BEHIND THE IMAGE: DELICATE ARCH AND STAR TRAILS
Delicate Arch & Star Trails - Arches National Park, Utah, File# 0907779
Link To Original Image
Last fall I took a trip to Utah with stops in Moab and Arches National Park. One of the iconic subjects of the park, perhaps of even picturesque Utah, is Delicate Arch. At the end of a moderately difficult trail, you can find the arch most beautiful at sunset when the warm light really makes the arch glow. The most common way the arch is viewed is from the north just next to it.
A less common view of the arch is from the south, from the vantage point illustrated here. I guess it’s even more difficult to reach this point. And, it’s not marked at all with probably makes the location less assessable and therefore the arch less commonly captured from this angle.
I like this view for just these reasons. It’s less common. Even then, the day I shot this image, I was joined by six or seven of my “best stranger friends” from around the world. I wonder if they were there because I was so prominately positioned across the way. Without me being there, maybe my “best friends” wouldn’t have been motived to explore their way to that point. I don’t know.
Even though there were only six or seven folks there and the more common location had literally dozens and dozens of tourists, I knew I could create an even more atypical image by simply capturing start trails.
I won’t completely describe the technical steps of the technique here. That’s meant for another article elsewhere in the website. For here, I’ll talk about what I had to do onsite to make this image.
Absolutely important to the success of this image or any like it is you have to project yourself later in the evening to anticipate what the scene will look after the sun is down. What I did was get to my shooting location about an hour prior to sunset. I imagined how the stars would look. I considered where the north star was location and even pulled out my compass and it’s protractor like apparatus to get a feel how far above the skyline the north star would be. This helped me work my composition.
Once I decided on a composition, I locked everything down and just set the camera up to shoot.
Here’s what I was thinking about the composition. Having the north star wasn’t as important as just having more than my usual amount of sky. In landscape photography, I normally don’t like dead space. Sure you can use that space as something. Most times, I need to fill it with something like clouds. At Arches in the fall, the skies are very clear and uninteresting. As a result, you don’t normally shoot compositions with lots of sky. It’s uninteresting. When you’re shooting start-trails, you need that sky. You need to point your camera a little higher to allow for the inclusion of the stars. Since you can’t see the stars if you make your composition prior to sunset, there’s a little faith required when choosing your composition. As a result, not everything always goes according to plan.
Now, you’re asking why I would have to lock in my composition well before the stars would come out. It’s because I’m capturing the pre-sunset light along with the star trails. It’s complicated but I’m capturing all sorts of data that’ll be post processed later.
The static image was also made of dozens of separate images to make a final product. Instead of merging the images together to make a movie like I did just above. I used them here to combine into something that shows off the star trails of the setting sun.
So, that’s it my star-trail composition at Delicate Arch in the National Park. Hopefully you enjoyed my words and understand a bit more why I made the image the way I did.
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