Monday, October 24, 2016

Starry Skies Day 1

We are all filled with anticipation in creating images that we have seen online of the stars, Milky Way, and constellations. This workshop consists of lecture from noon until late afternoon, an early dinner, then field work from sunset until midnight. We learn the techniques of night shooting then head out to the Trona Pinnacles. According to Wikipedia, the unusual landscape consists of more than 500 tufa spires (porous rock formed as a deposit when springs interact with other bodies of water), some as high as 140 feet (43 m), rising from the bed of the Searles Lake (dry) basin. The pinnacles vary in size and shape from short and squat to tall and thin, and are composed primarily of calcium carbonate (tufa). They now sit isolated and slowly crumbling away near the south end of the valley, surrounded by many square miles of flat, dried mud and with stark mountain ranges at either side.
The Pinnacles are recognizable in more than a dozen hit movies. Over thirty film projects a year are shot among the tufa pinnacles, including backdrops for car commercials and sci-fi movies and television series such as Battlestar GalacticaStar Trek V: The Final Frontier, Disney's DinosaurThe Gate IILost in Space, and Planet of the Apes
These pinnacles sit in the middle of vast flat desert land, an unprotected long chain of spires. Nearby is China Lakes. We take some sunset shots and quickly the skies darken. The most challenging part of this exercise is learning to focus on a star, which sounds easier than it is. Finding the star in my viewfinder is quite difficult and when I do, being able to tell whether is focused or not, seems to be impossible. We learn proper setting to capture the Milky Way and I am so excited to actually see the band of swirling white on my lcd screen. No matter that my first star images are completely out of focus! As the night goes on, I do learn to find and focus. It is delightful and I relish in learning a completely new skill. We return to the motel after 1am but I can't sleep until I have uploaded my pictures to see what I got. I have indeed captured some amazingly beautiful images.

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