It was gusty around here for a few days last week, and after the wind stopped on Saturday I noticed that the sky was exceptionally clear. So, on a whim, I decided to head out and try my luck at a star trails picture.

However, I didn’t feel like making the long trek out to Anza Borrega, so I compromised instead on Lake Henshaw, which is less dark than Anza but also about an hour closer. I knew this would mean a fair amount of light pollution on a long-exposure shot, so I decided to work with that by deliberately putting some light in the frame. The result is a picture that looks as if it were taken at sunrise. In reality, the yellow glow—from Warner Springs, about ten miles away—is only barely visible to the naked eye. But if you leave your shutter open for three hours, it turns into something very bright indeed.

I’m not sure if I’ll try this again. It has to be done in winter, when the nights are long, and for a really good shot I’d probably have to trek out to Joshua Tree or Death Valley. And even at that, there are limits to what I can get. There’s a lot of noise in this picture, due to my camera’s small, mid-quality sensor. A six-hour exposure would make the noise even worse, and would also require me to spend six hours in my car while the camera is working. I’m not sure that’s worth it.

Still, I’m glad I did this. I like the spot I found, and the orange glow from the light pollution is actually kind of entertaining.

December 29, 2018 — Lake Henshaw, California

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