The idea of this image came to me a year and a half ago during a week stay while shooting Las Palmas, Huatulco, the first time around. I wanted to share the process involved in making this image a reality. The truth is, a similar image can be seen in my architecture gallery on my main page. When I had the opportunity to return to the hotel, the image festering in my minds eye dominated the landscape of my creative juices, sort of speak. I wanted to capture a two hour exposure of star trails over the hotel. My plan was simple enough providing I got some help.
A very kind and accommodating hotel staff agreed to wake at 3am and "zombie" walk through the grounds flipping switches to every light bulb in the place. I then hopped on a quad 4x4 and weaved my way around the bay to a vantage point looking back toward the villas. My plan was to shoot two images on the same frame using a sturdy tripod - a double exposure as they say. I worked out a shutter time of 30 seconds for the buildings and framed it so they would anchor a wide landscape, an empty colorless sky, and plenty of room to breathe. I then radioed back to flip the breakers and the land returned to black and the sea a light grey. At that point my plan was to open the camera shutter for several hours and capture the stars, which were too many to count, and record the celestial interaction between the galaxy and our spinning little planet. If all went well the stars would trail through the frame burning subtle hues of blue and red and green and yellow. What an amazing little world we have here.
I ran a test shot first. I hit the double exposure setting on my fancy D3s and experimented with one test shot - I didn't want to mess this up. I should also mention that I really do not miss the days of having to manually rewind the film canister in my camera to do this! First, I exposed the building at f-16 to increase the star-like burst effect that happens to light sources at lower f-stops. Secondly, after the power was cut and using a wireless trigger, I opened up the aperture to allow as much starlight in for my second exposure. I flipped it to bulb and fired the frame. After about 10 minutes I got a bit anxious about what I was collecting so I ended the exposure and the image posted was the result. The golden hue in the bottom left corner was from the revolving lighthouse some distance away. I was concerned, will the light house mess up the 2 hour exposure I had planned? I should also mention that I was watching the cycles of the nearly full moon and the reason why I had chosen 3am as the time to begin was because the moon would have completely set, thus enhancing the clarity and potency of stars against a rich black, canvas sky.
At this point I radioed back to the grounds staff and they kindly flipped the breakers back on, piercing the tranquil night scene. Much to the chagrin of the patient guests that were trying to sleep I should add! Thank you, again, by-the-way. I then began my 2 hour exposure and was left to wait in silence and darkness, but for the swatting of mosquitos, my sole companions for the night. At some point I was startled by some sort of creature and my adrenal glands shot a healthy dose of adrenaline through my body. Whatever that creature is, I whispered quietly to myself, it probably sounds worse then it looks.
Anyhow, when my 2 hour timer finally buzzed me back to reality, I ended the frame and was completely horrified with the results! The light house had completely burnt out my sky and the image was completely ruined!
So, I learned a valuable lesson and was very glad I had taken a "test" shot! Next time I'll take at least two.
Nikon D3s & 85mm 1.4, Hähnel Giga T Pro II wireless trigger, Gitzo GT2541 tripod, Induro BDH2 ballhead, Honda 4x4 quad, one can of caffeinated cola.