Starscapes - Matt Walker
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We Are All Made Of Stars

We Are All Made Of Stars

This was my first “all-nighter” photographing the night sky. I had a two-day conference in Asilomar this weekend, and I took advantage of the free time during the night. The forecast was for clear skies, so I decided to try and shoot the Milkyway with McWay Falls in the foreground. This shot has been on my bucket list for a long time, but when Yan posted her shot of McWay I just had to make it happen on this trip. I arrived on location at 11:30 p.m., and met up with Mark Lilly. We set up our gear around 40 feet from each other, and shot through the night. I did not bring a beach chair, so I literally stood on my feet from 11:30 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. shooting in the cold night air. As the Milkyway appeared from the east some really cool thin clouds started rolling in. It’s not what you want when shooting the stars, but these clouds were adding some surreal effects on our LCD screens. We were amazed at what was showing up on the backs of our cameras. Around 3:30 in the morning a 30% full moon rose above the mountains illuminating the water and rocks. So we had stars, clouds, and moon during the six and a half hour shoot. I hope to post a time lapse of this night some time in the future.

Shooting the stars at such high ISO makes for a lot of noise, so there is some serious noise in the sky portion of this image. I really wanted more clarity in the clouds, but favored the softer reduced noise. This was a big learning experience for me, and I hope to get a lot better over the years doing this type of photography. I stupidly moved my camera during the shoot, which made me lose some foreground and sky when it came time to blend the foreground in processing.
As dawn arrived the clouds were still rolling in, and I needed to get back to the conference center. Knowing there was going to be a potential burn at sunrise I just had to hang around and see what was going to happen. We were not disappointed!

The next night I went solo to a different location, and got some even crazier thin clouds. I tripled my clothes for warmth on that shoot. This weekend was amazing, and I slept big on Sunday afternoon.
If anyone has a special technique for noise reduction in the night sky please email me. I would be forever grateful.
Exif info Two shots blended. Nikon 14-24mm @ 19mm. Sky ISO 2500 @ F/2.8 @ 30 seconds. Foreground ISO 100 @ F/16 @ 10seconds during twilight.
Title inspired by Moby's song "We are al made of stars"

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