The Best Laid Plans.... / by Ed Shanahan

Last night I headed out to Skyline Drive, 90 minutes west of here, to check out its suitability as a location for an astro engagement photography session that I will be shooting this summer.  In order for a site to work the location must 1) be away from cities and dark enough so that you can see stars 2) have a vantage where you can shoot facing south to get the Milky Way, now visible, in the photo behind the couple 3) have interesting foreground elements 4) not be in use by other photographers while you are there as you will need to use flash fill on the couple.  Once you have that you need to wait for a night where 1) the moon is "new" or in an early crescent stage so it is not so bright that it will obscure the stars.  This occurs on only appx 4 nights a month.  And you need a night within this 4 night period where the weather is good and the cloud cover is minimal. Lastly you need to be prepared to be out most of the night to get the shots you need.  In other words, the "stars must align".  Last night all these conditions came together so I headed out.  Then the clouds, not predicted, moved in just after sunset.  No chance to get any practice shots of the Milky Way!  Anyway I made the best of the situation by taking a couple of shots of sunset over the Shenandoah Valley.  Here is one of them