Orion’s Sparkling World

Equipment Info
-4906891/1000000 sec. / ISO 6400
Nearest Area
Westcliffe, CO
Westcliffe, CO
Brief Directions
Colorado CR 69
When you take a closer look at this photo, it feels like the night sky and the snow have a little friendly competition going: Who can sparkle the best? And the constellation Orion is in the center of it, watching it all. This photo was taken at about 9,000 ft elevation in the Wet Mountains of South-Central Colorado with minus 8 degrees Fahrenheit outside. It had snowed pretty much all day and when I walked through the fresh snow at 11 p.m. the scenery ( and the bitter cold temperature) literally took my breath away: The snow clouds were gone but the crystal clear night sky was packed with stars and constellations incl. Orion in 3-D with the nebula beautifully visible. But it was the snow that almost stole the show, sparkling and glistening all around me. I quickly brought my gear out in the cold and tried to capture this truly magic play of lights. But I realized quickly that it would be quite complicated to find the right exposure for the night sky (F 2.8, 25 to 30 seconds at ISO 6400) and the snow, which needed to be somehow illuminated to make the sparkles come alive. Since I love challenges and I am a photo purist who is very much opposed to "fake" or fantasy photos - created/compiled - out of stacked images with different exposures, I tried a variety of flash setting (direct, indirect reflected, strobe flash and much more) plus a bunch of different lights from flashlights to light panels but nothing really works right. After several attempts I settled on my LED headlamp (set to Medium Output) and a small LED panel - a perfect combination which made the sparkles in the snow pop even more. I used this combination to paint the light very briefly over the snow during the long exposure, and after about a dozen frames I finally found the right balance of painted light for the snow and the starry night sky. Not a moment too soon because by now my 850 was seriously icing up, my fingers and toes were completely numb and the LED panel was suffering badly in the extreme cold. But in the end it was totally worth it - to witness and document the unique experience of Sky and Earth in a competition "Who can sparkle the best?"
Date Added
February 26, 2020
Date Taken
February 24, 2020