February 25, 2010 Insane Light Pillars with Moon and Couple Other Optics

Just a sunset with cool wavy clouds and some iridescence.

Chris, Tyler and I were out all night doing star trails and hoping for light pillars, thanks to light east wind and cold air. This blows the river steam and Cargil stream into town. It is pretty damn fickle in making light pillars though. You'd get just the right plume go into town and it would go nuts with light pillars for a bit. Then they'd be gone again. Often when it is doing it off the plant steam, it will do it for hours on end over on the east side of town. This was the furthest into town I'd ever seen them. They suckered us up the park hill. We get up there on foot and it looked cool, but we had no gear with yet. We go back down and get it and soon as we get back up there they are all gone again.

East side of town looking west. The options to shoot them where they frequently happen leaves a lot to be desired.

We should have all been home and sleeping by now. We'd been out all night in the cold, messing with star trails and some pillars(many nights at that). We didn't want to give up yet, but it was like 3:30 or something. We all wanted to just go home and sleep. I kept thinking, damn it, bakery opens at 5 a.m. and donuts sound good. So I kept saying I was shooting for donuts, as a goal to stay up another hour or so just incase...with a bonus of donuts no matter what. Well just before 5 a.m. or so the above happens. Light pillar insanity in Blair. And there was a full moon with it giving off its own bright pillar. Pretty sure that red pillar is off the Walgreens sign since it is so red. A higher vantage point over there for this stuff would be nice.

I tried to get a few shots off for an HDR but HDR wasn't doing it very much justice. So I tried to take 3 of them and manually work in the one exposure for the moon. It can be done better but you get the idea. Also tried to get some time lapse images of this like we do for star trails. I really wish I had let that go longer, as what I have of that is kind of cool, watching the pillars come and go with that ice crystal cloud. That is all this is really. A cold cold plume of fine ice crystals blows into town, falls low enough to create pillars of light over light sources. The problem is it needs to be very cold, like at least below 10F. But you also need a light east wind to get the moisture into town from the river, or mostly what it is from is the steam from Cargil. Cold cold air and light east or southeast winds really don't like to go together very often. But to have the full moon setting with the scene on top of all the other odds, and us still being there when we'd long since tired....well that is weather photography for ya. Want much of anything cool, better be willing to go and look....and then stay and keep looking. So often if you give up early, or when you'd love to....well you will miss things. At its peak, it is kind of hard to explain how freaking cool and eerie it looked. The camera gets a lot of the scene, but it just doesn't show you how the moon and its pillar looked visually.

A completely different morning now. Cold again with areas of very dense but real short/low fog. You get to an area where it was thin above you and the moon corona was just simply insane. Anyway here above is a fog bow off my head lights. You can make out a small glory on the far right where the center of it would be. Also the moon had a vivid corona around it over on the left. I tried to put the headlight fog bow so the moon was inside it. There was a fence there in the way so I couldn't do it. The other problem is to do these you have to stand out in your headlights aways to take the shot. This leaves you blind if you look to see if anyone was coming(or any THING! lol). Just something better with more people and a very rural road.

This shot of the moon corona might look wild, vivid and defined. I can tell you though that when you'd drive in the right area and get just the right thin layer of fog above you, it was simply absurd what it would look like, even compared to the above. You'd have to be real quick to get it at its wildest however, as any change in fog drastically will change it. It looked about 10 times as wild as that right there. I couldn't believe it. The moon is so much brighter than the rings so you'd have to pull of a fast HDR set to ever do it justice. I was trying 4 frames for the above but photoshop HDR just wasn't working for it. Ain't been real impressed with alternatives either. I pulled the above out of one image. I should use the others and try to manually mask the moon in so it isn't blown out. But this version of the corona is simply a let down anyway, compared to what it was doing at times in the right area. I sat on this one road watching it forever, waiting on it to go crazy again, but it just wouldn't. The fog was evidently too content in its depth in this area. You need the low, 10-50 foot thick type of dense fog to do this. You then need to be somewhere on the upper edge of it where it thins just right. The extreme insanity part I saw was just north of Modale. I was heading north for Murray Hill and didn't have anything ready. Wound up coming back as I ran out of fog north of there. I then tried my butt off before sunrise to find it doing it like that again but couldn't.