Here is a teaser of the first one for you to enjoy, as it's not the best image to post. I will be posting this in this month's contest after I can take a better picture of it in the daytime to get focus a little sharper and the illumination more even.
Here's the comments/techniques for those interested.
Feb 18, 2009, 3:30-4am MST in Sedona, AZ.
Transparency was above average
Seeing was average
Temp was about 40 deg F.
Light periodic wind and some thin high clouds wafted through from time to time.
Location was in an empty field off of Highway 89 in Western Sedona adjacent to the Sedona Summit resort (where I was staying). Light pollution made dark adaptation difficult, and amazingly limited the sky from what I would've expected. I'd place the NELM around 5.3-5.5 at the time of observation. The 1/8th crescent moon had just risen in the east in Scorpius, contributing some light pollution. The Milky-Way was not visible.
Sketching details: raw sketch was graphite on engineering paper, focus was on the silhouette of the mountains, even in the dark there were two prominent shadows visible on the main rock formation (Capitol Butte I think is it's name) that I roughed in on the raw sketch. I also focused on star placement of the constellations, as Cygnus was spectacular just rising over the crest and Lyra was inviting just above it. Many constellations were visible, and I focused my effort on identifying most of the visible stars (which were surprisingly few, but probably expected from being next to a resort, even with the lighting restrictions in Arizona). During the generation of the raw sketch I just happened to witness a meteor streak through the field I was sketching, so I captured that as well. I also noted some rough location of trees in the foreground (that were lit from the resort lights) and some of the city lights tucked under the silhouette of the mountains.
I then took the Raw Sketch and notes and redrew/refined the sketch to adjust proportions (you try getting it right the first time at 3:30 in the morning without coffee in cold weather ).
I really wanted to capture the mountain silhouette in my sketch, so I changed up materials. Final sketch used Navy Blue acid free cardstock, a combination of graphite and black charcoal for the mountain silhouette (started with graphite and found it was too shiny, so added a layer of charcoal and used a blending stump to smooth out the silhouette), white charcoal pencil for the stars. I attempted to add one of the trees and was dissatisfied with how it started coming out so I erased it and abandoned that portion of the sketch.
Even with all this work, I still think some of the star positions aren't quite right, but they're pretty close. I was pretty pleased with how this came out, but would greatly appreciate any comments.
Next time I'm going to start noting star colors as that is one aspect of this sketch I'd like to improve. Several of the stars were noticeably orange/yellow/reddish but I didn't note which one's in my notes, so they're all white...sorry.