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Into the Universe

Into the Universe

Racetrack Playa, Death Valley, CA

The image is an extreme long exposure made in the Racetrack Playa. When the camera is pointed at the sky on a clear night and the camera's shutter is left open for a period of time, the rotation of the Earth over that time period causes the stars to appear to rotate through the sky, circling around the North Star, the one star that will always appear stationary relative to our position. The longer the exposure, the longer the star trails. When photographing at night, illumination of the ground can be accomplished by making use of our most reliable natural nighttime light source: the moon. The trick to making a night photo that incorporates star trails AND an illuminated landscape is to shoot on a night where the moon is in the sky for just the first hour or two at most, and then sets, leaving you with a completely dark sky for the next several hours for photographing the stars. This requires that you shoot around the time of a crescent moon, either waxing or waning. That's why a shot like this, taken far away from my home, requires a month of planning in advance. Want to know more? Sign up for one-one-one lessons with me!