Night Lights of the North Coast: Camping in the King Range

Night Lights of the North Coast

Camping in the King Range

by David Wilson

Overlooking the Pacific Ocean from Paradise Ridge in the King Range, southern Humboldt County, California.Overlooking the Pacific Ocean from Paradise Ridge in the King Range, southern Humboldt County, California.

Overlooking the Pacific Ocean from Paradise Ridge in the King Range, southern Humboldt County, California. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean from Paradise Ridge in the King Range, southern Humboldt County, California. [All photos by David Wilson–Tap or click on them to enlarge.]

The Fall Equinox of September 21, 2017 found me camping beneath the stars on Paradise Ridge in Southern Humboldt’s King Range, a BLM-managed area of our beautiful and famous Lost Coast. Friends I’ve known since childhood had invited me out to join them for a night of stargazing and Milky Way photography in one of their huge glamping tents from their Wayward Glamping business. As we set up our camp, early clouds dampened my hopes for clear skies, but by nightfall, the curtains had pulled apart to reveal the celestial show.

The view from Paradise Ridge is spectacular. To the west, it overlooks the Pacific Ocean north of Shelter Cove and south of Kings Peak which is the highest point in the range at 4091 feet. To the east of the ridge, the view includes much of the South Fork of the Eel River’s watershed and far beyond to the dim horizon.

Camping beneath the Milky Way on Paradise Ridge, Lost Coast, Humboldt County, California.

We were in paradise. The sky blazed overhead with stars, galaxies, and flashing meteors. Fishing boats scurried along the horizon. Wildlife prowled about…But, a good book is a good book! Click or tap on the photos to see them larger.

Because it is so remote, the King Range offers some of Humboldt’s darkest skies, which is perfect for astrophotography and stargazing.

As usual in my night photography, these photographs were taken with the light sensitivity (ISO) set extremely high, the lens opened wide, and a long exposure of nearly 30 seconds. With those settings, the camera saw the dimmest of light far brighter than my eye could. I couldn’t see as many stars with my naked eye, nor quite as much detail in the Milky Way. The tent was illuminated with the tiniest of lights, I think it was a single candle. It hardly made the canvas glow. Yet look how well the camera picked it all up. My camera, open fairly wide for 30 seconds at high ISO, saw the candlelight brightly, picked out the faintest stars, and brought forth the Milky Way’s detail. Ahh, photography.

If you were to try this yourself, make sure you either have a tripod or a sturdy and secure surface to support your camera. Set it to manual focus and focus near infinity. Put it on manual exposure, open the aperture wide, and set your shutter speed to 20-30 seconds. Set the ISO to the highest. Take the picture and examine it on the camera LCD screen for exposure. Zoom in to check focus. Make necessary adjustments and shoot again. Good luck and have fun!

To see previous entries of “Night Lights of the North Coast,” click on my name above the article. If you’d like to keep abreast of my most current photography or peer into its past, you can follow me on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx . I update my website mindscapefx.com less frequently.

Camping beneath the Milky Way on Paradise Ridge, Lost Coast, Humboldt County, California.

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