Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Backpacking Trip--the Night

I didn't sleep very well in our tent. I was cold, then I was uncomfortable, and finally at 1 am I decided to go outside and take a look at the night skies. To my delight, they had mostly cleared up! So I grabbed my camera and Goby tripod (it's very small and flexible so great for traveling) and wandered around The Table. I knew I wanted to get the tree above; it's one of my favorites.

My husband says these photos are kind of strange, that's not what you seen when you look up at night. I totally agree, a 25- or 30-second exposure captures so much more light. The glow from Ely was really strong, and the Milky Way makes the sky look cloudy. I like how these photos are a bit surreal, but also grounded in reality. I also really like the juxtaposition of really old trees, which kind of boggle our mind, with the really old universe, which actually makes the trees seem young. I find looking at the night skies really helps me put any problems I'm having into perspective--they are so tiny compared to everything that's around me!

I saw numerous shooting stars while I was taking the long exposures, and even captured one in the photo below.

I've had a few people ask how I take these photos. I basically have done a lot of research online. I also got some tips at the Great Basin National Park Astronomy Festival astrophotography workshop.

I shoot with a Canon t3i (a not very advanced camera, quite frankly), a Tokina 11-16 mm lens (great for low light), a 25- or 30-second exposure, f2.8, ISO 3200, manual focus on infinity, mirror locked up, high ISO speed noise reduction on strong, long exposure noise reduction on, photo quality on RAW and jpg, and a 2-second timer to reduce the shake of pressing the camera. I also add a little light painting to the foreground to enhance the subject and so it's not just a silhouette.

For post processing, I adjust the RAW images to how I like, in particular adding more black to the photos. There's a lot more I could be doing, but I am definitely still learning! (If you have any tips, please leave a comment!)

I find that the southern part of the Milky Way (or at 1 am it becomes more of the western part) is the most photogenic, so I end up taking more photos in that direction. At first I was irritated with all the light pollution from Ely, but then I decided it added an interesting color element to the photo and helped show our human relationship with what we are looking at.

Of course I have to change it up a bit from time to time. Here's "Sword Chief" (so-named by Desert Girl) and the northern (eastern) Milky Way, which is definitely not as strong. I spent almost two hours wandering around that night, feeling so lucky to be in such a beautiful spot with the weather cooperating. It was a great surprise after going to bed with cloudy skies.
I'll have these photos and others for sale at the Art Bank in Ely on canvas, slate, and perhaps bamboo, as well as notecards. The Art Bank has an impressive array of art that is always changing, so it's fun to stop in often, and it's open Thursday-Sunday.

Hope you are enjoying the night skies where you are! The moon is growing in size every night, and on September 27 we can look forward to a lunar eclipse.

1 comment:

jhami said...

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful..... I would love to learn to capture the stars through my lens. Great job!

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