Sense of discovery

I love discovering these incredible landscapes, such as this large, round boulder that I came across at night. As a kid, I spent a lot of time in nature, out in the woods. And as an adult, this has broadened to include the desert night. 

Certainly, night photography has been a huge part of that, connecting me to a location in a way that even a hike never can. Sharing in this experience and exploration were Lance Keimig and Gabriel Biderman of National Parks At Night, Dave Dasinger and Tracy Lee.

I liked the way the slight bit of fog added to the sense of mystery during this moonlit night. This added greatly to the experience.

A long exposure night photo showing the movement of the stars at Joshua Tree National Park, my spiritual home for night photography.

Choosing the subject

This rock had this sense of majesty and simplicity, and I felt like it would make a good subject.

To accentuate the curvature, I thought it might look interesting to place the North Star in back of the top of the boulder and create some star trails. The star trails would circle around the North Star, coming from behind the rock.

The setup

After setting up the camera on a tripod, I illuminated the rock and used autofocus to focus on the rock. Why? Because this is the main subject, not the stars. Besides, star trails look better when they are slightly out of focus, in my opinion.

I then switched the camera back to manual focus and used gaffer’s tape to tape down the focus ring so it would not move.

Using the intervalometer, I began the sequence. Each photo would be two minutes in length at f/7.1 and ISO 1250. Click! Click! Click!

Light painting the rock

I lit the rock from camera left with a handheld Protomachines LED2. I did this to mimic the way the moon was already falling on the rock. Doing this gives it more texture than with the moon alone. I could see some of the air around the rock lighting up as well. This glow was a magical sight to see.

After a few minutes, I shut the intervalometer. stopping the camera. 16 minutes had elapsed, more than enough to impart the sense of circular movement behind the rock.