Gordon Watson  

Dolomite Star Trails by Gordon Watson

November 2023 - Dolomite Star Trails

November 2023 - Gordon Watson


About the Image(s)

First, I would like to share the news that I have just achieved the PPSA distinction, which is awarded for 288 acceptances in PSA recognised exhibitions. I am now taking a break from exhibitions until the middle of next year. Regarding this image, I am continuing with the Astro theme. I am putting together a tutorial on Astro-Photography for my club, and I wanted a star trails image to discuss. So, on a visit to the Italian Dolomites a few weeks ago, my wife and I drove up to the Passo Di Giau on a clear night. This is a mountain pass at 7200ft, so has wonderfully clear skies. The image is a combination of 111 x 30sec exposures, giving just under an hour of star trails. The images have then been stacked twice in Photoshop - first with a Lighten blend mode to build up the star trails, then with an Average blend mode to reduce noise in the foreground. I have then combined the sky and foreground images for further editing in Photoshop.

Technical details: EOS-R camera plus Canon RF 14-35mm F4L lens at 14mm focal length. 111 x 30 sec exposures at F4, ISO1600. I have attached one of the original captures to show how dark it was - nevertheless, some of the stars are over-exposed, which is why I did not increase ISO further. In the final image, you should see some yellows and blues in the star trails - colours that would be lost if ISO is pushed too high.

This round’s discussion is now closed!
12 comments posted

Ian Cambourne   Ian Cambourne
Congratulations on your PPSA Gordon, well done and well deserved. Yes, take a break for a while and enjoy whatever you wish. It's funny how I've seen a few images of the Dolomites pop up on instagram recently, but none like this one. As an example of astro-photography, this one is superb. Your use of the elements in the scene and your placement of them in your image is perfect. The path leads us up to the mountain, it points us to the stars and then we just get sucked into that vortex. Good foreground detail and colours providing depth to the image. Your method and execution result in this superb image. I'm sure your club members will appreciate your tutorial and benefit greatly from it. I have just one extremely minor question, you mention 111 exposures, what caused that to be the magic number? Or was it from your past experience?   Posted: 11/10/2023 23:20:07
Gordon Watson   Gordon Watson
Thanks for the feedback. To answer your question, any recurring number like 111 is called an Angel Number in astrology, and 111 specifically represents a new beginning or new opportunity. So that seemed appropriate for my first star trails picture! An alternative explanation is that my wife and I decided an hour in the dark and cold was long enough. That would give 120 x 30sec exposures, but allowing for a bit of time between shots and I ended up with 111 exposures. Take your pick of explanation!   Posted: 11/11/2023 04:38:40
Ian Cambourne   Ian Cambourne
Both explanations make perfectly good sense to me Gordon. I've never heard of Angel Numbers and I can also understand the new beginning theory. I also meant to say in my original comment that you mentioned some burnt out stars. Really??? Whcih ones would they be and what impact do they have in the whole image? And yes, thank you for keeping those blues and yellows in there.   Posted: 11/12/2023 00:01:58
Gordon Watson   Gordon Watson
In astro terms, stars are quite bright, and easily saturated in long exposures. The original image had over 2000 pixels of pure white (I have a program that calculates that). Since the image is about the stars, it's a challenge to try to avoid too many that are pure white.   Posted: 11/12/2023 05:20:28

Sophie Pouillon   Sophie Pouillon
It's my dream to be able to do that...
First of all, Bravo for the PPSA, it's an important distinction. I'm close to passing, but I have too many gaps in nature and few travel photos. Anyway, I'll get there one day.
This photo is perfect. Everything's there, a foreground with the path leading to the rock and the stars. The sky is splendid and the stars well distributed. I think you've removed the satellites that were passing by?
"The number 111 is also considered a symbol of positive thinking and manifestation. It's said to possess a strong energy that can help you tap into your subconscious and bring your deepest desires and aspirations to the surface. It encourages you to remain optimistic and focused, even in times of uncertainty or overwhelm." Definition found on the Internet which sheds light on its meaning: thank you for this positive message.   Posted: 11/12/2023 03:18:38
Gordon Watson   Gordon Watson
Thank-you Sophie - keep going towards your PPSA and you will get there.   Posted: 11/20/2023 02:33:23

Sanford Morse   Sanford Morse
Thanks for the introduction to angel numbers, Yet another thing that I need to pay attention to. The photo is superb, and for me an illustration of why I find photography so interesting and challenging. So many new things to study and learn. In Vietnam one of the participants had a drone. I bet his photographs with that were outstanding. Unfortunately both astro photography and drone photography would seem to require a great deal of study, and that's hard to do and still play golf every day. I think I need smaller chunks of challenges.   Posted: 11/12/2023 10:12:20
Gordon Watson   Gordon Watson
Thank-you Sanford. Any type of photography takes time to learn, so maybe golf just has to take a back seat!!   Posted: 11/20/2023 02:38:37

Jay Joseph   Jay Joseph
Congratulations on your PPSA distinction. It is well deserved as evidenced by your outstanding photograph this month. It really is a jaw-dropping photograph. All I can really say is WOW! Thanks for letting the group see such a work of art.   Posted: 11/14/2023 19:55:36
Gordon Watson   Gordon Watson
I'm not sure it's art, but thanks for your comments Jay.   Posted: 11/20/2023 02:39:14

Trey Foerster   Trey Foerster
Gordon, way to go in achieving PPSA! As you well described, astro photography is complicated. However, your result of mathematical calculations is a brilliant image. The "stairway to heaven" is centered at bottom and climbs to an offset mountain top, which points up to an offset center of the universe star. The contrast between heaven and earth is obvious and makes earth appear to be tranquil. Kudos on a wonderful image!   Posted: 11/19/2023 12:17:22
Gordon Watson   Gordon Watson
Thanks for your comments Trey. I also thought of Stairway To Heaven as a possible title.   Posted: 11/20/2023 02:43:12