Mighty Polaris

The Earth's rotation around the North Star, Polaris, streaks the night sky into a spiral of light and color, with the light painted Mobius Arch in the foreground in this 71 minute blend of 16 sequential long exposures. Hey… I'm back! I know it's been a while since my last work. The last couple of months have been a whirlwind of training and hiking in preparation to climb the Mountaineer's Route on Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental United States at 14,508 ft. (4511.65 m). Well, that was a hard-earned and worthwhile success.

Now it's back to photography, and to start things off, I drove the 3.5 hours back up to Whitney Portal road and the Alabama Hills. We'd driven right by this place on our way to and from Whitney, and it reminded me of how much I loved the area. I arrived around 4pm, and spent the afternoon scouting compositions around the hills, driving my poor car up and down all the nasty washboard dirt roads there!

By nightfall, I was filthy, freezing, and sore. (I hadn't really had time to recover from that climb yet and still had sunburn and some exposure damage.) To be honest, all I wanted to do was drive home and get a hot shower and go to sleep. But I decided to stick it out for the night. I only rested in 70 minute naps all night, trekking back out across the desert to my camera to restart the intervalometer and composition between exposures. I'm glad I stayed!

This exposure contains a total of 71 minutes of exposure time. There are 14 x 5 minute exposures on the intervalometer for the star trails (to at least partially mitigate sensor overheat issues), followed by two light paintings with my LED headlamp at 30 seconds each. The first 30 second exposure was with a white LED, and the second was with a red one.

Then I blended the 14 star trail exposures in post to reunite them, eliminating the satellite & jet trails in the process, and then merged in the two light paintings on top at around half opacity each to create a more pleasing middle orange tone than either the bright red or bright white could provide. I hope you enjoy the result!