Every wonder how a hot air balloon gets from its bag to up in the air? Last Saturday I had a chance to see the process. While the balloons never flew they were all inflated and most impressive in the dark. The Classic was held close to where I’m camped at a friend’s so we went over to spend the evening and see what we could learn. I expected that spectators would be held back by fences, kept away from the balloons but not so. We were able to get up close and watch as the baskets/gondolas were moved into place, the deflated balloons unfurled and spread out then inflated. It was an interesting process and really takes quite a crew to get it all done. Needless to say putting them away is another process that involves a good crew.
As the evening progressed and it got darker the balloons really did glow. There were close to 20 balloons at this event. It was such fun to see and photograph them and now I have a new appreciation of the work that goes into managing a hot air balloon. I imagine the camaraderie the balloonists have is similar to what we Casita folks or photographers have. A common bond we all enjoy.
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From Utah I traveled the Grand Canyon. I got to the Desert View campground(a new one for me) before noon on a Wednesday and was able to get a very nice site. This campground is small, 50 sites, all paved with a nice bathroom and plenty of water spigots. It’s also quiet and sort of out of the way compared to the much larger campgrounds in the park. I’ve spent time at the Grand Canyon before, so I didn’t take a lot of images here. Tried to get some night images, though. When I first got here the moon was full and lit up the canyon.
One of the great things about this campground is that it is away from the central/busy part of the park. I can stand outside my trailer after dark and see the Milky Way from one end to the other in the sky above me, a fantastic sight.
As time went on the moon came up later and I was able to get a few images with the Milky Way over the canyon. Needless to say the canyon doesn’t make much of a foreground, being a big black hole so one night I took my high power spotlight with me and tried lighting up the nearby canyon walls at a couple of overlooks.
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Goblin Valley SP is a unique place and since it was on the way to my next destination I decided to head there, hoping to snag a campsite for the night. I got there mid morning and was able to get a very nice site. That afternoon I drove around checking the park out.
The night was very clear and it was a lot of fun to go down into the Goblins’ Playground and do some photography. I didn’t wander around too much because I didn’t want to get lost! The waxing moon gave enough light so the goblins were visible but not so much that it prevented the Milky Way from being visible. That made for a very special opportunity for me.
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On my way to Yellowstone I stopped in the Tetons for only 4 nights. Got another great site at Gros Ventre CG. There is a lot of smoke around, sometimes you could be at the south end of the Tetons and couldn’t even see the north end of the range. Last year the fires were raging in both Yellowstone and GTNP, this year they are not in the parks but still affecting them.
The second night I was there it was wonderfully clear so I went out to see what I could photograph. First stop was one of the old Mormon barns. There were a couple of guys there already and they were using some LED flashlights to light the barn. Not the best light since it tends to be a very cold white but I warmed it up a bit in the processing.
The night was so clear I wanted to take advantage of it so I headed down to Schwabacher’s Landing unsure if the setting would work or not. Yes! Just the spot to capture the Milky Way over the calm waters.
From New Mexico I headed north to Rt. 160 in Colorado then west to the South Fork area. There is a NFS campground there called Big Meadows Reservoir and I stayed there 5 nights. What a lovely setting and area! The campsites are on the side of a mountain, terraced up, each one had a level gravel area with more than enough room for the Casita and truck. They each have a picnic table and fire pit, too. I was surprised that while I was there of the 47 sites maybe 10 were used at any one time.
The reservoir is apparently loaded with fish (lots of day visitors and campers fishing, nice for paddling or hiking around. The runoff makes a lovely waterfall so I played around with taking images at different settings with and without the ND filter.
The second night I was there turned out to be the clearest so it was good I took advantage of it. As it was some clouds moved in but I had a chance to get a few images. It was so dark there, had to really push the settings.
When I’m this far north I regularly check out a website that gives info about possible Aurora Borealis sightings. On May 23 when I was staying at Mammoth Hot Springs campground the possibility for seeing the aurora was good so I went out at about 10 pm. The ideal spot would be as high as I could get, but unfortunately the folks at MHS don’t see to understand about light pollution. The view from the parking on the Upper Terraces was compromised by the lights below so I found a better spot on a pullout just below there with trees to hide the lights. The yellow plume in the image is steam from one of the hot springs that is lit up by the lights. Once I was satisfied with that image I turned more to the east and was able to get a nice image of the Milky Way.
Three days later I got a notice that the Aurora might again be visible. O10:15 pm on the 27th I left the Canyon Village campground and headed south to Hayden Valley. When I had parked and got out to check the view I could immediately see some lights high above, Bingo! Quickly got the camera and tripod out. Wow! Had to put the 14 mm lens on to capture the sight. The vertical spectre was amazing and moved slowly from north to northwest then faded out. This phenomenon is called “Steve” in Aurora circles for lack of a better name.
After that I concentrated on the Aurora down near the horizon and moved to different spots to get different views of it with the Yellowstone River in the foreground. In some of the images you can see a bit of the Milky Way, but the moon is waxing and it isn’t the best time for that.
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From NM I headed to a familiar campground, Goosenecks SP, about 25 miles north of Monument Valley. It is sort of barren, you pick a spot which may or may not have a table, but a one-of-a-kind view is guaranteed if you walk a few steps to the rim of the canyon. I tend to use this place as a base and visit Monument Valley to the south or Valley of the Gods to the north. This trip the weather was pretty overcast and each late afternoon I could watch the storm clouds pass by, sometimes with a rumble of thunder or flash of lightning, but no rain. A drive to view some of Monument Valley from the road was a must but mostly I just relaxed and caught up on stuff.
From there I headed north to another familiar place, Horse Thief CG. This is a BLM site, dry camping without
even water available located just outside Moab, UT. It is convenient for Canyonlands NP, Arches NP and Moab. Sites are large with plenty of room and often some screening between them. One of the delights of this stop was that I was able to meet up with some friends from various parts of the country and to meet some new folks. The weather started out sunny each day, but with enough breeze so it stayed pleasant, not too hot.
Arches NP is undergoing some extensive road work, prohibiting access 5 nights of the week and some sections of the park are closed completely. The closures will change as the work locations change. Fortunately I was able to get in on Friday night and the places I wanted to visit were accessible.
There was a full moon during my stay so instead capturing the Milky Way I decided to see how some familiar places looked in the moonlight.
Turned out the moon does a much better job of lighting things up than any artificial light.
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A colorful sunset over the Tetons is always a delight. After spending a long time at the riverside hoping to see some moose I gave up, threw the camera gear in the truck and headed out since it looked like there might be a good sunset. Turns out the gamble paid off!
I was up very early the next morning and caught the sunrise lighting up the Tetons and then happened on some bison that were still frosty from the cold night. While driving around or
being stopped I’ve also seen two foxes and two coyotes.
The night of the full moon it was very clear so I headed out to see what a couple of places
looked like in the moonlight. First stop was the iconic barn on Mormon Row with the Tetons behind it.
After that I went to another spot on a hunch. On a good day the
Tetons are reflected in the river and I thought if things came together right the moonlit Tetons would be reflected in the river. Sure enough, they were!
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You know what they say about real estate, it’s all about location?! Well, this little RV park has it! Basic parking lot camping bu
t only 1 mile from the first ponds inside Bosque del Apache NWR. Quite a few Sandhill Cranes at the first pond when I got there at dawn. As it got lighter they started taking flight.
A little bit later the sun was on them and
the mountains in the distance.
That evening I returned to the pond and with the cranes’ sounds as a bit of background the Milky Way was in view.