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Technology has come a long way. I can vividly recall a time where the majority of photographic process ended when it got dark. Shooting the night sky was the stuff reserved for NASA, and the most specially trained photographers on the planet. Now, not so many years in the future, technology has made it so EVERYONE can photograph the night sky, and come away with some amazing art...the only real setback now is that not everyone knows how to do it.
Aron Cooperman and myself met a group of photographers looking to learn the tricks of photographing after the sun has gone. A slew of forest fires has descended over a majority of the state, making it hard to do any kind of photography…but as luck would have it, Pinnacles NP was looking smoke free, and ready for our group of photographers.
We set off Saturday afternoon for the park, on the docket for the evening was a short hike to the reservoir and a night of shooting pinpoint stars, and collecting images to combine on Sunday for a star-trails image. Our class coincided with the biggest meteor shower of the year…which meant, by the time the light of day faded and we were ready to start shooting, we weren’t alone. Many other people had hiked up to the reservoir to see the meteor shower as well. Thankfully we were the first group there so we didn’t feel too bad about the 6 or 7 times we had to light paint the rock structures in the vicinity so our shots would have an interesting subject matter. When it came time for the star trails portion, we only needed to light paint the subject one time. The rest of our hours worth of 5 minute long exposures would be in the dark…which meant we could join the masses to oooh and ahhh over the occasional meteor blast.
It’s a bit of a drive from the gallery to the park, and we have an early morning of processing ahead, so by 11:00pm we were finished gathering our files and set off in the dark for the hike to the van.
The next day we all meet bright and early to go over the technical aspect of processing the images. How to combine all these different images to either get more uniform light painting, or to create star trails. The concept and execution of the basics to this process are quite easy. Stack images, set blending mode to lighten…END. Unfortunately many images have creative and some other issues that need addressed…and that’s where we spend a lot of time. How do we adjust color? How do we get rid of some dorks’ headlamp? How do we adjust our composition to remove a stray tree branch? All of this is important, and we’re able over the course of three hours to address most of these types of issues. The thing with this type of photography is that it takes practice, and always comes with some personal preferences and artistic touches…the best way to master it, is to keep at it!
Aron and I had a great time with our group, and encourage everyone to get back out there sooner rather than later and keep practicing!
Until next time,
Brian, Aron, and the rest of the Aperture Academy team
If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.