Talladega National Forest (7/24-27/2020)

Milky Way Over the Barn

Talladega National Forest is something of a regular visit for me. My family has a mountain-top cabin inside, so I tend to take trips out every once an a while. Unfortunately, I've not had a great opportunity to get photos there. I had an ass camera, and even assier skills through high school, and since I've gotten better equipment and talent, I've been over there less and less. I made a few winter trips which turned out alright, but never a summer trip to see the Milky Way. I'm always out during the summer, either that or too depressed to leave my house. Thankfully, this trip managed to garner some potential. Camera, lenses, and tracking mount in hand, I headed over with my family and waited. 

The first night it was cloudy, but I managed myself an hour to get photos. The clouds did their dirty work, but it turned out okay

Obviously not the best

The clouds were a bummer, but I was hoping for a clearer night. I did not get that the next day: it was over cast for hours. I snuck in a couple photos close to sunrise and then some sunrise photos themselves. 

Sunday night was the big one. It was clear, thank God, so I went out back with my iOptron and tried to align with polaris (but could not see the Milky Way). It was tough. Lacking fine motor skills, it was hard to turn the knobs, and the more I sweat in the hot humid night, the harder it became. Bending over to look into the scope proved just as painful as my raw fingers, and the number of stars I could see made finding the north star in the inverted, zoomed in scope a million times harder. Eventually I gave up and moved out front, where the Milky Way was visible but not polaris. I looked north and found what might have been the star I needed and tried to again to align it, this time while being eaten alive by any number of bugs – mosquitos, spiders, chiggers, ants; I even had a scorpion fall off me when I went inside. It was just as difficult to align it as my dehydrated self struggled to figure out which knob did what. Eventually, defeated and experiencing various types of different and unique types of pain, I gave up, removed the tracker and aimed my camera at the Milky Way. 

This proved a little more fruitful, but halfway through the first pano, I realized that the lens was out of focus. I readjusted and took the photos, taking a painfully long time as I made three circles, up, down, and one for the landscape at a minute shutter. I moved around a bit to get more photos, wishing I could hurry up as clouds slowly started to crawl in. Around 5am, I gave up and went indoors. I was covered in welt and decided to relax in the tub, which proved both cold and gross (filled with chunks), so I showered instead and went to bed.

Here's to hoping my next trip to Alabama proves more fruitful.

If I had a tracking mount, I can't imagine how cool this would look

Perhaps the best photo of the night.


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