Before dawn’s first light at Crater Lake

Getting There

This photo, like all of my images that I took this night, was from the Crater Lake’s west rim. I and my friends Jack (of Jack Crocker photography–check him out) and Robyn Clipfell (of Clipfell Photography–check her out as well) hefted heavy packs and snowshoed a little over 3 miles from the Rim Village to a site just a bit south of The Watchman, the giant peak on Crater Lake’s west side.

Getting the Shot

This photo was taken at 4:56 am, just 12 minutes after I had taken the final photograph for my panorama, and it’s a fantastic example of how important dark skies are in capturing the Milky Way. Cameras and lenses? Both very important. But the MOST important aspect of lotsa-stars-Milky-Way-photography is a super-dark sky.

I knew from checking the Internet that the sun was going to rise at about 6:30, and I knew from experience that the sky begins to lighten in the east about 2 hours before the sun is visible. So when I started shooting my panorama of Crater Lake at about 4:17, I wanted to make sure that I got my east-facing shots first, since that area of the sky would begin to lighten first, thus drowning out the Milky Way. Luckily, I just barely got my panorama photos taken in time. (Yes, it actually took me a long, freezing half hour to take those photos.)

Twelve minutes later I took this photo, the last of my “night” photos. The stars disappeared pretty rapidly after that.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I’d also captured the comet PANSTARRS in my photo. An eagle-eyed reader on my facebook page alerted me to this fact. In the images below, the arrow points to a very, very small PANSTARRS, complete with tail.

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