My name is Rob, and I need practice. I like night time. I like stars. I like photography.
It stands to reason that I'd like taking photographs of stars at night, yeah?
Of course it does. Don't be ridiculous.
Living in the town that I do, there aren't many places where I can accomplish such ventures. There is light pollution everywhere; even out in the sticks you can see the faint glow of street lights on the horizon most of the time. Thusly, I don't get the opportunity to get celestial photographs very often. So sporadic is the opportunity, that I rarely even think about getting out to do it.
A while ago a friend of mine posted an Astronomy Picture of the Day on my Facebook timeline. This particular image came from October 23, 2013. This particular picture was of what we call a star trail. It really renewed my interest in getting out into the dark with my camera.
It just so happened that a couple weeks later I found a place to do it, and the weather was going to cooperate.
On a Friday night some buddies and I packed up a telescope and all my camera gear and started the hour-long drive away from all the light.
We set up shop in a field that was so dark that you couldn't see your hand in front of your face.
By flashlight, I set up my tripod and fish-eye lens directed squarely at the North Star. Russ pointed his telescope towards Jupiter, hoping to catch a glimpse of some banding and a few of the moons.
20 minutes later, and my intervalometer is set, tripod locked in place. I'm good to go, so I make the announcement:
Turn your damn flashlights off, and no turning them on again until we're ready to bail!
We all take turns staring through the telescope, and craning our necks back on the lookout for shooting stars.
We hung around out in this field for probably two hours, talking and telling stories, and pointing excitedly when someone would see a shooting star. It was chilly, but we had the warmth of good company.
It was also really quiet out there. There were no cars, no dogs barking, not even the chirp of a cricket. We were whispering for the most part, as if we would somehow disturb nature in her slumber if we spoke too loudly.
Every once in a while a lull in the conversation would arise. We would all just sit, staring up into sky canvassed with brilliant points of light too numerous to count. The only thing to bring us back to reality was the snap of my shutter opening or closing.
When all was said and done, we started packing up everything.
I examined my camera expecting there to be 75 thirty-second exposures.
Something unexpected was found. My images got increasingly foggy as time went on. This didn't make any sense, as the sky was as clear as glass the whole time. It was then I found the thing I hadn't accounted for - the dew point.
When I shed some light on the lens I had been using, it was completely saturated with condensation. It wasn't just a droplet here or there. It was wet.
That might just explain why the images got so foggy towards the end of the night.
I packed up my gear, wiping the water off the front of the lens as best I could before putting it away.
Driving back to Huntsville, I was a little disgruntled that I didn't get the number of shots I had planned on, and not knowing if I had enough clear shots to get the effect I was looking for.
Still, I was happy to have gone. Moments were shared, and memories were made.
A few days later, I sat down to see what I could do with what I came away with. I ended up with 35. 35 exposures to stack one on top of another to create the effect I was after - stars soaring across a treeline in the cool night air, rotating around Polaris.
But, without further adieu, I present to the internet my shitty first draft of a star trail in Alabama.
It turned out better than I expected, but not quite what I'd hoped for.
I'm on the lookout for spots where I can practice making this sort of thing happen more effectively. If you think you know of one, leave a comment. Who knows? Maybe your spot will end up on here.