Recently I was invited to a night photography workshop held near the Pecos National Monument. I have dabbled in night photography a couple times in the past with poor results. Mostly because my camera I was using at the time was not meant to do night shots. But also because I just didn’t know what the heck I was doing. :-\
So when I was invited to do a workshop that was going to be hosted by several people that were much more experienced at it then me, I jumped on the opportunity. I invited my friend Valerie to join me. We love going out together for camera time.
We drove to Pecos and arrived late afternoon. I had believed the Pecos National Monument was open until 5:30. But sadly, they closed as soon as we got there at 4:30,. Winter hours had begun. 🙁 We weren’t going to meet our group until 6 so we had a 1.5 hours to kill.
I decided to drive up Highway 63 to see what might be interesting to see. We stopped at an old historic church for a few brief photos. Usually these old churches are locked whenever I am there. But on this day, it was open! Such a beautiful sanctuary.
Further up the road we crossed the Pecos River. We just had to stop. The setting sun was glorious on the water with the stunning fall colors.
Next stop was Monastery Lake. I’ve driven by the turn off for this lake several times this summer without stopping. So it was nice to stop in this time. It was a small little lake that seemed popular for fishing. Lovely fall colors surrounded the lake.
We figured we better start back to the meeting place. But I had one more stop to make. I had seen this cool old garage as we pulled out from the church earlier. So I quickly pulled into the driveway and snapped a few pics.
There were a couple of dogs in the driveway that seemed friendly enough. But when it came time to leave, they were determined to chase the car and run in front of us. I couldn’t go very fast for fear of running them over. We had to drive down the road slowly for a ways before they finally gave up. Whew! They almost made us late for our workshop!
We had to be at the meeting spot on time or we would be locked out. We were allowed to shoot at an old ranch that isn’t open to the public. We drove up to the gate with moments to spare!
After a quick meeting, the group broke up into smaller groups around the ranch. Valerie and I decided we wanted to go down to this bridge to get shots of the bridge, river, moon and milky way. Several of us went to the bridge – including an experienced night photographer. Yay!
We had to wear red headlamps to save our night vision. I took a quick pic of Valerie for fun. I thought I took a selfie but I guess it didn’t take. 🙁
So we made it to the bridge, got some great advice from our expert in the group, and set up our tripods and cameras. We checked our apps to see where the Milky Way was going to be and pointed our cameras that direction. And there was a sliver of a moon getting ready to set. The sky was the most beautiful purple hue.
The sun set quickly and I took my first photo of the Milky Way. It was thrilling! I took a 20 second exposure with a 20 second high noise reduction setting. I was anxiously waiting to see what I got. And then it appeared on my camera screen. I was so excited to see my first photo come out so beautifully!
The group then decided to try light painting the Pecos River. I have tried light painting in the past with OK results. I realized later than I used too much light to highlight my subject. On this night we literally just lit the river a couple of seconds over a 20 second exposure. I think it turned out nice.
We then light painted the bridge we were standing on. It was a little more difficult as the bridge was white. It really reflected the light. We only had to very briefly shine the light. Even then the bridge is pretty bright. But I like the photo I got.
We were really concentrating on the south side of the bridge. When I turned around and looked to the north, I saw this great deciduous tree silhouetted by the lights of Santa Fe in the distance. I just had to capture it with the purple skies and wonderful light. I was very pleased with my shot. We tried light painting the tree, but I wasn’t as happy with those pics.
By this time, several hours had passed. It went so quickly! We needed to move to warm up. By now the temperature was 32 degrees and we were getting cold standing still. We headed up the hill to the old ranch house. There’s this giant steer head sculpture on the fireplace. We took several exposures of this view but I wasn’t happy with most of them. This is probably the best shot I got.
By now we were very cold. It was time to go home. On one hand I wanted to stay longer, but on the other I was ready to leave. Those heated seats in my Jeep were pure heaven!!!
I had a great time on my first night shot outing. I’m definitely ready to do more!