Leaving Berkeley in mid-afternoon, I grabbed a quick bite in Mariposa and made it up to Glacier Point just after sunset. There was still some light to see what I was doing. I took advantage of the last light to establish my tripod and make some shots I could use to layer in foreground detail.
The night was balmy, and a surprising number of people showed up on Glacier Point to watch the night sky like a movie. One family even brought popcorn. As it grew darker, I switched from manual exposure control to my programmable intervalometer (a fancy word for a timer).
By about midnight, the crowds had gone home and I was the last one left to witness the immensities of Yosemite Valley and the night sky. Besides the stars and Milky Way I saw satellites and a surprising number of planes on a flight path across Yosemite Valley. I also witnessed several dramatic shooting stars—including the one captured in the frame below.
Using my 10.5mm digital fisheye, to capture these star trails I made 39 exposures, with each exposure open for a shutter speed of four minutes at f/2.8 and ISO 320. My total exposure time was thusly about 2 hours and 40 minutes. I combined the exposures in Photoshop using the Statistics script and a smart-object layer stack with the method set to Maximum.
When I thought I’d captured enough, I crawled into my van in the parking lot, and grabbed a few hours sleep—ready to photograph at sunrise in a few hours.
Want to learn to make photos like this one? Consider joining Steven Christenson and myself in November at Star Circle Academy.