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Starry Night Sluice Box Photography At Red Rock Crossing
On my scouting trip to Arizona, I really wanted to catch a cool shot of Cathedral Rock near Sedona. And after some scouting on my own, I got a little help from photographer friend Guy Schmickle who showed me a couple of his favorite spots in the area. It really made a difference as it not only helped me to identify the good spots but it also helped to give me the nerve to go out crossing streams and making my way through the woods in the dark of the night.
No it wasn't easy. In-fact, I even had a ranger encourage me to leave at one point. But with a friendly attitude and a little persistence, I was able to talk him into letting me stay. He just asked me to close the gate when I was done - a request that I was happy to accommodate. :-)
In testing at a similar the location the night before, I found that at the end of twilight, there was still plenty of light to illuminate Cathedral Rocks with stars appearing behind it. And in exploring with Guy that afternoon, he pointed out this area with the sluice box as a possible foreground. At the time, I wasn't sure how I would deal with straddling the stream, but I knew I was interested.
So after making my plan, getting in position inside the park (before they closed at dusk), and then talking the ranger into letting me stay, I waited a bit longer for the skies to get good and dark. Then I made my way over to the spot to cross the stream - across mostly submerged rocks. Then, I found myself using my bright lights a lot through the thick woods on the way to the spot we'd scouted that afternoon. I knew it would be tough when the trail split into a bunch of social trails but I found my way and fortunately for me, found no wildlife along the way.
This image was taken from Red Rock Crossing in Sedona, Arizona during a scouting trip for an upcoming Night Photography Workshop in Grand Canyon and Sedona, Arizona. More details on these and other great learning opportunities at http://www.coloradocaptures.com/night-photography-training.
This image is a composite image with five exposures making up the final image - blended primarily for focus stacking purposes. The first image was a high ISO, short duration image for the stars, then a longer exposure for Cathedral Rock. Then, I focused close and did another long exposure of the rocks before adding two images with very subtle light painting.
This technique of blending multiple exposures that are focused on different points in the scene is a process referred to earlier as Focus Stacking. In most cases, this Focus Stacking includes many focus points where I only included two - one on the the distant stars and another on the foreground rocks. I chose to use this approach because I really wanted the sharp details in the foreground to draw in the viewer's eye first without sacrificing the details on the rocks and stars above.
I found that my tripod legs did a very good job of straddling the stream but my own human legs didn't have quite the same capability. I did my best but ended up making decisions while looking at the LCD from an angle - something that I think affected my composition. Either way, it was certainly a challenge to do it all without falling right into the sluice box and going for a swim with my gear!
I used Photoshop to blend the five exposures using a combination of hand-drawn masks and some luminosity masking to help provide smooth, natural blends.
Camera Body - Nikon D800 Digital SLR Camera
Camera Lens - Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC Wide-Angle Lens for Nikon
Tripod Head - FEISOL CB-50DC Ballhead with QP-144750 Release Plate
Tripod Legs - FEISOL Elite CT-3472 Rapid Tripod Legs
Remote Trigger - Vello FreeWave Micro Wireless Remote Shutter Release for Select Nikon DSLRs
Exposure Settings - Composite Image With Five Exposures
Exposure #1 (focused on the stars):
Shutter Speed: 30 seconds
Exposure #2 (focused on the stars):
Shutter Speed: 121 seconds
Exposure #3 (focused on foreground rocks):
Shutter Speed: 241 seconds
Exposure #4 (focused on foreground rocks with light painting):
Shutter Speed: 15 seconds
Exposure #5 (focused on foreground rocks with slightly different light painting):
Shutter Speed: 15 seconds
November 5th, 2013
Viewed 90 Times - Last Visitor from Frύdlant - Czech Republic on 08/23/2014 at 10:12 AM
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