I’ve been thinking of recording the sounds of some of the places I visit and Texas had some really unique sounds.
First there was the nasty javalinas, which are 60 pound hairy pig-like creatures (but they are not pigs). I wish I had a photo but they were too elusive and I only saw one once. It was the time I heard one that was frightening.
Ray and I were on a trail headed for a picnic near a spring, where there were some trees to provide shade, when I heard this click, click, click. It sounded just like when you close your teeth together. At first it didn’t register. Then I heard it again – click, click, click. I turned to Ray, “Did you make that sound?” “No.” I recalled then a ranger had told us about that sound. Then, from inside the bushes, came this nasty growling sound coming from a creature that was very upset with our presence. I don’t know how to describe it. It sounded like an angry badger or a wolverine or some other animal I have never heard before. Well Ray and I high tailed it back to the truck and ate our lunch in safety.
Then there is the sound of the coyotes. I love that sound. Yip yip yip yaooooo in the night as they gather their pack.
But the most memorable sound was not a sound at all, it was the silence.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is known for its silence and its darkness being so far away from any city lights. We camped at the base of the mountains and I thought it would be a great opportunity to try some star trail photography. Unfortunately the direction where the mountains had the most interesting shape also had some lights from the restrooms that stayed on all night. So I had no choice but to point my camera the other way.
Photographing from right beside the RV is extremely convenient when there are strange animals in the woods (and Ray didn’t want to stay up late that night). I set up my camera behind the RV and got out my lawn chair and my sleeping bag and settled in for an hour of silence and star gazing. Everything was going pretty well until I heard a few clicking sounds – or did I imagine that? I started listening really hard. There are noises. Then the coyotes started yipping. The yipping was kinda close. Are they getting closer? Finally realizing I wasn’t enjoying the silence anymore and I was sitting there in fear, my heart beating faster and faster, I decided to take shelter inside the RV leaving the camera on the tripod outside. I could see the back LCD of the camera so every time the shutter closed the LCD would come on. My handy remote controlled shutter release allowed me to trip the shutter again every time I saw it.
I made this image by taking 55 30 second exposures. I intended for there to be 60, but I didn’t count, I just kept tripping the shutter for what I thought was 30 minutes. I did some minor processing on one image in Lightroom and copied the processing to all the other images. 6 of the frames had UFOs in them (it was really close to New Mexico after all). On those 6 frames I used the healing brush in photoshop to remove the trail left by the plane or satellite or alien starship. Then I exported all the images as jpeg’s. Then I imported all the images into a program called StarStaX which combined them all using the “lighten” blend mode which takes all the brightest pixels from each frame.
The stars in the resulting image looked great, but the foreground was all soft and blurry. When I was making the exposures, I also made one 30 minute exposure just to see how that turned out in comparison with the stacking technique. I like it too, but the star trails were not as bright. However, the foreground looked great in comparison to the stacked image. So I took the foreground from the long exposure and blended in with the stacked image to get some detail in the mountains.
I wish the mountains were a better shape but the added benefit of changing direction was that polaris was in the frame since I pointed my camera north, which is why the stars are going around in a circle.
Have you every tried star trail photography? If you have any tips please leave them in the comments and feel free to leave a link to your images too!