Behind the Photograph: sometimes creative inspiration hits at the oddest moments

I had been sitting in the middle of my campsite a few nights ago, busily scouting on my iPad for locations and campsites around Sedona in preparation for the next day’s activities.

While walking back from my car, I noticed the moon and a planet sitting fairly low in the sky behind my camp chair. Though tired, I got a sudden surge of adrenaline from a flash of creative inspiration that hit me…

There was a stone campfire ring to the left of my chair and the lights from a small town sitting on the horizon, barely high enough to be seen with the correct camera angle I thought.

A finished shot popped into my head. Time to grab the gear.

Since it was getting late and this was just a fun shot for myself, I opted to shoot everything in a single exposure and hope for the best. I knew the moon would blowout (it actually needs a pretty fast shutter speed to expose correctly). However, since there was a whisper veil of clouds I figured I could use those to my advantage.

The light from the planet, small town, and campfire (lighting me) would have to work themselves out in the allotted time I gave the exposure: 20 seconds. At a 35mm focal length, that was long enough to expose some of the brighter stars without them leaving too long of a star trail, which might compromise the shot.

My headlamp set to the red LED position and stuffed inside two white grocery sacks provided the diffused “campfire light” needed to light me.

It only took four takes for me to trip the timer, run from the camera to the chair and get set, all while getting the headlamp aimed correctly for a somewhat natural look.

All in all I’m very pleased how the shot came out. The flares seen in the photo? I haven’t a clue where they came from. The two red streaks below them are, I assume, lights from passing jets, or UFOs. Either way, I was glad to see them when I chimped the final shot.

Sony a7r; 35mm @f3.5; 20 secs; processed in Lightroom CC/Mobile

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