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The darkest crater

April 23, 2016

My adventure continues, even on 'vacation'. It never stops! And it gets even more exciting when I get to see other landscapes and environments. Well this time I sort of knew what I could expect since I had already spent several weeks on Lanzarote a few years back, and I geared up accordingly. 

 

April 10th, 2016. We are landing in Tenerife. I am exhausted from a sleepless night chasing auroras, and I have been editing pictures during the whole time of the flight (five and a half hours), but the sight of turquoise ocean water, volcanic islands playing hide-and-seek with cumulus clouds and the strong rays of the sun, keep my watery eyes open. Besides it is 23 degrees outside and the sun already starts to burn my ghostly-white skin. 

After renting a car, we are on the way to Costa Del Silenco where our hotel is. I am driving with Monica and it is hard to keep a conversation, especially since I am focusing more on finding good spots all around me for photography. It's like an explosion in my head. There is now just one focus, when I should probably be getting some rest: pictures pictures pictures! 

My colleagues and I decide to go for a walk to the nearest beach. 'Yes' I thought when I saw the dark lava-stoned cliff, bashed by the clear-blue water waves. It was an old (in any case before 640 A.D., check out this cool site for more info) lava-coulee that had sprung from Mount El Teide (the visible volcano) onto a beautiful eroded sedimentary rock cliff.

 

 

The coast is gorgeous and that's a fact, but I was far from realizing that the real treasure was high above the clouds. I saw on some leaflets that the island offered astronomy tours from the observatory. I thought, then, that I should probably find a way to go up there. One day all four of us decided to go spend a late afternoon on top of the volcano. Well, at least in the national park, because the lift all the way to the top was closed. We drove our small Fiat cars on the sinuous and narrow roads of the mountain side from El Medano (50m above see level) to the park (2100 m)! We crossed the cloud line on the way, and what a view now, as we are riding upwards! 

 

 

As we arrive inside the crater, delimited by a rugged mountain ridge, everybody can feel a special atmosphere. The air is thin, the sun is very strong, even though it is 5 pm, the brise is picking up, but something strange: not a single movement or sound but that of the wind. It is a majestic place, barren, lunar even. If it wasn't for the few tourist cars passing by, one could thing they are on Mars. We are driving around the national park from place to place. I only have time to take a few single shots, but I would need to come back. ALONE. I actually left my colleagues to drive back down on their own and kept the second car for myself and decided to spend the night, after a magnificent sunset over the clouds! 

 

 
It is like the clock was ticking. From 9 pm to 7 am the next morning, I needed to somehow get the most of my stay and capture as many things as possible. I started setting up some time-lapses. However a difficulty arose. My shots were too dark at the habitual settings (f/2-2.8, ISO 1600). I remembered that it was a new-moon night, but still... I had to bump my ISO setting at 3600 on sony and 6400 on Canon and sacrifice the low-noise side for a slightly better lit set-up. And still at these settings, the foreground was absolutely too dark! I had never experienced such darkness at night. It was so dark that the light of Jupiter and the rest of the night sky was lighting up the parking lot where I was staying at! It is not in Denmark that you can experience that. There was virtually no light pollution up there (just a little from the cities near the coast, but most of it is blocked by the clouds). The air is also so dry and clear that all my shots are so crisp and sharp! And there is so wind, but it is not freezing either (10-15 degrees C). Besides that, very occasional high atmospheric clouds are compromising and the airglow is next to absent. But the best part is probably the fact that Tenerife lies at a very low latitude in the Northern hemisphere, enabling me to witness the entire milky way core, and more for the first time ever! What a beauty! The Sagittarius region produces so much light that it overexposed some of the shots and highlighted the whole night sky.

 

 


I was also able to shoot some 85mm photographs of the milky way core with my canon 70D and the Canon EF 50mm lens f/1.8 (I shot at 2.8 to avoid too much light abberation and star distortion), for stacking, but also for a time-lapse trial. I did not tire out. Even though my subject were too dark, I kept shooting all night, mainly wide-angle scenes (at 28mm or 16mm). My favorite scene is the milky way rising from the mountain ridge, taken with my a7r2 and sony FE 28mm f/2:

I decided to call this place 'the darkest crater' and it it needless to say that I could brag about it much more, but I will simply recommend to go see it for yourself, whether you are an astrophotography freak or just a nature lover! 

After shooting a total of more than 10 000 pictures and spending hours (maybe days!) within Tenerife's overwhelming nature, I was ready to come home and sleep. My colleagues now call my a vampire, and I would probably agree. A part of me regrets not being able to have participated in some of their exciting activities, but that's what it takes to have a double life. And hey!, I got to try surfing and I enjoyed it so much that I need to buy me a board and get into it!

It also took me some considerable time to go through my pictures and assemble my time-lapses into my latest movie 'the darkest crater' that you can watch in 4K below. My Capture One Pro 9 library fried this morning and I lost a lot of shots, because of the 800Go of space it took...Oh well, the most important part is here. 

 

Now on to the Danish spring and its unstable but amazing weather! 

I hope you enjoy the video and shots as much as I enjoyed Tenerife. Don't wait and book your next vaca there!