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West Virginia Nights 2011
Photo By Mark Kochte

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Video By: Mark Kochte

Video Details

  • Title: West Virginia Nights 2011
  • Description: This time-lapse video has been five months in the making. I started it on July 2nd, and finished it up December 3rd. Over that time I've learned a lot on night sky time lapsing and post processing. (as you can tell, some sequences are not as crisp as others) Still no Randy Halverson. :-)

    This video took so long to assemble because it is a solid 3-4 hour drive just to get to most anywhere *dark* from where I live (despite how dark it could get in general, there were still light domes in the distance from major cities), and most of the stunningly clear nights seemed to coincide with nearly full moons. Other times the clear skies occurred midweek when I was unable to travel due to work, or unforecasted clouds overwhelmed the skies while I was either shooting or even just setting up. Finally, having only one camera and one dolly, I would be able to only get one to two sequences per outing.

    During the course of all the driving to/from West Virginia I put many thousands of miles onto my car, breaking the 500,000 mark in mid-late November.

    Some factoids:

    Jupiter is the bright star-like object appearing in sequences at 0:58, 1:51 (where Jupiter rises through what is known as the Gunsight of Seneca Rocks).

    The sequence starting at 0:26 was shot 100 miles west of Washington, DC, at Squirrel Gap (the least dark of the sites I shot at), on a Friday night. Hence all the air traffic.

    The Andromeda Galaxy can be easily seen as the narrow, oblong fuzzy object rising to the right of the fire tower at 0:47

    The lights on the cliff (Seneca Rocks) at 0:57 are climbers coming down well after dark that day. For scale, the main cliff they are descending is 300' tall. It was shot the evening of the Seneca Chili Cook-off/End Of Season party on October 24th.

    A handful of meteors appear in this video. One flits into existence in the second sequence at 0:13 (right of center), one is at the end of the fire tower sequence at 0:50 (lower left among the struts), one at 0:59 (top center), and the other at the start of a sequence at 1:08 (between the trees upper left aiming straight for the Sword of Orion). Most of the other streaks you see flash across the sky are planes. There are two slow-moving satellites faintly visible in the third sequence.

    The faint green 'waves' seen in the second sequence is airglow or nightglow, very weak light emissions in the ionosphere. It is not aurora. There are a number of processes which cause this optical phenomenon, which include cosmic ray induced luminescence and recombination of photoionized ions by the Sun. In certain conditions airglow is visible to the unaided eye.

    The sequence starting at 1:51 is the only one shot during a full moon. You can see the shadows move across the cliff face as the sequence progresses. All other sequences were shot between 3rd to New to 1st quarter moon phases.

    For all the sequences I used a Nikon D7000, ISO from 1600-3200, 18-105mm lens in 18mm mode at f/3.5 (except one sequence of Orion rising over Seneca Rocks I used a 35mm lens at f/1.8). Those sequences with motion I used a Stage Zero dolly from Dynamic Perception ( Sequences with no motion I just used a tripod (durrr).

    The exposures were 25 seconds long, with 5 second pause between shots. Sequences were assembled at 24 frames/second, and every 5 seconds worth of video is approximately an hour's worth of time lapse imaging.

    The close-to-the-camera red-illuminated rocks in a couple of the sequences were lit by the little battery pack for the dolly.

    Seneca Rocks, being in a fairly overall dark location, is illuminated by the lights from the town in the valley and the Seneca Rocks Visitor Center parking lot lights (which really give a yellow-orange cast to the rock at night).

    Sequence locations: Dolly Sods, Green Bank NRAO, Seneca Rocks, Spruce Knob, Squirrel Gap

    Music by Simon Wilkinson (, "A New Arrival"

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