From what we learned, star-viewing locations are rated on a 0-10 scale. 10 is the worst (too much light pollution) and 0 is the best. Badlands National Park is rated a 2.5, which means that it is a pretty great place for star viewing.
Now anyone who knows me well knows that I do NOT like to stay up late. In fact, I usually go to bed by 9:00 pm. The problem is, stars don't come out that early. So, I had to let go of my normal bedtime (and that of the kids!) so that we could take advantage of seeing the beautiful stars on a clear night. And I am SO glad I did.
It was truly amazing. We made our way to our spot before it got dark, and then we just waited. We had been told that we would be able to see the International Space Station that night and the kids not-so-patiently looked up, waiting for it to cross the sky. It happened a few mintues before we were expecting it, but it was so cool to see this bright light cross the sky!
Then, we waited for the rest of the stars to come out. It was amazing. There are no other words. I really had no idea the milky way was so visible. The longer we waited, the more the stars filled the sky. From one angle, we could see the pink hues of the milky way. From the other direciton, we were able to watch a lightning storm off in the distance. One view was black sky, the other blue.
I really had no idea what I was doing photography-wise. I was so, so impressed with photos by Dave Forney last year that I knew I wanted to at least give it a try. I had tried to look a few things up on my phone, but with a poor connection, I wasn't able to get very much direction. But, I fiddled with my settings as it got dark and finally found some settings that were working. Mine are nothing like Dave's, but they weren't too bad for my first try, especially without a wide-angle lens. I can't wait to go again!