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August 31, 2010

Experiments at Night

A couple weeks back, I posted some of my first experiments with night photography, including my favorite shot of the Golden Gate Bridge.

This past week, while visiting New Mexico, I decided to try the next step in my night photography lessons, and that is capturing star trails.

Figuring this out required a little astrology, a little photography understanding and a LOT of knowledge about my camera.

Fortunately I had the incredibly well written book Creative Night: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques by Harold Davis (a Bay Area guy), to guide my way.

Due to the very long exposure times on night photos, a tripod is a must. Since I didn't feel like carrying my tripod on a plane, I borrowed one from my best friend's husband.

He uses the tripod to mount his field glasses when he goes hunting, so the tripod head had been...uh...modified. I think "modified" is the best way to describe the carnage that had occurred to the tripod head.

In order for me to use the device, he had to pound out the ten-penny nail wedged in there to help stabilize his field glasses. He also had to find the right sized wrench so I could tighten the bolt that holds the camera in place.

And even then, the camera would suddenly droop but thankfully didn’t drop.

Despite my less than super high tech borrowed tripod, I was able to make it work and was grateful for the borrowed gear.

I took a few photos that night and learned a whole lot about the process. Like, did you know a full moon is so bright it will wash out an exposure? I didn't...until a few nights ago.

The most exciting of the photos from that night is below. It's not well composed at ALL because it has nothing in the foreground to provide a sense of perspective.

What this photo DOES prove is that I have figured out how to take photographs of star trails. This was an eight-minute exposure. A longer exposure will net longer star trails.

I'm incredibly excited about this new knowledge!

Onward to the stars!

My First Star Trail
(click the photo here then click the photo again in Flickr to see larger sizes, if interested)

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Creative Commons License
All content of Oh Fair New Mexico by Karen Fayeth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.