Orion and Oak Trees

Orion and Oaks

Click to Enlarge

Sacramento, CA bills itself as the City of Trees. It’s something that you take for granted when you live here but their abundance becomes most obvious when you travel to another city; they become conspicuous by their absence. While the city proper is a host to many varieties, in the Sierra Nevada foothills to the East the city, the Valley Oak is dominant. 

Yesterday, Gary Hart, a photographer friend who also lives in the area called me. He was teaching a class on moonlight photography via The Learning Exchange. The group was fairly large so he asked if I could come along and help out.  I really enjoy moonlight and low-light photography so I jumped at the offer.  

Generally speaking, the folks who attend the workshops are comfortable with their equipment and looking to take the next step in their craft. The Learning Exchange classes are a different format than the workshops that I assist on. These classes are for all skill levels but are really geared towards folks who are just getting started with their photography. Both groups share the same enthusiasm but each requires a different instruction style. I found myself “backing up” quite a few times after facing a couple of blank stares.  It was a fun experience.

This was the final image that I captured last night. I wanted to include Orion in the composition but when we first arrived the sky wasn’t quite dark enough to get it to stand out. Waiting also required me to go wider on the shot than I’d originally planned. The result was a very minimalist composition. The stand of oak trees feels balanced by big sky and the constellations. I made the capture with my Canon 5D with a 17-40 f/4L at a focal length of 17mm. The exposure was 30 seconds at f/5.0 at ISO of 400.

To enhance the night time feel of the image I lowered the color temperature to roughly 3800K during post-processing. One mistake that folks often make when attempting these types of shots is letting the camera choose the white balance. The result of such efforts look like a daytime photo that just happens to have stars. While certainly a viable artistic approach, I much prefer this method.


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