I’m in Moab, Utah for a few days with Richard and Eric, and Richard’s friend Andy. Richard and Eric are my friends from photography outings with Moose Peterson and we came back to the stunning Utah red rock country, specifically Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, hoping to get practice on nighttime photography: celestial bodies and star trails. We chose to go to the Windows for our first attempts. If you look one direction you can see both North and South Window Arch and in the opposite direction is keyhole-like Turret Arch. The moon was up and would not set until past midnight and since we were all tired from our day of traveling we opted for an early practice session even though the quarter moon was bright. The moon cast shadows but it was still impossible to see in the darkness. I fumbled over settings and focus. With this kind of photography, all settings are manual, including focus, and you have to rely that the infinity setting on the focus ring really gets things in focus because it is impossible to see to make minor adjustments, even with a headlamp.
I somehow managed to get the stars in fairly good focus but I needed to increase my ISO more than I wanted, ending up at ISO 3200 and still my exposure wasn’t very good because I had to make adjustments in Lightroom. And oh, the noise. Everything looked much better on the tiny LCD screen in the dark.
In the end, after our hour of practice, I got three shots that I liked. The moon shot is really my favorite but the moon was so bright it is impossible to tell that it was only a quarter crescent. The shutter speed was 6 seconds so the moon appears just as a bright blob.