Attempt at Star Trails
August 14, 2004
This story begins early Thursday morning, when I drug myself out of bed to drive north of town just in case the Perseid meteor shower turned out to be spectacular (it didn't).
The first couple of spots I stopped at around Natural Dam were under a thick layer of fog, so I turned around and headed back up the mountains to a higher location. There I got to see quite a few meteors, but about the time I decided it was worth getting the camera set up, the fog moved in and the meteors seemed to stop.
I got in the truck and drove to a fourth location along Hwy 162 East of Cedarville. I sat up the camera and tripod and played around with a few settings, but didn't capture a single meteor. I think the looming twilight was to blame. Although it was the middle of August, it was downright cold outside! I tried putting on a jacket so I could remain outside beside the camera, but I had to resort to hiding inside the truck cab while the camera took its long exposures.
Later that day when I reviewed the pictures I realized I was taking short star trail pictures, which has always fascinated me. Then Saturday night, Stacey and the boys were gone to the lake with Darrel and Wanda. I took the opportunity to try my hand at shooting my own star trail photos. I drove up to Natural Dam and arrived around 10 p.m. There wasn't too much water going over the falls, and I was able to walk across to the middle of the base of the falls and set up the camera. With my digital camera I can review my pictures as soon as I shoot them so I was able to work out the right settings pretty quickly. With my two 4-minute exposures I discovered there wasn't enough light bouncing off the natural dam (no moon out tonight) - the sky came out fine but the falls were almost black.
On the third exposure I kept the camera settings the same but used my flashlight to light up the natural dam. Something funny happened while I was doing that. I was waving the flashlight back and forth and suddenly a couple of fireflies started blinking at me up above the dam. My 8-year old has tried to tell me you can attract fireflies by flashing a flashlight, but I was skeptical. (Sorry, Cliff).
The picture above is a layering of all three exposures I did in about half a minute on the computer.
I made an hour-long fourth exposure hoping to get the star trails a lot longer. I changed some settings on the camera, pushed the start button and walked back to the truck for the hour wait. U2's The Joshua Tree sounded great with the engine off and before I knew it, it was time to go get the camera. The picture was worthless - too dark with way to much digital noise, but I learned maybe what to do next time, or what not to do!