On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
My quests to shoot fall color in the eastern Sierra has not diminished my mission to shoot the stars. My second and third trip up to the eastern Sierra included an early morning stop at the Alabama Hills to capture astro-landscapes. The first thing I wanted to capture was the Zodiacal Light(this has nothing to do with Ted Cruz).
The Zodiacal Light is a band of light that shoots up from the horizon just before sunrise(it’s also called ‘false dawn’) in the Fall and just after Sunset in the Spring around the time of the equinox. It’s caused by interplanetary dust that gets lit by the Sun and can be seen when the Earth is at the right angle based on the season.
The other celestial objects I wanted to capture on my journey’s to the Alabama Hills(not named after the state, but the CSS Alabama), was an astro-landscape shot of Orion and Andromeda(M31). I first attempted shooting Orion on my third and final Fall Color Extravaganza, but the battery on my star tracker died and I had to defer both the Orion shot and possible Andromeda shot.
I did get one, one minute exposure of Orion out of this trip. I headed back up to the Alabama Hills for another attempt in mid-November with half the night moonlit to get some foreground shots by the light of the Moon and shots of the sky once the Moon had set.
The Zodiacal light to the east, the golden glow just above the horizon is from the Sun starting to rise. I posted this shot on Instagram and one commenter said the light was not the Zodiacal Light, but light pollution from Las Vegas which is 165 miles away.
The Zodiacal light again, this time about a mile to the north of the first shot. This was shot about an hour earlier than the shot above. The lights from Lone Pine are illuminating the Inyo Mountains in the foreground and you can see the light dome from Las Vegas to the right of the Zodiacal light.
This shot is a single one minute shot of the sky and high ISO test shot of the foreground. This area is where they filmed the temple scene in Gunga Din(they filmed a lot of movies in the Alabama Hills).
The foreground for this shot was taken at almost the same position as the last shot, but I had the benefit of moonlight and added some additional light painting to the mix. The stars were shot on the other side of these rocks since it has a pretty much unobstructed horizon.
The foreground here is at the entrance to the canyon of rocks where I parked, my car is behind the rock to the right. Again, moonlight was used to provide much of the lighting with some light painting in the lower foreground. The way I light paint is take many shots and light paint parts of the scene and then mask out the places where I’m in the photo with my light panel. Again, the sky was shot just over the rocks.
This is a composite of Orion setting over Mt. Whitney.
The Andromeda and Triangulum galaxies setting over Mt. Whitney. Andromeda is at the right, midframe, Triangulum is at the left, upper portion of the frame. Mirach of the the Andromeda constellation is the bright yellow star between them.