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Ancient Light



See my blog post about this trip at a-mills.smugmug.com.

See my blog post about this trip at a-mills.smugmug.com.
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Awards

Contest Finalist in Stars Photo Contest
Peer Award
chiphendershot grandpa_Vlad learwoody Mandarinetto1965 Shewolf-Photography Aliente Pablo-Klik +79
Superb Composition
MicktheGreek Loekie cohooper deedeecaroll66 Tudorof FatalFrames11 davenegrelli +25
Absolute Masterpiece
jessicaduprat patrykcorg theakckritz pietnel jchen31273 countryside Ckiddles +14
Top Choice
RevMarc_0713 arundahiya LiaMarie MadisonW davemerlinhiggins rhysmartin BriZ +9
Magnificent Capture
StanVG JayneBug Imagico anthonymannion Latitude4236David shaundasmithroberts valeriequintana +4
All Star
kelleyhurwitzahr Albert-Serra-Photography eugenekutuzoff haichauta laurieleigh_0232 jimismpf estercastillo08
Superior Skill
HJosey PabloAboal JimmieRatliff lunavee Bart
Outstanding Creativity
jkcomfort Alizka_13 wels Arvidz LucyCMorr

Submitted to Photo Contests

Top ClassTM

A Milky Way Photo ContestTop 10 class
The Stars Photo ContestTop 10 class
The Stars Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Night Wonders Photo ContestTop 10 class
Night Wonders Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Capture The Milky Way Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Rule of Thirds Photo Contest vol5Top 10 class
Rule of Thirds Photo Contest vol5Top 10 class week 1
The Nature Lover Photo ContestTop 10 class
The Nature Lover Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
The Nature Lover Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Tree Silhouettes Photo ContestTop 10 class
Tree Silhouettes Photo ContestTop 10 class week 3
Tree Silhouettes Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Tree Silhouettes Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Our World At Night Photo ContestTop 10 class
What A Night Photo ContestTop 10 class
What A Night Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
The Milky Way Photo ContestTop 20 class
The Milky Way Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Nature And The Night Photo ContestTop 10 class
Nature And The Night Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Nature And The Night Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
A Lonely Tree Photo ContestTop 10 class
A Lonely Tree Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Color In The Night Photo ContestTop 10 class
Color In The Night Photo ContestTop 10 class month 1
Color In The Night Photo ContestTop 10 class week 3
Color In The Night Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Backcountry Photo ContestTop 10 class
Backcountry Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Backcountry Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Parks And Gardens Photo ContestTop 10 class
Parks And Gardens Photo ContestTop 20 class week 2
Parks And Gardens Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Fairytale Moments Photo ContestTop 30 class week 2
Fairytale Moments Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Starry Starry Night Photo ContestTop 10 class
Starry Starry Night Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Our National Parks Photo ContestTop 20 class
Our National Parks Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Wide Angle In Nature Photo ContestTop 10 class
Wide Angle In Nature Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Silhouettes And Negative Space Photo ContestTop 10 class
Covers Photo Contest Vol 36Top 10 class
Covers Photo Contest Vol 36Top 10 class week 1
Silhouettes And Negative Space Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Long Exposure Games Photo ContestTop 10 class
Long Exposure Games Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Celebrating Nature Photo Contest Vol 2Top 30 class
Celebrating Nature Photo Contest Vol 2Top 30 class week 1
Covers Photo Contest Vol 35Top 10 class
Covers Photo Contest Vol 35Top 10 class week 1
Silhouettes In Nature Photo ContestTop 10 class
Silhouettes In Nature Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Seeking Light In Nature Photo ContestTop 20 class
Seeking Light In Nature Photo ContestTop 20 class week 2
Seeking Light In Nature Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Halloween Photo Contest 2016Top 20 class
Halloween Photo Contest 2016Top 20 class week 1
Composing with Shadows Photo ContestTop 30 class
Composing with Shadows Photo ContestTop 30 class week 2
Composing with Shadows Photo ContestTop 30 class week 1
Layers and Rule Of Thirds Photo ContestTop 10 class
Layers and Rule Of Thirds Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Layers and Rule Of Thirds Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Composing with the Horizon Photo ContestTop 20 class
Light Painting Fun Photo ContestTop 30 class
Nightscapes Photo ContestTop 20 class
Nightscapes Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Visual Poetry Photo ContestTop 10 class
Visual Poetry Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Visual Poetry Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Simple Landscapes Photo ContestTop 20 class
Simple Landscapes Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Earth Day 2016 Photo ContestTop 10 class
Black Out Photo ContestTop 30 class
I Love Trees Photo ContestTop 10 class
Earth Day 2016 Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
I Love Trees Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Black Out Photo ContestTop 30 class week 5
Black Out Photo ContestTop 20 class month 1
Black Out Photo ContestTop 20 class week 3
Black Out Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Black Out Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Chaos In Nature Photo ContestTop 10 class
Chaos In Nature Photo ContestTop 20 class week 2
Chaos In Nature Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Stars Photo ContestTop 10 class
Stars Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Rule Of Thirds Essentials Photo ContestTop 20 class
Rule Of Thirds Essentials Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Beautiful Trees Photo ContestTop 20 class
Beautiful Trees Photo ContestTop 20 class week 2
Exploring The Wilderness Photo ContestTop 10 class
Exploring The Wilderness Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Alluring Landscapes Photo ContestTop 20 class
Social Exposure Photo Contest Vol 1Top 30 class week 1
Amazing Silhouettes Photo ContestTop 30 class week 1
Nature By Night Photo ContestTop 10 class
Nature By Night Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Covers Photo Contest Vol 25Top 20 class
Covers Photo Contest Vol 25Top 30 class week 1
The Outdoors Photo ContestTop 10 class
The Outdoors Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Amazing Sceneries Photo ContestTop 10 class
Amazing Sceneries Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Trey Ratcliffs Put Your Best Foot Forward Photo ContestTop 30 class

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4 Comments | Report
catherinethompson PRO
 
catherinethompson April 09, 2016
Stunning Shot.
barbaramillesrobinson PRO+
 
barbaramillesrobinson May 18, 2016
Fascinating capture. Voted Simple Landscapes. Good Luck to you!
anthonymannion PRO+
 
anthonymannion March 12, 2017
astounding work
davemerlinhiggins
 
davemerlinhiggins March 30, 2017
Lovely galaxy shot

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Behind The Lens

Location
This photo was taken in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, USA. Living in the Washington, D.C. area, I had always assumed that I would have to travel to a different part of the country to get a good view of the Milky Way. Fortunately, a photographer friend scouted ahead and discovered that the sky was dark enough here, just a couple of hours from home. We timed it for a clear night with no moon and the right position of the Milky Way in the sky.
Time
We got to the park as the sun was setting, which gave us enough time to do some quick scouting before it was completely dark. We had pre-checked the position of the Milky Way so we knew we were facing the right direction, but to my amazement that wasn't even necessary - you could see the band of the galaxy clearly in the sky. This made composition much easier.
Lighting
I had tried various attempts at light painting, but ultimately found that I preferred the silhouette of the great tree against the dark sky. Settings-wise, you want about as wide an aperture as you can and as high an ISO as you can manage with acceptable image quality so you get the most detail in the sky. If you try light painting or flash to fill in the foreground, pay close attention to the color balance of your light compared to the sky. It's easy to get a very strange (and unrealistic) look if the light temperature doesn't match.
Equipment
This was shot with a Nikon D800E, 24-70mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens on a Gitzo 1542T tripod. I used the timer release to make sure the camera was very still when shooting, and the widest focal length and aperture possible on the lens. The wider your focal length, the a longer shutter duration you can have before the stars start to blur. The longer you can leave your shutter open, the more light you can get in and the more detail that gives you in the sky. The wide (f/2.8 in this case) aperture is a trade off. You want your stars sharp, but that means your foreground elements may be a bit soft. Fortunately, I was far enough away from the tree with a wide enough lens that it is sharp enough in relation to the sky. Finally, pay attention to foreground elements that can move when doing long exposures. Even a slight breeze when shooting 20 second exposures will result in blurred foreground elements. If that's the circumstance you're dealing with, find creative ways to integrate that movement into your image.
Inspiration
Seeing deep into space helps keep perspective on the problems we face here, and encourages a bigger, longer term view on things. Looking up at a dark sky at night is the one time it's easy to remember that we're just a small rock flying through space; just a tiny spec in the cosmos. This scene appealed to me because it's timeless, like the view of the sky itself. This old tree with a field of stars behind it could have been a thousand years ago. In fact, the light we're seeing now left those stars centuries ago, so we are literally seeing the past when we look up.
Editing
The summer haze gave a yellow tone to the sky, which I reduced in post for a more true-color view. I left the light pollution along the horizon as a reminder of our presence in the scene, and for contrast with the foreground. I sharpened and reduced noise throughout the image and raised the shadows along the trunk to bring some detail back into the tree.
In my camera bag
The equipment used for this shot is representative of my usual gear. I carry a Nikon D800E and my 24-70mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens stays on there about 95% of the time. Depending where I'm going, I may also bring along a 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 Nikkor for versatility. Sometimes I'll carry other specialized lenses if I expect to be shooting macro (105mm f/2.8 Nikkor), city/urban/street scenes (24mm f/2.8 Nikkor prime), wildlife (150-600mm f/5-6.3 Sigma Sport), or events (70-200mm f/2.8 Nikkor). I usually carry a Gitzo 1542T tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-30 Ballhead which is an amazing, lightweight combination for travel. For bigger things, I have a much heavier Really Right Stuff TVC-34L with BH-55 ballhead and Wimberly Sidekick for the big lens. For support gear, I always have a rocket blower and lens cleaning kit, spare cards, spare batteries, various hex wrenches for the tripods and plates, remote release, rain cover, and so on. In addition to the obvious things, I highly recommend carrying a small flashlight and/or headlamp. You never know when your shoot will go long and you'll end up hiking back in the dark, or even for working indoors in low light. I also carry a small water bottle, snack bar, and small first aid kit in my camera bag (and a larger one + small survival kit in my pack if I'm out hiking). Even just simple, easy to carry things like some water and snack, or a band-aid and some aspirin can make the difference between a miserable experience and a successful shot.
Feedback
There are many sources of detailed guides to shooting the night sky, so I’m not going to try to recreate those here, but here are a few quick tips: – Use a program like Stellarium to find out when you’ll have the Milky Way visible where you’ll be, and what the sun and moon cycles will be like to get good, dark skies. – Scout ahead of time – having a clear view of the night sky is easy enough in most places, but if you want any other compositional elements (and just for safety) it’s good to scout out the area before it gets dark. – Use a headlamp with a red filter to help you work in the dark. The red filter will help protect your night vision and the headlamp means you’ll have your hands free. – You will, of course, need a good tripod and a wide aperture, wide angle lens for best results. That said, you can do some creative things with other lenses, so if you don’t have the “right” one, give it a go anyway. – Finally, focus on a light in the far distance (or focus on something far away if it’s still light out) and lock your focus in place by turning off autofocus and taping your focus ring in place with gaffer’s tape. (I failed to do the latter part and it cost me a lot of shots when I apparently bumped the focus just slightly at some point.) Just racking the lens to infinity usually doesn’t quite get you where you need to be on most lenses. One last recommendation: Make sure to put the camera aside for a couple of minutes and appreciate what you’re seeing. At night, the curtain of the sky gets pulled back and lets you see the galaxy we live in. Realizing what you’re really looking at is a truly amazing experience once that sinks in. It’s hard to imagine a more inspiring vista than over 200 billion stars spread out over 120,000 light years of space. What a view.

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