Being of the Benefit of Jet Lag

We hoped for several — if not many, to be truthful — cloudless, moonless nights in the Mustang Valley region of Nepal, where I was last month. For several years I have pre-visualized a stupa or chorten (a Tibetan buddhist version of a stupa) dimly lit whilst rising behind it a resplendent Milky Way. Was this trip THAT trip? Would the weather gods cooperate? I had asked the tour operator — Nathan of  Nathan Horton Photography Tours — to push the trip to overlap with the new moon. He gladly agreed, though astrophotography is not really his thing. Two others on the trip — besides me — were excited by the possibilities. Our first morning in the lower reaches of the long Mustang Valley we rose early to try and capture both the Milky Way and eventually the sunrise. There were some clouds and the sky was already turning a cobalt blue as a prelude to the sun coming over the horizon. We shot from the roof of the mountain inn and two images worked but no foreground stupa. The next night village lights conspired to thwart our astro-desires. The following night we were in a great location: very dark, high in the Upper Mustang. The roof of the new inn featured stupa-like structures with prayer flags at each corner. We spent over an hour shooting in the evening but clouds kept rolling in. Seemingly another bust! Jet lag of course had been cutting my sleep down significantly: I was lucky to get 5 hours of sleep, night after night. Sure enough, around 4 am I awoke and peeked out my window: it was clear! Fortunately my photo gear was still mounted on my tripod and tiptoed up to the roof where I could see the Milky Way rising just beyond the southern stupa-like roof accoutrement. The sky was already turning blue from the imminent sunrise. I was able to take several 50-second exposures with the image here being one of the last. 

Sadly, we never had another opportunity for night photography. And, no, this is not a real stupa or chorten…I still have THAT image in mind!

Words and photo Jeff clay