Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Polar Vortex - Star Wings

When I was at the Bisti Badlands/De-Na-Zin Wilderness this April, we decided to leave our cameras for star trail images. The location we chose was the Wings, which is an amazing formation. We set up our cameras each in our own way. I chose a horizontal composition with the pole star being pointed at by one of the Wings. My reasoning for a horizontal image was that I could also turn it into a time lapse. I shot 30 seconds exposures on the built-in interval timer in the camera. I used my Tokina 16-28 mm lens at 16 mm, f/5.6 (to get more of the wings in focus) and ISO 1600. The battery lasted for a little over three hours. We left the cameras and hiked back to the cars to have dinner and returned for the cameras. These were extremely difficult to find as in the mean time the moon had set and this place is a complete maze. Finally with some help of a GPS waypoint and the red lights on my friends' Canon cameras, we were able to retrieve them. At home the fun started. I combined all 300-some raw images in Photoshop in batches of 10 using the lighten mode. I cloned out all the jet trails, sensor hot pixels, and a few distracting meteor trails. I then took the 30-some remaining images and combined them in Photoshop, again using lighten mode, but now using progressively increasing opacity. This created the comet effect you see below.

Moonlight illuminates The Wings formation and stars form trails at Bisti badlands
Moonlight illuminates The Wings formation and stars form trails at Bisti badlands.
This image is also on Flickr, Facebook, and Google+.

I also created some time-lapse movies using the individual frames. If you click through you can get to the HD versions that use a HTML5 (i.e. tablet and phone friendly) display. You can see a in the lens reflection from the very bright moon move in the frame. This disappeared in the composite image luckily.

And this is the same thing but without the pan and zoom of the previous.

I find it amazing how many planes you can see come by. The music was "composed" by me using Garageband.

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