…well into the second 5 year mission!

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The Magnificent Spectacle

I learned of the Great American Eclipse of 2017 in New Mexico in 2014 from my camp host, an amateur astronomer.  He provided me with information including links that helped me plan.  Most of all, he urged me to plan ahead for a place to stay, because everything was going to fill up.

I began to plan.  Depending on my physical assets, I had a number of locations in mind.  Closest to home was a Forest Service campground near Smith Rock in Oregon.  My second and third choices were Chickahominey Reservoir and Glass Butte, west of Burns, Oregon. None of them took reservations.

Further to the east, Stanley, Idaho would be a wonderful location but for several things.  First, few of the campgrounds took reservations or had power.  Most had tree cover, wiping out solar power.  Good grocery shopping was over an hour away.  A long stay there thus was problematic.

My next area was the Tetons, and I had a number of locations in mind there.  On the west side was a fishing access west of Driggs, ID.  It had great solar and internet, and very good shopping near by.  There was a dump station within reasonable distance but no fresh water source that I felt safe using.

North of Jackson on the east side of the range was Turpin Meadows Campground, as well as several dispersed camping places.  That area was a bit north of the center path, but well within totality.

My prime area was either of two campgrounds – Atherton Creek, my first choice, and Gros Ventre, my second choice.  I planned my stays in the area so I could get to them 12 days before the event and stay a few days after to avoid traffic.  With the campground host’s help, I wound up at Atherton Creek, taking the last designated campsite that was open.  I couldn’t get MUCH closer to the center path.

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I settled down and waited for the event.

As it drew close, the crowds began to gather.  People were allowed to park and either tent or RV camp in the parking area for the beach and dock.  That wound up tripling the occupancy of the campground above full.  Many more campers were sent 5 miles further up the very rough washboard, winding, narrow road to Crystal Creek and Red Hills Campgrounds.  Gros Ventre was full, and it is a huge campground, stretching more than a mile along the Gros Ventre River.

The day of the event, it looked like the weather would be perfect.  I had two cameras set up on tripods.  My d200 had my 18~200mm lens on it, with no filter.  I planned to use it only during totality.  My d300 had my 150~500mm lens with a solar filter film taped over the lens.  The tape was set up with the ends folded down to make the tape easy to pull off once totality arrived.  I had the d300 set to bracket my shots in increments of 0.7, 5 per set, giving me a fairly good range of exposures without having to do a lot of manual stuff.

Then it was time.  The partial eclipse was pretty cool, watching that the moon obscure more and more of the sun.

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I missed a really cool shot.  With he solar filter, it was very hard to see the screen limits.  With each shot, I had to carefully change the camera alignment to get the sun near center frame.  At about 50% coverage, as I am looking through the viewfinder trying to align the shot, an airliner flew across the face of the sun, leaving a contrail.  Had I been 30 seconds faster, I would have had that airliner in the shot.  Oh well, I’m not complaining.

Then, the crescent changed to the diamond ring.  I had peeled off the filter and covered the lens with my hand, so I was ready, and I got the first diamond ring.

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Then it was totality.  The corona blazed out, and there were stars in the sky!

 

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Near the end of totality, I had an impulse.  In the darkness, I turned the d200 toward the Tetons, 20 miles to the west, hoping to see them in some light while I was still in deep shadow.  I set the d300 for the next shot and turned back to the d200.  And there it was.

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Immediately, I fired off 2 sets of 5 bracketed shots with the d300, as light bloomed around me, then swung my unprotected camera away from the sun.  What I got was the start of the diamond ring, with a few solar prominences on the edge of the moon,

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and finally, a grand diamond ring.

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All my life, I have longed to see a total solar eclipse.  On August 21, 2017, my wish came true.  So, thank you, John Leffert, for the heads up, years ago.  Thank you, David, for getting me into a spot where I could settle down and see this.  It was truly thrilling.

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Why Oregon?

Quite a few people have asked me why I made Oregon my home.  I note that none of them were Oregonians…  The most beautiful places usually require a bit of walking, but not everything.  Here are a few of my reasons for calling this home.

First, This is where I am camped at the moment.

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In the area, Spring runoff fills the reservoirs.

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… and the streams.

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… and the springs.

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When we talk about Oregon green, this is what we mean.

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Best of all, every photo in this post was taken within 50 feet of a road.

A Late Winter/Early Spring Visit To The Tetons

I have seen the Tetons from late May to late September, but never in “winter”.  I decided to change that on my trip north.  My thinking was, I might see some snow on the ground, and this early in the season, it would not be busy, so my chances of seeing bears would improve.

When I got here, the winter look was delightful.

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The skies were pretty overcast, though.  It wasn’t quite what I wanted.  Still, critters were out and about.  The elk herd was moving north, out of the elk refuge.

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Bison were on the road near the Gros Ventre Campground.

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And there it was – a male grizzly, on a hillside near Oxbow Bend.

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I continued up to Jackson Lake, where we had been swimming last summer.  Well, I wanted snow…

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Soon thereafter, a bit of mixed blue sky showed up, and I made the most of it.

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Inspired by friend Jan, I played a bit with the last shot above.  My engineer’s mind wants to make every photo as accurate and realistic as I can, but Jan urged me to just experiment.  So, I took that shot, and adjusted the levels for maximum intensity of white, darkening everything else.

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I like it.

Next day, we had a bit of fresh snow,

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and the sky turned blue.  I know these are repetitive, but without an editor, I couldn’t decide what to cut.

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So, the side trip with 4 extra days of driving was worthwhile.  I am really glad I did it.

Revisiting Ken’s Lake

I know – it has been a while since I posted.  I have been taking isolated pics here and there, but nothing that I felt belonged here.

Anyway, I am now on my way north from New Mexico.  I stopped for a few days at Ken’s Lake near Moab, Utah.  With the bike, I was able to get out of the campground.  Just east of the campground is a waterfall that can be seen from my site.  Riding as close as I could get, I set up my tripod.

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The falls seem to just appear, but a bit of rough hiking, which I did years ago, revealed that they come from a drainage tunnel built to divert water to the lake.  Sorry – no pics of that this year.

Further up the hill (about 800 vertical feet) is a 4WD trail.  I went a short distance up it to a rock wall with petroglyphs.

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Below the rock wall, is a nice little waterfall.

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For being in the middle of the desert, this is a pretty interesting area.

Desert Moisture

Wet weather in southern New Mexico is, to me, unusual.  We have just passed a storm system that brought first, a cooling, then two days of wet weather, then the storm cleared leaving cooler weather behind.

The clearing of the storm happened at dusk, with the dramatic clouds, moving east, lit by a setting sun.

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The next morning I awoke to see the lakebed, mostly dry, blanketed in white, a soft, smooth surface hiding the lowlands but letting prominent formations peek through.

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As the sun began to brush the cloud tops, the smoothness began to change, as if threads were pulling bits of cloud upward.

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The surface was quiet, almost unmoving, looking like a photo of stormy seas- still, but showing turbulent currents frozen by the lens.  The photo below is not of the sky.  It is looking down on the sunlit top of the cloud, with the ridge of the background mountain showing in the upper right.

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As the sun continued to rise, it pulled the cloud with it, dividing the lakebed from the peaks.

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In Search Of Color

My visit to the Colorado National Monument was about the land, physical features.  When I left there, I was searching for color, specifically fall colors.  I revisited the Cimarron CO area.  It had produced well in the past.

A few days of rain later, I was having my doubts.  Then, just at sunrise one morning, with more storm clouds coming in from the west, I woke to see this out my back window.

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OK, it wasn’t the color I was looking for, but it was nice, plus, one of the benefits of this lifestyle is that it is easy to be patient.  As the stormy weather cleared, it began to look like my wait might be rewarded.  That evening, the view to the west looked like this.

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The color was definitely coming.  The next morning, there was more color in the campground.

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Jim, Kathy and I went up to the area east of Owl Creek Pass.  We were rewarded for the drive with wonderful color.

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I can now head for New Mexico, having seen the golden aspens in full color.

 

Wandering about in the afternoon

Every hour, the light changes in Colorado National Monument.  Yesterday, I did a late morning wandering.  Today, I went to the south end in the early afternoon.

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The sign said, “Winding Road”…

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These look small in the photos, but I assure you – it is grand.

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Pedaling my A** Around Town – NOT

No need to pedal, and no town, but the bike is a lot of fun here.  I am at Colorado National Monument.  I’m not doing trails with the bike, but the road, in most areas, has no safe place to stop a car for a photo.  With the bike, I am able to stop almost anywhere and get the pic I want.  So yeah, I’m having fun!

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By the way, there are cars in the below pic – above the cliffs, just to the right of center…

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Stormy Weather – FINALLY!

It has been dry, dry, dry in the northwest.  That is finally starting to change.  We had a storm front come through midday today.

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In the distance there was some lightning.  Up close, some of the peaks looked like volcanoes fuming in anger.

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Mid-storm, we got some hail.  Yep, that’s what those white blurs and streaks are.

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It began to pass – all too soon, returning sun to the east face of Mount Moran.  We need a LOT more rain.

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It left us with the familiar range with a crown of clouds – and a bit of ice on the ground.

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Buffalo Valley Boondocking

For the past week, I have been hanging out at a snow plow turnaround off Buffalo Valley Road, overlooking Buffalo Fork.  I have seen lots of haze, but did not do much photography.

Last night, a front came through, preceded by showers.  This is what I saw just before going to bed.

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And this is what I awoke to this morning, my day of departure.

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Nice spot… but it is becoming “discovered”.  I had it to myself twice during the week.