Reaching for the Stars

Star Trails are an interesting result of understanding. They are the product of knowing how a camera works and a fundamental grasp of planetary mechanics. I know that sounds like high falutin’ talk but it’s basically the truth. In reality it’s something anybody can get a handle on in a day’s worth of instruction and practice. Of course, as in any craft, the more you practice the better you are at anticipating the result. Another benefit of doing something like this is it gives you a deeper understanding of your tools which becomes part of your creative arsenal, whatever you are photographing.

The hard part is the set up. It’s about unfamiliar camera settings in menus you don’t ordinarily use. Then there is the previsualization of the composition, remembering that what you see in the viewfinder is not the intended result. Then you have normal camera adjustments like focus and lens choice. Oh! Did I mention that you usually have to do all of this in the dark?

The easy part comes after the set up and when you push the “start” button. This is a magical time. You have over an hour to wait so you pull up a chair and look up at the heavens. The chatter of the group becomes subdued. Someone might give a quiet lesson, pointing out some of the constellations and the Milky Way or how to find the North Star. A few jet aircraft silently fly over and sometimes we even see the International Space Station. And everyone loves spotting shooting stars! Sometimes there is music, sometimes you might hear snoring but overall it’s a peaceful time.

On this particular night in Death Valley, the tortured tree is lighted by the slimmest crescent of a moon as the stars circle the North Star. While waiting for the exposures to complete we had a unique and surprising visit from a rare kit fox. Many visitors come to this park for years expressly to view an elusive kit fox and never see one. On this magical night, one found us!

All Photographs © 2019 John Grusd Photography. All Rights Reserved.

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