Friday, November 23, 2012

POTW: 'Something Different' by Dan Barr

"Something Different" ~ © Dan Barr (click on image for a larger view)
This unique star trails photograph was taken in Culp Valley within Anza Borrego Desert State Park. (Culp Valley is about 12 miles west of Borrego Springs off of the State Highway S22 and is accessible by a 4WD road.) Dan Barr captured this image with his Canon 40D, using a Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 lens (additional EXIF: focal length was 11mm, 30 second exposures at f/2.8, ISO 1600). This is a "stacked" star trail. Dan used 135 individual exposures to make a composite in Photoshop.

Technique: Barr decided to try a new processing technique for this star trail. He usually assembles his star trails in Photoshop by opening all the images as a layered document and changing the blending mode of each layer to "lighten" to create the trails. This time he thought it would be fun to try to make tapering trails to give the star trails a meteor-like effect. He made the tapering trails by varying the opacity of each layer in Photoshop.

The "tapering trails" idea became somewhat of a pain in the neck! Dan changed the opacity in 5% increments so there was roughly seven images for each increment descending from 100% to 0% opacity. It involved considerable trial and error to get a degree of taper he was finally happy with. Finally, to top it off he increased the exposure and contrast of the first exposure in the star trail stack to accentuate the stars and create kind of a cap for the fading star trails. The resulting image was very different from any of his previous star trails, and he had a lot of fun trying something new.

The light painting was completely by accident! "I was fumbling with my keys and accidentally pushed the unlock button on my car remote," says Barr. "The sidelights and interior lights came on briefly and illuminated the boulders. I usually don't worry to much about stray light in my star trails since I can usually mask it out when I am assembling the image in Photoshop. In this case I liked the the effect from the car lights, so I left it in."

Challenges : "For me the biggest challenges in taking this photo were compositional and in post-processing to assemble the final image," said Dan.

After taking many star trails he has learned that he likes to try to include some of the landscape into the shot in addition to the foreground elements to give the final photo a feeling of depth. Dan wasn't happy with the topography of the surrounding landscape so he just decided to fill the bottom half of the frame with boulders. Still, he was worried that he was going to end up with a boring two-dimensional photo.

Satisfaction: "When I actually got home and started assembling the image, I was pleasantly surprised. The light from my vehicle provided some dimensionality to boulders, and I was pleased with the overall framing," reports Barr.

More of Dan Barr's photography can be seen at his Flickr photostream and his website.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful!!! I love the effect of both the accidental light on the boulders and the tapering. Thank you for sharing!