Art

Thursday, September 12, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Beauty on the Redwood Highway

Posted By on Thu, Sep 12, 2019 at 4:19 PM

Late night cars paint their strokes of light onto the dark canvas along a redwood corridor on US 101, the Redwood Highway. Photographed from the Avenue of the Giants, Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Late night cars paint their strokes of light onto the dark canvas along a redwood corridor on US 101, the Redwood Highway. Photographed from the Avenue of the Giants, Humboldt County, California.
I hope my images stoke appreciation for the beauty and wonders around us here on the North Coast of California. Many people never experience so uniquely beautiful a countryside as ours, and too many who live within them forget the treasure they have. They are the unlucky ones. Perhaps my images and stories will help to enlighten those who have never seen the wonders all around us, and reacquaint those who might have forgotten and gotten absorbed in the race and lost their place in the mundane. To be grateful for where one lives is a blessing too easily lost.

I know what it is to drive for an hour through the snarl, crawling along too slowly, too crowded between too many terrible drivers, a smog-belched yellow haze in the air you breathe — you drive and you drive, and how far do you get? Not very. (“Damn, this traffic jam!”)*
Each of us is alone inside our own thoughts. We struggle mightily to express ourselves so that others will understand us, and many of us attempt to understand others, but we are always alone in our thoughts. Perhaps it is that innate aloneness that leads to us feeling separate from nature. Oh, but we are so far from being separate from nature; that is an illusion. We are not separate from nature, we are but a tiny part of nature. We are not large, we are small. Earth itself is not large, it is minute. It is a mote in a sea of Nature so large that we call it the universe. Hack and hew though we might, we will never tame the universe. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Each of us is alone inside our own thoughts. We struggle mightily to express ourselves so that others will understand us, and many of us attempt to understand others, but we are always alone in our thoughts. Perhaps it is that innate aloneness that leads to us feeling separate from nature. Oh, but we are so far from being separate from nature; that is an illusion. We are not separate from nature, we are but a tiny part of nature. We are not large, we are small. Earth itself is not large, it is minute. It is a mote in a sea of Nature so large that we call it the universe. Hack and hew though we might, we will never tame the universe.

Here on the North Coast one could spend that same hour driving through places like this stretch along the Redwood Corridor… and for an hour of beauty you’re transported 65 miles away (for some drivers a bit more!). All the while you are driving among the hills, along rivers, high above Pacific vistas, through parks and forests full of clean air. Drivers are so few and far between that the bad ones are mostly easily avoided.

I’m running the numbers on our little corner of the world here, people, and … let me see … ah, carry the 7 … yes — no matter how you add it up or slice, it’s coming up paradise. It’s not too many places in the world where a photograph of the local freeway is a thing of beauty. Think about it. It’s a blessing to be grateful for where one lives, and I very much am.

*From James Taylor’s song “Traffic Jam.”

To keep abreast of David Wilson’s most current photography or peer into its past, visit or contact him at his website mindscapefx.com or follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx .
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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Eel River Stargazer

Posted By on Wed, Sep 4, 2019 at 3:33 PM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
Not far from anywhere on the North Coast the dark skies and solitude of nature quietly await. People travel great distances to come here to camp and hike in it, enjoying the beauty of our forests, beaches, rivers, and amazing night skies. It’s a wonderland to them, and here we are living right in it. It’s almost too good to be true.

It is easy to get used to the beauty when one lives in it and can see it any day. But how often do you visit your favorite nature getaway at night? It’s an entirely different world out there at night. We have nighttime skies here that blow the minds of the city folks I share them with. Yet we’re mostly content to stay indoors ourselves or scoot from one building or light bubble to the next, and never get away from the light. We aren’t nocturnal creatures, but I guarantee that if you can set aside a night to go stargazing away from the lights of human habitations it will be rewarding.

Throughout summer and fall the night sky is dominated by the great belt of the Milky Way. The milky band of lightness stretching across the heavens led to us calling the galaxy in which we live the Milky Way. During this time of the year earth’s night side faces toward the center of the galaxy, showing us a view through the dense plane of our more-or-less-flattened-pinwheel of a galaxy and toward its core. The core stands out in the Milky Way as the most detailed portion of it that we see. When our planet is on the opposite side of the sun, Earth’s night side doesn’t face the middle of the galaxy anymore and the detailed core is hidden to us. This seasonality to the view is what people mean if you hear them speak of “Milky Way” season.
Small beneath the stars, a friend photographs the nightscape on the banks of the South Fork Eel River. Popular in the daytime, we had the site to ourselves. Part of the Milky Way’s core is visible above the horizon, roughly that area with the greater detail and more reds and yellows. Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Small beneath the stars, a friend photographs the nightscape on the banks of the South Fork Eel River. Popular in the daytime, we had the site to ourselves. Part of the Milky Way’s core is visible above the horizon, roughly that area with the greater detail and more reds and yellows. Humboldt County, California.
At night you have to yourself places that are otherwise popular in the daytime. I was stargazing on the South Fork Eel River with a couple friends when I took the accompanying photograph of one of them making his own nighttime photograph. This place was completely empty but for us, though during the day it’s a popular spot.

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Thursday, August 29, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Tule Fog on Humboldt Bay

Posted By on Thu, Aug 29, 2019 at 2:15 PM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
Apparently, the term “tule fog” is specific to a particular seasonal low fog in the Central Valley, but we sometimes see a similar blanket of ground fog around the lowlands and bottoms of coastal northern Humboldt County. Low and mysterious, the veil of mist hugs the contours, it pools in pockets and reduces visibility to nil as wispy strands slide silk-like across the landscape. It’s the kind of fog that makes you throw a backward glance over the shoulder for the Baskerville hound.

Our version of tule fog always brings to mind the sharp features and long nose of Basil Rathbone’s 1939 Sherlock Holmes stalking his foe across the grey, misty moor. The night that I made this photograph I had set out to capture an image that might evoke a similar feeling of foreboding mystery.
Low fog hugging the ground along the Bayside Cutoff on Humboldt Bay. U.S. 101 passes from left to right in the distance. The insanely bright light on the right is a bright yellow LED road sign warning of two-way traffic on the highway at the end of the cutoff. The planet Mars is the brightest point in the sky. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Low fog hugging the ground along the Bayside Cutoff on Humboldt Bay. U.S. 101 passes from left to right in the distance. The insanely bright light on the right is a bright yellow LED road sign warning of two-way traffic on the highway at the end of the cutoff. The planet Mars is the brightest point in the sky.


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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Metal Beast and Stardust Skies

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 12:07 PM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
Late one night along a dirt road in the hills in the middle of nowhere in southern Humboldt County, California, a couple of guys rendezvoused to photograph an old metal beast crouching in the dirt beneath the stardust skies of the cosmic realm through which we float, as a species almost completely unaware of the larger significance of our tiny insignificance. I was one of them, and my friend Kris was the other.

The opaque blue sky ceiling of daytime shutters our eyes to the space in which Earth floats, and insulates us against thoughts of our minute scale in the vast scheme of things. But at night our vision punches through the blue dome and we see the magnificence of the greater cosmos in which our little dustball drifts. Most of our waking lives we don’t even see the stars, let alone consider our place among them.

Growing up under the dark skies of a rural area allowed me to enjoy the heavens whenever it was clear. If ever I forget how precious that gift is, when I take folks who are coming from the city out to enjoy our relatively dark skies, their oohs and ahhs remind me how awe inspiring the sight of a sky full of glittering stars truly is. If your mind can grasp it, you will see how tiny we are and how large the rest of the Universe is — whereby “we” I mean all of humanity on Earth, not just you and a few pals. “We” are all together on this little ball drifting through the cosmos. Compared to the rest of it, Earth is smaller than a bit of dust from a crushed grain of sand out there, and all of us scurrying around on it are as the smallest of sub-sub-microscopic organisms. We are a serious lot for being so tiny.
My friend Kris photographed the old Grader sitting beside a dirt road in the hills of rural Southern Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • My friend Kris photographed the old Grader sitting beside a dirt road in the hills of rural Southern Humboldt County, California.
Rural life also gave me respect for private property and a skepticism for the rural roads shown on maps. Long before my family’s time there, a stagecoach used to run right though our property, even using the old house that was there as a stop, and continue to either Piercy on the South Fork Eel River or west toward the coast. Traveling in a westerly direction from what would become our place, the road followed Indian Creek up past the old logging ghost town of Moody to the Whitethorn Road and Usal Road, and from there one could go down to Bear Harbor, or north to Shelter Cove. The Usal Road even connected with U.S. Highway 1 to the south. Long after the stages had ceased to run automobiles continued to use the road.

That was a lot of access out the little road, but the through access had closed down by some time in the mid-20th century, before my time. We landed on the property in the 1970s, and all of the connections through it to Piercy and the coast had long since been obliterated, lost to private property and timberland crisscrossed with logging and skid roads. But from town out to our place the road remained intact. It was still the same dirt road that used to run north-south through there so many years before our arrival, only now we were at the end of the line. Beyond us was logging and ranching land with different lines of access.
A meteor streaked over the old Grader as I photographed. The bright star next to the meteor’s tail is the planet Saturn. Jupiter is the largest, brightest point in the sky just above the grader’s roof. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • A meteor streaked over the old Grader as I photographed. The bright star next to the meteor’s tail is the planet Saturn. Jupiter is the largest, brightest point in the sky just above the grader’s roof.


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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Reflections at Richardson Grove

Posted By on Wed, Aug 14, 2019 at 3:29 PM

Watch for falling rocks and stars in the Upside-Down. (We loved the reflection). - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Watch for falling rocks and stars in the Upside-Down. (We loved the reflection).
As you read on your computer or mobile device, remember that you, too, can unplug, go outside not too far from where you are now and experience a night something like the one in this image. I took a break from plugged-in things for a week and camped for part of it in Southern Humboldt’s Richardson Grove State Park with family. It’s not a wilderness area, but it is in a beautiful natural setting among hills covered in redwood and mixed forests along the South Fork Eel River.

Sitting in the shade in our camp in Oak Flat campground, we counted eight different tree species and a myriad of plants and shrubs without leaving our seats. Not that we sat around all day, although while sitting and tuning in to the surroundings there was plenty going on around the campground to keep me entirely fascinated, whether it was the activities other campers or things happening in the surrounding forest.

It has been a while since I last backpacked in the wilderness, but I used to a lot and I know what it is like to really get away from everything people-related. This wasn’t that. It is a campground. One hears and sees other campers. Even U.S. Highway 101 goes by not far away, though as a two-lane road weaving through giant redwoods. No it isn’t the wilderness, but you are in the forest, with nature all around. Sitting in it and soaking it in absolutely recharged me. Even listening to the wind while unplugged was recharging. We humans are part of nature, not part of the internet. Nature recharges us.
My brother Seth and I watch the world go by one summer night on the banks of the South Fork Eel River in Richardson Grove, Humboldt County, California - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • My brother Seth and I watch the world go by one summer night on the banks of the South Fork Eel River in Richardson Grove, Humboldt County, California
I hadn’t seen the South Fork Eel River looking so good at this time of year in many summers, and it had been longer since I last enjoyed a good dip in it. The Eel was clear and comfortably cool, with far more water in it than I had expected. It’s shallow near the bank where you see my brother and me standing beneath the night sky, easy to wade in. It gets gradually deeper until near the far shore my brother couldn’t reach the surface with his outstretched arm while standing on the bottom. It’s a tranquil stretch with a very slow current. It would be nice for the entire family.

Humanity disappointed me when we came upon the jarring sight of plastic trash left on the bank of the river by swimmers the previous day. I want to express how unutterably lame that is, but I find my vocabulary temporarily reduced to four-letter words. Some … let’s call them jerks, had brought their candy and plastic-wrapped crap to the riverside — and then left the trash there. I wonder what level of care they had, if any. Did they leave it for someone else to pick up? Thanks, that’s really crappy. Or did they not even care that much? Either way we were disgusted with them (“Houston, we’ve found lower life forms!”). We decided we would come back later with trash bags to clean up after them.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Unexpected Magic: Rabbit Stargazer

Posted By on Wed, Aug 7, 2019 at 10:46 AM

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What makes a photograph special isn’t always what was planned but what happens instead. Of course, sometimes what happens instead can make a mess of things. One has no choice in the matter, but it seems to me that if I’m open to the possibility that something unexpected can make the photo better then delightful surprises will occasionally find me and enter my images.

It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes an outing ends with nothing good. And that is OK. I’ve awakened before dawn and gone out numerous times without bringing home an exciting image. But I don’t feel disappointed at those times because they are only the flip side; I feel the balance that exists and I know that the times when I bring nothing back get me that much closer to the next time that magic will enter the image and give me something special. Is it magic when it happens? Luck? Or just plain probability? I don’t know but it works for me, and I am grateful for it and like working with it.
Taking pictures at regular intervals, my camera caught a curious rabbit that had come out to see what was so interesting. I wonder what it saw. This animation comprises 11 separate still images, each 30 seconds long. That means the rabbit stayed there watching for over 5 minutes. The changing light is moonlight passing behind trees during the exposure. This view is cropped close to the rabbit. August 2016. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Taking pictures at regular intervals, my camera caught a curious rabbit that had come out to see what was so interesting. I wonder what it saw. This animation comprises 11 separate still images, each 30 seconds long. That means the rabbit stayed there watching for over 5 minutes. The changing light is moonlight passing behind trees during the exposure. This view is cropped close to the rabbit. August 2016.
A bit of the magic hopped into the frame one August night in 2016 while photographing the Perseid meteor shower. When I discovered it later, it instantly became the star of my evening’s photos for me. I was photographing from a friend’s house who lived far from city lights. In a darker area over a little hill away from the house lights I’d set up my camera and programmed its intervalometer to take long exposure photographs one after another.

While the camera photographed, we watched the skies from a location nearer the house and the conveniences of deck chairs and refreshments. I had no idea that a curious furry little critter had come out to watch the stars near my camera until I looked through the images the next day. If I hadn’t been away from my camera s/he wouldn’t have come.
An uncropped view, this is also a composite of two photographs. The camera was set to take photos at regular intervals and made over 500 exposures from here. The large meteor above crossed the sky where you see it, but after the rabbit had left. The smaller meteor flashed in the sky as the rabbit watched. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • An uncropped view, this is also a composite of two photographs. The camera was set to take photos at regular intervals and made over 500 exposures from here. The large meteor above crossed the sky where you see it, but after the rabbit had left. The smaller meteor flashed in the sky as the rabbit watched.
The rabbit sat by my camera for almost six minutes while the camera took pictures. Each photograph was a 30-second exposure, and the rabbit appeared in eleven of them, mostly sitting and looking this way and that in the starry night. It sat fairly still in some of the images, but in others it moved while the shutter was open, becoming streaks or leaving ghost images of its silhouette. Was s/he watching the shooting stars, drawn out by the magic of a meteor shower as I was? I fancy s/he was sharing the wonder of the night sky so full of stars and meteors, airplanes and satellites. Or was it perhaps watching the camera, wondering what that contraption was which sat upon metal legs and clicked every 30 seconds?

The Perseid meteor shower will peak the night of Aug. 12-13, 2019, but with fewer meteors per hour than usual as a bright moon will wash out the dimmer streaks.


To keep abreast of David Wilson’s most current photography or peer into its past, visit and contact him at his website mindscapefx.com or follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx .
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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: A Humboldt Commute

Posted By on Wed, Jul 31, 2019 at 3:36 PM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
I was where I wanted to be, out beneath the moonless night sky overlooking the Redwood Highway, watching others passing through the night on their separate journeys to their own destinations. What a wonderfully beautiful commute they had, I thought: redwood forests, clear air, the rivers, perhaps the rugged coast. Lucky we are to live here.

Sometimes you have to stop and get out of the car to see it. It was a shame the travelers couldn’t see much of this amazing night from inside their bubbles of light. The stars were crystal clear, pinprick sharp against the black backdrop of space. The giant of our solar system, Jupiter was the brightest point in the sky. Not far away rested Saturn, the second largest of our sister planets. Between them stretched the great Milky Way.
Folks were going places late one night in Humboldt County, California. I watched them go by. I had no place to go especially, for I was there already. They were illuminating my foreground, painting it in with their strokes of light as they traveled down US 101, the Redwood Highway. At the far end of this visible stretch the road passes over the Eel River. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Folks were going places late one night in Humboldt County, California. I watched them go by. I had no place to go especially, for I was there already. They were illuminating my foreground, painting it in with their strokes of light as they traveled down US 101, the Redwood Highway. At the far end of this visible stretch the road passes over the Eel River.

But if they couldn’t see much of the world’s beauty beyond the lights of their vehicles, the people passing in their cars were active participants in my own view of the night’s magic. Every car or truck streaking past cast its stroke of light upon the canvas before me. Now the bright beams of a truck, next a small car’s weak lights, but each filling the foreground with light and detail in different ways. They were painting my scene in with light, spreading their illumination and color upon the landscape like paint onto a canvas.

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Thursday, July 25, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Kneeland Road, One Year Later

Posted By on Thu, Jul 25, 2019 at 11:09 AM

As the world turns beneath the Kneeland Road, a moon recently full rises in the southeast to chase the Milky Way across the night sky. Humboldt County, California. July 18, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • As the world turns beneath the Kneeland Road, a moon recently full rises in the southeast to chase the Milky Way across the night sky. Humboldt County, California. July 18, 2019.
Have you ever really thought about the difference between night and day? An interesting difference between day and night is that from one year to the next there are differences between night skies, but no differences between daytime skies. It may be a little odd-sounding if you haven’t thought of it, but it’s not strange when you do.

Daytime is about the sun. It comes up over there, turns night into day, and then goes down over there. We all know this. The light on any given date is exactly the same year after year, with only atmospheric differences causing any variation. This is because after one year the Earth is in the same position in its orbit around the sun as it was the previous year, and it will be the next year and so on. Any changes in that schedule are so gradual that they could take millennia to notice. The moon may come and go from the daytime sky, but it has no effect on the quality of light when it shares the sky with the sun.

But the night! Nothing dominates the night like the sun dominates the day. The quality of light varies dramatically from night to night. It can be completely different on the same date from one year to the next. The moon’s light is the greatest influence, but it will appear for only half of the month. When it is out its light is always changing as it waxes or wanes from one night to the next, and it rises and sets most of an hour later each night.
A snapshot of the night from July 18, 2019, shows the planets Saturn and Jupiter guiding the Milky Way across the sky. The moon, waning but still 98 percent full, had just risen in the southeast. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • A snapshot of the night from July 18, 2019, shows the planets Saturn and Jupiter guiding the Milky Way across the sky. The moon, waning but still 98 percent full, had just risen in the southeast.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: A Milky Way Time-Lapse Medley

Posted By on Tue, Jul 23, 2019 at 12:25 PM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
One can sit beneath the stars and watch them as they slowly traverse the skies; it merely requires your patience. But are we actually sensing them move? Or is it that our glance from time to time notes only that that the stars have changed position? Our perception moment by moment is that they are still, but the infrequent glance will note their slow progress across the sky.

Were one to stay out on a clear night for hours on end, one would still never catch the stars' movement — only that their positions had changed between looks. The human eye needs relatively rapid changes in a scene to detect differences from moment to moment. One might look every ten minutes and note that the stars have moved relative to a tree branch or other earthly object. Ten minutes later and they’ve moved noticeably more. Yet each time you look they seem to be standing still.

Imagine you had an entire evening to spend out there under the sky and you looked up at the stars once every 30 seconds. Each time, they are still. But between looks they have moved just a little. If you stayed out there for several hours and peeked at the stars every thirty seconds, you’d see a lot of snapshots of the sky, each one just a little different from the last as the stars moved across. It would require a lot of patience, and you would still never actually sense any movement. But if we were to string all the glances together like a flip-book, we’d be able to see that motion. Did you ever make a flip-book animation as a kid on a pad of paper? Some of you did. A time-lapse animation is similar to the flip-book.
Time-lapse is a technique that gives the appearance of speeding up extremely slow-moving things, and it works on the same principle as the flip-book. In a time-lapse, the camera takes photographs at regular intervals, each photo recording the scene’s changes since the last photo. After shooting a series of these still images, one can string the stills together just like the frames of a movie — indeed, they then become the frames of a movie. Each frame of the scene shows the slightly changed positions of objects in it. If we play the frames rapidly enough one after another our eyes and brain will record the changed position of objects from one frame to the next as motion.

Each scene in this time-lapse medley was from a different night. During each of those nights I set the camera to take photographs regularly, approximately one new photograph every thirty seconds. Thus over an hour of two photographs per minute it would take 120 photographs.

When the frames are put together into the form of a movie and played back rapidly at 24 frames/second we can see the motion of all of the stars, planets, meteors, airplanes, and satellites sped up dramatically. The motion is increased so much that the distance something traveled in an hour now only takes about five seconds – now we can see the stars move!

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Eel River Overlook

Posted By on Thu, Jul 11, 2019 at 10:08 AM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
The magic of the night was all around, so very quiet with only the sound of the redwood forest around us sighing in a light breeze and merging with the soft susurrus of the Eel River far below. From a protected hollow high above the river my companions and I looked out over a world bathed in starlight, the galactic core of our galaxy reaching upward from the southern horizon and complementing the curve of the river below. At that moment, at that place, we felt between the heavens and Earth.

There is no forest more beautiful than the redwood forests of our part of the planet. They occur natively only in a few narrow bands along the coast of North America, and we are blessed to have some of those forests in our backyard here on the California north coast. To stand among them beneath the stars is a treat very few people in the world will experience firsthand. We who live with these wonders may sometimes forget what a blessing they are.
“A shooting star! Over near Jupiter!” I missed the meteor at the time, but not the magic of the night. Below us the Eel River glided between Redwood-covered hillsides under the night sky. I was with a former student and her friend and we played with our cameras while we stood in awe of the night. I found the meteor as I examined the photographs later. Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • “A shooting star! Over near Jupiter!” I missed the meteor at the time, but not the magic of the night. Below us the Eel River glided between Redwood-covered hillsides under the night sky. I was with a former student and her friend and we played with our cameras while we stood in awe of the night. I found the meteor as I examined the photographs later. Humboldt County, California.
It is easy to lose perspective in our busy world. As humanity we are perhaps overly concerned with ourselves. We forget that we’re actually quite small, a small species on a minute world that is a part of something much, much larger. We pretend to set ourselves outside of Nature when we look at it. But we are deep within it and riding for our lives on the tiniest of motes in space, a sea of Nature so large we can’t even grasp it.

On evenings like this, looking up into the incredible Milky Way galaxy of which we are a part, it’s interesting to imagine myself traveling out into space and looking back at the receding Earth. As Earth shrinks, I see how small we really are. At about the size of a little blue marble, our atmosphere looks a mere sheen on the surface. It gives some perspective relative to the Universe in which we live. So fragile are we out there.
From the immensity of space, the distant core of our galaxy rises over the Eel River. We will never understand it all, but I did mark a few points along the way. From the Avenue of the Giants, Humboldt County, Earth. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • From the immensity of space, the distant core of our galaxy rises over the Eel River. We will never understand it all, but I did mark a few points along the way. From the Avenue of the Giants, Humboldt County, Earth.


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