Chasing the Light!
What a strange weather year 2013 is turning out to be! Everything that you think is supposed to be, for some reason, just is not in this year!
The latest comes during the middle of the monsoon season here in Phoenix, Az. Normally, August is remarkably humid and each afternoon we watch the cumulus clouds build and get ready for the dust storm to drive across the Phoenix area, as it moves up I-10. The result is traditionally night after night of the most spectacular lightning shows that you can imagine. Last night, as the humidity levels dropped, as did the dew point, I headed into the dark desert to visit the clear skies, in hopes that my old friend, the Milky Way might show herself, in the lack of moonlight bathing the landscape, as we are at the Lunar phase of the New Moon. I would normally be tracking the monsoon thunderstorms that Arizona is so well known for. Tonight, with the moisture levels so low, there will be no monsoon. Sadly this has been going on for a couple of weeks now. We just hit a new low in the chase of the storms. The weather conditions cannot support the monsoon. As strange as it sounds, the monsoon is on hold for a few days. I hope that it is only a few days!
I headed down to the Tucson area to escape the bright city lights of the Phoenix Valley. I caught up with a buddy and we headed into the hills surrounding Tucson. We arrived with some time to scout the area before sunset started to set up. Some clouds were building on the western horizon, giving us hope of a lovely sunset with color painting these clouds as they drifted in an easterly direction.
We made a few images as the sun washed across some wonderful mountain formations but recognized that it was now time to dash to the west to line ourselves up properly for the upcoming sunset, as the clouds will light up and create many temporary designs that we photographers long for. Look at some of the early images before day would turn into night time.
Driving back after the sun gave up it’s last breathe of color and sank far below the horizon, I returned to the spot that I had staked out earlier. There were many views in close proximity to the mountain that I am hoping to include as the foreground for the visit with the Milky Way. It seems that by sunset these days, the Milky Way is already high in the night time sky. As much as we can see the MW, I now have to wait for the last rays of sunset to disappear before the sky darkens enough that I can begin making exposures. This had to have been the longest wait of the day as I am watching the MW move to a higher point in the sky before I can begin exposing.
As the skies darkened and I was able to begin making exposures. I had two 5D Mark III cameras set up on tripods to capture the MW in both still images and time lapse. Within minutes, I saw a set of headlights in the Southwestern distance. What is a car doing out here? I am far away from any commonly driven roads! Can someone else be silly enough to come sit in the 105˚ summertime desert, aside from me? I wouldn’t think so. I am standing over my time lapse camera watching the headlights light up the dark! Why aren’t they moving? Why are they just sitting there. They surely should have traversed the area by now but, they are still in sight. Thats when the proverbial light came on. Ding. They were not going to be simply driving thru this portion of the desert. These lights had to be Arizona’s protective Border Patrol. They had lights on bright, separately of the vehicle as, from afar, it appears that they are searching the horizon for illegals sneaking across the border. What these agents must have to go thru each night protecting our borders is amazing. Within minutes a helicopter took flight, and with another bright search light, flying above the road for it’s entire length, searching for anyone walking. As nice as it was to figure out what was going on in the foothills, at the same moment, it made me realize that I would not be able to create imagery under these restrictive circumstances.
It had now come to that point where I could no longer hide the lights as the Milky Way has moved across the sky and is now leading directly to the Border Patrol crew. It was time to begin the drive home and process these beautiful images! Ahh, Summer in the Desert!
Tags: canon, canon 5D Mark III, Canon Explorer of Light, milky way, night, nighttime, Sklooty, Sklute, southwest, stars, startrails, sunset, time lapse, tucson