Utah - Peter West Carey
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Polaris Over Balanced Rock, Arches National Park, Utah, USA

Polaris Over Balanced Rock, Arches National Park, Utah, USA

In this 20 minute exposure taken on a night when the moon was still hanging above the Utah horizon with a pale, muted glow, Polaris, the North Star, can be seen in the far upper left corner. As it is a pole star, the rest of the stars appear to rotate around it as the Earth spins on its tilted axis. The calm and quiet of the high desert ensured very little camera shake in this environmental portrait of Balanced Rock, seen at the center of the image.

I love playing around with long exposures because of the forethought and vision I am forced to manipulate in my mind, knowing that a miscalculation means 5 or 10 or even 60 minutes might be lost if an image is disrupted in some way. Luckily, this area of Utah doesn't see a lot of air traffic, one of the killers to any attempt at star trail photography. The moon lent its glow to the foreground to help the exposure while the Milky Way can be seen in its blurred glory on the left side of the image.

To process this image, I ended up using the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom 5 and painting the sky, then changing the white balance for the sky to very blue. I did this in order to avail more options when choosing one of Gavin Seim's Silver Shadows 2 black and white presets, then further tweaking the image. Adding the blue allowed me to bring contrast to the sky in a controlled manner using the Black & White Mix sliders, focusing mainly on orange (the foreground sandstone) and blue (now the sky).