I rolled out on Tuesday afternoon for a trip into some of the darkest skies Florida has to offer. Between 1:00 pm and 4:00 am I covered about 500 miles. I had a plan and didn’t stick to it because of stupidity on my part or things totally out of my control. I didn’t get every picture I wanted, but I am happy with what I came home with.
Before sundown, these are some of the things I came across.
My first planned stop was the town of Basinger. It’s one of the oldest towns in the state. It began as Fort Basinger, an Army post, in 1837. By 1850, the fort was abandoned, but the town that grew around it survived.
Today, the town is hardly a town, just farms. The fort and anything dating back to the town’s beginnings are all but gone. The historic Lockette Estate still stands (mostly), but is off limits. It does look like the current (and new) owner is starting to fix up and preserve the property.
I dropped by the town cemetery. It was weird. A good number of the graves were decorated with stuff that, it seems, people are still bringing and leaving years after the fact.
After the cemetery, I drove around, stopping on a side road that seemed a good place to chill and eat dinner. Even though it was at least 90 degrees out, it was simply beautiful out. The truck doesn’t have A/C (I know, crazy for Florida, right?). I sat on the tailgate and marveled at how hot it didn’t seem.
I took some pictures to make a panorama with. I didn’t use my tripod, so some of the powerlines wouldn’t line up quite right.
Just miles and miles of nothing.
(This is a direct link to the full-sized panorama as uploaded to the Kinja: https://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/szihxipbuhqfpfkk5xpo.jpg
If you just click on the picture, it will be considerably resized to a smaller, lo-res image.)
Since it wasn’t too far away (about 20 miles) and also had the closest gas station (It takes 1.5 to 3 gallons of gas just to make a gas run out here!), I went down to Okeechobee and hung out at the lake for a bit.
I didn’t have the time to properly explore the lake area, but I did catch these two juvenile ospreys on a platform atop a light pole. The platforms are there for the ospreys to make nests on. These two had outgrown the nest and were waiting for mom and dad to bring them food.
I waited and waited, and finally, a meal was dropped off for them.
I happened so fast, I almost missed it.
Now it was time to head to my first night spot. The plan was to first catch the International Space Station streaking through the sky not long after sundown. I was then going to stay in the same spot, taking pictures for a star trail composite, as well as catching the Milky Way rise.
None of that happened. I screwed up the ISS timing and was off by a few minutes. I would have just kept the camera firing but the mosquitoes were so bad here. No amount of repellant was keeping them at bay. The air was literally thick with mosquitoes. I thought I missed the ISS fly-by and the mosquitoes were so bad, I decided to bail.
I got across the street to the truck and was half done packing the camera up when I saw the unmistakable bright spot flying through the sky. There went ISS.
Had I stayed, ISS would have gone right down the middle before vanishing above the horizon. Then later, the galactic center would have come up right between the railroad crossing gates. I lined everything up perfectly. The whole series of more than an hour’s worth of shots would have been glorious.
Though I only got a few minutes worth of shots in, I am really happy with how this turned out.
I moved on to my other pre-planned Milky Way shot locations.
First was an old stable/livestock pen. When I arrived, there was a street light right there in the way of the shot. It was the only street light for miles and miles. Damn it.
Next was another stable. I drove down some questionable dirt roads in the darkest spot of the night. When I got there, I discovered that even though the road continued on, I could not as it was gated off and became private property. I think it’s open during the day as it’s the only way to get to several farms and a tourist ranch. Damn it.
I ended up on the edge of the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. I finally had a spot to shoot from. Sadly, there were some unexpected wispy clouds blowing through that were not ideal. I did my best with stacking and aligning the stars, using frames that each had different cloudless areas.
I’m still tinkering with it, but this is what I got from this spot.
After packing up, I started the long drive home. At some point, I looked out the window and saw that the Milky Way was looking really bright in the sky.
I pulled over and set up again. There were still some annoying clouds, but I made the best of it. I’m still working on fine-tuning the edit, but this is good enough for now.
And that’s it. Now that I am familiar with the area, I’m planning a return visit for the Perseid Meteor Shower in August.
Oh, here’s a bonus photo; a thank you for making it all the way to the end of this post.