Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center and Murder Creek

A Starry Sky over the lake at Charlie Elliott Wildlife CenterThe lake at sunset with a starry sky - Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center

Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center

I've wanted to check out the Charlie Elliot Wildlife Center for quite some time. I finally talked my friend Lauren into going on Friday night. 

It does make you think twice when the main road to get to the lake is called Murder Creek Church Road. Hmmm....who came up with that?

I looked it up but the consensus is that no one really knows for sure, though there is a story about it.

Apparently, in the 1700s, a colonel and a few other men were carrying quite a bit of silver on their way to settle in Louisiana. They never made it and were instead robbed and brutally murdered in the area of the creek that runs through Jasper County.

The creek is now Murder Creek and there was a church named Murder Creek Church, and the road is Murder Creek Church Road.


I really couldn't find a lot of reliable information about any of it.  

So...we were on our way to what we thought was Murder Creek Lake but I think it was really Margery Lake - I couldn't really tell on the GPS map. 

We got there early enough to check out a couple of spots and then settled on one near a dock. Unfortunately, as the sun went down, a very bright light came on near the dock, so we had to move at the last minute as it was getting dark. 

Dark Spot for Stargazing

Somewhere along the way, I thought I read that Charlie Elliott Wildlife Refuge was a designated dark spot for viewing the Milky Way and other stars. I've looked and looked and can't find that information now. 

There was a photo meetup group meeting there on Friday night that we considered joining, but they were meeting super early and then locking the gates to their viewing area well before sunset. This confirms that there must be an area in the park that gets pretty dark. 

To join the meetup, you not only had to be early but you also had to only use red lights and no flashlights or iPhones were allowed after dark. This is so your eyes can adjust to the dark so you can really see the stars.

It takes about 45 minutes before your eyes adjust, so if you get so much as a text and look at your phone, you have to wait another 45 minutes. 

Lauren and I aren't that hardcore, at least not on Friday night we weren't.

Bugs, Bugs, and More Bugs

After we moved spots and found a darker area, we set up our tripods at the end of a little peninsula near what I think was Margery lake. 

Oh my gosh. I have never ever seen (or felt!) so many bugs in my life. I felt like we were in a weird Hitchcock movie. 

Lauren had called me earlier in the day and asked if I had any apple cider vinegar. I had a whole bottle. When I asked her what it was for, she said for the bugs. It's apparently a natural bug repellent. 

Oh yes. It is. But we smelled like a salad all night. 

It was worth it. I didn't get a single bite all evening and I wasn't doused in DEET, so I was happy about that. was WIERD! There were so many bugs flying around and they kept landing on me, going near my ears, and almost going up my nose. 

Ugh. It was like some sort of torture. 

But not a single bite. 

Thank you apple cider vinegar. 

Lauren was doing some light painting on the trees (where you sweep your flashlight over an area to light it up while you're getting a photo), but the light drew even more bugs. 

I can't emphasize enough how strange and uncomfortable it was. We wanted to stay and get some more photos as the sky grew black but neither one of us could stand the bugs. 

We ended up leaving around 11 pm. By then, we had just had it with the bugs. 

Plus - it is Milky Way season but it doesn't come above the horizon until really late (or maybe I should say early in the morning). I don't get enough sleep as it is, I couldn't have waited up that late, even if there weren't any bugs!

Ugh. was not a complete bust. I got a couple of nice photos but not what I was hoping for. 

We need to do a little more research on the park and see if we can find the spot where the meetup was so we can get in a super dark area. The bugs, though - not sure what to do about them.

And, by the way, I shot these with my Nikon. I like shooting stars with my full-frame Nikon because I have a great wide-angle lens (15mm-30mm) that has an infinity focus.

It's really hard getting focus when it's this dark. I set the camera and lens to manual focus, put it on infinity, and then go from there. I have to get some test shots and zoom in close on the back of my camera to see if they're in focus.

It's not easy and I'm still working on perfecting it but these were in pretty good focus. And if you're shooting the night sky, always use a remote trigger for your shutter or a timer.

The first few shots I took, I just clicked the shutter but I was shooting long exposure, so the tiny bit of camera shake from pushing the shutter made the photos blurry. I forgot to bring my remote, so I switched to a timer and that did the trick.  

See you between the raindrops - finally - we were getting pretty parched here in Atlanta!