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End of the Night



So if you're wondering "how in the heck did he create this shot?", I'll tell ya. So, in case you didn't know, planet Earth (the one we live on) rotates. That's right...we go round and round. So the sun doesn't really rise...only to our perspective. What's really happening is the earth is spinning around and as we spin around toward the sun, it appears to us to come up over the horizon. You knew all this, right?

So such as the sun rotates around our sky (from our perspective) so do the stars. When I'm shooting the Milky Way, I have to shoot a very long exposure to allow enough light to make the picture. It is dark after all. When you shoot a long exposure of something moving, it creates a streak or a motion blur...like those long streaks of car lights in night cityscapes. So since the stars are moving in relation to me on planet earth, I have to compensate for that, which I do so by using a star tracker. I mount that to my tripod and then mount my camera to that. The star tracker moves my camera at the same speed that the earth is rotating, basically, allowing me to stay pointed at one spot in the sky and to shoot a long exposure with nothing moving. Wha La, the secret's out.


So on this night, after shooting the Milky Way all night long, the sky was starting to lighten up about an hour and a half before sunrise. So I decided to turn off the tracker and just shoot toward the North Star or Polaris and capture a few long exposures. So now, I am purposely causing streaks because the sky is moving. These are called star trails. The northern part of the Earth's axis is the North Star or Polaris. So everything rotates around it. To us, the North Star is always in the same place. So the longer streaks you see in the sky is how far that star moves in relation to us in 6 minutes. If I were to do a 24 hour long exposure, that star would make a complete circle. Of course you wouldn't see all of it because the sun would hide it. So what I did here was, I set my remote to shoot 6 minute long exposures and to keep doing it until I stopped it. I hit the trigger button and ran to the Jeep. I jumped in and turned my lights on for a couple seconds and just let the camera keep shooting. Once it got too light, I jumped out and turned it off. I then merged all those photos (only had time for about 3) together. The top photo is the result. If you didn't know, now you know.


The funny part is, I was out there from 2am to sunrise. Not one other car or person came through until I set up this shot. The first try, I pushed the trigger button, ran to the Jeep, did my whole lights on, lights off thing, and wouldn't you know it, I see a truck coming up behind me. Of course, my tripod and camera are sitting right in the middle of the road. I had to run out there and move everything and then set it all up again.


Below is the shot I took earlier that night looking in the opposite direction down that road. If you want to know more about that shot, just let me know.



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1 Comment


Elizabeth A. Leib
Elizabeth A. Leib
May 01, 2023

Yes! Tell me about the second shot. Wish I'd been brave enough to come with you. Maybe next time we cross paths.

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