Circling Stars Over the Open Range


Reesor Ranch Circumpolar Star Trails

The stars swirl in circles above the big sky country of the Canadian Prairies.

For these images I set the camera to take hundreds of images over the course of about 4 hours, then stacked about 100 frames for each of the composites. I stacked the images with the application StarStax

The result shows the stars circling the North Celestial Pole and Polaris in the northern sky. The top image is from earlier in the night when the Moon was still up lighting the landscape.

Reesor Ranch Circumpolar Star Trails v2

The image above is from late in the night, after moonset, and with the glow of dawn beginning to brighten the northern sky. Some low noctilucent clouds are also appearing on the horizon.

This was a beautiful night at Reesor Ranch in Saskatchewan, on the edge of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. I’ve just wrapping up a week of shooting here with clear nights every night but two. The hard drives are full!

– Alan, July 11, 2014 / © 2014 Alan Dyer

 

Space Station Over a Star Party


ISS Pass Over Star Party (August 10, 2013)

The Space Station flies over a campground of astronomers awaiting the fall of darkness.

Last night was the main night for summer star parties, being a dark-of-the-Moon Saturday in August. As I usually am each year, I was in Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan, attending the annual Saskatchewan Summer Star Party. About 330 attended this year, a near record year.

The night was partly cloudy but stayed clear enough for long enough to allow great views. As the sky was getting dark the International Space Station flew over from horizon to horizon, west to east, passing nearly overhead. I had a camera and ultra-wide lens ready and caught the pass in 10 exposures, each 30 seconds long, here stacked in Photoshop. The accumulated exposure time also makes the stars trail in circles around the North Star at upper right.

It was one of many fine sky sights hundreds of stargazers enjoyed this weekend at the SSSP, and no doubt at dozens of other star parties around the continent this weekend.

– Alan, August 11, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer

Canola Field Stars


Circumpolar Star Trails over Canola Field (July 26, 2013)

Stars in a blue sky wheel above a ripening field of yellow canola.

It’s been a couple of fine nights of nightscape shooting under the light of the waning Moon and clear skies.

I’ve been shooting from no more exotic location than my local rural neighbourhood, travelling for 5 minutes to spots near one of the many canola fields growing nearby. I wanted to grab some nightscapes over the  fields before they lose their yellow flowers and turn green.

The feature image above looking north is from a time-lapse sequence and stacks several images with the “comet trail” effect, to show the northern stars turning about the North Star.

Big Dipper over Canola Field #2 (July 26, 2013)

This image, also a frame from another time lapse with a longer lens, shows the Big Dipper above that same field but in an exposure short enough to prevent the stars from trailing. You can now make out the familiar Dipper pattern.

This is a very Canadian scene, with the Big Dipper high in a northern latitude sky, and with the foreground crop a Canadian one – Canola was developed in the 1970s at the University of Manitoba. The “can” in canola stands for Canada. Pity there was no aurora.

– Alan, July 28, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer

 

Star Rain


Star Rain - Big Dipper Star Trails

The sky seems to swirl in a rainstorm of stars.

I’ve combined several exposures of the stars in the northern sky to create a “comet trail” effect, showing them turning about the celestial pole. The top photo looks northwest to the stars around the Big Dipper and picks up the purple light of a faint aurora.

For the photo below, taken on a different night, I used a fish-eye lens to capture the entire sky, but looking north. You can see how the sky turns counterclockwise about the Pole Star. The Milky Way also appears as a blurred band of light.

Circumpolar Comet Star Trails (July 16, 2013)

I shot these last week from the cabin at Reesor Ranch in Saskatchewan during a wonderful week of nightscape photography in the Cypress Hills.

To create these images I used the Advanced Stacking Actions from Star Circle Academy.

– Alan, July 25, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer

 

The Windblown Stars


 

Here’s the “long” version of an image I posted a few days ago. This combines 430 exposures to make one long star trail image.

A bright meteor appeared in one of the hundreds of 5-second-long exposures and registers in the composite, streaking diagonally across the star trails. The stars circle around Polaris at top. The horizontal streaks are clouds blowing from left to right across the sky during the night. The blades of the windmill in the Wintering Hills wind farm are blurring by the long exposures.

It’s been a productive few nights shooting out at the wind farm, capturing scenes of harvesting the wind!

– Alan, September 3, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

 

Circling Star Trails in the Rockies


Let the camera shoot for a few hours and this is what you get: stars circling the sky, turning into concentric paths around the North Star.

For this image I stacked 230 short exposures, each 50 seconds long, taken over about 4 hours time on July 7/8. My previous blog entry is one of those individual frames. But in this composite, the stars become trails rotating about the pole of the sky, near Polaris, the North Star, here over Num-Ti-Jah Lodge at Bow Lake in Banff. Moonlight provides the illumination and turns the sky blue, just as in daytime, only much dimmer. But the long exposures bring out the colours and make the scene look like daylight, because the light of the Moon is daylight, just reflected first off the Moon’s neutral grey face.

The same frames used to make this still frame composite can also be used to make a time-lapse movie of the circumpolar stars turning.

— Alan, July 14, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

Big Dipper over Num-Ti-Jah Lodge


“Around the fire tonight Jim Simpson said that for his money this campsite was the closest one could get to heaven on Earth. And I reckon he’s not far wrong.” — Bill Peyto at Bow Lake, July 11, 1902.

Peyto penned that description 110 years ago to the day. His friend always said he’d build a shack here one day. And he did. This is Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, a classic wood log building, hand-hewn and assembled by Jimmy Simpson and his family in the 1940s. They ran the lodge for many years.

I was there this past weekend, July 6 and 7, shooting nightscape photos under the waning Moon. This view looks due north, with the Big Dipper and Polaris over the lodge. To the right, in the northeast, glows a faint red aurora. To the northwest stands Mount Jimmy Simpson, named for the pioneer who built his dream lodge at his heaven-on-Earth campsite.

Heaven is not without its dangers however. Earlier in the evening a yearling grizzly bear was wandering around the lodge and had to be scared off by a Parks official. I’m glad he did! Meeting a bear in the dark is a hazard of shooting in the mountains I have yet to encounter, and don’t wish to.

— Alan, July 11, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer