"Balanced Rock and Milky Way"
April 2011, Arches National Park, Utah
I left my motel room in nearby Moab at 3:00 am in order to shoot an image that I had in mind. Oh the joys of landscape photography. I headed straight to Arches National Park and drove through the darkness to the Balanced Rock Trailhead. I reached the trailhead at about 3:30, donned my backpack and headlamp and hiked the short distance to the iconic sandstone spires of Balanced Rock. It was a beautiful warm night in the desert, and the überdark night sky that Utah is so famous for showcased countless millions of stars. Conditions were ideal for my purposes. I must admit that it was rather spooky being all alone in the desert in the middle of the night. My imagination ran wild as I tried to concentrate on the task at hand. My brain would immediately interpret the slightest noise as a serial killer approaching me under the cover of darkness. After about an hour of this nonsense I finally settled down and got to work.
I shot this image at 4:45 in the morning. I waited for a window which began after the 3/4 moon had set at 3:58 am, but well before the sunrise at 6:45 am. This way I would be certain that no light pollution would diminish the brightness of the stars and Milky Way.
This was my first attempt at light painting, a process where the photographer uses a flashlight instead of a conventional electronic flash to illuminate the subject. Light painting becomes necessary when the item being photographed is simply too large or too far away for a flash to reach. In this particular image I used a 30 second exposure wide open to capture the stars and Milky Way. During those 30 seconds I took a flashlight and evenly "painted" the two rock formations. It took me several iterations to figure out what I was doing. First I discovered that 30 seconds was the longest exposure that I could use. Any longer and the movement of the stars created trails, an effect that I was not looking for. Then I experimented with the ASA until I settled on 3200 for the proper illumination with my wide open aperture of f/2.8. I'm quite pleased with the result, although I certainly would have liked a lower ASA to reduce noise. Unfortunately I can't change the laws of physics.
Arches National ParkAstronomyLight PaintingMilky WayNight PhotographySandstone FormationsSouthwestern USAStarsUniverseUtah