Altamont Wind Farm

Last night I wanted to try and catch some of the Perseids Meteor Shower, but you have to find an area that doesn’t have much light pollution (not that easy in the Bay Area or any metro area). I used the opportunity to go out exploring the foothills near Livermore, CA. Everyone typically knows of the Altamont Pass Wind Farm, the area of hills covered with wind turbines for power generation (or if you don’t know about it, you would probably have seen pictures).

Altamont Pass Wind Farm (click through for larger image)

Well, these windmills are about a 20 minute drive from my house…I have driven through them many times, but never have stopped to check them out in more detail. With the meteor shower, last night was the perfect opportunity to explore that area in more details. The Altamont Pass
is typically thought of as the I-580 section of interstate that runs through this area. However, there are two roads that wind through the hills parallel (more or less) to I-580…one is to the north and one is to the south. The southern road (Patterson Pass) is a narrow paved road that doesn’t even have a center stripe and almost no-one lives off the road (except cattle).

This was the perfect place to try to catch some night time photos of the meteor shower. The downside was that everyone else had the same idea. I think there was more traffic on that road last night at 11pm that any other night of the year! This made it very difficult to set up a long exposure shot! In addition, it’s windy on that road and so trying to keep the tripod steady was a challenge as well.

Side Blur: Duh! That’s why they build the windmills there…I originally tried the tripod low to the ground with the car blocking most of the wind, but it got old getting in and out of the car. I eventually had an ingenious solution to that problem. I brought the tripod inside the car, and set it up so that it was “standing” around the drivers seat with the camera pointing out the passenger window. The window was down, the camera was steady, and I was comfortable…luckily my wife was along for the evening with her point and shoot camera!

As it ended up, I only saw about a half dozen meteors and most were so faint that they would never have registered on film. I was able to expose one 10 minute shot of the windmills with the light from the city coming over the hill (only 10 minutes because then a car came through).

Windmills and Star Trails (Click through for larger image)

Even though I couldn’t catch any meteors, it was still a fun evening and night out exploring!

2 Replies to “Altamont Wind Farm”

  1. Greg,
    awesome pictures. I particularly like number 1, number 3 (my favorite) in B&W and number 9.
    I’ve driven along the Altamont Pass a few times and always wanted to stop but never found a good place. I didn’t know about the Patterson road. I’ll check it out some time. Thanks for the useful info!


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