The lights of the city sparkled below as I stopped to rest. My legs wanted to continue to climb as if they held all of my excitement. My heart pounding in my chest wanted to rest. The moon was bright enough to outline the trail but the shadows from the trees, the intermittent patches of ice, and the rocky footing meant that I needed to use my flashlight. I worried that the cold wind would suck the life out of my flashlight batteries but I had an extra flashlight with fresh batteries for backup so I decided to continue.

Starry City
Starry City
I was halfway up Sugarloaf Mountain at a sort of lookout. I had to get my heart to quiet down before I could continue. It was reminding me that its been awhile since I last worked out. I knew the next section was steeper with sections of old cement stairs, rocks and the long set of steel rung steps. I now knew I had made the right decision to climb to the peak on this cold, dark November night. The sky was clear and the stars were out. I had been thinking about getting this photograph for a long time and knew that the snow would soon make this trip even more difficult. I also had some new star trail software to try out. The view of Campbellton and the Gaspe from the peak would make a perfect foreground for the stars.

I continued my climb up the mountain and stopped intermittently to appease my pounding heart. I was sweating quite heavily now and wished more of that cold wind would find its way through the trees to cool me down. I came to the long set of steel wrung stairs and thought of how the long lines of the railings in the moonlight would make a great photo but I continued on because I had bigger plans. The trail leveled out and I knew I was getting close to the peak.

Lookout Platform
Lookout Platform
I finally came over the last rocky scramble at the peak and soon was taking in the open view of the city below. The stars in the sky seemed infinite. I quickly took off my jacket to cool down and just as quickly put it back on once the cold November wind carried away all the heat I was building up. I explored the peak to find the best place to set up the camera. I tried the lookout platform but the grates made it hard to place the tripod and I thought there was enough wind to shake the platform. I finally settled on the smaller square column that made a perfect platform for a tripod. It was also the best angle for a split view of the city below with the stars above the dark outline of mountains on the Gaspe Peninsula.

I put fresh batteries in the camera and my remote release, and took a few test shots. I adjusted the exposure and added a grad-ND filter to balance out the brightness of the city below and make the stars brighter. I started the timer to take 30 second exposures every 30 seconds. My “work” was done for the next hour if my batteries didn’t die before then from the cold. I put on my gloves to keep warm and I continued to explore the peak and take in the spectacular view.

Towards Dalhousie
Towards Dalhousie
I found several other angles from the peak that I wanted to photograph when the timelaspse/startrail sequence was complete. Then I waited. I wondered how the startrail photo would turn out, wondered if the wind was shaking the tripod, wondered if I was wasting my time when I could be back at the hotel going to bed early. Then I realized that I would want to be here even if I didn’t have the camera. What an incredible way to spend a clear, starry, November evening.

When the hour was up I quickly set up to take the other photos I had planned. I played with light painting the rocks and the lookout platform. The wind was much colder now so my hands were getting quite numb. I finally packed everything up and started my decent, which would eventually take me back to a warm bed at the hotel, dreaming about what I could do differently on my next visit.

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