Star trails, through the haze

Star Trails

When I left the house last night, it was most­ly clear. I stopped and got a cof­fee, and by the time I made it to my des­ti­na­tion— a grav­el road a cou­ple miles north of the Rapid City turn-off—the half-moon was still bright, but a thin haze of cloud had start­ed to move in.

It was cold out—about -15°C, with just enough breeze to make it worse—so I was in a bit of a hur­ry. I got my cam­era set up, point­ed north by north­west, estab­lished that the haze to the north was encroach­ing cloud and not auro­ra bore­alis, then retired to the warmth of the car to read my new library book, French Exit by Patrick deWitt.

I let the cam­era snap away, tak­ing 5-sec­ond shots. At one point I thought the bat­tery might have died, and so I got out to go retrieve it. As I closed the car door behind me, though, I heard the shut­ter click, so I knew it was still work­ing. I returned to the car.

A cou­ple trucks went by, and their head­lights are the source of the lens flare and the pret­ty rain­bow arc at the right of the pho­to. I have a lens hood but didn’t both­er to put it on, assum­ing that the road would be desert­ed. Whoops.

After about forty min­utes I’d fin­ished my cof­fee and was start­ing to cool off. I noticed that the sky had cloud­ed over almost com­plete­ly. I couldn’t see stars any­more, and, rea­son­ing that nei­ther could my cam­era, I packed up and head­ed home.

Nerdy details: Star­trails processed using GIMP. ~450 pho­tos, each 5 sec­onds, f/2.8, ISO 3200. After pro­cess­ing, I cloned the lay­er twice, and set the mid­dle lay­er to “Grain Merge”, the top one to “Dark­en Only” (I think).