18 — Dumb Luck

INT Chile Torres 1076.jpg

I developed this one on my uncalibrated laptop, so it might be a little off in tonality/color.

So you travel to an exotic place and you end up at the hotel and…the view is the wrong direction to get star trails around the point of interest, there’s a fairly bright moon out most of the night, and the weather is moving in and likely to make your work for naught, anyway. 

Heh, heh, heh. When has all that stopped me? 

Most of Patagonia is heated too hot and you don’t have a thermostat you can control, so I tend to sleep with my window open. Why not stick a camera out and see what I get? So I set the camera to do really long exposures at long intervals (I think it was ten minute shots, as the whole goal was to assemble as few star trails shots together to get a full set of trails. 

I can generally sleep through anything, even my camera clicking away at regular intervals, so it wasn’t until morning that I had any idea whether I had captured anything useful. This is the fifth frame in. There are others that are interesting, too. It seems the clouds and stars were dancing against each other all night, and the moon provided plenty of exposure on the peaks. 

Even with film I probably would have tried the experiment, though with only 36 exposures to a roll I probably would have used even longer exposures. But with digital what’s the reason not to? It doesn’t cost anything other than a bit of time to set things up, and a bit more time to evaluate how things turned out. Sometimes you learn interesting things. First thing I learned on these shots was how dirty my sensor was ;~). I noticed a couple of star trails that were interrupted. By what? Dust. The second I noticed was the “energies” in the motion of the stars and clouds. I hadn’t really thought about which direction the clouds were moving relative to the stars. These days I do. 

Is it a great shot? 

No, but it’s a very interesting shot. One that has prompted me to set up my camera for nighttime serenades pretty much any time there’s anything interesting outside my window. Funny thing is, the very best shot I got by playing the dumb luck card (guided by previous experiments and observations, of course) was when I got real sick on a trip and just stayed in bed during the day. But every time I got up to use the bathroom or get some water, I’d double-check the camera and make sure that there was plenty of card space and battery life left and that nothing had gotten disturbed. That 36-hour marathon managed to capture an awesome sunset, a rainbow at sunrise, a full moon overlooking and lighting the scene, and a lot more. 

One of the great things about digital cameras is that you can get feedback far quicker. Don’t know how to expose for the above shot? Wait until it’s dark, then try an exposure. Wrong? Try a different exposure. 

I’m not afraid to experiment. I like it when reality throws me a surprise. I don’t learn if I keep doing the same thing the same way in the same place all the time. 

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