Behind the scenes of this photo
Taken at Mono Lake South Tufa on February 13th, 2015
Night photography provides a wonderful opportunity for contemplation. You are more likely to be waiting for an exposure to finish than be actively doing anything, and that provides a lot of time to think. As to what to think about, I find my mind always wanders toward the sky above and what is out there. I’ve always had a fascination with space (got my bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering), and I find that thinking about it is a wonderful way to put your brain through some mental gymnastics.
When we look up at the sky on a clear dark night we see, simply put, lots of stars. A seemingly uncountable amount. And yet with the naked eye you can actually only see around 5,000 stars. That’s right, a mere 5,000; and that’s if you have great eyesight and an amazingly clear night. And if 5,000 can seem like an uncountable amount consider that our galaxy alone has somewhere between 100 and 400 billion stars, 80 million times more than you can see with your eye. What we see is a mere 0.00000125% of our celestial neighborhood.
What wonders, what creatures, what intelligent beings are lurking out there in the other 99.99999875% of our galaxy? Let alone the rest of the universe? Our Milky Way is only one of an estimated 100 billion galaxies. There is no way to conceive of that vastness in human terms, which is where imagination always steps in to help. To me it seems entirely possible that grand civilizations could have blossomed, spread to millions of planets, and lasted millions of years. And yet we wouldn’t have the faintest idea of their existence. Or perhaps it’s humanity’s fate to flourish in a similar manner and provide fodder for the imaginations of aliens on some distant world where they’ve only just discovered radio.
I can only hope that if we ever do cross paths with some alien intelligence that our eyes and ears are open to receive their transmission.
As for this photo, it’s a single 74-minute exposure of star trails above Mono Lake. The glow on the horizon is the town of Bridgeport reflecting off some low clouds. And if you look closely you can also see the head- and taillights of cars driving on highway 395 near Conway Summit. The temperature was a balmy 40 degrees F and the coyotes were yipping and yapping, enjoying the night as much as I was.
View more beautiful Mountain and Lake photos.