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Shangri-La Star Trails



Star trails encircle the world famous Elephant's Perch in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains. Taken from Shangri-La (aka Saddleback Lake) at 8,350 feet above sea level ...
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Star trails encircle the world famous Elephant's Perch in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains. Taken from Shangri-La (aka Saddleback Lake) at 8,350 feet above sea level in October 2014, just before midnight.
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Awards

Contest Finalist in The Night Sky And The Stars Photo Contest
Contest Finalist in Lapse Of Time Photo Contest
Contest Finalist in Mountains And The Night Photo Contest
Contest Finalist in Painting With Light Photo Contest
Featured
Contest Finalist in Stars Photo Contest
Featured
Runner Up in Mountain Tops Photo Contest
Contest Finalist in Mountain Tops Photo Contest
Winner in Long Exposure Photo Challenge
Winner in Mountains and Skies Photo Challenge
Contest Finalist in Wide Angle Views Photo Contest
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Peer Award
Superb Composition
Absolute Masterpiece
Outstanding Creativity
Top Choice
lorenzoberardinetti Dodoka photobynoren photosbyjen Jerryl MortonHolmesPhotography MelodyPepper +98
Superior Skill
anmolbohra randalpair klinker44 FMarlatt DavidParkPhotography MValentin JTello +55
Magnificent Capture
Loucas Contributor9 lddove Delliejr Hippiechic astewart Noliability +18
All Star
shukriabduljalil Calix1 DPBVisual Argentiere ChrisBrunson daydreamsbymary0710 faithkonidaris +13
Genius
magdeleksteen danilobattisti chezbriand ellenhodges1 saintek willwalker Willgray24 +1
Love it
SimonArron kandkcustomphotography

Emotions

Impressed
jbesterhuizen Emerald_ LOLallyouwant annmor PROVOPIXEL Praveenmandlik

Top Ranks

Lake Beauty Photo ContestTop 20 rank
Mountain Beauty Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Mountain Beauty Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Enchanted Nights Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Enchanted Nights Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Star Love Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
The Experimentalist Photo ContestTop 30 rank
The Experimentalist Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Light Streaks Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Light Streaks Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Capture The Stars Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Reflections On Lakes Photo ContestTop 20 rank
Reflections On Lakes Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 1
Light Trails Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Light Trails Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 1
Beautiful Blue Sky Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Water At Night Photo ContestTop 30 rank
Water At Night Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 1
Low Vantage Points Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Low Vantage Points Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 2
The Night Sky And The Stars Photo ContestTop 20 rank
Low Vantage Points Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 1
The Night Sky And The Stars Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Exposures Marketplace ProjectTop 10 rank
Exposures Marketplace ProjectTop 10 rank week 1
All About Water Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Lapse Of Time Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Lapse Of Time Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Creative Landscapes Photo Contest vol3Top 10 rank
Creative Landscapes Photo Contest vol3Top 10 rank week 1
The Stars Photo ContestTop 30 rank
The Stars Photo ContestTop 30 rank week 1
Unique Sceneries Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Unique Sceneries Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 2
Unique Sceneries Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Creative Landscapes Photo Contest vol2Top 10 rank
Creative Landscapes Photo Contest vol2Top 10 rank week 2
Creative Landscapes Photo Contest vol2Top 10 rank week 1
Lakes And Reflections Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Lakes And Reflections Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Composing With Circles Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Water And The Night Photo ContestTop 20 rank
Water And The Night Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Composing With Circles Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Boulders And Rocks Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Boulders And Rocks Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 1
Shutter Speed Experiments Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Shutter Speed Experiments Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Spectacular Lakes Photo ContestTop 30 rank
Spectacular Lakes Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Spectacular Cliffs Photo ContestTop 30 rank
Spectacular Cliffs Photo ContestTop 30 rank week 1
The Magic Of Editing Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 1
Our World At Night Photo ContestTop 10 rank
What A Night Photo ContestTop 10 rank
What A Night Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
The Talent AwardsTop 30 rank
Nature And The Night Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Nature And The Night Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 2
Nature And The Night Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Post Editing Magic Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Post Editing Magic Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Mountains And The Night Photo ContestTop 20 rank
Mountains And The Night Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 2
Mountains And The Night Photo ContestTop 30 rank week 1
Painting With Light Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Painting With Light Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 2
Centered Compositions Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Painting With Light Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Centered Compositions Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 2
Centered Compositions Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 1
Anything Reflections Photo ContestTop 20 rank
Anything Reflections Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 1
Starry Starry Night Photo ContestTop 30 rank
Mountain Shapes Photo ContestTop 30 rank
Playing With Exposure Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Playing With Exposure Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
World At Night Photo ContestTop 20 rank
World At Night Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 1
Stars Photo ContestTop 20 rank
Stars Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 1
Psychedelic Shots Photo ContestTop 20 rank
Nature By Night Photo ContestTop 20 rank
Psychedelic Shots Photo ContestTop 30 rank week 2
Nature By Night Photo ContestTop 30 rank week 1
Psychedelic Shots Photo ContestTop 30 rank week 1
Big Sky Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 1
Unreal Realities Photo ContestTop 20 rank
Unreal Realities Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 2
Unreal Realities Photo ContestTop 30 rank week 1
Imagination Photo ContestTop 20 rank
Imagination Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 3
Imagination Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 2
Imagination Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 1
Astronomy Photo ContestTop 30 rank
Photofocus Feature Photo Contest Volume 2Top 10 rank
Photofocus Feature Photo Contest Volume 2Top 10 rank week 1
Primary Colors Photo ContestTop 30 rank
Exposure Experimentation Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Shapes and Lines Photo ContestTop 20 rank
Mountain Tops Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Mountain Tops Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Shapes and Lines Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 3
Shapes and Lines Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 2
Off The Grid Photo ContestTop 20 rank
Off The Grid Photo ContestTop 30 rank week 1
Shapes and Lines Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 1
Dramatic Shots Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Wide Angle Views Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Dramatic Shots Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 2
Wide Angle Views Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 2
Dramatic Shots Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 1
Wide Angle Views Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Dodho Volume 4 Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 2
Covers Photo Contest Vol 15Top 10 rank
Express Yourself Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Covers Photo Contest Vol 15Top 30 rank week 3
Express Yourself Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 2
Photographer Of The Month Photo Contest Vol 5Top 10 rank
Covers Photo Contest Vol 15Top 20 rank week 2
Express Yourself Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 1
Photographer Of The Month Photo Contest Vol 5Top 10 rank week 2
Tripod Required Photo ContestTop 10 rank
Covers Photo Contest Vol 15Top 10 rank week 1
Photographer Of The Month Photo Contest Vol 5Top 10 rank week 1
Tripod Required Photo ContestTop 10 rank week 2
Tripod Required Photo ContestTop 20 rank week 1

Categories


32 Comments | Report
Irma53
 
Irma53 November 26, 2014
Very unique. Love it!
sdondero Platinum
sdondero November 26, 2014
Thank you, glad you enjoy!
clownsonvelvet PRO
 
clownsonvelvet November 26, 2014
Perfect composition, crystal clear, great color.
sdondero Platinum
sdondero November 27, 2014
Thank you, it was a magical evening!
iamslogy
 
iamslogy December 23, 2014
I would love to learn how to do tha
sdondero Platinum
sdondero April 29, 2015
It's a whole lot of fun, but dress warm!
NatureLoverJJWal PRO+
 
NatureLoverJJWal January 29, 2015
Congratulations on your Award. Fabulous night photo.
sdondero Platinum
sdondero April 29, 2015
Thank you, much appreciated!
dlos
 
dlos February 17, 2015
Killer!
sdondero Platinum
sdondero April 29, 2015
Thanks!
Smieir
 
Smieir March 12, 2015
I think we have a winner here, great job!!!
sdondero Platinum
sdondero April 29, 2015
Many thanks!
AlanJakarta PRO+
 
AlanJakarta March 26, 2015
Excellent time exposure. Congratulations on being a Runner-up.
sdondero Platinum
sdondero April 29, 2015
Thank you!
Remraf
 
Remraf April 23, 2015
Great shot!
sdondero Platinum
sdondero April 29, 2015
Thanks!
vijaykumar_4150
 
vijaykumar_4150 April 23, 2015
Night trails!!

Check out my photos as well!
sdondero Platinum
sdondero April 29, 2015
Thanks, very nice photos!
davidrelph PRO
 
davidrelph April 23, 2015
Great trail shot
sdondero Platinum
sdondero April 29, 2015
Thank you!
chuckrickman
 
chuckrickman April 23, 2015
Great job. Congrats on being featured.
sdondero Platinum
sdondero April 29, 2015
Thank you!
lanwpg10
 
lanwpg10 April 23, 2015
Very unique! Great shot!
sdondero Platinum
sdondero April 29, 2015
Thanks!
sibylle
 
sibylle April 23, 2015
Great photo! We climbed that face, and since I carried in rope, tent, stove, food for 6 days, I did not bring my good camera... Glad you got the photo!
sdondero Platinum
sdondero April 29, 2015
Thanks, it's a magical spot, no?! The good camera is worth its weight! ;-)
AlanJakarta PRO+
 
AlanJakarta April 23, 2015
My previous comment refers. Congratulations on being Featured.
sdondero Platinum
sdondero April 29, 2015
Thanks, I appreciate it!
kathyk_abq
 
kathyk_abq April 23, 2015
What beautiful star trails! Congrats on being featured! :)
sdondero Platinum
sdondero April 29, 2015
Thanks!
Deepaliv9v
 
Deepaliv9v April 23, 2015
great shot. how did u do it?
sdondero Platinum
sdondero April 29, 2015
Thanks! Scroll to the bottom of the page and you'll find more info.
sweetpea72
 
sweetpea72 April 23, 2015
Incredible .. congrats:)
sdondero Platinum
sdondero April 29, 2015
Thank you!
sharonlouiseburke
 
sharonlouiseburke April 25, 2015
wish I could take pictures like that
Pblais
 
Pblais May 12, 2015
I've actually been there! What a great well captured image.
KaroKrauzPhotography
 
KaroKrauzPhotography May 18, 2015
Great shot!
juliomiguelherrera
 
juliomiguelherrera May 18, 2015
Great shot, outstanding skills, how did you do it?
cherylbreece
 
cherylbreece June 17, 2015
so light that it looks like daylight! Great photo!
KemalSoftic
 
KemalSoftic July 13, 2015
Fantastic photo!
robertbrookes
 
robertbrookes July 25, 2015
Excellent skills!!!
CanoMan
 
CanoMan August 27, 2015
Well done. Night photography is a passion of mine and I'm working to get better at it. You are now my inspiration to not give up.
peonyhirwani
 
peonyhirwani September 23, 2015
Just one word, 'WOW'
eddiebencio
 
eddiebencio March 23, 2016
Nature's magical expression of beauty. So amazing!
gcostello
 
gcostello January 11, 2018
this is so amazing. how do you get the sky to look like that?!?
robbeacon
 
robbeacon January 30, 2018
How long was that exposure?
tmlakshmi PRO
 
tmlakshmi May 01, 2018
amazing skills. voted
Pat_NikonNut
 
Pat_NikonNut December 07, 2018
Hi this type of photo has fasinated me for a long time and this is a great photo. I will try to find that software, thanks
treis
 
treis November 28, 2019
wonderful shot
sdondero Platinum
sdondero November 28, 2019
Thank you!

Behind The Lens

Location
I took this photo on the edge of a cliff about 25 feet above the lake, deep in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountain range. The area appears on maps as Saddleback Lake, but is known more informally as Shangri-La. Once you get on the other side of a 2+ mile-long lake, it's another 2.5 hour climb to reach this incredible area at 8,350 feet above sea level. The large peak just beneath the north star is known as the Elephant's Perch, which at an elevation of 9,870 feet (3,008 meters) is one of Idaho's most famous rock climbing destinations.
Time
This nighttime image is a composite of over 120 photos, taken over an hour's period, starting around 10:30pm.
Lighting
As this was shot at night, the critical lighting was a function of light from the stars and moon. I specifically planned this trip around a waxing 1st quarter moon, because I knew that it would give me just enough light to brighten the intriguing foreground (which visibly includes many climbing routes on the Elephant's Perch wall), without overpowering the stars. From experience, I also knew that in these mountains, where there is essentially zero light or air pollution, attempting star trails without a moon creates too much clutter--there are so many stars that it is difficult to take it all in. So, the known factor was light of the moon, and the unknown was the weather; I lucked out with clear skies, so I also got the light I needed from the stars.
Equipment
I shot this with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III body, a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens, a Gitzo travel tripod with a Manfrotto ball head, and a Canon remote shutter release.
Inspiration
I've been fascinated by star trails for years, and have had to put off backpacking for the last few years due to the all-consuming responsibilities of being a new dad, so my one goal this summer was to haul my camera gear deep into the mountains at least once. With some research, I discovered that the north star sits just atop the famous Elephant's Perch peak, leading me to believe it would be perfect for star trails. I literally had this photo imagined in my head months before I was able to get up there and make it happen.
Editing
As anyone who has attempted star trails knows, it takes some time to get them right! In this image, I first batch processed the 120+ frames in Lightroom, doing very basic adjustments of white balance, noise reduction, and lens calibration. I then merged them together using the amazingly-free StarStaX program. From there, I went back into Photoshop, where I cleaned up the sky (removed satellites, planes, and shooting stars), dropped in a clean image of the foreground, and brought the sky back into the reflection of the lake. I made some minor edits from there to the composite and called it a day.
In my camera bag
As a Canon shooter, I typically stuff the following into my Lowepro and Tamrac backpacks: Two 5D MKIII bodies, an assortment of lenses (16-35mm f/4 L, 16-35 f/2.8 L II, 24-70mm f/2.8 L II, 70-200mm f/2.8mm L II, 100mm f/2.8 L, 135mm f/2 L, 200-400mm f/4 w/ 1.4X built-in extender), Manfrotto & Gitzo tripods, Manfrotto ball heads, a variety of filters (ND, Graduated ND, Polarizers), tele-extenders (1.4X & 2X), Canon SpeedLights, and PocketWizard remote triggers.
Feedback
Star trails are a tricky beast! Unlike most digital photography these days, you can't just take a quick photo and know you got it from a glance at the back of your LCD. You need to invest significant time just to take the many exposures needed (think 30-60+ minutes), and you won't know what the trails will look like until you blend all the individual captures together in the software later. Since you're shooting in the dark, you'll be shooting in full manual and will need to know your camera settings inside and out, and dress warm enough to not lose your mind. You have to choose a night that has zero clouds, ideally no wind, and the right amount of moon for where you are (usually no moon is best to get the brightest stars, but as I mentioned, where I live we get too much of a good thing if there is no moon). You really have to spend the time to get your composition right, which is that much tougher when you can't see well through the lens. Using the in-camera level is a great way to keep your horizon straight, and focusing will be a challenge as you'll be hard pressed to use auto-focus, and will necessarily have to switch to manual focus before shooting. It is key to be far away from city lights, cars, other hikers, etc. A good sturdy tripod is a must. I suggest getting a headlamp that has a red light function, as it will help maintain your night vision, and impact your camera the least if you have to turn it on for some reason (though ideally you wouldn't!). Unless your camera has a built-in function for it, you'll have to use a remote shutter release--there will be no touching your camera once you start shooting, and you need each exposure to be fired as quickly in sequence as possible. Don't forget to cover the eyepiece before you start shooting to prevent light leak. StarStaX is a must-use software for blending the images together, and ample time to dedicate to post will be essential if you want a clean final result. I highly recommend watching online tutorials before you haul your gear hours into the mountains, as many great tutorials are available for free and you’ll thank yourself for it later. Get after it, and love it--worst case scenario, you'll spend an incredible evening under that the stars, ideally with a good friend or two. Most importantly, don't forget the whiskey--something has to keep you warm!

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