Knowing that the 2016 Perseid’s meteor shower at peak time wasn’t looking good in the weather forecast, I decided to take a trip up to Cherry Springs state park a few days ahead of the scheduled outburst on August 11-12. I’m sure glad I went because I got a fantastic landscape shot of a falling star, or meteor if you prefer! (scroll down to last pic to see)
The forecast was excellent for this evening, however, it was a Saturday and with shooting star season in full swing, I had a feeling there would be a lot of people up there, not really what I like.
Instead, I made plans for a trip to Sinnemahoning State Park about 10 miles South of Austin, PA. It is rated a Bortle 3 and I welcomed the idea of new scenery via a different route on this sunny evening. The drive up was indeed scenic as I passed through some small PA towns such as Weedville, Penfield, Benezette, Driftwood and a few other very small villages.
Benezette is the beginning of Elk country and as I drove along Route 555 I encountered several, particularly after dusk. They are beautiful animals and there are plenty of them. Aside from their larger size, they are similar to deer, but I find them a bit more graceful. Deer seem more “jerky” to me.
I made my way to the Sinnamahoning forest and park and I must add the roads are in perfect condition! Hard to believe how well maintained they are for being steep and winding. Even the lines looked fresh! Still, you’ve got to watch out for those Elk and deer!
Once at the park I discovered it was closed at dusk! I couldn’t even sneak in as the entrances were chained up. What a bummer! I got out of the car a few times and could see how great the sky was becoming. There was a setting moon but it still had an hour of life left in the sky. I contemplated driving around some back roads. After playing with the GPS, I decided to go to Cherry Springs despite my gut telling me it would be crowded.
I made it to the park via Cherry Springs road, a new route for me. I stopped along the way and took some pictures. I saw a lot of shooting stars and had a feeling this was going to be a good night for them. I continued on my way and made it to the park.
What a zoo! It looked like a Walmart parking lot! I drove in and parked the car. There were easily 100 cars there and it was a constant flow coming in and out. So many lights! For me, it was awful.
When I go out on these night sky excursions, I do it for the peaceful feeling I get. The photography is just a bonus. I don’t even consider myself a “real” photographer, I just do it because I’m there and it’s fun. Well there wasn’t going to be any peace and tranquility in this parking lot let alone photography!
While it’s nice that people are enjoying the skies, I feel like the point was being missed. There is no way anybody’s eyes could adjust with all those car lights, so that alone keeps people from actually seeing a lot of what’s up there. Besides the car lights, cell phones, smart phones and iPad’s everywhere!
These were obviously people from the city who have no idea what it’s like to be still within the quiet and darkness of nature. I have to say I felt bad for them. Most of them probably weren’t impressed. They’d get out of the car, look up for 20 seconds and be done!
I decided to take a side road and see if I could find a pull-off with a decent view somewhere. I did and parked the car. It turned out to be a great choice because I was there for 2 hours and not a single car came past! The shooting stars were still coming down and the Milky Way was still thick and bright.
I ended up setting the tripod in the middle of the road after 1/2 hour of no cars, as there was a great view from a particular position with trees, mountains and the milky way. This is where I captured my great falling star photo!
There is an interesting story behind the photo that makes it all the more special to me. I had just finished a shot. Often I will take 2 or 3 shots and then change the settings on the camera because conditions change and you just never know what settings will work best.
I decided to change settings. I did so and re-adjusted the tripod on the same spot. Before I could push the shutter a very beautiful meteor fell right between the trees with a huge tail! I was so bummed out as I had missed the shot! I knew there would never be another one falling like that. It’s like lighting striking twice in the same spot.
That’s the way it goes but this was extra sad because of how great everything was…the luck of it all! I wasn’t even thinking about a falling star. I was more focused on the way the Milky Way rose above and between the two trees and the mountains on both sides.
Anyway, I pushed the shutter and within 5 seconds another shooter fell in the same spot! I couldn’t believe it and I knew I got this one! Wow! I was so excited I had to preview that shot to see if I got it. I don’t normally do that. Indeed I had it! That made my night. Am I a freak for being so excited? At least I’m a grateful freak. I feel like that meteor was sent for me!
When I got home and processed the images I was very happy, particularly with my shooting star picture. I posted it on my Facebook page and got a lot of great comments. (you can see the full size on FB) Feel free to add to the Facebook comments or leave me a comment here! I would really like to know what you think of that shot. Does it move you at all? One man said it had a calming effect on him. I think that’s interesting because that’s how I feel when I’m out in the middle of nowhere star-gazing!
Next week I’m going to Nebraska. I am going to a very dark place. I’m staying in Valentine but plan on star gazing near Brownlee. It is a Bortle class 1 in that area. I will be sure to post about my Nebraska stargazing trip when I get back.