The Big Dipper swings behind the Hoodoos in the Red Deer River badlands on a moonlit night.
Last night I headed north to the Red Deer River valley to shoot a time-lapse over the river with the badland hills lit by the rising waning Moon. After finishing that I stopped at the popular Hoodoos tourist attraction on Highway 10 east of Drumheller. I had the place to myself at midnight, and the photo ops around the moonlit hoodoos were many.
These formations form when harder capstone rock prevents the soft lower layers from eroding in the rain.
The Big Dipper was nicely positioned above the hills as it swings low across the northern horizon in autumn.
Here I aimed back toward the Moon, with its glare muted by high cloud, and backlighting the hoodoos. The stars of Perseus are rising at left. Unlike normal astrophotography, with nightscape work, and certainly time-lapse shooting, clouds can be a benefit.
This was a great spot to end an evening of nightscape shooting.
– Alan, September 22, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
The stars of Cassiopeia rise behind hoodoo formations in the Alberta Badlands.
I took this Sunday night, August 18, as part of my shoot at Dinosaur Provincial Park. This is a particularly striking pair of hoodoos at the start of the Badlands Trail where I’ve been meaning to take some moonlit nightscapes for a couple of years.
This night’s conditions were perfect, with the “W” of Cassiopeia nicely placed, and the Moon providing excellent cross-lighting, under a clear blue sky, for the contrasting colours of earth and sky.
– Alan, August 20, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
The waxing Moon rises into a colourful twilight sky over the badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park.
What a great night it was last night! Warm summer temperatures (at last!) allowed for shirtsleeve shooting even well after dark. To shoot on the warm August night I went out to Dinosaur Provincial Park, a magical place to be at sunset and in the summer twilight. The colours on the badlands are wonderful. It’s earth-tones galore, with the banded formations from the late Cretaceous blending with the sagebrush and prairie flowers.
This was the scene after sunset, as the waxing Moon rose into the eastern sky coloured by the blue band of Earth’s shadow, the pink Belt of Venus and dark blue streaks of cloud shadows converging to the point opposite the Sun. That’s where the Moon will be Tuesday night when it’s full. But last night it was a little west of the anti-solar point.
I managed to grab this image as soon as I got to my photo spot on the Badlands Trail, just in time to catch the last rays of the setting Sun illuminating the bentonite hills of the Badlands. Both shots are frames from a 450-frame time-lapse, taken with a device that also slowly panned the camera across the scene over the 90-minute shoot.
It, and three other time-lapses I shot after dark, filled up 40 gigabytes of memory cards. It’s been a terabyte summer for sure!
– Alan, August 19, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
The stars wheel above the Cretaceous-age sediments of Dinosaur Provincial Park.
One of the most powerful techniques in the nightscape photographer’s arsenal is to stack lots of short-exposure images together to create the equivalent of one long exposure showing the motion of the stars. A creative tool to do this in Photoshop is the “Advanced Stacking Actions” from Steven Christenson who maintains a blog and eStore called Star Circle Academy.
I used one of his Actions to create the feature image above. Unlike more run-of-the-mill stacking procedures, Christenson’s nifty Actions can create star trails that look like comets or streaks fading off into the sky at their tail end. It’s a clever bit of Photoshop work achieved by stacking each successive image at slightly lower opacity.
You can use his Actions to create a single composite still image, as above, or to create a set of “intermediate” frames that can be turned into a time-lapse movie with stars turning across the sky and drawing trails behind them. My movie shows several variations. Click the Expand button on the movie to have it fill the screen and reveal the sub-titles.
In Clip #1 I stacked the original set of 360 images without any trailing, using the original frames that came from the camera, albeit with each frame processed to enhance contrast and colour.
In Clip #2 I stacked the images using the “Comet Trails” Action, one that produces very short comet-like streaks.
In Clip #3 I used the “Long Streak” Action to produce longer star trails, but the process also creates unusual cloud streaks as well. Rather neat.
In Clip #4 I used the more conventional “Lighten Mode” to create trails that accumulate over the entire sequence and never fade out. The result on this night was pretty wild and excessive, with the twilight and moonlight adding other-worldly colours.
I certainly recommend the Star Circle Academy Photoshop Actions. While there is a basic Test Set available for free, the full Advanced set is well worth the $30.
– Alan, June 1, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
The stars shine in a bright moonlit sky over the Alberta Badlands.
My feature image above is one of several still frames I took at the end of 4-hour photo shoot last Sunday at Dinosaur Provincial Park. The nearly Full Moon provides the illumination on an eroded landscape originally cut by water from retreating ice age glaciers.
But the volcanic ash layers hold treasures much older, from 70 million years ago. This area contains the world’s richest collection of late Cretaceous fossils of dinosaurs and other flora and fauna from near the end of the dinosaurs’ reign.
The movie below is a 300-frame time lapse of the stars turning behind the hoodoos. It’s a dolly shot, using the Dynamic Perception Stage Zero rail and controller.
The system works very well, but such shots demand a site with a suitable immediate foreground, as well as a good view to the distant sky. It is the parallax motion between foreground and background that makes a dolly move interesting.
I planned this shot to begin at twilight and continue as the sky was darkening, then into the rest of the night with the Moon rising and lighting up the landscape. The moving clouds were perfectly timed and placed!
– Alan, May 29, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
It was a marvellous night for a moonrise. A beautiful night in the badlands
Last Sunday I headed east to Dinosaur Provincial Park, to catch the planet conjunction early in the evening, and then shoot time-lapse sequences of eroded hoodoos lighting up as the nearly Full Moon rose in the east.
The night could not have been better for moonlight photography. The clouds fanned out perfectly from the cameras’ focal points to the north, and in the time-lapse movies (to come!) they add dramatic motion in front of the rotating northern stars.
The feature image above is one of 300 from a motion-controlled dolly shot. The frame below is one of 380 from a static camera time-lapse.
I shot both from a favourite spot at the eastern end of the Badlands Loop drive. As I arrived at sunset, the last of the day-use folks were leaving and I had the place to myself. There was no wind, no humidity, few bugs, mild temperatures and the solace of absolute quiet broken only by some passing geese and the occasional chorus of coyotes.
Even if the images had not turned out it would have been worth the trip.
– Alan, May 28, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
The Moon rises over a lunar-like landscape on Earth.
Well not quite. The badlands of Dinosaur Park, Alberta may look desolate but they were created by forces the Moon has never seen, namely water erosion. And they are “bad” only because we can’t farm them. But to the deer wandering across the top of the hill – and perhaps gazing at the Moon, too – the badlands are a fine place to live.
I shot this image as part of 600-frame time-lapse movie of moonrise, on September 30, the night that produced images for my last few posts. It was a very good night indeed.
– Alan, October 5, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer