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This is the planet Mars rising over Devils Tower (taken July 17, 2018).

In planning my cross continent drive, I realized I would be near Devils Tower National Monument very close to a new moon.  I had never tried my hand at astrophotography (hell, I'm brand  new to photography period).  But I found an excellent web site with lots of advice and instruction.  I researched locations in the monument that would align the tower with the Milky Way, set up my tripod and folding chair and gave it a try.  I didn't know Mars would be in the sky, but quickly figured it out when I saw it (star tracking app on my phone).

Since I had not had a chance to try this even once before I showed up at Devils Tower, I spent a couple of hours taking lots of pictures.  Because of the large amount of post-processing needed, I could not get real time feedback so I followed a plan that systematically took me through a wide range of settings.  I had no way to know if any of them were going to be worth a damn until a couple months later when I got home and worked on them.

This particular photograph is five 15 second exposures at f/2.4 and ISO 4000 stacked using Adobe Lightroom.  I had to post process it twice, once to optimize the Milky Way (which makes Mars an overexposed blob) and then again to optimize Mars (which leaves the Milky Way underexposed).  I then had to paste optimized Mars over blob Mars.

Lots of specialized techniques involved, but the web site allowed a complete novice to get a decent result. 

/Edit:  looks like uploading degraded the picture a bit.  But you get the idea ?.



Edited by Jim W
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On my 8 week cross-continent drive over the summer of 2018, I mostly stayed in nondescript hotels.  There were a few exceptions.  Here is a picture of my hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta.  I had a balcony room on the back of the hotel with a killer view of the lake and mountains.

This park was hit with a devastating wildfire in the fall of 2017.  Something like 50% of the large park was burned. All of the mountains on the right side of the lake were scorched.  Nine months later, I was pleasantly surprised to find enough grasses had grown in to green them up.  The fire came within a couple hundred yards of the hotel (Prince of Wales Hotel).  Heroic efforts by firefighters saved the historic hotel and the nearby town, but it was a near thing (apparently embers the size of baseballs were landing on the roof of the hotel).    Needless to say, the fire did not ruin the spectacular views.


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