Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to look at it more closely. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

I Wonder What That Was - A Chance Encounter One Starry, Summer Night

The night sky has for me been a fascination since I was old enough to look toward the heavens and wonder what was out there. As a young lad in the evening during the summer months I would often lay in the small field next to my grandparents house in southeastern Oklahoma and simply watch the sky.


Sometimes I was rewarded with a streak of light that zipped across the dark face of the night...a meteor burning up as it entered the atmosphere. Most times I simply watched and wondered. In time I learned the difference between what a high flying aircraft looked like at night vs an orbiting satellite illuminated by the sun. I was always fascinated to watch a satellite sail like a silver speck of light amongst the myriad of stars. The planet Jupiter seemed to always shine exceptionally bright, as did other individual stars most of which I never knew their names. The nights were full of adventure as I imagined becoming the first man to step foot on Mars, or ride in a spacecraft high above to view the blue and brown tones of home, and at the time I was facinated by the prospect of men finally landing on the moon in the near future. Those were the dreams of a young lad on summer nights spent gazing at the stars, however, one summer night, long, long, ago, I found myself lying in that same field watching the night sky unfold when an unexpected true adventure materialized.

I remember it being a moonless, particularly dark night, with the stars bright and clear and the Milky Way haze cast like a star studded, silver ribbon from one horizon to the next. Almost overhead, just to my visual right a single bright star sat motionless and broadcast its light like a distant beacon. It seemed unusually bright...I thought it was Jupiter, the giant gas planet. To my surprise, a few moments later I was to discover it was not.

After a short time I noticed another dimmer speck of light moving across the sky from slightly to my left and in front of where I was moving somewhat in a westerly direction. After watching it for a few minutes and based on its movement and speed I was pretty sure it was some kind of satellite arching across the night following its orbital pattern with the sun reflecting off its surface. I never took my eyes off the moving light...and followed it constantly for several minutes. After a few moments it became apparent it was moving toward that motionless, brighter star and I thought it might be interesting to watch it sail in front of it. To my surprise, just before it reached the brighter star, it stopped.

I wasn't sure what I was saw and looked around, blinked a time or two, and thought I had just lost sight of it...but no, it was still there, just to one side of the larger star which previously was by itself, but now had a small companion next to it. As strange as that event seemed, the evening was soon to become even stranger.

I kept asking myself, "What is that?" and after a few minutes I noticed the brighter star, which had been sitting motionless, suddenly start moving in the opposite direction from where the little one had come, and it was also moving about twice as fast, only this time away to the east. I'm sure my eyes were wide open in amazement as I watched it scoot rapidly across the sky, way faster than an aircraft could move, until I lost sight of it a few minutes later as it passed behind a distant tree line. I had no clue what it was, but one thing I know for sure, it was not an airplane.

Several minutes passed and I watched with anticipation for something else to happen, but nothing out of the ordinary appeared. I ran into my grandparents house all excited shouting, "You should have seen what I just saw...it was moving ...then it wasn't...then the other star started moving...and it flew away..."

My grandmother simply smiled and said, "That's nice...time for you to come in now."

No amount of my excited ramblings changed a single emotion from her about the subject. To her, I was just her grandson who was getting exciting about some hair brained thing like he always did. My fantastic story was just the imaginations of a young boy to her. But, I know better...I still wonder to this day what it was I saw during that brief, chance encounter beneath that brilliant, starry, summer night sky.

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