Thunderbird Mesa

While out in northern Arizona this past July, on assignment leading a private tour for three of my East Coast clients, we spent an evening up at Stud Horse Point outside of Page. The rocks over to the right away from the main group of Hoodoos have always fascinated me, but I have never had the right conditions to create a dramatic image of them. On this evening all the cards were stacked with heavy storm clouds to the east and clear skies in the southwest at sunset.

Although the light and color in the sky was colorful and intense, I thought it not enough to make an image that would stand on it's own. I wanted to pull out a long exposure, but using my ultra wide angle did not allow my solid ND at this focal length due to vignetting. In the wake of this technical problem I used a technique that I develop about two tears ago while building my Impressions Portfolio which relies heavily on using Nikon's "Multiple Exposure" function. With a base exposure of 15 seconds at F16 using a 3 stop ND grad to hold the sky, I set up to do a 10 image multiple exposure. I locked the camera release to record all 10 image one after the other. The clouds were moving and in each frame and after all 10 images had been exposed the camera automatically stacks all the shots into one RAW file essentially giving me a minute and half exposure time and the effect I was after. I would love to hear what you guys and gals think.

Thanks for having a look!


    I’ve used a technique called star trail tracking for a similar purpose. I wanted to capture a Space Station pass, which takes about 3 minutes, but didn’t want to gues the exposure for that. So I determined the proper exposure just prior to the pass, then set the camera (a Canon 50D) up for continious 30 sec exposures. I started the exposures just before the pass and leet them go until it was over. THen I stacked the exposures in Photoshop and merged them using the technique which is common in astrophotography. It should work for your application but certainly isn’t as easy as the internal Nikon capability. One link to the technique is but there are several other descriptions on the web. For the space station pass, I did have to fill a small gap between exposures.

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