Thursday, June 5, 2014

Watchman under the Milky Way by Christopher Wray

"Watchman under the Milky Way" - Zion Canyon, Zion N.P. ~ © Christopher Wray (click to enlarge)
Christopher Wray, of Southern Colorado, created our Photo of the Day using a Canon 5D Mark III and a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 Ultra Wide Angle lens. Chris combined two exposures, one of the sky for 30 seconds and another of the sandstone cliffs for 60 seconds. Both exposures were at ISO 4000, using an f/2.8 aperture. He did post processing in Photoshop to blend the two exposures.

"Our spiral galaxy’s bulge, of tightly packed central stars, is prominently visible [at certain times of the year] above The Watchman," says Chris. "Zion National Park is home to astonishing natural beauty by day. By night, the faint city lights of Springdale delicately illuminate the massive sandstone cliffs, while the Milky Way and surrounding heavens shimmer like exquisite jewels."

Challenges: "Unwanted stray light was the biggest challenge I faced while capturing this photo," reports Chris. "Despite the fact I was in a remote location, the occasional headlight of a passing car, headlamp from a fellow photographer or even blinking lights from a fixed wing aircraft was erroneously added to my exposure. It took a couple of takes to get a clean night sky, once I locked down the camera settings and composition."

Technique and tools: Chris is continually amazed at the ability of today’s DSLR camera sensor to capture latent hue, form and detail that reside in the dark sky. "By using basic Photoshop Curves controls and commonly available plug-in Nik Software, I was able to pull out the structure and color in the Milky Way without the need to introduce artificial color or saturation," say Chris. "I intentionally chose 3200º K as my white balance to create a cool midnight blue appearance."

Christopher Wray is a marketing communication consultant and avid digital photographer. He loves travel, landscape, portrait photography and most recently astrophotography. He is influenced by Ansel Adam’s guiding principle, “You don't take a photograph, you make it.” More of Chris’ work is viewable at his website and on 500px.

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