Photo from June 24, 2005

We arrived at Camp 6 late in the evening and without a reservation, but Mark found someone kind enough to allow us to pitch tents at the edge of their campground. I stayed up late, set up my tripod, and took 30 second bulb exposures of the night sky in Yosemite. I had never seen a night sky so bright, even when I drove 40 min from Champaign to see Comet Hyakutake.

I had no trouble picking out the Milky Way and you can even see part of it in this photo.

Starry Night at Yosemite
Camp 4, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California

Nikon D70, 50mm f/1.8D
30 sec at f/1.8, iso 800, 50mm (75mm)

To get a wide field of view and maximize light coming into the camera, I used my 50mm f/1.8D wide open and the sensor gained to iso 800. IIRC 30 seconds is the longest exposure in the Nikon D70, which, because it is a CCD and heats up isn’t the best astrophotography camera around. An earlier photo of the star field told me that I needed to have something in the foreground for the photo to seem other than noise.

Even just 30 seconds, you can see the earth rotates so fast that the star streak is clearly noticeable.

If you look at this version of the same image, you can see that processing and noise-reduction has improved a lot in the last 10 years. However I did like that the colors of the bark and leaves of the evergreen were visible in the gained up version I made back then, so I masked that part back in, even though I’ve long since lost the photoshop file I had of it.

It’d be nice to take photos with a wider angle lens and a more modern sensor that can be gained even higher. I’d probably also use a flashlight to light the tree a bit in the future as it turns out you can’t do an HDR of the night sky if you have foreground interest.

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