Night Light of the North Coast: Humboldt County Skyline

Post by David Wilson

It’s unlikely for one who lives in Humboldt County to be unaware of a certain industry, which shall here remain nameless, and for which the county is known somewhat beyond its borders, and which recently became legal in our state, for it naturally surfaces in conversations. I could discuss it in one context or another, but hasn’t that been done? And can’t others do that? I decided to take a look at it from a particular angle: a silhouette of it against the stars.

Cannabis and trippy stars

A composite of stills from the timelapse. The streaks were the paths of the stars as they swung across the sky.[Photo by David Wilson]

Humboldt County is more than any one thing, so I found a position that would give me a skyline of both Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-fir) and Cannabis indica (the herb), the juxtaposition of which, depending on one’s point of view, might be either ironic or fitting. I set the camera to take a series of 169 photos of that skyline over the course of an hour and forty minutes, from which I made a short twelve-second time-lapse movie that shows the motion of the stars as they swing across the sky on their path around the Polaris, the North Star, which is the star that sits very close to Earth’s northern polar axis.

A Humboldt Skyline: Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-fir) and Cannabis indica (the herb) silhouetted against the Milky Way and stars as they slowly revolve over the course one hour and forty minutes.

We don’t notice it when we look up at the night sky, but we know the stars are slowly marching across because they rise and set; we know Earth is revolving. To the west, the stars sink more or less straight into the horizon. North of that point, the stars arc around the North Star as we rotate beneath them. South of that point, their paths form the mirror image. The time-lapse video shows the northern stars in their curved path, though Polaris is out of view to the right.

Looking through a canopy of Douglas-fir, we see paths that the stars made over the course of several minutes. The Celestial Equator splits the star field; the stars on top are revolving around the northern polar axis, while the lower stars are revolving around the southern polar axis.

Looking through a canopy of Douglas-fir, we see paths that the stars made over the course of several minutes. The Celestial Equator splits the star field; the stars on top are revolving around the northern polar axis, while the lower stars are revolving around the southern polar axis. [Photo by David Wilson]

The other image shows the overhead sky through an opening in the canopy of tall Douglas-fir trees. Photographing over the course of a few minutes, the camera caught the stars making short trails as they moved a short distance. You’ll note that the upper stars arc around a point out of the frame above the image; they are making their way around our northern polar axis. The lower stars are traveling in the other direction, around the southern polar axis. That area separating the two arcing paths is called the celestial equator.

A still without the star trails.

A still without the star trails. [Photo by David Wilson]

To see previous entries of “Night Light 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, but you can contact me there.

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