This title is fairly telling about my roots. No, I'm not from Montana, but it is my home now, has been for the last 6 years, and I don't plan to ever leave. I was born in Mississippi, and no thats not the one with St. Louis. I don't know why so many people in Montana don't know the difference between Mississippi and Missouri, but people always want to tell me about their relatives in St. Louis and Kansas City. Anyway, my earliest memories included getting told by my parents, my teachers, my Sunday school teachers, my friends parents, and strangers on the street that I was "stubborn as a mule." After 33 years (and 15 years of college) nothing has changed.

My first picture with the D750 - Knowing that my interest were in long exposure photography the first thing I did with my camera when it arrived was to toss it on my record player and see what it could do. CAUTION: this almost destroyed the motor on my record player and I cannot recommend it.

When I decided I was going to do this astrophotography nonsense I went in full force, got all the equipment, and taught myself what I needed to get started. No obstacle was going to stop me. As I was getting ready to head out for my first shot I texted my pro photographer brother that had helped me get to the point I was at and he hastily shut me down, pointing out the moon was nearly full. How can you shoot stars with a giant moon. Well this mule wasn't giving in that easy and I continued my prep and headed out in the the bright moonlit night.

I got to the location I had been planning to shoot and as I pulled into an otherwise vacant parking lot an old pickup turned on its head lights and a couple kids started looking spooked. Well I am definitely no law man and this made me chuckle. I hopped out of my car, trying to ignore their sad attempts to appear like they were just hanging out and that the only possible excuse for the sweet smell in the air was a skunk in the area. and started setting up my shot. Being new at this I didn't really know what I should do and I started by setting up my camera and tripod in the parking lot between my car and the truck the kids were sitting in. I wasn't really thinking about how someone setting up a camera next to your car might come off to stoned youth, but it quickly came to my attention when the level of panic seemed to increase. At this point I decided the only thing to do was to throw out what I would be considered an international "Yo, I'm cool" anthem and I turned on Friend of the Devil, by the dead. Well despite this clearly showing my age, it also seemed to calm the children down and they returned to their activities. Eventually they came to see what I was doing, but mostly left me alone. I got the shot set up and my stubbornness payed off. This is my first shot and it is definitely not the worst night pic I've taken.

The blue sky is a result of the bright moon which is also concealing the Milky Way that would otherwise be visible. I learned a valuable lesson and that was the value of the moon as a tool for lighting a foreground. This is something that has been a major part of the images I create and wouldn't have been possible if I had limited myself by waiting until a darker night. I guess the lesson is don't let your expectations limit your creativity. When I go to shoot in the dark now I look at lights as a challenge rather than an obstacle.

12 September 2019 - North Cottonwood Trailhead in the Bridger Mountains North of Bozeman, MT


© 2020 by Matt C. Jackson

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