March 13, 2015 Quick Badlands Trip

There were a few solar flares that seemed to have ejected material toward Earth, as well as an X flare that had no viewable data yet.  That along with just wanting to go somewhere and shoot, convinced me to drive to the Badlands.  So decided to do that and also meet Jesse Attanasio there.  Then data came in on the X flare and it was a blank. The odds of auroras was low but thought to heck with it, gas was cheap so just go and shoot the night sky.

Shooting the zodiacal light above. 

More zodiacal light fun, now with red headlamp.  Thinking I may have bumped my 14mm too hard at some point, as getting side to side sharpness in sync wasn't cooperating.  Depending on where it was set, one side or the other would be favored.  Even with that going on, there would obviously be a happy middle ground to use, but I wasn't finding it. 

Actually I was probably pretty close with focus by this shot. 

Jesse having a fit lining up Venus lol. 

I had my tracking mount with and had sworn off doing non-tracked shots already in the past, but I just didn't feel like dragging it out.  The best results would be taking that out somewhere flat(open) and doing some stopped down tracked shots at 14mm, then going back to areas and shooting without it.  Then just layer in the tracked shot. I'd love to go back in time and get a mount half as big.  Half as big would probably be 1/4 of a pain. 

The sketchy cliff.  First off, it was interesting earlier how easy it is to get "rim-rocked" in there, trying to find ways to other places.  You'll slide down a small something on your butt, then walk a short bit and see there is nowhere to go.  So you go back and just about can't get back up what you slid down.  Especially with gear.  Did that twice and the second time I though, no you didn't just do it again. 

Falling down over the right side of this here would not be good.  Not for sure death but not for sure not either.  The dark in one way makes it more creepy but at the same time better.  You can't really see what is over there. 

Oh yeah we'd just "slept" for a very short bit.  Around 11 I started to think, I'm not going to do this another night without auroras or Milky Way.  The moon wasn't to rise till like 3.  Thought, I will get some fashion of sleep in the car, then drive the 6 hours back home. I think I start to try around midnight and set my alarm for 3.  My passenger seat is removed.  But my car was packed full of crap.  It was also in the 30s out.  I cracked the window as it didn't feel great trying to sleep in a tiny car closed up and packed as well.  Put the sleeping bag on the floor and had my head under the dash and feet on the back seat lol. Couldn't sleep.  Get to the point I almost can and my stomach noises were keeping me up.  Must be something about pop and rice crispy treats all day followed by laying on your back with your feet higher than the rest.  Actually put my ear plugs in to cure that. 

Then it started to get too cold.  Thanks to the seat brackets, I had to lay on the sleeping bag for padding.  I end up grabbing my coat and putting my arms through the sleeves, wearing it backwards like a blanket.  I just needed an hour or two to make the drive back possible.  It never felt like I overly fell asleep, but I had to at some point and least get an hour of crap sleep.  I wake up at 2:20 utterly freezing.  I tried climbing in the sleeping bag then but it was not comfortable but mostly I was crazy cold then, to the core.  Wasn't sure if Jesse decided to sleep or not, but we planned to get up for the moonrise at 3.  It reminded me of the time at the Nebraska Star Party in the sandhills last year.  That morning I was dying to turn the car on and warm up.  Kept thinking I'd wake everyone up that was asleep.   But this time there was no fighting it.  I was like, I have to start this car now and figured we were close enough to that 3 time anyway.  So I woke him up starting mine.  We probably should have parked further apart. 

So anyway, we are now up after that crap sleep, shooting the moon rising, which is casting the orange side light on the peaks.  As I stand on that cliff of doom, the not overly awake aspect was not making it easier to do so. 

Don't doze off for this 30 second exposure.  I kept screwing it up too and having to redo it.  Something would be wrong.  Oh and the sky is green because of airglow.  There was quite a lot of it in this direction now.

See I thought I needed the angle different.  Then it wasn't level.  Did it at least 6 times standing up, holding still for 30 seconds there.  To get back to the camera I'd crawl under the camera, literally through the tripod legs.  Then change it, start another and crawl back through.

Eventually I sketch my brain out too much to stand there again and just opt to sit.  Stacked a second shot in above.  Double selfie. 

Trying to get a shot down.  Pretty sure I held the headlamp over the camera to shine down.

Not wanting to switch lenses to get the vertical to include the moon, I shoot a few at 24 and stitch this vertical pano.  Never thought to try that before.

Stayed there for morning light to shoot the red glow on the peaks but it wasn't that great.  Too dry out so not that orange.  Said see ya to Jesse and took off for the long tired drive home.  I wish I had skipped the morning glow and began driving home and hour sooner for the image below deal...

I get to south of Sioux City and see smoke.  I think it is probably too far north of the river crossing at Onawa to be worth it.  But the more I drive and consider my angle, I think it's probably not far from Decatur on the NE side.  I opt to drive across there and see.  I did so because I was realizing just how ideal it was for firenadoes.  It felt cool out and seemed calm.  I check surface obs and it was perfectly calm here now, with a really obvious small high pressure pattern to the winds.  To the west curling around from the south and southeast and to the east down from the north and around.  Right overhead here calming. 

I get close to it and can soon see the hillside it is on.  It is really hilly here.  By the time you got a good look you were close.  First close look and I see a plain as day firenado in it.  But I go right down a hill and lose it.  I start swapping out my lens while driving, not wanting to miss it.  I then had to curve north on the gravel road.  Still hidden by hills and trees.  I come around the corner to a big fire right by the road.  It was so hot I regretted having my passenger window down.  That back to the right of the shot here.  That whole deal was flames there.  Wall of fire.  It was obviously a controlled burn with the 4 wheelers zipping around.  Well this goes from, damn this is crazy, to gone in 2 minutes.  I stuck around the area for a bit, wondering if they were just going to move and start up again.  But no.  Gah.  Had to be doing crazy firenadoes in here the whole time.  I at least got the small smoke ring above I guess.  Had I left at twilight and skipped sunrise well I'd have likely gotten some cool firenado action.  The other thing is the quadcopter was with me.  The potential there is pretty damn high.  Sigh.  If anyone in the area of eastern NE or western IA does these controlled burns and reads this and wants drone footage, just let me know!