Capturing the Milky Way over Mount St. Helens

Last weekend I teamed up with Matt for another lesson In advanced photography. This time we wanted to take advantage of the New Moon and try to capture the Milky Way. The question being would the weather cooperate stay clear. Many of the roads on Mt. Rainier are still closed so the next item on the list was Mount St. Helens.

Mount St. Helens

For as much snow as we had this winter, I was surprised and just how much had already cleared off the slopes of St. Helens. A couple of quick facts.

The stratovolcano was named by explorer George Vancouver during his survey of Puget Sound. It was named for his friend Lord St. Helens.

Of course it achieved notoriety during its 1980 eruption. This was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed.

A massive debris avalanche triggered by an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale caused an eruption that reduced the elevation of the mountain’s summit from 9,677 ft  to 8,363 ft, leaving a 1 mile wide horseshoe-shaped crater. The debris avalanche was up to 0.7 cubic miles in volume. The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was created to preserve the volcano and allow for its aftermath to be scientifically studied.

Midnight and the Milky Way

Just before sunset we made our way up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory and hike out on the trail just far enough to be out of the lights which surround the parking lot and buildings. We certainly weren’t the only ones who had the idea as the trail was spotted with other photographers.

Matt and I found a good spot and set up our gear. I wanted to go for a time lapse and had brought my 42” slider. It was a little more complicated getting things set up in the dark but eventually I  was successful.

It was a perfect night to be out on the mountain. Temperatures were moderate and it was surprisingly calm. I had come expecting much more bitter conditions.

I’ve dumped the photos from the time lapse and think it will make for a nice piece. I’m posting one of the stills.I’m busy getting ready for Alaska and won’t have time to work on the series until I return. I was fairly happy with it till I saw one of Matts photos! Obviously I still have much to learn and practice. Here’s a link to his site; I’m sure he’ll be posting something soon.


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