Friday, August 24, 2012

The LX5 At Night

Milky Way setting behind Mt. Whitney and adjoining spires
On a recent backpacking trip in the high Sierras of California, it was a no-brainer for me to only take my compact Panasonic LX5 camera and Gorillapod tripod.  After all, not only was I hiking a steep trail (Mountaineer's Route) with a 4750-foot elevation gain in 4 miles, I had to carry the usual backpacking stuff PLUS rock climbing gear on my back!  But in taking this lightweight camera (in a waist pouch), I wasn't giving up very much in capability, even when photographing a night sky.  On our last night camped at Iceberg, I awakened in the middle of the night to find a sky exploding with stars.  Remember, at high altitude there is less atmosphere to block the stars!  Our camp at Iceberg Lake, at the base of Mount Whitney, was at an elevation of 12,600 feet, so not much atmosphere there!  Just enough to breathe, sort of.

So upon seeing this wonderfully starry sky I decided to get out of my warm down bag and start layering all my clothes and try to photograph the stars with my LX5 mounted on my Gorillapod.  My wonderful husband decided to get up too, and was very helpful in assisting me with his opinions and advice for position, exposure, light-painting etc.

I set the camera to Manual mode, set f/number to its widest setting (f/2.0), set ISO to 1600 (ouch), and exposure time to 20 seconds.  Using my Gorillapod, I set the camera on a rock and pointed so that I'd get silhouettes of Mount Whitney and the adjoining granite buttresses against the starry sky.  We spent an hour and half trying different things, including using our meager headlamps to paint Mount Whitney (futile effort) and illuminate the inside of our tent (which just ended up showcasing the high digital noise this camera has at ISO 1600).  But the best result of the endeavor, the photo I post here, is not bad, I think...