United States   |  2022

Silver Winner

Empire of the Stars

Photographer

Craig Bill

Category

Special Category - Long Exposure Photography

Company

Craig Bill Photography

Submission Group

Professional

Even though I arrived at the Shiprock formation right outside Shiprock, New Mexico early in the day, my photographic intentions were for the coming night. There at the base of this extinct volcano that the Navajos regard as an ancient spiritual monument, I scouted and planned for the Earth’s turn away from the Sun. And this area is in a good dark spot for nighttime star gazing - In fact I came here to execute a lengthy photo project starring, well... the stars. “Empire of the Stars” and the other images captured that night featured enhanced star trail captures. I had been exploring and developing complex processing methods to bring star trail images to a new visual and artistic level, if successful. This image is formed from over 700 twenty second long exposures, five different programs (some taking hours for just one adjustment) and over a month to plan/develop. It also is the longest processing project of 2019 coming from this night partially because of the most number of captures and challenge to capture it as a panoramic photograph of which is very rare to find. In fact, it can be extremely difficult to pull off a great day-to-night photograph anyway - so adding star trails and the sun (the closest star to us) compounded the technical and processing complexity to the point that I started to doubt its outcome. The accentuated vibrant circles and arcs come from the stars subtle colors mostly (raw images captured and pre-processed with that in mind), wispy traveling clouds over the night and sky color from approaching dawn, horizon lights and air quality. Too many clouds, however, can ruin the entire night. But not tonight! After the cameras clicked away all night, I waited patiently, but apprehensively as I traveled back to the studio, hoping all the images from the sensors and cards gathered enough ancient starlight to compose epic astrophotography images.

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