The Night of the Simian

My recent visit to The Old Game Farm – the former Catskill Game Farm grounds, now being converted into a camp site and urban exploration park – was both enjoyable and informative.

And, of course, as I’m walking around the Game Farm campus, I’m keeping a close photographic eye on a possible upcoming photo project.  You know me.  That’s what I do.

And there it was.  A domed metal cage, still containing the accessories needed for some monkey tenants circa 1968.

Of course, one could make the argument that in 1968, this would be the human’s cage, while the apes would be outside, commenting on the filthy humans inside.

You know … there is plenty of sky above.  You don’t think…

I pulled out my phone and checked my PhotoPills app.

A quick glance at what the Milky Way would look like on August 31, 2019…

Holy Dr. Zaius, Batman.  This lines up perfectly.  If I can get this picture aligned just right … hoo boy this could be a fun picture.

But the only way to get this photo … is to schedule a night visit at the Game Farm campus.

And by “night visit” – I mean go in at night, get locked in, and don’t come out until tomorrow morning.  Yeah, I know that sounds like something that involves a bunch of ghosts and a goofy-looking Great Dane and his soul-patch-wearing master… jinkies …

And besides, if this photo turns out well, it could encourage a new project for The Old Game Farm – night-time astrophotography.  Because right now, this farm is approximately a 4 on the Bortle Scale.  That’s comparable with the Corinth Reservoir in Saratoga County and the Rexleigh Bridge in Washington County, places where I’ve snagged great Milky Way shots in the past.  Could you imagine having an open place like this for photographing things like, oh I don’t know, meteor showers, moon phases, lunar eclipses, etc.?

Thankfully, the Game Farm owners granted me permission to access the park for an evening visit on Friday, August 30.  I needed to stay on the Game Farm property (some of the campus is owned by other people), and the only souvenirs I could take were the pictures from the night and the memories of the pictures from that night.  Trust me.  I’m not looking to steal vintage signs off the walls.

It’s Friday night, and I’m driving up the winding, mountainous road off Route 32.  I enter the Old Game Farm grounds.  And to my left … I spot one of the few remaining animals on the property, a big-horned goat.  Gotta pull over, get out of the car, and get a shot of this bad boy.

You shall not pass. BlackBerry KEYone camera phone. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Damn, check out the hair on his chinny chin chin.  I hereby dub thee Catskill the Goat, in case I enter this picture in competition.

As I took a picture of the goat, I felt something brush against my leg.

It was a black cat, who was looking for a little attention.

I bent down and stroked the tabby’s head and neck.  Then it was back to the car.  I need to get to the location before nightfall.  No horsing around with goats and cats right now.

I arrive at the monkey cage, and park my car under some shade trees.  Did I bring everything?  Of course I did.  Camera batteries are fully charged, I put my Irix 15mm f/2.4 super-ultra-wide lens on the Nikon Df, and – for added insurance – I purchased a headband flashlight, so I could have some light while my hands were free to do other things.

Time to set up the tripod and get the camera ready.

The skies cleared.  The sun dipped below the horizon.

Time to shoot.

And although I couldn’t get the monkey cage completely in the shot … I did have a chance to get the metal lattice roof of the monkey cage in the picture.

A little cropwork … some processing … and …

The Night of the Simian. Nikon Df camera, Irix 15mm f/2.4 lens, 6400 ISO, 30 seconds at f/2.4. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Wow.  This looks hotter than Linda Harrison in primitive garb.

Okay, I’m done.  Pack my gear and it’s time to go home …

Ha ha, you thought I was going to go home after getting this picture?

I’m in an area with minimal light pollution, the location is a 4 on the Bortle scale, nobody’s around …

I wanna try something.

The monkey cage is next to an open space.  I carefully moved the tripod and camera to the open space, checking to see if I could stay in alignment with the Milky Way in the distance.  And by using my camera phone’s flash attachment, I was able to brighten a small shrubbery to align with the Milky Way.

The Marker. Nikon Df camera, Irix 15mm f/2.4 lens, ISO 6400, 30 seconds at f/2.4. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Sometimes the best pictures are the ones that weren’t originally in your plans.

Okay, now it’s time to go home.


I spent good money on a headband flashlight …

What say I test it out?

I set the Nikon for an automatic burst – 30 second shots with a two-second interval between them.  Then I walked into the frame, turned on the flashlight, raised my gaze to the sky and posed.

That’s right.  I’m on top of a mountain and I’m taking a damn selfie.

Do this.

The Solar Scream. Nikon Df camera, Irix 15mm f/2.4 lens, ISO 6400, 30 seconds on f/2.4. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Damn.  This is better than Charlton Heston riding along the beach and discovering that he actually landed back on Earth, and the Statue of Liberty is now a pile of broken metal.  Oh wait … should I have listed that as a spoiler alert? 😀

It’s too dark to drive home right now.  These pathways may have been designed for foot traffic and the occasional tractor, but I’m not thinking they were built for a 2013 Chevrolet.  So I packed my gear, got back in my car, and tried to sleep.

I say tried.  You ever try sleeping in a Chevrolet?  It’s more like quick napping.

Eventually the sun rose, and I found my way out of the park.  Drove home, and it was 7:00 on a Saturday morning before I actually made it back to the Town and Village.

And THEN I could sleep.

I woke up, downloaded my pictures into the computer, and now you see what I took on Friday night.


My sincere thanks to Bob and Cathy Ballone of The Old Game Farm for allowing me this opportunity.  The Old Game Farm is currently undergoing a transformation into an RV park and bed and breakfast / glamping site.  For more information, please visit

And hoo boy I’ve got some swank photos here … I do love me some astrophotography.  Yes I do.  Can’t you tell?