O ne thing I wanted to try out whilst I was in Yosemite was star trail photography. I love photos photos of the stars, I find them so mesmerising, it’s really amazing what some people manage to capture on camera.
I had tried a bit of star trail photography once before years and years ago and well, it didn’t really go to plan. The camera I was using wasn’t great, so when I was taking long exposure shots, it took so long to process each photo that by the time I started the next, a few minutes had passed so my ‘star trails’ were more like dotted star lines.
Anyway, hopefully this time was going to be better. New camera, better location, everything seemed to be in my favour.
The location for the shoot was up at Glacier Point right in the heart of the park. We arrived when the sun was still setting so there was time to get a few shots of the view. It was such a beautiful view and the sky had turned the most amazing colour. I was finding it hard to focus on taking photos with such an amazing view in front of me. It was nice to just stand and enjoy it with my own eyes, rather than looking at it through the lens of my camera.
Once the sun had fully set, it started to get dark pretty quickly so I had to drag myself away from the view and find a good spot to set up the camera and start shooting. We found a good place on top of a big boulder just off the main path/viewing area so I got everything set up.
While there was still enough light, I framed my shot and set the focus. I had the camera pointing at Half Dome which was right across the valley from us. I thought this would be a really good feature to include in the picture, it’s such a famous and iconic sight in Yosemite. Then it was all just a waiting game.
We didn’t have to wait long until it was dark enough for me to start doing a few test shots. I tried different shutter speeds and aperture values until I got a shot that emphasised the stars as much as possible without them overpowering the shot with light. At the time I was reviewing the shots on the cameras screen, and everything looked okay, but looking at the results now on a computer screen, I probably would have closed the aperture a little bit more, just to reduce the amount of light coming into the lens.
Once I was happy with all my settings, I switched into burst mode so that the camera would repeatedly take photos, and taped down the shutter button with a plaster and some folded cardboard. Nothing but top quality equipment in my bag….
For the next hour and a half or so I just lay there letting my camera snap away while I enjoyed the view. It was simply amazing. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life, even the milky way was lightly visible – the complete opposite way to where I was pointing my camera of course. The company up there was also very enjoyable. It was so nice to be spending time with my parents. I felt bad for making them stay up with me whilst I was taking photos, but I think they enjoyed it just as much as I did. Especially my mother. She’d broken out the picnic blanket and was just lying there looking up at the stars. I’m sure at one point she fell asleep. She denies it of course. Must have been a bear I heard growling and rustling around on the bushes, not my snoring mother.
Once I had got enough photos to create the star trails, I moved on to try and get a couple of photos of the milky way. You can faintly see it in the photos, but I think it something I will try and do again properly one day. Apparently it wasn’t the best time of year to photograph the Milky way, but I still gave it a go.
I could have stayed up there taking photos all night, but my Father began to get a bit restless – lack of wine I think, obviously thats where I get it from – plus, it was pitch black and bear season. Not a brilliant combination, unless you’re a bear I guess….so we called it a night.
Anyway, reluctantly I fumbled around in the dark and packed everything up, and, after one last look at the view headed back to the car to start the drive back to Bass Lake. It was a really amazing night.