Star Gazing at Reflection Lakes

After a week of cloudy skies, Friday night looked like it was clear out over Mt. Rainier, so after I got off of work, I made a quick dash home and grabbed the camera gear and a bunch of warm clothes (yes, it’s still August but it can get quite chilly up in the mountains at night) before heading up to Reflection Lakes in Mt. Rainier National Park.

Driving through the Nisqually Entrance is a great way for your mind to play tricks on you as the headlights catch glimpses of animal eyes in amongst the towering  trees.  It’s definitely a different experience and one I’m not entirely sure I like, but since the goal of the trip was to make images of the stars, visiting the park in the dark was a requirment as it’s kind of hard to get star shots in the day time.

Friday night would be my fourth attempt at shooting star trails, and my first attempt with the new camera.  Photographing at night presents its own set of challenges since one of the essential elements of any photograph would be missing almost entirely – light.  I found a great astrophotography video on vimeo that provided some great tips on how to shoot the starts at night from an amazing photographer, Ben Canales.  His tutorial is amazing and while I wasn’t planning on shooting static star images, his video provided some much needed advice to allow me to create the star trail images I wanted to attempt.

 

 

Friday night proved to be a learning experience as I hadn’t taken into consideration that condensation could build up on the lens, rendering images completely useless.  The image below is actually 3 images blended together via a shareware program called ImageStacker.  I’m not happy with it so after some browsing on the internet to figure out a way around the condensation problem, I went back up to Reflection Lakes again on Saturday night; this time, the camera bag was packed with a little battery operated hand held fan, some chemical hand warmers, and some velcro.  I wasn’t any chances, I wanted this shot to turn out correctly as there is a bunch of time involved in taking this types of images.

After I picked out my spot, I got busy setting up the camera.  I love the fact that it has an electronic level built in as it is a lifesaver along the shores of a lake in the dark.  I activated the hand warmers and put a couple around the barrel of the lens, securing them with a strip of velcro.  Then it was time to attach the cable release and just sit back and watch the night sky come to life.  I took a total of eight exposures, each 10 minutes long before calling it a night and packing everything up to head home.

Once again, using the Image Stacker program, I stacked the eight images together, creating a single one hour and twenty minute exposure.  After some noise reduction in Photoshop, this is the final image.

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