Companions of Darkness
White Pocket was once considered to be a frontier for landscape photographers. But thanks to the popular web site of Steffen Synnatschke and the famous books of Laurent Martres, “Photographing the Southwest”, the images of White Pocket have appeared all over internet. Nevertheless, its beauty has captured my imagination for years.
During my recent adventure, I decided to shoot Milky Way at White Pockets. I got up very early and walked in there in total darkness. Even with the help of a GPS, I could not figure out the exact location I scouted during the day. Fortunately, this is White Pockets, I can just setup my camera and shoot in any direction. It will turn out just fine.
The picture was blended with two exposures taken about an hour apart without moving the camera. The first exposure was taken about two hours before sunrise with f2.8, 30sec, ISO3200. 30 second exposure time was chosen to minimize the movement of stars. The difficulty of this exposure was to decide the composition when foreground elements were in total darkness. I used a flashlight to illuminate the foreground element while I looked through view finder. Then I took a few test shots with 10sec exposure at ISO 6400, and made fine adjustment after each shot. When the final composition was determined, I set the focal distance at infinity and made a couple of exposures. At that time, the sky was becoming less dark that Milky Way was fading away.
In the first exposure, the foreground was completely black. To reveal some details in foreground, I decided to take a second exposure at pre-dawn. I left camera untouched on the tripod and waited in there for an hour or so until it was close to dawn when foreground was visible. Then I made a second exposure with f/8.0 30s ISO 400. I used manual focus to set focus at hyper focal distance.
Back at home, I loaded both images into two separate layers in Photoshop. First exposure at bottom and the second exposure on top. I carefully selected the sky of second exposure and deleted it, then merged two images together.
White Pockets is a surreal place. I wanted to make a surreal image to capture viewer’s imagination. I decided to convert the image to black and white and add some blue filter in photoshop to give it some out of this world feel. The Milky Way, the foreground, as well as the choice of monochrome theme helped to emphasize the mood.