Trying (& Failing) To Shoot the Milky Way and other updates

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If you want to, you can go nuts with planning a Milky Way shoot! I do my night shooting on the weekends (my 9-5 keeps me from staying up all night on any random week day) so I often plan obsessively to make sure my time out in the field– in the middle of the night– isn’t wasted. Unfortunately, mother nature sometimes has other plans, and all your own planning can go down the drain with just a few clouds showing up in the sky.

I use all sorts of resources to plan my Milky Way shooting excursions. I like the “Astronomy” feature on Accuweather that gives you a simple outlook for how good the stargazing conditions are. Two powerful tools I often suggest are the clear sky charts for astronomers on Clear Dark Sky and light pollution maps at DarkSiteFinder. These will help you determine how dark your shooting location will be (yellow at the absolute least, but blue and black areas will give you fabulous results!) and what percentage cloud cover you’ll encounter, among other things. I also use the StarWalk app on my iPhone to determine where the Milky Way will be in the sky at certain times, to even more accurately plan my shoot.

I was armed with all of these tools when I set out to Greer’s Ferry in Arkansas this weekend, hoping to catch the Milky Way over the lake on a gorgeous humid Saturday night. All forecasts predicted clear skies; it was a new moon and very dark; and Greers Ferry is in a green zone, plenty dark for MW viewing. I relaxed by the lake, had a couple of beers, and waited…

Only for some low lying clouds to roll in. I waited, and waited, hoping they would dissipate; but the sky only grew cloudier as the night went on. All my camera was picking up was yellow light pollution reflecting off the hazy clouds, with no stars in sight. A total bust. By 2 am I hit the hay.

I’m glad I took a bunch of test shots at dusk– I do these to check my composition and make sure the image will be sharp. I happened to catch a few frames of a lit up boat gliding down the lake after sunset– not what I had set out for, but a neat image nonetheless. I already have plans to get out on the next new moon with a group of photographers to shoot the Milky Way, and I hope there are no clouds this time!

In other news, I had been having a ton of issues with the host of my store, and subsequently cancelled my account with them. I am currently reviewing my other store options so hopefully I can get another one up and running soon! In the meantime, if there are any images you see here that you would be interested having printed, please shoot me an email at annabethbuckley@gmail.com and we can work something out. Thanks for stopping by!

Indian Creek Hike 5/5/19

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I was lucky enough to get to join the Arkansas Nature Lovers’ group (find them on Facebook!) on May 5th this year on a hike up Indian Creek. (Most of the photos below from the hike were taken by the group leader, Jeff Johnson. Thanks again, Jeff!) I absolutely love this area, but it is particularly remote and rough, so I jumped at the chance to hike it with an experienced group. The trailhead is accessible at Kyle’s Landing campground on the Buffalo River, not too far outside of Jasper. No dogs allowed, and you should probably leave your kids at home for this one too.

We have gotten a ton of rain this spring, and I reeeeally wanted to catch the Eye of the Needle with a waterfall flowing through. This is fairly rare occurrence that only happens after prolonged rain. When the upper Buffalo is at flood stage, that’s usually a good sign that the Eye will be flowing; however, that much water makes the hike up Indian Creek that much harder! There are two distinct routes up the canyon — the high route, which takes you high above the creek level, and the low route, which is basically just up the creek itself. The creek route is the more scenic, but also the more treacherous — there are many areas where you’re inching along a slippery ledge, or crossing a log over swift water, or using your hands to maneuver. It’s a lot of fun, but a real challenge, even for experienced hikers. Closed toe hiking sandals or trail runners that can get wet would be my recommendation for footwear. I wore my big Vasque boots and that was a mistake on this hike.

As someone who hikes solo a lot, I was surprised how much I enjoyed hiking with a group. Not only does this trail really demand safety in numbers, but it was fun being around so many different personalities and hiking styles. If you’re trying to meet people and you like to hike, I highly recommend joining one of the many groups on Facebook dedicated to group hikes! It’s a lot more fun than any other ‘networking’ events I’ve been to!

Besides all the slippery rock surfaces, boot swallowing mud, and creek crossings, most people would probably agree that the hardest part of this hike is the rope-aided climb above the creek towards the end, necessary to reach the Eye of the Needle. The first time I hiked Indian Creek I didn’t even attempt it– but it’s really not so bad, especially with a few people around to lend a hand if needed. It’s a big part of what makes this hike so rewarding. At the top of the climb, you skirt around the edge of a cavernous recess in the bluff, and crawl through a hole in it to the other side of the creek. Once there you have to maneuver through some car-sized boulders, and then all of a sudden, the Eye appears. Photos really don’t do it justice; it may just be the most beautiful place in Arkansas. The feeling there is truly magical.

We took the high route on the way back, which I think is the best way to do it. It’s fun to go up the creek, which is more technically challenging but much more scenic. When you head back you’re tired, muddy, and ready to just get back to the car! Everything I’ve read says this hike is only about 5-6 miles round trip, but on this occasion one of my hiking buddies had a GPS tracker on and said we had hiked over ten miles. I’m not sure if that’s right, but it definitely feels like it. (In a good way!)

Sunshine is the waterfall photographer’s mortal enemy. Even though it was partly sunny that day, I got lucky with a combination of a few intermittent clouds and the fact that the best water features in the canyon are always tucked back into the shadows. It also didn’t hurt that I’d brought along my new (cheapo) ND filter. Lugging around a tripod, a DSLR, and two lenses feels like a stupid move when you’re doing it, but in the end I couldn’t have been more pleased with my results.