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Stacking the Stars

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…

Tree and Stars at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park © Andor (1) Tree and Stars at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park © Andor (2)

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.

Night Sky at USA International Raceway, DD50 © Andor (1) Night Sky at USA International Raceway, DD50 © Andor (2)North Polar Axis over the Avery Wildlife Refuge © AndorNight Sky in Central Minnesota © AndorOrion Passing By © Andor


Urban Eclipse

As many of You know, there was a total lunar eclipse this morning. I wandered out of the house at 3:30am to find a good spot to shoot it from. Not far from home, I set up My tripod, dialed in the intervalometer and captured some of the event in the sky, among other things. This shot, is the first time I’ve ever done image stacking. Needs some improvement. I know..

Urban Eclipse © Andor (1)

That should give You a rough idea of what some of this video looks like. I did a much wider time lapse, consisting of 160, 15 second exposures, which were taken every 18 seconds. I then repositioned and zoomed in, taking 400 shots, 3 seconds apart, with a closer view of the neighboring city’s skyline. As the night becomes day, one can see the massive cranes, constructing the new Vikings stadium on the left side of downtown. Which is impressive, considering they are about seven miles away. The sun came up as the moon was setting, which ended up bleaching out the shot just before Luna dropped out of view. Vimeo’s free accounts don’t give a very good image quality, but it does look a little better if You watch it on their site, instead of mine. :(

Urban Eclipse © Andor (2)

Urban Eclipse © Andor (3)

Urban Eclipse © Andor (4)

Urban Eclipse © Andor (5)


Wandering the North Shore

My friend Ryan and I headed up to lake Superior for the weekend, on yet another one night camping excursion. Before checking in to our camp site at Tettegouche State Park, we headed farther north to check out some water falls. First we stopped at Temperance State Park and hiked the rocky trails along the river. The park is laden with age worn steps, some carved into the rock, others stacked from loose stones. The abundance of trees shed plenty of shade over the various paths and trails. The shallow depth of the soil leaves the roots of many trees visible, snaking around the rocky surface, giving a majestic feel to the already sublime surroundings. With it’s long series of short falls, carving deeper into the bedrock, the Temperance river is a beautiful place to go and spend some time. Clear skies and the bright sun did not make for great photographic conditions though.

After a couple of hours wandering the river side, we departed and stopped at a place Ryan’s friend had told him to go. Driving by it on the main road, You would never guess what was lingering just inland from the shore. Nor would You think that You would find anything particularly special once You parked in the small ten car lot. It was another small river, trickling over the rocks in a nearly deserted valley. Such is the way of this part of Minnesota. Every couple of miles is yet another river, stream, or creek, feeding into the vast lake to the south. This particular one however, is a gem among the parks up here. Somehow, it was also the least travelled of the places we went. All of the other parks and falls had tons of people buzzing around the crowded parking lots and river sides. We saw eight people on our hike up this stream. One was panning for gold in the lower part of the river, He told us it was wise to keep going up the path nearby, “so long as we didn’t mind the 158 stairs.” Unsure about what was to come, we hiked up the trail. It went up above the river pretty quickly, after only ten minutes or so, we were at least 75 feet above the valley floor. Then, after a little more hiking, we rounded a bend. The sound was unmistakable. Waterfall. Shortly after hearing it in the distance, the path split, one way went up, the other down. We chose the downward option, discovering a long meandering set of stairs. “This must be what that guy told us about.” Was the thought that passed through My head. At the end of the steps, flowed a gorgeous falls. Pouring into a calm pool, surrounded by a rocky beach and towering cliffs. We stayed for quite a while. Ryan went for a swim while I soaked My feet in the cool water and snapped a ton of pictures. This was My favorite part of the trip… We couldn’t even see the whole falls, because it made a bend or two as it went down. Nor did we hike up to the top, because we lingered so long at it’s base, we had to rush farther south to check in to our camp for the night.

Our camp site was at Tettegouche State Park. Having not planned this trip, I simply booked the lone site available on the entire north shore. I could see right away why it was the only site available on the hundreds of miles of coast. This site was ten feet from the trail down to the shore and sadly, most of the people who came up from the shore, walked right through our site, instead of the trail. So it was a high traffic home! My goals for the weekend were to shoot the full moon rising over the lake, shoot some time lapse of the stars at night and some time lapse of something, anything during the day. After mostly clear skies all day, the moon managed to hide behind clouds when it came up. Once Luna was up in the sky, the clouds moved out, but the moon was so bright, it blotted out the stars. It was no darker than an ordinary overcast day, except it was night time. I did manage to shoot a time lapsable sequence during the day, but it was spoiled by people walking by, a lot. So I managed to succeed in none of My goals for the wekend. It was a great time though!! In the end, I just want to move farther north. I’ve been saying this for half of My life time, maybe I should just act on it soon? Clear water, endless forest, massive rock formations, cliffs and rolling hills, waterfalls and an abundance of wild life. The north shore is marvellous. I will be back there as soon as possible.