Stacking Through the Night

Grandview Camp © Harold Davis

Grandview Camp © Harold Davis

Gradually I became aware of light, so much light that it woke me because I thought it was dawn. Actually, the crescent moon was rising above the trees. I knew that there was no point in further photography, because the brightnesss of the moon would overwhelm the light of the stars.

Earlier, before dark at Grandview Camp in the White Mountains of eastern California, I had set my camera up on my tripod, facing roughly north. I used a 10.5mm fisheye and a programmable intervalomter to control the Bulb exposures.

This image shows 106 exposures, each exposure at 4 minutes, ISO 400, and f/2.8—for a total combined exposure time, once the individual captures were stacked, of about 7 hours and 20 minutes.

The foreground portion of the landscape is mostly derived from a twilight shot. I was careful not to move the tripod after making this capture, so it would be in alignment with the night time images.

If you look carefully at the area of the image showing my van when it is blown up, you can see a bit of ghosting—which is me with my headlamp coming out to turn off the camera!

An image like this no longer captures what is directly seen, but rather renders that which is implied in two dimensions beyond normal sight. We don’t normally witness the stars as they move over time—but the extended duration of a star stack does demonstrate the almost circular motion of the stars relative to the position of the camera on the earth.

The extended dynamic range of the image—including a greater range of lights and darks—than would normally be seen in a photo also may not seem natural (as is sometimes the case with HDR in general). But it does correspond to what our vision does at night when we give it time to adjust. We can see extensive details in both the landscape and the sky, provided we protect our vision from excessively bright light sources.

Related stories: Ancient Music of the Stars; Distant Night Storm, My Favorite Tree.

Interested in making this kind of image and in night photography? There are still some places in the November Star Circle Academy workshop.

This entry was posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography.

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