Friday, December 14, 2007

The Stars at Night

West of Guadalupe Mountains National Park the elevation drops down about 2000' feet into a broad flat basin. At the heart of this basin stretch miles of salt flats of a dry ancient lake. Occasionally enough rain will fall to recreate an ephemeral lake but they are mainly dry. Despite the heavy summer rains, I found them very dry in late August. I decided that I would find a still morning and try to visit them before sunrise.

One early clear morning (by early, I mean about 4:30 am) I decided to visit the flats and watch the stars. I found them very still and very quiet. The light of a waning moon made the white salt glimmer in the night. Countless stars shined in the heavens. It was a perfect morning. I walked far out onto the flats and then set up both my tripods.

Making an image under the night sky is possible and is quite fun but it is also slow. Each image takes 10-15 minutes. The is plenty of time to wait and watch the sky. I had each camera pointed in a different direction not knowing what I would get. I started making images and would then watch the stars, occasionally seeing a shooting star and wondering if the film would pick it up.

The salt flats were very surreal and I don't know if I could really capture that feeling in a single image. I worked with several different compositions and ideas. This one is one of my favorites. By facing south you see the arc of stars as the earth spins during the several minute exposure. The salt glows. The distant power lines cutting across them and the distant mountains.

Yes. This is a place to come back to.

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