Find Your National Park After Dark
Last weekend we had the honor to help sponsor the Sequoia Parks Conservancy Night Sky Festival 2019. What an amazing weekend it was. National Parks are wonderful places to enjoy once the sunsets. We enjoyed seeing the stars, the Milky Way, looking through telescopes, taking a small hike and photographing the night sky.
REMEMBER: National Parks are wild places. Always be careful and know your limits before venturing out at night or during the day.
In many National Parks, you can enjoy the dark skies free of the ambient light allowing you to actually see the Milky Way and the stars over ahead. Have you ever hiked at night? The advantage is the crowds are gone, the temperatures are cooler, especially in the desert parks, and you can experience the sounds of nature in a peaceful quiet situation. So what do you need for a night hike? First, headlamps and flashlights are required. For a full moon hike, you can turn on your lights as needed. A map and a good sense of direction is also a requirement. Stay on a well-marked trail, this is not the time to go off on your own. We enjoy the paved trails as it is easy to know where you are. Water is always a must and good shoes are needed as you can't see the terrain as well. Check with the park for any issues such as the wildlife that you need to be aware of during your hike. On our recent night hike, we enjoyed the night air and the stars above along with the beautiful sounds of silence. It doesn't need to be a long hike, the experience of being with nature can be fulfilled with just a short hike.
While out on our hike, we had to take out the camera to capture the night skies. Photographing the night skies can be incredibly rewarding. To capture the stars you will need a few tools to get going. First, you will need a camera that allows for manual settings. We have a Nikon and attach our wide-angle lens to bring in the big view. A tripod will be needed to hold the camera steady for long exposures. Make sure your tripod is on a level and stable surface. Some settings for your camera that we suggest to start with are an ISO of 2000 or greater, an F stop as wide as your lens will allow (F2.8, F4, F5, etc) and opening it up for 20+ seconds. Once you see you are capturing the stars, go ahead and experiment with the setting. Change up the ISO, the F stop, and exposure time to gain additional results. Set your camera on RAW if possible to allow you to work with the images once you get back to your computer in PhotoShop or LightRoom. You will be amazed at what you can capture with a little patience.
The next time you are in a park at night, remember half of the experience is at night. Enjoy the stars, the moon, the night time sounds of nature and the peace. There is nothing more special that just sitting alone with nature and hearing her breath. Enjoy the nights!