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Annual Camping Trip – 2015, Elk Island National Park

The 4th Annual SAPC camping trip was held August 21-24 at Elk Island National Park at the Astotin Lake Group Campsite and it was a great success! It is hard to get the exact numbers of campers and participants since this year’s event was so close to Edmonton that many people came out for the day or for one, two, or three nights.

I arrived with my trailer about 2:30 pm on Friday August 21 and there were already lots of trailers, tents and motorhomes set up. The group site is basically just a field with some grass, curbs, a wood shed and a few fire pits with the whole thing surrounded by trees, but it turned out to work just fine. There was plenty of room to get everyone parked and set up without being crowded or stressed out trying to find a spot to camp.

After supper many of us went down to the lake to capture the sunset and it turned out to be a lovely evening with a colourful sunset and some pelicans adding interest for the bird photographers.

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After that it was fun to gather around the fire with our cameras trying to photograph dual lasers playing in the smoke, sparklers, and spinning glow sticks.

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Much later, after it was finally deemed to be dark enough, Jeff Wallace led a few people down to the beach to give a night sky photography demonstration. Being one of those people who prefer to be in bed at night, I have very little night sky photography experience and I was determined to give it a try so I grabbed my camera, tripod, cable release and flashlight and set out for the beach.

DSC06120It’s very spooky wandering around out there at night but here and there I could see others clanking around with tripods and cameras as we made our way to the rendezvous point. Jeff came around to each of us and tried to help us set up our camera properly to get the best shot. Shooting with an older, cropped sensor Sony camera, I discovered that “hobbyist” (less expensive) cameras are missing some advanced features that make life a whole lot easier when doing this kind of shooting. I had imagined that focussing to “infinity” would probably work for stars, aren’t they an awfully long way away? But nooooo, you need to be able to zoom in your focus on a particular bright star and that proved difficult (but not impossible) to do.

I also discovered “photographer etiquette”. When there are more than one or two shooters, it is important not to turn on your flashlight at random times because that has a tendency to mess up carefully set up exposures, some of them as long as 30 minutes for star trails, “oops!).

It was well worth it and I’m glad I stayed up for it although I did miss the northern lights all weekend (but so did a few other people, BARRY) and they were apparently amazing! For some reason, they are always amazing if you decide not to go out and photograph them.

_DSC6163Saturday and Sunday people ventured out on their own or in groups to various places in the area: including the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, the towns of Lamont and Andrew, the Skaro Shrine and other sites, churches and regional oddities and points of interest.

 

I got a guided tour of the Ukrainian Village from Club member Gordon who apparently visits there a lot! He seemed to know many of the costumed role-players and directed a few of us to “secret” photo opportunities, “thanks Gordon”. DSC06398It was a beautiful day and from what I’ve seen people got a lot of great shots from different area locations, we covered the area like a blanket, which is also what we needed in the evenings as the temperature got down as low as +2 degrees!

Those low temps helped shooters get some great early morning shots though so it was well worth it, (speaking as someone who had a furnace in the trailer).DSC06548

Saturday evening there was another campfire with lots of spinning lights, sparklers and paper bags with candles to photograph. People seemed to really enjoy socializing around the camp fire, doing a little fun photography and just “chilling with the peeps” in a beautiful natural setting.

 

I would definitely characterize this year’s St. Albert Photo Club camping trip as a great success and I can’t wait for next year’s trip to Dinosaur Provincial Park, August 19-22, see you there!