Stars My Destination

Stars My Destination

Stars My Destination, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is a stacked composite of 27 exposures, each capture shot at 4 minutes, f/2.8, and ISO 400. I used my 10.5mm digital fisheye, and as you can see the image is pretty much pointed north up Owens Valley from our location in the Alabama Hills. Total exposure time was about 108 minutes, or one hour and 48 minutes.

To process the images, I opened them all using Adobe Camera RAW, and synchronized the settings. There were a few frames that needed work to take out elements that would have distracted—such as airplane trails and traces of a green laser pointer on one of the rocks. In Photoshop, I painted these out crudely using a black brush—knowing that the stacking process would insure that my “retouching” didn’t show, since only the brightest pixels would be picked.

Next, I saved all the images as PSD files and closed them. I used the Statistics action—available in the Extended version of Photoshop—to stack the images, with the Mode set to Maximum (as I mentioned, the point of this was to make the combination using the brightest pixels).

I used a lighter version of the final frame—there had been some light painting on the rocks—to brighten the foreground. It was easy to add this to the composite with a layer, layer mask and gradient.

The formation to the right of the image is called “The Three Nuns.” While we were all exposing we had a nice little midnight party, located constellations and with hot chocolate and marshmallows for those who wanted them.

Here are some more recent star trail photos:

Boys and Their Toys
Alabama Hills at Night
Zabriskie Point
Devil’s Golf Course
Death Valley Campsite
Race Track Playa
Alabama Hills Star Trails
Lady Boot Arch

By the way, I named this photo after a novel by Alfred Bester, with a plot that resembles The Count of Monte Christo, except that it also involves “jaunting” to the stars.

This entry was posted in Digital Night, Photography, Photoshop Techniques.

One Comment

  1. Steven Christenson November 17, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    Sorry about the laser pointer… Hope I didn’t make too much of a mess! At the Pigeon Point Lighthouse the other night, Jim Patterson and I joked about writing “Hello” in laser on the lighthouse. At least I didn’t do that to ya (but some idiot DID scrawl all over the Lighthouse. No, I’m not referring to me!)

4 Trackbacks

  1. By Chasing Rainbows | Photoblog 2.0 on December 6, 2010 at 11:10 am

    […] I explained in the linked story, this rainbow was a bonus feature during last month’s night photography workshop in the Alabama Hills. After a while, you get a nose for rainbow weather—and rainbows […]

  2. By Double Double | Photoblog 2.0 on December 7, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    […] only was this Alabama Hills rainbow intense, it was also nearly complete. As in double wide. And double double. Best seen […]

  3. […] Stars My Destination, photo by Harold Davis. […]

  4. By Ghosts of Grand Central on September 29, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    […] The second way to extend the exposure was to rely on stacking. Stacking is a post-processing method for effectively extending the length of an exposure by aggregating shorter exposures. A common use is to extend the effective time of night exposures to create circular star trails as in Stars My Destination. […]

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