Picture of the week

Nov 27, 2016

Bristlecone pine star trail pattern

Bristlecone Pine Vortex

A bristlecone pine as photographed with a time exposure of the stars as a backdrop.  This is photographed toward the north as evidenced by the stars with minimal rotation at the center.  This area in the White Mountains has some of the darkest skies in California.  Given I was dealing with a first quarter moon for this exposure (waxing at about 50% phase), star trail types of compositions tend to work out better than trying for a static capture of the milkyway (nevertheless, my best attempt is shown in the first image below).  The star trail image above was created as a composite of multiple exposures, with the first just exposed for the tree and foreground, using the natural lighting of the moon with the camera on a tripod.  To capture the star trails, an intervalometer was incorporated to capture 20 consecutive 4 minute slices without disturbing the camera from the first exposure.  The resultant images were then stacked in Photoshop CS6 using the 'Lighten' blend mode to combine them. Use of smaller time slices instead of one long exposure has the advantage of less noise and a quicker ability to get your exposure right without have to run the camera for the entire duration, and thus minimizing your battery usage if you have to make some adjustments and try again.

Solar thermal power towerAdditional images are shown below of other images captured in the White Mountains during two separate visits this September and October, with the first on my trusty BMW F800GS adventure motorcycle, loaded with all my camping and camera gear. 

Also of interest is a capture of a solar thermal tower at the Crescent Dunes power plant about 50 miles away in the Nevada desert south of Tonopah.  I spotted this up on a ridge at the north edge of the Patriarch Grove.  At first I didn't know what was the source of the bright spot on the ground in the distance, but after magnifying the resultant exposure, more details could be observed.  The image quality is not that ideal given it is heavily cropped and I only had my 24-105mm lens on the 5Dmk3 at the time.

Travel guide to California Photography
If you want to know more on photographing this area or many other locations in California, be sure to check out my book now available on Amazon here.  I also discuss some night photography techniques and some of my favorite trees within the White Mountains, including some for this purpose.