Winter Stars: Astrophotography in New England
See how one photographer uses the Kode 32 snow pack to capture his star shots in the woods of Connecticut.
By Fritz Bacon, a student, photographer, filmmaker and adventurer. Formerly a self-described “shy kid who was never a big fan of trying anything new,” Fritz has since started branching out as a result of his interest in photography. “I have been around cameras for as long as I can remember, but shooting the same things day after day made me almost lose my interest entirely. One day something clicked and I knew that to get the shots I was craving, I would need to go outside my comfort zone.” Fritz now loves discovering new places and meeting new people — these new experiences have allowed him to take some of his best shots.
I’ve been shooting photos ever since I can remember, but after watching a video a few years ago where the Milky Way sprawled out above a mirror-like lake, I knew I had to try my hand at astrophotography.
It’s not everyday that you get to see the stars clearly when living in New England. I learned this the hard way when I moved out East after living in Colorado for 15 years. It was a whole new world, one that was rainy, cloudy and whose inhabitants were not nearly as friendly. Luckily for me I chose to attend the University of Connecticut, which at certain times of the year has a decent enough view of stars for me to get the shots that I want.
The past few months I have been venturing out into UConn’s woods armed with a 120-lumen flashlight, my Osprey Packs Kode 32 packed with all my camera gear and the ever-important thermal underwear. I try to venture out each week when the conditions are ideal; I’m talking no clouds and little moonlight to get the clearest possible shot. This winter has offered a good amount of chances to get out and shoot. It is an amazing feeling to venture out in the dead of night to gaze up into the sky — especially when everything is silent, muffled by the recent snow.
When the weather has no intention on cooperating, I will recruit my more active friends to brace the chilling cold and I’ll get creative with a bit of long exposure light painting. A few weeks ago, the forecast showed snows and overcast weather but I had been itching to shoot. I phoned a few friends and set a meet up time the plan to get a few long-exposure shots of them around a campfire. This shoot would require the use of my tripod but I hate having to carry it by hand, so I devised a way to carry it on my back. In the spot that I would strap in a ski on my Kode 32, I instead strapped one leg in the loop and folded the other two legs down on the outside, neatly securing the tripod to my bag. I grabbed the rest of my gear and I was out the door.
After a quick forty-five minute hike we were at the spot where I wanted to set up my shot. We got the campfire started quickly as temperatures were bordering on the negative. The shoot went better then I had anticipated and I was relaxing by the fire with my friends when we heard a singular coyote cry followed by what seemed like seven or eight more cries. This went on for a while until we could distinctly hear the cries coming closer and closer. This spooked some of the members in the group, and since I had all the shots that I needed I figured it would be a good time to leave. The coyotes followed us for a bit on the hike back, out of curiosity I am sure. They made sure to stay out of sight and eventually lost interest which was a relief to many in the group not used to wild animals.
We arrived back on campus and cooked up some hot cocoa to pull the cold out of us. As we were relaxing and winding down I booted up my laptop and revisited the day’s work before the hot cocoa kicked in and lulled me to a deep sleep.