Comet Hale-Bopp & the Saber

By Glenn Randall - March 5th, 2004

Some photographs, if missed, are gone for a lifetime. That was the case when I made one of my favorite images, "Comet Hale-Bopp Setting Over the Saber." Comet Hale-Bopp was the extraordinarily bright comet that was prominent in the night sky in March and April, 1997. By measuring, in advance, the comet's compass bearing and angular elevation above the horizon, then taking that information to a topographic map, I knew the comet would appear above the Saber, a sharp granite tower in Rocky Mountain National Park, just after sunset. Unfortunately, March and April are stormy months in the park, with high winds and frequent snowstorms. In mid-April, however, a strong ridge of high pressure moved over Colorado, giving one day of perfect weather. I packed my gear, hiked in four miles, set up and waited. As the last glow of sunset vanished from the western sky, the comet appeared before my awestruck eyes right where I had predicted it would. I exposed four rolls of high-speed transparency and color negative film, constantly reminding myself to slow down and check everything twice so I didn't make a mistake in my intense excitement.


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