Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Sun Valley Photographer Tells Story of Stars and More with his Images
Phantom Hill Clouds
Tuesday, January 1, 2019



Some would call it good karma. Nils Ribi simply calls it “good payback” for doing a favor a neighbor who owns a cabin north of Ketchum.

At any rate, it was difficult to keep his eyes on the road on the morning of Oct. 8 as he saw these altocumulus clouds ahead enroute to doing that neighborly deed.

Full Moon Rudd Mountain Chairlift

Finally, he could resist no more. He pulled over at the base of Phantom Hill and went to work, his trigger finger on the camera.

The result: This beautiful photograph of big fluffy marshmallow-like clouds that are generally located between 6,500 and 20,000 feet and usually portend settled weather.

Ribi has brightened the lives of many in the Wood River Valley with his extraordinary photographs, which can often teach us about the stars above or the wildflowers at our feet.

Today, as with past New Year’s Days, we are showcasing a few of his favorites of the many thousands that he took during 2018. Not only do they give us a look at the year just come to an end but they offer us little goals for 2019 as we imagine ourselves in some of these landscapes.

Milky Way, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter Over Alturas Lake


Ribi knew the full moon was due to rise on Sun Valley on June 27, 2018. But where oh where could he set up his shot to distinguish it from all the other full moon photographs that have been snapped over decades?

In historic Sun Valley that was easy--the Rudd Mountain Chairlift, one of the first built in the world. He headed out Fairway Road in Sun Valley and found the perfect silhouette awaiting him.

“I enjoy figuring out and then capturing these types of photos,” he says. “I love the fact that there is something beautiful to photograph every day.”

Southern Star Trail


Ribi took this shot over Labor Day weekend, with Mars to the left, the Milky Way with Saturn in the middle and Jupiter just over the horizon to the right. And, by golly, there was a meteor to the right just for good luck.

“You can see their light reflect on the lake along with the Milky Way,” he says.


Daphnis et Chloe-Pavilion

Star trail photos are usually focused to the north toward Polaris, the North Star. And they look like wonderful circles, especially since we are in the northern latitudes,” says Ribi.

But this photo is looking south from 10:30 to 11:30 p.m. at 8,230 feet near the trailhead to Silver Lake in the Boulder Mountains on Labor Day 2018.

“What is fun about making star trail photos focused to the south is that you can see some of the stars and, in this case, the planets of Mars and Saturn circling around the South Star,” Ribi says. “Near the top of this photo you can see where the stars change direction and begin to circle the North Star. Just below those you can see a small section of star trails that travel straight. They are over the equator.”

But the photo shows more, Nils says. The Milky Way, for instance, is the hazy white area to the right of center, showing what all those stars look like when they move together for an hour.

The bright white line traveling through the lower middle of the Milky Way is planet Saturn. To the left the very bright white line in the middle of the photo is planet Mars.

Along the horizon of the mountain range, which happens to be the Smoky Mountains, you can see from left to right the glow from the lights of Sun Valley and Ketchum, two lights on top of Bald Mountain and a star rising on the far end of Baldy. You can also see the glow from the lights of Hailey and, in the center, the glow of the lights of Twin Falls, which is 88 miles away.

At the bottom is Highway 75 and the lights of the cars that traveled through during the hour the photo was made. From left to right the lights can be seen on Phantom Hill between Cathedral Pines and Easley Hot Springs, at the mouth of Baker Creek, including lights from a couple cabins up Baker Creek, and then from Logged Canyon to Boulder View.


Nils has taken photographs for the Sun Valley Summer Symphony for several years. And, knowing that the symphony’s final performance of the 2018 season was to be a lighting masterpiece, he worked for weeks with Hollywood Projection Designer David Murakami and Lighting Director David Robertson to figure out the best way to capture their stunning visuals.

Robertson projected billowy blue clouds on the Pavilion canopy as the symphony performed Ravel’s fantasy of a goatherd and shepherdess who are kidnapped by pirates and rescued by Pan and three nymphs. And the orange glow of flames dancing on side screens evoked the idea of spirits.

The performance included custom-built computer technology to give images an impressionistic touch inspired by 19th-century French impressionist painters.

Not to be outdone, Nils mounted a second camera with an ultra-wide lens and a wireless shutter release remote to the railing above the sound booth. Then he triggered it remotely while taking photos from other spots around the Pavilion.

The only missed opportunity? An unscheduled photo op of a paraglider circling above in the skies in the glow of a full moon.

“Can’t be everywhere!” Ribi says.


~  Today's Topics ~

A Hike Up Fungal Peak

Craters Movie Showing includes Sneak Peek at Moonfest

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