Hey :) My name is Ben, and very simply, I love being out under the stars. I’m still working out why that is, when did it start, and where is it going. If we were sitting at a coffee shop having this conversation one on one- I’d be smiling, and probably leaning forward on my elbows, fingers interlocking and waving through the air, excited to communicate this deep passion. And, interestingly, if we were having this conversation out under the stars, I’d be calm, slower speaking, with many thoughts drifting off into unfinished… thoughts…

Crater Lake, Oregon

Vincent van Gogh said, "For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars make me dream." So far- this is the closest words I've found voicing what I feel under the stars. But thankfully, I've found a different way to capture and share these illusive feelings- a camera.

Sandy Glacier Ice Caves, Mt Hood, Oregon
(Portland city light pollution 50 miles away casts yellow light into the caves)

I'll save the story for how I got into this night photography thing for one of the other posts this week, but yeah- a digital camera is my medium of preference for going exploring into the night sky. And, for understanding between us, any image I share here is 100% real. I do use digital editing programs to blend exposures to bring out shadows or manage digital noise- but the camera stays on the tripod and the tripod never moves. What you see is what was really there. That's a priority for me in my work and always will be. G.K. Chesterton said, "The world will never starve from want of wonders, but only from want of wonder." A view of the night sky is one of the biggest lost sources of wonder in our world, so I find great joy in pairing that wonder of the stars with unique and engaging landscapes. We must simply open our eyes and selves to the wonder surrounding us.

Oregon Star Party, 2013

Something that will probably surprise you- I struggle being labeled as an Astronomer. I don't own a telescope. A high schooler in the astronomy club probably knows more about the constellations than I do. I don't keep track of which planets are in alignment. I don't chase eclipses. All the usual practices and protocols of astronomers are things that have never kept my interest, and yet, I have no hesitation to say I love seeing the stars. It's weird, I know. And, sorry, I don't have an easy explanation for you. But, this image above might help. I joined the Rose City Astronomers at the Oregon Star Party and found an awesome alignment of our similar but different passions. While they nerded out hard on making celestial observations, I nerded out hard taking pictures of them doing it. In this image, the astronomer doesn't know he/she is having their picture taken because they are so engrossed in their note taking, equipment and observations. And I am clueless about what cluster or galaxy their telescope is pointed at. Yet- in this moment- they are ecstatic being out under a dark, clear sky of stars; and I am ecstatic being under a dark, clear sky of stars. Their telescope is tracking their subject of interest, and my camera is tracking my subjects of interest. With completely different lens focal lengths, our passions overlap and in this moment- there's an illusive logic to it.

Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Patterson

I'm fascinated by how our humanity intersects and interacts with the stars. I don't mean Astrology- but how our culture sees and values the stars. How do we each- as individuals- react to a blanket of stars overhead. This Calvin and Hobbes comic by Patterson is a nice example. Six year old Calvin screams his identity to the deep sky, proclaiming his place in the universe. Ambivalent silence is the reply and he's forced to accept a new definition of himself in regards to the vastness of the universe. If I could achieve an impossibility in life- it would be to bring every human on the planet to a truly dark sky spot and give them the opportunity to newly understand themselves in the scope of the infinite twinkling above. I want this more than knowing how many light years away M34 is. *laughing* Maybe I'm an Astronomical Anthropologist. That's a fun tongue twister.

In my opinion, we are ants in a jar looking up and out to the greater world beyond our jar/planet.

Cooper Spur, Mt Hood, Oregon

But what happens when the ants stop looking up because they put party lights up on the rim of the jar and can't see the stars anymore? What happens if the ants lose perspective of a greater world beyond and simply become obsessed with what they can interact with in their small jar, no longer concerned about life outside the jar. What if they begin to live like the jar is the only thing there is.

In my work, I do my best to climb to the highest points of the jar- farthest from the stupid party lights- to look up and out the mouth and peek at this magnificent world beyond. I love life in the jar, and I love my fellow ants. But... I know this isn't all there is. And, every morning I come back from the rim of the jar having seen the lights beyond, jar-life worries really aren't such a big deal compared to what I've seen out there.

So, I take my camera and bring back pictures.

Lost Lake, Oregon (Mt Hood on horizon)

Thanks for reading, I'm looking forward to chatting some more with you next week. We're a zany group of ants, aren't we!? Bessie Hyde said it beautifully, "We of the night will know of many things which a sleeper will never dream."

In case you want to see more of my work- check it out at, www.theStarTrail.com
Til then, cheers and clear skies,


Showing 2 comments
  • 11 December 2015
    I am an oregon based photographer and I am making it a focus to develop star gazing content through 2016, I am building a calendar to show the changing constellations. I really like the long exposure star photos you are making, I think I have seen your photos before.

  • Amber Bradley
    14 January 2016
    So beautiful, thank you.
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