Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Star trails and waterfalls

I was inspired by a photo I saw in a magazine to try something new - waterfalls at night.

While in Spearfish last week, I ventured out into Spearfish Canyon to photograph Bridal Veil Falls lit only by moonlight. I'm pretty happy with the results.

Two factors made this project a bit difficult. First was focusing in the dark. I took several blurry shots before finding enough separation in tones between the sky and the trees at the top of the ridge to confidently focus.

Second was the roar of the rushing water, both from the falls and from Spearfish Creek, which is just out of the bottom of the frame. With all that sound, I could not hear approaching cars or worse yet in the back of my mind - approaching mountain lions. While I don't think there is a real danger of being attacked, I know that lions are fairly often seen around Spearfish Canyon and it made me nervous not being able to hear anything coming. Working with both difficulties created an interesting shoot.

I kept the ISO fairly low at 200 to keep the graininess down because I knew long exposures tend to accentuate grain and noise in a photo already. For this shot, the aperture was at 4.5 and the exposure was 5 minutes.

I was pretty happy with that result, but wanted the star trails to be longer, so tried an almost 9-minute exposure that I like even better.

Those lighter areas in the sky are wispy clouds that drifted through the shot during the long exposure.

I had also intended to take along a spotlight to strategically light some of the trees, but forgot and left it home. I'll try to remember that technique next time around.


Tim said...

Those are pretty cool. Why is the color of the sky so different in the photos? The first one looks so much like daylight that I probably wouldn't have known it was shot at night except for the star trails. It might look more "nightish" if you used a different white balance, but maybe that's not the look you're going for.

I like the idea of using the spotlight to do some light painting.

Chad Coppess said...

I agree, the first shot is also the first one I ran through Photoshop. When I hit "Auto Levels" it turned out this way and I just left it. I'll see about going back and editing it differently. Thanks for the suggestion!