Story behind the photo: I knew from the start that I wanted to do a time-lapse of the Milky Way at night. I hiked to this spot called Beacon Heights in the afternoon to scout the area. I choose an ideal spot to shoot at night and remembered the composition I would most probably be using for the evening. Decided to do this as it’s easier to do all this during the day.
Beacon Heights is merely 0.2 miles though the forest from the start of the trail to the top of the overlook with this view which isn’t long at all. That’s what I thought anyway during the day. I arrived again in the evening right after sunset while there was still a scant amount of light; there were still about 3 cars parked at the start of the trail so I knew there were people up there. Arrived at the top without issue and admired the view and started shooting my non time-lapse shots first. Little by little, the groups of people left and I was all alone.
The overlook was mainly rocks with a drop off and the view in front of that. Behind you is the thick tree line which I just hiked through. It was peaceful but honestly creepy at the same time, being so close to the dense trees and shrubs in complete darkness. I shined my flashlight from time to time at the trees to make sure nothing snuck up on me. I decided to play upbeat music on my phone to change the mood and to maybe ward off any curious animals in the area. It was absolutely breathtaking watching the Milky Way emerge out of the fading post sunset horizon light; seeing it slowly move horizontally across the sky little tiny bits at a time. The evening breeze was crisply cool, all you could hear was the critters of the forest at night, and the stars were so blindingly bright once your eyes adjusted to the lack of light.
The time-lapse was already going on for a while and I was lying down on the ground beside my camera setup and just enjoying the moment. The evening breeze changed direction and the wind blew from the trees towards me heading to the view I was staring at and then I smelled it, a really strong odor very similar to how a wet dog smells. What I immediately thought of was, oh god, the only big animals I’m aware of in this area would be deer and bear. I’ve been near deer before and they don’t smell like that, leaving the other unpleasant option a possibility.
This made me literally jump up, turn on my two flashlights and move as far away back from the trees as I could.
My heart was pounding and I was really nervous. Blasted the music even louder and checked the tree line for anything. Decided to stay for just a few more exposures to make it worthwhile but I could not relax anymore. When the last photo was taken at 10:10pm I called it quits and decided that was enough shooting for the night. Packed up all my stuff, tied a flashlight on my left wrist so it would be dangling and pointing at the ground, held another flashlight in my left hand as my sweeper light, held the tripod on the right as my improvised weapon, and put my phone in my pocket blasting music on maximum volume which just so happened to be the soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy. I thought to myself on how else I could make my presence more known; why of course, let me just “sing” along to the playing music which was more like me nervously yelling the lyrics and hiking down as fast as I could through the eerily dark path through the forest. (The specific song playing was I’m not In Love by 10cc, so imagine someone lit by flashlights enveloped by the dark in the forest trail yelling it out loud like a crazy person) 0.2 miles never felt so long in my life before, I can tell you that. When I reached the clearing past the trees at the bottom I just ran to my car and I’ve never been happier to be out of the hiking trails before. The things you do to take these photos…