We recently visited Alabama Hills, which is just up Whitney Portal Road from Lone Pine, CA. I’ve been playing with Startrails off and on (mostly off) for a little while now. I think I’ve attempted them at this point all of 6 times. Anyway, we had two nights in the hills and for the first night, I had selected a site that is just beyond Mobias Arch and had a nice foreground of massive boulders.
We arrived around 7pmish, just in time to get to our location in the fading light, which allowed me to get set up and ready to shoot when the stars came out to play. Around 8pm, I started my 3 hour process of image capture and the temperatures were dropping – as expected this time of year. Just about 9pm, there was some light that flashed on my foreground. No big deal, I lit it up a bit anyway on the first exposure so having a little light an hour in, wasn’t so bad.
Then about 9:20 or so, this light that was on the foreground was flashing and it was really intense. I got up and walked around trying to figure out where it was coming from and this other photographer that was photographing Mobias Arch had this really, really intensely bright spot light that he just didn’t turn off for about 40 minutes. It was way too much light so at just after 10pm, I packed it in. The 3 hours or so that we spent in the cold were for nothing. The image didn’t come out, there was just too much ambient light.
So the next night I was determined to find a place where there would be no such distraction and light. During the day, we played around on the rocks and decided that double arch was so far out of the way that no-one would show up. Again, we arrived just after sunset and got to shooting just about 8pm. This time, the night went so much more smoothly. There were no other people around and all was great. We even laid down on our towel, under the blanket and tried to get a little sleep while the camera was busy capturing the stars.
At just about 11pm, we wrapped it up and started heading towards the car. Well, that’s what we thought, at least. We had walked the path a couple of times during the day to make sure we could do it in the dark, but it looks very different in the dark. I thought I walked the straight path to the car, but when we got up on the rise, the car was no-where to be found. Luckily, I had a small flashlight that is high in lumens, so I flashed it to the right and left and saw a reflection off in the distance. Ahhhh, it was our car. So, we started trudging over and hopped in and got back to the hotel.
The next morning, I looked at the pictures and found that my foreground was not in focus. While I am not happy about that, I am glad that my process wasn’t a failed attempt because of someone else. I am happy to fail on my own and learn from it and that’s just what I’m doing. So, while this image is far from perfect, I am thrilled with what I learned and the experience I had in the Alabama Hills trying to get it.
I can’t wait to get back there and next time, I am camping at my selected site so I can just crawl up in my tent while things are going and then just break it down and go to sleep.