If you’ve read my blog, you know I’m the Creative Director at GoodSide Studio, at Seattle video production company by day, and a landscape astrophotographer by night.
If you’d like to see the final video before reading about it:
From late spring to early autumn, I plot out the dark nights of the month, looking to capture images and time lapses of the stars. This month, I had my sights set on a burnt-out forest north of Ellensburg, but the clouds said “no.” That left me sorting through options – St Helens, Rainier, Palouse, Oregon and . . . the Olympic Coast.
It’s a bit unusual to get a clear night on the peninsula this late in September, but that was the prediction, so I did a fair bit of Google scouting and determined that Hole in the Wall, just north of Rialto Beach was a promising target.
I’ve been looking at the star trails of Lincoln Harrison lately, and shot a couple tests, so was ready to shoot one for real. Shooting six hours of star trails means the camera is occupied for an entire night, so I brought three bodies – two 6Ds and a 7D.
Packing and wrapping up work took a little longer than expected, so I arrived at Rialto later than ideal. I decided to scout with just a camera and a couple of lenses – still unsure the location would work.
I hiked about 2 miles to Hole in the Wall, only to discover its angle and shape weren’t what I had in mind, but that there was a stunning pair of sea stacks nearby. I consulted a couple apps (Sky Safari and Sky Guide) and determined the spot would work.
I clipped back to the car as fast as I could, loaded three camera bodies, lenses, tripods, a tent, sleeping bag and entirely too much overall weight into my bag. It was already getting near dark, so I pushed as fast as I could back to my chosen spot, dumped the bag, set up camp and started placing cameras.
I established focus on Camera A first. This camera (6D with an L-Series 24-70) was shooting star trails. I followed Lincoln Harrison’s settings:
I may post that image here in the future, but for now, I’m not happy with it. My intervalometer inserted a 1 second gap between each exposure, so I have some pretty serious gaps that Starstax and PhotoShop script have failed to fill. More discussion on that another day.
As an aside, I did shoot star trails with the 7D and a L-Series 16-35mm that I’m pretty happy with.
But back to the time lapse . . . I set up the second 6D with my Sigma ART 35mm prime with the following settings:
Shortly after 9:00 I had all three cameras going and realized I was out of a job! I had nothing to do but watch the stars. I checked on each camera a few times, then sat on a log to soak in the beauty.
I didn’t bring a book – the pack was heavy enough without it, so after a while, I decided to crawl into the tent, just a few feet into the forest, and get some sleep.
Somewhere around 12:30 or 1:00 I stuck my head out to check on cameras, and thought to myself “The tide looks a lot closer to one of the cameras than I expected!”
While the camera was just a few feet from water, I knew it was at the top of a birm, and that high tide was shortly after 2:00 am. I was 93.5% certain the camera would be fine, but decided to get up and sit with it, to bring those odds closer to 100%.
It was chilly by this time, so I bundled up and sat on a log. As happy as I am with the images I captured, sitting up was the most rewarding part of the trip. I watched the tide creep in and saw the stars slowly rotate into the surf as I let the thoughts of the week – videographers, video editors, video production, client deadlines and computers drift out of my head to make space for thinking about . . . nothing at all, and simply breathing.
Then I started thinking about the plusses and minuses of the technical choices I’d made with each camera, and how I would process these images.
For both 6Ds, I had selected a relatively low ISO, so knew that, while the stars may give me exactly what I want, the landscapes would be dark – very dark.
6D #2 had been shooting time lapse images for five and a half hours, and the Milky Way had pretty much left frame, so at about 2:30 I decided to stop the time lapse, and shoot some longer exposures, of the landscape.
I was standing next to 6D #1 when its battery gave up the ghost. I put in another battery and shot a longer exposure for the landscape, but this post is getting long, so let’s leave that discussion for another post.
Some time around 3:30 I crawled into my tent, along with all three cameras, to sleep for a couple cold hours before getting up and hiking back to the car, elated from all the beauty I’d witnessed, and hopeful about the images in the cameras.
Matt Krzycki is the Creative Director at Seattle video production company, GoodSide Studio. You can see his professional video production work here.
His astrophotography work is for sale at MilkyWayMatt.com