Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Back to The Boat...

When I first shot The Point Reyes in Inverness I said that at some point I'd go back and do it again with the intention of getting a brighter star trail. I've been there many times since, but hadn't gotten around to this re-shoot until last night.

Moonrise wasn't going to be until near 11:00 p.m. so I wanted to be out there before that to get the darkest sky possible. I arrived about 8:30 and had everything setup and ready shortly after. It was a bit breezy with some fairly strong gusts and thought I'd planned on keeping the camera low, not extending the legs of the tripod at all, I added a sandbag for more stability.

It was a wonderful evening. Even with the wind it wasn't terribly cold, though I did have on my winter coat and a skullcap. Last time I did this shoot was in Feb. of 2012 and it was freezing, literally. I had to bundle up in my down sleeping bag, which kept me warm but wasn't conducive to enjoying the view.

Anyway, got everything set, fired a few test shots to make sure the boat was in focus and the composition was as I wanted it. The nice thing about this is I had the 17-40 4.0 with a full-frame Canon 6D. Last time I used the 17-70 Sigma on the crop 7D. Of course the image came out beautifully, but I'd always wanted more stars. This would do the trick.

Since I really wanted to star trail to pop this time I set the ISO at 640, and went with one-minute exposures at f/4. The max I can set up on my intervalometer is 99 exposures. Then I pushed the button and sat back to enjoy the beautiful night sky.

I'd brought a mag flashlight in order to do some light-painting on the boat. I knew at this time of night I wouldn't get the bright image I did last time, when I was there before sunset. I painted during a few of the frames, then sat tight. After a while I remembered I had some colored gels in the Explorer, so I went back to get those. I used red and blue on the boat, and green on the surrounding grass, as you can see.

The wind started picking up towards the end and I was concerned that even with the sandbag I was going to get camera-shake. I'd gotten about 90 exposures and figured that would be plenty. I noticed a bright light coming up to the east and realized the moon was finally making its appearance. As it got brighter I decided to try and get a few shots with that in view so moved the camera a few feet away and extended the legs. The exposures were going to be as long but I still used the sandbag. I had to light-paint the boat, which exposed the nice reflection. The final is above, if you hadn't noticed. ;)

As with any somewhat long exposure, and I'm talking 1/100 or less, the moon comes out as a white spot or blur. Sometimes that's okay, and in this case it was okay, but I wanted it to be more prominent so added a moon from a prior shoot. I like it. This was another one of those instances where the "after-thought" image turns out to be really nice.

There's not much else going on in Inverness at 11:30 at night, especially on a Tuesday, so I headed home. Got everything loaded into Lightroom, then grabbed the files to load into Photoshop and run the Statistics option. The result was absolutely horrible and at first I was devastated. This was the second time it had happened so I'm not entirely sure what causes it, but I suspect it has something to do with the light-painting throwing off whatever the algorithm is using to combine the images.

In any case, there is another option and that is simply to select the files in Lightroom, then right-click and select Edit->Open as Layers in Photoshop." With 90 files it takes a bit but when they were all loaded, and I had to do was select the whole stack and use the ""Lighten" blend mode, and viola! Star trails. I've used this in the past and it's done fine. I'm not quite sure what the advantage is to using the Statistics option so unless I find out there's a significant reason to do so I'm going with using the Layers/Lighten method with star trails.

When it was done I needed to remove some of the layers that I had light-painted as they were really blowing out the boat. And the one I did with the red gel was too saturated, so it had to go. Then I merged the visible images and deleted the layers. They're no longer needed and to save them would create a huge file. Saved it as a .tif and did a few adjustments in Lightroom, mainly highlights and clarity changes, and that was that.

This one is significantly different than the first, which is what I wanted. I like the colors on the boat and the brilliance of the star trails. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Happy Shooting!

Don't forget, I'll be showing at the RAW Artists Ecompass event at 1015 Folsom in San Francisco. It would be great to see you there. It's quite an exciting time for my work and it's nice to see it getting attention. I will be joined by a wealth of other up-and-coming local artists. Tickets for the event are $15 pre-event, $20 at the door, and you can pre-order at -

Also, please let me know you're coming at PhotoWorks by Don at RAW Artists

Those who pre-order will entered in to a drawing to win a 32x24 signed canvas wall piece! Out-of-area folks are eligible*!

*No purchase of art necessary. Drawing will be held at the event and the winner need not be present. However, if the winner wishes to have their canvass shipped, they will be responsible for shipping costs. If local they can stop by PhotoWorks by Don Studios to pick up the prize. Winner will be responsible for any local and state taxes.


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