Night Light of the North Coast: Timeless Motion of the Stars

The Living Night – South Fork Eel River Watershed: As the sun set, the Milky Way slipped across the sky, the living fog filled the South Fork Eel River valley, and humans lit up below in this timelapse spanning the seven hours between 7:24 p.m. September 2 to 02:34 a.m. September 3, 2016. Soundtrack by Jerren Wilson.

The following story is a description of the night of the first video, “The Living Night – South Fork Eel River Watershed,” photographed during the night of September 2-3, 2016.

I stood on the great ridge line separating the watersheds of the South Fork Eel River from the Main Fork Eel River, the former stretching before me and the latter at my back as the sun set over southern Humboldt. My hope was to create a timelapse that successfully spanned the sunset-to-night transition and catch the star-lit valley filling with fog as the Milky Way and starfield slid across the sky. I had been at this spot a week before, and I had seen it do this then, but that night my camera wasn’t positioned to catch much of the fog itself. This time there was no sign of fog when I began, but I was not to be disappointed.

I began shooting the still photographs for this timelapse at 7:24 p.m. on September 2, 2016 to catch the sunset light disappearing. The fog first came into the view far down the valley at around 9:30 p.m. It rolled up both river valleys simultaneously, the South Fork before me and the Main Fork behind. It flowed like a fluid, billowing, advancing, and retreating as it filled the valleys and washed over the hills. It spotted like a wildfire, with puffs appearing here and there ahead of it. The Milky Way made its way across the sky. The camera took photographs at regular intervals. Humans turned on their lights, some zipping busily about below. The fog danced in the valley, up and down, forward and back, always gaining, filling the the spaces it found, approaching my position. At one point the fog reached me, rolled over me, but then it withdrew once more.

As the fog before me retreated, from behind the mists from the Main Fork’s valley rose up and began streaming past me and into the South Fork’s drainage. I could watch both fog banks from where I stood, and saw them rising to meet each other precisely where I stood upon the ridge top. Soon the two seas of fog met beneath the glowing antennae of Pratt Mountain, a nipple on the ridge to my right, leaving the peak floating above it. Moments later the peak was lost. I took the final shot at 02:34 a.m., as the fog gained total dominance and I could no longer keep the camera dry.

While I am not really more than a timelapse enthusiast, I do have a few more timelapse trips on my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_fo_cxFDEjavw_eP8T75BQ

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.

Perseid meteors burst out of a starfield above a Southern Humboldt, California skyline during the Perseid meteor shower of August 2017. Saturn, in the lower right of the Milky Way, briefly glows more brightly at about 3 seconds into the video after the title fades. Interesting! The Moon rose at the end, 65% full, illuminating the sky and the hills in the distance.

A curious jackrabbit stops by for the action in the sky — one of so many magical gifts that happen for me when I photograph. I love those gifts. Here we are looking toward Earth’s northern polar axis near Polaris, the north star, and we can watch the stars rotate around it. Some of the lights you see whizzing by are airplanes. The meteors flash and disappear, while the planes move across the frame.

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