A Starry Dawn over Mauna Loa

A photograph of serendipity.

The photograph was planned… Somewhat. I knew there were some picturesque trees on the lava field along Saddle road. The plan was to shoot one of these trees silhouetted against the Milky Way and Mauna Loa. That was the plan. At least until the plan met reality.

Shot as planned the results were less than stellar. Actually they were rather boring. The rising summer Milky Way was spectacular, nothing else worked. The enormous bulk of Mauna Loa became a bump on the horizon from the low angle with the 14mm lens. The trees did not look like much against the dark.

Serendipity intervened… First a passing car lit the trees with dramatic results. Car headlights caught the trees at just the right angle to light up the right bits, a lucky bit of geometry and road alignment. Looking at the image on my screen I was intrigued… I repositioned the camera and shot again when another vehicle passed… This was working!

As I waited for other passing cars the shots deteriorated, odd glows across the frame. Were the headlights catching the big dome of glass at the front of the lens? Blocking the light from the headlights on the camera did not help. I pull out a flashlight to check the camera… Ack! The lens was fogging up!

Retrieving the anti-dew kit and a battery from the vehicle I secured a dew strap around the camera lens. At this point I wanted the shot and was willing to work for it. I was lucky again… I had thrown the dew gear in the car as a last moment afterthought.

It took time for the lens to warm and clear. As I waited dawn crept into the sky. I took a last few shots as the light increased and the stars faded. The dawn light added a nice shade of blue to the sky with a hint of peach to one side, another serendipitous bit that added to the photo. A last wisp of fog on the lens was just enough to create halos around Mars and the brighter stars.

Not a bad result! With a little skill and more than a little luck. The shot has been entered in the Hawai’i Photo Expo. Hopefully the jurors think the shot is as good as I think it is.

Milky Way Dawn over Mauna Loa
The rising summer Milky Way, Mars and dawn over Mauna Loa