Sid & Charlie - San Rafael Swell

The Swaseys settled on the San Rafael Swell in the late 1800's. Settling this country they named most of the geologic formations in the Swell. This dual standing monolith was named after the two brothers. Sid is the slender one on the left and Charley the more stout on the right.  Separated clear to the bottom they stand alone with no other formations in the area.

I set up one camera for a Star Trail image on these two monoliths. Camera settings used were from Royce Bair's method for making star trails.

A single, 1-hour exposure, f/5.6, and ISO 125, with the camera’s “Long Exposure Noise Reduction” function turned on. He explains this in better detail on pages 6 & 62 of his NightScapes eBook. Royce's ebook is 149 pages of great information. This shot taken on the south side of the monoliths facing north. 

While setting up the low level lighting for the star trails shot I noticed the setting crescent moon. A good lesson for me since I was so focused on taking the starry night sky I didn't consider being able to take a "moonscape".

There is two LED light panels set up with the main light on the left side of the image. That light is at about 90 degress to the camera to give contrast and texture to the rocks. The second light is on the right side of the image at about 45 degrees to fill in the shadows, so the setting for the second light is a lot dimmer. 

I was setting the lights up for the star trail image. Keeping that in mind the lights were set back far enough to allow me o take shots with my second camera. 

This felt so serene with the setting moon and the remnants of a sunset on the horizon that I quickly set the second camera for this shot.

There is just something so peaceful about this image.


While I was waiting for the 60 min star trail cycle I used my second Camera to take some milky way shots. I knew the core would be below the horizon but honestly needed to do something to fill the time waiting for the 60 minute star trail shot.

The camera was already set up for the crescent moon shot. Which placed it perfectly for composition with the monoliths and the milky way. I was taking several different sets with 9 shots in each set to stack them for noise reduction.

Once I got home and started going through the images I found this one. Awesome find since I did not see the shooting star when I took it. I did not know what the horizontal blue flash of light was on the shooting star, but thought it looked cool.

So I asked about the shooting star having the lens flare to it. I was told that the blue horizontal light comes from the energy being released when the shooting star explodes entering the atmosphere.

Apparently so much energy is released from the shooting star exploding that it dies quickly after the explosion. Thus the reason for such a short trail after the flare. 

Now the shot wasn't just beautiful but extremely cool! So this is a single shot, ISO 6400, 13 sec, F2.8, WB 3900, 13mm.  Processed in photoshop and noise reduction using Topaz Denoise.

Camera is a D7200 using, Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX 11-16mm F2.8 lens, 


The final image is the nightscape I was looking for with some nice zodiacal light. Zodiacal light is a band of light in the night sky. Zodiacal light is thought to be sunlight reflected from cometary dust. Zodiacal light is seen in the west after twilight and in the east before dawn.

The zodiacal light is a softly luminous cone of white light visible from an hour or so after sunset or before dawn. It extends from where the sun is located beneath the horizon outwards and upwards along the ecliptic, the path of the sun across the stars. It is of similar brightness to the Milky Way.

I felt the nice zodiacal light that I captured in this image gave a beautiful balance to it.