Searching for Dark Skies in Rural Louisiana

Fortunately, I don’t have to spend that many nights away from home. I drive a lot, but it’s usually there and back. I get up early, work, then try to get back at a decent hour.

Sometimes work schedules dictate otherwise. Sitting around a hotel doing nothing drives me nuts, since I’m used to so much going on at home. So if I can I try to go out and shoot. Since I like to shoot at night or very early in the morning this works out sometime.

Recently I was in Lake Charles, Louisiana overnight, and I wanted to try something different. I’m developing an interest in astrophotography and wanted to find a place away from city lights to shoot the night sky. Enter Dark Site Finder.

This site allows users to search locations worldwide for areas away from light pollution. There’s a color coded map overlaid a Google Maps style display. Lighter colors mean bright areas, close to cities, and darker areas mean areas out of town. If you find a site you consider dark, you can add it to the list of sites. In my case this wasn’t a problem – Lake Charles and most of the communities nearby are very brightly lit.

Screen Shot 2018-12-16 at 6.38.27 AM

This box represents where I spend 95% of my time – so mostly very bright areas. But it’s possible to get into some relatively dark areas.

The blue area shown below is where I was heading:

Screen Shot 2018-12-16 at 6.40.07 AM.png

I ended up driving about an hour northwest of Lake Charles, close to the Louisiana-Texas  border. It was quiet – and dark. The moon was pretty full, so there was a ton of moonlight. Not ideal conditions, but it’s not like I could pick a different time. Maybe in the future I’ll be able to set up a trip that coincides with the new moon.

In the end I stayed out until around 8. I drove the hour back to Lake Charles, happy that I’d gotten some good (at least for me) shots, and more importantly, increased my skill in finding good locations and working on getting better shots in-camera. This is definitely something I’ll do again when I get a chance.

Fun apps

Not sure about you, but we do a countdown to exciting family trips. It’s fun to countdown the days to starting a vacation or going somewhere fun.

As much fun as it is, sometimes I lose track of countdown details and have to start over. I thought I’d do a couple of screen recordings of apps I’ve done (not submitted to Apple) for fun countdowns.

One is the countdown to closing at the Universe of Energy attraction at EPCOT. Yes, I know it’s closed, but wanted to show the neat “snowing logo” effect demonstrated by a guy named Mark Moeykens. The app has a nice Spaceship Earth background, and falling Universe of Energy icons.

Here’s a screenshot of the EPCOT Universe of Energy app:

EPCOT Energy 6 launchscreen

The other is a countdown to the 2018 Chicago Cubs regular season opener against the Marlins. The app has the Fly The W background (hopefully we’ll see a lot of W’s next year) and the 1984 Chicago Cubs logo as the “snowing logo”.

Cubs 1984 logo


Here are the YouTube links to both videos on my channel:

WDWeather & Trip Countdown App – Download on the App Store

My second app, WDWeather & Trip Countdown, is now available. The app does two things: it counts down the time in days, hours, minutes, and seconds to your trip to Walt Disney World, and also gives the extended weather forecast for the Walt Disney World Resort.


Just set your departure date and time, then hit start to get the countdown going. If you’re family is like ours, you’re asked many times how long until your trip starts. With WDWeather & Trip Countdown, you can give the countdown to your Walt Disney World trip any time you’d like. We always have fun counting down the days, and now, instead of having to keep a manual countdown, WDWeather & Trip Countdown does it for you.

Another cool feature is the timer background automatically switches between four watercolor images of the park icons:

  1. Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom
  2. Spaceship Earth in EPCOT
  3. Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios
  4. Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

It’s also useful to know the weather forecast, and in this case, WDWeather & Trip Countdown gives you the weather forecast for the next nine days. Most people think it’s only hot and humid at Walt Disney World, but it does get cold. And on some days the temperatures can change greatly during the day, or from one day to the next. WDWeather & Trip Countdown gives the day’s forecast high and low temperatures.

I put WDWeather & Trip Countdown together hoping to help you plan for any weather surprises, and also be able to pack any extra layers you’d need. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for rain and different temperature ranges when you go to Walt Disney World.

To download, click here.



This is the countdown set screen:

iPhone 8 plus countdown set screen

The Magic Kingdom countdown screen:

iPhone 8 plus MK countdown screen

The EPCOT countdown screen:

iPhone 8 plus EP countdown screen

The Hollywood Studios countdown screen:

iPhone 8 plus HS countdown screen

The Animal Kingdom countdown screen:

iPhone 8 plus AK countdown screen

Last, but not least, the weather forecast screen:

iPhone 8 plus weather screen

Download on the App Store by going to iTunes and searching for WDWeather & Trip Countdown, or click the links on this page. Hopefully one day I’ll develop a version to run on Android devices.

To download, click here.

If you get it, please let me know what you think, and send suggestions for other apps!