Wednesday, July 29, 2015

RRPC Field Trip: Benjamin, TX...

This past Saturday (7/25) the Red River Photography Club went on a field trip to Jim Bob Art Park in Benjamin, TX for a night photography excursion. We stayed out in the wee hours of the morning hoping to catch a glimpse of the milky way over some photogenic terrain. Around 5:00 members of the club met up at Memorial Stadium, we started off towards Seymour, TX around 5:30. Our first stop was to the Rusty Spur Steakhouse and Saloon. After some nice dinner conversation and a good steak we left for Jim Bob Art Park.

Satellite view of Jim Bob Art Park and Nature Trail (Google Earth)

A few miles north of Benjamin is the Jim Bob Art Park and Nature Trail. It is a privately owned park by the Bisbee family. The park was created in remembrance to James Robert Bisbee (Jim Bob as the locals called him). On the far west view of the park is swing where visitors can take in the amazing view of "The Narrows" of Knox County. Sitting at an elevation of 1568ft the views from this plateau are quite impressive and would make for some excellent sunset photography and being in a rural area we were expecting a great view of the night sky. 

We arrive to the park just in time to catch the sun going down. I was only able to make one image of with the sun in the frame. I would like to come back and shoot more sunsets at this location. Members of the RRPC gathered all their gear and began shooting the sunset over the amazing vista. 

Beautiful sunset over "The Narrows".
After the sun went down we were greeted with some really nice crepuscular rays.

Once the sun set it was time to start setting up for some night photography. Some of us started to shoot some of the stars other's kept photographing the landscape, and some just sat enjoying the scene. The waxing gibbous moon was shining very bright and was painting the landscape in a soft glow. But we could not make the milky way out just yet. 

The moonlight played a major role in the type of night images we could make. The milky way was just barely visible and moon was not supposed to set until after 2:00 am. On the plus side the moon lit up the landscape quite nicely and using a long exposure and a tripod you could capture details in the breaks over a starry canopy. In this image you can see Ursa major (Big Dipper) and a great view of the landscape thanks to the moon.

A group of the RRPC waiting on the moon to go down. It was a smart idea to bring some lawn chairs.
You can start to see some of the milky way in the upper left corner of the photo.

I decided to use the camera's multiple exposure feature to get the moon and the landscape in the same shot. I actually had to expose the landscape first, switch lenses, then readjust the exposure for the moon, and place the moon in the viewfinder above the horizon line. This took a couple of attempts to get it just right. 

A lot of the members went home after 12am (understandably so) while the moon was still out and harsh. But there are ways to pass the time. 

(Photo Credit: Elizabeth Hawley) Elizabeth captured this image of me trying to get a shot of the Andromeda galaxy with my sky tracker. The milky way was just now starting to become visible on the cameras and we could almost make it out with our naked eye. Elizabeth was also kind enough to let me use her Tamron 150-600mm lens to make my image. Thanks for letting me use the lens and for taking the pic, Elizabeth!
A very mediocre shot of the Andromeda. If I really wanted a great shot I would be stacking multiple images for fine detail and less noise. I mostly shot this to show everybody how the sky tracker works. 

It was now close to 2am and almost everyone had left for home. But a few stayed behind hoping to get more impressive views of the milky way. As the moon set it began to get darker and darker out there. I wanted to be set up and ready to shoot when the moon finally dipped below the horizon.

Milky way now starting to come out and the setting moon sinking below the horizon. The bright light in the center is a ranch in the area.
With the moon now gone the milky way was truly incredible. This is one of the best views I have ever seen of the milky way. This area is rated as a "2" on the Bortle light pollution scale which is one of the best ratings for astro photography. The next closest area to the same rating is about 30 miles north just outside of Crowell at the Comanche Springs Observatory.
This image was made with the sky tracker which helped me capture amazing detail in the milky way. This particular image is actually made of two separate photos. One image was exposed for the foreground (30sec tracker off) and the other was exposed for the milky way (3minutes tracker on) and then I combined together in Photoshop.
I did not like the light pollution and ground haze so I placed the camera in front of some trees to cut back on the lights. Plus they made an excellent silhouette against the starry sky. It was starting to get late and some of us needed to be back for church the next morning. But there was still one more image I wanted to make.
This was my money shot! This is a panorama consisting of 46 individual photos stitched together for an ultra wide angle view of the milky way and night sky. See it much better here. I spent more than a half hour getting the shots for this image. I, again, did not want the light pollution/ground haze interfering with the view of the night sky. It took almost five hours for me to stitch and process this image, but it was so worth it! I think this is my favorite milky way image to date!

Timelapse video of the moon set and milky way. If you watch closely you will see an iridium flare from a passing satellite and a short lived meteor. 

After I finished the series of photos I was satisfied. It was now 4am and we debated staying out longer and catch the sunrise of the breaks. We decided to go ahead and call it a night and gathered up our gear and began the drive home. I got back to my apartment around 6am browsed few some of the photos and slept until 1pm that afternoon. It was a really awesome field trip and I'd love to go back there again. Though next time I think we will plan it during a new moon. 

About Me

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I am 25 years old and I have been a photographer for 11 years now. I love nothing more than taking my camera out on a photo shoot with me. I mainly focus on nature photography.That is where my passion is. I love looking at all of God's wonderful creations and capturing them in the photographic medium. I have won awards and have received special recognition for my photography. It is my calling and my passion!