Posts Tagged: Stars

June 23, 2011 – Stars over Grand Coulee

Stars over Grand Coulee

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Well, how’s that for irony? I finally got around to uploading those pics I was talking about, and then I never got around to posting one. Whoops. Oh well, here you go, one day later than intended. And, as you can clearly tell, this is not a photo of the northern lights.

That’s because I didn’t see any northern lights.

Also, this is facing south-ish.

I was out looking for the northern lights, but I don’t think they were quite visible at my latitude. The forecast said they should be, but I was pretty close to the forecasted limit, so I don’t blame them too much. I know what you’re thinking though – why would I expect to see the northern lights from inside a big canyon? Yeah, yeah, I know.

The problem was, first I needed to find clear skies. And that turned out to be a lot more difficult than it should have been. The clearing that was forecasted (by a different set of forecast people) didn’t work out either, so I had to head about 3-4 hours east of Seattle before I could even see stars. I was at that point heading northeast from I-90, through Grand Coulee. That’s where I was when I took this. No northern lights, but a nice view of the sky. So I stopped to take a few pics.

Depending on how bright you have your monitor set, you can pretty clearly see the milky way here, and I believe some “city” lights (from the “city” of Soap Lake) down there at the bottom. This was a 45 second exposure, which I discovered was about as long as I long as I could go before the natural movement of the stars started showing up in undesirable ways. (Right, right, it’s not the stars that are moving, rather it’s the Earth that’s spinning. Shut up. The stars were moving relative to my point of view.) That was surprising to me. I mean, of course I know that you get a lot of movement in long exposures, but I figured I’d have to go an order of magnitude longer (like, say, 10 minutes or more) in order to actually see movement in the resulting image. But no, anything over a minute showed just enough blur to be annoying. I mean, sure, you can make cool pictures that have big long star trails. But in order for those to not suck, you have to have them be long enough to not just be mistaken for camera shake or for your focus being off. Plus, the effect was exacerbated since I was looking south. (Since the further away you get from the north star, the more movement you get.)

But anyway, here’s today’s picture. That’s all. Move along.

Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens. 45s, f/3.2, ISO 800. Focal length: 11mm.

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November 3, 2010 – Stars over Moses Coulee

Stars over Moses Coulee

Stars over Moses Coulee

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hey folks! You may remember a couple months ago (almost to the day), I mentioned that I went over to “Eastern” Washington (I used quotes because, geographically, “central” would have been more accurate, but the term basically means east of the Cascade crest) for a day and a night. I went on for a little while about how pretty it actually was over there, and I posted a shot that was, and essentially still is, the only one I’ve actually snagged out of that set and processed and tossed online. That occurred me to me recently, and I realized that I should really take the time to go through those some more, and start tossing them into the mix.

Yeah, well, that still hasn’t really happened. BUT, I did spend a few minutes last night looking through them. Not ALL of them, but at least the ones that look like this one. One of the nice things about camping, in the desert specifically, is that you get to see a lot of stars. I happened to wake up in the middle of the night anyway, so I decided to fart around outside for awhile. It was really gorgeous out there, you could see the milky way and everything, and there were a couple spots in the sky where you could see a little bit of city glow. In this particular picture, the glow is coming from Wenatchee, although in the other direction you could see (much more dimly) something else, Ellensburg maybe? Don’t know.

So, I took some star pics. I got some shots of the milky way and all that. And shots like this. Turns out I’m not actually sure my camera allows me to set exposure times longer than 30 seconds. Or at least, I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I think there’s a mode where you can hold it open as long as you want, but I think that requires holding down the shutter button, which would have shaken the camera. I have a remote control, but that’s just for starting the exposure, but then it uses the settings you’ve got set. I’m sure they make little cable things that you can hold down a button on without shaking the camera, but I don’t have one. So, I was restricted to whatever I could get to turn out by opening up the aperture all the way, cranking the ISO up (I had it set at 800), and exposing for 30 seconds. And this is what you get.

As I was looking through these shots, I realized that my sensor has a few hot pixels on it. These turned up as little dots that were pure red or pure blue. I cheated a bit and used Picasa’s Retouch feature to erase them where I could, but sometimes I wasn’t sure if I was actually removing hot pixels or stars, so I probably missed a couple and took out a couple that weren’t actually what I thought they were. But whatever, not important. I haven’t yet done enough analysis to figure out if it was *actual* hot pixels (as in, pixels that always say they were 100% exposed), or if it was just random sensor noise due to the dark conditions and super long shutter speeds. (ie, I haven’t checked if the same pixels came out hot in every frame, and I haven’t checked if I get any spots if I do a long exposure in complete darkness. Honestly, I’m not sure I will either, I don’t think I care enough.)

Anyway, here you go, here’s what it looked like from where I was camping. Now you know just what it was like. It’s almost like you were sitting right there next to me in the tent. Wow, this just got a little bit awkward, didn’t it?

Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens. 30 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 800. Focal length: 11mm.

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