In the past, I would take long exposure shots of the night sky. 30 minutes for a single photo was a normal affair. Last summer however, I started shooting time lapse sequences. Setting up My camera to automatically take a picture at what ever interval is desired, changed things up a lot. I found Myself going camping and letting My camera run, aimed toward the heavens while I slept. At first I was taking the resulting photos and making videos. Which is quite cool, watching the stars fly by at high speed. Not very long ago I found a free program called StarStax and have added another dimention to the time lapses I’ve been shooting. There is a video in the works, but it won’t be ready for a while. So, here are the stacked still images of a few of the night sky time lapses I captured this year.
Starting with this gem, which was a 5 and a half hour long series of 1,000 images. Nearly a quarter of earth’s rotation, viewed in one still shot. For those who are curious, The moon was on the other side of the earth and My Canon 6D with 24mm lens were set up as follows: Manual mode, f/1.4(focused on the stars), ISO 640, white balance 5400K, shutter speed of 13 seconds, taking a picture every 15 seconds. There is no edit involved, except running the images through StarStax. The second shot is the same image set, with “comet mode” selected in StarStax, no other edits…
I’m particularly proud of that time lapse! The rest of these were taken with Similar settings, at different locations over the last 6 months. Sadly, the moon was in the sky for all of them but the last one, so there are less stars visible compared to the above shots. Even so, They look pretty cool. If I say so Myself… It’s been cloudy here for weeks, but as soon as I get a chance, there will be more coming.
That’s right, I went on yet another one night camping excursion. This time, My brother, our friend Ryan and I headed to Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. The site that I booked was nicely secluded, located on a beaver laden pond, it made for a very pleasant night. Hiking the trail out to our weekend home, it was clear that we were in a part of the park that most people rarely visit. This was certainly one of the most picturesque places that I have been lately. With any luck, I shall camp at this spot again once winter is in full swing. I didn’t take a ton of pictures during the day, instead opting to focus on capturing the stars in the night’s sky. For the first time, I had good luck too. There were no clouds that night and the moon was on the other side of the planet. One couldn’t ask for better conditions to capture the vast expanse of stars.
Most of the day time was spent being lazy as hell. I did set up My cameras to catch a couple of time lapses, but did not take the time to set up My shots very well. Even so, I made a quick video of what I did manage to catch. At this rate, I am going to have to pay Vimeo, so You can all see what I’ve been doing in a reasonable resolution. :( Go ahead, have a look, there’s some nice stuff mixed in to the medeocre day time lapses. I do suggest hitting the misleading “HD” button, which brings You away from here and on to Vimeo’s site to watch it. The quality is slightly more appreciable.
Just after pausing by a map, to see where we were and staopping to take a quick shadow selfie, the path led us to the remains of a tree, about 7 feet tall and completely hollowed out by woodpeckers. Happily, they made a hole near the base, the perfect size to squeeze a camera into.
We did not see any bears, but definately spotted their droppings. There were a few little garter snakes slithering around and plenty of odd varieties of fungus growing all about. I really do love the wilderness! Why did I have to be born in to the city life? Hopefully one day I will be able to afford to move out of the urban environment, I would be a much happy’er person.
I bought a Canon 6D and their 24mm f/1.4 L series lens to go with it. Anxious to make use of these new toys, I started asking around to see if any of My friends wanted to go camping. An old friend that I rarely talk to opted in, along with Her husband and three dogs. The morning of departure, I shot them a text to see if they were running on schedule. The reply was, “We have to cancel.” Her family rents out a few houses around the neighborhood, one of which was to get new tennants after the weekend. The person who had lived there decided to leave the place packed full of crap, clutter and furniture. It looked like a pack rat was living there. Hell bent on getting out of the city, I met up with them and we had the place mostly empty in under three hours. Happily, we then proceeded to get in the van and drive north. It was already after noon on saturday, but in My book, any time outside of city life is time well spent. It was a lovely drive, just south of Lake Superior’s western-most point, we encountered a thick fog. These pictures do not do it justice, one could barely see a hundred yards for a good twenty miles.
Just south of the lovely town of Duluth, the fog lifted and my friends, who had never been to this part of Minnesota, could see why I love this little city, perched on a hill. The place has an unusually elaborate system of bridges. Partially due to the fact that this is a busy port town, but that still does not explain why the highway has so many bridges, crossing, rising and bending in every which way. Duluth has so many great angles and lines built in to it’s infrastructure. Some time soon I think I shall head up there, just to photograph the genius of those who designed and built the city. Passing through, I snapped a couple of shots through the dirty windows on the car.
For those of us from the Twin Cities, Duluth is the gateway to the north shore. Once You have passed through town, You find Yourself on the red road. The red tarmac doesn’t last long, but is a much welcomed sign that You have left the urban environment behind. From that point, heading north-east along Lake Superior’s coast, is a long, long stretch of rolling hills, rocky shores, winding rivers and endless forest. My favorite place to be! We headed up the coastal road passing through the many State Parks and National Forests. Eventually finding ourselves at Cascade State Park, which is a little more than an hour from the Canadian border. It was already pretty late in the day, but we rapidly set up camp and got a fire going. After filling our bellies, we walked the couple hundred yards over to the lake and spent about two hours just sitting, taking in the vast darkness. It was a foggy night, visibility was quite low, but the sound of the waves rolling onto the rocky shore was just what I needed.
Once back at our campsite, we all went to bed pretty quickly. In the morning, we took a walk up the Cascade River, pausing for Me to take the following pictures and proceeded to head south, Hoping to make a couple of stops along the way back home.
My friend has a bad back, which chose to throw Him into a state of agony on this trip. I felt bad that He was in so much pain, so we took it easy on the return trip. In the end, we passed by all but one of the sights that the North Coast has to offer. I simply would not come up here without a stop at that which has become My favorite waterfall. Which I took a bunch more pictures of.. The overcast sky made taking pictures a lot nicer than the bright, sunny day the last time I was there. I took My time, stopping every couple hundred yards, pondering the angles I desired and taking more pictures, long exposures, all the way up the valley. The place was nice and quiet, we only saw two other groups of people the whole time we were there. What a wonderful place.
After basking in the cool water for a while, we climbed back into their van and headed towards home. Driving back down the coast, leaving behind the natural beauty of this post-glacial landscape and entering the land of human civilaization. The farther south You go, the impact of man kind becomes more and more evident. The lone road gets wider, sparcely placed houses give way to towns, tunnels bring You under towering rocky hills and eventually, You find Yourself looking at the ports and populated hills of Duluth. We paused there to stretch our legs and take a final look at the vast expanse of water, before climbing back into the van and continuing south towards Saint Paul. We managed to ride the leading edge of a storm for a couple hundred miles, all the way home. Arriving back in city life, just in time to see a very bold and beautifully colored sun set. Sorry, I did not get a picture of that, there were buildings in the way…
Last night, My Brother and I wandered out of the city to find a nice view in the country. It was said there would be a meteor shower, or possibly even a ‘meteor storm.’ We headed east of town, trying to get ahead of the approaching clouds. The shooting stars that we were seeking should have been mostly in the northern sky. We roamed the rural roads north of Hudson, WI for a while, finding a lack of northerly views that weren’t spoiled by peoples lights. Then, there was an openning to the south which revealed an awesome array of stars. We parked in someone’s driveway and proceeded to shoot from there for 2 or more hours. In some of the pictures, You can almost make out the edge of the milky-way. I was however aiming directly at I94, Hudson and the Twin Cities, with all the light pollution they emit. So after a few shots I turned to aim up and above the horizon. Which gave Me the awesome star trails, layered up around the Earth’s northern rotational axis. We only saw a couple of shooting stars, but it was still a great time.
The slightly ghost-like picture at the end was aquired with a 10 second exposure, ISO-800 at an aperture of f/1.4. All pictures taken with a Sigma 30mm 1.4 Ex on My Canon t4i.