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