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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Humboldt Moonset

Posted By on Wed, May 8, 2019 at 1:39 PM

A Humboldt Moonset - High Saturation. What passes between friends as the crescent moon sets over the Pacific at the end of the Milky Way? Humboldt County, California. November 10, 2018. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • A Humboldt Moonset - High Saturation. What passes between friends as the crescent moon sets over the Pacific at the end of the Milky Way? Humboldt County, California. November 10, 2018.
When friends or family visit from afar my first wish is to share the natural beauty of our area with them, especially if they come from city lives insulated from nature. From the legendary forests of our towering redwoods to the beautiful beaches and rugged coastlines, the natural beauty of our area is its greatest treasure.

It’s all still there at night, too, remember. And night offers something else city folk never see at home: a sky full of stars. It’s all too easy to take things for granted when one is accustomed to seeing them, and we live in a wonderland here. But conversely, to those unaccustomed to the sights, our area offers some amazing eye-openers, not the least of which is our night sky. Visitors from less rural areas are often amazed at the number of stars we still have in our skies. If you take your visitors out, or even go yourself, allow fifteen to twenty minutes to let your eyes grow used to the dark so see the most stars.

There is really no better way to feel small in the Universe than to stare into the night sky full of stars and realize that each one is itself a sun, and all are impossibly distant from each other. Some of those points in the sky are themselves entire galaxies full of stars. And everything we see is but a small part of the whole Universe … so it makes me feel small. Living amongst and beneath all this beauty we have on California’s North Coast goes remarkably well with my current passion: sharing these wonders of the nightscape via my photography.

Even visiting friends who themselves are not strangers to the outdoors will appreciate our unique scenery. Take the new moon’s crescent setting over the Pacific at the very foot of the Milky Way … I ask you. How many folks get to see that? Not too many, probably, for it happens only once each year. The Milky Way moves across the horizon from left to right month by month, and the previous month saw the Milky Way setting to the left of the crescent moon, while the following month it was to the right of the moon.

The moon was the brightest object in the sky at the time of the accompanying photograph, and in allowing the camera to gather enough light for the surrounding area the moon itself nearly became a featureless brightness in the sky. But its crescent shape is preserved in the original image, and can be seen when printed large. If you’re unable to see the crescent shape here, it’s because it is too small as presented.

In editing the photograph I noticed that the sky above the horizon had two distinct color casts between the left and right sides. In the spirit of fun, I bumped up the saturation to bring out the color differences. In part because of that, I halfway think of the image title as “High Saturation” but officially I have titled it “Humboldt Moonset.”

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, May 1, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Cave Fire Dancer

Posted By on Wed, May 1, 2019 at 11:24 AM

Shapes of the mind. Sometimes inner peace is only a surface illusion we cloak ourselves in to hide what’s really within. But if we hide it too well, would we lose ourselves? What do you find if you lose yourself in this image? Fire Dancer: Chelsea Burns. Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Shapes of the mind. Sometimes inner peace is only a surface illusion we cloak ourselves in to hide what’s really within. But if we hide it too well, would we lose ourselves? What do you find if you lose yourself in this image? Fire Dancer: Chelsea Burns. Humboldt County, California.
Photographing a fire dancer this week was a new experience for me, and I was unsure how things would turn out when Chelsea Burns, a local fire dancer, approached me about taking pictures of her as she danced with fire. It sounded like something interesting to photograph in the dark, so I was into it. My imagination began to conjure images, seeing shapes and designs and scenes that we could make.

We chose a beach location for its fire safety and potential for reflections. I was interested in capturing images inside a nearby cave, and there were other large rocks and rock faces with great textures that could be brought out by the fire’s illumination.

But as I photographed while dusk slipped to night, I began to realize that capturing my vision of the fire dancer was going to take more experimenting than I had thought. Usually the fastest things moving about in my images are stars or clouds sliding across the sky, and bright light sources are held to a minimum. In contrast, the fire dancer’s twirling fire was a veritable cyclone of whirling light in constant blinding motion. It took a few frames to get used to that, and to be sure I am still not its master after photographing for only about an hour.

Looking through the photographs at home I couldn’t find any that I felt excited about. I needed more time to get used to the way the moving fire landed in the image in order to really capture what I was envisioning, but I see how it will be possible in future sessions. While I could find no single exposure that I thought stood on its own merits, I did find a number of them that I could put together into a fantasy environment. So I did.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Smoky Coastal Skies and Milky Way

Posted By on Wed, Apr 24, 2019 at 11:30 AM

The Milky Way looms over the Pacific Ocean, standing out over the smoky, misty air along California’s North Coast. Smoke from inland fires lingered in the sky. August 2015. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The Milky Way looms over the Pacific Ocean, standing out over the smoky, misty air along California’s North Coast. Smoke from inland fires lingered in the sky. August 2015.
At the end of the summer of 2015, my brother and I were out around midnight on a great rock overlooking the Pacific Ocean, enjoying the view between ourselves and the rest of the Universe. Fires inland had been burning for weeks, their pall of smoke glowing orange in the sky to the south of us, illuminated from below by the lights of coastal Humboldt County habitations. From out of our view in front of us, a lighthouse cast a cold blue light onto the Pacific to contrast with the orange color of the smoky sky. Above it all, rising from the fog of smoke and ocean mists loomed the Milky Way, a great galactic structure in the sky reminding us of our small part in the cosmic dance around us.

The night sky is a precious gift, a window out into something much larger than we are, a view into the cosmic splendor of which we play such a tiny part. It’s a window denied to those who reside in the city, but we on the California North Coast are fortunate to live where there are few major light sources at night and we can easily get away from them to enjoy rich starry skies. Here we find the natural beauty of the Earth by day, and at night we have the majesty and beauty of the universe to behold. It doesn’t get much better than that for those who love the natural world.

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Monday, April 22, 2019

Warming Trend Comes with River Warnings

Posted By on Mon, Apr 22, 2019 at 3:38 PM

NWS
  • NWS
For many, it seemed like winter was never going to release its grip on the North Coast. But according to the National Weather Service, it appears things are looking up in the mercury department for the next week.

According to the Eureka office, inland temps should reach into the 70s and 80s this week, although there is the potential for a “weak thunderstorm or two” in our neighbor counties of Trinity and Mendocino. As for the coast, the skies are looking to clear up for mild afternoons in the low to mid 60s.

While the warming trend may convince some folks it's time to head straight for our local rivers, the National Weather Service is also warning that the waters are still “running swift and cold.” They add that "even experienced swimmers can lose muscle control very quickly in cold water."
NWS
  • NWS
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CHP to the Rescue for this Feathered Family (Video)

Posted By on Mon, Apr 22, 2019 at 11:37 AM

The wayward family. - CHP
  • CHP
  • The wayward family.
Just because it's cute. Here is some video the CHP posted of a local officer lending a helping hand to a wayward family of Canada geese that he found wandering along the side of U.S. Highway 101 while on patrol south of Eureka.

Enjoy!
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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Musings at Moonstone Cave

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 11:24 AM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
We stood in the mouth of the cavern, looking out through a great broken crack in the blackness into the night as if through a window into another world. It fired our imaginations, conjuring mysteries in the night. What is it about caves that stirs us so inside? My thoughts wandered and stories began to play across my mind as my imagination took me to a time that might have been earlier that day. …

… Hiking the redwood forests of Humboldt County earlier in the afternoon, my two companions and I had stumbled onto a stone stairway in the woods. Its worn steps led up a hill and into the goosepen of a great redwood tree. We had all hiked this area before but none of us had ever seen the stairs or the tree, not even the hill it was on. I admit I was more than a little confused. I consider myself to have an excellent sense of direction and have never gotten lost in the forest before, but how could I have missed this until now? Were we where we thought we were? My companions were as confused as I.

The stairs seemed ancient, small ledges of rock covered in moss, lichen and fallen debris. They led up into the dark opening at the base of the tree where the redwood opened to accommodate them, widening as though it had been growing around the steps for a thousand years, enticing travelers to enter and explore its mysteries. We accepted the invitation.
Imagine, if you will, a stairway to the darkest recesses of your own mind, where the only journey you will make is within, and the only fears you will face are your own. This is a place you cannot find on a map, cannot reach on foot — yet a familiarity of places known hangs about it like the cool Humboldt mists. … (Thank you, Rod Serling) - Note: this is a composite image of two Humboldt places and only exists in the imagination. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Imagine, if you will, a stairway to the darkest recesses of your own mind, where the only journey you will make is within, and the only fears you will face are your own. This is a place you cannot find on a map, cannot reach on foot — yet a familiarity of places known hangs about it like the cool Humboldt mists. … (Thank you, Rod Serling)Note: this is a composite image of two Humboldt places and only exists in the imagination.
The steps climbed up and into the tree’s hollow, and then immediately descended again to vanish into the darkness underground. The beam of my headlamp revealed the staircase curving out of view in the shadows below us. We looked at each other there at the top of the stairs — to explore, or no? My companions flicked their own headlamps on in answer. Down we went.

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Friday, March 29, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Dawn Chases the Milky Way

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2019 at 12:17 PM

Night Flees the dawn as the brightening blue overtakes the Milky Way. Kneeland Road, Humboldt County, California. March 17, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Night Flees the dawn as the brightening blue overtakes the Milky Way. Kneeland Road, Humboldt County, California. March 17, 2019.
I pulled into the turnout and shut off the engine and lights. The stars jumped out and I joined them. Above the horizon the core of our galaxy glowed in the last darkness of the night. I smiled. Hello, Darkness, my old friend, I thought. It seemed apt, though it was the sight of the Milky Way’s bright center in the sky for the first time in months that most excited me. It’s the largest cosmic structure we can see, a fascinating reminder of the unimaginable vastness and mystery beyond our world.

A bend in the road ahead beckoned. Beyond the turn lay… what? My imagination rose. Metaphor for many things, a road can hold unique feelings or meanings for each of us. To one person the road may lead outward toward places undiscovered, while to another it will bring one’s thoughts home to perhaps reveal a mystery within. It occurred to me that within and without are but two ends of a spectrum of awareness and existence.

The mysteries of road and cosmos coming together called to me. Metaphorically I didn’t know where the road led beyond that curve. How could I when I knew it would lead each of us to our own destinations? That was the fascination for me. This road led anywhere. Even if it takes one nowhere, then that is where one is. What is beyond the bend for you?
One road may take you home. Another leads you away. And some will take you inside yourself. Where are you going today? Humboldt County, California. Pre-dawn, March 17, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • One road may take you home. Another leads you away. And some will take you inside yourself. Where are you going today? Humboldt County, California. Pre-dawn, March 17, 2019.


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Monday, February 18, 2019

Hello there, Super Snow Moon

Posted By on Mon, Feb 18, 2019 at 12:30 PM

An aircraft taking off is seen passing in front of full moon in December of 2017. - NASA/BILL INGALLS
  • NASA/Bill Ingalls
  • An aircraft taking off is seen passing in front of full moon in December of 2017.
Move over Super Blood Wolf Moon, it’s the Super Snow Moon’s turn to shine.

Sure it’s not as snazzy a name and Tuesday’s moon lacks that added je ne sais quoi of a lunar eclipse, but the celestial orb will “look extremely large when it rises and sets,” according to NASA, the result of an illusion that occurs when the Moon is close to the horizon and our brain is “tricked into thinking the Moon is much closer to the objects that are in our line of sight.”

And, hey, it’s the second to the last one for the year, so enjoy. According to the website Time and Date, moonset in Eureka will occur at 7:22 a.m. Tuesday  — with the full moon reached at 7: 53 a.m. — and rise at 6:17 p.m.

The National Weather Service, however, forecasts rain is likely for that evening.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Grandmother Rock

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 3:07 PM

Beneath the stars and the Milky Way, Grandmother Rock gazed out across the Pacific in her endless contemplation, while the stars wheeled about Polaris above. The crescent moon, invisible past the left edge of the photograph, provided some of the landscape illumination as it set into the mists, while from inside College Cove some kind of light emanated, throwing light on Pewetole Island. The bright light on the horizon was one of five or six fishing boats out at sea that evening. Occasionally they would train their powerful beams toward shore, bright enough to cast shadows. - Trinidad, Humboldt County, California. February 6, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Beneath the stars and the Milky Way, Grandmother Rock gazed out across the Pacific in her endless contemplation, while the stars wheeled about Polaris above. The crescent moon, invisible past the left edge of the photograph, provided some of the landscape illumination as it set into the mists, while from inside College Cove some kind of light emanated, throwing light on Pewetole Island. The bright light on the horizon was one of five or six fishing boats out at sea that evening. Occasionally they would train their powerful beams toward shore, bright enough to cast shadows. Trinidad, Humboldt County, California. February 6, 2019.
It was nearly dark when I arrived at the Trinidad Head parking area. Sunset gazers had seen the sun set some 45 minutes earlier and were heading for their cars when I struck north up the beach. Night was descending and in the waning light I could see the footprints of the evening’s activity in the sand. Low tide would be in a little over half an hour. My destination was Grandmother Rock, a huge rock in the apparent profile of a figure forever staring out to sea.

Only a faint glow remained over the western horizon, and stars were beginning to show all over the sky. The crescent moon hanging over the Pacific would set in about an hour and helped cast a delicate glow on the world. The retreating tide’s fresh sand was a faint lightness stretching out before me, and I was making the only marks in the new smoothness. Rocks and driftwood slipped by as shadows beside my soft tread. It was dark enough to tempt my flashlight but to do so would have set back my night. I continued without it.

I think about mountain lions when I’m out there at night, particularly if I’m alone. It freaks me out. But for some reason I reasoned they wouldn’t be looking for me at the beach. I’m not sure there was any reason in that at all, really, but I did note that the wind was coming from the shore, so I knew they wouldn’t smell me. I didn’t read all those Tarzan books for nothing.

I heard water ahead. I’d forgotten about the creek. I could make out its shape as I approached. Close across the stream loomed the towering form of Grandmother Rock, but I needed to cross to get the angle I wanted. Mill Creek isn’t especially large but in early February it was certainly in healthy condition and was too wide to jump across. I looked around. Maybe I could find a way over there.

Splash!

My heart slammed into my chest and I froze. The splash was close. A fish? It seemed too large. I had been walking without my light, and I saw little more than shadows as I peered toward the sound.

Splash!

It didn’t sound like a critter’s splash this time. I turned on my light, already figuring what it was: the sandy sides of the creek caving in as the stream eroded them. You know the miniature cliffs that are fun to help cave in when you’re a kid. I might still be one.

With the light on I saw that I wouldn’t be able to cross without getting wet, and there was no way to line up the shot that I wanted from this side of the creek. There were some rocks I could have used to hop across but not all by myself in the dark, carrying a camera bag, a large tripod and wearing a pack. That seemed like a bad idea easily avoided, the kind of thing one might read about in the news blogs the next day.

So I would ford the stream. I took off my shoes and socks, rolled my pants up over my knees, and waded across. This had not been in the plan. It was about 40 degrees out, and don’t tell the Midwest folks, but it felt cold. And now my feet were going to be wet and my socks were going to have sand in them and I would have to do it all again on the way back, too. Ah, photography!

I set up just on the other side of the creek.. Grandmother Rock sits atop a pile of huge rocks, the chunks of stone that Mother Nature had chiseled away from what once had been a gigantic boulder as she sculpted Grandmother’s contemplative figure.

I had one idea for a photograph in my mind for this trip: a long exposure with the north star Polaris above Grandmother’s head. In a long exposure from that angle, the trails made by the stars would create rings around her that could represent different things to different people. I also wanted Pewetole Island in the image if possible. I found a single spot that would give me that angle: it was on the steep side of a sloping boulder but from there it would all fall into line. I climbed up, wedged my tripod in and perched there next to it.
The Grandmother abides. In this much shorter exposure, the stars and other celestial objects have been stopped. Sister Galaxy Andromeda is the bright, smeared “star” near the top to the left of the Milky Way. Trinidad, Humboldt County, California. February 6, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The Grandmother abides. In this much shorter exposure, the stars and other celestial objects have been stopped. Sister Galaxy Andromeda is the bright, smeared “star” near the top to the left of the Milky Way. Trinidad, Humboldt County, California. February 6, 2019.
I stayed in that spot for almost an hour and tried different exposures and slightly different angles, some zoomed in, some zoomed out. The lights of half a dozen fishing boats shone across the horizon, sometimes themselves directing beams of light toward me bright enough to throw shadows. The fading moonlight and the final vestiges of dusk’s glow on the horizon cast the softest of light onto the shore.

The star trail image I’m sharing here was a 699-second exposure. The star trails you see show how far the stars moved across the sky as Earth’s globe rotated beneath me. Watching the stars turn I could feel I was on the surface of the Earth, the light of their myriad billions falling upon my face as the planet revolved beneath me.

I would have stayed longer to make more images but for a couple of considerations. One was that by then the tide had been coming in for half an hour and was beginning to send waves up the beach to the rock I was using, and the other was that I’d told my mom I’d come watch the second half of Warriors game with her. I packed up, climbed down, removed my shoes and socks, rolled up my pants, forded the creek again and headed back down the beach.

(And the Warriors won.)
This animation alternates between two frames, one long exposure in which the stars became streaks, and one shorter exposure from moments later in which they are still points. The smudgy “star” at the top to the left of the Milky Way is our sister galaxy Andromeda. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • This animation alternates between two frames, one long exposure in which the stars became streaks, and one shorter exposure from moments later in which they are still points. The smudgy “star” at the top to the left of the Milky Way is our sister galaxy Andromeda.

To keep abreast of David Wilson’s most current photography or peer into its past, follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx or his website mindscapefx.com, where you can also contact him, but which Wilson says he updates less frequently.
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Friday, January 25, 2019

'Sweet Victory' for SpongeBob Fans at the Super Bowl? Stay Tuned

Posted By on Fri, Jan 25, 2019 at 1:48 PM

Stephen Hillenburg - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Stephen Hillenburg
Fans of SpongeBob SquarePants aren’t looking back in their months-long effort to have “Sweet Victory” sung during half time at the Super Bowl as an ode to Stephen Hillenburg, creator of the fantastical world Bikini Bottoms, who died Nov. 27.

More than 1 million people have signed the Change.org petition to honor the 57-year-old Humboldt State University graduate, who announced last March that he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease more commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

“As some of you may or may not know, Stephen Hillenburg — the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants — has passed away recently,” the petition reads. “As a tribute to his legacy, his contributions to a generation of children and to truly showcase the greatness of this song, we call for Sweet Victory to be performed at the Halftime Show.”


Half time headliner Maroon 5 set the Twittersphere a twitter earlier this month when the band released a Super Bowl teaser that includes a brief appearance by SpongeBob. (Check out the 32 second mark.)



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