooking the lake.  It was perched on a cliff.  In the darkness, moving around the dead tree to get the perfect composition, I looked where I was walking just in time to gape into the maw of black infinity.  Two more steps and I would have been gone just like that, nobody to hear me scream.  So I contented myself with a straight-on view, and even tried light-painting for the first time (image below).

Light painting, for those who haven’t been devouring their photo articles lately, is the practice of shining a flashlight (torch for the Brits) on a subject during a long exposure at night.  Obviously the subject has to be pretty close, and you can use a red light (or any color if you go get colored wraps at a party store).  I used the red setting on my headlamp here.  Note that if you’re very close to your subject, your camera’s red LED light, if it has one, and/or the light on your timer remote, can serve to paint in a subtle way, even if you don’t want to.  Solution?  Electrical tape.

A lone whitebark pine snag basks under the stars at Crater Lake, Oregon.

All in all a good first outing with the tracking mount.  I am naturally a night owl, so this night photography suits me.  I really prefer starscapes to the trails of stars that some like to shoot (that’s why I got the tracking mount), and Crater Lake has the potential to provide really spectacular pictures.  The air was not as clear as I wanted for this trip, there being fires not too far from the park.  And too, the Milky Way is positioned at its highest point in the sky at around midnight at this time of year.  So I hope to return to Crater Lake sometime in autumn when the nights are crisp, the air crackling clear, and the Milky Way low enough to include all of it plus the lake in one sweeping shot.  I can’t wait!

Meantime I want to go up to Mt Rainier to try some more night photography, this time with glaciers and that humongous mountain to set off the starry sky.  Plus the flowers in the alpine meadows are peaking right now.  That will likely be the subject of my next post, in a few days when I return.  Until then, keep exploring!

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5 responses to “Crater Lake at Night

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  1. Thanks a bunch John!

  2. Stunning!

  3. Amazing photos. What kind of tracking mount did you get?

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