This photo was taken at Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon in early February. Crater Lake receives over 40 feet of snow a year, so, if you’re planning on visiting, keep in mind that showshoes or cross-country skis are pretty much required, unless, of course, you love sinking up to your mid-thigh in snow with every step. Also, all-wheel-drive or 4-wheel-drive transportation is needed for the snow-covered and ice-covered roads on the way there.
The great thing about visiting Crater Lake in the winter is that there’s no park entrance fee. Of course, there’s only one entrance to the park that’s plowed, and that’s on the southeast side. The other cool thing is that backcountry permits are also free, and you basically have the entire awesome park all to yourself, since 99.9% of the sane people hop in their cars after the sun goes down and the weather turns cold.
Getting the Shot
This shot was taken at about 6 am after a long night of snowshoeing and photographing the night sky. I fell asleep in my tent sometime around 2 am, shortly after the moon had risen. My plan was to awaken around 5:30 am, when the Milky Way had rotated around to the northeast side of the lake and the moon would be illuminating Wizard Island. This would still be 2 hours prior to the sunrise (which, of course, would occur in the east, near where the Milky Way would be), and I was hoping the sky would still be dark. Unfortunately, my phone battery died earlier that night, and I couldn’t figure out how to correctly set the alarm on my watch (seriously). Exhausted, I gave up mashing buttons in the dark and went to bed, hoping that my “you’re missing an awesome shot” alarm would wake me at 5:30 am.
Instead, it woke me at 6:00 am, just a little late. I unzipped my tent, and the view was breathtaking (and it wasn’t just the altitude). The moonlight caused the lake to absolutely glow. I hopped out of my tent, threw on my unlaced boots, and post-holed 25 feet away from my tent to get the image. I didn’t bother putting on snowshoes, and snow was stuffed inside my unlaced boots and up my pants.
The image was pretty much exactly what I had anticipated, except for the fact that, an hour and a half prior to the sun hitting the horizon, you could see the very beginnings of the sun beginning to blot out the stars near the horizon in the middle and right side of the photo near the horizon. In a way, I felt like the sun’s first light creeping into the photo added to the picture. I’d recently seen a series of composite photos by a photographer who was combining images of various places taken during the day with an image taken at night. I felt like I had done that in one shot—here was the Milky Way in all its glory, and you could actually see the very first rays of the sun to reach the sky that morning.
My settings for the photo were 14mm, f/4, 30 seconds, at 4000 ISO.