When I first started reading up on night photography years ago I remember looking at star trail images with wonder: simply by leaving the lens open for a long time one could capture the movement of the stars across the sky. Even more wondrous were images that included Polaris, the north star, which aligns with the planet’s rotational axis and thus does not move during the night (while all the other stars appear to spin around it). I promptly put capturing a long-exposure star-trail image with Polaris on my bucket list.
And last week while visiting Prescott, AZ, I finally got one I’m happy with:
This is a single-frame capture based on a roughly 30 minute exposure; the hills in the foreground are illuminated by moonlight.
Take a look in my Prescott, AZ gallery for a few more images from my recent trip there (though this is the only star trail image I’m sharing from the trip).
Lately I’ve started bicycling longer distances1, and as I’m riding, I’m seeing more of my local area. So many of the bicycle paths lead to stunning views, not to mention the gorgeous little parks.
But now that it’s winter I’m out riding a lot at night. Night changes so much about the landscape, especially in urban areas where a single bright point-source of light (the sun or moon) is replaced by multiple small light sources, many of which are different colors and intensities. Combine the change in illumination with a requirement for long exposure times and you have a recipe for a dramatic visual change.
I wanted to try to capture some of that changed beauty, so I recently biked to a couple of my favorite vantage points in Newport Beach to try my hand at it.
But those are just general overviews; the image I’m happiest with takes just a piece of one of those and lets your eye linger on the details:
All of these are single-frame exposures with minimal manipulation in post processing. A few more images can be found in my Newport Beach at Night album.
1 I’m trying to get in at least 80 miles a week, and am hoping to build up to riding a century in a few months. 2 The two tall buildings on the left are the Vista Del Lido complex and the 601 Lido Condominiums; the two tall buildings on the right (that almost appear as one) are Newport: The Towers (3121 PCH) and Newport Surgery Center (3333 PCH).
Newport Back Bay is a relatively unknown1 jewel of coastal Orange County. At only a few miles long and half a mile wide at most, this estuary is relatively small. It’s also packed in between Newport Beach mansions houses, some of which overlook the wetlands from bluffs that line it. However, there is no major development inside the majority of the back bay, which is home to plants, birds, kayakers, and lots of other wildlife.
Looking towards the eastern bluffs from a roadside stop on Back Bay Drive in Newport Back Bay.
I’ve loved going to Newport Back Bay for years. It’s a great place to bike or jog, as there’s a paved trail looping around it2, and it’s a good place to go for bird watching (though I think Bolsa Chica is generally preferred by bird photographers). What’s neat about this area is that one moment you’re driving through fully developed Newport Beach and Irvine (Fashion Island Shopping Center and UC Irvine are only minutes away), and then the next you’re walking, biking, or driving along a one-lane road that meanders along the side of a beautiful coastal wetlands.
A few nights ago I went there to watch the sunset and experiment with some post-sunset techniques. The sunset was gorgeous: