Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to go out and shoot some stars in Rocky Springs. For those of you who have been keeping up with me, you already know how much I love coming out to this area along the Natchez Trace.
My trip here this time was nothing short of magical. As soon as I pulled up near where I planned to shoot a barn owl flew right in front of me! I took it as a good sign. While waiting on the night to take hold, I set up my camera & tripod to do a quick lightpainting mixing together the orb techniques of Chris Bauer & Spence Iley into an experimental hybrid design.
As I raised the Light Painting Brushes sword for the first part of the painting, I kept having a whoosh come by my face. Bats were diving in at me like ghosts in the forest! I didn't mind though, as I know having bats around are a sign of a healthy ecosystem. While breaking down my equipment in prep to move onto my time-lapse location, I noticed a blinking light flickering in the trees above. I knew Rocky Springs had an abundance of fireflies but I didn't know there would be any out this early in the year, nor on a night where the temps would dip down to freezing.
I set my camera up on its tripod stand a little before 9 so I could capture a time-lapse of the stars. At this time, I could clearly see the outer arm of our Milky Way galaxy, which matched up with what I had predicted with Photopills. All in total, I gathered 186 shots, each being 30 seconds exposure in length over a period of about 3 hours. During this time, I sat up looking at the sky. I caught glimpse of two very big, and bright meteors which seemed to fall not to far from my location, and made wishes as they burned away.
Midnight came & as my eyes were growing heavy (I'd been awake since 4:35 in the morning the day before) I moved to a different location to grab a quick nap. I fell asleep for about an hour, when my alarm rang. I got up and did some more exploring as I waited for the main event of the Milky Way's core to emerge over the horizon. Eventually, I made my way down to the small waterfall at Owen's Creek and did some lightpainting with my EagleTac flashlight to bring the scenery into view. I was pleased with how the details popped into my Sony camera, then from there I moved on to the Rocky Springs trailhead where I could capture the best view of the Milky Way as it rose in the night sky.
Around 1:35 I began my walk on the Rocky Springs trail. Years before I had taken my Jack Russell, Flash, along this path and I knew there was an open meadow not far where I could get a clear view of the sky. Five minutes in and I had arrived to the clearing. The grasses glistened against the glow of my flashlight as a light frost had begun to cover their strands. My shoes crunched against the ice as I scouted out my vantage point. Before too long I found my spot next to a roadsign and turned back towards the stars.
I took a few test shots to make sure my settings were correct when during this time, an old adversary of mine creeped into view. All winter I have tried every chance I can get to snag a shot of the Milky Way's core, yet on each occasion the weather has not been in my favor and on this night, at the very moment as the great nebulae and stars were to be entering my view the clouds arrived...
Initially I felt discouraged. It was 3 a.m. & I had waited all night for only clouds to roll in! Otherwise the evening was near-perfect for astrophotography, so I was not too mad at the clouds as I have come to find them to be a nuisance when shooting photos in Mississippi much like mosquitoes or war gnats.
While waiting on the clouds to hear, I heard a loud series of yipping coming from the distance. A pack of coyotes had begun chanting with excitement breaking the still night air. Shortly after, another group much closer to me, began to respond in kind. I could hear adults and pups alike raising their voices into the air. Shortly after, the screeching laughter of a few owls filled the air and joined the coyotes. Way off in the distance a few moments later, I saw a deep, solitary howl silence all the other forest animals. Could it be....a wolf? I could not deduce whether this was a long coyote or a wolf judging by the deep tones this creature emitted, plus I had always thought the wolf population in this part of the country had been decimated long ago.
I stayed out a tad longer until about 4:30 to no avail against the clouds and called it a night, but not without a good haul. I had several photos and a time-lapse I was very proud of, along with having a perfect night to get away from the city and clear my mind.
I felt fulfilled leaving Rocky Springs. The night had been absolutely beautiful and filled with some of the prettiest skies of the year. I was blessed, in a sense, to experience to the living world operating perfectly fine on its own without me, but was in no way unwelcome as I was greeted with the sights and sounds of the forest acting as it had done for generations long before I arrived on this Earth.