When once in a lifetime opportunities arise, it’s important that we take them. No matter how busy or tired we might be. Put it on the calendar and make it a priority. We all had the chance to do some comet chasing in July and I hope you took advantage of it. it was so much fun! It’s easy to be lazy or to think that it isn’t worth the effort; but when nature provides an unusual display, such as a comet, the northern lights, or a meteor shower, I highly suggest you take advantage of the opportunity.
Comet Neowise was only recently discovered on March 27, 2020, and it won’t be returning for another 6,800 years!!! It’s also one of the few comets that can be seen by the naked eye. So Dennis and I knew we had to try to capture it with his camera.
Check out this video of our experience.
Big Sable Lighthouse in Ludington
But we didn’t want to give up after one try so we headed to Ludington, Michigan to see if we could get a picture of the comet over Big Sable Lighthouse. This lighthouse is one of my absolute favorites because one of my ancestors was one of the first lighthouse keepers there. So, it’s special whenever we have the opportunity to visit.
Big Sable Lighthouse requires a 1.8-mile hike from a parking lot in Ludington State Park.
The trail is really more of an access road and biking to the lighthouse would be the way we would suggest to get there.
It was hot on our hike to the lighthouse and we were carrying a lot of camera equipment so we were tired by the time we got there. We searched for good compositions and Dennis used his Stellarium app to figure out where the comet should appear in the sky. We chose a location that would hopefully have a great view of the lighthouse with the comet above it and settled in.
The bathrooms by the lighthouse were open, which was great because as the sun continued to set, the mosquitos became fierce. Fortunately, we had brought along long pants, jackets, and bug spray! We were able to use the bathrooms to change since there were a few other photographers positioned in the area around us.
The sunset was beautiful! Big Sable is a unique lighthouse in that the best photo positions aren’t next to the lake. Unfortunately, they’ve struggled with erosion in that area and have had to install large metal fencing on the beach to keep the waves from getting too close to the lighthouse. Those shields destroy any beauty there would be from taking a photo on the beach. It was much more photogenic taking pics from the grassy dunes to the side of the Big Sable.
As the darkness fell, the stars began to come out and we searched the skies for Comet Neowise. We didn’t have to wait too long for it to make an appearance. At first, it looked like a fuzzy star. But as it grew brighter, it was easier to see that what we were looking at was the comet with a tail. We were surprised at how well we could see the comet from this location. It was far enough away from any light pollution that it showed up beautifully in the night sky.
We watched the comet for a long time. It was hard to pull ourselves away from it!
Eventually, we decided we should start heading back to the car. It was pitch black so we used Dennis’s headlamp and the light from our phones to be able to see the road back. We hadn’t gone far when we realized the path was paved with toads. We walked back to the car very carefully so that we didn’t step on anything. This part of the trip was freaky to me. I hate the thought of stepping on anything like that. But Dennis did his best to keep me calm and we continued on our way.
This was my favorite location for viewing Comet Neowise and we’ll definitely head back there for more night photography!
Muskegon State Park
A few nights later, we decided to try viewing the comet one more time. Some family commitments made it so that we couldn’t leave as early so we chose a location that was a lot closer to home. Muskegon is only about an hour’s drive for us and there are fairly dark skies out by Lake Michigan.
We drove to the park and found a spot with an interesting tree to use as a foreground. And then we waited. Again, the sunset was beautiful. Almost every time we watch a sunset over Lake Michigan it’s spectacular. Such a blessing!
Then, we waited for the skies to darken enough to be able to see the stars and for Comet Neowise to show up. And it didn’t fail. The comet was in a great position over the tree. Dennis snapped some photos during the blue hour. Our intention was to wait until the light was completely gone to take a few more but our night was interrupted by a police officer telling us the park had closed and we needed to leave. He actually sat there waiting for us to pack up and head back to our car.
Our mistake was that we were near the road just inside the state park sign because as we left the park, we saw the road lined with photographers who were technically outside of the park and who weren’t asked to leave. So if you choose to take photos in the Muskegon area, be sure you’re outside of the state park so that your photo session isn’t interrupted. We should have taken a right at the end of Memorial Drive instead of a left.
It was still an amazing few weeks of unique night photography and we were so glad we had the opportunity to capture a comet that won’t be back until well after we’re gone.
We’ve found that even when life is busy and you really don’t feel like heading out, we are always blessed when we make an effort to take advantage of these opportunities. There’s a whole world out there to explore once we decide to get up off the couch and put ourselves out there!