Loading Selected Work...
Menu

playing among the stars

This image was so much fun from start to finish. Can I say that? 🙂 Really I can’t recall the last time I bounced up and down and ran around furiously when photographing something. If you were watching me from afar, you’d think I was a kid pumped up on caffeine let loose in a candy store. First let me begin by showing you the “Before” frame below–unprocessed because the frame after (above) was so much better. At least I think so.


Earlier in the evening around sunset, Ray and I had popped over to Canyonlands National Park to photograph for his ongoing series. (Yes I was the Voice Activated Light Stand over there too!) We knew we wanted to come back to Arches to photograph at night but we didn’t want to do the Arches “at night”. Besides it would have been busy with lots of photographers around there so instead we planned on returning to the Courthouse Towers and seeing how they would look at night.

When we arrived, there was only one other car in the parking lot and about 10,000 mosquitoes. It was dark and I could only see the form of towers against the night sky. Living in the city, I don’t get to enjoy a starry night very often and there, it was almost magical. You could make out the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper and many of the other constellations. You could also see the International Space Station orbiting the Earth. Night photography has always interested me but I don’t do enough of it. When I travel, I tend to do it more often and since I really do enjoy it, I should think about photographing at night more. All that to say that, it took me a while to figure out all my settings and exposure time, figure out my focus, etc. At first I was right up against towers using my favourite wide-angle lens (the Fox 17-35mm) but I decided that I needed to be further back so I stumbled across the parking lot using my iPhone as a flashlight and set up there. A few moments later I heard happy sounds from a distance. Serendipity had found Ray and I ran to see what she had brought him. I don’t want to steal his thunder as he might want to share that image (hint, hint, Ray) but after I saw it, I decided that I wanted to photograph my car with its lights on in front of the towers. Thus began the multiple 50 metre dashes from my car to my camera as I opened and closed the doors and ran to press the shutter. (Ok so I could have just left the interior light set to “On” and it would have had the same effect but that would have made for a boring story.)

My post-processing consisted of what felt like hours of labourious cloning out of spots because my sensor was so dusty and the dust flecks were showing up as red and blue specks on this image. I also had to correct the perspective in Photoshop because I had photographed this at 17mm and needed to fix the tilt of the towers. Other than some of the usual slider settings in LR–pushing blacks, adjusting the curves, and working on some of the colours, nothing else was done to the image.

There is one small ingredient I’ve left out of the story and I’d like to see if you can guess what it is. Her name is Serendipity. Do you know what she looks like here?

Share

31 Comments

  1. Earl
    July 22, 2011

    Wow…what a striking image…amazing to say the least. Wonderful work and by the way it’s okay if it’s fun!

    Humm…Serendipity appears in many forms. At least in part you had beautiful clear skies?

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      July 22, 2011

      Yes, thank goodness for clear skies because earlier in the evening I thought it might be too cloudy. That wasn’t the serendipity that I am referring to though, Earl…

  2. Dorothy Brown
    July 22, 2011

    What a masterful shot. Just stunning. I really admire the skillful post-processing you did. The composition is wonderful — your car is dwarfed by the immense rock Courthouse Towers. Since it seems to be full dark, I wonder what the glow is coming from behind the rocks and shrubs on the lower left of the frame. It adds mystery to the image for me. Serendipity?

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      July 22, 2011

      Thanks Dorothy! The glow from behind the rocks and shrubs are the lights from the town below. They certainly do add mystery to the whole image however you can see those in the earlier frame…

  3. Erin Wilson
    July 22, 2011

    Oh yeah! This is definitely my fave of your trip so far. LOVE night shots, and there’s nothing ‘almost’ about it – this is magical.

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      July 22, 2011

      It’s one of my personal favourites too, Erin. It was a lot of work to clean up the dust spots but it was a labour of love. I’m pleased you like it too.

  4. Anna Velkey-Solvberg
    July 22, 2011

    You have done a marvellous job in post-production, I had no clue how you could make that image any better, and there you go… 😉

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      July 22, 2011

      Thanks Anna. Just to be clear though, the unprocessed image is the frame before the one you see processed at the top of the page. Something happened to make the image I picked to process in the end. That something was Serendipity. I will let you know once I see some more guesses, ok?

  5. Travis Forbear
    July 22, 2011

    Good things come to those that wait. It’s good to see you posting again, and with new excitement. Really like the new work. Thanks for sharing the story and the images.

    Travis

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      July 24, 2011

      Thanks Travis!

  6. Franz Amador
    July 22, 2011

    Another car came along and swept its lights across the towers?

    The red and blue specs are probably “hot pixels” in your sensor, not dust. All cameras develop them. They appear in long exposures. However, when I shoot raw, Lightroom (3) magically removes them for me. I discovered that by accident: I could see hot pixels in the original preview jpeg made by the camera, but when I clicked in to 1:1, which causes LR to process the raw image into rgb and show that, they disappeared.

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      July 24, 2011

      Yes Franz, you’ve guessed it correctly! Because I was opening and closing the car door instead of just leaving the interior light turned on, I was running back and forth not knowing when a car would come by.

      I didn’t know anything about “hot pixels”–thanks for that information. I only shoot in RAW but those spots were still there when I looked at the images 1:1. I wonder why they disappeared for you but not for me?

  7. Monte Stevens
    July 22, 2011

    I love you excitement, just from your writing. 🙂 And, I can see you running around busy as one of those misquotes. Well, done and well worth all your effort. Now let’s see what Ray has!

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      July 24, 2011

      LOL, you may have to apply extra pressure on Ray because I haven’t been successful 🙁

  8. Beate Dalbec
    July 22, 2011

    Wow, totally cool shot!

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      July 24, 2011

      Thanks Beate…

  9. Julie
    July 22, 2011

    Amazing how post processing can lift an image into something truly special. I love the patterns created in the sky especially the large moon like shape to the left and a little to the top right. Gives a sense of movement in the photograph.

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      July 24, 2011

      Now that Franz has guessed the serendipity of a passing vehicle, I believe that large moon-like shape is the reflection from the headlights but I could be wrong.

  10. Flemming Bo Jensen
    July 22, 2011

    Smiling right along with you Sabrina, night time photography and shooting the stars is so much fun! You did well here, it can be quite tricky.

    Btw I am certain the red and blue spots are not dust, they are “hot pixels” due to the long exposures and just simple high iso noise due to most information here being in the very blacks (where digital sensors store the least detail). I presume you are shooting at an open aperture and you would never see dust spots in that. In Lightroom, use the colour noise slider to get rid of the noisy pixels, zoom in to 100% and adjust so you don’t loose details, just kill the noise.

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      July 24, 2011

      Hmmm, I tried to use the colour noise but the noisy pixels are still there. I’ll have to investigate a solution further. Thanks for the tip!

  11. anita
    July 22, 2011

    Wow, I LOVE this, Sabrina! The stars are amazing. Enjoyed picturing you working out the details. Wish I could have been there to assist. The image on the top looks like it has an aurora borealis affect.

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      July 24, 2011

      Thanks Anita. Wish you could have been there too 🙂

  12. Erin Wilson
    July 24, 2011

    Okay, but you haven’t told us the Serendipity part yet!

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      July 24, 2011

      Sorry Erin…been tied up this weekend working on some other stuff. Franz correctly guessed that it was the lights of a passing car that lit up the Courthouse Towers. Just those few seconds made a difference to the structure being a silhouette against a starry night versus one that shows a bit of the detail you’d normally see in the daytime.

  13. Krista
    July 24, 2011

    This is one of my very favourite images of yours Sabrina. I can totally understand and appreciate your excitement! This is one of those moments when all the stars align, so to speak;) Beautiful, beautiful photograph.
    xo Krista

    Reply
  14. Charlene
    July 24, 2011

    Hehe, you still sound like you’re running around with a big grin on your face writing this one. That single large star just above the bush line is amazing.

    What is that huge red oval I see in the clear section of sky on the left?

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      July 24, 2011

      You’re right…I’m still smiling. I think that huge red oval is a reflection of the headlights of the car that was passing by. All experiments so I have to speculate!

  15. Cathy
    July 27, 2011

    This is fabulous Sabrina! The stars and big open spaces…magical. I love seeing how you processed this, it’s a really masterful job.

    Reply
  16. Younes Bounhar
    July 27, 2011

    Ha I was going to say that a huge truck came up and set shop next to you to light the towers :).
    There is also a trick you can do, but that involves some planning. The idea would be to set up just before twilight, take a first shot in the early moments of twilight, making sure to expose for the towers. You then leave your camera there, come back a few hours later and shoot for the stars. You then combine the two in PS (quite easily actually).
    Oh, and great shots by the way. I love how the car adds scale to the image.

    Reply
  17. Jeffrey Chapman
    August 2, 2011

    Sabrina, after ten “nights” of absolutely no night and no stars in far northern Norway, I particularly love this. I really missed the stars, and seeing them here reminds me of how much. Now I’ve got my fingers crossed for a cloudless night tonight.

    Reply
  18. Ellie Ericson
    August 8, 2011

    I’ve been pondering my response to this for a few days now. I think the word magical sums it up for me – also the feeling the image gives me is one of dwelling in possibilities – endless possibilities.

    It’s a magical expansive feeling. Well done 🙂

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Beate Dalbec

Cancel Reply