star trails photography

Last Night Outing of the Year with ISU Photo Students

Saturday night I went out with five current ISU students and one alum for some astro-landscape photography. For this trip, we went south of Pocatello down to Hawkins Reservoir. Absolutely clear skies, good temps, and low winds (after the sun went down), coupled with some great meteorites made for the start of a pleasant evening. Of course, I brought my camp stove and we had home-made chili and on of the students brought some great cornbread. Great feast!

However, stuff happens, and around 11pm three rather drunk young men nearly drove their pick-up truck into the lake right next to us! After getting the truck out of the water (boat landing), they proceeded to bring all their fishing gear, loud voices, and high explosive fireworks out on the end of the dock that was about 50′ from us. Suddenly, one of the fellows lit the fireworks, which shot about 100′ straight above us and exploded with a boom that shook the entire valley. Needless to say, the campers across the way were not happy! After a long exchange of loud, vociferous profanities, we packed up and left for home. In the composite star-trail shot below, you can see their truck headlights coming towards us on the highway, followed by the firework explosion in the upper right corner of the shot.

 

Return to the Flint Hills

Amazingly, I never tire of photographing the Flint Hills and the Tall Grass Prairie in Kansas. Wilson Hurst and I returned last week, sans students, and set up our base of operations at Emporia. Friday morning we hiked a portion of the prairie that was new to us, the Two Section Pasture, just east of Strong City. Basically it was just a very large pasture with several young beeves, which kept following Wilson! We did encounter one Horny Toad lizard along the trail and that provided some entertainment.

After working up an appetite, we headed down to Cottonwood Falls, where we had massive burgers at the Grand Central Hotel. From there, we did a driving tour heading south through Chase County, wondering back roads until arriving at an interesting ghost of a town called Bazaar. We happened across a unique looking cemetery from the 19th century, aptly named, Bazaar Cemetery. Something about the name just sounds bizarre! Anyway, that was the beginning of a new joint photo project on oddly named cemeteries and the following day we were fortunate to come across two more for the series: Welcome Cemetery and Pleasant Valley Cemetery! What are the odds?!

Around dinner time, we headed back into Emporia, checked into our room and then headed to one of the few chain restaurants we’ll eat at while on the road: Montana Mike’s Steakhouse. Fast service, good steaks, and reasonable prices, what else does one need! Since the days are getting longer, we decided to go back out to the Tall Grass Prairie to photograph the sunset and to await the night sky for some star trail shooting.

Being out in that sea of green at twilight is incredible and we were rewarded with great light, nighthawks, deer, coyotes, Evening Primroses, stars, and an incredible red full moon. It takes patience to do this type of shooting, something my students struggle with; but we were there in one spot from 7:30pm until almost 10:30pm, before calling it a day.

The next day started with a great breakfast at the Flint Hills Restaurant and then we headed north for the Konza Prairie. En route, we detoured off the highway and found Pillsbury Crossing and spent time photographing the waterfalls at the fording in Deep Creek. While there, we spotted what appeared to be a Cottonmouth snake, sunning itself on a flat stone in the river, not far from where we had been shooting. Then we were off to the Konza. Springtime flowers were abundant and we captured several images along the trail up to the summit of the ridge.

Although we covered a lot of miles in two days, it was incredibly relaxing and great to get away from urban life. Great photography, great food, and great landscapes: the Flint Hills is my favorite for all of these!

© 2010 Terry Ownby, Sunset at Tall Grass Prairie

© 2010 Terry Ownby, Looking North from Tall Grass

© 2010 Terry Ownby, Pillsbury Crossing

© 2010 Terry Ownby, Bazaar, Kansas

© 2010 Terry Ownby, Evening Primrose on the prairie

© 2010 Terry Ownby, Annual Fleabane, Erigeron annuus L. & Blue Hearts, Buchnera americana  L.