Lockett Meadow near Humphrey’s Peak outside Flagstaff in Northern Arizona. Purchase Print
It’s not really a true star trails image, nor does it fully reflect the goals of The Project dayStars series of images. Still, it was the first step I took toward taking on Project dayStars. A piece of the original inspiration.
|22:27 AZ Mountain
|AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
Finding Lockett Meadow, Accidentally
I captured this image on a cold November night. This was during my college days. I minored in photography and at that time I capture this image I was taking a photo class with a long term assignment in the syllabus. So my mind was focused on coming up with a Fine Art Photography Series.
My assignment was to capture 5 portfolio worthy images with a common theme and I had 12 weeks. I decided to go out, chase the full moon and capture the light it cast. The moo would be full both at the beginning and end of the class term, so there were 4 full moons to work with, instead of just 3.
I intended to go North on Highway 180 from Flagstaff toward Snow Bowl, and turn right into the wilderness at Humphrey’s Basin. I guess I found it, then kept driving, further and further up the mountain until I came to a pass. And there I stopped.
I had found Lockett Meadow; accidentally. A place I had visited before, but had approached from the other side of the mountain. I had no idea I could get there the way I did.
I parked the car (oh, this is a sports coupe and I’m on a rocky, winding, dirt road, with one headlight and low clearance. Something I would later come to call, “A Standard Photo Adventure with Ian La Rue.”)
I park the car, grab my camera and tripod, and run across a field to frame the shot you see.
Shot on Bulb Mode with a cabled remote shutter release and locking button. The shutter remains open as long as the shutter release button is pressed.
I stood with the moon over my right shoulder, and watched the light it cast illuminate a lone Ponderosa Pine tree amid a vast open field. I wanted to include the moon in the shot as well, but didn’t know how bright it is. (To capture details on the lunar surface you need a shutter speed of no more 1/125th of a second. To capture detail on the surface of earthly objects reflect moon light illuminates (when full) takes a shutter speed of 30 seconds at f/2.8 at ISO 100. That’s 12 stops different by my calculations.)
In order to capture the moon in the same exposure as the tree scene, I began by pointing the camera at the moon. I visualized the tree scene, then placed the moon in the viewfinder at the appropriate spot. I placed the lens cap over the lens then activated, and locked, the remote shutter release cable.
Multiple Exposures In Camera
I carefully removed the lens cap, then let the moons image flash through the lens for the briefest moment my human body could manage, before replacing the lens cap. Then I turned the camera, with the lens covered and the shutter still open, toward the tree scene. I estimated the framing as well as I could, and when I felt ready, I removed the lens cap.
And I waited…
I allowed the lens to soak up as much reflected moon light as it could. But, how much was enough? And how much was too much? I didn’t know; I went on gut feeling.
My total capture time recorded is 328 seconds (5 minutes, 28 seconds). I have no way of proving what portion of that time was spent on which element. But I can say…
My Take Away
I had fun capturing this image. It was one of my early explorations into capturing long exposure images by moonlight; a proof of concept, which taught me that there is plenty to see by moonlight.