Up early to process a few photos and then a good morning of shop creativity working on shelving in the studio. It feels good, and splintery, to work in the sawdust again – it has been a long while. I used up my wood supply, but I am satisfied with the first corner-piece of built-in shelves; time to get stuff off the floor.
Nice storms in the afternoon, so we planned an evening excursion to Big Meadow, a short, up-hill hike from the trailhead where the Tahoe Rim Trail intersects Highway 89. I have run the trail through the meadow often. Tonight, we are hoping for some astrophotography in the meadow, and we pack our gear and a few snacks. There will be a chill in the air after the rain, so we pull some dormant down jackets from the closet. We left a bit late, after enjoying a rainstorm at StoneHeart, our first little adventure in the new Crosstrek. It is a relatively short walk in on a nice section of trail, a really easy access. The trail was moist from the afternoon rain and humidity hung in the air. We hiked to the meadow and wandered a bit looking for compositions that would bring some leading lines or foreground interest into the Milky Way. Some small drainages create boggy ground in places but it is pretty easy to walk around the meadow. I wanted a few boulders for foreground interest but the west side of the meadow lacked a view of the sky due to fingers of forest extending along any bouldery ground. We retreated to a small bridge where the TRT crosses Big Meadow Creek. Here the trail curves nicely to where I knew the Milky Way would soon appear. Small trout jumping at a flourish of mosquitos in the little runs and riffles of Big Meadow Creek. Very fun watching the little fingerlings doing dolphin-like leaps. Bats in-coming. These guys should eat good. A very nice spot, but a little cloud-cover remains, and I am rather skeptical we’ll have much luck with the sky tonight.
As I’m framing some views of the trail leading toward “Red Mountain” where the Milky Way will rise, Des and I notice, at the same time, that the sunset is in full bloom above the western forest line. Easy enough to re-compose to capture the fiery sky beyond the trees, speeding up the shutter speed and dropping the ISO to capture the contrast and avoid noise in the glowing and shadowed sky. This one might be nice. I bracketed 1-stop either way and then captured some longer exposures for a foreground blend. Not sure if I have the chops to develop this as I hope, but we’ll see.
It is not long before I turn back to the southern sky above Red Mountain. Clouds are starting to thin and some glow coming. This post-storm sky might work out after all. Then Des gets the text that Kristen and Robert are on their way to the Monroe Hospital, their baby has chosen this night, with the Milky Way rising through rain-swept clouds, to come into the world. A good night for such a thing.
The unfolding news brings a new emotion to our time in Big Meadow. It is, of course, a beautifully disconcerting and brand new thing for us to think of ourselves as grandparents, and now we will associate a night at Big Meadow with Kristen, Robert, and, now, Rowan. Rowan’s Night at Big Meadow.
Experience of a place or emotion in a place changes a photograph significantly. I have a captured several nice images where I stepped to the side of the road or stood at an overlook, no real connection or emotion that lingers or re-surfaces at each view, and there is little incentive to revisit the image ever. On the other hand, I have taken bad pictures on a mountain climb, jungle expedition, or family gathering that I just love seeing. The memories return instantly. Thankfully, I have piles of bad pictures with good memories.
I work on exposures until the clouds return, Des waiting patiently on the bridge, cuddled tightly against the chill. I like a few of the starry exposures, even though the bluelight of the evening is prominent and the Milky Way is barely present. Still, the clouds give the stars a nice glow and the constellations of Sagittarius and Scorpio look fantastic. And a child is being born many miles away, but at arm’s-reach when compared to the beautiful light pouring from the sky of Rowan’s Night.
This one checked both boxes, I think. This night, redolent with emotion and experience, checked the boxes of beauty and memory. The images capture the night’s magic and, as the family grows, bring us back to the simplicity and beauty of that night.