Last year I saw a photo of the Milky Way. It was posted in a local Photography group back in Kansas. A bunch of Photographers went on a trip together to capture photos of the night sky.
I thought to myself "NO WAY!" I didn't know you could do this! I thought you needed some extra special astro telescope gear to be able to see / capture the Milky Way. I was wrong!
I started doing research and quickly found that it actually isn't all that difficult. To my surprise, I had all the gear I needed. A few days later, I planned a trip away from the city lights.
I saw the Milky Way. I saw it with my bare eye. I cried, I hugged my husband, I was so happy that I got to witness this. Looking back now, I didn't know half of the things I know now, I didn't do any research, I just went and drove to that location and got lucky.
My lack of preparedness caused my tripod to tip over. My camera fell on concrete, causing me 6 weeks of camera withdrawal and hundreds of dollars in repair costs. But that's a different story and I don't like to talk about the dark and bad times of my life on a public blog. - LOL!
I went back a few more times, went to different locations, always looking for a new adventure. Each time I went, I came home with some beautiful photos, but I was never completely happy with what I got. I saw photos by other Photographers and mine were nothing compared to those!
After I moved to Spokane and hadn't taken star photos for months, I saw a local news page's post about the Northern Lights being visible just North of Spokane.
I screamed when I saw it. I wanted to just jump in the car and drive out there!
But I knew this time I had to be more prepared. So I did my research. I spent hours and hours reading on NASA websites, Wikipedia, Aurora Forecasts.
I headed out and away from city lights just a few days after. I didn't see the Aurora. I think deep down I knew that that night was not THE NIGHT. But I wanted to try anyway. All the info on NASA websites confused the hell outta me. Weird numbers, abbrevations, calculations. I didn't understand half of it.
I still got some photos of the Milky Way though!
Fast forward a few months, this Photographer's page showed up on my newsfeed.
Adam Dorn Photography
I just adore his work, he is beyond talented. His over 60 international awards back me up on this.
Lucky for me, he posts updates about the Aurora, links to help understand and predict its behavior.
He even answered to my rooky questions when I messaged him
He gave me the confidence I needed
Once again, I spent hours and hours researching, actually trying to understand all the jibberish on the NASA websites, my head was pounding, my eyes were hurting.
One of his recent blog posts changed everything for me
Read it HERE
It paid off.
On August 2nd 2016 I planned a trip to the Palouse Falls State Park
I didn't get my hopes up. I adjusted my expecations and .....
they were blown away!
My husband and I left the house early.
We wanted to get to the park with plenty of daylight left for us to explore.
It was a two hour drive from Spokane.
Upon arrival, I instantly fell in love with the location.
It was a warm summer evening,
the sun was setting and during our stay we got to watch the light and shadows
change along the canyon walls.
A little breeze blew through the tall grass that's growing on top of the canyon
The wild sunflowers along the paths were dancing to the wind
We heard hawks screeching, long before we saw them flying up and down the cliffs.
Coyotes were howling in the distance
The smell of BBQ, combined with the fresh smell of nature lingered in the air
Around us a few campers enjoying the big outdoors, drawn to the beauty of the falls
My husband and I decided to take the off road trails
and by god, the beauty .....
the beauty of it all is a sight I will never forget.
I HAD to capture it. I HAD to get photos of my husband and myself.
Luckily, my husband has some camera knowledge and I had my tripod and my shutter remote control with me, so I was able to get some shots of the two of us together!
When you look up photos of the Palouse Falls on the internet, all you see is images taken from above the canyon. They're certainly beautiful, but I wanted something different. I didn't want to be like every other Photographer, taking the same shots thousands have taken before.
I wanted to be in front of the waterfall. In between the cliffs. As far down as possible.
And so our adventure begun.....
I was scared for my life. I was convinced that this is it.
My passion for Photography is going to be the death of me.
I'm afraid of heights, it took me a lot to walk along these cliffs.
It was indeed terrifying
My husband being the good man that he is, took my camera bag,
my tripod AND a bottle of water, just so I can hold on to my dear life in case I was gonna slip and fall.
The photo of my husband checking out if the road was safe to walk on still scares the hell outta me.
I was so worried about him.
I kept telling him that we should turn around, we don't have to do this.
We can just get other photos,
I told him to be careful and just in case,
kept telling him that I love him.
But to my surprise, my husband loved it!
I always drag him out with me when I want to take my chances at star photography.
For one, driving in a car for a long time makes me super tired and I don't like it.
Then being out in the middle of nowhere late at night, by myself, surrounded by nature
- and I'm not talking about birds and bees and butterflies-
isn't one of my favorite things either
He doesn't like it too much. He doesn't share my passion for photographing the stars.
So usually he just drives us out in the middle of nowhere, watches me sleep as soon as wheels are rolling
and stands there protecting me from wild animals and other harms there might be out there at night-
all while I'm having the time of my life photographing the stars! - LOL
But this was different. He got to explore, he got to show is manly side.
And I think he enjoyed it a little too much that I was being a chicken
and held on to him and his strong body while we climbed the cliffs!
He's so cute! Look at him carrying all my gear for me!
And yes, that road going down the cliff, on the right side of the photo. That's where we climbed down!
Then I got the idea to take a video instead. I put my camera on video mode and started walking!
Watch the first and easiest 20 minutes of our hike in 4x speed!
I added the music so you won't hear my whining and screaming
By the time we got on top of the waterfall, it was past dawn.
We took out the flashlight and kept going
In the photo below you see dust that swirled up
Taken with a tripod for long exposure - so you can see the place in its full beauty in brighter light
We continued walking on the left side of the rock you see above, on the left side in the photo.
THIS was the scary part. Especially since it got very dark, there are no lights whatsoever.
No city lights anywhere close. A small path, formed by glacial floods millions of years ago.
A about 265 foot drop to your side, no rails, no real roads.
I had never been this scared before.
During this part of the hike, I did not take any photos.
I put my camera away so I could hold on to the cliff walls, making sure I don't fall.
Bats were all around us, flying out of their caves located deep inside the splits of the canyon.
There were at least a dozen that came pretty close to our heads.
The sound of the waterfall behind us.
After a while, we couldn't go any further.
It was too steep. The road too loose.
Our flashlight barely gave us enough light to see where we were going
Another Photographer was on top of the canyon, right above us.
He was a blessing. He had a very strong flashlight, guiding us back to safer grounds.
It illuminated the whole side of the canyon so we can see better,
nothing compared to the flashlight we had!
If he somehow ends up reading this, I want to say THANK YOU. From the bottom of my heart.
Your guiding light made me feel so much safer and made the walk back way easier.
After we arrived at a wider spot in the path, we gave him the okay to turn off his light, we were ready to rest for a while and take out the camera.
Here you see him illuminating the waterfall and the cliff for his photos!
Above the canyon - the Milky Way!
More photos I took of the Milky Way by the falls!
After a while, we made our way back up the canyon, ready to head back home.
We arrived at the top, and there they were. The Northern Lights. They appeared. Out of nowhere.
I cried. I actually cried. I hugged my husband. I think I screamed. And then I started taking photos.
This time, I did it. I did it right,
The focus was great,
Settings were right on,
It was perfect.
For the first time since I started my interest in astrophotography
I was happy with the photos
More than happy
I can not believe I took these
I DID THIS
I am thrilled
The first photo I published has even been shared all around the globe!
Before we left the falls, I took some more shots of just the Milky Way
My husband and his gameboy were a huge help!
His gameboy's light illuminated the ground in front of us, adding amazing detail to the photos!
I can't describe the way I felt when I saw this. I was so happy, I was so excited. I thought I was dreaming.
I will never forget this night.
It it one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life
And one of the best parts about it?
I got to witness it with the love of my life
Theresa Burkhart, owner of Theresa Burkhart Photography