Night Photography over Santa Barbara – 01/25/2014

Finally had a somewhat clear sky without moon again. So I went out to Santa Barabara at night. In the late afternoon to get to Gaviota State Park. Which didn’t really work out, so I ended up the biggest adrenaline rush ever and figured out how the inside of my Jeep is bigger than the outside.

First, why there? So, that’s where it gets nerdy. I have been playing with Google Earth and Stellarium (planetarium software) to map out a couple photos I wanted to take. Take Google Earth to see the view and calculate field of view of the lenses I want to take and directions of pointing the camera etc. Then use Stellarium to find the right time so that the Milky Way is pointing in the right direction, the moon is gone etc. Add to that a site that takes the raw weather model run by the Canadian Meteorological Center and predicts the cloud coverage, air transparency and steadiness so that I can see if there is a good chance to get good star photos. Put all that together and I wanted a photo of the pier at Gaviota to make an interesting foreground with the Milky Way straight up behind. It’s dark there and the weather frogs predicted good conditions. So off I went.

Well, turns out the campground was closed, so I pulled off and took a small road further down the coast towards a cattle ranch. After a little while I found a suitable spot, set the alarm to the right time and made myself comfortable in the Jeep. Fast forward 3 hrs of napping, the stars were out right where they should, i.e. the software works. I decided to set up the tripod next to the car for a couple test shots before I hiked down to the edge of the cliff to take the photo that was close enough to the one I had planned. After 30 mins of tinkering and adjusting, I heard a couple coyotes down the road. That is pretty normal and coyotes are not really known to attack humans. Back to taking photos until those coyotes started howling closer and another one responded 50 yards behind me. I’ve never packed a camera and jumped in a car faster than that night. Along the way I figured out how to stick a 6 ft tripod camera rig into a 5.5′ Jeep…

I then decided that this is not conducive to my heart and moved back to my second planned spot. The top of La Cumbre peak in Santa Barbara. The idea was to shot a panorama with the Milky way. Now, I have been up there many times at night back when I was living in Santa Barbara, so I knew it’s ok. With the adrenaline levels still on high, I took only the camera and not the panorama head I really needed on the short hike from the car to the lookout point. It still worked out ok. Have to do this again on a really crisp clear night. There was too much mist in the air, but I think it is promising.

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