I have to apologize for the tardiness of this edition of “Chase The Milky Way.” Things have been a little crazy the last couple of months. Road trips, holidays, and schools. Yeah, Me. Anyway, the latest trip is in the bag, and I am looking forward to making the next two trips pretty quick. This is my quick story about my trip to Hume Lake.


The Arizona/Utah trip was a trip that had been in the works for some time. Unlike that trip, this latest one was more off the cuff. I had looked at several locations on California’s Pacific coastline. The route I originally planned was going to be about a 400 mile one-day round trip. I started having some other things pop up that I needed to take care of, so I decided to stay local.

Even though I live just a couple hundred feet above sea level in the Central Valley, within an hour, I can be among the tall Sequoias of the Sierra. Scattered throughout the Sierra are some beautiful lakes. I had already been looking at shooting at some of these lakes, and upon the recommendation of a local photographer, I decided to head to Hume Lake.


Hume Lake is an 87-acre reservoir located about 50 miles east of Fresno within the confines of Kings Canyon National Park. The reservoir was first constructed in the early 20th Century by a logging company. The lake was used to store lumber for an adjacent mill before it was transported down the hill to Sanger, CA. Logging ceased in 1924 and in 1935, the United States Forest Service purchased the lake and the area around it, wrapping it up into Sequoia National Forest. Hume Lake also boasts a Bortle Class 2 Rating.

hume lake logging
A vintage photo of logging operations at Hume Lake.

Today, there are several campgrounds around the lake. The lake is open for recreation such as non-motorized boating and fishing. There is also a Christian Camp located at Hume Lake that boasts public services such as a gas station and store.

hume lake california pano
Hume Lake as sunset approaches.

I have several different route options to take up to Hume Lake from the house. I took the one that Google Maps said was the shortest and fastest. Like just every other mountain area, once you leave the flats and start climbing, there are going to be some jaw-dropping views. Since I was unfamiliar with this spot, I kept on trucking until I got to the lake so I could scout it out.

Hume Lake Map
Hume Lake and the surrounding area.

If you would like to see the Bortle rating for an area you are interested in, head over to this light pollution map. Once you have zeroed in on a location, click on the map with your mouse and a popup will appear.


Even though it was almost 100 degrees on the Valley floor and the sun was still up, within the trees at 5200 feet elevation, the air was cool. I found a public parking area and walked down to the water. There was a small dock on the bank. I walked around a little bit and found another spot to shoot. It was not on the level of my Arizona shots from the first part of June, but they would do.

I then headed back out onto the main road to check out some vista points. I had some time to burn before I could photograph the Milky Way.

Once I located a decent spot, I decided to use my Tamron 28-75 to bring the landscape together. Overall, the sunset was very underwhelming, but I was not there for that.

sierra nevada mountains
An interesting cloud in an otherwise underwhelming sunset.

I returned to Hume Lake and waited for blue hour to go away so I could shoot. I mounted my Tokina 16-28mm and went down to the boat dock that I had found.


It was at this point I taught myself a valuable lesson, and that is to check your gear before you leave on a trip.

Rewinding to my Escalante trip that I linked to above; I had an accident where my camera took a header into the ground with the Tokina mounted. There were some shots from the evening that were okay, but I ended up putting the Tokina on the back burner. I eventually learned that the Tokina was not okay. Unable to get a sharp focus, I mounted the Tamron back onto the Nikon body.

I did come home with several decent shots. Although they are not on the level of my previous shots, I am happy enough with them that the trip was not a total waste.

hume lake california Milky Way
15 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 10000

As for my Tokina lens, the next day, I hung up a focus chart to confirm that there was something wrong with the lens. Within a few minutes, I had it boxed up and off to the Tokina repair facility it went. As I write this, I am waiting for it to be repaired and returned. The repair estimate was just north of $200.

hume lake california milky Way
15 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 10000


Since I have settled into a “zone” so to speak with my Milky Way photography, I do not get scientific with setting exposure. I already have a ballpark figure in my head when I arrive on location. I will take a test shot or two to make sure I have the focus set, and that I am creating a good, solid starting point.

If you are new to Milky Way photography, then check my article about camera techniques. Just for learning sake, I ran the numbers for these images from Hume Lake through the 500 Rule and NPF Rule. The focal length on both was 28mm. According to the NPF calculations, shutter speed could have been 27 seconds. The 500 Rule told me that I needed was 17 seconds. Once you have gotten comfortable with photographing the Milky Way, you can ignore those rules. I like to go with the shortest shutter speed I can with the lowest ISO possible.

On my Pentax K-5, I would shoot anywhere from 10-20 seconds and ISO 12,800. With the Nikon 750, I can get away with ISO 10,000. I bounce around 13-15 seconds. The differences between the cameras also allow me to skip stacking images out of the 750 from time to time. The photos are way cleaner noise-wise.


We just completed the second MindShift BackLight bag giveaway. Mark Roberts of Kenton, Oklahoma laid claimed to the 26L bag. We have two more bags to giveaway – the 18L which is perfect for a day trip, and the 36L backpack. We will be giving away the 18L pack in the next giveaway. The 36L bag giveaway will be held around the last week of August. Make sure you sign up to keep abreast of the giveaways and new articles that we publish.




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