Starry Night

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As I mentioned in my previous article, I spent last Thursday night and Friday morning tagging along with a private group that Gary Hart was leading. All in all there was 8 of us perched up on [wikipop]Sentinel Dome[/wikipop] watching the sun go down and waiting for darkness. We were all there for the same shot; star trails over the valley.

While all that it takes shoot star trails is a dark night and a long exposure, the Devil is in the details. Focusing and composing in the dark can be a bit challenging and often the final composition ends up being a bit of a guess. Battery life and just simple time constraints are also issues. In camera noise reduction takes as long as the original exposure. In the case of this image, the exposure was 25 minutes so after noise reduction I was able to take 1 shot every 50 minutes or so. I ended up only getting two chances.

On the first try I ended up setting the wrong aperture so the result was a very dark image; too dark to salvage. After discovering my error I corrected the setting and moved to this composition. After 25 minutes of laughing and joking we all packed up and headed back down the hill; cameras still busy processing images. I didn’t get a chance to look at my image until Friday evening back in my home and was pleasantly surprised.  I actually had to darken the image slightly. I was also amazed and the brightness and quality of light coming up from the valley. All in all it was a very enjoyable evening with a fun bunch of people. The only pain came when the alarm went off at 4AM the following morning. As my grandfather used to say: “You can rest when you’re dead!”

The details.  As I mentioned, the exposure was 25 minutes. I was using my Canon 17-40 f/4L, at f/4, on my 5D at ISO 400. I did have to apply a standard helping of Noiseware and painstakingly removed a jet trail across the top 3rd of the image. After processing I made a quick print which is now hanging in my office.


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