Leslie Gulch 7-2012

As planned and described in my last blog post, I went up in the Owyhees Sunday afternoon and came back early morning Monday. One thing I found out is that I’m not as young as I used to be. Since I had to go back to work Tuesday, my plan was to get home Monday, sleep 5 hours so that I’d still be able to sleep Monday night, and do my post photo work Monday afternoon. Staying up 23 hours, sleeping 5, staying up 7 more hours, then going to bed for 8-9 hours is great in theory. If you’re younger. I managed it but I wasn’t worth much after that 5 hour nap Monday.

US Department of Interior sign explaining the name Leslie Gulch.

Sign at entrance to Leslie Gulch

We left just before 3 PM MDT Sunday. Leslie Gulch, which I’ve written about before here and also here, is 65 miles away and takes only 1 1/2 hour to drive. 25 miles of that are on well maintained dirt roads, but are very washboarded on long stretches. That means 25-30 MPH is the top speed you want to drive, at least with my vehicle.

The bad news is, I planned to locate the Giant’s Skull (see first picture in old Leslie Gulch post) and see what the alignment with the Milky Way would be. Even though I drove the entire Leslie Gulch twice, we didn’t find it. The stone there is really soft, some of it will flake off like sand if you rub it with your hand. The wind and rain could well have eroded the formation since I saw it two years ago and so changed it drastically. I’d rather think I somehow missed it, as that gives me an excuse to go back out there soon and look for it again. As if I needed an excuse, that area is gorgeous. The old posts here and here include some examples of the area and I’m including some more pictures here.

Rock formation at Dago Gulch in Leslie Gulch

One of the rock walls at Dago Gulch, where we set up.

The astrophotography itself went as well and not as well as I’d hoped. I went in this knowing full well there would be an 85% to 90% moon, so I wasn’t really expecting to get shots of the Milky Way. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize just how much dust there was, fine dust that you can’t really see. All my astrophotographs have more noise in them than usual even though I was shooting at lower ISO settings than before. Often I shoot at 1600 and sometimes push the EV for an equivalent 3200 and get quite decent photographic results. This time I was shooting mostly 800 and 400. I still got some nice pictures, just not as good as I’d hoped due to the noise.

The good news is I was able to verify the software I was using, PK_Tether, works wonderfully well. My camera was set up to auto-turn off after 1 minute of idle time. I was doing some shooting with times greater than 1 minute between shots and the camera never shut down. Even when the screen saver kicked in, the program continued to control the camera and I didn’t miss a photo in the sequence. I even opened up Stellarium to check something and PK_Tether kept on clicking the camera. All in all, I really like that program. I have a suggestion I plan to send to the programmer, but even without that little want I’m really happy with this program and appreciative of the effort the programmer put into it.

Moonrise at Dago Gulch

Moonrise at Leslie Gulch

I had to change the camera battery once, but the extended battery on the laptop, when I got home, said I still had 8 hours left. I can go just about all night with this setup with one camera battery change. I’m going to look into getting a third battery.

I was also “teaching” a good friend the basics of astrophotography. I had him using my other Pentax body and word is he had fun and learned a lot. So that went well, too. Along with all the regular stuff, he captured two meteors and an Iridium flare. I caught two meteors, but sadly none of our meteors were Capricornids. That would have been awesome. We did see at least one definite Capricornid: big, bold, and yellow, which matches the profile. Plenty of satellites, of course.

I got some time lapse, but my focus was more on the software and really learning what it could and could not do so that I can make use of it with some projects I have in mind. So, my time lapses are a series of very short shorts rather than a decent time interval or the long one I want to do. That’s for the next outing now that I know what my setup will do. I might put these various mini-time lapses together into one longer time lapse just to see what I wind up with but I think they’re too short to really enjoy as time lapses.

Zoom Blur

Zoom Blur at Leslie Gulch

I also took the opportunity to experiment a little bit with the zoom blur. Out of several tries this seems to be the best. I think it could stand to have a longer exposure time to bring out the rocks more. I definitely want to play more with this technique as it really intrigues me.

There’s plenty of wildlife to see in the area. We saw more than 20 of each of the following: killdeer, mountain goats, jackrabbits, swallows, short eared owls. We also saw several turkey vultures, cottontails, mice, bats, red-tail hawks, and crows. My friend heard at least one coyote.

All in all, we had a great time, great food (loaded tuna wraps, cheesecake, teriyaki beef sticks), and great company.

I’ll leave you with one final fisheye photo, a 5 minute exposure.

5 minute exposure at Leslie Gulch

Moonlit Leslie Gulch – a 5 minute exposure on 7/30/2012 at 2:44 AM MDT.

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