Sunday, July 6, 2008

Nature’s Independence Day show

We spent the holiday (July 4th) at Monte Cristo camp ground. The plan was to spend a few days enjoying the great outdoors but as life things don’t work out as planed and we came back early. Clayton had a stomach flu that kept us all up all night. I don’t want to go into the gory details but the little guy spent the night puking all over everything we brought up for him to wear and sleep in. He also vomited all over his parents clothing and sleeping bags. It was a horrible night that we couldn’t wait to end.

Because we left the campground early I didn’t take any photos of the campsite or people etc. I was too busy the first day cooking and setting up camp to really take many photos (of course I did take some). Nana and Papa arrived late on Thursday just in time for dinner. We ate, sat and talked for a bit while Clayton played in the gravel/dirt with his trucks. We couldn’t get him to eat any food (should have been our first clue to the night that was to come).

It was a beautiful night, sooo quite and peaceful; it was very much a paradise (except the plethora of mosquitoes). After everyone went to bed I stayed up for a moment to enjoy a breath of the fresh air and enjoy the solitude that can only be found on the top of a mountain. The stars were breathtaking that night (I had forgotten what stars look like outside of a city); I had planned a little photo shoot of the stars with the giant firs as a fore-drop (why don’t people use the term fore-drop often?).

Digital photography provides its own set of challenges when taking photos. One thing that film excels and digital fails to do well, is long exposures. When I say long exposures I mean exposures of more than a couple of minutes. I wanted a long exposure to get star trails, so I did the next best thing…

Nature's fire works

Set to Manual ISO 400 Aperture 3.5, shutter bulb ~200 seconds each; 7 exposures combined in PS Elements, WB custom

The photo is actually a composite of 7 exposures, each about 3-4 minutes long. Do the math and the total time of the shot is about 21-28 minutes long. If I had taken a single image for that time length using digital, the noise would have become overwhelming (the sensor in the camera continues to heat up during the exposure adding to the noise). Additionally the battery power required would have been significant (think of all the noise reduction going on in the camera and it builds the longer the exposure. Here is one of the 7 combined images below.

There is one more thing that is different about the photo you see. The trees are back lit (light is shinning toward the camera onto the back of the trees). This was another trick used to add drama to the photo. During the three minute exposure I walked behind the trees and painted the back side of the trees. The WB was set to give a cool feel (almost tungsten) setting. Of course the flash light used to paint the back of the firs creates a warm light (tungsten).

It was great start to a bad night…


"the Blogger" said...

Nathan, I saw your finished work on your Flickr stream and think this work is excellent, I have seen many people do a similiar thing but not with the flash behind the trees. Youve inspired me to try the same thing as soon as I get the opportunity.

Again thanks for the inspiration


Nathan Marx said...

Thanks Michael, This was one of those photos I have been waiting to try for a while. It helps when there is no/new moon out!