Sunday, March 29, 2015

Back To Scott

I’ve spent most of March trying to get one picture to come out right – star trails above an old church near Scott. It’s a neat old church, but it’s not in the best of shape now.


The roof is drooping, the insides have been trashed and the doors and windows are broken and open to the elements. The old church, probably once filled during weddings and services, probably won’t be around for much longer. Soon it may be another victim of gravity, neglect or bored idiots playing with matches. We’ve lost a lot of old buildings just like this one.

In Pine Bluff, several of the old abandoned buildings along Main Street have collapsed after decades of neglect. All that remains of many are piles of rubble.

Pine Bluff

And in the nearby town of England, there is a another church that I’ve taken a few pictures of over the years. It’s one that I was thinking of trying to get star trails at as well. But it’s been lost as well, torn down or burned. All that remains of it is just a bare patch of dirt.

Westminster Abbey?

So I’ve been trying to get a good picture of this church with some star trails above it, while I still can. I’ve been out to the church three times in March, thanks to a wacky comedy of errors on the first two trips. On visit #1, I headed out there a few days after our last snow. There was a full moon, and I hoped the last bits of snow on the ground would reflect the moonlight. By the time I drove out there, I saw that most of the snow had melted. I set up the camera anyways, only for a stream of low clouds to start rolling through.

The weather had predicted that the clouds would move out and the skies would clear, but they didn’t. Which is fine, except that clouds do a fairly good job of covering up stars. Here is one of the shots from that night, as clouds streak across the sky above the church.


And a time-lapse video with all of the shots from the night, this is about 200 pictures representing about two hours.

So a few days later, on the next clear night, I drove back out to Scott. I set up the camera and started taking pictures. Unfortunately, nothing turned out from that trip. The first mistake I made was not getting the camera settings correct, so most of the shots I took out there were too dark. The next problem was that the camera fogged up after about twenty minutes, which isn’t good. But it didn’t really matter anyways. When I left the house I managed to not grab the two fully charged batteries, instead getting one that hadn’t been charged. So after about an hour, the camera died.

I started to feel a little desperate when I headed back out there on the next clear night for attempt #3. This time I was prepared. Or as prepared as I could be. All the batteries were charged, the settings were double-checked. I even researched ways to prevent lens fogging, which worked even it wasn’t the fanciest method (it was two handwarmers stuck in a sock, which was wrapped around the lens). I got to the church after dark, set everything up again, and started taking pictures.

This church is pretty much located way out in the middle of some flat fields, in the middle of nowhere. Nothing bothered me the first two times I was there, but this trip I began to get a little creeped out. The abandoned church would be the perfect setting for an attack by some sort of ghost, evil spirit or serial killer.

One time I went to check on the camera and heard some dogs (or coyotes?) out in the distance. They were yipping or howling, but in the dark it eerily sounded like a baby crying. It freaked me out a little and I hurried back to the car. I began to let my imagination get to me. Is that distant light (from a deranged killer’s flashlight?!) getting closer? Oh no, it’s a street light that’s a half mile away. And it’s not moving. Is that something creepy lurking in the grass behind the camera, ready to strike? Is that a person sneaking around in the brush? No, just a rabbit or a possum moving around (or a skunk, which was probably the scariest thing out there).

But I survived, and after two hours went to the check on the camera. Everything finally came out ok. The lens didn’t fog up, although the tripod legs were coated with dew. I ended up getting over two hundred pictures of the stars above the church, without any big clouds passing through. Finally!


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