Night Photography: Haleakala High Altitude Observatory

Haleakala High Altitude Observatory -- by Joe Reifer

Haleakala High Altitude Observatory — by Joe Reifer

Two images were combined for 15 minute long star trails. Each exposure was 7½ minutes at f/8, ISO 200.

  • Time: 9:15 p.m.
  • Moon: Full
  • Elevation: 10,000 feet
  • Temperature: 46 degrees
  • Wind: 20-30mph
  • Temperature with wind chill factor: bloody cold
  • Number of other cars in parking lot: 1
  • Smile on my face when the car drove up the observatory road: huge

14 thoughts on “Night Photography: Haleakala High Altitude Observatory”

  1. 20-30 mph winds = sandbag on tripod. I saw the full moon this past weekend and wondered if you were in Maui doing some night photography. What is the deal with that Old Navy shot in the previous post? It needs it’s own blog entry.

  2. I filled my backpack with water bottles and used it to anchor the tripod. Worked well.

    The Old Navy shot was just some friends goofing around.

  3. Basim – thanks!

    Jon – the key to making this work is to have the shortest possible gap between exposures (a second or less). Otherwise there will be a gap in the middle of your star trails. The stacking technique is easy — bring both images into Photoshop on one layered file, and set the Layer Blending Mode on the top layer to Lighten.

  4. Bitchin cool – I mean, sounds like you were in need of some serious layers. Hope you had something on warmer than shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.

  5. Awesome! Quick question, though, why not just shot 1 exposure at 15 mins? I just shot the Uniroyal Gal at Pearsonville for 16 minutes on Saturday on the 5D1 w/ noise reduction and it’s nearly flawless. Splitting the exposure to avoid noise reduction?

  6. I love the texture and detail of the dark ground and also the utility poles. This almost looks like a scale model.

    Yeh, why is it two exposures and not a single, long exposure? Can you give us your thoughts on this with respect to long, single exposures vs. shorter, multiple exposures (stacked)?

    Also, what about the long exposure noise reduction (i.e. the dark-frame subtraction thing) and is it beneficial to use in either case? (I realize you can’t have the long exp. function turned on if you’re planning to stack photos, but you can manually shoot a dark frame when you’re finished shooting the series and then manually perform subtraction later in PS)

  7. Chris – thanks!

    Kent – we brought a lot of layers, and borrowed a few more from friends. That was some icy wind up there though.

    Cody – loss of productivity is the main reason I try not to use in camera noise reduction. A combination of schedule and weather factors allowed 2 hours of shooting under the moon on Sunday night and I only had one camera. A 15 minute shot with noise reduction ties up the camera for 30 minutes. I was also worried about airplanes flying through — a 7.5 minute image could stand by itself. If an airplane flew through a 15 minute shot with noise reduction turned on, then I’d need to start another one – ouch. Bailing on a 7.5 minute shot isn’t a big deal.

    TJ – thanks. Those poles are one of my favorite parts, too. My theory on exposure length is to find a sweet spot that works for the stars or clouds that doesn’t require waiting around for noise reduction to run in-camera. Noise reduction cuts both your productivity and battery life in half.

    That being said, in-camera noise reduction is very effective — if you have 2 cameras or plenty of spare batteries then why not? I haven’t played much with the technique of taking one dark frame and using it in post-production to reduce noise. Might be worth some experiments to see how this compares against in-camera noise reduction.

  8. I believe you can utilize dark frame subtraction, it just waits to process the dark frame until after all exposures are done. Still, I’d bet “cash money” that he didn’t noise reduction this on the Mark II.

  9. Cody – The 5D and 5D II will allow you to keep shooting before noise reduction runs. So take shot 1, noise reduction starts, start shot 2, and the noise reduction stops and is held in a buffer until after shot 2 finishes. Then noise reduction starts again on shot 1, and then on shot 2. The big risk here is battery life — if you’ve got 2-3 great shots in the buffer and your battery konks out, then what?

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