A cold night in the back country

I knew that I wanted something different for the January photo of the Cottonwood tree at Lake Henshaw. With the very clear and dry air and a wonderful full moon (alternatively: the severe lack of a storm or some useful clouds in the daytime), why not try a night photo?

So we drove out into the back country after dinner on Friday, and we could watch the temperature drop on the car’s thermometer as we drove higher up from San Diego, first to Ramona, then to Santa Ysabel, and then north on Highway 79 towards Lake Henshaw. Once we left the light pollution of the cities and settlements behind us, driving through the moonlit landscape was a treat itself already. At the lake, temperatures were close to freezing (35° Fahrenheit, 1° Celsius), and I had left my gloves at home since I didn’t expect it to be that cold!

Night photo of a bare cottonwood tree on a full moon night, at Lake Henshaw, Warner Springs, California, United States.
Cottonwood under January stars — A cold full moon night in the back country. Lake Henshaw, Warner Springs, California, United States. January 2014.

Night photography is fascinating, the camera can capture so much more than the eye can see, it’s beautiful, and amazing. If it wasn’t for the stars and the deep blue sky, one could almost think this is a daytime photo. I really like how this turned out!

Here’s another photo, along Highway 79:

Trees in Moonlight -- near Lake Henshaw, Warner Springs, Ca
Trees in Moonlight — near Lake Henshaw, Warner Springs, CA. January 2014.

A word from the technical side. For night photography, there is this so-called “600 rule”*. It is used to determine the longest exposure time that is possible without the stars becoming streaks, instead of little dots. For the photo of the Cottonwood tree, which was made at 24mm, it would be 600 / 24 mm = 25 seconds. However, this was just a 15 second long exposure, and the stars are little streaks already (you don’t see it in the web version, though). Let’s reverse the rule: 15s x 24mm equals only 360! So I guess the 600 rule has to be used with caution when using cameras with high resolution sensors.

*) I have an old old blogpost up where I described my findings when I did my first steps.

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