Blog - High in the Granite, June 2013
June 7, 2013 - Courtright Reservoir, CA
Courtright Reservoir is a beautiful lake high in the Sierra National Forest of Central California. We observe from a large granite slab just off the main road to several trailheads. The area is so large that 8 vehicles with tents and scopes could easily find space. Due to its elevation of 8,200 feet, however, the site is only accessible during the warmest months, and can even get rather chilly then as well. The months of June, July, and August are the prime times; it usually opens just before Memorial Day, and closes with the first snow of Fall. It is a pristine location in a dark-gray zone.
Our club's year-round observing location is at Eastman Lake. The skies are good (green zone) but there is a very large light dome from Fresno, to the south. Therefore, I had already planned to take advantage of the dark skies to spend quality time with the southern constellations of Sagittarius and Scorpius. Specifically, the nebula contained therein.
On Night #1, I actually managed to capture an image of Omega Centauri, though I'm not happy with the results. At a latitude of 36 North, the cluster rises only 5.5 degrees in the sky, putting it well into the rising heat still radiating from the exposed granite. Later in the night brought success, however, as I captured the Lagoon Nebula and the Trifid Nebula.
On Night #2, I once again had to find something to photograph before Sagittarius got higher in the sky. I realized that, to date, I had not done a good image of the Whirlpool Galaxy, and decided that now was the time. Afterwards, I did the Eagle Nebula and the Swan Nebula, thus completing the Jewels of Sagittarius.
On both nights, I had also set up my backup camera on a tripod, capturing long-exposure star trail shots. Four were captured in total, each centered on a specific part of the sky and landscape.
Another successful astrophotography trip to an absolutely gorgeous area of the mountains. Enjoy the view!