Mount Rainier NP

Oh My Stars!

This past weekend I had a glorious experience in a beautiful U.S. National Park just southeast of Seattle, Washington. The Mount Rainier National Park is a remote park that is home to the active volcano, Mount Rainier that towers above 14,000 feet over the landscape. This snow-capped mountain charms the most adventure seeking driven mountaineers and each year over 10,000 hikers attempt the summit with less than half of them making it to the peak.

The past six years or so I’ve spent my time in Shenandoah National Park for autumn colors with my hiking club and finally, after hearing some sage advice from an expert I decided it was time to branch out and explore a new destination for fall colors.

Who is this sage expert you may ask? Well, none other than world-renowned Art Wolfe with his prolific photography and artwork that spans over four decades that include over 100 published books, two television shows, the inspiration and part of the beginning of the online photography learning portal Creative Live. Inspirational for thousands upon thousands of people, Art Wolfe has traveled the world over six times and is a powerhouse with his energy and strength.

With a great sense of humor and an openness and passion for sharing all of his knowledge for anyone who will listen, it’s no wonder that when I saw he had a short workshop at Mount Rainier in October it didn’t take me but a moment to decide the trip would be fantastic.

The park was a wonderful venue offering a wide variety of landscape and close up subjects to work with. And one of the best? The night stars – oh my stars. We were blessed with unseasonably wonderful weather with clear skies throughout the weekend which is unheard of. Besides the clear mountain views, we also had clear nights filled with stars.

After the end of a long day shooting, I left the group and returned to the park to arrive to the Reflection lakes to work on a panoramic capture of the night sky over the mountain. The Milky Way season is nearly at the end, but this also meant that it was visible earlier in the night, and with the moon setting around 9pm, we had perfect conditions.

I selected my Samyang 14mm Wide Angle lens for Canon and manually dialed in the f-stop to f/2.8 and set it to Infinity focus. For those looking to embark into night photography, this is an extremely affordable lens for under $300.

For the image above, I set my camera in the portrait position using a “L” Arca Swiss type bracket tripod mount, I then captured four images in sequence, using a Kirk BH-3 Tripod Ball head with Panning. I chose this tripod head as a recommendation from Art Wolfe’s equipment page and liked the compactness for travel.

The camera settings used were ISO 3200, 30 seconds using a trigger switch and set the white balance to Kelvin 3600.

For stitching the images together, I made sure the four images were in the correct order in the Lightroom photo strip and then selected Photo Merge for Panoramic within Lightroom. Having it Autocrop, Lightroom did all of the magic piecing it together for the large view.

Tomorrow I’ll go more into detail on how to edit a night-star image to help reduce noise and increase star sharpness.

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