Humboldt County, California.
After paying a second nighttime visit to this Vista Point in two years, I can safely say that a dull nocturnal moment rarely passes at this viewpoint looking up the Eel River valley. I had come to the spot precisely two years before to make some nighttime photographs, and on both occasions the comings and goings of travelers tossed an interesting spice into the night.
When my friend Ryan* and I arrived (in separate cars due to COVID-19), there was a vehicle already parked where I needed to put the camera for the angles I wanted. Pulling in behind them, we turned off our cars and headlights to await their departure and our turn at that spot. It was a short wait, for they soon scooted down the way a little. I hope we didn’t unintentionally crowd them out, but we couldn’t tell (I am sorry if that’s the case).
Excellent! We fired up our cars and hastened to fill the spot they had just vacated… which was evidently again too close for them, for they soon left with what I believe was a cry of exasperation sounding from within their vehicle. Many apologies to you, good people — just trying to get the shot!
Milky Way is the star of the heavens at this time of year, but a dark cloud hung obstinately in the nighttime sky and perfectly obscured it. While other clouds blew by, this one remained in front of the Milky Way. Is that even possible? Almost anything is possible when trying to get a nighttime photograph. We waited, hoping it would blow away, and used the time to make a few experimental exposures to test the evening’s lighting.
As we awaited, another car pulled up not far behind us, bathing us in the glare of its headlights. Standing in their twin spotlights, it occurred to me that my first impulse is to turn my headlights off as soon as possible when I pull up in the dark of night and there are people about. But the thought apparently never occurred to the occupants of the vehicle, as their headlights remained trained on us, casting extended shadows down the road and along the hillside behind us.
We couldn’t photograph while standing in their twin spotlights. I considered walking over to ask them if they would turn their lights off for us, but as we waited, sounds of merriment began to issue from their car, and it was soon evident that their attentions were entirely engaged within. After several cries and moans, I thought I knew what occupied their thoughts.
“Ryan,” I said, “I think they’re having sex in there.”
He indicated the hillside. “Yeah, look at the shadows on the hill.”
The long shadows cast by the vehicle’s headlights bumped and moved rhythmically on the hillside to the sounds of frolic coming from within.
Cast accidentally in their direction, the incautious eye might discern motion in the other car that would seem to corroborate our speculation. Occasional flashing displays of their hazard lights offered additional indication of their preoccupation. We waited. Their headlights remained trained directly on us.
Crescendos from their car raised my hopes for an early withdrawal, but the couple remained determined even as the sky finally cleared and the Milky Way was revealed. But in the blaze of their headlights we still could not photograph it.
At last the activity died down, and soon their headlights moved off down the road. The sideshow as over, and we were once again in darkness. The Milky Way was still visible between passing clouds, and we could finally take some photographs. It was a happy ending for all concerned.
To any new little lives who might have been conceived that night at that Vista Point, I dedicate these photographs.
I mention a previous visit to this Vista Point two years before; here is its photo story: Vista Point, Humboldt County (June 20, 2019).
*Find Ryan Freitas’ photos on Instagram at @rjf_photo .