It’s International Dark Sky Week, April 22 – 30, 2022. How many of you have ever visited a unit within the National Park System and viewed the starry sky overhead? I admit I am an early-to-bed kind of gal, but when visiting a national park, I do try to stay up late at least one clear night to try and photograph the night sky.
If you go over to the National Parks Traveler and run a search using the key words “night sky,” you can pull up all sorts of articles. To see what you can pull up on a search, click on any of the images above.
Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.
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“Half the Park is After Dark,” as the saying goes. This week is International Dark Skies Week, so here are a few images of some dark skies over Mount Rainier, Crater Lake, and Big Bend national parks. To read more about this week, click on any of the images above.
I don’t do much night photography, but that’s mainly because it’s hard for me to stay up past my bedtime. I’m not a “night owl” and never was. I’m an “early bird” and have no problem getting up at 3 a.m. to get to a spot for sunrise shots. I really do need to get more night shots of the parks I visit, and I’ll try to make that a mission. Another part of the problem, besides light pollution and staying up late, is that clear skies and moonless nights are the best circumstances in which to view and photograph the stars and Milky Way. Sometimes, I remember to time my trips during the week of a new moon, but oftentimes, I simply forget.
Night shots are a good way to work on your photography skills. To get a decent star image, though, you need to set your camera to Manual (not Auto or Program), put it on a tripod, increase the ISO to greater than 640, and experiment with different slow shutter speeds, anywhere from 10 seconds to greater. It’s also helpful to use a corded or wireless remote shutter release, or utilize the 2-second timer on your camera. That reduces blur from camera shake when your finder touches the shutter button.
It takes a little expertise with the editing software to really bring out that Milky Way and landscape. Some photographers blend anywhere from two to more images to get enough light on the landscape while keeping the dark sky dark. If they are honest, they will say what they did. But most photographers keep quiet. That’s why you will be amazed at seeing something like the night sky over the Watchman and Virgin River at Zion Park, where the landscape is beautifully lit. when in reality – as you can see from the image above, captured around 2 a.m. on a cold, clear February night – it is a a bit darker. Nonetheless, it doesn’t detract from the beauty of the shot.
It’s #FunFactFriday so I thought I’d write about the geology seen in Big Bend National Park (Texas). The Chisos Mountains (part of which you see in the image above) are volcanic in origin. One of those volcanic things you’ll see while driving the road through the park are intrusive dikes. Igneous means the rock is volcanic in origin. Dikes are igneous, and they are called “intrusive” because the magma intrudes upon and into the existing rock layers above it. You can see a long stretch of dikes exposed and sticking up out of the ground in this shot. The rocks around the dikes eroded away, leaving those flat-looking walls of rock, sort of like a zig-zaggy-edged rock fence running over the hillsides and up into the mountain flanks.
I’m looking through past Big Bend (as well as other parks) images to see if there are shots I have not edited, or – at the time – didn’t do as good a job of editing. I honestly can’t remember if I ever posted this image or not, back in 2013 (can it be 7 years ago??) captured during my December visit to this national park in southwest Texas. It was my first (out of four) trips there.
It’s Trivia Tuesday, folks! Did you know that the ocotillo, found all over the Chihuahuan Desert in Big Bend National Park in Texas is a shrub and not a cactus? Those spindly, evilly-thorny branches can grow up to 20 feet tall! In the spring, at the tips of each branch grow a cluster of little bright orange-red flowers, the nectar of which attracts carpenter ants and hummingbirds.
The view along the Lost Mine Trail, Big Bend National Park, in Texas
Hey folks, it’s Fun Fact Friday! Here are some interesting facts for you about Big Bend National Park, in Texas.
There are over 60 species of cactus, 450 species of birds, 1,200 plant species, and 3,600 insect species found in this national park.
The name Big Bend comes from a bend in the Rio Grande River, which runs along the park boundary.
In 2012, the park was named an International Dark Sky Park, which means it’s awesome for star gazing.
I first visited this national park in 2013 and made 4 more trips there before moving out of Texas. I visited during the winter and spring, when the temperatures were at their most ambient. Late spring was awesome for blooming cactus. And, speaking of visiting, Big Bend is entering it’s busy season, so if you are planning to travel there anytime soon, you’d probably better have alternate lodging plans in case you can’t find an available campsite, according to an article published in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler.
To read more of that article, click on the image at the top of this post.
A strawberry pitaya bloom, Big Bend National Park, in Texas
Whether people want to believe it or not, climage change is a real thing and it’s being factored into many things, such as the water supply for the Chisos Mountains Lodge at Big Bend National Park in West Texas. There’s an article about this in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler.
To read the article, click on the image above.
Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.
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The road to the desert, Big Bend National Park, Texas
And just where will that road take you this weekend? Perhaps some of you have taken Friday off to make it a nice, 4-day weekend? Certainly enough time for a short visit to a national park like Big Bend National Park, in Texas. It’s in a remote part of southwest Texas, but it’s definitely worth a visit, with great landscapes, interesting desert and mountain ecosystems, neat birdlife, and wonderful geology. Just take plenty of water with you.
I’m headed off, myself, to Stehekin, WA, this weekend, for a few days exploring Lake Chelan National Recreation Area and North Cascades National Park.
Big Bend National Park is out in a remote portion of southwest Texas. But if you can get there, then you won’t be disappointed with what you see. This national park is full of interesting volcanic geology and gorgeous landscapes of the Chihuahuan Desert and the Chisos Mountains. Sunrises are lovely here. This shot was taken right off the side of the road, not looking toward the rising sun, but instead, toward the mountains and desert which the winter sun gilded.
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