Nearby stars Altair (left) and Vega, 20 second exposure, ISO 6400.

I really wanted to enjoy shooting last night. I hadn’t done any shots of the sky in several weeks, but it was warm and clear. Knowing such days are literally numbered, I set up in the back yard and started taking exposures. I didn’t stay out for long.

As you can see from how blurry the tree is, the breeze was strong. It was strange: warm and unrelenting. The bright glow on the branches is misleading. To regular, non-time-exposure human eyes, it was pretty dark. The hiss of the breeze made me feel like someone was watching me. Twice I sensed something approaching, thinking it was the neighbor’s dog, and clapped really loudly. When I did that, I didn’t hear whatever it was stop moving—more like I heard it stop being silent.

I got five or six exposures, none of them very good, and finally gave up. I hurriedly collapsed the tripod with the camera still attached and got the hell out. I have to admit I walked a bit too quickly back to the porch. Just as I was walking up the back steps, I heard something heavy walking behind me. I turned around and yelled “Hey!” into the dark. There were two unmistakable sound of footfalls in the shadows by the garage, then whatever it was scampered away.

On that note, I saw my first bear this morning. I was driving to the nearby town of Milan for a meeting. About 200 yards ahead, I saw a black blob ambling across the road. It had disappeared into the brush by the time I reached that point.

New rule: No more going outside by myself in the dark.


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