Stars over the Valley

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When you’ve lived in the city or suburbs too long it’s easy to forget just how many stars are visible on a dark night. In my neighborhood I can usually make out the larger constellations but the Milky Way is completely out of the question. Even the North star, Polaris, can be difficult to see many nights. There’s just too much light pollution.

That was certain not the case with this photo. The second night of Gary’s last workshop we were teaching folks how to photograph stars. Some folks were trying to do star trails, some just shots of the sky. Having to get everyone over the hurdles of how to focus, how to set the camera for a long exposure and how to compose the shot is normal in such an exercise.  I tried several 20 minute exposures but kept getting called away to help someone else. The result was that I wasn’t able to cover my lens when the odd car would come around the corner at the Tunnel viewpoint; all the shots were ruined.

About that time Gary announced that we were done and heading back to the hotel. Not wanting to be completely skunked I grabbed my fisheye lens and fired off a couple last shots. On my first attempt a car came around the bend and ruined the frame.  The second exposure completed and looked alright with one exception; my head was jutting into the frame.  By this point folks were all packed up and heading for the car so I only had time for one more. This is that last shot.

I was using a simple 30 second exposure on all three. To get the maximum amount of light I opened all the way up to f/2.8 and set my ISO at 1600. After doing some basic noise reduction in Photoshop I used a couple of “stacked” layers to bring out the stars.  The fisheye lens delivers such a wide field of view that there’s actually a tree, that was behind me on the other side of the road, in the top right corner. It’s dark enough that it doesn’t show up on most screens but it’s definitely there.