I love the stars. I love the stars so much that I sometimes get mad at the sun for hiding such awesome scenes from us during the day. Luckily, in winter, we get to see the stars for much longer than in the summer(unfortunately it's much colder:). Recently I have been intrigued by a Star Tracking System known as the Polarie Star Tracker. And it helped me create an image like this:
You see, the earth spins like, crazy fast, making it appear that the stars are moving! This can give landscape photographers a bit of a headache because exposure times need to be limited due to the 'movement' of the stars. Now, the Polarie compensates by moving the camera to match the stars. I know what you're thinking, "but if the camera is moving with the stars, won't everything else be blurry?" the answer to your question is YES.
When I ordered the Polarie from Lensrentals.com, I knew in my head that the image I created was going to have to be a composite. I also knew that I wanted to maximize the amount of light coming into my camera sensor. Because of this I also chose to rent the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art Series lens. I chose this lens because it is highly favored for edge-to-edge sharpness, and I have already played with Canon's 35mm so I wanted to try something new:)
First a little bit about how the star tracker works. Take a look at this video:
Here is a 30 second exposure taken with the Polarie turned off:
And then, simply turning it on...
Pinpoints!! This is a severe crop of an image taken from the back deck of my house. Check out the Andromeda Galaxy!
Now to the more practical application(for me anyways). I basically wanted one image PACKED with stars, and one with some hemlocks(an icon in the southeast) for the foreground. Lucky for me, I had one clear night to use the Polarie and one cloudy one to capture the foreground. I went up to the Blue Ridge Parkway for the star photo, and captured a few images:
This was taken with the 70-200 zooming in on Orion's Belt. The clouds were starting to roll in by the time I took this photo. Below is a photo zoomed out as far as possible with the 70-200, filling the frame with the key parts or Orion.
Now for 'the keeper'. This image was taken with the Sigma 35mm 1.4. It is a 2 minute exposure at f1.8, iso 1600. How about all the awesome clusters!
The next day, I made my way out to Whitetop mountain in search of some hemlocks. Hemlocks are an iconic tree that are suffering from an insect that basically destroys them. They grow up, die, and remain a stark figure in the landscape.
The above photo isn't anything to write home about, but then again I am only interested in the foreground. This image was also shot with the Sigma 35mm 1.4.
After a little tinkering in the Gimp, I had my final product! It isn't 'exactly' as I had previsualized, but it will have to do for now. You see, a winter storm has taken over the southeast, and after it passes will be my busiest month of work at the real job, so I will have to play with Polarie another day...
For good measure, I took a few more images with the Sigma 35mm 1.4. I had hoped for a nice sunset or something but it never really happened. Lots of blue though! So if you like the color blue you will LOVE these next few photos!
The Sigma 35mm 1.4 is an AWESOME lens. I think I may try out the Ziess for the next go round, it's just my favorite focal length for a walkabout lens. Thanks for looking...