stars

Toadstool and Milky Way, Sioux County

Toadstool and Milky Way, Sioux County

Toadstool and Milky Way, Sioux County

A cold night, well spent.

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The Print: Moonrise, Mesa Arch

Moonrise, Mesa Arch

Moonrise, Mesa Arch

Some prints just want to be difficult. This is one.

I made this image after four years of planning: a full moon at perigee and rising as close to the end of the blue hour as possible; an arch in Canyonlands National Park or Arches National Park which provided a miles-long and layered view toward the Lasal Mountains in the distance. Oh, and clear weather and a January night. No big deal, right? Except it happens only once every eight or nine years with all the elements in order.

And yet, everything came together on January 16, 2014. The moon. The stars. The snow. And the arch.

But such an image is very, very difficult to master, and I spent months–MONTHS–fighting with its substantial dynamic range and challenging colors. Why the problem? The arch is red, and to show its natural color, needs a white balance temperature of 7000 Kelvin at night. The stars? 4000 Kelvin. And that was just the start.

But nearly a year later and after a lost grand prize in a show (for a failed version of the print), I reached my breaking point. “Trash it, reshoot it, or figure it out,” said I.

So I trashed it and started over. And figured it out.

And so here is Moonrise, Mesa Arch, an edition of 50. I hope you find it inspiring, for I certainly did while shooting it.

Mesa Arch Moonrise, Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch Moonrise, Canyonlands

Mesa Arch Moonrise, Canyonlands

It had been a magical evening: Clouds on the horizon had allowed a perfect rosy-pink light to illuminate Mesa Arch, while snow on the distant Lasal Mountains had created just the right amount of contrast.

And then a nearly-full moon rose on the horizon, wispy clouds moved through the frame, and the stars came out.

A magical evening, indeed.

The PlainSky, Nebraskans Show: The Complete Works No. 18

Fog and Full Moon: PlainSky, Nebraskans No. 18, 18" x 12" giclée on Canson Velin Rag

Fog and Full Moon: PlainSky, Nebraskans No. 18, 18″ x 12″ giclée on Canson Velin Rag

Occasionally, the natural world really is most incredible. A 30-second exposure with a low full moon as fog begins to rise from the Nebraska Sandhills. January, 2013.

PlainSky, Nebraskans (New Image): Fog and Full Moon, Blaine County

Fog and Full Moon

Fog and Full Moon

Sometimes making lemonade with lemons turns into chicken cordon bleu with a bottle of Dom Perignon and chocolate mousse for dessert. Coming home from a disappointing shoot in the Sandhills, the full moon rose, the fog emerged, and a cloudless sky above lent a blanket of stars as punctuation.

PlainSky, Nebraskans: Tree and Stars, Sand Creek Badlands

Tree and Stars, Sand Creek Badlands

Tree and Stars, Sand Creek Badlands

Friday, I posted a golden hour image of this same tree, from the same spot. I waited two hours for the brilliant blanket of evening stars, uncorrupted by any city lights (the nearest town, Crawford, is only 800 people, and it’s 12 miles; the next closest town of 7,000 is 45 miles to the east), to make the background for this image. I illuminated the tree with an LED high-intensity spotlight, and after about 20 or 30 tries, produced this image.

 

Stark General Store and Stars, St. Elmo, Colorado

Stark General Store and Stars, St. Elmo

Stark General Store and Stars, St. Elmo

I’ve been visiting St. Elmo since before I could walk. Like many places that photographers visit over and over, I return to St. Elmo frequently, looking for ways to visually express the essence of this place, so familiar to me. It is quiet there at night, after the throngs of visitors to Colorado’s best-preserved ghost town have left, the chipmunks fed and snapshots taken; the town returns to the silent witnessing it has borne in the high country for more than one hundred years, the stars overhead, and only the occasional headlights to give life to the long-dark buildings.

Cathedral, Carmelite Convent, Santa Fe

Cathedral, Carmelite Convent, Santa Fe

Cathedral, Carmelite Convent, Santa Fe

This cathedral, located on the grounds of the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, is set on a brilliant background of stars late one January evening. A five-minute exposure, the stars provide pinpoint texture on which to set the adobe walls of the cathedral.