Kit Fox and Star Trails

May 22, 2008

052208 copy

Provided and copyright by: Joe Klein
Summary authors & editors: Joe Klein

The photo above showing star trails of Orion’s Belt and an inquisitive kit fox was captured on October 20, 2007, from Painted Gorge in Imperial County, California. My goal this night was to photograph the annual Orionid meteor shower at Painted Gorge. During the night, kit foxes looking for food scraps raided my campsite. They even were eating off a small hibachi style grill while it still had red hot charcoals aglow. As I left one camera location to start another exposure on a second camera, one of the foxes ran over to my chair, knocked over a full cup of iced tea, and ran off with the cup. Eventually I sought shelter from the falling temperatures as well as the aggressive foxes. I decided to finish the night shooting long exposures from my SUV. I placed the tripod close to the driver-side door and was able to operate the camera from the inside of the vehicle shooting 20 to 30 minutes exposures, using a Nikon FM film camera and a cable release. The sky show was less then desired, although I saw about 20-30 meteors that night. However, my ultimate objective to snap a meteor streaking across the night sky was unfilled. After getting two rolls of film developed and then scanning over two hundred digital images into my computer, I was disappointment that I was unable to find what I was after. On closer inspection, though, and much to my excitement, I noticed a rather nice time exposure of Orion's Belt, with one of the visiting foxes in the lower left corner. The lesson I learned is that when photographing the night sky, you can't always get what you want, but you’re still likely to get what you need -- and that would be just one nice shot.

The whitish glow above the hills is from the city lights in El Centro, California. The foreground light was obtained by turning on my vehicle headlights for about 45 seconds when the camera shutter was open. This lit up the hillside and foreground, as well as the fox. I was unaware that the fox was in the shot at the time the photo was taken.

Photo details: Nikon FM camera with 28 mm, 2.8 Nikkor lens. Setting and exposure: lens at F8, exposure was about 35 minutes, Fuji 800 ASA Color Negative film.