Monday, July 20, 2009

Night Descends on the Bristlecone Pines

We went to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the afternoon with the intention of staying for sunset. Once there we decided to stay a little longer and were rewarded with a cloudless, moonless star filled evening that begs for a return visit (some day).

The Bristlecone Pine forest stands high, 10,000 feet, in the White Mountains of Inyo National Forest in California. These pine trees prefer to grow in the white, rocky soil that gives this mountain range it's name. These white rocks, Dolomite, are a type of limestone created under a warm, shallow, inland lake that once covered this area. This highly alkaline soil presents serious growing conditions for most plants leaving the Bristlecomb to prosper without competition. The oldest trees on the face of the earth are found in this forest with the Methuselah pine estimated to be 4,789 based on core samples taken in 1957. It is an awesome experience standing among these ancient trees.

As the night fell upon us we began making long images, staying under 30 seconds to minimize the star trails. The last glow from the sun is illuminating the pine in the first image.

We had a fun time playing with light painting as we waited for the sky to turn completely black. I have a very strong flashlight that was making the tree look very harsh. So I had this bright idea. I went back to the car and got my sunglasses which have amber lenses. I then shined the flashlight thru a sunglass lens and bathed the tree with the warm light. It turned out really well.

The stars began to increase in numbers as the night sky turned a dark blue just before turning black. We concentrated alot of photography on this particular pine, as we called it Ralph's Tree. Just one look here will explain why.

I pointed my camera south and picked up the darkened sky with the Milky Way glowing in the night. A jet passed overhead as this image was made.

While there is no camping inside the Bristlecone Pine Forest there is a campground just on the outskirts. I hear it calling me for a future afternoon and evening of stellar photography.


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