Monday, September 10, 2012

Dylan MacMaster: Pining away at the Stars

Anthony Lake, Oregon ~ © Dylan MacMaster

Dylan MacMaster is one of the best self-taught, amateur night photographers I know. Dylan is an engineer and currently lives with his wife and three children in Boise, Idaho.

Virtually all of MacMaster's nightscapes are single exposures. He rarely, if ever, produces a night scene where he's combined two or more images in post production. He works hard to get everything in one shot. The above photo is a good example of his technique.

The star trails were produced with one 30-minute time exposure, using a 17mm lens @ f/4.0 (ISO 200) on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. During this exposure he did light-painting (for 45 seconds) on the little rocky island of pine trees with his LED headlamp.

Dylan ran a test beforehand to determine the light-painting exposure. Here's the 66-second version, which has a interesting, minimalist nature of its own:

66-second, light-painted test exposure for the rock island ~ © Dylan MacMaster
After this test, MacMaster decided to reduce the final light-painting time to 45 seconds (during the 30-minute time exposure that recorded the star trails). While waiting for the time exposure to record the trails, he sat down and wrote these words:
"The beauty of this night is almost impossible to put onto words. The stars shine above and the brightest wink their reflections in the glass-like water below. The sound of rushing water comes to me across the lake as the winter's snow-melt cascades down the mountain. A chorus of frogs creates a symphony in the night and there is just enough breeze so you can feel it, but not enough to disturb the pristine mirror that is Anthony Lake. This will likely be one of my most memorable nights out shooting."
 ...and it was...

Like Dylan, I've come to appreciate another wonderful world that awaits us under these starry night canopies.  It seems like our senses are heightened by the cool night air and the majesty of the infinite universe overhead.

Epilogue: Dylan entered the top photo into the Western Idaho State Fair last year and won 1st place in "Night Scenes" category.

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