The Texas Night Sky Part One

There’s nothing like darkness.

It’s not a thing, it’s an absence of a thing; light. I prefer to think of it as a canvas, a blank one at that. A night time canvas on which one can project great beauty, powerful movement and an almost unlimited range of colors and intensities. Tonight I stand with my Mexican friends in gratitude for their solitude, forever watching the cars stream by.  The stars shine their way onto my canvas, slowly and methodically, forming perfect arcs, etching out their ancient poetry in the darkness.

4 Amigos

While the band plays on.

The Four Amigos serenade passing cars, hoping for someone to stop and listen to their silent croon and listen to the music that lights the sky with colors. That’s their job, to entertain the highway, but only for those who are listening…

Texas Sky-4

But not all that is discarded goes to waste. The car graveyard is not supposed to be a museum, but it is.  Photographers seem to think so, we like old crap that can be lit in the dark, sometimes with colored gels. As in this lovely old bomb, a shell of its former glory, but still useful, at least to me. But only at night.

Texas Sky-5

You would have walked right by this old, rusted shell of a contraption during the day. It was discarded decades ago, remnants of the last century cinnabar mining operations. Yet, under the stars, with a bit of loving attention, it becomes a magical transport, a time machine of sorts, What stories were told as miners dropped hundreds of feet below the crust of the earth’s surface? Think about the history, if only it could speak.

Jack's Bu

Yet, so much remains unsaid in the night, so much kept secret from the present, not available ever again. Just clues as it what might have been. The lovely colored bus above is one such example. Thousands of kids transported to and from school and later used as housing in exchange for day labor. The stories, the songs, the noises, and sounds, I bet that would be interesting, some of it.

Texas Bus

Yet, that same bus during the day, Jack’s Bus, seems so tired and retired in the blazing Texas sun. Just the night before, it glowed with the psychedelic colors of its era, courtesy of some creative lighting and a little magic.

This is my favorite time to photograph, after dark. This trip into the deepest darkness known on earth. In the center of west Texas, on the eve of the waning moon, I stand alone in the darkness with my camera, as the stars spin by.

How it happened

It all started with an invitation from my friend Lance Keimig to join him and his partner, Scott Martin, for a dark sky night photography workshop. Having worked with Lance before, I knew it would be awesome, and it was. Check out their websites.

One connecting flight and a four-hour car ride to Midland/Odessa airport and I arrived at Terlingua, TX at the Chisos Mining Company Motel. A $39 hotel room offered at a reasonable $85 a night during the high season was not a place anyone should voluntarily stay. It’s a run down flea bag but the mattress was clean and the water hot for a quick shower and a quicker exit the next morning. The walls are paper thin so the guy next door’s snoring kept me up. Go figure, but it was the only room available that weekend.

The food at the Starlight Theater Restaurant was decent as was the breakfast place next door, overall, a civilized place to hang out for 4 days. I recommend it, but not in the summer when the heat is epic, and the population vacant.

The Equipment

I shot this trip with my Sony Equipment: the A7r2 camera and two lenses: the Sony/Zeiss FE 16-35 and the Sigma 15mm Diagonal Fisheye Lens with a Sony adapter. And of course, my awesome Peak Design Everyday Messenger Bag.

If you get the chance, go out there some night and get yourself some darkness.