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Dark Skies Star Party

 

Autumn is a good season for night skies, here. It’s starting to dry off, so there’s less monsoon weather to chase us back indoors, and our Dark Sky City designation means there’s an attempt to keep city light from flooding out the stars. I signed up for a night sky photography workshop with Stan Honda, who is opening an exhibit at a community art center.

After a couple of hours of slideshow and demo of night sky techniques, we trooped outside and joined the nearby Dark Skies Star Party, an annual stargazing event aided by the likes of Lowell Observatory (Pluto, yo), the Naval Observatory and the university. We found a quiet stretch of paths and set up our tripods.

I started shooting with my old Pentax for the wider field of view its lenses give, but its low-light sensitivity just can’t compare to the Fuji, so I traded out quickly and spent the rest of the night experimenting with composition, ISOs, and exposure times. When I finally retreated, cold — I had forgotten my jacket in the warmish evening — I hoped I had a few keepers. With some adjusting in Lightroom, this is what I came up with.

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One of the things that resonated most from Stan’s slideshow were the descriptions of the event of some photos, particularly an expedition to the near-Arctic to shoot a solar eclipse. He showed some photos of the lineup of viewers to the eclipse and I liked the story that the photo told, so I experimented with a few of my own in the same theme. This is of one of the telescope stations at the star party, with viewers coming and going in the dark, with their red-lensed flashlights, beneath the stars.

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Looking back toward the main path from my spot in the fields, moon shining over us.


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Stars over the San Francisco Peaks are really something. One more reason I’m happy and lucky to get to live where I do.