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November 19, 2012

Starry Starry Night

By Renée M Besta

Starry Starry Night

 I am very fortunate to have been given the recent opportunity to do a private nighttime photo shoot of historic Chapel Hill in Shandon, California, courtesy of Pete Clark, son of William Clark, and fellow photographer Kevin L. Cole, who arranged the shoot. Chapel Hill is located about 15 miles east of Paso Robles off Highway 46 East, just off McMillan Canyon Road, and consists of a private church high on a vineyard-studded hill built by famous Shandon resident William P. Clark, Jr., former Deputy Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, and United States Secretary of the Interior. The chapel was built specifically for Clark's daughter and is available for private ceremonies. Upon occasion, Catholic masses, concerts and special events are held at the church.

Armed with my new Nikon D800 and accompanied by friend and expert night photographer Kevin L. Cole and his wife Anne, we spent hours shooting stars and star trails and light painting the chapel. Until my recent purchase of a professional DSLR with a full-frame sensor, I did not have the capability to capture night shots of the stars due to noise issues and sensor overheating. To say this wonderful camera is an upgrade to my older Nikon with a cropped sensor is an understatement. With a full-frame sensor and 36MP to work with, it is a joy and I look forward to making very large prints for my studio. The detail and resolution of this camera are simply stunning.

This image is a single Camera RAW shot taken at ISO 200 with a 24mm lens at f4 with an exposure time of 150 seconds. There are both star points and star trails visible in the photograph. A bit of light painting was used on the chapel due to the foreground darkness. However, there was a waxing crescent moon directly behind us, which helped light the chapel until it turned orange and set over the surrounding hills. For you pixel peepers, the image was processed in Lightroom 4, Photoshop CS5, and with onOne Software's Perfect Effects 6.1.

For more information on Chapel Hill, see my prior post Chapel Hill. I am currently working on the timed sequence of shots I took using an intervalometer to capture circular star trails, which will require running a stacking script in Photoshop. I will post more images as I process them. We aimed our cameras at Polaris in order to render circular star trails, which occurs due to the earth's rotation around the North Star. A compass is essential when planning these excursions, as well as the wonderful app TPE – The Photographer's Ephemeris.

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