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Big Bend Night Sky

Big Bend National Park is located in the Southwest part of Texas and is one of the most popular places to visit in the state. From the desert floor to the pine-covered mountains, Big Bend has a lot to offer, especially during the spring. I was invited to travel to the park by some of my photography friends in the spring of 2015. Every hour of the day was spent either taking photographs or planning our next photography event. Most every day began at 3:00AM with a night shoot of the Milky Way, followed by a sunrise shoot, then capturing images of native Texas Wildflowers, then scouting for the evening shoot and for the following morning and ending with dinner and a sunset shoot. Most of this required a fair amount of hiking as well. This was not only fun but challenging.

One of the highlights of the trip was the early morning Big Bend night sky shots of the Milky Way.  The conditions were not ideal every morning and we were only able to obtain decent results twice.  The first time was near the Castolon area which is on the way to Santa Elena Canyon.  It was my first Milky Way shooting experience so I made a lot of mistakes early on.  Then, it all came together with this image. The trick (beyond the right gear and all the pre-shooting research) is to apply The 500 Rule, as it’s called.  The purpose behind the rule is to avoid star trails.  In addition to this rule, you must set your ISO to something above 1600.  Different cameras react differently to ISO settings so you have to do some tests to see what works best.  Lastly, you must focus manually and use live view to double-check the focus and mirror lock-up to avoid camera shake.  Overall I was pleased with my first encounter with the Milky Way.

Big Bend NP - Castelon Night Sky
Big Bend NP – Castolon Night Sky

This image was taken with my  Canon EOS 5D Mark III using my Sigma 14mm lens which was mounted on a very sturdy tripod.  I used my remote shutter release so as not to shake the camera during the exposure. The camera was set on Manual mode with the aperture set at f/2.8, shutter speed at 20 seconds and the ISO set at 2500. Mirror Lock-Up was engaged before the shooting began. Post-processing was mostly done in Lightroom with some work done in Photoshop. I also used some plugins from the Nik collection (Color Efex Pro).

You can access my Big Bend portfolio here. Please use the section below to post your comments, questions or suggestions.

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© 2015 T. Kahler Photography

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