Just a quick post this evening of an image taken with my new Nikon D800 during a private nighttime photo shoot of historic Chapel Hill in Shandon, California, with fellow photographer Kevin L. Cole and his wife Anne. Kevin is an expert night photographer who was gracious enough to assist me in my first attempt at shooting stars and star trails. Until my recent purchase of a high-end 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.
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, as with exposure times roughly exceeding 30 seconds (give or take), the rotation of the earth turns star points into trails (to the human eye). 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 the moon turned orange and set over the surrounding hills. The image was processed in Lightroom 4, Photoshop CS5, and with onOne Software’s Perfect Effects.
For more information on and images of Chapel Hill, see my other posts Star Trails Over Chapel Hill, Photo Excursion to Chapel Hill and 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. A compass is essential when planning these excursions, as well as the wonderful app TPE – The Photographer’s Ephemeris. Check the iTunes app store to purchase this indispensable utility. If you are interested in learning how to photograph the night sky, I highly recommend the wonderful eBook Shooting Stars: How to Photograph the Moon and Stars with your DSLR by Phil Hart, winner of the 2012 David Malin Astrophotography Award. Shooting Stars, a 129-page eBook with a printable field guide, will show you how to shoot your own stunning images of the moon and the stars with just your digital SLR and a tripod.
Having just returned from a trip, I’ve been delinquent in adding new posts to my website. Although I am working today in the photography studio at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles, California, I wanted to add a quick post with some recent images I shot at a special locale known as Chapel Hill in Shandon, California, about 15 miles east of Paso Robles off Highway 46 East, just off McMillan Canyon Road. Chapel Hill consists of a lovely chapel perched high on a beautiful vineyard-studded hill built by famous Shandon resident (Judge) William P. Clark, Jr., former Deputy Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, and United States Secretary of the Interior, who worked with former President Ronald Reagan, his close friend and confidant. The chapel was built by Clark and his late wife Joan so locals could have a place to worship. The chapel is available for private ceremonies and, upon occasion, concerts and special events are held at the church.
Chapel Hill has spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and is located amongst the hills of Clark’s massive private ranch. Shandon is a small agricultural town with many vineyards, like its Paso Robles counterpart. Anyone can make the journey up the hill from the dirt parking lot below. The gate is usually open during daylight hours. Getting to the top of Chapel Hill is another matter, however, with a very steep climb. The incredible views from the top are well worth the climb with your camera equipment. There are beautiful grapevines along the path to the top.
The top image was taken just after sunset on McMillan Canyon Road just behind the chapel, and consists of HDR bracketed shots processed in Photomatix Pro 4, Lightroom 3, Photoshop CS5, and with onOne Software’s Perfect Effects. The second image above of an abandoned and decaying farmhouse was taken further down McMillan Canyon Road. The image below shows the public access walking path up to the church facing the front, and was shot on another occasion during a thunderstorm. I overlaid a grungy texture to the image in order to give it the feeling of the approaching dark storm. I will add more images from this excursion as I process them. For more information on and images of Chapel Hill, see my other posts Star Trails Over Chapel Hill, Photo Excursion to Chapel Hill and Starry Starry Night.
August 2013 update: Sadly, Judge Clark recently passed away at the age of 81 from advanced Parkinson’s disease. He was a devout Roman Catholic and kind, gentle man, treasured by so many people. His service was held at Chapel Hill.