Starry, starry night
I had always wanted to do it but was always scared to go in the mountains on my own at night. Tonight was a beautiful clear summer night with a quarter moon in the sky. Two cameras, two tripods, no plans, no experience, little knowledge, in a mini cooper, Pierre and I decided to try our luck with taking our first star trail pictures.
Of course lots of things went wrong as expected when there is no plan, but definitely not the kind of failure we had expected. First of all, we didn’t know where we were going. So we just kept driving east from Seattle on I-90. At one point, took the highway 18 exit towards Snoqualmie Falls, saw a sign for Tiger Mountain, and I was like, “that’s where we are going.” We got to the trail head, we realized we had already made a second mistake: we didn’t bring a flash light. But we looked up into the sky, oh my god, it was GORGEOUS. There were stars everywhere tempting us. Pierre goes, “come on, let’s try to hike up.” “No, I’m scared of the dark.” “It’s ok. We’ll be OK.” “ooo ok… but I’m scared.” Fifty feet after we passed the trail head gate, I screamed, not on purpose and that scared the shit out of Pierre too. I couldn’t see a thing out there. Unless it’s a familiar enclosed space, I get super scared when it’s pitch dark. I ran back to the trail head, “Pierre, I can’t do it. I’m really scared.” I didn’t scream because I thought I saw something. It was just really scary for me. Fortunately, at this point, a car drove down from the trail and another drove up the trail apparently for some search and rescue mission. We decided that we should drive the car up. And only half a mile later, we found the real trail head and there was a parking lot with lots of cars.
We didn’t have to go far and found a clearing, set up our tripods and started taking pictures. We knew we needed the bulb setting but I didn’t know I can’t keep my shutter open unless I can lock it with a remote. Mistake number 3. I set my aperture to F4, and had to keep my finger on the shutter button the whole time. And yes, blood eventually went out of that finger and had to transfer to another finger. And it was pretty annoying being stuck in one spot the whole time. Of course with a flimsy tripod like me, I introduced a lot of shake into the pictures. The sky was really bright, which we found out later that was because the moon was shining on it. We just couldn’t see. Mistake number 4, we forgot to keep track of the exposure time. Pierre’s picture were over exposed after a 30 minute exposure. Apparently, mistake number 5 was we didn’t get far away enough from the city light.
There were many other things we learned in this last minute spontaneous photo trip. It was scary at times and funny most of the time. The result was quite promising since we had expected no success at all. I had pointed my camera at the big dipper. The first picture was maybe a 2 minute exposure. And then second one, the best one out of 4 that I took was around a 18 minute exposure. The trail is quite long already. You can see the different color hues of the stars. Oh, and an icing on the cake was that I saw a beautiful meteor gliding overhead with a soft long tail. I made a wish, which shall be a secret until the day it comes true.