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Star Trails Over Zabriskie Point

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 4 February 2009 in Food & Cuisine.

Death Valley's Zabriskie Point is one of those iconic locations that has been photographed by virtually every photographer/tourist with a camera. So how does one make an image from such a photographed area stand out? For those workshop participants who attended the Gary Hart Death Valley Winter Workshop, the answer was to photograph after the moon set!

After first attempting a similar shot to the east, I quickly became frustrated with the heavy light pollution emanating from Las Vegas. I decided to turn towards the northwest and include the north star. I have to admit, it was a bit of a lucky guess when it came to finding the star, and I wasn't quite sure if I included enough of Zabriskie Point, but a 26-minute timed exposure and a subsequent black-frame produced this stunning result!

Manly Beacon is the triangular shaped formation in the lower left of the frame. One of the benefits of digital capture is the lack of worry over reciprocity failure - there simply isn't any - so math calculations apply across the board.

If you would like to join Gary and me on an upcoming workshop and try your hand at night photography (as well as other special times of the day) in some of the most beautiful locations in the western United States, please visit my website at and click on the workshop link.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 1581 second F/5.0 ISO 400 16 mm

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