A Road Trip with David Wornica
Have you ever looked up at the night sky? I mean, have you ever really looked at it?
I’ve always been interested in whats up there, so this past weekend I decided to look up in a different way. Many of you who know me know that I enjoy the night sky and spend a fair amount of time in the dark on quiet nights peering through the eyepiece of my telescope or with a DSLR on a tripod. Unfortunately, a byproduct of living in the Austin area is all the light pollution which in turn means viewing or photographing the night sky can be somewhat limited.
I mention all this because last weekend I was on my back patio, hounded by mosquitos, staring up at the suburban night sky thinking it would be fun to hit the road, find a cabin and capture the night sky the way it should be captured; a dark sky, in silence hopefully with less mosquitos.
Google Search: Dark Sky Texas
Via the guidance of Google, I visited a website called darkskyfinder.com and looked for areas within reasonable driving distance that could provide a dark sky for optimal viewing. After reading the light pollution map I had a general location in mind that would provide the kind of environment I was in search of. With that handy piece of information I was off to HomeAway and VRBO to find a cabin somewhere west of Fredericksburg. I was looking for a secluded cabin on a ranch or nestled off a dirt road with no streetlights, vehicle traffic or other sources of light, I stumbled across a great location just outside of Harper. I had been blissfully unaware of the existence of Harper, TX for 38 years, which is my whole life, which to me is a long time.
Twenty minutes later I had a small list of questions for the property manager submitted via VRBO. The next day I had my questions answered and the rustic Maner Log Cabin in Harper reserved for the coming weekend. I’m not going to go into too much detail on the cabin other than that it is fabulous and the owners Stormy and Annette are awesome and incredibly hospitable.
Fast forward to Friday, van is loaded up and I’m headed home from the office to change and pack up the last remaining items for the weekend (snacks, sundries, Kristine). The weather is going to be clear and warm all weekend long so the viewing should be absolutely stunning at a dark sky location, the astro-nerd in me is freaking out. After 2.5 hours on 290, a wrong turn or two and one very startled cow later we arrived at the cabin, met the owners and began to unpack/unload for the next two nights.
Facing south-southeast for a sure to be impressive showing of the Milky Way I began the calibration of the primary mirror of my battered old Dobsonian telescope and mounted the DSLR on a sturdy tripod with an ultra wide angle manual lens and proceeded to methodically carry out a number of equally impressive advanced scientific endeavors… at least I was impressed with myself.
A brief note to the reader: Performing any endeavor involving reflective elements while oneself is coated in the fine residual dust of Andy Capps Hot Fries is not recommended. Not relevant to this blog post per se, just good to know.
I preface the next statement by saying I am very fortunate to have a wonderful, loving and supportive wife who loves me no matter what silly thing I do. Those of you who know me in my personal life know that when I’m excited I have a tendency to become quite absentminded, maybe even amusingly absentminded. Prior examples would surely include bursting into the broadcast booth at the Verizon Wireless Arena during a Manchester Monarchs game, or forgetting to apply bug repellent in the jungles of Honduras during a Zika outbreak, or nearly wandering off the deck of a cruise ship into the sea. All of these things would make excellent and entertaining blog articles on their own but I tell you all this to tell you that Kris saved me a lot of grief over the last 15 years and she came through in a big way again this weekend. She might not have saved me this time from nationalized embarrassment, crippling viral infection or even death at sea but in my eyes she saved the trip with these gentle mocking words;
“Wouldn’t you look like an ass if you forgot to remove the lens cap and plug in the shutter release after all that BS your doing over there…”
Lens cap off and shutter release plugged in we captured the images below. All in all it was a great weekend trip spent looking up and hopefully just the beginning of many more trips out to the hill country with Kris.