Listening to the Universe

The stars rotate behind the 40 meter Radio Telescope near Bishop, CA.

The stars rotate behind the 40 meter Radio Telescope near Bishop, CA.
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2 Comments | Report
redwriter PRO
redwriter June 20, 2015
Wonderful image. Nice work. - Jake
Alfredo_Jose July 13, 2018

Behind The Lens

This 40 meter Radio Telescope is part of the Owens Valley Radio Observatory located near Big Pine, CA in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. The telescopes can be seen from highway 395 between Big Pine and Bishop, CA.
I got up at 2:00 am to shoot this shot because on this day the moon was up after sunset and I wanted to give the moon time to set to get the darkest sky.
For the Stars, I was hoping for a clear night with the moon already set. Since I can't change the lighting of the stars, the challenge is always to have the foreground objects not be too bright and be blown out or so dark as to create a silhouette.
I shot this using an Canon Intervalometer with a Canon 15mm lens on a Canon 5D mark ii mounted on a tripod. Since the telescope moves frequently while in use, I was only able to capture about 50 images, each 30 seconds long for this picture.
I feel Star Trail pictures look beautiful with a relevant subject in the foreground. I wanted that subject to be the Owens Observatory's largest telescope, the 40 meter. I wanted to shoot the picture while the telescope was pointing near the North Star to get this look on the final image.
To post process this star trail image, I color balanced the 50 RAW images in Lightroom CC and then stacked them together in a popular program called StarStax.
In my camera bag
I use the Canon 5D Mark iii and Canon 5D Mark ii, usually with fast wide angle lens like the Zeiss 15mm 2.8 and the Canon 15mm 2.8. I almost always use a tripod since I take long exposures. I also use a cable release and an intervalometer. Occasionally, I will use a Pan Head on my tripod to shoot night sky panoramas.
The hardest part of shooting Star Trails is to find a place with clear dark sky. Once you have that, you will want to use an intervalometer to shoot sequentially for about an hour. Like 120 images at 30 seconds each. Under ideal conditions I shoot in RAW at ISO 3200, 2.8 for 30 seconds each. The free program StarStax does a great job of layering the 120 images together to create the trails. Once you get comfortable doing Star Trails, add an interesting subject to your foreground. Good Luck!

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