The last time a really good comet was visible in Southern California was all the way back in 1997, when two comets—Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp—graced our skies. (Though PANSTARRS in 2017 wasn’t bad.) So, when Comet NEOWISE (short for Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, after the NASA telescope that discovered it) became brighter than anticipated, I was determined to catch it.

In 1997, photographing a comet would almost certainly have been on film. It would have required a tracking mount, and lots of patience. In 2020, with digital photography, you crank the ISO up to 6400 or more, and take a 30-second (or less) shot, et voila!

I shot the comet over several nights, from my backyard, a hill near my house, the small desert town of Neenach, and Vasquez Rocks. Neenach provided the best combination of dark skies, comet brightness, and an interesting foreground. By the time I got to Vasquez Rocks, the comet was too dim.