Featured Photo – Blue Canyon Star Trails

Technical Data:

Camera:   Canon 1Ds MkIII

Lens:   Canon EF 17mm TS-E

Aperture:   f/4

Exposure:  1357 seconds (approx 22 min)

ISO:  200

About the photograph:

“Blue Canyon” is another one of the amazing and remote gems in the Southwest that has an incredible array of rock formations which are extremely delicate.   The name is a bit of a misnomer, as there isn’t anything “blue” about it.   During the same photography trip that eventually included White Pockets, my good friend and I headed to this, another part of Arizona seldom seen.   With some extremely helpful information from a great local photographer, we easily found this canyon after a few hours of driving through the highways and back roads of Arizona. – Just in time for sunset.   Unfortunately, the sky was flat and boring, just as it was during much of that week in the Southwest.    Fortunately for me, my friend is a night time long-exposure fanatic like I am, so we hung out for about 90 minutes after dusk and began composing some star trail shots…   Like I often do with star trails, I located Polaris (the north star) and composed my foreground to work with it, thus creating a spiral-like effect over the long exposure.

Normally, I like to shoot star trails under a new moon (that’s no moon at all) or at least during a time when something less than a half-moon has already set below the horizon.  This helps me achieve a very long exposure time without the sky getting blown-out or overexposed…    This time, I shot under a 25% moon which was really great because there was no need to light-paint with an artificial source.   At the same time, I was restricted to a sub-30 minute exposure, but as I am learning- the need to expose for an extremely long time isn’t as important as the other elements involved in  capturing a perfect star trail shot.  The longer trails from 1 or 2-hour long shots aren’t even always that aesthetically pleasing, in my opinion.

While we were there, I also took some moonscape shots with higher ISOs.  I will be posting some of them soon.   In the end, I was very happy with the way this shot turned out.  The need for post-processing was very minimal as well.

One thing I must touch on again is how incredibly delicate these structures are.  This isn’t a place that will hold up to many human visits and because of that, I am not ever going to publish directions to this area.  Unfortunately someone eventually will, and unless the local Navajo council (which governs the land that Blue Canyon is on) does something to regulate visits, we may see a similar situation as what happened in Fantasy Canyon in 2006.   For now, the remoteness of the area and relatively unknown terrain will keep most people away.  But if you do go there, please watch where you step and tread lightly.  This will help ensure the physical preservation of this magical area for future visits.

Thanks for looking

-Mac


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5 Responses to “Featured Photo – Blue Canyon Star Trails”

  1. Wow, spectacular. I’m experimenting with long exposure shots for the first time and really enjoying it. Someday I hope to take something as great as this! :)

  2. Mac,

    Excellent shot and thanks for the info. I’m having trouble doing startrails for this extended amount of time simply because I don’t know which settings to use. I’ll expose for a certain amount of time and after it’s done the exposure is usually off. How do you know what aperture setting, ISO, shutter times, etc. to use? Is it guessing or is there a method? Also, how do you locate the north star? Thanks again!

    -Cody

  3. Hey Mac. I just stumbled into your blog from Flickr when I was looking up Lake Clark NP photos. I just got back from there and can’t believe how awesome that place is.

    I like how the star trails in this photo appear to be circling around that hoodoo.

    Keep up the great work,

    Richard

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